123 miles - Total: 637 miles
I had to tough it out today. The route was as flat as a pancake but the usual cyclist's foe, uninvited and unwelcomed, joined the proceedings: the wind. And of course a headwind at that. I do not know whether it's today's headwind or 623 miles that are putting a little dent into my performance but something is because today for the first time I questioned the whole project. Of course my hubris, my determination and the collective financial and psychological support for the cause will see me through this... or will it? This bike ride ain't a walk in the park (What a stupid thing to write but I suppose I am not able to accurately describe the hardships). If I was sore, I wouldn't tell you. I am a little stiff in the legs and the neck but a good warm bath and a monumental meal will put me straight.
Today's route provided the most solitary ride of the journey so far. And the most rural. I passed by several farms and farm houses and hundreds of glowing corn fields. I cycled on the trusted Lincoln Highway almost all day and almost all by myself, save for a few cars and many farm tractors in different size, shape and color. Pure rural milieu again, several small towns that offered me much needed sugary drinks and all sorts of assorted chow choices, a few conventional conversations with locals here and there, wind mills, wind farms and wind turbines and just lots of wind. Wind turbines pepper Western Ohio and like Don Quixote as I caught a glimpse of menacing shapes along the line of the horizon I fought against an imaginary enemy. I powered through the 123 miles with one comforting thought in my mind: let's do this for the fund raising and for those who would like to bike a little but cannot find the strength to do it. I am talking to you, if you reading this, mark my words, when I come back I will go cycling with you, let's do just a few miles, let's shake our legs.
After my super size breakfast I hit the road at 9am and it doesn't take long for the sun to rise high in the sky. In the process of morning shifting to day the colors turn less dramatic and the world seems less interesting. I do find it interesting and pretty with its perfectly trimmed fields and empty scenic country roads and a cloudy sky above and all those elements that you would wonder at if you rode in rural nowhere until my care-free ride turns into a dramatic affair. Let's focus on the wind effect for a minute. It beats you down mentally, it wears you out like a rock gets sculpted by penetrating water. I do not think that there is anything more frustrating than riding into a persistent headwind. I wish I knew how to cheat it but I guess there isn't much to do except than to bow your head, keep your body low and loose, don't start bobbing, relax your face and neck and go into it. Today was tough but conditions weren't as blustery as two years ago in Kansas. Out West the wind is the boss. If I ever get to Minnesota, Montana, etc.. I will have to mentally prepare myself for some heavy headwinds. I can't think of that now.
So I ride and ride all day among the green Ohio before I cross the Indiana state line well into the afternoon. Fort Wayne is the biggest town since Pittsburgh and I did not enjoy the 20 miles or so through urban traffic. Locating a hotel can be a challenging exercise. When I plan my day, I usually set my sights on a fairly big town which is sure to have at least a couple of motels and a handful of fast food restaurants. You can't miss them because they come as a package; wherever they built a hotel they have also erected a fast food restaurant, with a sign higher than any other buildings or church towers in the city. In other words, the trademark sign of a city is always the same, the big M sign or Taco or BK logos or other similar alternatives. So you may say that unless you venture into the historic districts, all the medium-size cities are alike. For the average European tourist this might be particularly upsetting. But I guess if you are a fan of tradition and reference points, you know when you are home. It's safe. These are places that have been designed for the nomadic existence of the highway travelers, from the truck drivers to the drifters, they all go to different places but they all stop in the same places. America is vast geographically but provides a 'comfort zone' for those who must drive for a living. So back to my quest for a room, as I approach a town all I have to do is locate the Mc Donald's sign which towers high above the roofs and hills and I know that a bed and shower are within walking distance. The fast food offers an instant gratification of the belly, which I quite don't mind as some cheeseburgers are pure heaven but the good ones are difficult to find. The ones that sprung up on the outskirts of highway towns are lame. I know that piles of books have been written about America's fast food culture. My current experience on the bicycle leads me to think that the infrastructure which provides fast food is above all rational, functional, convenient and heavily used by America's commuters. Billions served, so they say..get your fix and move on.
After my long ride today, at around 7.30 pm I was in a total mess with sunpaste and sweat that only a shower by the deprtment of sanitation would have gotten rid of the dirtness and soil on my legs and arms and clothes. I soaked in the water forever and then I went hunting for a hot meal. I manage to find a juicy steak, with assorted goodies such as potatoes, vegetables and sour cream. I am stuffed and as I get up to leave I can hardly move my legs. It's like my muscles solidified and became one with the chair while I ate. I unglued them from the seat and I dragged my sorry body to the exit. The patrons stare at my wobbly gait thinking probably that I must be drunk. Well guys I ain't; I just chewed up 123 miles in a headwind and I have 600+ miles in my legs. Not only that my fellow American eaters: I also have an amazing support from far and wide that so far amounts to 15 thousand dollars for cancer research and humbling generosity of so many people. Take that you cancer! I can hardly keep my eyes open, I look at my bed like a kid who's been punished would stare at an ice-cream. I am exhausted. Will I able to ride tomorrow? Maybe not but if I do..dare I say it? Tomorrow night I could be on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan...I must be dreaming already. Let's put those doubts aside and let's ride another day.
Lake Michigan...I must be dreaming already.
First photo of the day, the terrain is flat and it is windless out there...not for long though
Typical scenery from today's ride
Here's another one
An old oil and auto parts store along LH, unused and rusting under the sun
Trucks in line to get gas
During one of my many pit stops
A corn field in Ohio
In this grocery store you don't even have to get out of your car, why waste the calories?
and another one
An empty drive-in along LH
Van Wert, Oh
I look like hell but it is all because of the wind...
The menacing wind turbines
Entering Indiana!! The sign is a bit anticlimatic but crossing into my 6th state is a great mental boost
Fort Wayne, downtown