Sunday, August 23, 2009

Biking, Day 33: August 20, 2009

Day 33: Gore, VA to Washington, DC
Distance: 85 miles
Route: 50East to Ballston, bike trail into the city
Lodging: Friend's house, followed by my home

Sorry for the delay in this post. it's been an adjustment being back on solid ground, not biking all day, not sweating all day, not being able to eat non stop without feeling full, drinking alcohol, hanging out with people who I know, etc.

I woke up at around 5 because I wanted to get on the road early. The motel didn't have coffee, nor did I have cell service or internet. I knew my mom would be freaking out, so I wanted to get within cell phone range as soon as possible.

I started riding around 6am and hit Winchester, VA around 7am. I stopped and had coffee. I met some locals who were having their coffee, too. They told me 50 was a good route to take, but that I would have to go over Paris Mountain, which they said was pretty high. I had hit a ton of mountains the day before, and I was hoping they were done, but one wasn't horrible.

I got back on the road around 8 or so, but then got lost trying to find 50 East again, got all turned around in Winchester, which is a lovely town, filled with people who have no idea where 50 east is.
I finally found 50East and saw a sign for DC: 70 miles. God bless.

I rode a while and then stopped about 15 miles in, right before what looked like Paris Mountain. I just sat, had a muffin, and then started riding again. No second cup of coffee.

I rode and hit Paris Mountain. It was really really hot, but the mountain was pretty nominal. I wasn't really fazed by it, and then I rode back down. I took a mental note of how lovely some of the little towns were and how adorable some of the inns and restaurants were for visits later with other people.

I rode on and got more and more hot. The terrain was fine, it was just hot. I stopped in Middleburg, about 35 miles from DC and had coffee. I had visited Middleburg years ago with my ex slash friend, who has relatives who live there. I remember we went to a little country store and they sold milk in glass bottles. I found that so incredibly charming. I stopped there for coffee. Fresh cream = delicious.

I continued on and knew that soon 50 would turn into more of a highway and that drivers would start being jerks and that strip malls would soon replace the farms. It was lovely until then. Really, when you get 30 miles outside DC, it's gorgeous. I'm planning lots of fall trips to pick apples, do winery tours, and pack up my bike for some beautiful riding.

About 10 miles past Middleburg, 50 opened up. There were 4-6 BIG lanes. Drivers started honking more frequently at me. They were driving faster. There were huge developments with ostentatious fountains, stores that sold discount furniture, and lots of traffic lights.

I rode on. I forgot how hideous the suburbs of Virginia are. I'm sorry, but they are. As I approached Fairfax, I decided I would take a break there. I stopped at a McDonalds for a pop. The riding wasn't very fun in the outskirts of DC. There are tons of trails, and a friend tried to tip me off on the W&OD trail, but that one went out to Vienna, off route 7.

I rode very uncomfortably from Fairfax to where my friend works, in Ballston. We met downstairs and had a snack. It was so good to see her. A familiar face, and of someone who I know well and care about. It was lovely. We talked about my day's ride, the trail into the city and to her house, and her stocked fridge of fixings for mojitos and other various snacks unavailable to the cross country biker. I felt like a princess.

I got back on the road and to the trail. I rode into the city on the Curtis trail, then cut over the bridge to the Kennedy Center, then cut down to Rock Creek parkway. It was a gorgeous ride, minus a few times getting lost.

As I pulled over the bridge into DC, I felt a little emotional. When I pulled into my friend's building, I was even more emotional. This journey has been incredibly challenging, my life for 33 days. I was overcome with emotion - pride for finishing it, sad it was over, overwhelmed by how far I had ridden. I will post more about the 'summary' when i have a chance to digest it. For now, it was a moment.

I got off my bike, went upstairs, took a shower, and made two mojitos for when my friend came home from work. When she came home, we had our mojitos and ordered dinner. It hurts me to admit that i was pretty drunk from that one delicious mojito. So it goes. It was a great way to end the day, as my mother said, the most well-deserved mojito ever. God bless.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Biking, Day 32: August 19, 2009

Day 32: Chalk Hill, PA to Gore, VA
Distance: 115 miles
Route: National Pike/40E/Alt 40 to about 5 miles before Cumberland, right at MD Route 53, continue on 220, then to 963, then to WV 28 to Romney, WV, left at Route 50E into Virginia
Lodging: Hayworth Motel, Gore, VA, $42, no cell service, no internet, no phone, completely out of necessity – sun was setting and I was dying.

