Urban cycling has its moments of fun, but I generally prefer to be on the rural routes with fewer cars around that could possibly kill me. But leaving Cleveland meant seeing a few neat sights, like the cultural gardens along MLK Jr. Drive in Rockefeller Park, featuring different areas representing various countries and cultures, and incorporating interesting landscaping, sculptures, flags, and monuments. I also passed the botanical gardens, and of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but didn’t stop to see any of them other than to take pics as I passed.
And I found a few places to goof off in along the way. Look ma, I’m riding around the USA!
There were a few people on the beach of Lake Erie as I passed, but the water was closed due to poor water quality. Yuck. It was kind of gray and cool to start anyway, and I wasn’t tempted to swim. I was excited to book it through more of the flatlands.
In the little town of Sheffield Lake, we stopped at the grocery store and met an employee who was outside on break offered to watch Tunes while I went in to pick up some grape tomatoes, cheese, and raspberries When I returned, she wished me a safe trip and gave me a big hug as if we were long lost friends. I rode across the street to the Sheffield Lake branch library, which had its own beach and a beautiful view of the water, and set down outside to charge my devices and have a little picnic with my pup in the shade. A library patron came over to inquire about my trip and introduced herself as Sandy. I gave her my TouringTunes info card and she went inside while I blogged and noshed outdoors. When she returned, she complimented me on my trip photos she’d seen online and offered me a box of chocolate chip cookies! They were the perfect post-lunch dessert and full of carbs I needed to push on, as the afternoon was passing and I still didn’t know where I was going to end up that night, and for a moment, I worried that it would be late before I knew it and I’d be scrambling to find somewhere to hide my tent.Library’s view:
Last year when I rode down the coast of California, one of the other cyclists I rode with was a Russian dude named Alex, who had saved up enough for a year of international cycling, and was riding from Portland to South America, as far as he could go. He stood at about 6’6″ and had blonde dreadlocks that were basically as long as I stand tall. A couple of times when we weren’t sure about where to stealth camp or find a shower or just where to go next, he just smiled and said, “Jah will provide,” which made me laugh and stop worrying. Now, on days when I wing it without a host organized or an endpoint in mind, I hear his nonchalant mantra in my head and know that I’ll figure something out, and that it will probably be okay, even if it is unpleasant. That said, Alex called me the other day and said he was back in Oregon. This came as a surprise, as I’d recently seen his photos posted from Villahermosa, Mexico. Turns out he’d neglected to acquire the necessary travel visas after crossing the border and got picked up and sent to a scary sounding detention center (read: scary Mexican jail) for two weeks before they deported him free of charge or charges back to the States. So… there was that.
Considered renting near these naturally reclaimed greenhouses:
I hauled it about 65 miles total to Huron, OH, where I realized it was 8PM and the daylight really starting to wane. I checked a map and found a fire department in town, but it looked big and fancy and suburban, so I figured there was a slim chance of getting approval to camp on their tiny patch of grass alongside of the building. Plus, there was no one inside, even though the doors were unlocked. Standing outside, looking around for my next best option, I heard the door swing open behind me, and a uniformed fire fighter asked if he could help me. The good guys of the Huron FD welcomed me to set up my tent there, and captain Bill was super welcoming, explaining that they let other bike tourist groups camp out there “all the time.” They even invited me in to use their shower, laundry, and eat leftover pizza. Jah will provide indeed.
The weather was perfect and I slept outside soundly and comfortably, the big industrial fan from the building next door whirring like a giant white-noise machine. In the morning, I met the Chief, who warned me to avoid one particular town that had a notable heroin problem. “You’ll puncture your tire on a needle,” one firefighter said. “He’s kidding but he’s not really,” added the Chief. Luckily, it wasn’t on my route.
