Biking across the USA, Summer 2005's Journal|
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|Friday, June 24th, 2005|
wildcat landing, brownsville mn, midafternoon, june 23
i crossed the minnesota border this morning, and i'll be here for quite some time. i'm essentially traveling the state from the southeast corner to the northwest corner. because of campground locations, i had a choice of riding 40ish miles today or 80. given that the traveler i met a week ago coming the other way recommended this place, i decided to stay here. it was a steep campground fee--- $16--- but on the other hand, it's a pretty nice place. my tent is pitched about 100 sandy feet from the main channel of the mississippi river. i've already gone for a dip in the water; weather today is in the 90s and windy. (swim-capable clothing was definitely a good choice on the packing list.)
my mail stop this afternoon included a letter from my middle sister. it also included about 20 minutes of sitting in the postmaster's extra chair, relaxing in the air conditioning and talking as rush limbaugh ranted in the background. i now know how one goes about getting a postmaster job. it seems common for the smalltown postmasters i've met to apply for their positions as a late-career way to draw a good salary, good benefits, and low-stress work. she and the one person who drives the rural route are the entire post office in this town of about 500 people. she warned me of construction along my route for tomorrow; i'm going to need to talk to the police in la crescent to find out a good way around it.
the minnesota-local soda, spring grove soda, comes in little 10 ounce bottles, is sweetened with cane sugar, and is quite tasty. the "sour lemon" flavor is reminiscent of san pellegrino limonata. i'll probably grab a few more in the morning for my pre-ride carb jolt. the store chain that sells them locally also makes quite serviceable breakfast sandwiches.
the route today was in the lowlands along the river, below the bluffs. mostly flat and gentle, long hills. i passed several info stations for the federal fish and wildlife refuge, which i stopped and read. i learned more about the ducks who migrate through this area in the fall, diving down and eating the river plants. (this part of the river is a very large national preserve, which means that much of the local economy is based around regional tourism and vacation homes. lots of hunting and fishing supplies in the convenience stores.)
this afternoon's agenda includes reading the new yorker, napping in the shade, and making some of the backpacking-meal curry from a recent care package. later, perhaps, a hot shower, a campfire, and toasting marshmallows. bug-spray application will be frequent unless the winds keep up.
june 23, later afternoon
when i arrived at this campground, the woman who took my money said, "oh, my husband will definitely want to meet you." while i was writing the last entry, this tall, muscular but not big, bearded guy drives by to introduce himself. jerry's the guy who gave me the pizza, a digiorno stuffed crust that was much too big for me at once but is now in the refrigerator at the camp office for a later snack. while i was waiting for it to bake, he gave me as many drinks out of the cooler as i could drink--- four bottles comped out of the stuff he usually sells to campers. he also said that he'd refund some of the fee i paid, that if he'd been at the desk he wouldn't have charged me at all.
to top it off, he just drove by in his truck with a newly-split stack of dry firewood and kindling; we unloaded it, and he stacked the fire ring, pulling out a propane torch to start the whole thing. "there, that ought to burn like hell," he said. the fire ring is an old wheel from a truck, stacked full of soft and hard wood, and there's another stack of wood beside it to add as the fire burns down. all free, from a guy who just really likes bike travelers. he must not see many of us, or his finances would be in the red from generosity. maybe later i'll go up to the office to get some marshmallows.
the local crows seem to have discovered my bag of cinnamon buns while i was lying in the grass swatting ants and reading the new yorker. the food's now safely secured from prying (and intelligent) corvidae. every so often a red-winged blackbird hops over and whistles, ten feet or so away--- usually using my handlebars or saddle as a perch.
this morning while i was doing my yoga, a bright orange and black bird with orange tail stripes landed on my bike's rack, but i was already moving through my sun salutation, and the bird startled and flew.
