Sunday, June 29, 2003

Day Two - Ohio, Indiana

Sunday, 2003-06-29:

I had 4100 miles on the bike as I began my trip. Leaving camp, this Sunday morning it said "4444."

I rode at least an hour and a half up the freeway (77), thinking that I would get a jump on the day before hopping off to see the country. That worked, but finding a place for breakfast turned out to be a challenge. Next time, I want to visit Wolf Run and Salt Fork state parks.

Getting off the highway in Dover, I found nothing. A scenic route beckoned so I figured I would ride to the next town. Not far out of town, along the scenic canal route, I passed the defunct BMW Dam Bike Shop. It's sign lay beside the road like an omen.

A country golf course was a possibility for a breakfast, but being unshaven I decided to pass it up even though its parking lot was full and there were signs of a crowd in the club house. Finally, after another hour of searching, I asked the GPS to find the nearest eatery and found the right solution in El Ducko's Restaurante & Dairy in Strasburg.

The waitress let me camp out with computer and batteries charging on a back table. I worked on my route until the ham and eggs arrived. Some friendly folks at the next table wished to be helpful on the route, but by then the GPS was busy downloading maps and route information from the laptop. They weren't clear on what route I was taking, but seemed relieved that from what I could remember I wasn't going on a route where the bridge was out. I should have taken notes at that comment.

Loading regional maps for the day into the GPS took over half an hour. I made a note to get that bit done before retiring in the evening, from there on out. In following days, I learned that all the regional maps are not always necessary. If you plan to follow a specific route, setting up a route on the computer and downloading it seems to provide the bare essentials, including what services and points of interest are at each exit. Still, if you expect to get off the beaten path, the regional maps will help you keep from getting lost.

After breakfast, the day got more complicated. The detour probably cost me three hours time. It took me back almost all the way to Dover, on highway 516. Most of the way I was going South East. The GPS flaked out on me in the middle of nowhere. I fiddled with it and eventually it started working again. Eventually it put me on a Westward track on Highway 39, and because of all of this I was able to see several Amish buggies and many places selling their work. One buggy came clopping down the road with the oncoming traffic at such a brisk pace that I shuddered at the thought of shoeing horses and the frequency with which they probably had to be done.

Years ago I worked at ranching. Melvin Widner, the foreman at the Stanfield ranch, taught me to shoe horses. "It's probably the hardest work God ever invented for man to do," he said.

At Wooster, the GPS flaked out (again). I stopped next to a door labeled "Wooster Orthodox Fellowship," to reset it, which involved unplugging it, removing the batteries, and turning it back on. Being Sunday, it did not surprise me to see people emerge from its door although in hindsight I realize it wasn't Greek or Russian Orthodox they meant but probably Jewish Orthodox.

Once the GPS was working, for some reason, instead of going straight ahead, I decided to take a right turn at the next corner and go around the block that I was on. It turned out to be one of those impulses that you later think may have been divinely inspired. Coming around the third corner, I spotted a bike parked at the opposite curb near the end of the block. I started looking for where its riders might be. Rounding the fourth corner to the street I had arrived on, I saw that some kind of coffee shop was taking up the corner location. There were signs that there might be live entertainment there in the evenings. So I went around the block again before parking next to the bike. I admired it and its electronics before going into what turned out to be a Seattle's Best coffee Shop. Since I've never been in one before, I was immediately impressed with the classic Western bar-like layout. Cappuccino hit the spot and the cinnamon scone was excellent. A young lady next to me was amenable to passing the time in conversation. She had just returned from Kansas City where she had been the Ohio State Representative to a Vocational Skills competition. Through the program, she was studying medical skills while still in high school. It seemed a good thing, to me, that we are giving young people work they enjoy doing.

A couple at a table near the window turned out to be the folks riding the other bike. I commented on the electronics and learned that the radio I saw mounted on his left handlebar was a combination CB and weather band radio. What I was really interested in was the mount he was using for it. He told me about Cycle Gadgets ( which seems to have a number of solutions for mounting GPS, radios, CD's, and radar detectors.

