We have been on the road here in the USA for over four months now. Most things have become second nature and fall into line without too much of a challenge to what little intellect we have left at the end of a day on the bike. There are however, two areas that continue to perplex. The controls of showers, both getting the water to flow and then dealing with getting the temperature just Goldilocks perfect. Why does there have to be so many ways of doing it here, and some so challenging that you may need to go on a course to understand. Showers should not need an owners manual.
Light switches and power switches in general are just wrong and counter intuitive here. The rest of the world agrees upon down being for ‘ON’, not ‘OFF’. This is the work of the devil or Bill Gates and leaves me standing and having to think hard just to turn off a light. Goodness knows what happens on board the international space station. Come on, step into line on this one and we will let you keep imperial measures a while longer.
We pedaled out of Hastings on Labor Day Monday. Like every Bank Holiday back home, the weather forecast was depressing or downright apocalyptic depending on which online site you looked at. The wind certainly was blowing, but as we kincked left and right, it was mostly kept to our side. We were back amongst small fields, classic red barns and horses. Capability Brown could not have designed the landscape more perfectly and it made great cycling.
W.K. Kellogg is the local boy made good and everything from wildlife sanctuaries to schools has his name on it. He started by selling brooms, made a fortune and gave a big chunk of it away.
We ended the day, having gone South for most of it, at Oak Shore Campground. The miserable owner tried to justify $38 as being reasonable to pitch a small tent,”Well you will want a shower”. We stood our ground and it came down to $32. “We were thinking something like $20”. He was unmoved. “I need to make a living”. “Well you just lost $20”, and we pedaled back up the track with no idea where we were going to camp.
I remembered a friendly wave from a guy on a mower so we asked if we could camp just a few hundred feet back up the track. Yes we could, and by a million to one chance given that we had not seen a cyclist in days, Sue was just back from a bike tour. We were amongst friends. Mike and Sue made us so welcome. “Yes our neighbour, the camp owner is rather miserable.”
We rode out with Sue to Vicksburg, home of Stubbys Smokehouse. Scott and Kelly, the owners are big friends of John from back in the bar in Luther in the last blog. Great people, and we continued a few pounds heavier in Jerky towards Indiana and Amish country.
We pass our first horse buggy and then several Amish on bikes. Every one of them waves and we wave back. These are plain unfussy bikes but I notice that some have tri bars, the first time I have seen this on what are shopping bikes since Denmark a few years ago.
We pull into McDonald’s in La Grange and can not believe that it has a horse and buggy rail. We get talking to an Amish couple inside, “We had some money off coupons that had to be used”. “Yes, we needed to use the WiFi”. We all have excuses for being there. It was great talking with them.
Next day, on our path to Albion, we got lost in the Amish country. A massive cart with iron rimmed wheels pulls up. A young Amish boy has total control of two massive horses but little knowledge of local geography beyond which way is North. A slightly older youth comes out of a workshop to help us out. Both are lean from hard work and are trying desperately hard to grow a trademark beard. For both It is patchy,sparse and quite fluffy, and probably will be for a few more years.
We continue on our way observed by a dozen or more strangely quiet dogs. We end the day near Huntertown, Guests of Butch and Julie. The next day, rain hits the windows and we lack any sort of resolve or urgency. The ‘bounce has gone from our bungy’, to quote Wallace and Gromit and we stay another comfortable, lazy day.
Better weather for us and the little town of Grabill, that was having a festival. As we pass, the announcer has a service call to make.”Could the owner of the horse in the lot down here come and help. The horses are eating through the telephone cables”.
The land becomes pancake flat as we ride towards Zulu. Ohio is just off to our left, but we have an appointment with Warren in Monroeville. The little town of just 1,300, has a bike hostel of world wide fame and hospitality and Warren is the gate keeper and greeter. It has won hospitality awards and has a thirty year long guest book. Bought up to speed on local history we settle down to showers and food and then go a fifteen minute walk around the town. Everyone waves or shouts “Hi”.
We ride out into our first morning mist of a new season. We pass into yet another State, Ohio this time. For many miles we pass Soy Bean and Maize and have for some time wondered when they will be harvested. “They go in late in the year for Maize”. Which came as a surprise, “sometimes they wait for a hard frost to harden the ground for harvest”. This is so strange and if you tried this in Scotland from late August you would be up to the axles in mud. We have learned something else.
We stay with Ken the postie near Defiance and ride out in the morning with him. It is a perfect tailwind day. This part of Ohio has more than its share of free range farm dogs and they all have Ken dialed in. He has them all filed and comments on their nature and expected savagery. I am still not sure what happened on that ride, if Ken was giving off some Postie aura, but we had our worst dog day in the USA.
Russ and Sherry put us up at their home in Bowling Green and we ride out with Russ on flat grades with 86’f. Caterpillars are moving to winter homes and we swerve around them all day. We are riding new saddles and I have an attack of the ‘Eddys’, stopping every few miles to alter the hight and pitch. It is maddening and fails to be comfortable, feeling simultaneously too high and too low. Worse still, I have ‘Total Eclipse of My Heart”, or whatever it is called, by that Poodle haired songstress Bonnie Tyler in my head. We had caught a few minutes of ‘One hit wonders’ on TV back with Ken and now it is torture. Thinking about Ken, and here we are just a few miles further and without his postie presence, not a single dog pays us any attention.
We camp the night at Avery. Every fire pit has junk food and bottles left in it and we are glad that we are now ‘out of season’. A quiet night and then we push on to ride along Lake Erie.
As we ride towards Cleveland it is all a disappointment. We hardly catch glimpse of the lake at all. As we get closer to Cleveland, the real estate value goes way up and we pass miles of bad taste million dollar properties. Highway 6 becomes busy and potholed and we are on a big ride day. I wonder if ‘mowing the lawn’, in terms of ‘man hours spent’ is perhaps the biggest industry left in the USA. Certainly, everyone is out on a mower today. They put a lot of work into lawns here.
Cleveland finally appears in a haze and we ride into the chaos. We have a bike path to ride on, but it conforms to my jaded definition of a bike path, ‘a white line painted on the road to show drivers where the worst pot holes are to be found’. It is hard work and navigation difficult and it is now 94’f.
Later than we thought we end the day with Bill on the other side of the city. It is a wonderful relief after 83 miles. Bill, like many of the people I mention, is a ‘warm showers’ host. He gives hospitality to touring cyclists. With Bill that runs to top quality home made Cider, which is just what was needed.
The ride along Lake Erie improves the next day as we ride to Geneva-on-the-Lake, which is the very definition of tourist honey pot in out of season taupe. It is 90% closed or 10% open for business and is a strange place to pass through 8,000 miles on the road since we started in New Zealand back in January.