Thursday, August 5, 2010

At least it's getting interesting...

We left Vandalia, IL for Terre Haute, IN hoping to make it before dark, trying to avoid the unpleasantness of night riding on increasingly busy roads. But having gotten to bed late (for us), we finally managed to get rolling around 9:00 am. As we left Vandalia, we came upon this dragon. He was pretty awesome.

Fortunately for us, the rest of Illinois was flat or fairly rolling with mostly a lot of corn and soybeans. Outside of Marshall, IL, while taking a rest on the side of the road, Loreen saw a little crayon-written sign in front of a house advertising ice cream sales. As she looked around, a man came out and said they'd be happy to just give us popsicles and water. The two little girls whose stand it was were extremely happy to see us, and had to show us the new kittens.

As we talked to the family, we learned they had lost a niece to leukemia in 1995, and he brought out a picture of her, full of spirit and happiness even after endless rounds of chemotherapy. The little girls gave us a quarter each and the rest of the family gave more. We are always amazed with how people who meet us on the road are so generous in helping both us and giving to the cause however they can. After continuing on, as we approached the Indiana border, we noticed a storm closing on us from the North. As it began to dump on us, one cloud began to creep suspiciously toward the ground, and for about ten minutes our eyes shot back and forth between the road and what in our minds was a growing tornado.

Fortunately the funnel lost its steam and we left the rain behind near dusk as we crossed into Indiana and made it the last 5 miles to Terre Haute.

After explaining our ride and our need for occassional showers and dry places to several hotels, we finally got a room donated by the Best Western, which to us is a sort of Holy Grail because we've been rejected from all ~30 we've tried across the country. Thankfully, the girl at the desk was named Leia, and that's why she gave us a room (just kidding, she was just awesome). Even though by this point is was already about 9:30, there was no question we had to go to the "8 Chinese Buffet" next door, and it was amazing! There were giant slabs of steak, sushi, frog legs, lychees, crab legs, oysters, roast beef you carve yourself, countless soups, and all the other standards of a chinese buffet.

We finally stumbled back to the hotel around 11:00, hoping to get as early a start as possible without going on no sleep, but it was becoming clear we were getting locked in a cycle of late entries and late departures, especially since most of our days between St. Louis and eastern Ohio were going to be above 100 miles, and all of them above 90. We left Terre Haute the next morning at 9:30.

Cliff after cliff, mountain after mountain, or barn after barn, life on the road definitely has a lot of redundancy despite its beauty.
In a rural stretch between Terre Haute and Indianapolis (Indy), we came to the crest of a hill and found a terrible accident in which both cars had flipped, and an elderly man was trapped in his smashed car as it lay on the driver's side. There was a crowd of about ten people but it was clear it had just happened within the last ten or so minutes. We stopped and asked if anyone else was hurt or still in one of the cars, and with our absolute lack of knowledge at least asked the man in the car if he could move his toes, squeeze a hand if he could understand, and to just relax since he was trying to move around. We kept talking to him for a little while just trying to calm him down and looking at the gaping gash on his forehead. Although we would not attempt to do anything we're not trained to do, we did figure that despite having only one year of medical school, we may still be some value among a group of random people stopping on the road. We tried to make sure the one guy holding the man's hand knew not to let him move until the ambulance arrived. Beyond that, however, we were really more klutter around the crash, so we decided to move on, hoping the ambulance would arrive soon. Since it was fairly rural Indiana, however, we finally saw one zooming down the road about 20 minutes later. The shortage of medical care in rural areas has definitely been a theme of this ride, but we hope the man in the car ended up ok.
About 15 miles down the road, we came across this guy:

He's riding a lawnmower from Santa Monica to New York as a sort of promotion by Sears to "test the durability of the mower". We were told we might catch up to him back in Effingham, Illinois, but had forgotten about him or figured we diverged paths. As we passed what at first looked like just another guy mowing along the roadside, something about his mower made us wonder. We learned he was actually an actor who had auditioned in New York, and was keeping track on the website He had run out of gas and was waiting for his support vehicle, a large RV with Craftsman Across America all over it we saw a little later on down the road. He asked if he could film us and Arturo gave another roadside interview about what we're doing, and how people can help contribute. We did learn that he's averaging about 7 mph, which means there is at least one motorized vehicle in America we're beating! If you're interested, the verdict on the mower: pretty good, but the front tires need replacement about every 200 miles.

Passing through some towns as we approached Indianapolis in an attempt to blow through in the most direct way to Greenfield, construction got terrible, traffic got evil, and the decay of crumbling business took hold at some points.

Finally, we made it to Indianapolis, and while we saw some previous years had made their route longer just to avoid it, we decided to barrel right through it to Greenfield about 20 miles east.

Once we made it through downtown, though, the hand of disaster struck again. Loreen noticed she couldn't clip out from her right pedal (which believe us is never a good feeling), and after finally snapping it out, realized the cleat had actually ripped off from her shoe and was still in trapped in the binding of the pedal.

As we tried to pull the cleat out with Arturo's Leatherman, a biker came up to us and started asking us about where we're going, how long it's been, where we're staying and this and that. Meanwhile we're trying to figure out how to get that cleat out and what we're going to do about Loreen's now useless right shoe. Then we learned he was a professor at the IU School of Medicine and had done a cross-country ride the year before, and once he actually realized what the problem was, he tried to help us figure out what to do, even offering us a place to stay a his house 5 miles north of Indy and baskets for her pedals or other possibilities. Being behind as we were, however, we really needed to press on, and Loreen kept riding without clipping in. She quickly realized she couldn't ride like that because the hard plastic of the shoe soles made her feel slip around too much, so we stopped at a K-mart and she bought a $10 pair of Keds.

