Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jets vs Sharks

July 27: Frances filled up my tank with a huge breakfast of hash browns, eggs, and sausage, then made me a sandwich and stocked me with snacks before Eric returned me to the trail. I hit State Line Road running, eager to complete my onslaught on Chicago.
In only an hour I had reached the outlying suburb of Crete and soon pressed on to Steger. I had heard previously that certain areas on the south of the city did not have a reputation as a place to go if you wanted to extend your life. I never felt in any real danger of becoming a statistic on a show about the Bloods, the Crips, the Jets, or the Sharks. The route seemed to me to be very safe, at least at the time of day I passed through.
I was a danger to myself, however, almost walking in front of a turning car while crossing Illinois 1. Fortunately, mangled McCandless was not on the Roadkill Cafe menu this day.
Several long days in a row since Winamac began to take their toll towards the end, making the last few miles a real struggle. I finally reached the Old Plank Road around three. I haven't found the Icehouse plant yet, but trust me, when I do that putrid brew is going down for all the things it has done to my body. Worst. Beer. Ever.
I did spot an extremely photogenic groundhog, who waited patiently at the edge of the bushes while I fumbled around for my camera. Very soon after I found myself staring at the Matteson Metra watching an inbound train for Chicago leave the platform. There would not be another for almost an hour. I was glad to rest a spell at the station, beginning the theme of rest and relaxation that will dominate my birthday weekend in Chicago. I bid you adieu now, til we meet again on the road.

Back with another episode on Monday, August 1. 16 miles/1049 total miles

So You're Saying There's a Chance?

July 26: The second city beckons. Around forty miles still remain until I am in reach of a Chicago area Metra station. I began my march unsure of whether to try to attempt to make up the difference in two days or three. My pace was good at first and after less than two hours I had reached State Line Road, the end of Indiana if I could only stay on the left side of the thoroughfare.
My eyes got a much-earned respite from the corn and soy extravaganza when I reached the Kankakee River flood plain. The terrain there was reminiscent of the C&O Canal, although there has never to my knowledge ever been a canal there. The Kankakee snaked back and forth in spine-jarring ess curves to my left. Over to the right was a swampy area similar to the wetlands much of the old C&O canal has devolved into over the years.
The bridge which crosses the river has been closed to car traffic and is used now only as a pedestrian path and fishing pier. The water sits only a couple of feet below the span, a reminder that its potential destruction is only one heavy rainstorm away.
Upon passage of the flood plain, the old standby of farmland returned and I spent the remainder of the trek on State Line Road, where I am doomed to spend nineteen consecutive miles, putting one foot in front of the other. As the day wore on I grew fatigued and I was forced to stop more and more often. I was without a definite place to stay and had to pace myself, not knowing just how far away my home for the night was exactly. A water source was also lacking.
My savior came in the form of Eric Goetz, a master builder who had been appointed by the neighbors to check me out and make sure I was kosher. I don't know if I would have gained a rabbi's stamp, but Eric seemed to approve of my mission nonetheless. He filled my bottles and offered to pick me up where I finished up that night and take me back to his home for dinner and a good night's sleep.
The knowledge that I now had a place to stay re-energized me and I made quick time for the next two and a half hours until my appointed pickup time at five thirty. When all was said and done I had knocked out sixteen of the nineteen miles on State Line. Including the five miles spent heading out of Lake Village toward the border, I had completed twenty one on the day. Chicago is now well within range.
Back at Eric's home in Indiana (alas, I had to cross back over the line) I met his wife Frances. They are proud parents of eight children, all now adults (the youngest is twenty two), and fourteen grandchildren, with another on the way. Together the couple runs a construction company and operate a large farm, quite a hefty undertaking. Their willingness to look after me is only the more astounding when put in this light.
Frances also introduced me to a new culinary delight, a Hoosier sensation known as the pork burger. Using a ground version of an animal that squeals rather than moos may sound revolutionary, but trust me, the concoction works. I shall bring the good news of this revelation back to the brethren in South Carolina.
After the meal we went back to Eric and Frances' deck and relaxed amidst the cool night air. We talked and listened to the soothing cooing of the morning dove. While in Indiana the dove became my own personal Bob Marley, letting me know that every little thing is gonna be alright.

