No Name Tour: Day 1 – Headwinds, Rumble Strips and Thunderstorms

The day began with my in laws taking us out to the Fingerhut Diner in beautiful downtown North Judson, Indiana. Maybe it was pretour jitters but I couldn’t finish my omelet. My tummy was in knots and my left knee was barking at me.

We went back to the in-laws’ fabulous home atop a sand hill (the land around here is either sand or bog). I packed up and my mother in law offered me some granola bars and a fig bar. I put a few in my handlebar bag because what’s a few more ounces when your bike weighs a ton.

The engine

Hugs and kisses were followed by me riding The Mule down the curving driveway and into the wind.

Crops are only now being planted around here so the vast fields offer little break from the constant winds from the south and west. I was going west south west so my entire day was spent fighting the wind. Of course, as the day wore on the wind speed increased. Did I mention that I hate weather?

The county farm roads were empty but disconnected so I had to use two lane highways from time to time. I spent about five miles going south on US 421. It had rumble strips along the narrow paved shoulder leaving me no choice but to ride in the travel lane. I spent most of the time looking in my rear view mirror (if you tour without one you are a fool). Dozens of tractor trailers and dump trucks passed me. They all gave me plenty of room. Only one honked at me.

I turn west onto Indiana Highway 10. No rumble strips! But still beaucoup trucks. Fortunately 10 gave way to some paved county roads that I had all to myself. I used the google to navigate the grid and made it quite along ways on these bike friendly lanes.

Better than a rail trail

Alas, all good things must come to an end as I rejoined 10 with still more trucks. Cowering to the edge was a bad idea. I caught my front tire in some gravel and nearly crashed. Luckily my wheel caught pavement and I recovered traction.

As I headed due west I could see the skies on the horizon darkening. On coming traffic had its headlights on. No bueno.

First state line of the tour

I arrived in the Illinois town of Momence and stopped to check the weather radar. As I did I heard a rumble of thunder. The radar showed a massive line of dark red approaching from the near northwest. It had dozens of lightning strikes displayed.

Eek!

I have been caught riding in Midwest thunderstorms several times before. They are scary. Heavy rain. High winds. Hail. Lightning.

Fortunately the google indicated that a fast food joint was only two blocks away. Having ridden 50 miles with only the fig bar to eat since breakfast I understood that the universe was telling me to eat some French fries.

And do I did. I munched slowly as I waited an hour for the storm to pass. Thinking ahead I made a motel reservation ten miles west in Kankakee.

After the storm passed, I hopped on The Mule, made two turns in Momence and rode 10 miles straight to the motel. I didn’t even care that scores of cars zoomed past me as I rode.

And so I arrived at the Super 8 covered in road spray but feeling pretty darned good about the first day of the tour.

I still have no idea if this left knee of mine will hold up to daily abuse but there’s only one way to find out.

Onward to Bicycle Route 66 tomorrow.

No Name Tour – Day 0

We drove 13 hours to north central Indiana today. My mind kept ticking off all the places along the way that I have bikes to and through in the past. Many good memories. Okay, riding over the monster hill in Wheeling in my recumbent in 2005 was no picnic.

Tomorrow morning we go to the local diner then I take off for Kankakee IL. I will stay in a motel since it is supposed to be a stormy night.

Wind will be an issue. There are no crops in the fields to hide behind. Maybe the weather gods can give me a push.

My left knee is very unhappy with the time in the car.

The Olympics has a motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius. Faster, Higher, Stronger. The motto for this tour is Maior, Corpulentiores, Deterioria Mereri. Older, Fatter, Sorer.

Onward.

And a note to the folks back in DC: I am sorry to have miss led this year’s Ride of Silence tonight. As my father used to say: you done good.

Any Road Tour: Day 13 – Headwinds and camping fail

I was awoken by geese and the sound of gurgling river water. A breeze was making the trees sing along. Not a bad way to start the day.

About a mile from camp I rode by the buffalo farm (in Buffalo Indiana no less). The buffalo were grazing but too far from the road to take a decent picture. (Brittany, I swear I am not making this up.)

I stopped at the corner store for coffee and a cookie. The coffee was weak and the cookie was stale.

I hit the road to learn that the breeze was a headwind. And it stayed a headwind all day. Of course as the day wore one it turned into a 20 mile per hour beast with gusts well above that. The wind made it impossible to ride above 10 miles per hour. And the gusts moved The Mule all over the road. Both my legs and my arms were getting a serious workout.

