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Journey to the East: 23 July 2012

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012


State number twelve

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light
-Gary Snyder

A change in the air
This morning dawned overcast and later began to drizzle – reminded me a bit of the Pacific Northwest especially with the endless grey lake stretching out like the ocean. It did clear up though and the day once again reached the low 90s – too hot. But there was a feel of a thunderstorm brewing and with strong northward blowing winds I was propelled right along. The route once again was along the lake but would duck inland at various times, usually to get around something on the lake edge – a nuclear power plant for instance. After not seeing any other tourons since Illinois I talked to two eastbound riders today (and yesterday I saw a ‘bent rider I’m pretty sure was touring). The first, J__ was an older gent pulling a BOB and he greeted me by asking “I’m old enough to know better, what’s your excuse?” No excuse needed,I replied, just touring to tour. He was going cross country in stages and was focusing on seeing, as he put it, “America’s industry before it returns to nature”. So he’s off to Detroit of course and ending this section in Chicago. The second touron I met was a solo girl whose name I didn’t get. She was riding Boston to Seattle to do graduate work at the UW. I ran into her just past the small port town of Ashtabula which had an excellent coffeehouse and roaster: the Harbor Perk. Not long after this I rode through the decrepit town of Conneaut and the route turned inland and I was in Pennsylvania. The route angled back to the lake but spent many miles going though farmland in the now beating sun. Finally back on the lake in increasingly more urban areas I turned off route toward Presque Isle which is a big state park and this week happens to be Presque Isle Week meaning its packed. I stayed at Sara’s Campground a private ‘ground fit on the edge of the state park. It was jam packed and they had the tenters check by jowl.

traveling day after day –
forgetting what I used to do

Journey to the East: 22 July 2012

Monday, July 23rd, 2012


Lake Erie

Here’s a dragonfly
               (T OTA L LY)
Where it was,
          that place no longer exists.
-Philip Whalen

This summer I hear the drumming
This was the third long day in a row, driven primarily by the spacing of the campgrounds. Today was much improved though, with the addition of a decent tailwind most of the day. The route gave up all pretense of staying rural as it reached Lake Erie and went through increasingly larger towns. Plenty of traffic too. I really enjoyed this section of the ride though with its views of the lake though the trees; kind of like riding along on the ocean back home. It all culminated in the city of Cleveland which is of course a good sized city. The route was quite through the city, first going through neighborhoods, then a nice park with trail and finally over a bridge into the downtown core. From there it dropped fit to the waterfront by the Indians Stadium and then the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. Staying on the waterfront most of the rest of this now hot day the towns began to decrease in size. Finally I made it to the quite small (but still part of a larger region) town of Perry where I left the route and rode to its park right on the Great Lake. Here they have a little campground that once again seems to be mostly seasonal RV-ers. However they are fully up on bicycle tourists and allow them them to stay for free. Nearby to me was a group celebrating a birthday and after plying me with questions w/r/t the tour gave me cake and ice cream. Nice and definitely needed on a day, the first ever on tour, that I rode more than a 100 miles.

grey drizzly morning
and just like that,
pining for autumn

Journey to the East: 21 July 2012

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012


The Backatcha Bandit strikes again

Develop a mind which rests on no thing whatever.
-The Diamond Sutra

Should have been done long ago
The wind continued to be against me on this day but instead of the ~18mph it was instead a sedate ~6mph. There was however none of the morning clouds so it got pretty warm as the day wore on. The route was a mix of riverside, farmland and cities. Ohio is definitely a much more developed state and the route really worked to wend its way out in the countryside. One great stretch of road was Scotch Ridge Road which followed the Portage River. All along it people, were having garage sales and as I approached the small burg of Pemberville it seemed nearly every other house was having one. Turned out to be a community wide garage sale this weekend. The mid-sized town of Fremont was little reminder of home (though clearly there is only one Center of the Universe) where I joined the North Coast Inland Trail. I was on this for about 9 miles and after an initial river crossing it was quite flat and straight. From there it was a hot and almost perfectly dead east ride to Avery, where just a quarter mile off route I found the Milan Mobile Park where I’d stay this night. An expensive private place, right near the Ohio Turnpike, an active train track and some light industry I can’t call this my favorite local. But the tenting sites were in the trees away from the RV bits and the showers were top drawer. So it worked out all right.

