Tuesday, August 20 – 2504 miles down, 770 to go
What a wild fun day!
This is a long one so if you get bored I understand. Today we had quite a time. But so much went on today. It started in Valparaiso with breakfast and a 6:50am departure. Another 81 mile day in front of us with a slightly uphill profile, so we figured we could make some time. Also, we were off busy highway 30 and were taking highway 6 east to Ligonier. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky to start, but get this, the humidity was 97%! Anything over 12% and we Colorado folks are whining. This was cloying, and you had to keep moving to get some breeze in order to stay a bit cool. When you stopped, instant hot & sticky.
But before we started, in the murky light of dawn, a ritual was unfolding out by our trailer. Our trailer hitch has been squeaking lately, and it needs grease. But we don’t have any trailer hitch grease. So this morning Rick took matters into his own hands. He decided to Sham the trailer hitch ball. He looked it over, then grabbed the Euro Style, and applied it liberally to the ball. As he said in a quiet pondering way, “It was a deep Sham, and I got the neck too“. We never heard a squeak all day, I wonder if the Paceline folks know they have a multi-use product.
When we turned onto highway 6 it was a quiet, tree-lined country lane with magnificent houses and yards, and mist in the air. No traffic. It was incredible. We spun along and it became a true highway, but still not busy and with wonderful views and fields and yards. We were wondering why everybody didn’t live on this road, when off to our left in the mist we could make out…guard towers! Wow, there was some huge prison complex off to our left, rising out of the mist. We figured our day was starting better than their day.
We marveled at the size of the yards. Literally acres of finely cut grass and large trees that were immaculate. I’ve always wondered who buys those John Deere Riding Mowers, and now I know: Hoosiers. We were feeling good so we made time and miles and were about to take a stop when we hit an intersection that had a sign that any Route Planner dreads: Road Closed 4.5 Miles Ahead – Detour
Of course the bile rose in my throat as I tried to figure out what we should do. We could of course follow the detour signs but that might turn an 81 mile day into 120 miles. There was a convenience store on the corner (the B&E Market) so Kathleen headed over to use the bathroom (she can be such a girl at times) and Tom followed her to talk to the folks inside to see if we could take our bikes through the detour. Rick and I used a conveniently located semi trailer for a natural break.
Of course Tom got to talking with the locals, and before you knew it they were telling him and Kathleen about their friend, Fred Brust, who had Parkinson’s. What was interesting to the team was the person telling them about Fred was like genderless “Pat” in the old Saturday Night Live skits. This person talked and had mannerisms just like Pat. So Tom, in an attempt to figure out the gender, asked this person their name. The answer: Gene. Or was it Jean? Perfect! Still didn’t know!
Anyway there was another gentleman in the store named Mike and together with Gene-Jean they told Tom and Kathleen about Fred. And here we may have encountered a slight misconception about what was probably deep brain stimulation. Seems Fred had tremors and shakes and was taken to the Mayo Clinic where, as Mike put it, “They laid him on a table for 8 hours an’ stuck needles into his head!” Mike then said that Fred was on his way back home and rolled his truck. He somehow walked to the B&E Market where the locals sat him down, cleaned him up and gave him some coffee. Then they told him they wanted to take him to church to pray over him. They got him to church, got him up by the altar, told him to spread his arms wide, and then, as Mike again put it, “He never shook again ’til the day he died!”
Now Parkinson’s is not a funny disease, and DBS is a life-changing procedure. Our ride has been all about raising the awareness and making sure people better understand the facts and resources available. But honestly, we all laughed our butts off at this story. Understand we were happy for Fred, whether it was the DBS or faith healing, but it was the delivery of the story that killed us. These good old boys (well, one of them) relating these facts and tidbits was awesome. It was yet another connection to the Parkinson’s community, albeit somewhat suspect, in the middle of nowhere.
But we still had to deal with the detour! Gene-Jean told us that we could get our bikes “across the tracks” easy enough, but Isaac would have to drive the sag around on the detour. So, grimacing and hoping we set off 4.5 miles down a road that increasingly had “ROAD CLOSED” signs on it, and finally a “I’D TURN BACK IF I WERE YOU!” sign. OK, that’s actually from the Wizard of Oz when they’re in the forest, but you get the idea.
