With a long Day 1 behind us (see Bloomington, Indiana Travel Trip, Day 1), Ben and I woke up fairly early on Sunday.
“Fairly” being 8:30, which is way too early for a weekend vacation. But we only had a few hours left before we had to race up to Indianapolis for the Indiana Fever playoffs game. My friend, Julie, had gotten us surprise tickets, so we didn’t want to miss anything.
All day yesterday, driving up and down College and Walnut Streets (the north and south main streets that lead to and from downtown Bloomington), we kept passing Square Donuts, a place that is well-known for their, well, square donuts.
“Those sound interesting,” I said to Ben. “Have you ever thought about trying a square doughnut?” Being a word nerd, I always say the more formal “doughnut” rather than the Americanized “donut.”
He hadn’t, so we decided we were going to be naughty and get a square doughnut (“donut,” if you prefer) after breakfast. We just weren’t going to tell my wife or daughters.
But first, breakfast.
We spent the night warm and comfortable in the Hampton Inn right there on Walnut Street, just a couple miles away from IU’s Memorial Stadium, and a couple miles north of campus and downtown Bloomington. Because we had gotten so cold at the game last night, it felt wonderful to get warm in our room and fall asleep.
When I asked my son about his favorite part of the entire trip, you know the thing he said he loved the most? The thing that he would always remember about our two day adventure?
“I really liked the breakfast buffet.”
“Seriously, dude? You saw photojournalism history, you watched an IU football game, and you even got to visit some cool bookstores and a game store, and you liked the buffet the best?”
“Oh yeah, I always love a good buffet.”
Kid after my own heart.
The buffet was pretty good. Mostly thanks to the the giant mounds of bacon and sausage in the warming dishes. I silently judge breakfast buffet places by whether there are giant mounds of breakfast meats. Many have been found wanting. The Hampton Inn, I am happy to report, was found worthy.
As we were eating, getting ready to pack up and head down the street, a man walked up to our table and started talking to Ben.
“Did you see those square donuts over there?” he asked, using the Americanized term. Ben nodded. “They make those at that Square Donut place just down the road.” Ben and I grinned at each other.
“We don’t even have to go anywhere!” I said. We each got a doughnut (and then split another) and had our own square pastries for the day. It was a nice way to end breakfast.
(After a little prompting, Ben did say his second favorite part of the trip was the football game.)
My big problem is I’m something of a coffee snob. If I didn’t see someone make it, I’m always a little wary about it. I hadn’t had my coffee yet for the day, and I was going to have a problem if I didn’t get some.
We were originally scheduled to have lunch at Yogi’s Grill and Bar, but we were both full from breakfast — stupid square doughnuts — and knew we weren’t going to be hungry three hours later. So instead, we headed off to Soma Coffee, an old hippie coffee bar I remembered from my visits years ago to Bloomington.
Parking in Bloomington can sometimes be a problem, especially on Sunday mornings, with several churches downtown, plus a bistro-style restaurant that doubles as a church. But we finally found a place to park and walked a couple blocks to Soma.
As we sat outside enjoying our drinks — light foam latte for me, steamed milk for Ben — a couple music grad students sat nearby, talking about their professors and past performances. I think one of them even used the phrase “Shakespearean-like performance” about one of her concerts.
Indiana University is well-known for its undergraduate and graduate performing arts programs — music, dance, theatre — so if you’re ever in the mood for some wonderful classical, jazz, theatrical, or dance entertainment, you could spend an entire month in Bloomington, and there will always be something to see. And odd conversations to overhear.
Another thing that surprised me was the number of people who were out on a Sunday morning at 10:00. When I went to college, anything before 11 am on a weekend was still considered prime sleeping hours. Still it was parents’ weekend, so I imagine that had something to do with it. (“Dad’s buying breakfast before we hit the road, so get up!”).
From there, we walked down to The Indiana Shop to pick up a couple of IU t-shirts, courtesy of Visit Bloomington.
The Indiana Shop is the place for any kind of IU paraphernalia, memorabilia, tchotchkes, knick-knacks, gewgaws, gifts, clothing items, hats, and souvenirs. It’s a few thousand square feet of anything and everything ever made in crimson and cream.
We had tried going the day before, but the place was packed with people buying their IU gear before the big game that night, so we got there about 15 minutes after it opened this morning.
It was still busy. The line at the cash register wound halfway through the store, but they were moving fast. We took several minutes to look at everything they had to offer, and to consider our choices carefully. It was this moment that I became keenly aware that this wasn’t my school or my hometown. My school was two hours away in Muncie, and I got homesick, even after not living there since 1993.
I love Bloomington, and would love to be a part of their community one day, in about 20 years. But my heart will always belong to Ball State University. At that moment, I would have traded all the t-shirts in the store for my own Ball State t-shirt to wear (mostly because they weren’t my t-shirts, so it would have been an especially profitable trade for me).
Ben and I each picked out an IU t-shirt to remember our visit. I went old school and picked something that looked like it had been designed in the 1970s. It reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, Breaking Away (1979), which was filmed right here in Bloomington the previous year, and was the reason I became a bicycle racer for ten years. The shirt looked like it was something Dave Stoller would have worn in the movie, so I knew I had to have it. Ben picked up a crimson IU shirt with a basic IU logo on it. When I asked him why, he said he just liked the color.
We also got a small box of IU bandages. I thought about giving them to my sister, a Purdue graduate, for Christmas.
The IU Art Museum is an interesting place. Curating art around a specific theme, they definitely see their role in an educational institution. It’s a place for local students to come for field trips, and undergraduate and graduate art students are able to have exhibitions and even give lectures there.
We were encouraged to visit Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy, a reconstruction of an exhibition from 1946 and 1947. It was originally organized by the U.S. State Department as “a form of cultural diplomacy.” The paintings were shown in venues around Latin America and Europe before political controversy on our own soil caused its cancellation. Many of the artists were liberals, and were accused of being un-American and subversive — accusations that would later lead to McCarthyism in the 1950s.
You can visit the Art Interrupted website to learn more about the art and the artists.
We spent about an hour perusing the different pieces of art before we finally had to go. We stopped to take a few pictures of the giant round sculpture outside the museum, hopped in the car, and then raced back to Indianapolis by way of Nashville on SR 45, through some of the prettiest scenery in Indiana.
Ben, who swore up and down that he wasn’t tired and wanted to take the scenic route home, was asleep within 15 minutes and missed everything. We made it back to the Indiana Fever game missing only five minutes of the first quarter.
While I’ve taken my whole family on more than a few travel writing trips like this, the Bloomington trip was the first one I’ve ever taken my son with me. It was his chance to try out a new city and see what life is like in other places. We’ve done it before in Lafayette and Fort Wayne, but he got to make this trip his own.
We had such a good time, we’re already talking about how we can get back for another visit, maybe to see an IU basketball game.
Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Used with permission)