Again, the past week has been a blur. I find myself sleeping beside an old Lutheran Church just across the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. It’s almost 11pm. I almost fell asleep today riding, why can’t that happen now?
Wisconsin was a pretty fun ride once I accepted that I was on a rail trail for over 100 miles. I stayed with a lovely family in Madison. Going off the Northern Tier was a great idea thru here. I’m glad I saw Wisconsin. The state is littered with “small” farms. One every 3-5 minutes if you’re on a bike.
The famous farmers market was a bit of a let down, mostly because I happened to be there the same weekend as the CrossFit games. With the market littered with a bunch of roided up bros, I tried some cheese and rode to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee was my favorite city of the trip, entirely because of the people I met. I stayed with another warmshowers host, Sarah, which upon arrival I find she just finished her bar exam, her parents were in town vacationing, her bf was building a water slide in the backyard for later in the evening, and free cyclest pancake breakfast at 8am. The parents super generously had me out for Thai food, which I stuffed every inch of my insides with. I take the later ferry as I was not about to miss pancakes. We ride to a bike trail in the morning. Where do all these cool people come from? Just show up beside a bike trail and make pancakes for people riding there bikes on the trail? I meet guy on a very similar journey as me, he was just riding by last weekend and happened upon this pancake feast. He ended up in Milwaukee for a week. I can’t take a week. I got miles to do, for some reason.
I “cheated” and took the boat across Lake Michigan. Everyone I asked said it’s worth skipping Chicago, but I mostly just wanted to avoid the inevitable urban sprawl. The miles of concrete that I’ve passed so many times. It looks all the same. Great Clips, Sprint, Little Cesar’s. The trifecta. Copy and pasted for miles. No bike lane or even signs on these roads. Everyone stays in their little box. Nice and safe.
Michigan was hard, mentally. It just was not exciting. Where are the mountains? The views? The plains? I keep my head down, pedaling hard. My bottom bracket is starting to make noise. “Not now” I think. I don’t want to stop. “Just keep going. We’ll get out of this bumpy, country backroad hell soon” . The people in central Michigan have never seen a bike before, based off the odd looks I kept getting. The road surface was the worst of the trip, clumps of patched pot holes for hundreds of feet, for an entire day.
I enter Ohio, and stay with an eccentric man who has a bit too much energy for me, but I open up and let it happen. His original Sears home is quite interesting. I meet so many of the locals in the small town I forget the name of.
The next day was my least favorite day of the trip. The closest I’ve come to dying on this ride. It brought back the horrors of my time riding in Baltimore County. I hit the suburbs of Akron JUST in time for the premier rush hour to commence. I can feel it. The energy is high. People are a little faster. They spend .5 seconds less at a stop sign. The passing of me goes from 3 feet to 3 inches. These hilly backroads start to fill up because the interstate is in a grid lock. I shouldn’t be here. These people don’t care if I live or die, they care that they only have 4.5 hours of their day left and I just cut it to 4.49 because I slowed them down.
103 miles into my 105 mile ride I hit a 14% uphill. How is that even allowed. I curse Google maps bicycle directions. I make it to my host, just in time for their weekly friends potluck. I offer my ramen jokingly and they feed me so much food. The kindness of people to totally strangers on bikes is odd. I hope to do my share one-day.
I have four days left. 4 days left to find all the answers! I won’t go into detail but I’m taking a week off come Saturday for family vacation and then I’ll finish my last two days to the harbor. I’ve reached a point where even 100 mile days are coming eazy. I think I’ve done 10 so far. I just did 3 in a row. Sitting in the saddle all day, I sometimes wonder if I wore the spandex, clipped in, how much faster and further I could go. My iconic red flannel I got for Christmas and sandles, I could never give them up. I feel at home in them. The moment I clip in or wear some flashy kit covered in logos, the soul is gone.
I’ll keep searching for the answers. I know they aren’t going to be there at the end of this ride, only a fool would think that. I’ve found many on this trip, and with 4 days in the saddle left, I know this is just another chapter. I just wish I knew what the next chapter was titled.
(I’ll post the photos from this section in a few days when I have wifi, because this app just doesn’t like to upload photos any other way and it’s super frustrating. But don’t hold out, I literally took like 4 photos. )