Today was probably one of my hardest days – physically, mentally, emotionally. I woke up around 6:15 and got ready to go. I went to the Lodge at the Chalk Hill resort and got online to post my blog and check my route. I also got my free coffee and enjoyed some early morning Saved By the Bell, one of my favorite shows of all time. It was a summer recap show, where Zach Morris recalls the summer working at the resort. Zach is pretty dreamy, plus, he got into Yale with his 1502 SAT score, so he's really the whole package.

I left the lodge around 8am and started on the National Pike. The girl at Subway yesterday told me that I had pretty much hit the summit the day before. As I started, I realized that there were many more mountains to go. About 10 miles in, I hit a summit where I had to push my bike. I felt totally beaten. I didn't want to bike anymore. It was humid, I was completely drenched in sweat, and with only ten gears on my bike, I couldn't pedal up these hills.

I said this yesterday – but in the West they fundamentally understand the need for switchbacks. In the east, the hills are so steep that I can't pedal up some of them. When you hit the top of a summit, there are often signs for truckers saying what percent grade the hill is. I saw 13 aand 14% grades today. In the west, I don't remember seeing any steeper than 10%.

It took me about 3 hours to get to my first break, which was about 20 miles before Frosburg. I took a break and asked the guy working at the 7-11 about the terrain. He said it was mountainous through Frostburg, but then it pretty much went down hill after Big Savage Summit. I took that to heart, I had had a rough morning, but I was ready to get through the mountains. Plus, I had crossed into Maryland. Crossing state lines is the bomb. Oh, and I saw the Mason-Dixon line, yo.

I forged on. The terrain was indeed challenging. The peaks weren't huge, but they were steep. I didn't go above 3000 Feet, which would be a joke in the west, but it wasn't up the mountain and then down. It was up then down then up then down. I stopped taking pictures of the altitude signs at the summit peaks after a while.

I rode through to Frostburg and took a break at a Sheetz. It was around 2pm and I figured I would ride until 5:30 and then figure out where I wanted to stop. My directions had me taking back roads to Winchester, VA. I thought that was a bit aggressive, so I thought I would cut down a bit further to Route 50, which I assumed would have more cities and stops.

I left Frostburg around 2:30. I went a few miles on National Pike, then cut south on Maryland 53. Then I took Route 220 to another road, which led me back into West Virginia. For some reason, West Virginia makes me nervous. It's not just the fact that the slogan is 'Wild and Wonderful' (the 'wild' being mysteriously vague and undefined), but the very evident poverty and poor roads.

I cut down WV-28 to Springfield, WV and decided to stay on WV-28 to Romney, WV, where I would get on Route 50E. On WV-28, not one, not two, not three, but five times a truck passed me and a man leaned out the passenger window to look back at me. I did not find this flattering, I found it creepy. Also, the mountains hadn't ended in Frostburg. Sure, the biggest peak was Big Savage at around 3000 Feet, but climbing 1000 feet is hard regardless of whether you start at 2000 Feet or 0 Feet.

I got to Romney and took another break at a Sheetz. It was about 5pm and I had a few more miles in me. I looked at a map and looked up motels and saw that there were a few motels along the route. I figured I would go to Augusta, ten miles away, and stay there. That would be about 105 miles from DC, which I could easily do in a day. I was able to pick up a wireless signal on my phone, but I couldn't make any calls to make reservations. I figured I would just stop at the motel.

The mountainous road continued. I made the ten miles to Augusta and the motel was out of business. There was nothing else. I forged on just assuming that I would hit a hotel. I went through some 'towns' that lookoed more significant on the map. I still had no cell service. Finally, I hit a more significant town and stopped to ask about motels. There were none in that town, but she said there was one in Gore, VA about 10 more miles.

It was 7pm. I wasn't sure how much more sun I had, but I figured I could make it to Gore. I went about 5 miles, through mountains, and hit the Virginia line. I entered Gore and saw the first sign I have seen for Washington – 85 miles. The motel that she told me about was shut down. I hit a low. It was about 14 miles to Winchester, VA, where there would undoubtedly be motels, but it was 7:45PM. I had no idea when the sun would set. I usually was at my motel by 6pm, even in the west when there were more mountains.

