Sunday, November 9, 2014


The moment Tim and I met up on day two of these travels, Tim offered to lighten my load and carry some, if not the majority, of my gear since we'd be meeting up several times a day as we cut a swath through Indiana hopping from Carnegie to Carnegie and on across Kentucky and then down to Fort Benning.  I wasn't even tempted.  I had no desire to be transformed from a fully self-sufficient touring cyclist, to one dependent upon a support vehicle.  Not only would it violate my core of beliefs, but it would also prevent me from being prepared for any eventuality, whether a shift in the weather or some mechanical mishap or strike of hunger.  And further, I didn't wish to be concerned about the possibility of failing to meet up.

However, after my down sleeping bag soaked in some water during a prolonged hard night rain when I didn't fully stake down my rain fly, preferring to let it hug the main body of the tent to make it warmer, I took Tim up on his offer to let it dry in his car.  I was prepared to let my body heat dry it as I slept, but that might be a bit risky in near freezing temperatures, even if I wrapped myself in a few extra layers.  So when Tim made the offer at noon the day after the rain outside the Flora Carnegie, I submitted to my better sense and relinquished my bag and damp sleeping pad to his care and car.  We'd be meeting two hours later at the next Carnegie, where we would make arrangements for our evening camp site further down the road.

Tim's easily identifiable car with bike and cargo carrier atop awaited me at the large Frankfort Carnegie that had a huge addition tacked onto its side.

It took a longer hunt than usual to find Tim in the library.  Usually he was sitting in a cushy chair by the library's long defunct fireplace. Here at Frankfort, I found him in the lowest of the library's three levels seated at a table near the non-fiction books reading the "New York Times."  He had already scouted camping spots around Kirklin twelve miles away using google earth.  He'd zip there in twenty minutes giving him half an hour or more until I arrived to check out a couple of prospective sites--one beyond a cemetery and another near a river and dumpsite down a side road.  As always, before we made our departure I ventured to the 796.6 shelf to see what bike books there might be.  I occasionally find one I didn't know about and so it happened here--"Biking to the Arctic Circle," a self-published book by Allen Johnson from 2000. It was my second such luck of the day, as at the previous Carnegie in Flora I had found another--"Muck, Sweat and Tears" by Alan Anderson, a Brit.

It had a legitimate English publisher and was a compilation of capsule comments and quotes on cycling.  It looked well worth reading.  Across the street from the Flora library was an IGA grocery store whose dumpster provided us with a bag of potatoes, pea pods, muffins and cookies.

It was about an hour before sunset when we made our departure from Frankfort, so when we met up at the Kirklin library we wouldn't have to wait to make camp in the waning light, as we had to do the night before.  I knew Kirklin was twelve miles away.  But after I had gone twelve miles just as dark was descending there was no sign of Kirklin, just more cornfields.  I stopped to check my GPS device.  I discovered I had missed the slant in the road seven miles back that led to Franklin, evidently distracted by listening to the day's podcast of Democracy Now.  Rather than doubling back I headed east seven miles and then due north five miles into a severe headwind.  Better that than seven miles into a headwind and then a southeast slant of seven miles.

I pulled out my phone to tell Tim of my predicament.  It wouldn't turn on as the cold had frozen it up. Though it was dangerously dark, I had lights and plenty of reflective material front and rear on my panniers and shoes and tights.  After five miles with the phone pressed against my thigh it had not warmed enough to function.  Though I was in a nasty predicament, I felt sympathy for Tim, no doubt concerned for me, and on the verge of going in search for me.  If I'd had my tent and sleeping bag I could have camped in various clumps of trees or amongst the tall corn stalks, and reconnected with Tim the next day.   Instead, I had to push on in the dark.  No one honked their horn and all passed with ample room to spare. I could navigate just fine with a white line along the road's edge.

