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Monday, May 30, 2016

Her Name

Today, the 920 rolled past 2500 miles on the odometer. It was actually sitting at 2499 last night. 1900 of those have been done since leaving Lincoln. And after doing that many miles, carrying me to Minneapolis, around the North Shore of Superior, through the UP, and now nearly to Madison, I think she has earned her name. It's not the one I originally planned to give her. I was planning to name her Artax, after Atreyu's horse from A Never-ending Story, because of the frame getting warrantied (sinking into the Swamp of Despair and later coming back), and because the name just sounds badass. But you spend a lot of time with a bike, and sometimes the name you thought would fit isn't actually the right one. This is why it takes time for a name to be earned (and seriously, we should do this with people too, not just assign them a name at birth with no knowledge of their character). Black Beauty was work to ride, especially hauling that blasted trailer. But this bike takes me everywhere with grace, and I feel like I'm just along for the ride. And so, after all these miles and a full month together away from home, she has earned the name Bree, after the horse from The Horse and His Boy. She has her name now, and Bree and I have many miles yet to go on this adventure.

Today was a fairly simple day. It was warm, clear skies, and while there was a wind against me (I'm going west in the westerlies after all) it wasn't too bad.

I woke up around 5, finished my blog entry for yesterday, and then got around quickly, not knowing how far I was going today, as I didn't have a stay set yet. John printed out a bunch of biking maps for me by county, pages upon pages, trying to help me figure out my route. It was a very nice gesture, but it just overcomplicates the simple process of using Google Maps and figuring the rest out as I go that has worked for me for well over 5000 total miles of touring now. I never quite know how to explain to people who don't have smart phones that the portable computer in my pocket makes maps just a waste of paper and ink. Maybe one day I should try touring without a smartphone, just to know what using paper maps was like in the old days.

Most of the day was biking through farmland, up and down short, but steep, hills. There was relatively little traffic, but also not much to see. Once I hit Lake Winnebago and highway 151, there was more to see...and more traffic to go with it. But it was still easy going. At some point during the day, a lady I had contacted in Fond Du Lac got back to me, and said that while she was gone for the holiday and wouldn't be back until late, the door to the house and garage were open and I was welcome to come in and make myself at home. It was less miles than I wanted to go, only a little over 50, leaving me an 80+ mile day to Madison tomorrow, when it's supposed to rain in the evening too. But I wasn't going to pass on a place to stay, and a little alone time at that. So Fond Du Lac it was. Which meant as soon as I reached the south end of Lake Winnebago, and rolled up to her house on the north side of town around 1:30, I was done.

The alone time has been nice. True time alone in the comfort of a house is a rare treat on the road. I got to call some people, do some reading, even watch a little TV...and of course make this blog entry before falling asleep. I expect my host will be home soon though, and it will be time to be social for a while before bed. I need to get out early tomorrow.

Sunshine and Black Clouds

I'm making a habit of falling asleep before I can finish entries now... Scott made some baked oatmeal for breakfast yesterday morning and after being fed well yet again, I soon said my goodbyes and was off. It was an 85 mile day, with winds from the South and West (so primarily against me, occasionally showing me some favor), and the threat of a storm (though it couldn't have been clearer and sunnier as I left), so I wanted to hurry. My host for the night had called me the night before, but I hadn't answered because I had been busy with dinner and because I have a tendency to ignore calls (much preferring texts). So I called him this morning to make sure things were in order. It's actually not a Couchsurfing or Warmshowers, but rather the sister and brother in law (John and Arlene) of a friend of the parents' of a friend of mine. ...Can you follow that? That is the power of networking right there, and the immense generosity and openness of many people. When I called John he told me that if I could make it a little earlier than I planned, it would be good because then I could go with them to dinner with Arlene's mother. So I did my best to make time, with my desire not to get stormed on not hurting as a motivator as well.

...But then of course, not long after finishing that call I hit a considerable delay when I came on the scene of an accident, a woman (who had passed me not a couple minutes before) sitting in the ditch with her moped toppled on the side of the road. I immediately stopped and checked to see that she was alright. Her injuries seemed minor, but she was wisely choosing not to move. I asked what happened, and all she could tell me was that she's hit the gravel just right and suddenly she was down. ...Well, I've been there, in a way. Her first concern though was to get a cigarette. Another vehicle pulled up, and I asked them to call 911 for her. They did, and then were immediately gone. The next car to stop didn't stay long either. They, a man and woman, berated her with questions about drinking and going too fast (to which she responded that she didn't drink and it maxed at 40). The woman did get her a cigarette...apparently that desire being the one sympathy they had for her. Then with some remarks to me about seeing her drunkenly swerving earlier and implications she deserved her injuries, they left, leaving the bike tourist, probably the one guy with most legitimate need to be moving, was left to stay. I texted her dad for her, as she was concerned about him picking up her moped and knowing what happened. And then I left shortly after the police and EMT arrived. Whatever judgments you want to make on someone, and I don't know whether she was drinking or on other drugs or not, you don't abandon someone in pain. It could always be you.

