Googling new workouts to try recently, I came across one that purported to deliver a “Kilimanjaro-ready body” in just six weeks.
It was intriguing to see how many components of this mountain-training regimen could be incorporated into a fitness walking program here in the Hoosier flatlands. That became the topic of this week’s newspaper column, which is what led me to do last week’s hill workout inside a skyscraper.
Fort Wayne has three of ‘em, one of which – the 22-story Lincoln Tower, built in 1930 – was Indiana’s tallest building until 1969.
The king of the hill these days is the 27-story Indiana Michigan Power Center. But when I contacted a former co-worker who’s now the company spokesman, he said the building’s stairs are off-limits for public fitness use. Though an area climber told me he does it all the time, accessing the stairs via the parking garage, I felt too weirded out about trying it after I’d been officially told no.
That took me to the second-tallest building, the 339-foot PNC Center. I furtively followed a sketchy-looking cyclist and his pedestrian sidekick into the parking garage – there was no one at the entry booth – then found the elevators. A sign invited guests to take the elevator to the 25th floor to Empyrean, the swanky reception site that’s replaced the longtime poshest private restaurant in the city, the Summit Club.
I decided if anybody asked, I’d say I was here to inquire about rates at Empyrean, only decided to take the stairs instead to burn off a few calories.
I passed one guy early on, but after that I met no resistance other than gravity all the way up to the 25th floor. I was breathing hard and my legs were shaky, but I never had to stop and catch my breath.
There was no scenic view to reward my efforts, other than the open rear door to the former Summit Club, which still bore the old sign though it’s been out of business for a few years now. I could hear a couple of employees talking inside. Though there was one more flight of stairs, I knew if I took it they’d see me. This was also about the time I noticed the security camera I’d just stepped in front of. I decided to head back down before I got into some kind of hassle.
My next stop was the Lincoln Tower, but I didn’t get far. In this ornate, art decco building the stairs are wide, open and visible from the opulent and voluminous bank lobby. A stern-looking sign on the second floor warned visitors to return to the main level and check in.
I picked up a card from a friendly receptionist who said I could book a tour that would take me to the observation deck at the top, where “on a clear day you can see all the way to Ohio.” I might do that sometime, but I doubt that this will be a regular fitness destination.
Unfortunately, in the course of reporting this column I also discovered that a rustic high rise I’ve climbed many times since childhood – the eight-story, 100-foot-tall fire tower at Ouabache State Park – is closed for repairs. The person I spoke with said the estimate is around $100,000, and it’s unclear where the funding will come from. It almost certainly won’t open this season, and obviously the question will be raised about whether it’s worth fixing.
I hope so. There aren’t many of these fire towers left around the state, and though it’s no longer used for that purpose it’s a cool historical landmark.