A trip update: I crossed the four thousand mile threshold on this day. There is just over a thousand miles left on the Northern Tier.

The monarch of butterflies
deigns to fly ‘longside
– thin crescent day moon



Journey to the East: 20 July 2012

Saturday, July 21st, 2012




Hot this morning, long before sunrise
All my bones ache and Rilke’s ghost
Titters in the closet, Frailing
His clanky lyre. The summer grasshopper plague
May now be over.
-Philip Whalen

We’re finally on our own
This day dawned drizzly, grey and cool – it was like the PNW in later October. Though of course already warmer at 8 am then those days would ever get. However I found this most welcome and it was the first cool mornings ride in a long, long time. I did however miss the first turn and turned onto a road of the same name heading the wrong way. It happens to the best of us over such a long tour but this was the worst failure of my sense of direction ever. Normally if I miss a turn (only a few times really) I quickly figure it out and never ride more then a couple miles off route. This time it was closer to 6 miles and even with using Google maps to work out the shortest way back on route I ended up riding an extra 11 miles or so. This was quite unwelcome as this was a long day to the next campground, I wanted to get to a bicycle shop for the wheel repair and there was the most brutal headwind since East Montana. So one of those mornings.

Back on route i immediately crossed into Ohio. The terrain was of course just like Indiana at first with soy and cornfields but soon I was following rivers and canals and there was more trees. The wind really slowed me down but by mid afternoon I made it to the decent sized town of Defiance where I went to “R” Bike Shop. They immediately got to work and I had my wheel fixed and trued in less than half an hour. Great shop; they told me they prioritize bicycle tourists when they come in as they understand the situation. These people get it; very highly recommended. Oh and that repair: US$13.30! From Defiance the route was pretty excellent following the old canel system along the Maumee River, there was still the wind but it was often blocked by trees. Running late with all of this I ended up just having dinner in the town of Napoleon before riding the final 13 miles, which were more in the open and windy, to Mary Jane Thurston State Park. There I camped right on the Maumee River among a cacophoney of insect and bird songs. A really nice state park.

like a hand,
the wind presses me against the road –
a crimson bird

a soft green cricket
hops onto my shirt –
summer morning

Journey to the East: 19 July 2012

Friday, July 20th, 2012


George Rickey, Twenty-Four Lines, 1968

How Zen Masters Are Like Mature Herring
So few become full grown
And how necessary all the others;
    Gifts to the food chain
    feeding another universe.
These big ones feed sharks.
-Gary Snyder

Fast moves in Fort Wayne
This was the second of the short days that I partially spent with my parents in Fort Wayne. We did a combo of resupplying for the tour and activities in Fort Wayne. First we went to the very excellent co-op where I was able to get all my bulk foods refreshed and such vital items as refilling my bottle of Doctor Bronners 18 in 1 soap. Following that we went to the Fort Wayne Art Museum where we didn’t have too much time but there wasn’t too much to my taste anyway (lots of regionalism). A very small contemporary gallery whose highlight was the kinetic sculpture pictured above. Also there was some nice photos by Dayne Bonta, the best of which were trees in winter printed out on a rough paper. After lunch it was time to get back on the road. My parents dropped me off near the route and soon enough I was back on it. It was only twenty miles to Monroeville where I was going to stay on this short day. I had to go to the library to call regarding staying at the city park and there the librarian helped me out and made the call for me. Such friendly people. In Monroeville you can stay inside the park pavilion which is a big room with a kitchen, shower and laundry. All free though you can leave a donation. A great little town with nice people who’ve been helping cross country cyclists since the Bike-Centennial.