|Thursday, June 23rd, 2005|
harper's ferry, iowa, evening, june 22
i'm sitting at a picnic table in camp after 2 days off the road. i finished on the 20th in marquette, then took 2 days to hang out with my sweetie. it was good; we hiked some, saw the effigy mounds national monument (where the authority given to white ethnographers really annoyed me), went to see /mr. and mrs. smith/, and watched a lot of tv. (mmm, motel. air conditioning. pool. hot showers. good stuff.) he gave me a ride 15 miles down the road to a campground, which handily avoided a big hill. he was thinking about staying the night in the tent, but we realized that it just wasn't right--- this is my trip. he wished me well, we said goodbye, and now i'm organizing things and preparing for another seven weeks on the road. the big hills start now, and the unknown; up until now i knew where and when i was aiming for, and it was relatively short-term. on the plus side, it's now no longer a race to a particular point. my schedule from here out is all 60, 65, 70 mile days, and if!
i happen to do a longer day than that it's because i'm having a good day.
the mississippi river is huge here--- tall bluffs of sedimentary rock, then several wide channels with big islands in between. the bluffs are very tall, several hundred feet (which i realize will seem like nothing to me in a month). lots of bugs. there are trains that run along the river, so i hear lots of whistles, lots of freight. E explained to me yesterday about hopping freight trains--- which cars he rode in, why trains are so fascinating to him. we went up onto a high point on the wisconsin side of the river and watched the trains. for some time now, the land's been so large that i can watch an 80-car train go by, and it doesn't even fill the horizon.
i've been thinking about the ways i'll be different when i finish this trip than when i started. it's changed me some already. i'm understanding the old stories and images about travelers in new ways. i don't think i ever really understood the reason for the stories about people who shelter strangers, realizing later that they were entertaining gods. those stories don't talk about the experience of being a vulnerable traveler, accepting hospitality from strangers that you haven't asked for. i'm finding it humbling in good ways. i'm also mellowing out a lot, having no deadlines and minimal clock usage. i love the way days on the road can sometimes stretch out pleasantly forever, measured only by the position of the sun in the sky.
sitting by the river today, i was thinking about ferries and bridges: how ferries end up as place names (_____'s ferry) while bridges almost never do. i'd never given much thought to bridges; they're just always there, with no thought to who built them or what travel would be like without them. i was thinking about images of river-crossing; fording the river into the promised land, or paying the ferryman charon for passage to the underworld. ferries and fords are almost always significant. they're places where things change.
"grab your ticket and your suitcase,
thunder's rolling down this track
you don't know where you're going now,
but you know you won't be back..."
--- bruce springsteen
a small, bright green, iridescent beetle just landed next to me. it's beautiful. the sky is sunset-pale blue with a few cirrus clouds. i hear there's a heat wave coming in the next few days, or storms, but i wasn't paying much attention.
|Sunday, June 19th, 2005|
elkader, iowa, june 19, just before sundown
the big hill down into elkader tonight was about 3/4 mile on a state highway that had been laid in 20-foot segments with seams. the noise of me going down it was ka-thump ka-thump ka-thump, standing on my pedals and trying to time jumping to give the bike a little suspension. my computer says i was doing 38.4mph down that hill, a busy 2-lane state highway. fortunately the cars behind me were polite about my taking up the whole lane.
i had a hot dinner tonight on the stove for the first time in a while. mac and cheese with chipotle, onions, parmesan, and diced-up bits of beef jerky. i also made the first cup of the red lavender tea i bought, sweetened with the sorghum. it's great--- even mellower than most of the rooibos i've had in the past--- and the lavender isn't too overpowering. i built a fire in the fire ring, and it's crackling as i write this. the sun isn't yet down.
i rode just over 60 miles today, averaging over 11 mph, and because almost everything was closed i didn't really have a reason to slow down except at the soda machines in front of these small-town stores. the clerk at the service station in elkport told me that his doctor had given him at most 2 years to live; a fibrosis of some kind was slowly disabling his lungs. he said that he played golf whenever he could, that walking around in the fresh air helped him a lot.
more daylilies today. lupine, which is a small purple wildflower, and lavender thistle flowers sticking up in cow pastures, the only thing the cows won't eat. lots of dairy cows, all in herds of similar breed, but many different breeds. i like the swiss ones best; they're a light brownish-grey with pale edges around their ears. cows tend to track me with their heads as i roll by; guess bikes are an unusual sight. the shape of the hills has changed since yesterday. there are more of them, and they're taller, with more woods. my map informs me that this section of iowa wasn't scraped flat by the glaciers like the other parts.
