Archives for the month of: August, 2014

I shall die in Paris, in a rainstorm,
On a day I already remember.
I shall die in Paris– it does not bother me–
Doubtless on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.

It shall be a Thursday, because today, Thursday
As I put down these lines, I have set my shoulders
To the evil. Never like today have I turned,
And headed my whole journey to the ways where I am alone.

César Vallejo is dead. They struck him,
All of them, though he did nothing to them,
They hit him hard with a stick and hard also
With the end of a rope. Witnesses are: the Thursdays,
The shoulder bones, the loneliness, the rain, and the roads…

Cesar Vallejo

I awoke to rain and wet roads. Another late start wouldn’t get me where I needed to be down the road by the end of the day.

So for that reason and others, I decided that the bike ride was over. I had enough of bad roads, bad food, bad TV, and cheap whiskey. I didn’t see one interesting or remarkable thing in the 2 weeks or 800 miles. The Mackinaw Bridge was shrouded in fog so I was denied even that.

I rented a car, loaded up my bike and drove the remaining 300 miles in 6 hours.

Regrets? Sure. It is sometimes hard to quit but maybe the lesson is that sometimes you’re further ahead when you do.

And for a fool’s distinction, I am probably the only person who stuck with Ohio’s Hwy. 23 and biked it from beginning to end.

The only upside was that for a few brief shining days I found my monster biking self which emerged to propel me effortlessly down the highway. And out of anyone it could have been, it was that self that I most wanted to meet again.

And for that I will always be grateful for having done this trip.

Day 15 on the bike. 45 miles. 4 hours. 817 miles completed. 340 miles to go.

Not a good day for biking. First there was a cold fog that slipped my earliest departure time to 10 am. Then I got pulled over by the Ohio State Police.

‘You can’t bike up here’, he shouted at me as he got out of his car.

I walked up to him, looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘Sure you can. It’s a state highway.’

He said, ‘No. It’s a freeway and it has restricted access.’

I said, ‘Well, you all better post better signs because I’ve been biking this road since Toledo and I haven’t seen one sign prohibiting bikes.’

He said, ‘400 miles don’t make it right. ‘I was thinking, ‘Ahh, yes it does’.

He said, ‘Generally speaking if something has on ramps and exits, it’s an expressway.’

I said, ‘I don’t think so.’

He said, ‘Do you want to keep arguing with me?’

I said, ‘I am not trying to argue, I am just telling you what I saw. And there hasn’t been one single sign on this entire highway that said that bikes were prohibited.’

He said, ‘I am telling you from 21 years of experience that you can’t bike this road. You are going to have to find another way.’ I was thinking, ‘No, you have 1 year of experience, 21 times’, even as I was also thinking just how screwed I was now that I was kicked off Hwy. 23.

He asked me for ID. I gave him my Mexican drivers license. He didn’t like that and asked me for my passport. I gave it to him then he called it in to see if I had ‘priors’; as in prior convictions or outstanding warrants.

I dug out my Ohio roadmap. And damned if he wasn’t partially right. He got off the radio and pointed his finger at the map, where we were, and then referred to the legend and said, ‘See. Restricted access.’ I was thinking, ‘Damn. That’s what that dark blue highlight on the road meant.’

I said, ‘You’re right. But it appears that only applies to this tiny piece of Hwy. 23 that is restricted to bikes.’ And i pointed to the map and said, ‘So if I backtrack and take Hwy. 104 it will dump me out back out onto 23 just beyond the restriction point.’

He said, ‘You can do’, he reluctantly admitted but went on to say that it was dangerous and no one shold be biking at all on Hwy. 23. I was thinking, ‘No shit Sherlock.’ Hwy. 23 with its variable width shoulders, which are most often cluttered with hazardous debris, 4 lane traffic moving at 60 – 75 mph – lots and lots of traffic – truckers, cars and pickups pulling all manner of trailers. I wouldn’t disagree with his assessment of dangerous. But being on a bike, going in the direction that I was didn’t leave room for any alternatives. As if there were any alternatives.

His intervention, which resulted in me getting kicked off that part of 23, effectively set me back an hour and just kind of generally soured the rest of my biking day. So I pulled up short in Portsmouth where I should have biked another 15 miles down the road to the next town that reputedly had a motel. But I was very tired. Bad shoulders and a prolonged construction zone positively wore me out. 