All was tolerable until I had to turn north and was blasted by a ferocious wind. I was soon working up the first sweat of the trip pushing into the wind.  Just as nasty as the wind was the rumpled traffic calming strip along the road's edge.  Gusts of winds forced me into it, jarring me worse than the cobbles of Paris Roubaix that I have ridden tagging along with The Tour de France.  I was barely managing eight miles per hour, so at least I wasn't hitting them with much velocity.  But at one point I  hit the rumples hard enough to knock the headlight off my bike.  When it hit the pavement the top separated from the bottom and the two batteries scattered.  I could only find one, so had to continue on with my headlamp strapped around my handlebar bag.

I arrived in Kirklin at 6:40, over an hour late.  Tim was not at our meeting point, the library, nor was it open.  Luckily my phone had warmed up enough to come to our rescue.  Tim had backtracked all the way to Frankfort.  There was a small pizza place where I could wait for him.  My pizza hadn't arrived when he walked in at seven.  We were quite happy to see one another after our hour of purgatory thanks to me going astray and a non-functioning phone and Tim having my tent and sleeping bag.  I wouldn't relinquish them again.  But at least we could enjoy a nice small cafe meal rather than Ramon in our tents.  

When the cafe closed at eight Tim loaded his bike with his gear for the night and we cycled half a mile to a spot he had located on the town's outskirts on a grassy patch besides a corn field.  We didn't realize until the morning light we were in someone's backyard.  Tim was up early, but I was still sound asleep after my hard effort of the day before when I was awoken by a woman shouting, "If you're not gone in five minutes, I'm calling the police."  Tim had taken down his tent and was ready to go.  It would take me at least ten minutes to pack.  Tim took off to appease the woman.  When I finished up, as I biked past her house, she shouted at me, "Don't you ever trespass here again."  I just waved.  Two blocks down the road a police car pulled up alongside me and motioned me over.  I was a bit chagrined, but knew the drill--remain calm and respectful and unargumentative. He was a nice young guy who politely asked me where I had spent the night.   I told him that my friend and I had been caught by the dark and had camped beside a cornfield not realizing it was someone's backyard.  I told him he had made an early departure, as he was a coffee drinker.

He wanted to know where I was from and where I was going and if I had any ID.  When he ran a check of my driver's license I feared that he might learn that this was the fourth time in a little more than a year that it had been done and  that I was indeed a suspicious character--in a small town in Illinois last September on my return from Telluride when I inadvertently camped on someone's property, at O'Hare Airport in April when I attempted to ride from the International Terminal to Terminal Three on the shoulder of a main highway, and then in a small Colorado town this past September when I proceeded through a red light when there was no traffic. None resulted in a ticket, nor did this one.  The officer's final question for me was, "Have you ever undertaken such a long ride before?"  When I mentioned a few he said he could hardly believe it.  I told him he could google George the Cyclist and he wrote it down on the palm of his hand.

Tim was awaiting me at his car unaware of my little escapade, though much less concerned than he had been the night before.  We would have been spared this too if I hadn't missed that turn, as we would have been seeking a campsite in enough light not to have camped so close to someone's home.  But it was nothing to be upset about.  We both had had a good night's sleep and were ready for another day of Carnegies.  We had hit four the day before and had four on our itinerary this day.

The first of the Carnegies the day before in Monticello was the only one that was no longer a library, and was a rare former library that the new tenants, the White County Historical Society had gone to the effort to buff off its former identity, though curiously it had left the book drop, now rusting, intact out front.

It was a lovely building on a bluff overlooking the Tippecanoe River that we had camped along a few miles upriver.  On the way out of town I passed an advertisement for a chiropractor that read "We've got your back."  A while later was a large billboard featuring the entire staff of a dental office and the phrase, "May the floss be with you."  I took a photo to send to George Lucas.  He might want to include it in the "Star Wars" Museum soon to be built on Chicago's Museum Campus.

The next Carnegie town, Delphi, featured a large Civil War monument in its central square with famous battles inscribed on it--Gettysburg, Antiem, Vicksburg.

A couple blocks further stood its stately Carnegie with a large addition hidden behind.

