Dan McCarthy
Dan McCarthy
Winter offers up extra challenges for the bicycle rider. A 20 mile-per-hour wind out of the west on a 25-degree day calls for long johns, rain pants, stocking cap and three sweaters inside a Gortex jacket. After that, the winter wonders of Fulton County unfold along streets and county roads. Some light flurries just add to the atmosphere. Take a ride with me and see if you see what I see. Take your thoughts away from your daily challenges and think about what you love about this place and the people who live here.

I always start off from my house on Madison Street and check Ken's flag to see which way the wind is blowing. Let's cruise around town a bit before heading out for a longer ride. We're going north on Monroe now, and despite the cold, the sky is the same blue you get sometimes on a crisp October day. You get these sometimes in the winter if you are fortunate enough to be out. Do you see the courthouse now? It's our centerpiece and a magnificent structure - listed on the National Register of Historic Places of course, Bedford limestone, terra cotta roof, multiple turrets, massive bell tower. I know most of the people in there and they've all helped me out from time to time. Judy, Letty, Doug, Denise, Rick, and all the others helped me understand the legal and financial aspects of living here. There's the old Post Office on the right. It would have been so easy to tear it down and I'm happy they found a use for it. Goodness knows Walker, Ed, Chris, Larry and all those other guys deserve some usable space. They've lent a hand to me once or twice.

Turn left with me. There's Gottschalk Realty. Over the years, Steve, Kris, and Susan assisted me with the buying of two houses. That's a scary process. And I'm thankful that there are people like Steve who see this procedure through the eyes of the nervous buyer or seller. Speaking of houses, the folks at First Federal assisted me with the loans. Dick, Jim, and Ben acted like they were making loans for their own families when they were explaining all the complicated processes to me. I've always seen First Federal as one of the top corporate benefactor's in the community. I'm often reminded of the free trees I got there, so small at first and which have now become major landmarks on my property. And as a teacher, they've never turned me down for a donation to help my classroom. Neither has the Smith, Sawyer and Smith Insurance Agency which is right next door to Steve's place. Mart has always bought full page ads for the high school yearbook, and his leadership of the school board was legendary. I would tell you to keep your eyes on the road ahead, and that's easy enough out in the country, but get a look at these stately buildings that surround the courthouse.

Someone said the Zebras used to play their basketball games on one of the second stories along here. What history these buildings contain! Next comes the Rochester Sentinel newspaper - look at Peru and Logansport and other area papers that were bought by conglomerates and lost their local reporters and photographers. Then look at The Sentinel and know that this personal coverage including insightful editorials, outstanding local sports and meaningful photojournalism is one of the best gifts we have. Isn't it obvious by what you read that Sarah, Bill, Christina, Val, Rhonda, Mike and the others love this town as much as anyone? They don't just get all their news off the AP wires; they go out and get it. And it's about us. Bill went to Iraq to tell the stories of our local heroes like Nick and Jeff, Tom, Jason and Paul; even went to Napa California to find out what New Tech was all about.

Next we see the radio station with its Window on Eighth Street. (Tom and Sue's two daughters sure could play ball!) Look in that window - stools with microphones. What does that say about the importance they place on the voice of local people? Don't you love their schools report, their Trading Post, their sports coverage, Matt in the afternoon? I liked listening to Phil talk in the mornings. What is it about local commentary that means more than Ted Koppel's news of national events?

Before we turn north on Main, glance to your left and see what's down that side of the block. There's B and B Menswear. Stores like that are mostly gone from small town USA. But we still have a place where personal service and community support is more important than anything else. Thanks, John!

Let's get going north up Main Street now. We've got quite a ride to get in before dark. This whole block looks like an inviting place to shop and eat. Webb's Pharmacy, Radio Shack and Bailey's Hardware all help me with things I need. Try going into one of those big box stores in Kokomo and asking one of their high school dropouts for some plumbing advice. The Main Street Grille is relatively new. It's yet another building that could have been abandoned but is now a classy restaurant. My friends from California compare it to some of the best upscale eating establishments in San Francisco. Natalie and Harry do a great job! And there is Jarrety's - Dawn and Jen and Anita sure know how to make not one but dozens of incredible sandwiches, along with amazing coffees and other assorted enticing drinks. Dawn and Jen were students of mine a while back, and somewhere along the line they figured out how to make the tastiest Paninis and Ghirardelli chocolate drinks. You gotta be proud that we have places like these and Jeff's Bagel Shop, instead of chain restaurants that have been stamped out from some pattern that leaves out unique flavors and cooking styles.

We need to get riding out of town, but you've got to look with wonder at the Times Theater, the Evergreen Cafe; and the Wellness Center. How about our phone company? Talk about a corporate supporter of the community!

I don't suppose most people know how much Alan, Arik, and Dave have helped out New Tech High and provided what is now one of the fastest and most complete high-speed Internet connections in any high school in the state. Main Street narrows as we head north out of town.

Look at the old mill before the railroad tracks. I love what has been done to an abandoned eyesore. Sometimes my eyes wander to the upper stories, imagining what secret and surprising places are protected there.

It's about a mile to the Tippecanoe River. Turn right just before the bridge. You will see the winding river on your left and pine forests on your right. Remember Bob Kern? I know he did much for the conservation and enrichment of the county. I remember talking to him about his trips around the world, and now I just enjoy the pine forests he planted years ago. The Tippecanoe River is on our left, meandering by on its journey through our county. It has been classified as the thirteenth most important river in America. It used to be polluted but is now home to six fish and mussel species on the federally endangered species list; it's my favorite kayak ride in the USA.

You can't mention our river though, without talking about Lake Manitou and the Headwaters. This is a wetland area offering refuge for dozens of species of waterfowl and a migration resting spot for dozens more. A few bald eagles have recently been spotted there, and I love the Great Blue Herons. We're gliding across Highway 25 now, and maybe we better head on back to town soon. I always connect back onto the Rochester Pathway as I head on home and am forever grateful for the work Ed did in helping to create a safe and scenic ride to end my trip. And who knows, despite the challenges, I may someday be able to ride the Nickel Plate Trail.

It is first on my wish list of gifts that I'm hoping for in the years ahead. We're almost back. But get a look at the Round Barn Golf Club. Try to imagine a city in Indiana with a more beautiful highway entrance.

First you pass a lake on your left, then cross a bridge then gaze on acres of trees and green grass and then finally a vintage round barn with a windowed cupola. Well, that was a 10-mile bicycle trip, and do you know that Fulton County is 371 square miles? There are 20,000 people in this county. I only mentioned a few of the fine folks that live here, but as a 30-year resident of this county, believe me when I tell you that there are thousands more here who are just as kind and just as caring and just as helpful as those I mentioned.

Well, there's my house. You know it's over a hundred years old? Thanks for going along with me. Let's ride again sometime.