The Unexpected Journey


“Expecting the unexpected creates great expectations.”

Travane Phoenix


Great news! “Just How I Bike It” has been picked up by Chicago Now! The blog will be retitled “O-Regionality” at its new home,!

This new blog will have me exploring Northwest Indiana’s most popular and hard-to-find eateries, recreational activities from nature trails to sledding hills, tourist attractions, and local festivities, but be unrestricted by a “bikes only” theme. Everything else that you know and love will remain the same; interviews with local business owners, hints and insider tips about upcoming events and community-friendly promotions.

Thanks for your continued support! I hope to see you there!

-Travane Phoenix

Winter in Da Region

“If walls are built for protection, doors are built for surrender.”

Daniel J. Mitchell

Based on the two layers of coats I had to wear this morning, I’m officially declaring bicycling season over. As we transition into the winter months, “Just How I Bike It” will be going through some minor alterations in order to accommodate cold weather appropriate activities.

I’m very excited to see what new doors will be opened off the bike trails and I hope that you’ll continue to follow along as we delve into uncharted waters!

Flintstones and Jack-O-Lanterns in Griffith, Indiana

“Time is measured by the movement of hands, but history is measured by the fruit of their labors.”

Daniel J. Mitchell

Checking out one of Griffith’s most beloved seasonal tourist attractions, today I got to stop by the pumpkin buried lawn of the Berenie family (917 Miller Street, Griffith).

Every year the Berenie’s grow and harvest their own pumpkins on a large plot of land at the corner of Arbogast and Miller Street. Annually carving out a new theme into their monolithic, orange vegetables, this year’s family friendly motif was none other than the Flintstones.

Fortunate enough to catch the carvers in their “pre-carving phase”, I got to watch as they graphed and plotted the endearing sprites onto the bulbous faces of the pumpkins. Wilma Flintstone stood in a perky salute with her hands on her hips, Fred Flintstone cruised in his stone-age automobile with a delightful grin, and the rambunctious Hoppy the Hopparoo (an apparent hybrid of dinosaur/kangaroo) flashed an adorable, dopey smile.

Daring to snag one of the carvers for an interview, I was able to speak with Ms. Berenie at the front of the lawn who welcomed the break. Frustrated in her attempts to draw the Flintstones’ iconic, stone-carved letters, she assured me that as long as there was paint thinner to go around, she’d eventually get it right.

Curious as to how they decide what theme to run with every year, she informed me that it all depends on the pumpkins. Before they even give way to fleeting inspiration, the family pays close attention to both the quantity and quality of the pumpkins to determine which theme will work.



Baffled at just how much effort goes into the mere grid sketches, I had to ask how much more difficult is it to do the actual carving. Admitting that carving is definitely the most tedious part, they tackle the challenge by carefully utilizing tiny knives to sculpt every minute detail, and occasionally wires where mistakes are made (though, she assured me, this rarely happens).

While they aren’t quite done with the finishing touches yet, Ms. Berenie assured me that most of the pumpkins will be ready for display this coming Sunday. So, if you happen to be in town, indulge in a moment of regression and catch a glimpse of these wonderfully nostalgic Jack-o-lanterns!

Jeepers Creepers


The weekend weather made it quite clear that it’s almost time to place the bike back on the rack. Although, I was able to squeeze in a few casual rides down to Oak Ridge Prairie and the Calumet River, even these routine rides were becoming a chore with the high winds and cold air creeping in.

Needless to say, I think these next few days, hopefully weeks, will be marking the end of my bicycling adventures. While I’ll still be able to post about local sights to see and eateries to try, I will most likely be documenting them from the safe heated cockpit of my car rather than the cold leather seat of my bike.

So, what’s next on the agenda? Not wanting to let my favorite season get by without a second glance, I’m planning on doing a little holiday ride around The Region. As the residents dress their lawns with tombstones, drape their walls with ghosts and stock their homes with candy, I will set out into the night to explore some of the creepiest and cutest Halloween decor this side of Northwest Indiana has to offer!

Autumn has Fallen

With Mother Nature fighting me at every turn, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that biking season is coming to a close. Barely able to get out and enjoy the outdoors without dawning a suit of fleece armor, the chill of late fall is all too real.

If you’re able to get out during one of the nicer days over the weekend, I highly recommend paying Oak Ridge Prairie a visit. With autumn officially settling in, the trees are just beginning to transform into gorgeous, organic jewels of orange, yellow and red. There’s a nice playground set-up if you’re planning on bringing the family and plenty of nature trails if you’re merely looking for an escape. While I’m not exactly the hiking expert, one of my fellow bloggers, Earth Traveler, stopped by the park recently for a little expedition. You can check out his misadventures at, Earth Traveler’s Guide to Environmental Entertainment.

Hopefully over the weekend I’ll be able to soak in the last of the waning sunshine and make it out to a few more eateries around Northwest Indiana. I’m thinking in this weather I better start shooting for a place that serves hot chocolate.

Any suggestions…?

