My goal today was simple ride as many miles west as I could while the east wind, daylight, and my legs held up and there was some prospect of lodging on the road ahead. That ended up being 157 miles, at least according to the Runtastic cycling app. I had the benefit of a 25 hour day to work with. That’s a personal record I am unlikely to break – I haven’t even ridden a century in over 40 years. But it’s not a family record – my younger brother David ride 500 miles in two days a couple of decades ago. Today’s ride also makes me 1000 miles from home, no matter how you measure it.
Woke up at 630 (late dawn at this western edge of Eastern Time). It wasn’t raining yet, so I struck camp quickly as the drops began to fall. My phone battery was near dead, so I downloaded the days route and put the phone on airplane mode to save power. I put some screenshots of the general route on my iPad, which still had plenty of battery. But I didn’t check the map closely enough, so I rode 1 1/2 miles in the wrong direction before realizing my mistake. This extra three miles put me in a bad mood to start the day, but it ended up being a rounding error on the days run.
I rolled 25 blissful downwind mikes before finding a combination coffee shop and tanning salon where I could plug in, in Denver, IN. The waitresses were very helpful and a breakfast burrito plus unlimited coffee only cost $3.50. But they had no WiFi and I had no signal, so I was still limited in my ability to research lodging options for the night. Rensellaer, at around 90 miles was too close. Ashkum claimed to allow bike camping in the city park, but you had to call the mayor first, and when I tried to call with my one bar of signal, the call dropped before I could leave a full message. It looked like there were some options ten miles beyond Ashkum, also.
So I set out to take advantage of the howling easterly, wind singing in the telephone wires, miles rolling by like a perpetual downhill, except in places where the route jogged north or south and the crosswind nearly blew me off the road. Indiana spun by in a blur, and I did not want to stop to leave any of this fair wind unused. I fed myself trail mix from my handlebar cup-holder, stopping only when I really needed to pee. Since I used the bathroom at a shop in Buffalo, IN, I bought a Snickers bar and added it to my caloric intake. At one point, I missed a turn and ended up on a gravel road, much to my regret but the regular grid of roads soon brought me back to the smooth designated route. Gravel roads are the very definition of a royal PITA.
Without stopping to refer to the maps, my sense of geography and distance got a bit confused. I had convinced myself that I should reach Ashkum at around mile 125, and that there was a town with several motel chains (with unlimited breakfast buffets) just ten miles beyond, a reasonable goal for a day of fast runnings. As I approach mile 125, I saw a huge radio tower that I assumed was the state police barracks by the village park in Ashkum. But after three miles of strenuous crosswind pedaling, the radio tower was next to nothing more interesting than yet another farmhouse. I turned west and downwind, certain to find Ashkum around the bend. But past the rare railroad trestle, Adventure Cycling tried to take me across the adjacent railroad crossing to a gravel road. No way! I stopped to check the map and my options. The Adventure Travel app calculated that Ashkum was still 22 miles away, and there was no lodging for 30 miles beyond Ashkum, except for a lone BNB 33 miles from where I was. I had already pedaled 125 miles today, and the prospect of another 22 miles for a cold, wet, and phone charge-less night in a tent was discouraging.
I tried calling the BNB, but my call kept dropping before I got an answer, and the howling wind made it impossible to hear even whether the phone was ringing. My battery was getting low, and there was no sun to charge it. So I ate a sandwich made from the leftovers from yesterday’s Dollar General shopping spree, and found a paved route around the gravel road.
In my geographical confusion, I did not realize that Ashkum was in Illinois (and in the central time zone). There were no “Welcome to the Land of Lincoln” signs. So I was surprised when the road signs started advertising “Illinois Rte 1” – why were roads in Indiana given Illinois road numbers? But I flew downwind, and soon reached the real Ashkum, Illinois – and the time change on my phone announced the new state. I was able to get through to the Green House BNB, which had rooms available, with breakfast. And the Ashkum mayor had returned my call, offering free camping. I opted for the BNB – it was only 7:20 Central Time, and I could charge my phone enough at the Subway in Ashkum (while munching on a sub) to be sure to locate the BNB.
I flew the last 12 miles, averaging about 20 miles an hour in the brisk wind, while hardly working at all. And the Greenhouse BNB is charming, a true little house on the prairie sitting on a wooded knoll in the middle of a vast expanse of farm Fields.