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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: 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

Journey to the East: 13 July 2012

Saturday, July 14th, 2012


Wind Power

Yet walking in the rain,
This is a care-free journey.

Tilting against windmills
Really humid this morning and though there were clouds to block the direct sun it just got hotter and more uncomfortable as the day wore on. The landscape was again almost all cornfields with the occasional rolling hill but there were several wind farms to break up the monotony. I really enjoy these big abstract windmills and am always happy to see them slowly spinning to themselves. By lunchtime I’d arrived in the town of Kewanee which was the largest town I’d seen in days. I restocked supplies and laid in a bit extra as the days ahead looked pretty sparse. back on the road the early afternoons ride was quite uncomfortable as the heat and humidity hit a fever pitch. However as I left the small town of Bradford big black clouds were pouring in and drizzle stared soon after and the wind picked up. Then a full on downpour began with winds now so strong the rain stung as it was whipped into my face. At several points I had to pull over and crouch down among the corn to block this intense wind. Eventually I took shelter under a tree totally soaked I realized I was cool for the first time in weeks. Im sure the farmers were grateful for the rain, I’ve been hearing for weeks from the locals id talk to about how troublesome the lack of rain was. The rain and wind died down and I took back to the bicycle. Really enjoyable riding the last twenty miles or so – cool, no wind and the occasional bit of drizzle. There was a big two county fair going on in the tiny town of Henry but I passed it by (destruction derby tonight!) and camped at Waterworks park which was right on the Illinois river.

In the gentle summer breeze
the windmills lazily spin

Suddenly a thunderstorm!
Whipping winds, driving rain –
finally cool again

Journey to the East: 27 June 2012

Thursday, June 28th, 2012



Being eaten by mosquitos.

Of thunderstorms and mosquitos
The morning was hot and humid and there wasn’t much between where I’d camped and Grand Rapids. So I pressed on through farmland and trees, the light wind generally against me. As per usual the wind began to pick up in the afternoon, but as it just began to get strong I arrived at Grand Rapids and had lunch at “Brewed Awakenings”. I’d been pretty tapped out but after lunch I felt much revived and decided to do another twenty miles or so. As I rode back though town I saw dark clouds ahead and several jagged forks of lightning. Leaving a grocery store after laying in supplies the air was insanely thick – humidity you could almost see. As I set out the storm broke and while the thunder and lightening was mostly pretty distant it rained on and off most the way – the clouds blocking the sun and the cool rain was rather refreshing really. Around 5pm I arrived at the Mississippi River Campground and Boat Launch where I would camp. Here I was swarmed by literally clouds of mosquitos; I’ve never, ever seen anything like this. Dozens would be on me if I stopped moving and all I could do was setup and hide in the tent.

a jagged flash of light,
distant rumbles —
the whish of rain in the grass

Journey to the East: 15 June 2012

Friday, June 15th, 2012


Painted Canyon in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park

“Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.”
–Theodore Roosevelt

Expect the unexpected
After riding into this rocky, hillier terrain a return to climbing was expected and it was indeed a climb out from Medora back to I94. The day had dawned clear and calm but by the time I left Medora (I’d wandered around the town a bit before leaving), it was overcast and the wind had picked up. It had shifted directions as well and was now a headwind. After the hills outside of Medora was the Painted Canyon info center and overlook. I pulled over and got a tiny taste of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The canyon was miles of wrinkled landscape with rust coloring amidst the browns and greens. Really looks worth a full on visit.


Painted Canyon looking northeast

Setting off from the info center the route pretty quickly left I94 and was back on Old Hwy 10. This was now quite rolling, almost always going up or down though pretty stretched out. The final 15 miles into Dickinson were pretty tortuous – the headwind had all picked up as had the hills. They were still rolling but now climbing steadily upwards. There was more traffic too as I got into town. This is the end of this section of the route maps and also during this ride I rolled over the second thousand miles of the tour. I’d intended to take a rest day here even stay at a hotel but everything was booked. The shale gas bubble that forced the change of route has extended even down to here. So camping it was and I rode toward the nearest ‘ground which was only a couple miles sways. After stopping at a grocery store for supplies a lady suggested I not ride at this point as a storm with 50 mile an hour winds was on its way. I set off to the campground and as I arrived the storm broke. I paid for my site and the rain, wind and lightening was intense. The lady offered to let me stay I one of their small cabins at a discount but I didn’t have enough cash on hand for the deposit. So I hung out in a little kitchen at the laundry room waiting out the storm. While there one of the owners came up and said he’d let me stay in one of the cabins without the deposit if I kept it clean. I accepted and was able to not tent in this storm.

Rain bounces off my hat;
head bowed I press on