I just kept riding. I was going a bit slower even though I was trying to go fast. For the first time, I really was worried about getting caught in the dark. Route 50 has no lights. I have a headlamp somewhere, courtesy of my Kilimanjaro climb, and a flashing red light on the back of my bike, but I really didn't want to ride on a 55MPH road in the dark.

I went about 5 miles and then saw a motel on the left. The Hayworth motel. I pulled up. There were some gentleman sitting outside, they had a lot of tattoos and I said hello. I went to the 'office', which was someone's grandma's living room. Tragically, they didn't take credit card or checks. I only had $15 in cash. It felt dire for a moment, then I remembered that negotiating is actually something I'm quite good at.

I offered to go with the owner to an ATM or to write a check. She opted for the check. I wrote the check and she helped me into my room. I was visibly weak. It was a long day, after all. She gave me the number of a pizza place that delivered. The rooms have no phones, but she could see my cell phone.

I went in, showered, washed my clothes, and went to call for pizza, but I still had no cell service. And clearly there was no wireless. I just decided to eat my snackks for dinner. What really upset me, though, was that I couldn't email or text my parents. This has been less than fun for them and I try to call/email/text each night. There was no option to do that tonight. Not even a pay phone. It's actually a good night to be out of touch since my parents are en route to Paris, but when they land around 3am my time, they won't have a message.

I will get up super early and go to Winchester, VA for my coffee.

Tomorrow is my last day in this journey. Barring any unforseen challenges, I hope to be having a mojito during happy hour. Today was hard, but every day is hard. I'm ready to be done, mainly because I miss people, but, as a wise friend told me today, I will miss it when I'm not doing it. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Biking, Day 31: August 18, 2009

Day 31: Wheeling, WV to Chalk Hill, PA
Distance: 75 miles
Route: 40E/National Road
Lodging: The Lodge at Chalk Hill, $70, very nice, no internet

I really thought I was done with big mountains after the rockies. Apparently, there's some mountains called the Appalacians. The mountains out west were rough, but at least the people who built roads understood the necessity for switchbacks. Maybe it's because I'm riding on the National Road, which was built in the 1800s. It was the hightway when there was no interstate. Point is, it's historic. And by 'historic', I mean old.

I got up today around 615 and got my 'free' breakfast at the Super 8. I really do wonder why they use such small cups for coffee. I just end up using two small cups, which I'm sure cost more than one big cup would. I mean, its not like the actual brewed coffee costs a lot. Lord knows they make it weak.

I got on the road around 7:35 and started riding down 40 East. It's a beautiful region, but poor. Very, very poor. There were a lot of trailers and rusted out cars. Even the road was poorly maintained.

It was ridiculously humid today. And the road was hilly. Like, really hilly. I was sweating more than I have ever sweat before. Ok, that's kind of a bold statement. I was sweating a lot. I continued and took my morning stop in Washington, PA. There was no sign entering PA, but I noticed pretty soon that the road got better maintained.

I had only gone like 25 miles, but the going was slow. With the humidity and the mountainous road, I wasn't making very good time. I do love the region, though. I remember driving through Washington, PA many times in my life. It's a valley and a meeting of many highways.

I took off again down 40E/National Road from Washington, PA. The hills were pretty bad, and there were menacing clouds stirring up some pretty serious winds. About 15 miles from Washington, PA I got a slow leak in my tire. I stopped and patched the tire and filled it. I got some good pressure in my tire, which is rare for me with my hand pump. I realized that I finally really learned how to use the pump. I feel sort of victorious about that.

I got back on and rode the bike until Uniontown, PA. I took another break at the Sheetz. I don't know if people are familiar with Sheetz, but it's basically the best gas station ever. I have felt this way for a long time, and openly expressed this view. My passion for Sheetz is not a secret. I first discovered Sheetz when I drove to my friend, Shannon's, summer house in Maryland back in college. I stopped at a sheetz. I didn't see Sheetz on the east coast, but when I moved to DC, Sheetz were again back in my life.

Sheetz are amazing because not only do they have good gas prices, but they have stores that have good snacks, clean bathrooms, and fresh baked goods. In any case, I took my break at Sheetz. For the first time this adventure, when I came back outside, the bike had been knocked over. I had left one of th pouches of my panniers open and a few items had fallen out., including my sports bra. Awesome to come outside with my bra on the ground.