21 miles/1033 total miles

Thanks to all my new friends in Indiana:
Dawn and Sarah Crone
Mike Vernon
Steve Foster
Carol Impala
Joey Kubesch
Pastor Jan
Frank and P.T. in Sweetser
Tammy, Justin, Ethan, Rachel and Bethany Perry
Gus and Alyssa Nyberg
Nikki Hanger
Eric and Frances Goetz
Macy Elevator, Donna and Brenda
Tom at Hoosier Hideaway
Jill and Bob
Megan, Brent, Paul, and Mel
Guy who handed me a beer while I was walking
The Unknown Hoosier (or whose name I have forgotten in the sun)

Hoosier Daddy

The camera slowly pans to an empty basketball court somewhere in rural Indiana. The net sways in the breeze as the narrator wonders wistfully where Larry Bird has gone.
ESPN cheese I know, but there is no doubting the basketball tradition in the state of Indiana.  "Hoosiers" high school Milan's dream run to a state title, the last undefeated squad at Indiana in 1976, Notre Dame's amazing upset of UCLA's juggernaut, Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew's dramatic buzzer beater, and Butler's back-to-back final runs are just a few examples of the state's hardwood history.
While pondering the career of the last great white hope, I trod down Highway 10 in the Hoosier state towards Roselawn. The town boasts two nudist resorts, the Sun Aura and the Ponderosa. The Ponderosa is considered "family friendly" which I guess means you get to bring your naked dog and naked children too.
In the old days the most famous of the Roselawn nudist getaways was Naked City. The restaurant there included glass top tables and the waiters wore only an apron. Unfortunately, legal trouble for the owner, appropriately named Dick, led to Naked City's closing in 1986.
Seeing as it was too early in the day to drop my pack and my pants I continued on several more miles to Lake Village. A less flashy place, everyone I met seemed to be wearing something called clothing.
I inquired at the library what this strange attire might be and wondered also if there was a church whose property I could lay my head upon for the evening. Sandy, the librarian, made some calls and was unable to locate anyone from the Presbyterian church next door. Ever resourceful, she had a plan B and contacted the fire department, who agreed to allow me to set up in the park next door to their offices. Just as I was settling down there I got a phone call from Alyssa, whom I had also met earlier at the biblioteca (Spanish word which means place where one dances with books).
Alyssa and her husband Gus invited me over to their place for a delicious dinner. Also present at table was Rob, a co-worker of theirs who had done a lot of section hiking on the Appalachian Trail. All three work for the local nature conservancy, which has purchased old farm land and restored the original prairie habitat on property just south of Lake Village. Why the ADT runs north of here along the same old corn and soybean fields rather than passing the conservancy and showing off a bit of the state's diversity is anyone's guess.
Gus and Alyssa are also practitioners of the DIY ethos, working to be self-sufficient whenever possible. Our meal included succulent honey, bread, potatoes, and kale all produced on their property. I think many of us will wish we possessed their skill set when the American economy collapses. Not like that could ever happen.

18 miles/1112 total miles

Precipitation Aggravation

July 24: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. I know I sure did. After several grueling days of heat I made one little innocent wish for cooler weather. Shortly thereafter another wicked thunderstorm, appeared shortly after I reached a bump in the road named Asphaltum.
My choices were A)hide under a tree B)hide under a bunch of trees C)stand in the middle of a field like a lightning rod. I picked B, so please feel free to evaluate and perhaps eviscerate my choice.
As you can probably tell, I did avoid a lightning ride, but the rain kept up for several hours before petering out in the early afternoon. Soaked and exhausted, I limped into the town of Kniman, admiring both of the houses there before collapsing on the Methodist church steps.
My presence there was utterly ignored with one exception. As I sat on the steps soon after arriving a man pulled up in a truck and yelled out, asking if I was okay. I started my spiel about what I was doing there, but he interrupted and repeated the query. I said yes and he peeled out of the parking lot. A Good Samaritan on a strict schedule I gathered.
I had completed the Eastern time zone portion of the walk earlier in the day, so with my seven o'clock start I had been on the trail for ten hours. I chose to make the church my home for the evening, set up my portable home, laid down, and remained there unmolested for the course of the evening.

P.S.: Pictured above is what Indianans refer to as a "hill." Note the slight incline.

