Texas to Labrador (2)

Dear Friends:

Now in the library at Grand Bend, ONT, on the storm-tossed shores of Lake Huron: yesterday all libraries in Kent County were closed, except for the one at Shetland, which had no power. As it turned out, there was no power for the next 50 miles, but more of that later.

Restarted in Huntsville (Madison) AL, at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, May 27, and did 50 miles due North into TN before dark and exhaustion caught me miles from anywhere. An old couple were sitting on their porch just North of Fayetteville, TN, and when I enquired allowed me to use the field in front of their barn for a camp site. It rained during the night, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend that brought 270 tornados to the Ohio Valley.

The following day I rode completely across Tennessee (Shelbyville-Murfreesboro-Lebanon-Westmorland- Scottsville, KY), hoping to get north of the predicted severe thunderstorms before they hit. The day was extremely hot, and there were no motels or camp-grounds for the last 40 miles. The terrain was quite hilly,but I achieved 121 miles.

On Saturday I continued North across Kentucky, to Glasgow (where a Highland Games was due to begin the next day, in this 90-deg humidity), and then North on Highway 31E, which turns out to be along the route of an extension of the old Natchez Trace from Nashville to Louisville. In order to find accomodation I turned off this to 31W, where I found an excellent 2ndhand bookstore in Horse Cave, a city otherwise dead and decaying away. The owner had successfully used the internet to grow his business, so perhaps the internet may yet help save America’s microcities!

Sunday morning brought the predicted rain, but I rode on, stopping for Church at the Methodist Church in Sonora, another dying community, but one that is charming enough to be capable of restoration for the tousits. Here I was on the Bicentennial Bike Trail across America. I followed it East to Hodgenville along a beautiful country road, and visited Abraham Lincol’s birthplace in Hodgenville. From there on the weather was clearly threatening, and at every stop people warned me that there were tornadoes ahead. I got to Brandenburg, KY, on the Ohio River just ahead of an enormous downpour, fortunately choosing to stay in a two-story Motel. I had just finished showering and cleaning up when the manager came round and ordered everybody out of their rooms since a tornado had been sighted less than a mile away. We all sat there for about 90 minutes looking like Londoners in the Underground during a WWII air-raid. On Memorial Day morning I waited until the rain was over and then proceeded against a nasty headwind from the NE into Indiana, where all the fields were flooded and the streams bank-full, and there were plenty of tree-branches across the road. North of Palmyra a bridge was out, diverting me onto a little country road running up hill and down dale eastward to Indiana #60 at New Pekin, which had been hit be a tornado that day, shortly before I got there. On the last steep switchback into Pekin I pedalled too fast and something went in my right leg – my strongest, since my left knee has been “messed up” since a cycling episode in my teenage years. In great pain I made it into the city limits of Salem, where a lady in a pick-up recognized that I was in trouble and gave me a lift a couple of miles to the only motel in town. There I rested for a day and caught up on business necessities.

Salem was the first of a series of delightful and apparently thriving little towns in Indiana and Ohio: the most beautiful by far, though, was Versailles, OH, a little gem.

On Wednesday, 2 June, I continued, in cooler weather but with a Nor’east breeze reaching 15-20 mph to Scottsburg and Vernon, Indiana. Between Vernon and North Vernon I nearly got seriously injured while trying to make a left turn into the Chamber of Commerce offices. The highway here is narrow and curvy as it runs along the ridge in the inside of an incised meander of the local river. Nobody would slow down and let me turn, and I finally wobbled off the tar, which was very high above the ground, and slipped off the bike with my legs under a crash barier and my body in the path of oncoming traffic. My panniers were scatttered across the edge of the road. Nobody took the least notice, and so I staggered into the C. of C. to get a directions out of town and recover.

The fall had further injured my right leg, and so I staggered the last 20 miles into Greensburg, Indiana, using only one leg and in great pain. Especially since the road was busy, shoulderless, and there was a strong cross-wind.

The next morning (Thursday) was more of the same: pain, traffic, crosswinds blowing me all over the road, but I got as far as New Castle, IN, where the C. of C. had a cyclist on their staff who gave me a good road eastward out of town and then North up to Mooreland on old US Hwy 36. Near Milroy, IN, I passed through Old Order Amish country, beautifully tended farms, and a lady in Victorian styles turning her hay with a horse-drawn machine. Hwy 36 was a delight – beautiful surface, shoulders, and light traffic, with a tail wind. Right away I met two cyclists, the Lambert’s going in the opposite direction. They were long-distance riders, but on this occasion just out for an evening spin from their home up the road. A few miles later I stopped to take a Tylenol, and a young lady in a car stopped and startred asking all about my trip. She invited me to meether in the restaurant at Modoc, her hometown 4 miles up the road, and to stay on her front lawn if necessary. I demurred, but I had taken the Tylenol too late, and by the time I got to Modoc I was in extreme pain.

The young lady was Mary Nipp, a two-time survivor of breast cancer, long-distance rider, cycling activist, and bundle of energy. Mary insisted on hearing all the details of the trip, on paying for my dinner and breakfast, and on giving me things that I lacked (my lock had broken, for example). Mary and her Mother and Brother were wonderfully kind.

On Friday, 4th June, I travelled with less pain as far as Fort Loramie, OH, and stayed at Lake Loramie State Park, a most delightful place. The evening and small hours were, however, spoiled by a group of 4 latwe-arriving youths at the next camping-place. These kids proceeded to get very drunk and rowdy, and then went off to smoke marijuana. They returned still drunk and brawling. I had to get up to goto the bathroom, and this suddenly sobered them up, since they could not be sure that I had not talked to the Park Ranger, so they hurriedly left at about 1.45 a.m., leaving a lot of litter and parts of their tent. I hope they got home to Dayton safely.

Saturday, 5th June brought me to Upper Sandusky, where the only Motel had a pool and whirlpool, so though my wallet was in pain, I was able to considerably reduce the [pain in my right leg, which was now clearly a damaged achilles tendon.

On Sunday I cruised downhill and with a tailwind to Sycamore, where I arrived just as the service was beginning at the local Catholic Church, so I attended Mass, and listened to a fairly good sermon. Then on to Bellevue, where I did my laundry at the fanciest Laundromat I have ever seen. At Castalia I found that I could not get across to Port Clinton to take the ferry to the Bass Islands in Lake Erie, since no bikes were allowed on the freeway (Ohio 2) and the old bridge had been torn down. I checked anyway, and found the situation to be true, so rode on into Sandusky, where I found that the boat for Canada would be leaving in three hours.

I had crossed the USA from South to North, Houston to Sandusky, Ohio, in 22 days and 45 minutes riding time, covering nearly 1800 miles ( I haven’t my notebook here in the Library – more exact numbers later). This is long enough, and so many things have happened in my few days in Canada that I will finish now, and save those for later. I wish you all a wonderful time. Please let me know if there are other things you would like to hear about, or whether I am spending too much time on the mechanics of the trip and not enough on the human interest.