Monthly Archives: September 2012

Day 51: Is that the ocean?

Rain for most of the night was really nice to listen to on the tent but not as nice when its time to get up. More sausages for breakfast and i was again off. Aiming for a big day today, hoping to reach the lake Erie coastline and then have a day off tomorrow.

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The early part of the day was uneventful, going was steady in the cool temperatures. I was approaching fremont, i had decided to go past to the next town for lunch. But just as i was entering town, my Achilles really started to hurt. It has beena niggling pain for the last few days, but this was worse. I could barely put any pressure on it, cycling became very painful. I decided to stop in at a bakery to get some lunch. It turned out that the bakery only sold cakes. No problem, i can run on any fuel. I got and ate two big cream buns, this seemed to help my ankle and i was off again. The next part of the day was a bike path. I was casually drifting down the path, checking the footie scores on my phone, when i heard “to your left” from behind me. I instinctively moved to my left to allow them to pass. Again i heard “to your left” i looked behind to see a guy taking this bike path way too seriously. He wanted to pass on my left and waited for me to move over instead of simply passing on the now vacant right hand side. He passed with a grunt as i returned to checking the scores. I stopped briefly to make sure my phone wasn’t broken (it was saying that Liverpool had scored five goals). Once i had solved that, i was off, no one overtakes me anymore. I set off full speed to catch the wannabe pro cyclist. He was moving pretty fast and it took a while, but eventually i caught and overtook him, trying to look as casual as possible as i went passed. To be fair, only one of us knew that we were racing, and it wasn’t him, but still it was nice to pass him.

I had made good time during the ‘race’ and soon had lake Erie in my sights. Lake Erie is one of the great lakes, and from most angles, it resembles an ocean. It was quite a long day but i arrived at the city of Huron and searched out a motel. I checked into a motel right by the lake, although i will have to move tomorrow because they are only open Friday and Saturday’s.

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Drying out the tent

After giving my shoes another wash (they were so dirty that they were barely visible from space), i went next door to get some dinner. I ordered a family size portion of chicken wings and went back to my room to watch some tv. Tomorrow, i have to pack up and move to another motel. Plenty good sport to watch, should keep me busy.

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Day 50: Oh, hi, oh

The original plan from here was to head north, up through Michigan and cross into Ontario. Then i would go through across Ontario to London, to see Brett, and then keep going to the new York border. For timing, and for logistical reasons, i decided to change the plan. I will now continue to follow the maps, up through Ohio to lake Erie. I will then follow lake Erie right up to buffalo, where i will cross into Canada at the Niagara falls.

A combination of the late night and beers last night meant that today started later than planned. For breakfastI had some sausages that Doug gave me, and then i was off on my new route.

After just a few miles i was into Ohio. Riding was steady and pleasant. I aimed to have lunch in the city of Defiance. Getting into town was very unpleasant, lots of traffic and road works. By the time i stopped for lunch, i was definitely ready for some fuel. From Defiance, the route followed the Maumee river, the same river that i would follow the rest of the day and eventually camp next to. The next part of the day was nice, but the last ten miles or so really dragged on. The wind picked up, my hunger increased, the roads weren’t great and i wasn’t moving fast. But eventually i reached my destination of Grand Rapids.

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Setting up camp next to the river, the frustration of the latter part of the day soon faded. I then made the mile walk into town for dinner. The restaurant had a nice outdoor patio with a view of the river. A good dinner, topped off with a magnificent cheesecake made the walk back to camp a little easier. Rain is in the air tonight, another ridiculously early bedtime.

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Day 49: The brain says go but the legs say no

Up and at them, i was ready to go. Keen to get going in case the scary lady from yesterday came and made me pay. In my rush i managed to miss the turn off. As a result, i had to go back a bit to catch the right road. It wasn’t far, but going west just felt wrong.

Right from the start i was sluggish. The wind was blowing and i was struggling. My aim a few days ago was to get to Monroeville today. I had made good progress the last few days, so i was now aiming further. However, after lunch, i decided to change plans and go back to the Monroeville plan. The last couple of days, my left achilles is really starting to hurt, a nice short day would do nicely.

With a population of just over a thousand, Monroeville is a relatively insignificant village in this massive country, but for me, it has been a point on the map that i have long dreamed of reaching. Before changing my route (ill explain later), Monroeville signaled the end of my time on the adventure cycling maps and the end of the first, and by far the largest section of the trip. I remember sitting on day 5 looking at all 9 maps that i had, wondering if Monroeville, the last point on the last map, would ever become reality. It was a nice feeling to get here.

