Thursday, July 28, 2011
Grinding on the Grid
July 22: I got underway early in the morning, trying to gain ground before the vicious burning eyeball was high in the sky. I needed to do laundry and resupply, so I diverted my route slightly to Winamac, one of the last significant towns before the border with Illinois.
I was feeling great and rapidly chewed up the eleven miles, which included crossing the Tippecanoe River. American president William Henry Harrison made his name here defeating a band of Shawnee warriors missing their leader, Tecumseh, who apparently called in sick that day. Harrison's slogan during his subsequent presidential campaign was "Tippecanoe and some other guy too."
I managed to continue my string of good luck in beating the worst of the weather, arriving in Winamac just before a powerful thunderstorm. I sat in comfort inside the Laundry and Tan whilst chaos reigned outside, gale force winds scattering lawn furniture and turning a once majestic tree into kindling. In case there is any confusion, I was doing laundry - I figure my tan is pretty solid at this juncture in the trip.
By the time my errands were done it was too late to move onward, so I settled at a dirt cheap motel with plans to move down Highway 14 on the morrow.
11 miles/1054 total miles
July 23: The first day of my third month hoofing it across America brought me to Highway 14. There is nothing special about this road, except I spent a long time marching upon its black top. Very little happened during the walk except for some occasional wildlife spotting: a dead weasel (should this be wildcorpse spotting instead?) and a fascinating grasshopper called the Carolina Sandblaster, which resembles a butterfly when in flight.
The monotony left me time to ponder Indiana's grid system of numbering county roads. A very simple plan, the flat nature of the state makes the system possible. The grid runs outward from two base roads in the center of a county, usually state highways. One is an east-west road, the other a north-south road. If you travel one mile north of the base east-west road you will find 100 North, two miles is 200 North, three miles 300 North, and so on until the county line. The grids make judging distance a snap and addresses use the same process so you can gauge your progress every time you pass a home.
Let's see how good a teacher I am. In the comments section answer this question: If you reach 250 W, how far are you from a base road and do those roads run east-west or north-south?
I dismissed class to allow the students to complete their homework assignment and woke up in Medaryville. There I met a couple of fabulous people, Kent, who allowed me to rest in his yard and use his laptop and Faith, who served me good food and good beer in a mason jar while telling me about the town's inhabitants.
I found the Methodist church and took up residence just before a rain storm hit like Mike Tyson used to before he got all introspective. I waited out the deluge on the porch and set up camp just as the most amazing residents of Medaryville came up to introduce themselves.
The Perry family was headed this night by matriarch Tammy, who brought me enough food to fuel a battalion and volunteered to clean what dirty clothes I had. Son Justin did an impromptu interview of this guy right here for the Francesville paper while the other lad Ethan showed me his vast collection of U.S. Army memorabilia. Daughter Rachel added many insightful questions of her own and the youngest, Bethany, told me about the family's trips to Michigan.
All of these things occurred at once, making for a busy last hour of the day. Alas, the sun did set, bringing an end to the waking hours and I again had to say goodbye to a new group of wonderful friends.
17 miles/1071 total miles