Stopping early had consequences so forget tomorrow. I was already sorry about it. My choices for the next bike day were constrained. I either quit at 40 miles (where there is a motel) or peg out to 72 miles to the next town that has a motel. Either choice sucks. I want to ride more than 40 miles but less than 72 miles.

And is the 72 mile choice really an option? What if the mountains get steeper? Can I even do 72 now that the landscape has transitioned to mountains? So I can’t make a reservation because I don’t know if I can bike that far. But what if I can and get there only to find out that they don’t have any rooms left?

Hmmm. Plan B?

Day 14 on the bike. 65 miles. 5.5 hours. 772 miles completed. 385 miles to go.

It was 2 fast and furious rides; first to Circleville (where I got caught by rain) and then the second leg on to Chillicothe.

The rides started with a very narrow weather window. The fog didn’t lift until 8:30 am and rain was expected to blow in from the SW at 12 noon (but it came an hour earlier). Not much time to make the 43 miles to Circleville let alone the whole ride down to Chillicothe. So I pedalled madly.

It started with a bike ride down the entire length of the city of Columbus. And I got to say that seen from the perspective of High St., that I love this city. Very liveable. Beautiful architecture. Diverse neighborhoods. Authentic. No one managed to screw the pooch here with over-gentrification like with what has happened to so many cities across the US.

Imagine a pizza place called ‘Pharoh’s Pizza Palace’ or a pub called ‘The Village Idiot’ Charm and character with just the right amount of self-depreciation. And there was a big, grand cigar store! Civilized, brilliant! Closed, bastards!

Here now in Chillicothe I can see where this is the end of the road. The end of the straight road, the flat road, the city road, the farm road, the wilderness road, and the lake road.

Tomorrow starts the mountain road.

 

 

Day 14 [not] on the bike. 0 miles. 0 hours.

Rain day. So I am chilling at the Motel 6. Watching a marathon of bad TV. Eating fish and smoked oysters out of cans and drinking cheap whiskey (but only after 5 pm of course). I biked early this morning to the Asian grocery up the street and was surprised at how treacherous biking in the rain on wet streets in traffic can be.

So I am thankful to be out of the weather where I can catch up on laundry. I took advantage of a break in weather this afternoon to bike to the closest bike shop to replace my spare tube after yesterday’s flat tire. The owner, Dan Sherman, pointed out that my chain needed a little lube and I mentioned my front derailleur dumping the chain on the upshift so he made a minor tweak in the adjustment. Fine man who knew his stuff. One of those kind of people who knew what to do without being told. My kind of people.

And he told me that Hwy. 23 (called High St. through all of downtown) was all old Indian trail. It continues down through Chilllicothe onto the south and all the way to the river. So I look forward to biking tomorrow where I’ll be paying special attention to the vibes from the Indian signage along the way.

PS – Last summer when Sarah and I biked the N. Shore of Lake Superior we got the priviledge of walking a short bit of the Grand Portage. The Grand Portage is an 8 mile long portage that got the local native people from time immemorial passage around the last long stretch of big waterfalls and rapids on the Pigeon River before it flowed into Lake Superior. 18th century trappers used the same conveyance to transport their furs and in the doing opened up the northern territitories for future settlement. Their birchbark canoes – technology borrowed from the natives – was the enabling critical technology. Nothing would have happened without the birchbark canoe.

One only has to see the country to realize what tough men these natives and trappers were. So to touch these native trails, like the legendary Grand Portage, is to tread in the footsteps of giants.

Day 13 on the bike. 65 miles. 7 hours.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…

Sorry. First the good news. Hwy. 23 South turned out to be [legally] bike-able in spite of what I was told yesterday. It is a state highway, not an expressway (even if it looks like one) , so maybe when people were telling me that it wasn’t bike-able maybe they were speaking to the fact that it would be insanely desperate for anyone to want to bike it.

The bad news. 45 miles of the bike was Mad Max American style. Crumbling shoulders covered with debris. Cars. Trucks. Semis. People pulling boats. Trailers. All speeding by real-time at 60-80 mph. True high speed combat biking.

So when biking the devil’s corridor don’t ever imagine that you’ll escape totally unscathed. And so it was that I experienced my first road side flat tire somewhere close to the last exit for Marion which was about mile-marker 20. There I did my first bike tube replacement under true battlefield conditions.