It was a real treat to get to see the parents who made the long drive from Nashville to see me enroute. Once I knew they were coming I had some supplies sent to them which they then brought to me. A new tire to replace my worn rear (over ten thousand miles on it and probably could have stretched it another thousand: Schalwbe Marathon Plus’ are the best touring tire hands down), a new seersucker shirt and replacement gloves as my last pair had deteriorated. So huge thanks Mom and Dad and it was wonderful to see you.

behind a stand of trees
a hidden field of gold –

a green and purple field
with a lovely scent –

Journey to the East: 18 July 2012

Thursday, July 19th, 2012


metal giants
stride across the cornfields
dealing electricity with both hands

When Giants roamed the earth
My night at Kil-So-Quah was pretty rough as the temperatures stayed pretty much in the 80s until near dawn. I also kept being disturbed by a little raccoon that kept going for my food bag. I’d put a lock on the zipper after a raccoon had gotten a previous food bag so it wasn’t able to get in, but it kept trying. I’d chase it off but then it’d be back an hour or so later. After about four attempts it finally gave it up. I lingered in camp for a bit but when I finally hit the road the I rode back through the woods to the main route and once again was back in farmland. Still a bit of rolling hills and of course the occasional tiny town. But I only rode about 20 miles on the route and before noon had left the route on a spur into Fort Wayne. My parents had decided to drive up from the Nashaville area and see me while touring and we were meeting in the city. So while not taking a full rest day I ended up with a couple of very short days. On this day I got laundry done even before I met my parents and we checked into our hotel and explored Fort Wayne a bit.


Moonrise Kingdom

I also finally got a chance to see the latest Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom which I thoroughly enjoyed. It has the usual excellent design and attention to detail that one has come to expect from a Wes Anderson production but seem really different camerawork and a more gauzy overall look. Definitely heavily referencing a specific set of films, French New Wave of course but also some 50/60s Americana (think those faux historical Disney pictures). As usual the music was very creative and absolutely apropos. I’d need to see it again before really trying to review it but I gotta say I definitely dug it and was glad I got a chance to see it while on the tour.

Journey to the East: 17 July 2012

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012


on Salamonie River Dam

The nature of the Mind when understood,
No human speech can compass or disclose.
Enlightenment is naught to be attained,
And he that gains it does not say he knows.


Don’t pass me by
This was one of these days that had a bit of about everything. Right as I rode away from Lake Fletcher my rear shifter cable broke. I’d been expecting this as it was badly frayed at the shifter lever but I have say this was particularly good timing. This is why you carry a spare cable my friends. I quickly replaced this and set back off. Things began just as they had the day before: hot, humid riding through farmland. But there was now more hills; mostly short little rollers but sometimes with a short, sharp grade. The trees increased a bit and there was a wider variety of crops being grown than soy and corn. With the time zone change I’d left camp late and it was already pretty hot. So it was with relief that I was able to ride on the Nickel Plate Trail, a new-ish (not on the official route guide, but listed in the addenda) rail trail through a corridor of trees. I was only on it for about 3.5 miles but it was a nice break. And when I was done I’d reached Denver where I took a break for lunch.


Stacks of clouds

After lunch it was stiflingly hot and the route mostly dead east on flat farmland. But big fluffy clouds began to appear and occasionally provide relief from the intense sun. The clouds to the south were black and menacing and another thunderstorm seemed likely. It hadn’t broke when I reached the two-bit town of Lagro and crossed the Wabash River. But the wind picked up and the sun was well blocked now by an almost completely overcast sky. After the river was the longest steepest climb since I was riding along the Missisippi in Wisconsin and then the route turned into the Salamonie River State Forest. A nice looking state park, this would have been a great place to stay, if it wasn’t only mid-day. More climbing through the park and then I descended to the dam and crossed the Salamomie Lake.


Detritus from the storm

Thunder was now audible in the distance, but I was riding away from the storm and was never englifed by it. I felt a few drops of rain now and again and most vitally the wind brought much cooler air. So it wasn’t a bad final leg though the farms and then woods to the Kil-So-Quah State Campground. Another nice campground right on the J. Edward Roush Lake and clearly a recreation destination. The wind began to blow really hard as I set up and I could see lightning across the lake, but the storm never crossed it. It died down fairly shortly and then it was a pleasant evening (if back to being too hot).