in petersburg, a little hill town where everything was closed but the soda machine, there's a huge tan stone church with double spires. apparently the building it replaced in 1905 was the first consecrated (christian) ground in iowa. it was huge. a faded, hand-lettered sign in the window of the flaking-painted storefront across the street declared that "ALL ABORTION IS MURDER."
as i ride, i keep thinking about just how much of this land there is, wondering about how it was sacred to the native americans who were here before, trying to imagine this land without the white people who stole it. sometimes i'm acutely conscious that, were i not white, traveling like this would expose me to much more suspicion, much less treatment as if i'm supposed to be here. i can't quite figure out what to do with that.
evening, june 18, cascade, iowa
i'm camped at the american legion park in town, which consists of a baseball diamond, a pool, and a large lawn that looks meant to be filled in during the winter for ice skating. i followed the suggestion in the adventure cycling map and called the police about camping here. i gathered from context that this is highly unofficial; after a long hold, they asked that i go by the police chief's house so he could check me out. police chief miyagawa looked 50-60, strolled out shirtless, and told me how to get here. i can only assume that he's a member of the legion or something. anyway, i'm here.
rode 53 miles today. the hills are starting to get more serious now. where before they were rollers that i could get over with good momentum, now they're long enough that i have to gear down and just grind over them. there are good downhills, though they'd be better if i weren't still having to look out for farm dogs. i had to pepper spray a large shepherd-mix today who kept getting a bit too close, growling rather than barking playfully, as i was barrelling down a hill going 15 or 20. at least there was no wind.
because of my decision not to push on to dyersville tonight--- another 15 miles, not 20 as i had thought--- i won't get to the effigy mounds national monument until monday, rather than sunday as i'd hoped. tomorrow is probably 75 very hilly miles, due to camping options being sparsely distributed. i hope my motivation picks up.
nature watch: hills; in some ways this part of the country looks like a storybook picture of farmland. corn. more corn. daylilies now, too, orange along the side of the road. i saw a little doe in the grass today, probably not much taller than my waist.
due to the highly unofficial camping situation, i elected not to pull out my stove for the enhanced mac and cheese (chipotle, onions, parmesan) that i really wanted for dinner. instead, i used the hotdog rolls, which need to be eaten anyway, for peanut butter and sorghum-syrup sandwiches. the syrup's only 25 percent sorghum (the rest is cane and corn), but it's still pretty damn good. dried pineapple for dessert, mmm.
met a guy at a service station on a harley with touring gear strapped in the passenger position. he'd been to bike week at laconia, nh last week, and was riding west. he left new england yesterday. my mind boggles at such travel speeds now.
i drank a chocolate malt today at a mom-and-pop convenience store while reading the DEA's poster for midwestern retail employees about commonly-purchased farm supplies which can also be used to manufacture meth. ("if you see anyone buying these items in unusually large quantities, please contact us or your local police.") corn's not all they grow out here, i guess.
i'm going to go read the new yorker and try to revitalize my spirits. tomorrow's sunday, which means lots of stuff will be closed. i hit 1500 miles this morning while riding back into bennett from the park on the outskirts of town. mileage-wise, i'm over a third done.
|Saturday, June 18th, 2005|
wyoming, iowa, 5pm, june 18
i got a late start this morning due to phone calls home, and i've been taking a leisurely time of it anyway because i have plenty of camping options. emotionally the day's been very rocky for reasons i won't go into here.
the day was redeemed by a visit to sybil's general store in massillon, one of these little communities that's just a cluster of houses. a local told me about it last night, or i never would have known to stop. it's a little converted garage, painted jewel blue inside, with skylights and original warm wood trim. the shelves are full of bulk food, stuff i'd get at the local co-op back home. it was wonderful.
