Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Day Before Bliss

I’m seventeen miles away from Bliss.  I’ll cycle there tonight, then pitch my tent outside the gate.  It opens at 10 AM.  Before leaving, I’ll stop at the Harbor Springs IGA for some muffins.

Blissfest runs until Monday morning, so you won’t hear from me for a few days.  I guess that, by tonight, the journey will be about over.  But I don’t feel like I’m through writing about it.  The trip from Chicago to Milwaukee to the Badger to Michigan to Traverse City to Bliss has yet to be unveiled on the blog.  Some stories will emerge from Bliss, too.  All that noise will take me a good few weeks to tell (because of quantity of content, not laziness in production), and I could spend a good few months after that just making shit up.  I’m into this writing thing, this blog thing.  You’ll have to decide how into it you are now that the adventure is over and just the stories remain.

So thanks for following the blog this far, and I hope you follow it for a while more.  I have a huge list of people that I could thank individually because I’ve been helped so much throughout this beautiful trip, but I’d like to keep it short for now.  I have muffins to buy.  I’ll just say thanks to everyone from the people that have given me sandwiches to the people that have read my clumsy words to the people that make rear car windows so soft.

Happy Bliss.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Most Interesting Person

I didn’t have internet access over the 4th of July.  I was in the boondocks.  Now, I’m in Traverse City.  But I don’t feel like writing about any of that right now.  Maybe I will tomorrow.  I feel like writing about biking through Mason City.  

Yesterday, I was asked about the most interesting person that I have met while on this trip.  I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come up with a three person combo—three people within ten minutes in Mason City.  Mason City is a good-sized city in Iowa.  It has one of those busy, business loop highways with Applebee’s and Perkin’s and Charles McLopez’s Mexican Restaurant (real place) and all that other good stuff.  The business loop had three stoplights.  I had a red light at each one.

I reached the first light a little after it turned red and coasted on the shoulder to the front of the line of cars.  The front car was a giant, diesel, black, pick-up truck.  It was occupied by two men.  They were jacked, probably on roids.  The windows were rolled down, and the passenger seat meathead had his arm hanging out the window.  He had an anchor tattoo.  The anchor was about the size as the emblem in the middle of Hope College’s basketball court.  I nodded to the meatheads as I coasted by them.  They nodded back. 
The guy in the passenger seat asked, “Where you going to?”  Dude had a super high voice.  He sounded like Katy Perry, except his vernacular was closer to that of a sixth grader from the 1950’s.  I smiled at that, stifling my giggles, trying to look friendly.

I told him where I was going, and he said, “Gee wiz!  That’s pretty far.  Where did you come from?”

I told him.

“Golly!  I’m impressed.” He paused to consider the trip.  “Boy!  I wish I could do something like that,” he said.  The light turned green.  “Well, good luck.”  They drove away.

I was stopped at the next red light, but it had been red for a while already.  Still smiling from my previous encounter, I pulled up next to an elderly couple in a red Cadillac.  They were probably in their early seventies.  The lady in the passenger seat rolled down her window and asked me where I was headed.  I told her.  The man driving knew Sault Ste. Marie.  The lady asked me where I had come from.  I told her, and she took a huge deep breath and made a shocked and pleased face like she just found out that I had the cure for hemorrhoids.  She smiled a big smile.  I smiled.  The light turned green.  The lady turned in her seat to continue smiling at me and was still smiling when I lost sight of the window.

I was stopped at the third light, and I waited next to a white Prius.  The windows were tinted, but the front windows were cracked just enough for a good look inside.  An average-sized man wearing a business suit was driving it.  He wore a green tie.  “I Would Walk 500 Miles” blared from the speakers.  A sheet cake sat in the passenger seat.  With one hand, the businessman was pounding the steering wheel to the beat of the song.  With the other hand, he held a metal fork which was used to eat the sheet cake and act as a microphone.  The light turned green.  He drove away.

The memory of those three encounters made me giggle all the way through Iowa, even though the whole state smelled like manure. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crash and an Interview

To travel to my Aunt and Uncle’s house, the place where I’d be staying for the next few days, I had to take a train into Chicago then take another train south of Chicago to Hammond, Indiana.  The train that went straight to Hammond didn’t allow bikes on the train, so I went to Harvey.  My Aunt told me that Harvey is a rough neighborhood.  I didn’t mind it.  The roads were smooth enough.

I needed to bike fifteen miles from Harvey to Hammond.  That distance usually takes me less than an hour to traverse, but I spent two and a half hours in the rain looking for Gibson Road.  I was lost.  I saw most of East Chicago, a Chicago suburb driven by factories, a city filled with smoke stacks, railroad tracks, and people that don’t know the location of Gibson road.  I passed the same gas station three times.  Finally, after reviewing things, I realized that I took a wrong turn on Kennedy.  I bike sprinted back towards Kennedy.  I was excited.  I was on the home stretch.  I was really hustling.  It was raining.  I crossed some railroad tracks; the tire slipped on the wet track; and I bit the dust.

A car stopped behind me, as I lay in the road trying to gather myself.  A guy jumped out of the car and ran up to me.

“Are you okay, man?” he asked. “You really biffed it.”

I nodded my head and thanked him for stopping.

“Yeah, man.  I didn’t want anyone to run you over.  I mean, you went down hard.  It looked like you could have killed yourself.”  The guy was animated, jumping around in the street, waving his arms.

I was okay, scratched my ankle, scratched my shoulder.  I biked to my Aunt and Uncle’s house.  They had spaghetti and meat sauce and garlic bread waiting for me on the stove.  That was nice.  I dig warm food.  I took a shower and went to bed, the first bed since South Dakota.  

The next morning, I had that interview.  That was my first real interview.  I’ll say it went well.  We talked about the bike trip for most of it.  I was wearing khakis, a collared, short-sleeve, striped shirt, no belt, no tie.  I wore my dirty-ass running shoes that I’d been using for cycling.  So needless to say: I looked dapper.  I parted my hair.

On my way back to Hammond, I walked Chicago for a bit.  Taste of Chicago was happening.  It’d be real expensive to actually taste all of Chicago, even during taste of Chicago.  Restaurants set food stands in the park and sold tastes for two to four tickets or full dishes for eight to twelve tickets. Tickets came in bunches of twelve for eight bucks.  I thought it’d be more economical if I blew all twelve tickets on popcorn shrimp with mango flavored fries.  And it was a wise choice.

Uncle Kirby and I chilled when I got back to Hammond.  We watched some TV, drank some beer.  I fell asleep around seven.  I woke up the next day around one.  Uncle Kirby and Aunt Deborah and I chilled some more.  Uncle Kirby grilled chicken.  It was tasty.  He called it, “Burnt, Dead Chicken.”  One of his specialties.  It was really nice to stay with them, nice to chill.

The next day, I would have to bike through Chicago because bikes aren’t allowed on the trains during The Taste, so I wouldn’t be able to take a train through.  The Aunt and Uncle and figured out a good route.  Also, they gave me a bunch of food to take with me, deodorant, and a knife.  I was prepared for famine, body odor, and muggings.  

Navigating through Chicago was easy.  Uncle Kirby dropped me off at the North Shore Bike Trail.  It goes all the way to Milwaukee.  I biked to Kenosha that day, no problems.  A guy on the bike trail told me that my wheel is about to fall off. It wobbles pretty bad.  I told him, “Go ride a Huffy.”  Just kidding.  I said, “Yeah, I broke a spoke” and passed him.