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I headed to the library to use the wifi. I was immediately invited inside by the librarian and given a computer. Monroeville allows cyclists to stay in their village hall type building in the park. After i had finished on the computer, the librarian called warren, who would let me into my room for the night. Warren explained that there would be a park board meeting tonight and i was welcome to join. After dinner and laundry, the park board meeting began. It was a small, well run meeting, mostly discussing an upcoming event in the park. My contribution was very limited, but i could tell it was appreciated:) After the meeting, a started chatting to Doug. Once he discovered i was from Scotland, he suggested that we head to the local bar, i gladly agreed. The bar was pretty busy, Doug supplied the beer and shuffle board provided a new experience for me, although there was a fiercely competitive tournament going on so i couldn’t give it a go. The night was really fun and left me pleased with my decision to have a short day. Doug is an awesome guy and Monroeville was worth the wait.

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Day 48: You cannae camp there son

Up and ready to go before anymore locals came to chat. It really was a nice setting for camping though. It was a very uneventful morning, including a nice 10 mile bike path. By the end of the path, i was a little bit peckish, so i stopped for an early lunch.

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This was certainly not fast food, but when it did eventually come, it was pretty good. The next part of the day followed mostly country roads. The weather for the whole day was grey and drizzle, my favourite. Another bit of bike path and again i was hungry, a second lunch was needed. This second lunch took even longer, fortunately i wasn’t really in a huge rush. The second lunch was in a town called lagro, on a few occasions during my brief stay here, a local would end the conversation with “be safe out there”. This is not uncommon, but in this town it was said in a threatening way that suggested that they were going to drive off after me and try to run of down. Fortunately, they didn’t and i was making progress. The next part of the day was a path through a state forest. Going into the forest meant that the gps on my phone stopped working. This was a problem because sometimes its quite difficult to follow the maps directions. ‘in two miles turn left onto unsigned pefley road’, if its unsigned then how am i supposed to know which one it is? After asking for directions, i was soon out of the forest and on my way again. The last part of the day was a bit of a struggle. The wind picked up, by the time i reached the campsite, i was mighty glad to be there. However, after searching for a bit, the campsite was proving more elusive than id hoped. There was supposed to be a state park, where camping is allowed, but i couldn’t get to it. Eventually i found an old road leading into the park that was gated off. I asked a local woman if this was the park, she explained that the park is closed but camping is still allowed. I was just about to hop my bike over the gate, but luckily hadn’t started doing it yet, when a car pulled up. Fresh from telling off the woman i had just spoken to for dumping hay near the park, the driver of the car explained to me that she is the manager of the area and that this park is closed. She was pretty fearsome, but i just played the lost tourist. She said i couldn’t camp in the park because there are sometimes hunters in there. If i got shot while setting up a tent, Im not sure you could say its an accident, not many deer sleep in tents. She said there was another campsite about 5 miles up the road, too intimidated to argue, i headed to the new site.

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Another camping dinner was on the menu, after initially thinking that they are not too bad, i think two in a row is enough for me. The campsite was really basic, i was the only one there, they wanted $8 for the night, they got nothing. Planning to be into Ohio tomorrow.

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Day 47: A day to forget

I couldn’t really remember what happened yesterday, but i do recall that today was certainly a day to forget. Not because anything bad happened, but because, well nothing really happened at all. I got a good nights sleep on the office floor (Im starting to realise that i can sleep anywhere after a days cycling). I decided not to head back to the cafe for breakfast, instead tucking into some of the many supplies that i have and are weighing me down. It was a grey morning (my favourite) so i set off in good spirits. The first few miles were very stop start, due to the bike making very strange noises. I am very aware of any unusual noises coming from the bike, concerned mostly because i really have no idea how to fix anything other than very simple problems (the noise turned out to be coming from an old fence that i was cycling next to). Somewhere amongst all the stopping and starting, i crossed into Indiana. Not that i realised since there was no border sign and it seemed identical to Illinois. Crossing the border also meant crossing time zones, i was finally on eastern time!!