The next day while riding with them (yes, she was still riding with them), she got fed up with THEIR soles being too slippery, and at that point moved on to the flip flops. The moral: Loreen is a badass.

Just before the Ohio border in Richmond, IN, we did find a bike shop that helped fix some of Loreen's bikes problems (did I mention that all along the descent of our bikes into old age had continued to plague us?). She also reluctantly bought a new pair of biking shoes, and we eventually continued on, crossing into Ohio!

Then Alex's tire exploded. Its fibrous entrails spilling out from the large puncture, but lacking another spare (which we tried to get at the bike shop, where they didn't have the right size), we had to emergency patch the tire with duct tape and one of our business cards so he could hopefully make it the 40 miles to Springfield, our destination and the nearest bike shop.

They're just so handy. We called the bike shop and learned they closed at 8, so Arturo raced off to beat the clock. He did, and we got hooked up with a sweet deal on a couple of hard case tires, which are woven with kevlar and are supposedly puncture proof. The rest of the crew made it in as dusk set in, and after some searching, we received a donation from the Courtyard Inn in downtown Springfield, Ohio. Thank you!

Arturo rides his bike everywhere now. We have clearly lost our minds.
The next day we rode the 103 miles to Danville, Ohio with fairly little hassle. There was a nice little rain in Delaware, Ohio that help cool things off a bit.

Other than that, there were some flat tires, some hills, some heat, but we actually made it with daylight to spare, and found this awesome bike path that bypassed the hills for the last 8 miles! Man it was nice...

When we made it into Danville, a tiny litte town (technically a village), we went to this little place and asked if we could use their tables to eat our cold Campbell's soups, cookies, and canned fruit. We must be incredibly pathetic to the outside world.

Trying to figure out where to camp for the night, we considered an abandoned barn, but were thwarted by a huge, thorny field. Then we asked the owner of the burger place if the town park would be ok, and he offered to call the police officer on duty to ask, but couldn't see why not. When they called back, he said they'd have to call the mayor. Suddenly and unwittingly, we were trapped in the pit of bureaucracy in a tiny village on the edge of Ohio's Amish country. Eventually we were told we couldn't use the park, but that we could camp by the bike trail, and we set up under a little shelter, which was lucky because that night it DUMPED.
The next morning was again a little late getting out of town due to having to dry some shorts and fix some tires. We stopped at the gas station in town for quick breakfast. We were definitely entering Amish country...

We all ate amazing donuts at the gas station that the Amish made every morning. Really they were cakes disguised as donuts.

As we continued on through this finger of hills in east-central Ohio, the Amish presence became more and more evident. We thinks it's awesome that they manage to maintain their tradition the way they do, and from the people we saw, they really seem like great, helpful and warm people! It is a little odd seeing them in Walmart, but hey, who CAN resist?

Coming to Navarre, we started hearing the ominous booms of rolling thunder, and a short while later it began to rain on us, but we decided to try to continue on to Canton to eat lunch. We barely made it out of Navarre before the rain suddenly became so intense the streets flooded instantly and we could barely see 10 feet in front of us, while lighting crashed all around and overhead. We had to wait it out in a McDonald's, which was freezing since we were soaked, but eventually the most severe weather moved on.

Winding through every corner of Canton, Ohio in a convoluted zig-zag, we realized we had definitely entered northern Ohio: post-industrial, boarded up, and overcast, with weeds growing from abandoned brick walls. Downtown was pretty nice though.

Then Loreen's tire exploded. No it was just a regular flat, but Alex's zip-tied pannier also snapped off again. We had been riding with a biker named Scott for a few blocks, who had just finished the Pan-Ohio ride from Cleveland to Cincinatti.

He called his stepdaughter to bring some really burly zip ties and, we hooked them on while we talked to him some more. While our target for the night was Youngstown, he suggested that since we'd be arriving pretty late at night and Youngstown is pretty rough, we'd be better off going to Boardman, about 4 miles short of Youngstown and a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. That became the plan, and as the complete darkness took hold we tried to make it to Boardman without getting ourselves squished. This time Alex zoomed ahead to see if he could find a place to stay.

Unfortunately, we found out that there's a huge dog show going on in Canfield and all the hotels in Boardman are sold out. Being past 11:00 pm and desperate after a long and exhausting day, we decided we had to suck it up and pay for a room for the first time of the trip, in the one place with any available rooms. At least they were able to offer us a discount at the Holiday Inn, but this far along and with our own money quickly evaporating away, it definitely stung. On the bright side, we've met our lofty goals trying to make up for lost time, and after all the setbacks and frustrations that meet us every day, it's pretty awesome to say we're still making it, and that no problem's been too big. Having done 108, 97, 99, 113, 103, and 112 miles in that order since St. Louis, you'll understand when we tell you how glad we are that today is a rest day! Because tomorrow, we enter the Appalachians...
We had complete failure trying to get another hotel this afternoon, until we finally came to our last hope. The clerk said the manager would be back at 8, but that he was pretty cheap, and if he said no he would just buy us a room with his own money! We learned his son plans on entering medical school and that he is a physician himself: a critical care specialist with a fellowship in sleep medicine who earned his medical degree in India but completed his residency at UMDNJ in New Jersey and fellowship at BU, but is awaiting getting his license in Ohio because they are giving him a hard time. In the meantime, he works the desk at the Town and Country Motel in a run-down section of Boardman, Ohio. Pretty amazing.

No comments:

Post a Comment