i bought a bunch of stuff, and the shopkeeper was willing to ship half of it to a future mail stop for me. i kept with me some instant rice, dried papaya and pineapple ($1ish a pound, cheap), rooibos-lavender tea, and best of all a bottle of sorghum syrup. i haven't had the stuff since i was a kid, and it's a fond childhood memory. (too bad the small glass jar weighs so much.) i shipped along some couscous, more dried fruit, and some green-apple twizzler-style candy. the shopkeeper gave me one of their cards and said to call them if i needed another shipment somewhere along the road. we chatted as i drank a bottle of excellent root beer and looked around the store. they also sell herbal odds and ends--- the entire frontier product line, it seems--- and oddities like music box cylinders and phonograph needles. they use an old mechanical cash register. it was a great little place, and although i probably will sack out early today i've had an enjoyable time with the things i've!
with 4 hours of daylight left, i can ride either 20 miles or 40 miles to a campsite. either is doable, but i may go for the easy option today.
bennett park, bennett, iowa, june 18, morning
i'm sitting at a picnic table in a county park, getting my stuff together for a 15-mile ride to the nearest town with a diner. last night, i pulled into this campground, wheels skidding on the dirt road, to see that a bunch of people were having a campground party-- big bonfire, about 25 people sitting around talking. it was almost dark, so i asked them how to register, and they hooked me up, then told me that when i got my tent pitched i should come back for a beer. they were having a potluck, and i got fed too--- fried fish, smoked fish, taco salad, chicken fingers, cookies. good stuff, good conversation.
yesterday was an 83-mile day, which i didn't really intend, but by the time i got to muscatine, where i crossed the mississippi, i knew that the nearest place to camp was here. as i rode 3 miles off-route to this campground, it was near dark, the moon was more than half full, and the cornfields were full of fireflies. hills are once again a regular part of my riding routine. sometimes they're short, steep rolling ones, but more often they're long, flat, gradual things.
nature watch: nothing much new. corn. lots of corn. a few cows. the weather forecast is for winds from the east, 10-15mph--- just as i've started to head north for a while. the locals inform me that if i were a month later, there would be no wind, but that the corn and bean fields would be giving off their own humidity. i think i'll take the wind.
my planning worked out perfectly. today and tomorrow will be 60ish-mile days, then i'll get to the meeting place i've established with my sweetie for several days off. there's no rain in the forecast for at least the next 4 days.
|Friday, June 17th, 2005|
june 16, orion, illinois, nightfall
i'm sitting at a picnic table near a pool at the hillcrest resort in orion (say "ORE-ee-uhn") illinois, munching on caramel corn and writing by the backlight of my email device. this is a little rv campground with a golf course, pool, and bar, about 3 hilly miles off-route. the name "hillcrest" should have told me something.
i didn't leave henry this morning until 10 or 11; had a hot chocolate, a bagel, and a double chocolate at a little cafe that also sold decorating knicknacks, christian books, and gospel CDs. the weather was much better today; no more than 85, with a light northish breeze that didn't get in my way too much. i stopped at the public library in bradford, about 20 miles along, for an hour, then had a convenience-store burrito and a soda on the curb when a college-age guy on a surly long haul trucker pulled up, coming the other way. we traded road information. he told me about a few places to stay that weren't on the map, including his parents' house, which is 1 mile off the route in stillwater, mn. (he said that they take in cyclists all the time, and he wrote me a map of how to get there.) his bike was fully loaded; he had been free-camping in churchyards and such; and he was riding about 100 miles a day. he left seattle may 10. must have been some damn fine tailwinds.
bradford was only 20 miles into my day, and by the time i pulled out around 3 i thought i'd be doing well to end up in cambridge for the night--- that would be a 60 mile day. the winds and my body cooperated, though, and when a bunch of locals at the oonvenience store in cambridge chatted me up, i realized that the extra 12 miles plus 3 offroute made sense to do today. my decision was rewarded with a beautiful sunset, no wind, temperatures cooling to the 60s, and an excellently paved, mostly flat road with wide sweeping curves. i pulled in here about 15 minutes after bike-headlights-on time. the manager gave me $5 camping, a shower under the moon at the pool (brrrrrr), and a bottle of gatorade for free. she had a cyclists' log, too.
