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Travel: Exploring the Notre Dame campus on bicycle
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Travel: Exploring the Notre Dame campus on bicycle

Last month, as I planned out a three-day trip to the South Bend and Mishawaka area, we decided to put our bike carrier on the car and bring them along so that we could spend some time exploring the area on our bicycles.

I figured it would be nice riding around the downtown and along the St. Joseph River and maybe checking out part of the 17-mile trail that stretches all the way into Michigan.

Unfortunately, it rained on and off during our entire visit, so we didn’t get in much riding.

Our first stop upon getting into the area was the University of Notre Dame and the sky was clear when we arrived, but the radar showed storms on the way. So, we decided to take our chances and see how much of the campus we could see before it rained down on us.

I’d been to the campus several times before, but there was a lot more I wanted to see. For several summers I was there for the Shakespeare Festival when my son performed with a youth theater group. The performances took place at Washington Hall, right next to the Golden Dome and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, so I had seen those two iconic structures, but was excited about seeing them again. And my sister was married in the Eck Visitors Center several years ago, so I’d been there, too.

We parked in the lot near the bookstore and made the Eck Visitors Center our first stop. It was fun being in the building again and remembering where we had been seated and where the dance floor was during my sister’s wedding reception.

An employee gave us a campus map and circled several points of interest. We hopped on our bikes and were soon on our way.

We took a path that led us to the Notre Dame Stadium and we rode on to see the Hesburgh Library and the “World of Life” Mosaic, also known as Touchdown Jesus. I had never seen it before. The massive work of art is on the south wall of the library’s 14-story building. It overlooks a small pool, which made for some pretty photographs with the reflection.

Next, we went over to Washington Hall for a little break in the courtyard where we used to sit to wait for the performance to begin during the Shakespeare Festival. The Huddle Hall is right beside it where we’d stop for a sandwich afterwards in the small food court.

Every time I’m on campus, we have to stop and marvel at the Golden Dome, which is stunning to view from the outside, but also breathtaking from the inside. We parked the bikes and went in to explore.

There are some small exhibits and a plethora of artwork, and there’s nothing like standing directly below the dome and looking up three levels at it. I also quietly slipped into the Basilica, which is also amazing to see if you happen to be there at a time when it is open for visitors.

From there we rode around a little more — I may or may not have gotten a little lost, but this is one of the best places to get lost because the campus is so beautiful and the more you can see of it, the better.

We then rode by Saint Mary’s Lake a little bit and down along the Burke Golf Course before arriving back near the bookstore, which is a stop you’ll definitely want to make for some Fighting Irish gear.

With the skies looking iffy and a few raindrops here and there, we rushed over to make one more stop at the Snite Museum of Art. This free museum in considered one of the leading university art museums in the country, so I was glad we were able to make it in there briefly to see some of the exhibits on the three levels of the museum.

There are nearly 30,000 works in the collection, representing many cultures and spanning centuries, including Rembrandt etchings, 19th-century photographs and Native American Art. I really enjoyed perusing the 17th-century European art and the African Art gallery.

By the time we exited the art museum, the raindrops were falling and we made it back to the car just before the downpour began. We parked our bikes at the hotel upon check-in and never had a chance to get on them again as the next two days the storms continued.

I hope to return soon with the bikes to make our way around some more. The League of American Bicyclists named South Bend a silver-level bicycle-friendly community in 2018, making it only the second Indiana community to receive the silver designation.

The Indiana + Michigan River Valley Trail connects downtown Mishawaka to Niles, Michigan and includes many points of interest along the way.

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