The winds were much worse when I was riding past open farmland. The corn was to early to offer me any sort of wings break. )I wonder how it grows straight up and down with all this wind). Each farm had a stand of trees to block the wind so I’d get a few seconds of rest before the next blast. (Several times during the day I stopped. The wind actually blew The Mule and me back a step when I tried to start again.)

Other then the wind it was an absolutely beautiful day.

I crossed into Illinois after noon. There was no welcome sign. They must have known I was coming.

Most of my riding was done with my head down to try to cheat the wind. I’d look up and see corn or soy or hay, realize I was still in a nightmare headwind, then put my head back down.

Weeks ago I planned this to be an easy 58 mile day to take advantage of the free camping in the park of the town of Iroquois. The park is beautiful but camping is no longer allowed.

My choices were ride another 20+ miles into the headwind for free camping in another town en route or ride 6 miles off route to Watseka and grab a hotel room. Watseka won without a fight. I simply could not handle another 20 miles of this headwind.

At a lunch stop I learned that there is a cross country cyclist ahead of me. I wonder if I’ll catch him.

Watseka is within eyesight of a massive wind farm. Those turbines were getting quite a workout today.

I spotted this house today, in Watseka. A painted lady with a wrap around porch and a tower. Perfect.

Finally Watseka has what all badass midwestern towns have, a humongous grain elevator.

The desk clerk at the hotel is from New Delhi. She was a nurse back home but her credentials did not transfer to the U. S. I told her about my blood clots and she knew all about DVTs and pulmonary embolisms.

So today I rode 67.5 miles, about 10 miles farther than planned. They were honest miles. Good miles.

This morning, tomorrow’s forecast was for similar winds but it has been revised to winds that will not crush your soul.

938 miles in the bag. I try not to think about how much farther I have to go.

Any Road Tour: Day 12 – Tailwinds at last

The Red Roof Inn breakfast lived down to my expectations. Three rounds of Cherrios, mini muffin, and coffee fueled my first 36 miles. I grabbed two plastic wrapped apples for the road.

After spending 10 minutes wandering around I consulted The Google for directions and was soon back on the rail trail. I fell into my riding trance and was spinning along pushed by a tailwind when I nearly hit a bollard. It was hinged at the base and laying flat. I just managed to avoid hitting the hinge. It would have been a disaster. My front wheel wouldn’t have survived and I would have been a hurting unit.

Pay attention moron!

I came to the town of Converse and wondered how it was pronounced. Incidentally Peru is pronounced PeeRoo not PayRoo.

After 25 miles I passed three campgrounds in a row. Life’s not fair.

I met a cycle tourist going the opposite way. He was riding the length of the Wabash River. He told me of a good breakfast place in Peru. “They’ll fix you up.” And they did.

Outside of Peru I stopped at the International Circus Hall of Fame. It was sadly downtrodden and deserted but for a caretaker. He let me wander about then told me stories of seeing the circus as s kid, probably in the 50s. After the show they’d take the 2 elephants down to the river to play. He said the campers didn’t much care for that.

Back on the rail trail to Deedsville. I tried to contact my in laws who live 60 miles northwest of here but my calls rolled to voicemail. So I turned west, for the first time on the Northern Tier Route that I will follow all the way to Montana.

The wind was at my back and I had perfect, straight country roads to ride. There were gentle hills that allowed for easy hill hopping, speeding down hill and practically gliding up the next.

I was down to my last Apple and diverted about six miles to Royal Center where I picked up some fine vittles for camp.

Following the map, and not the detailed instructions on the back, I ended up at what looked like a camp. It was instead a former camp that had been converted to a retirement place by two brothers. One brother rolled up in a golf cart and told me the camp I was looking for was on the far side of the river about six miles away. Ugh.

He was shirtless and filled his golf cart with his mass. His left shoulder had a tattoo like the one Mike Tyson has. And his belly was immense, but hard as a giant’s bowling ball. I tried to imagine how much beer went into its construction.

He told me to stay for free but I had already told the campground I was coming so I declined.

Just before the turn off to camp I passed a store that was stocked with everything I needed had I not already ridden six miles out of my way to buy it.

On the last mile to the camp I passed a buffalo farm. I kid you not. Which reminds me that I saw numerous vultures today. Hmmmm.

I set up my tent on the banks of the Tippecanoe River. Other campers told me that a tree near my tent held two baby raccoons. They had been abandoned. Unfortunately they didn’t come out to chat.

There was good eating for dinner.

93 miles

870.5 so far