I checked out hotels to see where I wanted to stay. I figured I could ride for another 2-3 hours so I looked out 25-35 miles. My dad had found an adorable motel in Grantsville, MD and my mom checked for availability. It would be cool to hit 3 states in one day. I got back on the bike.

The wind was pretty serious and Route 40 split going into Uniontown, PA. I wasn't sure whether to take the business route or the bypass. I took the bypass. In retrospect, this was dumb. It added on about 5 miles and it was basically an interstate. I was riding on the wake-up bumps on the side of the highway, which was really uncomfortable.

I decided to get off the highway and try to find a parallel road. I wasted about 45 minutes trying to find a parallel road and my googlemaps took me to a road that didn't exist. I backtracked and got back on 40East, the interstate version.

Soon after, it turned back into less of an interstate. Instead, it was climbing a mountain. Seriously, it was pretty intense. It took me about an hour to summit. And it also started raining. Finally, I got to the top and started the downhill. Unfortunately, the road was so poorly maintained, that I had to go very slowly in the berm. After about 3 minutes, the road started going up hill again! I was pissed. But it was a small hill, then I went down into Chalk Hill, PA. I stopped to get out of the rain.

It was after 5pm so I started looking for a place to stop and sleep. Chalk Hill, PA was a cute little town and there was a lodge that looked out of my price range, but I figured I would check prices. The lodge didnt have any single rooms, only double rooms. The price was high, but he offered me the AAA rate of $74. I managed to negotiate him down even further to $70. At that point, raining, not any other places to stay in the area, so I decided to do it.

One thing I haven't mentioned is the tingly feeling in my hands. I lean on my hands all day. My fingertips have been tingling since I started this. I wake up, they are tingling. Even when I took off 2 days at my parents, they were still tingling. I do hope that they stop once I stop biking.

I'm about 200 miles from DC.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Biking, Day 30: August 17, 2009

Day 30: Outside Columbus, OH to Wheeling, WV
Distance: 110 miles
Route: 40 E/National Road
Lodging: Super 8, $70, smoking room, yuck

I got back on the saddle today after the weekend with my parents. I hadn't taken any days off, so having the weekend off was almost strange. I don't think my body knew what to do with the lack of sweating, gluttony, and excessive sunscreen. It was great to see my parents, and my grandparents, who came up from Tiffin, OH to Columbus.

I started my ride around 8am after my parents drove me outside Columbus to avoid the highways. Despite the 2 days off, parts of my body were still sore and tired. The one part of my body that felt very healed was the seat region.

It was a hot day. I rode about 25 miles and stopped in New Concord, OH for a break. For the first time during this trip, I went into a gas station convenience store and was told they didn't have a public restroom. I was sort of pissed. I told her it was the first time in 2,800 miles that there wasn't a public restroom. She directed me to the City Hall. City Hall! I decided to go to the next town, 8 miles away. For the record, the Circle K in New Concord, OH does NOT have a public restroom.

I went on to Cambridge, OH and stopped at a gas station. Again, no public restrooms! She directed me across the street to the Rite Aid. Since when does a rite aid have a public restroom, but a gas station doesn't. Is this some weird Ohio thing? I went to the Rite Aid, then I had a coffee at the gas station. I felt like I shouldn't give them business since they didn't give *me* a bathroom, but I wanted coffee. In retrospect,maybe it is an Ohio thing - my first bathroom stop, there was a sign on the bathroom door that said 'out of order'. When I walked in, the guy asked me what I needed and I said the restroom. he pointed at the door. I said 'isn't it out of order?' and he replied "no". So, the lack of bathroom or the out of order sign on the bathroom is the lazy man's way of running a gas station. I don't know whether to be offended or to commend the cost cutting.

I forged on. I took another break in St. Clair, OH. There, I tried to get a reservation for the night. I wanted to go a bit beyond Wheeling, so I checked a few places. Wheeling and beyond was shockingly expensive. I decided to check out a motel in Triadelphia, about 7 miles east of Wheeling.

I got on the bike and started riding. Heading into Wheeling was beautiful. It's really a gorgeous city. I've always loved the area. My parents took me and my brother to Oglbey Park one year. We also went to Salt Fork, a nearby state park. Also, when I've driven to and from Columbus from DC, I always go through Wheeling and am shocked at how beautiful it is.

