Northern Tier 2010

August 22, 2010

On the Road Again

Filed under: Indiana, Section 08 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

After several days of working, visiting and recovering in South Bend, I’m back on the road. Jennifer is a wonderful cook, and with her mother, sister, two nieces and a baby nephew in the house, she went into high gear, and there was a nearly constant stream of delicious meals flowing from the kitchen. I returned to South Bend about ten pounds lighter than when I left in June, but I think I put most of that back on during my visit.

My Uncle George cautioned me about getting too comfortable, and not wanting to start again, by referencing the honey-sweet lotus fruit eaters in Homer’s Odyssey — a very real risk given the comforts and easy calories of home. But, as much as I enjoyed being in South Bend, and look forward to returning for good, I didn’t feel at all vulnerable to staying put: proceeding to Maine is simply a matter of fact. Plus, several friends promised bodily harm if I didn’t get going in a timely manner.

Today I rode to Monroeville, IN and am back on the Northern Tier route; indeed, Monroeville is the connecting town between Sections 8 and 9. I used Google Maps and a gazetteer to choose a route, and the combination worked very well. The only tricky portion was around Ft. Wayne, but Google correctly pointed me to the Rivergreenway, and much of the ride in Ft Wayne was on multi-use paths following the St. Mary’s River.

The days of facing a south wind as I descended through Minnesota and Iowa now feel like a wind up, or perhaps an inhalation, and I continue to benefit from good winds as Mother Nature exhales and blows me through the corn and soybeans of Illinois and Indiana. I started early this morning thinking it would be a long day, but I completed the ride under sunny skies a little after 3:00 p.m.

Normally I’d push on, but Monroeville is another special destination for touring cyclists: ten minutes after arriving in Monroeville and calling a number provided on my Adventure Cycling maps, Warren Fluttrow met me downtown and led me to the Community Building in the city park. He let me into the large, air-conditioned common area and pointed me to the shower, laundry facilities and refrigerators. All of this has been provided, free of charge, to cross-country cyclists since 1976. Warren is shown in the photo holding Monroeville’s “Trail Angel” award bestowed by Adventure Cycling in 2005.

Monroeville has provided a very nice transition to life back on the road.


August 16, 2010

The Last Hour Is Lost

Filed under: Illinois, Indiana, Section 08 — Henry Scott @ 5:00 pm

I didn’t feel it happen, nor did I see a sign along my rural route to let me know it occurred, but at some point today I passed back into the Eastern Time Zone and lost the last of three hours I gained when Jennifer and I flew to Seattle back in June.

The ride from Iroquois to South Bend was excellent. Yesterday I figured it was too far, but a great night’s sleep coupled with a dramatically lowered heat index and good winds made it a surprisingly easy 124 miles. Certainly the motivation to get home to Jennifer didn’t hurt, either.

I followed the Northern Tier as far as Rensselaer, and then I used maps at the public library to plot a route the rest of the way. This worked out very well, except for several unexpected sections of unpaved roads. That said, none were too bad, and the small county road gamble paid off in that many sections took me through winding tunnels of dense corn fields with essentially no traffic.

It is good to be home, and it will be fun to catch up with friends and family for a couple of days. My current plan is start heading east again early on Thursday for the final push to Maine. Anyone interested in grabbing a pint at Fiddler’s Hearth?

August 15, 2010

The Windmills Are Turning, And It Is a Good Thing

Filed under: Illinois, Section 08 — Henry Scott @ 9:10 pm

I got off to another early start this morning, and my day again began with a sunrise ride over a river on a metal bridge. Although today’s river was the Illinois, rather than the Mississippi, the rest of the day was strikingly similar: about 120 miles of a gently rolling landscape populated with corn and soybeans.

Perhaps the most notable difference was that the winds were better today, giving me a much appreciated push. It is wonderful to see windmills turning vigorously, but not hear the constant rush of wind — that means the winds are with you, and it feels great!

I don’t think I would have reached my goal of Iroquois were it not for the wind because my legs are tired. Iroquois is only a few miles west of the Indiana border, and tomorrow I’ll leave the Northern Tier route and head northeast to South Bend. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Jennifer and her family, and also to give my legs the first full day’s rest they’ve had since I started.

South Bend may be further than I can ride in one day, and in that case I’ll stay with my friends Bill and Judy in Walkerton. They’re both cyclists and leaders in Bike Michiana Coalition, a bicycling advocacy group, and we’ve worked together for several years.

Staying in Iroquois is a treat for touring cyclists. The mayor, Jack Karr (shown in the photo), has made arrangements for bikers to use his office area so they can sleep in an air-conditioned environment and get a hot shower; clean towels are provided. As if that isn’t enough, a local bank (or perhaps it is just an individual who happens to be a banker) pays for the guest cyclist to have breakfast at a restaurant across the street. Amazing hospitality for a town of only 200!

August 14, 2010

Goodbye Mississippi

Filed under: Illinois, Iowa, Section 08 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

What a difference a good night’s sleep can make! I slept incredibly well at the Muscatine Super 8, and my mindset was completely different this morning. I was eager to get back on the bike, and after taking full advantage of the continental breakfast, I was on the road by 6:00 a.m. I crossed the Mississippi for the last time and entered Illinois.

In addition to the benefit of good rest, the terrain today was very gentle, and more importantly, the winds were light — even a tailwind in the morning. I covered 78 miles before stopping for lunch in Kewanee. Along the way I was caught by two recreational cyclists from Muscatine heading out for a breakfast ride. I really enjoyed talking with them for a few miles, and I was tempted to join them for breakfast when it was time for them to turn off, but I decided keep going with the tailwind.

I ultimately made it to Henry, IL — about the midpoint of Illinois on this route, for a total of 122 miles. Due to the early start I had plenty of time to get a shower and go out for dinner. I was tempted to go another ten miles for the day, but I felt obliged to stay in a city with which I share a name.

Henry is right on the Illinois river, and the free public-park camping (for cyclists only) is near a popular boat launch, complete with a restaurant / bar. I ate alone but eventually got into a long, and very fun, conversation with Jason and Scott from Peroria. They entered a hard-fought rock-paper-scissors battle for the “honor” of who could buy the cross-country cyclist a beer. Jason was happy to be in the picture, but for reasons he can’t explain will never look directly at the camera.

It was awfully tempting to stay later with them, and the free beers were clearly going to keep coming, but I’m shooting for another long ride tomorrow and want to get an early start. I’d like to get near the IL / IN border because that would get me within a long day’s ride of South Bend. It is another sweaty night in the tent, but I hear that tomorrow will finally bring relief from the incredible humidity we’ve been experiencing. For the love of God, please let that be true!

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