nature watch: more corn. fenced lots full of pigs; separate lots full of piglets (so cute-- they chase one another.) the pigs have little shelters sort of like doghouses. no wheat today; yesterday i was seeing wheat, whigh is just beginning to turn from green to light brown. when the wind blows the wheat, it actually does look like waves. it's very aesthetically pleasing. still the same prairie birds; a hawk; fewer of the ring-necked songbirds though. less roadkill here than 3 days ago, which was more wooded, though i did see a blindingly blue spot of feathers yesterday that could only have been a bluebird. there are some roadside zones along the state highways where they forbid chemicals or mowing; they're trying to encourage the growth of native prairie grasses and wildflowers.
the land has started to have more hills, gently rolling ones mostly. the fields are plowed to the contours of the land here, where 2 days ago they were always in even lines parallel or perpendicular to the roads.
there is a train track a few miles away. i will go to sleep tonight to the sound of freight. 42 miles to muscatine, iowa, where i will finish off this map section and start the next one. the weather is forecast to be in the 80s with light north or northeast winds.
|Thursday, June 16th, 2005|
live from the bradford, il public library
the library filters here seem to block gmail. bleh.
there are actual hills on today's route--- long, gradual sloping sections--- and gentle breezes blowing from vaguely in front and to the right. nothing hellish, yet. I'm aiming for 60 miles today, but if I can do more I will.
i bought a sewing kit and fixed the seam in the stuff sack. it seems to be holding so far.
henry, il, midmorning june 16
i was just standing on the sidewalk when a local woman pulled over in her car, asked if i was traveling, and we had the by-now-standard conversation. she handed me $10, asked god's blessings on me, and wished me a good trip. i don't even know her name.
also, a carful of local highschool girls keeps driving by the park i'm sitting in, whooping and whistling at me.
okay, on the road. thanks for the good wishes. week 4, here i come.
|Wednesday, June 15th, 2005|
june 14, early afternoon
i'm writing this under a shade tree in the yard of the shortsleeve family, right near the intersection of my path and illinois state highway 1. when i sat down here, it was at the bidding of the residents, who were going out but encouraged me to use their water hose and shade tree. just as i sat down, the winds picked up even more, and i decided to nap a bit. i'm hoping the chill in the wind goes away with the light gray clouds passing over.
the weather is beautiful, though; puffy clouds marching across the sky with winds strong enough to be awe-inspiring. with luck, the winds will die down soon enough for me to get where i'm going today. i won't get to odell, illinois in time for the post office today, but i can be there when it opens tomorrow.
june 14, sunset, odell, illinois
i'm in a quonset-hut in a public park in odell, having been let in (and offered a shower at the pool across the park) by a member of the parks committee. odell is on the railroad and on i-55, so it's a larger small town (population 1055).
i am here thanks also to the generosity of a woman probably my mom's age, who, when i was pushing my bike down a state highway at 4pm, offered me a ride. at that point, i still had 40 miles to ride, and i couldn't bring myself to keep pedaling, so i was pushing the 2-3 miles into the next town. after we loaded my bike into her suv/minivan, she gave me a ride that took almost 30 miles out of what would have been an impossible 60-mile day. that saved my day, but now i'm worried about tomorrow. i have to be at the post office when it opens at 9, and that'll cut into my early-morning, nonwindy riding time. the winds die, relatively speaking, after about 6pm, but sitting under a tree being dehydrated by the wind while i wait for evening isn't my ideal.
i'm only planning 45 miles of riding for tomorrow unless the winds get a lot less severe. i averaged 6.8mph over the 32 miles i did ride today. bleh. when riding the last 10 miles, though, i rode between two visibly large columns of rain without getting much more than a light mist. after i went through that, the wind cut back a lot.
less birdsong today; mostly all i heard was the wind in my ears. dinner: spaghetti-Os with meatballs, stretched and enhanced with some basil, oregano, rice, and parmesan cheese.
faygo peach soda is tasty, high-calorie, cheaper than powerade locally, and not so fizzy as to be ungulpable.
|Monday, June 13th, 2005|
iroquois, illinois, june 13, midnightish
i have had an Adventure this evening.
first of all, i'm now in illinois: iroquois (population 250), where the native americans had a town long before europeans arrived. there hasn't been a tornado touchdown here in all the history anyone remembers. (this will be relevant.)