9/11 Reflection: Munster Community Veterans Memorial

Today is the only day that America reflects on a loss. We may celebrate Independence Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and even take time to acknowledge the tragedy of D-Day, all holidays sadly birthed from war, but they are days of victory nonetheless.

The 9/11 attacks brought about new feelings and perceptions that were foreign to our country at the time, ones of vulnerability, uncertainty, and loss. It felt like the very fabric of our ideals and foundation of our freedom was on the brink of destruction. But as all men and women do when they are pushed to the very edge, we held on.

Like many other people who remember that day, the memories of 9/11 are still vividly preserved in my mind. I was eleven at the time, sitting in front of the television eating a turkey sandwich. Flipping through the stations to find something to watch, I was confused as to why the same thing was on every single channel. It looked as if there had been a horrible plane crash in New York.

Calling my mom to interpret the matter, she, like myself, perceived it to be nothing more than an unfortunate accident.

And that’s when it happened…

Watching a second plane strike the World Trade Center right before our eyes, I instantly looked to my mother seeing a sight I’ll never forget. Pale white, one of the many shades of terror, suddenly washed over her face. Her shoulders hunched and her eyes opened wide, as did all of ours, at the horrific scene transmitted over the television.

It was at that moment I knew that what had just happened would change us forever.

Eleven years later, having endured loss, fear, panic, war and terror, America once again has proved that it can take every moment, triumphant or tragic, and transform it into a defining moment. Even though we had been torn apart by terror, we were united by our resolution.

As we remember our journey as a people: our victories, our losses, our accomplishments and missteps, we continue to build courage around doubt and purpose over incertitude.

While I’ve already included an excerpt on Munster’s Community Veterans Memorial not too long ago, I would like to take this time of reflection and give it a second glance.

Last Sunday, my father and I rode down The Munster Bike Path through Centennial Park and across the street to The Community Veterans Memorial at 9710 Calumet Avenue. Although no bikes are allowed on the memorial itself, it was a small price to pay to honor our veterans.

A beautiful red brick path encompasses the park, with references to specific historical events chronologically ordered, beginning at the year 1896. Grand monuments paying tribute to veterans from WWI to the Persian Gulf War are spread throughout the canvas. Skillfully blended into the greenery of the gardens, these intense monuments of war are perfectly contrasted by the serenity of nature, creating moments of remembrance and resolve.

If you’re looking for a special way to commemorate the sacrifice of our troops overseas, or simply to acknowledge those who lost their loved ones during the 9/11 tragedy, this memorial is the perfect way to focus your mind and comfort your heart.

Taste of Northwest Indiana

These last few rides I’ve been taking have been quite enjoyable, albeit, “free”.

Feeling confident in letting loose some spare change, I’m thinking it’s about time to move on from the “free rides” and treat myself. Literally!

Keeping an eye out for culinary treasures, I’m ready to scoop, slurp and munch on some the best food off the bike trails Northwest Indiana has to offer!

While I’ve got a few possibilities in mind, I’m really interested to hear from you! If you know of a place with the best ice cream, donuts, gyros, nachos or burritos in NWI, I’m all ears!

Just make sure I’ll be able to stomach the ride home…

Shifting Gears

Bored with the drudgery of routine workouts at the YMCA, two years ago my father took up the wheel (or handle bars) of my uncle’s ugly, beaten up, metallic purple bicycle.

Not willing to sacrifice conventionality, I continued to exercise within the beige and gray walls of my air-conditioned fortress while my father mounted his violet steed, pedaling out into adventure.

After listening to him come home with tale after tale about his fascinating explorations, I began to envy his spontaneous and enthralling escapades.

Scoring a brand new, snow white bicycle during doorbusters, my father prepared, even in the bitter cold of our Northwest Indiana winter, for another season of Tour de Indiana.

Early last summer my workout duffle rested deflated on the living room couch as I mentally prepared myself for another monotonous day at the gym. My father came in the back door to grab his sunglasses before one of his daily rides, the warm, pleasant air slipped in behind him. Biting my lip and jingling the car keys, I attempted to silence the voice screaming in my head not to waste another beautiful day. Calling out after him, I begged… asked, if he wouldn’t mind me coming along.

Irony serving the prominent role it always has in my life, my father hopped onto his sweet new ride and graciously invited me to join him… on the dilapidated purple beast.

Desperate enough to brave the reigns of the hand-me-down bike with its snaggle-toothed cogs, I mounted the creature and rode off into the unknown.

Taking me through golden, sanguine fields, lush green forests and rustic, urban vistas, I was instantly hooked on this electrifying hobby that I once thought to be stale and old fashioned.

Riding at speeds no faster than 20 miles per hour with no windshields, doors or obnoxious blare of a radio blocking out the world, I was finally able to slow down and appreciate the subtle beauty and liberating feeling of exploring Northwest Indiana. It was this feeling that inspired me to share with the residents of “Da Region” and curious visitors alike, the wonder and character this small corner of Indiana has to offer. If only you take the time to look…

So join me this year as I venture out to ride some of Northwest Indiana’s most popular bike paths and hidden trails, filling in the blank pages of the map and showing just how fun it can be to take the long way around.

See you on the trail,

Travane Phoenix