17 miles/1088 total miles

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lake Bruce Bruce Lake

I slept in a bit this morning after the drunken hooligans at the pool had kept me up late last night. I believe I am finally being served that cold bit of revenge I earned back during my college years when I participating in such loathsome behavior, which I did not enjoy at all.
Nevertheless, I shot out of Rochester following a quick visit to their library and headed down country road 100 North for virtually the entire day. I had to keep my head down and go slow with conditions hotter than they had ever been and shade a rare luxury. The wind was my benefactor for the early afternoon, limiting the damage of the sun's blazing rays.
The highlight of the day was an irrigation sprinkler whose target mainly consisted of the road - and me. The tarmac did not seem to appreciate the moisture as much as I did, keeping my head underneath for several minutes until soaked. Five minutes later I was completely dry.
Passing motorists, including one man on a tractor kept me supplied with liquid refreshment. If not for their intercession I would have been mighty parched as the way was lacking in pretty much everything besides corn. A foundry worker handed me a Miller Light near the end of the day. I figured I wasn't too likely to be pulled over for a DUI, so I accepted his offer.
Hoosier Hideaway appeared in my site lines just after seven and I stumbled to the office and met the owner, Tom, who showed me where to plop down. He no doubt felt sorry for such a heat-dazed fool and allowed me to stay for free.
Once I crawled into my tent the daily gnat killing began. No matter how fast I zip open the fly, flop in, and zip closed, the insects have already infested indoor, or inmesh in this case. I try to herd them into either of the two flaps of on top, which have an opening I can easily seal, creating a death zone for all of the buzzing suckers who fall for the trap.
Once I had dealt with my home invaders the heat was still a problem. With no wind, the air had failed to cool down much even after sunset. So much for the new religion - I will have to come crawling back and beg the Methodists for forgiveness. Only after a couple hours of lying still and pouring water on myself was I able to finally catch some z's.

14 miles/1043 total

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Founding Religion

July 20: Authors over the centuries have made symbolic comparisons between physical journeys and spiritual journeys. I'll not try foolishly to compete with the observations of the more brilliant ones, but I will say there is clearly a higher force at work here. I may have even found religion or rather, founded one. With all respect to the Methodists, who have helped me in many ways these last months, these last days of repressive sun have led me into the arms of another. I now practice windism and dedicate all my free time to worshiping and glorifying the virtues of a cool breeze. I imagine you were expecting some sort of deep thought. Sorry, you have the wrong channel.
The heat was indeed unbearable today so I started early, around seven, to try to make some ground early. By noon I had covered ten miles and reached the tiny town of "Macy"'s" Thanksgiving Day Parade. I had previously passed Things to do in "Denver" when you're Dead, Mr. "Deedsville", and "Birmingham" and eggs, a series of towns named by Chris Berman.
In Macy I was greeted by Donna and Brenda at the Macy Elevator grain and feed store. They had seen the article in the Tribune that morning and recognized me as the only idiot who would be walking the Nickel Plate in the midst of day when the pavement was more suitable for cooking eggs over easy than walking. I was invited in and plied with water, chips, and chocolate. We talked for a bit while I rested and got revitalized.
The break was just what I needed and my new friends mentioned that the trail would be shadier on the way to Rochester. They turned out to be only partially correct. Yes, there were tall trees up and down the right side of the path. Unfortunately, I was headed in a northerly direction and my good buddy the sun was on my left side.
There was no where to hide from the rays for the most part. I rested where I could, underneath benches and behind the slats of a wooden fence. The last miles to Rochester took all afternoon and I only finished the Nickel Plate just before seven, leaving a team of sweat bees behind, fully sated on the rivulets running from my body.
The sun having gone lower and town in sight, I rushed through the last two miles and arrived in the hotel district of Rochester, which boasts a whopping two such businesses of a reputable nature. Neither of these had a room thanks to a Kroger convention. Not coincidentally I think, this company rejected my first ever job application. I'm not bitter because the Piggly Wiggly hired me and Kroger went out of business in the Southeast. Eat your instant karma Kroger!
Jill at the Comfort Inn was not to be stopped by the grocer's evil machinations and managed to deliver me up a patch of grass behind the hotel for my tent. She also arranged a ride from Bob, a regular resident there, to a truck stop where I showered in one of their coffins. I kept slipping on the soap, but I didn't even have enough space to fall down.
The backyard ended up being a terrible option. A drunken group out by the pool kept me awake along with a couple of deer rutting in the woods just behind my tent. Around midnight I still had not slept when Jill approached and announced a room was now available and she had discounted the rate for me. Even so, I hated to splurge on the cost with my depleted funds, but tomorrow is scheduled as a triple digit day and I had to get some sleep - and pray for wind.