i called ahead this afternoon to the village hall, following the adventure cycling guide, to ask about camping in the city park. the mayor wasn't in, but the guy who answered told me sure, i could camp. i rolled in around 7 after 80ish miles of headwindy riding and pitched my tent. met a guy who'd rescued a baby raccoon from the middle of the street when it was about 6 inches long; he had it out in the park, letting it climb up trees. (it's now the size of a medium kitten.) he said he was going to release it to the wild once it was old enough to fend for itself.
as i was pitching my tent, some local kids on bikes rode up and we started talking. they see a lot of bikers, people from around the world, which is unusual if you're a small-town kid. one kid, keegan, said his grandpa was the mayor and that when he grew up he was going to be mayor. i'd guess keegan was about 7, 8: skinny white kid with dirty blonde hair, a crewcut grown out. (he could have been subjective's kid brother.) keegan hung out while i fixed sweet potato and peanut stew.
a police officer drove by, said "bad weather" was coming, and i put up my rain fly. i took the bags off my bike for the first time since the tour started; we rode 2 blocks to keegan's house so keegan could get the key to unlock the park restrooms. (his dad's on the town council.) then the tornado horn rang, signaling that someone somewhere had seen a funnel cloud. i threw what i could of my stuff in the restroom building, pulled the door shut, left the tent up, and we rode back to keegan's house. i met his mom, amanda, who had a little one in arms; and his brother, who was deaf but being raised orally with hearing aids and could speak.
when keegan's dad, dennis, got home in 5 minutes, he drove me back over to the park; i unstaked my tent, and we put it and my bags in the car. i put everything else in the restroom building hastily, as the sky was turning black with clouds and the wind was picking up. i splashed peanut stew--- still quite warm--- all over myself in the frenzy.
back at the house, i cleaned myself up and met keegan's granddad, the mayor, who didn't have a basement and had walked down the street to wait out the storm. as the winds picked up, he told me that when things had blown over i should sleep in his office, which had AC and a shower and a place to put my bike. meanwhile, the winds outside surely would have uprooted my tent and ended my trip. no one seemed concerned about any actual tornado, though.
later, while it was raining but not blowing hard, dennis, a meatcutter, fed me pot roast cooked with bacon, mashed potatoes, green beans with cheese, strawberry cake--- a big plate of home cooking. he was a big blonde guy, built like an ex-football player, friendly and sociable. he told me about living there--- everyone knows everyone, people go on vacation and leave their doors unlocked, etc. afterwards, he drove my stuff back to the park, i took my bike, and he set me up in the village hall. i'm now showered, though my stuff still isn't organized from the all-at-once moving before the storm. i wasn't expecting the help at all, but i don't know what i would have done without it. i told keegan i'd send him a postcard from seattle.
the mayor's office also has a phone, so i'll send this tonight instead of waiting. yay.
live from the brook, indiana public library
it's hot. more than that, it's windy, directly from the west. and even on non-sundays, the services in these little towns are few and far between. (as are the towns. and they're all, like, population 432 or something. the big town near today's route, an 8-mile-roundtrip detour, was 12,000 people.) I just stopped and asked a random guy in his yard for water because the last available stop for fluids/food was probably 25 miles ago, and I didn't buy an extra bottle of liquid there. (lesson learned.) i did, however, buy a can of sweet potato chunks, which will hopefully form the core of sweet potato/peanut stew for dinner, with rice or something.
i'm staying in the city park in iroquois, IN tonight, about 12 miles away, but it's 5pm and won't get dark for a while, so I'm not rushing. maybe the winds will die down. Current Mood: windblown
fletcher's lake, indiana, june 12, dark, part 1
2 more dog incidents after that last post. one, with 2 yipyips, i raced past. another, with a smallish rottweiler, i slowed, dismounted with the bike between me and the dog, and walked slowly past. seemed to work okay.
i kicked ass today. i rode 102 miles in just under 8.5 hours--- averaging 12mph. that's both the longest and the fastest i've done so far on this tour. the weather helped--- drizzly, but not so cold that i needed to wear raingear and get all sweaty under it. the rain was heavy at times, but that wasn't a big deal, because it was summery rain. no thunder or lightning either, and no wind perceptible enough to matter.