The roads were all small farm roads with very little traffic. I did take a small shortcut on a larger road, but the surface wasn’t very good, so i returned to the small roads. The day would have been really forgettable if it wasn’t for me sporadically, for lack of a better term, bricking myself throughout the day. This was due to three factors, the first; for some reason, dogs really hate or love bikes. Every time i pass a house with a dog, the dog with come chasing out all guns blazing. Up to now, the dogs have been so much smaller than there bark suggests, meaning i just laugh and carry on. But today, tho size of dog really increased. On two separate occasions, i was charged at by what can be described as a wolf as much as a dog. They come from nowhere, and chase you down like game, with horror in their eyes. It really does wake you up though as the adrenaline kicks in, with an increase of speed, Im off leaving the wolf trailing behind, waiting for the next poor cyclist. The second reason is that Halloween is approaching, well its next month. The US seem to love Halloween, most houses are covered in pumpkins and decorations, some of which are a little scary. Especially in the gloomy hours of morning and early evening, riding round a corner to find a massive dead woman in a wedding dress, really does up the heart rate somewhat. Reason three, when a car passes, if Im in a good mood, i will look to the driver and give them a friendly wave. Most of the vehicles that i passed today were very large farming vehicles. Each time i looked up to wave, i would instinctively look for the driver on the right hand side of the truck. Obviously here the driver is on the left, making it seem, albeit briefly, that no one was driving this massive machine that’s hurtling towards me. This again raises the heart rate a bit.

I arrived at my destination of the day, fletchers lake. It said on my maps that camping was allowed at the lake, so i searched around for somewhere to set up. I eventually stumbled upon an actual campsite right by the lake.

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I set up camp and started cooking dinner. I was a little low on water, the campsite had bathrooms with taps but it was not good water. I’ve seen (and drunk) dirtier looking water before but this water actually smelt dirty. So i used my drinking water for cooking and drank coke.

I was enjoying sitting by the lake when i local guy came over and started chatting. At first it was nice to have company but after 3 hours of listening to his problems i was getting tired. It didn’t help that he was also drinking heavily throughout, thus ensuring that the same stories kept cropping up. To be fair, he did seem to have a lot of problems, most of which centered around a lack of money. I contemplated suggesting that if he didn’t smoke and drink so much then his money problems would lessen, but i thought better of it. Eventually at around midnight, he headed off. Finally in bed, i made the executive decision to stay on central time for another day. Tomorrows plan, to keep going!

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Day 46: Farmers paradise

Cold night in the tent, luckily i had a new thick sleeping bag so i was fine. For the first time this trip and a lot earlier than expected, there was frost on the ground when i got out the tent. As a result of the frost, it took me a few attempts to find the courage to get up and go. However, by the time i was ready to go, the sun war out and the frost was gone. To be honest, im quite far behind on the blog and i am struggling to remember what happened today, which probably means that not a lot happened. The ride would take me very close to the Indiana border and was again through rich farm land. Most of the day consisted of tail winds but the winding roads would often throw me straight into some strong head winds. The destination for the day was the small village of Iroquois.

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I arrived, after getting a little lost, just in time for some dinner. My maps said that camping in the city park is allowed but you should phone the city mayor first for permission. He explained that there is a room and showers that he allows cyclists to use and sleep in (The room turned out to be his office).

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I went back to the cafe that i had had dinner to get a second dinner. This time i went for the chicken. The chicken was dangerously under cooked, worryingly i only noticed when i was on my last mouthful. The bar lady suggested that i come back for dinner, ‘we do an excellent breakfast’, maybe i replied. I then went back to my ‘motel’ for the night, ready to hit Indiana tomorrow.

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Day 45: Helping hand

The plan for today was to drive with the bike and drop me off back on the route, then they would drive with me for a bit before heading to the airport. That’s exactly what happened. We drove a bit, then packed up the bike, which was a struggle with all the new food, and i set off. I was almost immediately lost, but not a problem this time, we soon found the route. After a bit, it was time to say goodbye. It was a really nice surprise, they didn’t pick the nicest days to cycle, with the weather, hills and road conditions but it certainly made what would have been a few unenjoyable days, very pleasant for me. But then i was back on my own for the final push.

This area of the country is rich farming territory. It is harvesting season at the moment, which meant the occasional massive tractor on what would otherwise be deserted roads.

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Still not alone

The day passed smoothly, the destination being the small town of Odell. Being a Sunday, everything in town was closed, so i prepared to eat one of my new meals. It said in my maps that camping in the city park was fine, but i thought i would check with one of the neighbours first. My plan did exactly what i hoped it would, again this kind stranger noticed my homeless appeal and offered to give me dinner, i declined, explaining that i would cook my own but left the door open for further options. She also called her friend who came to unlock the toilets for me. After setting up camp, the lady came over with left over food, I gratefully accepted.

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Dinner

It was starting to get pretty chilly, so i got into my new thick sleeping bag and tucked in to my new book. The kindness of strangers once again coming to the fore.

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