17 miles/1029 total miles

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Unlit Aorta

July 19: I'm becoming sort of like Kurtz in a way. Not that I'm insane or so I still believe. Rather, the further I travel the more I run into people who regard my journey with befuddlement or disbelief. The recent heat only adds to the shocked expressions as I shuffle on by. Some are practical enough to offer water, which I accept, or rides, which I decline unless they are off-trail.
I added a new pet today who isn't cleaning up my image - a fly who seems to be tied to my head, orbiting my noggin like a satellite. The picture of a sweaty, tired looking man cursing and swatting at air is not the one I would prefer to present to the casual observer.
Besides philosophizing and swearing I also met some new friends today. Jo, who I met on the road, thought I was crazy, so she took me to meet her buddy Joey. Joey and her husband, a retired Air Force colonel, live on property formerly owned by the legendary musician Cole Porter. Joey served me a delicious ham sandwich and used her influence to persuade the Peru Tribune newspaper to interview your favorite madman about the project.
On the way to the meeting I passed by the International Circus Hall of Fame. Peru is home to a world famous amateur circus and this week is Circus Week. Sadly, I could find no where to stay in town and had to miss yet another interesting event.
I met Sarah, the reporter for the Tribune, at the Toll House in Peru, a lovely mother and daughter owned coffee joint on the Wabash River. I'd love to recount what I said, but the heat had reduced me to one functioning brain cell, enough to talk, but not enough to record what I said.
I passed thru Peru in about an hour and reached the Nickel Plate Trail, which I will travel on for the next couple of days. Absolutely smoked from the heat, I laid down on a park bench three miles into the trail and drifted off to sleep. I had no nightmares but I do remember someone softly whispering, "...the horror, the horror."

P.S.: I'm now over 1,000 miles! 16 miles/1012 total miles

Thank you to recent donors:
Joey Kubesch
Steve Foster and the FNRA friends and family

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back in the Saddle or God I Wish I Really Had a Horse

My return to the trail finds Indiana in the death grip of summer. The temperature today was in the nineties and the heat index hit triple digits. The trend is set to continue for the rest of the week. Vegas is now setting odds on whether heat stroke or dehydration will fell me first, so step up and make your wager.
My late start didn't help matters either. David drove me back to Sweetser as early as possible, but the four hour car ride and one hour lost to the time zone shift meant I was bound to begin while the sun was set to broil.
The first few miles, which I spent on the Sweetser Switch Trail, were relatively shady. The country roads I trod later on, however, put me in the bull's eye of the burning star's glare. Constant bombardment with solar rays left my energy level lower than the limbo bar at a Gumby family reunion.
Water was at least not a problem. I encountered several shocked on-lookers who filled my bottles once they were done questioning my sanity.
Not until late in the day did I reach the vicinity of Mississinewa Reservoir. Nearly everything in the nearby area is named for Frances Slocum, a white woman who was abducted by Miami Indians from her Pennsylvania home and taken to Indiana where her brothers miraculously found her almost sixty years later. Despite acquiring the distinctly unflattering moniker, Short Chubby Bear during her stay with the tribe, she considered them her real family and refused to leave to live with whitey.
As far as my own saga, things were looking ugly as I arrived at Mississinewa. Luckily, Megan, one of the employees at the Miami SRA there had seen me wobbling along and took pity on me. She and her freshly minted husband Brent drove me out to the campsites to let me choose one, took me back to the offices to sign in, and dropped me back at the chunk of turf I would call home for the night.
Megan had clearly inherited the Good Samaritan gene. Shortly after I had set up my tent her mother and father, Paul and Mel, arrived with a huge plate of food and ice cold water. They sat with me as I ate and we discussed my hike. I learned from them that the Frances Slocum SRA, where the ADT had me camping, was a dump and considered a dangerous place. I had made a seemingly random decision during the day to head toward Miami instead. Chalk up another victory for serendipity.