After that though, I had no real delays the rest of the day. It worked well in the interests of making time that while there were some sights to take in, there wasn't anything that begged me to get off the bike, detour, or explore. I kept going all day with little rest and few stops. I worked my way on county roads around the lake, took the old highway 141 through the heart of Green Bay, made less busy thanks to the nearby interstate, continued on 141, even as it had an obnoxious rumble strip on its shoulder that greatly limited what of it I could use, and then got on the Devil's River State Trail, a nice, scenic (in other words, slowed me down) crushed limestone trail through woods and farmland. I made it most the day with just light showers. ...Until I hit an unexpected cloudburst along the trail. I stopped to hastily put on my rain gear. But by the time I'd suited up, it was damn near over and I was already soaked. I carried on with my rain gear on after that, wet enough not to overheat in it even after the rain stopped completely, at least for awhile. I figured out I can wear my rain jacket as a sort of cape to have it ready to put on, yet not overwhelmingly hot when it's not actually raining. Into a headwind especially though, that's still not the most practical. I met a walker who had hit the same burst, but been wise enough to see it coming a little, and lucky enough to have buildings to get under.

After the trail, it was a little more county road and then straight on into Manitowoc. I quickly cleaned up my bike and then myself a little (always the proper order), getting into dry clothes. And then we headed for the retirement home to have dinner with Arlene's mother. She remarked to me that it was likely not what I expected, to be eating dinner with a bunch of old folks at a nursing home. It's true, it wasn't. But at this point in my bike touring career, things are new, but very little is odd any more. And it was a nice dinner too, good choices from the salad bar, and even desert. After that we called Roger, her brother, who I will be seeing on the other side of the lake. Then John showed me the highlights of the city, where they build and test cranes, the tribute to the 28 submarines built in Manitowoc outside the Maritime Museum and the submarine there that ironically is not one of them, the harbor, the museum whose expansion caused the demolition of their old home. He concluded his tour by telling me that was probably everything of interest there was to see. We came back and zoned out in front of the TV while Arlene provided a feast of snack food for us (clearly knowing the way a bike tourist needs to eat). Then before long I was fast asleep, before I could even finish this entry.

And now? Well, I have yet to figure out where I'm going and where I'm sleeping tonight. So I best be moving on figuring that out.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Back to Central

My host of last night was gone by 5 to work his breakfast shift as a chef. I didn't even wake for a moment as he left. I got up around 7, ate some breakfast, and got around to leave. It was raining when I woke, and I was worried I'd be headed out into it, but by the time I left it had stopped. ...I always am prepped for rain when it doesn't come, and not ready when it does. I took off my rain jacket, but left on my cold weather gloves and booties, as well as the cover on my trunk bag, so I'd be ready if the rain started again, as it looked likely to. ...It didn't. I changed after my ankles started to get drenched in sweat from my booties.

This morning there were some pretty views of the lake (and no fog to obscure it today), but my much else. When I reached Cedar River, the only spot to get food or use the restroom after a 30 mile stretch of mostly nothing, I came on three other bike tourists stopped outside gas station there. I of course went up to them and asked the usual questions, where you from, where you going. Two (a couple riding a tandem) were from Europe, the other from California. They'd met touring years ago. They were now touring around Lake Michigan together, starting in Chicago. The crazy thing was that suddenly in the course of talking to me they asked..."Are you Eli?" It turns out they met Scott, my host for tonight outside his school, and having had them talk to his students about touring, he had told them about hosting me tonight. He's asked them to say hi if they ran into me. Funny how folks always seem to run into each other on tour.

Things got rougher on all fronts toward the end of the day. The south headwind picked up something fierce, the relative security of highway 35 turning into the city traffic and busy madness of 41, the threat of a storm looming in the dark clouds overhead. I managed to negotiate Menominee and then Marinette right across the river from it (there crossing the border to Wisconsin). I messed up and missed my turn to get off 41 (as I really didn't want to be on it for the stretch to Peshtigo) and had to turn around. It gave me a lovely chance to have the wind with me for just a moment and see how fast I could be going if only it were from the other way, zipping along at 20mph effortlessly. ...Then it was right back to slugging at 11. I followed the Old Peshtigo Road and it kept me away from most traffic on my way into town.

Nearly there at last, I couldn't help stopping in at the Peshtigo museum (mostly going over the town's famed fire that burned it all to the ground). I figured I had only half a mile to go if the storm hit. It wasn't anything spectacular, but well worth the short stop.

Then I was here, greeted by Scott, his wife, and his dog. They're great people, lots of fun. We snuck quietly in to my room for my night to drop off my stuff, so as not to wake their 22 month son. Scott has done Peace corps and has been accommodated by other families through that work, but this is his first time hosting through Warmshowers, and he was full of excitement and questions. I haven't been the first guest for very many people (three others I can think of?) so that's always a fun change in pace. It makes me being there an adventure rather than just routine. When their son did wake up he took my presence almost perfectly in stride, not afraid or upset at all. Seeing him made me miss my nieces. He's just barely older than Clarity...which it took me a moment to realize she had gotten that old. Time flies by. And just like Clarity, he loves to help. He helped make the pizza for dinner, up on his stool, spreading ingredients about. It ended up really good pizza, and the beer Scott brews himself went perfectly with it.

Of course, after all that concern about the coming storm, it simply didn't come, the evening as beautiful as could be. I feel a little bad, because while I know Scott would have liked to visit more, after not sleeping the best last night, I crashed out around 9:30. Which in my defense, I realize would have been 10:30 for me up until crossing back into Central just today. Now I'm briefly awake in the night as I usually am, finishing this entry. I feel sleep coming on again. Which is good. Tomorrow (today?) will be long and (supposedly) stormy and windy.