As if from no-where
cotton ball like clouds
form in the hazy blue sky

Thunderstorm rumbles in the distance –
I only felt a few drops!

Mounds of clouds
stacked upon clouds –
flap of the butterfly wings

Journey to the East: 16 July 2012

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012


Sunset over Lake Fletcher

No matter what, you are lonely, my shadow: I move it to see
-Hōsai Ozaki

Chasing shadows
The temperatures have been rising and this day was clear and blue and would get to the upper 90s (f). Riding away from Iroquois, back among the fields, I soon crossed the border into Indiana – no sign to indicate my crossing, just the road number changed. Little else changed though, it was all still corn and soy fields cut through by little numbered farm roads with the occasional highway crossing. The road quality deteriorated and there did seem to be more trees – not quite every square inch given over to the factory farms. The route through Indiana is really on the back roads with few towns and most of them having a population in the hundreds. So with the heat today it was tough – I wasn’t able to stop very often to recover. There was one very welcome Ice Cream shop outside of the one horse town Buffalo which had served many a Northern Tier cyclotourist. I was able to recharge a bit and do the final leg of a long hot day. At this point too the time zone changed – I’m now on eastern time, the final zone change of the tour. I arrived at the Fletcher Lake Fishing Access where the route guide said you could camp. The info sign indicated otherwise, plus there was no water beyond the lake and not even a picnic table. However it turns out that just around the corner is the Fletcher Lake Campground which actively welcomes cyclists.

My clothes a little tattered;
myself a bit too –
traveling still

Chasing the shadows of the clouds –
seeking respite from the sun

Journey to the East: 15 July 2012

Monday, July 16th, 2012


King Corn

In the tree’s shade –
A wind,
Travellers both.

Back again amongst the corn and soy in the heat, this was probably the most monotonous day yet of the tour. Almost completely flat with just the gentlest of rollers now and again. There was a light breeze from the west pushing me along most of the day and nary a cloud in the sky to block the suns rays. The route was mostly due easy, sometimes ruler straight for an hour or more of riding. Every so often it’d go south for a cole miles before resuming the eastward march. It being Sunday what few tiny towns on the route were shut down and so I pretty much just rode with a break at the bar/restaurant outside of Ashkum. It now being afternoon it was decidedly hot and humid and I had the “pleasure” of riding on some gravel roads. Arriving in Iroquois I found the City Park where I’d be staying this night. Nice big park with lots of trees; I welcomed the shade. We often are supposed to notify someone when we stay at these parks but the last few times my cell phone has had ‘no service’ and I was unable to comply. The same was the cad here but then I got one bar of reception and called the mayor. He came by and let me store my bicycle in the maintenance shed and stay in the attached offices which had a bathroom with shower and was air conditioned. So worth making those calls when you can.

taking a leak amongst the corn –
butterflies all around

heat, corn, grasshoppers –
being fully present

Journey to the East: 14 July 2012

Sunday, July 15th, 2012


Sunset over old Route 66

In sunrise beauty,
Saying farewell.

Parting of the ways
It is the way of the road that for a time you may end up camping with the same group of people night after night. Then your days fall out of sync and once again one is on ones own until another set of chance companions are met. I’d camped with P__ for a couple nights and S__ for most nights of the past week. We didn’t see P__ we think tools rest day in Muscatine and today S__ heads up to Chicago for a couple days off himself. My way continues east once again on my own. I crossed the Illionois River over a large steel bridge and then climbed out of the river valley. After that things were as flat as they have been and of course lined with corn and/or soy beans. There were sections where the road was a narrow band of concrete in a corridor of six foot high corn. Hot and humid again but last night and this mornings thunderstorms had left clouds behind and for much of the day the direct sun was blocked. Due to limited camping options this wasn’t going to be too long a day for me so I took it easy stopping at libraries and not pushing it. As I arrived in the small town of Odell yet another thunderstorm broke, though not a very violent one. I waited it out and then found my way to the city Pool Park where I camped that night. Beautiful sunset in the hazy sky and I walked over to the nearby preserved section of the original Route 66 roadway.

Well met, my road friends,
chance companions –
too soon our ways must part