I got to the motel and decided to stay. There was no internet, but I figured I could do stuff on my phone. I went to the room and realized I had no cell service in there. I told the guy that I couldn't stay because of that. He got mad at me. No, really. He was mad because he now had to 'clean the room' because I walked in there. It was ridiculous. anyway, he left me no choice but to go to another motel.

I rode over to the Super 8 and got a room. I got my dinner and went into my smoking room.

In other news, i love the TV show 'Shark Tank' and i have decided I cannot comment on the Healthcare Bill until i read it, all 1000 pages of it. I'm on page 105.

I started planning my day for tomorrow. Only like 300 miles left!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Biking, Day 29: August 14, 2009

Day 29: Rochester, IN to Columbus, OH
Distance: 115 on the bike, a few via parent's car
Route: Indiana Route 14E to 114E to IN Route 5 to IN Route 224 to Route 33 to mistakingly taking Route 27 to 124E back over to Route 33 to the parents
Lodging: 1933 Lake Shore Drive, home of Nancy and Jim Petro, price: appeasing nervousness, overeating, downloading religious podcasts.

(Note: Day 30 will start after 2 days in Ohio with family on August 17)

I woke up today in my super crappy motel in Rochester, IN. I set my clock ahead to EST because I know Ohio is EST and Indiana always confuses me with its time zone. For those who don't know this, Indiana has historically rebelled against Daylight Savings Time due to farmers and has switched between Central and Eastern Time Zone. It's actually an interesting debate:
and has remained in my arsenal of random facts since I spent my summers in Indiana and had friends who lived in the state that boasts being home to Dan Quayle.
Point is, I came into Indiana from Illinois, Central time, and I was leaving to Ohio the next day. To make it easy on myself and not start a debate with Indiana folk, I lived in Central Time yesterday, set my clock to Eastern before I went to bed, and lived via EST today.

I left around 7:30am without coffee because my motel didn't have any for me. I figured I would stop about 10 miles out for my morning coffee. Riding 10 miles without coffee is hard. It was probably the hardest 10 miles of my day.

I got to Akron, IN where I had my coffee. The ride was gorgeous - the sun rising over the farms (which made me think this part of Indiana was probably Central Time Zone) and the fog. I didn't take any pictures because I had my eyes on the prize: my coffee in Akron.

After Akron, I headed back on the road. I was tired today. 29 days without a break on the bike is hard. No weekends, no breaks, everyday the same thing - up at 6, coffee, on the road. I'm glad I did it this way because I'm alone and I have no idea what I would do in some random town by myself, but it has definitely taken its toll on my body.

I got to North Manchester, another 20 miles or so, and decided to take another break. I usually take breaks in the am about 30 miles in, so this made sense. I had more coffee. Today felt tiring. I texted a friend: "I don't feel like biking today. There. I said it." People talk to me a lot about how amazing this is, about how they are jealous, about how fun it sounds. It is fun, but it's also really, really hard. I know I've said it before, and I don't mean to over emphasize the hard or downplay the fun, it's got both. Dramatic ups and downs each day, is how I describe it. Literally, points of euphoria and points of deep, seemingly bottomless pits of despair. On a daily basis.

I talked to an amish woman for a minute as she asked about my journey, then got back on the bike. My seat area was hurting again today after almost a week of pretty minimal pain. Not sure why some days are worse than others with that. It was hot today. I rode for a while then pulled into Huntington, IN. I went a little bit out of the way for some sight-seeing. Huntington, IN is the home of Dan Quayle and the Dan Quayle Museum. That's right, Dan Quayle has a museum in his namesake. Apologies to any Dan Quayle groupies out there, but I'm curious as to what the Dan Quayle museum has to offer besides hilarious misquotes and abnormally boyish good looks. The museum was closed, but, for the record, it does exist.

I continued on through the farms of Indiana. I finally started seeing roadside vegetable stands. I love roadside vegetable stands. I also saw, in the middle of nowhere, a bilboard for a Michael Bolton concert. I knew he still had a following.

I got to the intersection of Route 224 and Route 33 in Decatur, IN, where I decided to take a break. In a few miles, I would cross over the Indiana/Ohio line and shortly thereafter, meet up with my parents. The sun was hot. I got a coke and a milkshake.