my speed was augmented by the realization that, it being sunday, nowhere was going to be open anyway for me to eat or buy stuff. the diner in lagro, indiana was closing for the day at 3, but i got chocolate cream pie there at 2:30. the convenience store up the block sold me trail mix and a can of red beans. i ended up being happy i got the beans, because the grocery store in denver, the next big town, was closed on sundays. (the quickie-mart there sold me a hot dog and a machine-made coffee drink, which was exactly what i needed at mile 80 of a century. the woman at the counter of this place, which was a convenience-store/tanning-parlor/video-r
ental all in one gave me very strange looks when i told her i'd ridden from the other side of fort wayne today.)
fletcher's lake is a little community-- not even a town-- with a church and a bunch of houses around a body of water smaller than spy pond in arlington. the campground is a bunch of rv trailers--- only one or two of which seem to have people in them tonight--- and a little grassy area with picnic tables. the owner didn't get home for a while, and so i met lona, this thin, older woman with a british accent who lives one house over. the dogs started barking, and she came out to tell me about camping.
after i'd made my dinner--- red beans and rice, hot cocoa--- i went over to ask lona about payphones, because i have no cell reception here and needed to make a safe call. she let me use her phone, and we ended up talking. her husband of 30 years had died about 6 months ago-- very sudden cancer--- and she explained that although she was sad to lose him, "god is my husband now" and that it was very satisfying. her cats and little dog seemed to entertain her too. she gets up at 4am to work a 4-day, 10-hour factory job. she said if i needed anything during the night not to hesitate to wake her up. she leaves her door open overnight so the cats can come and go, despite the protests of her neighbors for her perceived safety. we're miles from nowhere; i really can't see that anyone's going to mess with her.
(continued in next entry)
fletcher's lake, 2
the land's still flat, though i went through a state park (salamonie river) today that was hilly and had very dense deciduous forest. the noise of the rain there was great. the latter half of the day had more rolling hills. the noise of the rain out on those farm roads is different than in the city. in a city, the noise of biking in a rainstorm is the whooooooshssshhhhh of cars going past. with no cars, if the rain is loud enough all you can hear is raindrops and maybe one set of bicycle tires.
in addition to the usual fields of corn and wheat, today i saw some cows, a few horses, some yellow ponies with white manes and tails, some very large pigs, and sheep. the usual agricultural menagerie, i guess.
the wild birds here are mostly starlings, redwinged blackbirds, and a little bird we don't have in new england. it's the size of a small dove, brownish with a white ring around the neck, and tapered, pointy wings with white trailing edges. when it flies away you can see light brownish-orange in its tailfeathers. it walks a lot. anyone know what it is?
sleep soon. i hear bullfrogs in the pond, raindrops, and not much else.
|Sunday, June 12th, 2005|
monroeville, indiana, june 11, evening
i'm currently sitting in air-conditioned bliss in the community center of monroeville. the town parks committee here maintains a "cyclists' room" by donations from travelers. it has hot showers, laundry, vcr/tv, indoor bike parking, and cots for sleeping on--- all for free/donation. there's also a book exchange, parts bin, and map box. it's great. the guestbook here has collected 800-odd names since 1990, but the shelter has been running since 1978.
i had thought i was going to do another 30 miles today, but if i had i'd have been primitive-camping again. (i have kerosene now, though, so hot food has become an option again without fear of being without fuel.) the hospitality from the local who answered the door was so overwhelming, i just couldn't pass it up, so i took a short (50-mile) day. as long as i do 68-plus-mile days every day for the next week, i'll make it to my waypoint on june 21 at the MN-WI border. challenging, but doable.
there's a class of 1955 high school reunion afterparty here tonight, and the graduation party that was here will be clearing out soon, leaving me space to set up a cot and sleep. i met dave and becca from eugene, oregon, college professors who are traveling to toledo. their relatives drove down with a picnic, and they fed me too--- shrimp cocktail, bread with savory olive oil, pasta salad, chips, salsa, beer. the graduation party has also plied me with food, and the '55ers as well. i am being well fed.
campgrounds out here are somewhat sparser, offering me the choice of long (90-mile) days, too-short days, or 5-mile-offroute detours. this means i have to be strategic in my distance plans, and that tomorrow will probably be a long day.
