Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bike America Day 58: A Rainy Midwestern Goodbye

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day's distance: 93.53 miles
Overall distance: 2,971 miles

At dinner with Anne on Monday night, my mom noted how lucky we’ve been with rain this summer. She was sorry that it meant such loss for most of the Midwest but it was working out well for us. My dad tried to hush her at least five times, and knocked on a lot of wood hoping she wouldn’t jinx us. On Thursday morning we discovered that she had.

It began drizzling as we took down camp and ate breakfast at twin lakes campground. I sat in the wetness enjoying a delicious meal of cantaloupe and cereal not thinking much of the rain. I’d be dry when I hopped in the car for our trip back to Rawson and it was bound to stop soon. 

When we got to the school parking lot, the rain seemed to be coming down harder but we had no choice but to get started. We put our rain clothes on and rolled away at 8am, instructing my dad to stay close with the car. Right away, we could tell our brakes were slow to respond because they were wet so we were extra cautious at intersections. At one point, I stopped for a trip to the cornfield and came out with my clips soaked in mud. I couldn’t clip in and it took a few minutes to clean them out. As if sneaking through wet stalks of corn in the rain wasn’t enough of a hassle.

At mile 7, we rode by a ghost town but this was unlike the others we’d seen. It was to our right, entirely in the grass and woods. There was a sign that read “ghost town” with no clue as to what the town was once called. It had an abandoned train car and many small wood buildings. It was too bad that I didn’t have my camera and that we clearly had no motivation to look around.

Something in the woods smelled like burning and I noticed what looked like a controlled fire behind someone’s house. My mom said that there are places where it is legal to burn your trash and that was probably what was happening. My freshman year of college, I did a week-long service project in Kentucky and there was no trash pick-up in a nearby town. Our host at the state park said that he and his neighbors burned their trash instead of driving it to the dump themselves. As a group of hippie college kids on an environmental preservation trip, we were appalled by this but, according to my mom, it is actually legal in some parts of the country. I'm not such a hippie now but I hold to my belief that burning trash bags and other plastic is very bad for the environment.

About an hour and a half after we began riding, the rain stopped. I took my jacket off to let my shirt dry but was really cold. I felt uncomfortable and was anxious to finish our day. My mom and I arrived in a town called Carey at mile 23 and immediately noticed how cute it was. A girl with frizzy blonde hair riding her bike down her driveway yelled an excited “HI!” at us as we rode by. We admired all the houses in town and I told my mom how desperately I want a window seat in my first home. Luckily Josh already knows that this is a condition of our marriage and he’ll build me one if need be.

We were on an unusually busy road for these Ohio maps and I got spooked as a semi truck drove by me. I rode off the shoulder and onto the grass, technically getting run off the road but in a controlled way. I was fine and didn't even fall over.

At some point, my mom started to worry that we weren’t on our route anymore. She asked me to check my phone to see where we were and I reminded her that I didn’t have it on me because of the rain. She didn’t have hers either. At mile 29, exactly where we were supposed to turn right onto Hwy 57, we arrived in Lovell, Ohio which was not part of the plan. We had, in fact, missed a turn in Carey and gotten off route. But we checked our paper map and figured out a way to get back to the route that wouldn’t end up adding any mileage. The one issue then was how, without cell phones, to inform my dad of our plan.

We walked into the one store in town and paid the woman $2 to use her phone for a long distance call. We told my dad to meet us at the intersection of 67 and 42 and hung up. Then we bought tea, coke, pretzels, and a snickers from the lady and re-fueled ourselves.

When we met my dad at the car, he and I set out. At mile 49, as we rode into Bucyrus, we passed an old woman, who must have been at least 85, in nothing but leather boots and a nightgown, pushing an electric lawnmower through her front yard, which was half covered in gravel. She looked like a feisty old lady and we exchanged waves as we passed. We met my mom on a suburban street and ate lunch from the car. Another peanut butter, nutella and banana sandwich for me.

Back in the country, after riding through town, we passed a big yard with a boy on a small (maybe even toy?) tractor. He revved his engine and started to go so my dad pedaled fast to race him. I lagged behind, amused by my kid-at-heart father and this boy going head to head. The boy never passed my dad and eventually had to slow down as he approached a fence at the end of his yard. And now we know, bikes beat tractors.

After a day mostly in the flat countryside, our surroundings started to feel really familiar. We rode in a forested valley and I felt like I could be on Nevada Road in Rock Creek Park. Then we rode up a hilly road with big houses on either side and I thought I might be on River Road in PotomacMD. We entered MansfieldOH and I felt like I could have been on 13th street in Gainvesville, FL. We passed a high school football stadium that is bigger than the one in Georgetown University and I changed my mind about being in DC or Maryland. We were definitely still in Ohio.

In Mansfield, we met my mom at a sports bar where she had watched the end of the Olympic Gold Medal soccer game. We got there just in time to see the US receive their gold medals. I went to the bathroom and was very offended by the signs reading “Players” for men and “Cheerleaders” for women. Clearly, the game on the TV at the bar shows otherwise so get with the 21st century, MVP Sports Bar, and let the girls be players and the boys be cheerleaders if they want to be.

From Rawson to the sports bar, I’d ridden a total of 85 miles. It was another 8.2 so we had a little family meeting about whether to ride or drive and be shuttled back in the morning. Neither my dad or I were in the mood to keep riding but it seemed silly to drive all the way back to the bar in the morning so we went for it. The terrain got very hilly and I said I felt like we definitely weren’t in the Midwest anymore. We got to the campsite and my mom, who’d gone to the grocery store, still wasn’t there. As we waited to register, we saw a man and his daughter dump the waste from their RV into a sewage tank. It was pretty nasty but, like a train wreck, we just couldn't look away.

We made penne with vodka sauce and a Caesar salad for dinner. We were on another lake and I took some inferior sunset photos and tucked myself in for another rainy night. The midwest had been a great place to spend the past three weeks but it seemed time to say goodbye.

No comments:

Post a Comment