There was Hill Day, Mountain Day, Rain Day, Long Day, and Wind Day. Today was Dirt Road Day.
I set off this morning a little later than usual, having slept in a bit as the past two days took their toll. The morning was overcast and a little cool as I set out. There was also a fair amount of wind, but it was blowing from the south and did not have as big an impact on me as I traveled west.
A few miles down the road, I came across the Wabash Cannonball Trail again. I checked it out to see whether it was a viable option; it was not. It was less a bike trail at this point as a gap in the middle of the cornfield. It wasn't even a dirt trail at this point; it was a grass trail. I reintersected the trail later on again and it was likewise of no help. I had been right to stay on the main road.
I headed south on County Route 16 and then turned west on County Route K. The roads in Western Ohio are sequentially numbered and spaced every mile. All the addresses are organized in thousand-blocks with the numbers identifying the distance until the county line. I took the picture at right as an instance of this and it struck me that I live not far from another intersection of 12th and K.
After about 35 miles, I approached the Indiana border. The road I was on suddenly changed to a dirt road for the final mile. I tried to figure this out. All I could think of was that Ohio had just given up a mile before the border, figuring they didn't care whether anyone from Indiana was able to come into Ohio easily.
As I headed down this road, I saw three people walking along the road toward me. It turned out to be an Amish man and two of his children. We smiled and waved at each other as I continued toward the border. When I got to the border, I was a little underwhelmed. It was just an intersection of two dirt roads and there wasn't even a sign saying "Welcome to Indiana". I continued along and started to wonder how long these dirt roads would continue. In Upstate New York where I grew up, we have our share of dirt roads, but they always seemed to be roads that were off the beaten path. There was nothing about the county roads I was on that suggested they were anything other than ordinary county roads.
After a couple of miles, I was back on paved roads and was making good time. The wind was not problematic and the weather was largely cooperating. I was worried that yesterday's success was going to be an anomaly and was glad to be having another productive day. And I was making good time.
But then, the roads turned back to dirt. And this time, it went on for miles. I was frustrated. I had recently read an article about two Americans who had biked 10,000 miles across Russia, often on dirt roads and how they had gotten 5 flat tires a day. My tires are good, but I didn't want to be on these roads for too long. But they went on and on.
As I went on, I began to notice what looked like bicycle tracks in the dirt. There were a lot of them and I wondered just how many bicyclists were riding these bumpy roads. I came up to an intersection and across the way, coming toward me was an Amish horse and buggy. That's when it dawned on me that these were not bike tire tracks, but buggy tracks.
Soon, there were buggies everywhere. I was in the heart of Amish country. Now, I had known that there were Amish in the region, but for the next 30 miles and more I was in a region in which very few cars could be seen, but buggies, horses, and even the occasional bicycle (the Amish use them quite often), were plentiful.
It was beautiful countryside, and the Amish farms were charming, but the road was wearing on me. It was bumpy, at times my tires slipped on loose dirt, and it was difficult to make good time. On this trip, I tried to plan my stops for every 75 miles but that doesn't always work out. In fact, as I continued along it was obvious that there was nothing out here but farmland. And because of that, I was going to have to ride over 90 miles today. With that in mind, I was anxious to get moving. I was glad to have gotten in at a decent hour the day before and didn't want to get in too late. Besides, I was meeting old friends from AU and Wesley for dinner and wanted to get into town at a reasonable time.
The dirt roads eventually turned into paved roads and I started to ride quickly again. But by this point, my legs and arms were consistently hurting and my energy was flagging. And then it began to rain. Fortunately the rain wasn't heavy, but it was cold. I wound up following—and passing—two Amish buggies along the road.
The last five miles into Goshen were really difficult. I was out of energy and was on the longest ride I'd ever made. Tired, wet, and hungry, I rolled into the parking lot of the hotel where I saw Kate Moore Koppy waiting for me. She hung out with me while I got cleaned up and then we met up with Scott Manning for dinner downtown. When Kate was a student at AU, she was on the committee that worked with Joe to select a pastoral intern. I was the pastoral intern they selected. During the interview Kate and I bonded over having studied Russian and having had a professor in common. Scott was a classmate of mine at Wesley and for two years after I was appointed to AU after graduation, he was my pastoral intern. So, it was great to share a meal with two old friends, especially with those who remember what things were like at the beginning. After dinner, we said our goodbyes (but not before Kate gave me a bag with bananas and dates in it).
I am eight days into this adventure. There have been times when I doubted I had what it took to finish this trip, and now I am a little more than 110 miles away from my goal. Considering that I traveled 95 miles today alone, that distance is not daunting at all. That I came within 5 miles of biking a "century" is astounding to me. Up until May 2010, when Michelle, Rachel, and I biked to Harpers Ferry, I had not ridden more than 30 or 40 miles in a day. Being 650 miles and 8 days into a marathon ride in which every day has been more than 65 miles and the average day's ride has been around 80 miles is still something I have a hard time believing. I would never have thought I would ever do anything like a century and here I came five miles shy. In case you're wondering, I'm comfortable with that--there was no way I would have biked an extra five miles today that I didn't have to.
But I biked a lot of miles today, more than I ever had in one day. And that should mean that the next two days have smaller distances to travel than the distances I've gone the last few days. The end is in sight.
The map of today's route, with elevation data.
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