I changed the GPS settings so that it would no longer avoid highways when it calculated a best route. Once it recalculated the route, I set out. I barely remember the next 200 miles. I remember Mansfield for offering the first live adult entertainment of the trip, shortly before I stopped for gas. A short time later as I moved up the road a sign on a side-street beckoned: "Adult Books. Truckers welcome!" For the next hour I tried not to think about the injustice of regional economics, the exploitation of young women and the difficulties of life for people who work on the road.

Marion or even Portage, Indiana were my destination for the day, but too much time had been lost that morning. In Ft. Wayne, I stopped at Wendy's and realized that it felt unusually good to be stopped. I killed the engine and stretched a bit before getting off the bike. When I got off the bike, it rolled over as I had failed to put down the kick stand.

"Nobody saw that," I thought.

Once inside, people kept watching me. I looked ragged, didn't walk real straight, and probably didn't smell that great. After a taco salad, I went back outside and dug the Motel 6 guide I carry out of a saddle bag and found a local place for the night.

Motel 6 is predictably inexpensive. I like the showers that they have in them for some reason even though a warm bath is sometimes more beneficial after a long day of riding. Motel 6 phones are designed in a way that tells you they anticipate that a traveler may want to dial-out to the Internet. I keep an AOL account just for such occasions. The AOL interface lets me set up a new location without having to connect anywhere to get phone numbers. I put in the area code off the room phone and AOL gave me several numbers for Ft. Wayne connections.

As I was arriving at the hotel, I saw there were nightclubs on either side advertising topless entertainment. The notion that I could walk from my hotel room to a place that would serve me a drink was attractive. The prices that topless clubs would probably charge for a drink of scotch or a martini, at the same time, did not appeal to me. The lady clerk at Motel 6 had no better suggestions but told me I could save the price of a cover charge at the closest one by showing my room key. In the end I decided to forgo drinks altogether that night. Part of me was also being pragmatic. My journey was young. It would not do to become preoccupied with lust. Such things are easily enough found at home when I'm not on vacation. Instead, I would go to bed early and get an early start on the next day. Newer things beckoned.

The clerk showed me on a map how I could park behind the motel and use a back door to get to my room. This, it turned out, worked well. I could open my curtains and check on my bike, anytime. Unpacking and packing the bike was easy thanks to the purchase of several "Kathy's Bags" that were constructed to fit my bike's storage box and saddlebags. These canvas bags you can pack indoors, zip shut, then quickly drop into the saddle bags of the bike and get going. Unpacking means simply opening the saddlebag and pulling the bag out by it's straps. There's no fiddling and digging for the things you'll want in the hotel room, which could be especially annoying in a rain storm. I also had a "tank bag" that attached to the top of my gas tank by a magnet and a set of four clips. In it I kept the cell phone, a flashlight, PDA with addresses, insect repellant and sun screen, and digital camera. It had clear plastic on its top where a map could be kept for viewing during a route. Moving into the hotel room entailed unclipping the four clips that held the tank bag on, and pulling the Kathy's Bag with my clothes in it from its saddlebag and carrying both to my room.

During my trip, each time I did this I would feel impressed with how light I could pack and still get by.

After unpacking the bike there was usually one other chore: getting it cleaned up some and putting on it's cover. The cover was useful in reducing the chances of theft. In Ft. Wayne cleaning meant using an Amoral wipe to clean bugs from the windshield and dirt from the chrome exhaust pipes.

As I cleaned, I noticed a truck pulling some kind of carnival trailer parked against the back fence. A man went out to check on the trailer and its contents. Something happened inside the trailer. In the darkening evening I could see bright light slipping from the edges of the trailer's shuttered window and carnival sounds came from inside the trailer. Later that night the same bubbling cyclotron sounds came through the walls from the room next to mine, waking me. A woman's cries of pleasure joined the carnival sounds. When her cries ended someone pulled the plug on whatever made the sounds and it wobbled down to a silence. In hindsight, I might have knocked on their door and offered to patent whatever it was.

All Material Copyrighted by © J B. Fields 2004 unless credited otherwise

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