14 miles/996 total miles

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Act One Comes to a Close

Today is D-Day, or David day. My uncle David, along with his son and my cousin, David Jr have come to sweep me off my feet. A group of seven of us is heading up to Canada for a six day fishing excursion. The two units of transportation known as my legs tell me this break is long-awaited and well-deserved, but they are kind of whiny.
Before I could be extracted I had to finish up a leisurely stroll from Marion to Sweetser. The plan was to complete the Greenway and move on country roads, then finish on the Sweetser Trail, which, not surprisingly, runs through the town of Sweetser, our rendezvous point.
Soon after meeting my first Puerto Rican transvestite of the journey I ran into a friendly fellow who notified me that the Greenway and Sweetser Trails were now connected. His timely advice saved me a couple of miles. Serendipity strikes again.
As a result, I stayed on the safer bike trails, soon running into Frank (picture), a former firefighter who helps maintain the Sweetser Trail. He told me things were looking bright for Sweetser thanks to the increased demand for ethanol. A facility located within sight of the Cardinal Greenway turns corn into the clean-burning fuel.
Frank and his friend P.T., who I met later on, both gave road money to help the cause as well. We split up in Sweetser and here I sit, awaiting my uncle. Hopefully this D-day is also a success - and with less casualties.

P.S.: Picked up and off trail until July 19. Sounds like a great chance to catch up on old episodes. See you soon!

5 miles/982 total miles

Waiting For the Bell to Ring

I woke this morning to the sound of Carol calling me to breakfast. She had snuck into the church and cooked me a feast while I slumbered.
As I masticated the tasty repast, Carol told me about the region. There had been a huge gas boom here, starting in 1887. Huge pockets of natural gas were found and the supply was predicted to last forever. Boomtowns such as Gas City and Gaston grew out of the sudden population influx which followed the discovery. Poor technology and wasteful use meant the estimations of an unlimited supply were off by whatever forever minus twenty equals. By 1907 the wells were dry, the bonanza was over and the companies left. Today the area surrounding Matthews is mostly used for agriculture.
Before I set out we visited the Cumberland Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in the county. Such limited variety doesn't stop Grant County from throwing a covered bridge festival every year. Unfortunately, I missed the once and future Garfield statue which decorated the east side of the span. The image of the cartoon feline, whose creator Jim Davis is from the county, is currently undergoing repairs after having his leg peed on by Odie or something.
Once underway I resumed road walking on the Wheeling Pike. The highway here at least had the decency to curve allowing me to temporarily maintain the delusion that there was something besides corn and soybean fields around the next bend. There wasn't.
Ten miles of the Pike led to Jonesboro and the resumption of the Cardinal Greenway, which I took for the remainder of the day to Marion. The bottom of my shoes have grown paper thin and the resulting discomfort led me to believe the end was near for this pair, which has accompanied me since I left the Atlantic shore.
Luckily for me, Carol had seen the treads last night and promised to remedy the problem. She picked me up from my end point in Marion and took me to the mall, where she purchased some comfy running shoes for my use. I also learned on our short trip that she is an amazing singer. I wish I could spend longer finding the pearls within the oysters I meet.
Nine hundred and seventy seven miles into my trip the unique and generous people I meet continue to inspire me. Not what you would expect if you watch the murder and mayhem constantly on display by today's American media. Maybe folks like Carol are the ones we should be showing on television.

16 miles/977 total miles

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dog Daze

July 5: The miles have started to add up to pain. I easily finished the first part of today's journey on the Cardinal Greenway, but where the bike path ended, my troubles started.
Due to reasons I have been unable to ascertain thus far, the Greenway ends temporarily in Gaston and picks up once more fifteen miles later in Jonesboro. So too came the end of shade and an introduction to the brutal boredom of an Indiana country road. My energy level further dipped after a couple of miles - I could see straight ahead on in to eternity and there were no trees and no sign of Matthews, my destination for the evening.
As usual, just when I am at my lowest, something totally unexpected happened. A lone woman pulled over and handed me three Gatorade freezer pops. The treats cooled me down and revitalized my flagging spirits. In a matter of moments I could see the blinking red light indicating Matthews was ahead in the distance. I was still two miles away with these freaking Indiana roads, of course, but seeing the finish line put a glide back in my stride.
Once in Matthews my plan was simple - find the Methodists. At Epworth Church I did just that, bumbling into the middle of a meeting. Pastor Jan came outside to talk with me and after hearing about my walk, suggested I take shelter within the church for the night.
Congregation member Carol, whose husband Ken is a survivor of brain cancer caused by the Agent Orange he was doused with in Vietnam, was gung ho about my mission and brought over the largest air mattress I have ever seen. With two days to go until my long awaited break things are looking up again. I'm slowly understanding the appeal of roller coasters.