Back on the road, I took a wrong turn. Route 33 and Route 27 are one in the same, then Route 33 veers off. I accidentally stayed on Route 27, which goes due South through Indiana. Route 33 goes a bit more east heading into Ohio. When I realized my error, I cut over on Route 124 to connect with Route 33. Route 124 was full of Amish people. It was lovely.

I rode Route 33 and hit Ohio. As I left Indiana, I looked back and saw the Welcome to Indiana sign. About 200 meters later, I hit the Welcome to Ohio sign. A few observations: first, there was quite a delay between the signs. I wonder if the 200 meters in between is some safe haven between states. Second, the Indiana sign was far more robust than the Ohio sign. For a state that has a higher income tax rate, I expected a better sign. I wonder if there's someone I can call about that.

I rode on, after the requisite picture of the state sign. Finally, I met up with my parents. They wanted to drive me into Columbus, which I agreed to. They have been very helpful throughout this journey, but also very nervous. Sometimes I think I should tailor more what I tell them - ignorance is bliss, after all.

We drove into Columbus and had dinner. I was exhausted and ate way too much. I decided to stay the weekend before heading to DC. It's 400 miles from Columbus to DC, so four more days.

I can't believe the journey is almost over, and I don't really want to start processing that until it's actually over. I won't blog Saturday and Sunday, since time with my parents is not very entertaining. I expect to hit DC on Thursday, August 20. I also expect to have a cocktail waiting.

"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." -Dan Quayle

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Biking, Day 28: August 13, 2009

Day 28: Tinley Park, IL to Rochester, IN
Distance: 115 miles
Route: Through Tinley Park to link up with Route 30E. 30 E to route 17 into Culver, IN. Route 117 around Lake Maxinkukee, Route 110 E to Route 31 South to Rochester, IN
Lodging: Rochester Motel, $40, sh*tbox.

I woke up around 6am today and chatted with Melissa for a bit. She showered to head to work, and I made the most of the free breakfast provided by La Quinta. There is nothing I love more than filling three of the excessively small cups with coffee and making my own waffle to start my day with just the right amount of caffeine and sugar. I've always been a coffee person - it's what makes me a morning person. The promise of coffee literally gets me excited when I go to bed at night. Breakfast has never been a big thing for me, but a free make-my-own waffle? Sign me up.

I started riding out of the suburbs of Chicago around 7:30. About 5 miles into my route, the road was closed. The cop let me go through since I was only on a bike. I told him I was biking across the country. I feel like I'm telling everyone now - just mentioning it in passing. you know, no big thang.

I got on Route 30E, which would be the road I would be on for the vast majority of the day. The suburbs of Chicago just kept going and going. It got a little dodgy right before Indiana, bu I really expected to hit cornfields sooner. Tinley Park is not exactly downtown Chicago, either. I know I mentioned it yesterday, but the suburbs of Chicago just go and go and go.

I crossed into Indiana and rode for a bit before taking my morning break about 10 miles before Vallparaiso, IN. I got a message from a friend about some REALLY good job news, so I called her to congratulate her (yay, you know who you are!!!).

I got back on the road and hit strip mall after strip mall after strip mall. Seriously, Route 30E, you are very ugly. I hit Valparaiso, which is practically a suburb of Chicago, and the strip malls continued. Finally, about 50 miles outside Tinley Park, where I started, there started to be some farms.

It was a hot and dry day and the scenery wasn't fantastic. Neither was the road. But I had good podcasts and new music that a friend sent (thanks, you know who you are!!).

I took another break about 15 miles from Culver, IN, a sight-seeing stop and the reason for my route. I talked with a friend who's going through a rough time (you rock, you know who you are!!!).

I got back on the road and got excited to see Culver. I spent 5 summers at Culver Military Academy. Three were spent as a camper in upper camps, two as a counselor. Culver, in many ways, shaped my leadership and what athletics I chose to compete in. The experience had a profound influence on my life and who I am as a person. When i attended the summer program, the military aspect really jived with me. I had started going down the 'wrong path' (which, admittedly, in Rocky River, Ohio really isn't that bad), but Culver really made me reassess how I wanted to live my life.