When we got to the construction we were greeted by some very nice highway workers, and we told them all about our ride and they gasped in disbelief and all the usual things. One of them said we could just carry our bikes across the tracks since the bridge was out, but another said the railroad would call the police on us if they caught us because there was no flagger and on and on and on. They finally gave us a mini-detour that we could take, so we rode on ahead and were about to take the detour when who should appear: Mike from the B&E Market. I don’t know how the heck he got out there, or if he was even with the highway crew, but he waved us down an embankment and told us “You jus’ go across them tracks!“. So we went cyclo-cross and scooted across. Quickly, before the other highway workers could stop us.
We giggled like schoolkids when we got to the other side and rode off into the distance. And we were still only 2 hours into our day! We took a stop in a nice shady spot across from a little church and cemetery, got the chairs out and had another breakfast. Then continued on that wonderful road.
At mile 47 we hit another detour sign. We could see the construction this time, right in front of us. One entire side of the road was missing and the other was a brand new stretch of cordoned-off concrete. I decided this time we needed some heavy artillery, and called Tom to the front. This was a much larger construction and we needed The Ambassador of the Universe to talk our way through this one. Tom led off with handshakes and our Parkinson’s story and pretty soon it was Old Home Week with the crew chief and all the workers, and they said, “Oh hell, you can get through, just mind all that heavy equipment“. And then Tom went for the jugular. He asked, “Can we get our trailer through too?” They shook their heads and said “Oh God no!“, and Tom pulled a long face and they melted and said, “Well, the locals do it all the time so it’s OK, he’ll just have to swing wide into the grass at the end to avoid the barriers“. Tom – don’t leave home without him. He’s invaluable.
Next thing you know we’re riding down a pristine deserted roadway, waving at agog highway workers in graters, and Isaac is driving the sag right behind us. We got to the end, moved some cones so Ike could get the car through, and we were off into the distance one again! Never had to drive on the grass or anything.
We had one low-light today: Tom’s bike started making a weird racket and we just couldn’t figure out what the issue was. We finally narrowed it down to his front wheel, which may need some truing. So he changed wheels and rode much happier the rest of the day.
By the time we got to Nappanee, Tom & I were agitating for some Dairy Queen. We’ve passed about 500 of them in our travels, and today it was hot and humid and DQ seemed to be just what we needed. We pulled into the Dairy Queen and were struck by the sight of a very long rail along one side of the parking lot. At intervals along the ground by the rail there were piles of manure. This puzzled us. And then Merle Farmwald drove up in his horse & buggy, parked at the rail, tied up to it, and his horse, Rosie, relieved herself. OK, now it made sense! We were in Amish country. Dual-purpose parking lots!
So we struck up a conversation with Merle and petted Rosie for awhile. Merle farms 81 acres, 60 of which are all organic. He also raises 13 flocks of Peking Ducks every year, and has between 5500 and 6000 ducks per flock. Ever wonder where that Peking Duck comes from at China Garden? Merle. We asked Merle to be in a picture but he declined (I snuck a few of him anyway), and when we asked him to take a picture of us by his buggy with Rosie, he’d never used a camera before. So I taught him how and he snapped a pic. Then he went into Dairy Queen to meet a buddy of his. My experience with the Amish is limited to the movie Witness, so I didn’t know that the Amish consorted with “Them English!” at DQ. So I learned something today.
We had 20 miles left after our DQ treat, and it passed quickly. We lost an hour as we entered the Eastern Time Zone, which is always a drag because that’s an hour less to nap (or work on a blog). We were going to meet an old Boulder High classmate of ours, Mark Jennings, who is a pastor at a church about 2 hours north of here, but he had some folks go into the hospital that needed him so he couldn’t make it down.
Ended the day at dinner at The Charter House, which is known for it’s fish. Oh good. If you know me, I’m not a fish guy. So I had the salad bar. And all the fish is fried. But there aren’t a whole lot of options in Ligonier for a meal, so that’s where we ate. The highlight is when they bring you tartar sauce for your meal, and it’s in a decanter that typically is used for coffee. I’ve never seen such a huge tartar dispenser in my life! And in watching the locals, the best method is to hold it about 9 inches above the table, and then pours large globs of tartar onto your meal from that dizzying height. They must go through gallons of that stuff every night.
We’re in a bit of a dead zone in terms of Parkinson’s meetings and group activities right now (except for poor old Fred Brust). Tomorrow a long day of 107 miles into Bowling Green, and then our final Rest Day on Thursday. We have a big presentation planned for Thursday with folks in Bowling Green and some from Toledo, so that should re-kindle our mission.