136 miles - Total: 773 miles
After yesterday's hesitation today I got my groove back. Chicago is close, very close. I am within walking distance of its outskirts and a stone's throw away from the shores of the big lake. I want to end up in the Loop tomorrow. I almost did it today. It was tempting to make it all the way to downtown Chicago tonight, for a second my confidence almost got the better of me before I allowed my rationality to take over. This choice leaves me a short day tomorrow and a full day of rest Friday. This is called strategic thinking. The signs for Chicago, Lake Michigan and Milwaukee are all around, this is so gratifying, Washington DC-Chicago in 7 days. I got pretty far in a relatively short period of time and I am quite satisfied with the work I put in. Today I was a cyclist, not a tourer. I wasa racer not an amateur. I was doing my thing, plying at my trade, doing what I do best, I even begin to look like a cyclist, my legs are getting seriously toned and slim. I am asking my legs more than I should maybe but so far they have delivered.
For some inexplicable reason my legs felt pretty good today. Last night was not promising as I could hardly walk from the hotel to the restaurant. It was something like rope skipping. I slept well and this morning I did not have breakfast at the hotel and I hurried on the bike at the late hour of 10 am. It proved to be a good choice in the end as Columbia City, the first town after Fort Wayne offered a very decent alternative. The 17 mile ride just put me in the mood for a huge breakfast which I had the good fortune to have at a lovely bakery in the main square of this charming little town. The rest of the day proved to be a smooth and windless, yes!! windless ride from rural Indiana into the urban sprawl of Gary, South Chicago, Joliet, Calumet City, Hobart. Coming into it was a gradual process, the boundaries between where the town begins and the rural area ends are blurred. One thing appears clear: all these towns have gradually merged into one gigantic metropolitan area, they all blend into each other in a massive explosion of urban development. Ride through this massive area is not pleasant as the motor traffic does not care for the bike so I had to be on my guard all the time. I remember LA as one massive urban area where cities fade into each other, but here it seems that the South Chicago area has no more room to offer unless the countryside will give way, as if the city is creeping out of its limits and spilling over once reluctant nearby hills. Buildings, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants, they are just one after the other. I must have passed hundreds. For over 30 miles I rode by a carbon-copy of one shopping mall. How the hell does my bicycle and the philosophy of the bicycle fit into this oppressing and sprawling monster? It doesn't. Or does it? Who knows? Whatever the answer is I love Chicago, I love Grant Park and I love the downtown architecture and I think it'd be really cool to ride my bike along Lake Michigan. But apart from these popular and photographed places I am not sure that the bicycle belongs in this unrelenting urban sprawl. The philosophy of the bicycle rests on choice, urban development is a necessity. The bicycle is about individuality and creativity, the cities are all alike and are about one collective way of life. The bicycle creates courage and inspires adventure, the urban sprawl spurs fear and suspicion. I am just punching the keyboard after a long day so I am not making much sense maybe. But I think I am onto something here and I wish I had more time to develop this idea. But now I am exhausted and I need a rest.
I sat at the bar tonight and helped myself to a huge dinner, lobster pizza, lobster and prawns, rice and broccoli, salad with blue cheese and 5 pieces of garlic bread and the guy sitting next to me was entertained by my boundless appetite. We got to talking about my trip and he told me to watch out tomorrow when I go through South Chicago as "there is a drug war at the moment". Gangs are shooting at each other left and right he warns. He is from around here but he is not shy to add that South Chicago is a "cesspool" so better keep riding all the way to downtown. I am not impressed but I am glad it is going to be daytime. I have about 40 miles to cover before I can ride into Grant Park. I can hardly wait. Hitting Chicago is the first real milestone of the journey. I am surprising myself at how well I am doing. Honestly, I did not think I would have made it this far so quickly.
I want to share one more thing with you before I fall into a deep sleep. I seem to have a normal appetite again, normal by the standards of someone who has just ridden his bicycle for 135 miles! The days when I did not want to eat because my body was a mess of pain and I'd wake up with a persistent metallic taste in my dry mouth seem a (not too) distant memory. I do not know whether it is the regular process of healing that's taking its course or it is me helping it along with the passion for what I am doing. I guess I will never know for sure. All I know is that it is happening and it may last one week, it may last ten years, it doesn't matter. What matters is that it is me again.
First photo of the day, not a spot in the sky, the wind has disappeared, no cars around, the scenery is pretty, I couldn't ask for more.
The oldest building in Columbia City and the nicest breakfast in the county!
These buns were delicious, the ones in the middle (pesto bread) were really good
Eating my breakfast in Columbia City, main sq
A cemetery in the middle of nowhere
The colorful flowerbed by the side of the road
The tiny and empty town of Plymouth, In
Riding here was very enjoyable
Gary, In. The sun is going down and I have just decided to call it a day. I ride south for 6 miles before I come across the area where all the hotels are located (Merrillville)