Instead, I enjoyed a sunny day through Bellevue, Oxford and Clyde, mostly flat farmland that showed some of the damage done by all of the previous weeks’ heavy rains. Down one section of my trail, I was met with a huge lake flooding the road that stretched a tenth of a mile long and wide. Attempting to ford the river like in the Oregon Trail computer game, I took off my sneakers and socks, and started to slowly pedal through, but quickly realized its depth was so great that my non-waterproof rear panniers would certainly be drenched if I kept going. I put my feet down and paddled back to shore, considering removing all of the bags and waking them across in two trips, then going back for the bike, and reloading, but I opted to find an alternate route instead. I rode the next several miles barefoot and got a few strange looks from farmers atop their tractors.
Luckily, my new route took me on a bike path! Tunes did some running and prancing for a mile or two as we passed cornfields and soybean crops. We met a father and son along the way who were out for a ride. The dad reminded me of my brother a bit: stocky and dark-haired with a sonorous voice that resounded from a wide, square jaw. His mind was totally blown that I’d already pedaled 1,700 miles and that I was planning on going over 3,000 more. He asked what I carried, where Tunes rode (she was sitting in a shady spot in the grass at this point), and how I managed to do that. He seemed hardly able to believe that I was going at least another 20 miles that day. His son, who had ridden ahead while dad and I talked, circled back to see what the holdup was. “She’s riding her bicycle to Washington. That’s another state. It’s really far away,” he explained to his kid. Then to me, “it’s my weekend with him. This is how dad gets his exercise- riding on the weekends here. Just had to buy him that new helmet,” he nodded towards the camouflage printed skateboard helmet crowning his progeny’s noggin. “It’s a little big, but money’s tight and he’s got time to grow into it.”
Farther down the path, I saw three road bicycles stopped, the riders each wearing familiar yellow and orange safety triangles. As I got closer, I recognized their matching jerseys– “hey, Bike and Build!” I waved as I pulled up. Last year in Wyoming, we’d met a crew of these van-supported cross-country-cycling-meets-Habitat-For-Humanity riders and ended up crashing their campsite on one night. This was a new set of riders and they had lots of questions about my rig and ride. It was fun to pedal around with them on the path, and then when we followed our different maps and cue sheets through the following town, we kept crossing paths, playing bicycle tag, cheering each other on. Good luck, B&B Northern Route 2015!
I pushed on past the busy town of Bowling Green and arrived in Tontogany, where I made myself supper in their sheltered picnic table area. Things got a little crazy–instead of PBJ, I opened a can of tuna fish and forked it between my last two slices of bread. Bam! I ate a few cookies to round out the meal. It was an 82 mile day, so I was ready to find somewhere to settle in, but in this 10-block town, everything was in the open, and I didn’t want to post up near the active train tracks. I cruised around town as the sun touched down on the horizon. The fire department was silent, faced houses on all sides, and had no grass. The churches were in plain view without nooks or responses to knocks. But the last folks were just just leaving Thursday night bingo at the American Legion Hall. One of the last trucks pulling away saw me wave and pulled over and I delivered my pitch to the driver. “Hi. I’m Jamie, and I’m doing a cross-country bicycle ride fundraiser. I need a little bit of help. I don’t have anywhere to stay tonight, so may I have permission to put a small tent behind this building, if you think it’s safe?” shutting off his engine, the driver hopped out and came over to shake my hand. “You gotta lot of guts doing what you’re doing,” he gesticulated toward my heavy ride, was very generous of a veteran. He asked if I needed to go inside to use the facilities, but I politely declined. He walked me over to a little alcove beside the building, and told me I could set up there. He also told me he would personally call the sheriff, who “patrols this area two or three times a night,” so he’d know I was there and wouldn’t bother me in the night. Perfect! “Say, do you have any veterans in your family?” I stumbled for a minute, hoping that my answer wouldn’t disqualify me from camping there. “Hmm…My Uncle Scott was a Marine?” On the spot, I’d also forgotten that my mother’s father was in the Navy. He died when I was quite young and I don’t remember much of him though. Anyway way it seemed to be good enough for him. As he left he turned and called out over his shoulder, “when you write your book, be sure to put this in it.” Yes sir, Mr. Tom German of Tontogany’s American Legion.
Song of the day: With a Little Help from My Friends – Joe Cocker’s Woodstock version, with hilarious dubbing