AC, Carnegie's initials, was inscribed over the entry.

Tim was settled into a soft chair in the magazine room.  An Amish couple were seated nearby.  Tim let me know the password for the WIFI was Read2me. Then it was on to Flora and Frankfort, already mentioned.

The next morning began with Sheridan.  Its Carnegie had been replaced by a large suburban-style library with a big parking lot on its outskirts.  Wikipedia incorrectly gave its address as the address for the Carnegie, so when I biked up to it at 8:30 and saw no evidence of the original Carnegie, I feared it had been torn town. I headed into the central business district to ask.  As I did, I noticed Tim's car parked in front of the Carnegie at 214 S. Main, now the offices of an agri-business company that specializes in animal nutrition, advising farmers on how to best feed their animals.  Tim had already gotten a tour of the building and spoken with a PhD in animal nutrition who was a Carnegie enthusiast and fascinated by our quest. 

From Sheridan it was on to Indianapolis.  I took Mulebarn Road, which led me to a sculpture garden along the road on a farmer's property similar to the one I happened upon in Kansas on my way back from Telluride in September.  It featured dinosaurs and a few bikes and a wide assortment of other figures, another outlet for some eccentric who I wished I had the time to meet. 

Next on the itinerary were three Carnegie branch libraries in Indianapolis. He had provided the funds for five, two of which had been razed.  On my way to the first on the west side of town I passed a street named for Oscar  Robertson.  The library was now the Hawthorne Center for Working Families in a largely black neighborhood.  It was honored with a plaque designating it a National Historic Place. 

It was just off Washington Street, a main thoroughfare through the heart of the city.  It was my avenue to the next Carnegie on the east side of the city taking me past the downtown baseball stadium, called Victory, and large hotels and a homeless fellow at a downtown intersection with a sign reading "What can I say, my wife had a better lawyer."  If the artist who goes around the country giving $20 for such signs for a project had seen it, he would certainly have added it to his collection.  I saw one lone rack of yellow rental bikes, but none in use on this cold 40 degree day.  A few people were out sunning in front of the Washington Branch Library.

It was distinguished by a pair of gargoyles over its entry holding books.

I then proceeded north three miles to the Spades Park Carnegie where Tim awaited me.

He'd had a fine day exploring Indianapolis and stopping off at a wooded area where he'd had a good conversation with a naturalist who approved of dumpster diving.  Tim had scored a bag of breads and croissants that he had left in the park with a sign "Help Yourself."  It was appropriated shortly after he had left it off.  Like me, Tim had passed through Indianapolis many a time but hadn't lingered.  He was happy for this opportunity.  "I've always thought Indianapolis was a town I should know more about," he said, one of his mottoes about just about anywhere and a sentiment similar to Janina's, that makes the both of them the ultimate of traveling companions, as the three of us have been on occasion.

Among the things he learned was that it was the home town of Kurt Vonnegut and the next day there were a series of seminars and events honoring him, tying into Veteran's Day and his strong aversion to war.  Tim thought he'd attend a few of the events and meet up with me towards the end of the day down the road. He would be doing something I'd love to do if I weren't committed to the biking.  Its too bad he's not blogging, as he'd have plenty of fascinating commentary.

Tim had located a campground seventeen miles east on the road to Greenfield, site of the next Carnegie.  Rather than wild camping, he proposed we camp legitimately so we could have a fire and bake the five pounds of potatoes he had scored the day before.  I was all for that and for my first shower in four days.  When I arrived at the campgrounds right at dark, I could see his roaring fire.  It hadn't provided the coals for the potato baking quite yet, but after I returned from my shower they were well on their way to being baked.  When they were, they provided a most tasty meal.  They were embellished by packs of salad dressing he'd scavenged from the campground dumpster.  And so ended Another Great Day on the Bike.

1 comment:

dworker said...

Wow, George. I did not know you were getting ID'ed so much. It has not happened to me yet. But then, I am not on the road as much as you are either.

Carry on.