14 miles/961 total miles

Mac Attacks the MAC

July 4: Happy two hundred and thirty fifth birthday America. You don't look a day over two hundred. I kid, seriously, please don't send nuclear weapons towards my hotel, twas merely a joke.
If you hit me now you would be destroying Muncie, Indiana, which was not named after San Diego Charger running back Chuck Muncie, but rather the Munsee Indians. Munsee means Wolf Clan in English for those of you trying to learn a fifteenth language. Sitting on the White River Muncie is, like Oxford, a university town, home to Ball State University. Dave Letterman claims to have matriculated there, but I don't trust anyone who is too rich to get their teeth fixed.
The Ball brothers (I'm pretty sure there were two of them) made a fortune in glass manufacturing, not tea bags as I had previously surmised. They endowed a teacher's college, inspiring the playwright George Bernard Shaw to quip, "those who can't, go to Ball State." What an ass hole that guy was.
The school became an accredited university in 1965 and plays with the Miami not known as The U in the MAC, which stands for Mostly Awful Conference. Their most famous athlete is Bonzi Wells, a prolific scorer for the Portland Jail Blazers during the late 1990s.
I unfairly poke fun at the MAC, whose twelve schools can each boast at least one great professional sportsman.
Miami,Ohio: Ben Roethlisberger, two-time Super Bowl Champion
Ball State: Bonzi Wells
Bowling Green: Antonio Daniels, one NBA title
Eastern Michigan: Earl "Mary Chestnut" Boykins, the shortest player ever to do something or other
Central Michigan: Chris Kaman, the tallest player to do the very same thing
Western Michigan: Greg Jennings, current Super Bowl Champion
Akron: Jason Taylor, although I should have said Charlie Frye, he would have been amazing if he had not been drafted by the Browns
Kent State: Antonio Gates, possibly the best tight end in NFL history
Ohio: Mike Schmidt, member of the 500 home run club before the steroid era
Toledo: Bruce Gradkowski, okay maybe not all of those are superb players
Northern Illinois: Michael Turner
Buffalo: Maybe not all twelve.
If you are wondering, I did indeed hike today. I traveled from Losantville to Muncie, covering eighteen miles for a total of 947. It has been two weeks since I took a day off and I am beginning to experience some fatigue as a result. I would really like to reach the one thousand mile mark before my week long break begins on the eighth. Will my body cooperate? Stay tuned to find out.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Among the Ant People

FNRA members Steve (who joined Mike and I at lunch yesterday) and John picked me up in the morning and took me to IHOP for a big breakfast. After some great conversation involving dart and knife wounds, they left me on my own again to navigate the Cardinal Greenway running northwest from Richmond.
The day was long and hot, there is very little to report otherwise. I did capture a couple of Amish souls on my photograph machine, but that is neither here nor there.
Obtaining water was my main obstacle on this bit of trail. There were no towns worth mentioning to hit up for some liquid satisfaction. Despite having kept many of the W signs indicating water for the old trains, they failed to have any water for the current people. The first water fountain was in Losantville, twenty miles into my haul.
Losantville, the birthplace of Wilbur Wright, is also where I spent the night. The village is pronounced Los-ant-ville, Spanglish for the ant town. Cincy was originally named Losantville before someone decided that was a terrible name. The people of Losantville weren't so impressed with it either - changing their town's name to Bronson for some years until the release of "Death Wish 4" led them to return to the old standby, Losantville.
As far as shelter, my old friends the Methodists came through for me once again, on this occasion in the form of Roger, who approached me on the church steps and invited me to camp on his lawn. Roger is the patriarch of four generations living in three adjacent houses. He doesn't need Facebook to keep up with his family. I was invited to share in their Independence Day weekend celebrations. After a lovely supper and an attempt to shoot out both of my eyes with a sparkler I called it a night.