I am very (very) thankful on that last day in Marquette that I had the presence of mind to return to the bike shop to purchase a spare tube. The best 6 bucks I’ve ever spent. Without it (and the tire tool and the pump) I would have been majorly screwed.

Now I am chilling in Motel 6 in Columbus drinking bad whiskey, putting aloe vera on my over exposed self. I am in a rough part of town but thankfully some right minded Vietnamese persons had the where for all to put in a Pho joint just a short bike away so tonight I’ll be dining on real food.

Cheers and remember to stay home with the doors locked and the blinds closed. And be sure to watch lots and lots of TV.

Day 12 on the bike. 75 miles. 6.5 hours.

Great weather. Good roads. Still, a long and tiring bike.The fact is that I can think of many good reasons to bail on this whole stupid bike ride. The scenery is rural as in farm country. All I see is corn and soybeans. I get up and bike my ass off. And the rewards are bad food, uninspiring scenery, nobody to talk to, more bad food (fast food), and then a motel where there is nothing but bad TV and cheap whiskey with which to end the day.

So what is the upside? I don’t know if there is one.

So why am I going to get up tomorrow and bike? Damned if I know.

And tomorrow looks like it could be a bad day. Why? There is no clear route to Columbus. And there appears to be no other next stop destination that doesn’t include Columbus.

A guy asked me today why I was riding a bike? Did I lose my job?

No. I lost my mind.

Day 11 on the bike. 65 miles. 6 hours. OHIO.

The 30 miles down to Adrian was smooth sailing and I made it in record time. The weather was perfect. Road conditions were perfect. And I was pumped up on 2 coffees and 12 ounces of non-fat yogurt.

The ride became hard as soon as I turned onto Hwy. 223. For some strange reason there was an easterly headwind that I fought for the next 2 hours. And the traffic was horrible. The shoulder diminished to something like 2 feet. And then on an upshift to the large chain ring, the chain fell off.

But a short hour or so later and life was on an uptick as I was then chilling at the Motel 6 Toledo with the other desperados. Looking out my window I see an ancient Toyota held together in places with duct tape and a vintage ’80s Lincoln Town Car ate up with a little rust and minus the driver’s side hub caps.

But who was I to throw rocks? I rolled into town on an old bike with 2 mismatching shopping bags stabbed into the rear wire basket panniers looking for all the world to see like a fleeing homeless person. Bicycle chain grease smeared on both hands and all four limbs. Unshaven and a sopping wet bandana tied around my head.

And I just finished washing out a t-shirt in the sink using bar soap. It was positively frightening to think just how well I fit in.

 

Day 10 on the bike. 41 miles. 3 hours.

Today was an intentionally short bike as my Uncle Lloyd and his son, my cousin Jim, made the trip over here from Detroit so that we could have lunch and a visit. I was very proud that my wonderful 89 year old uncle still stands most of his 6′ 3″. And he is still one handsome man. What I would imagine to be something like two lifetimes ago, he fought as a young man in one of the most critical battles in the European Theater of WWII; the Battle of the Bulge. He is of that generation for which service, humility, and heroism set the bar for the generations that followed.

After a close study of the map I plotted a route change this afternoon. I need to be pedaling in the direction of Toledo if I want to have a better chance of having a roof over my head tomorrow night. I am now very sensitive to the whole shelter availabilty thing. First, there was the almost debacle in Roger City followed by a couple of other near misses like today when I got one of the last rooms in Chelsea. Why do large size towns like Owosso and now Chelsea have only 2 hotels? I sure don’t know but it sure is a pain in the ass and making my job as a amateur touring bike rider that much harder.

I am now 507 miles into this bike trip and have something like 700 miles remaining. In the immortal words of Ovid, “Add a little to a little and there will be a big pile.”

Tomorrow, Ohio.

Day 9 on the bike. 72 miles. 7 hours.

It was a great bike. At least it was a great bike right up until the last 12 miles. I planned to terminate in Owosso after 60 miles but they had only 2 ill fitting motels so I rode on another 12 miles to Perry.

I am quite tired. But in a good way. Apart from my hands and wrists being sore at the end of a ride, the only real trauma is when my soft tissue starts screaming at about the 30 mile marker. Other than that I am good. The legs, knees, and joints are all responding well to the biking.

I want to add some content about some of the places I rode through today but first I need to get some food and another beer.