i finished off map number 9 today and started number 8. i crossed the indiana line, but i didn't realize until 2 miles down the road that i'd passed the only available sign to get a photo of. after leaving the library in Paulding, OH earlier today, i rode through a small summer storm, which was refreshingly wet and short. it didn't get much above about 85, but the winds from the southwest--- the direction i was traveling--- were brutal.
today is day 17. i've traveled 1070 miles.
|Saturday, June 11th, 2005|
i am in the Paulding, OH public library making a pit stop. I've updated the postal stops entry
to reflect new knowledge I've gotten recently; one of my to-do items is to call all those post offices ahead and confirm that they'll take general delivery.
The weather is cooler today; I woke up early, got on the road quickly, and have made good miles so far-- powered largely by a cinnamon bun the size of my face, given to me by the owners of a coffeeshop a few towns back when they heard I was going to Seattle. I also have succeeded in filling my large fuel bottle with kerosene for a whopping fifty cents, which means that hot food will be much more easily had at camp. yay.
there's a little brick jewel of a church building in florida, ohio, a town that doesn't have much more than a grocery store and a few churches. it's a very simple, vertical federal-style building; its footprint on the ground is probably no more than 15 by 25 feet. its belltower and steeple, the bell long since removed, are taller than the actual building. it looks like not much more than a vestibule and a nave, but the stained glass side windows are still there, and the whole building seems well-maintained. over the door, in simple black painted letters, is FLORIDA PUBLIC LIBRARY.
somewhere, athena must be smiling at such creative re-uses of buildings.
|Friday, June 10th, 2005|
white star park, gibsonburg, OH, june 9, after dark
since i pulled into this little park, which is run by the county and is "primitive" camping, there's been heat lightning and thunder nearby. when i was riding to get here, i was racing cool crosswinds from the same storm front, and i'd pass sections of road where there had been rain, but i got no rain. i set up my tent racing against the rain, wrote my daily log entry at a picnic table waiting for rain, but now that i am in my tent filling my belly with popcorn and other fast-and-stovefree foods, there is no rain, only heat lightning. the rain fly is up, obviously.
80.00 miles today by my computer. 11.8mph average, yay. i stayed out of the worst heat by going to the library and by reading the newspaper while sucking down a slush at dairy queen. this strategy has the downside of causing me to race against sundown at the end of the day, but it's marginally more comfortable. (in relative terms; today was so humid that my sweat just wouldn't evaporate; the salt just accumulated on my skin. i have to wash off my head and arms at least once on a normal day to keep the salt from blocking my pores, but today it was at least 3 times.
i am mastering the art of taking a spartan but complete bath in 2 bike-water-bottles of water and biodegradable soap. i don't do this every day--- private campgrounds tend to have showers--- but it's a certain kind of useful skill.
(there, and the rain starts, drip by drip. now a downpour, and hopefully tomorrow a high-pressure front with a cool breeze... it's lighting up my tent, thundercracks shaking the ground.)
i got to huron, ohio today and turned away from the lake, toward the farmland. it's much flatter, and there are pockets of non-humidity, unlike the lakeshore. gridded county roads and town roads split off the farmland; they're long, straight, identified by number, and occasionally only one paved lane. every so often a stand of trees covers a farmhouse, road-edge, or rural cemetery. a low spot in one of the roads today had vernal ponds along the side, and they were full of birdsong and the ribbit-splash of frogs.
(those raindrops are very large. even though i know the thunder is coming, i still jump at some of it. the rain is strong and loud now. i couldn't sleep if i tried.)
camping miscellany: i've found that one leg of my convertible pants, zipped off and stuffed with other clothing, makes a lovely pillow. i haven't yet found white-gas stove fuel in cans smaller than a gallon, though, and i only have carrying capacity for about a third of that. i've been trying to stretch my existing fuel out by eating less hot stuff, or i may just fill my large fuel bottle with kerosene, which is easier to find and which my stove will burn. (i am holding out on running it with gasoline, which it will also do; that's a real last resort and would have me cleaning the stove entirely more than i want to.)
i'm going to go listen to the thunder and rain and feel the cool air coming in the end of the tent.