21 miles/929 total miles

Thanks to all my recent donors and sponsors:
Dawn Crone
Sherrie Dwyer
Gwen Harmon
Michael Jaye
Scott and Rhonda Mough
Dick Norwood
Mike Vernon
Rob and Kimmy Wilson
FNRA Steve
Dan in Mariemont

An Alliance is Formed

July 2: As I threatened yesterday, I quickly made my way out of Ohio early this morning. Or maybe I didn't. Three miles into the journey I came upon State Line Road. Which side of the border I stood on was a mystery. As a result, I spent the next five miles in limbo before taking a left turn which definitively put me in the Hoosier State. I spent the next few minutes on the side of the highway jamming out to "Escape From Ohio" by Electric Six.
Things are certainly looking up for me in Indiana. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dawn I have formed an alliance with Friends of the NRA or FRNA as I will refer to them from now on because I am now the laziest man ever to complete a long distance walk of 900 miles (a mark I passed later in the day). Dawn's husband John is a state representative within the organization.
I know it seems strange for a man who has never fired a gun to team up with the FNRA, but that is the beauty of the Wounded Warrior Project and why I am so glad to be representing them. The WWP brings Americans of all persuasions together in common cause. Among their biggest supporters are conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly and liberal cartoonist Gary Trudeau. George W. Bush participated in a charity bike event for the WWP earlier this year. Jon Stewart payed a personal visit to Ken during his convalescence at Walter Reed. I think you see my point.
My FNRA contact for the day was Mike Vernon, who picked me up when I reached Richmond and took me to lunch, along with a fellow member, Steve. Mike dropped me back on the trail later, picked me up upon completion of the days hike, took me to replenish my food stores, bought me supper, and purchased me a hotel room for the night. All from a man who works sixty hours or so on week (plus many more on his farm) and by all rights shouldn't have the time to help someone like me. Clearly I've met some good people who are enthusiastic about my quest.
As far as the hike, I have reached the area north of Richmond, Indiana. Richmond was once home to Gennett Recording Studio, the ruins of which I passed by on the walk. Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and many others made some of their best records here and the studio is considered by many to be the place where modern jazz music was born.
I will spend the next days on the Cardinal Greenway, which stretches all the way to Marion, Indiana (I catch it in the middle, the starting point is Indianapolis). The Greenway is a rail trail, formed on the site of an old CSX line known as the Chesapeake and Ohio. Just like old times, back on the C&O - I'm expecting Swagman to round the next bend in front of me at any moment. He may not show, but I'm very pleased to have a another new group of friends along for the ride.

20 miles/908 total miles

Thanks to my new friends in Ohio:
Michael and Sabina Koehler and the rest of their family and friends met at Wildcat Hollow
Mike and Connie
Dave and Betty Jarvis
Tom and Jan
Harold and the rest of the crew at Dilly Deli
Gwen Harmon
Debora Jones
Tom Barnet

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Pawn Advances

I flowed between archaic spans today, passing by the Black Covered Bridge in Oxford (see picture) early in the morning and finishing just beyond the Harshman Covered Bridge in the late afternoon. In the interim I spent more time on the phone than I had all trip, a welcome escape from the lonely drudgery of the road. I placed the most important call myself, to my mother, who is celebrating her thirty ninth birthday. She was very young when I was born, tis true.
Later on the phone nearly got me killed when I absent-mindedly wandered from my seat on the safety railing and dropped my cel on the highway mid-conversation. Morpheus would have been impressed by how quickly I retrieved the phone from the ground, avoiding the death blow of a large truck by mere milliseconds. Sadly, that brings my longest streak of not trying to die to an end at twenty five days.
The highlight of the trek was running into my first long distance biker, a young man named Sam. He is currently riding a loop from Texas to New York and then down the Atlantic Coast and over to Texas again in order to support cancer research. For some reason he seems to cover miles faster than me. There should be some actual action on his blog - the hare always gets more chicks than the tortoise. Not that I am trying to get chicks.
Shortly after meeting Sam I encountered my daily history lesson in Fairhaven, Ohio. I have discussed canals, highways, and railroads in detail over the past two months, but have said little about the old turnpikes. The Bunker Hill House in Fairhaven was once an important stop on those nineteenth century roads as well as a more hidden byway, the Underground Railroad. Gabe Smith, a free black resident there, used the servants' quarters to help ferry escaped slaves up and down nearby Four Mile Creek.
The Underground Railroad was no longer necessary after the Civil War and neither was the Bunker Hill House. The above ground railroad and its powerful steam engines made the turnpike obsolete and without the road to bring commerce the way station faded into obscurity.
The day ended peacefully at the Concord Church along the Ohio and Indiana border. There is a family reunion going on here this weekend and they were so kind as to give me a nice meal with plenty of fruit to prevent the scurvy.
The wise Mongo once said "Mongo only pawn in game of life." Well this pawn has made it to the end of what seems in retrospect a very large state. I have only one thing to say to Ohio now. Checkmate (long string of expletives deleted)!

15 miles/888 total miles