Needless to say, I have many, many fond memories of Culver, both from my days as a camper and my days as a counselor. Also, it's a gorgeous campus. I fully expect to send my kids there for the summer program.

I pulled into Culver around 3:45PM. It was as beautiful as ever. Campers were, for the most part, gone, so it was a pretty quiet campus. The lake looked great, all the buildings and fields were fantastic. I rode through, took some pictures, walked around a bit, and then decided to head out. I would have loved to have seen the campers marching around, but graduation was last weekend.

Culver doesn't have an abundance of lodging (read: none), so I decided to spend the night in Rochester, IN, about 25 miles southeast of Culver.

I rode around Lake Maxinkukee and then through the cornfields to Rte 31, which led into Rochester (and eventually Indianapolis).

During this time, my phone died. I have no idea how it went through all its juice in 12 hours, but it did. My blackberry was also doing that thing where it deletes texts before you can read them. I hate that. So, my phone shut itself off and I had to go by memory into Rochester as opposed to the googlemaps on my phone. I stopped right before Rochester and got a Big Red pop, which, if you're from Indiana, you know it is totally the bomb. As I was leaving the truck stop, I found $20. Nice.

I had booked myself at the Rochester motel, which got moderately good reviews and was cheap. I got into Rochester, went to a grocery store to get some actual fresh food and then planned to go to my motel. I asked at the kroger where the Rochester Motel was and the girl knew, which was great. The checkout girl also told me that Obama was no longer going to let women induce labor. Thats right - only c-sections and regular births from now on. I have no idea what inspired her to tell me this, but she did. She also let me use her Kroger card to get the sale prices on several items. Really, she was a gem.

I came to my hotel and the parking lot was pretty much empty. I went into the office, which seemed a bit trashed. Still, I figured one night, whatever. I rang the bell and was greeted by a woman who barely spoke english. i asked about internet, she said they had it, and then she couldn't figure out the credit card so she just gave me the key and said her son would come by to charge me later.

I went to my room, and wasn't very impressed. I think they had just re-opened the room or something. Among my list of complaints: not very clean, trash behind furniture, no soap, no towels, pop machine not working, everything in the room unplugged, TV cable not working, no extra toilet paper, internet passcode not given clearly, poor color choices, credit card receipt illegible.

I know, I should have just left. But after riding 115 miles a bed and a shower are really all you can think about. I got a little bitchy with them about some of the issues, even though, as my dad said, for $40, what do you expect? Agreed, but my expectations have always been too high for my own good.

I finally settled into my room after getting a little snarky with the owners.

It was great to see friends the past 2 days. I have been doing this bike thing for the past 4 weeks. I can't believe that I only have 5 more days of biking. That's right. Five more days of biking. I expect to get to DC on Wednesday. From Ohio, where I go tomorrow, it's only 400 miles to DC. Hard to believe.

Oh, and happy birthday, you know who you are!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Biking, Day 27: August 12, 2009

Day 27: Hoffman Estates, IL to Tinley Park, IL
Distance: 30 miles
Route: One that my mother wouldn't approve of
Lodging: La Quinta, $50, Priceline

Today was scheduled to be my quick jaunt from Hoffman Estates, where I visited Shri, to Westmont, IL to visit my friend, Melissa. Shri and I said our goodbyes this morning. Staying with her was lovely. It was great to see a familiar face after being on the road for so long without seeing anyone I knew.

I left Shri's around 9AM to go first to a bicycle store. I had no more bike tubes and my patch kit is out of commission. I got there before it opened, so I went across the street and had a coffee. I met a guy there who asked me about my ride. We ended up talking about cars, like you do. I've been really into Mercedes lately, he has a thing for Corvettes. We lamented the death of manual transmission, particularly with the Mercedes SL class. So it goes.

I went to the bike store and got 2 tubes and a patch kit. I also had them fill my tire to get some pressure. They asked about my trip, we chatted, and I went on my way.

I rode through the suburbs to get to my friend's office - Hanover Park, Addison, Elmhurst. I got to the office and locked up my bike. I threw on some normal shorts over my padded biking shorts and a jacket because Melissa wanted to introduce me to her office.

Melissa works for Recycled Energy Development. RED works in energy development, particularly in developing energy solutions with industrial clients and developing biomass and other alternative energy plants. They do both operations and efficiency improvements and M and A activity.

It was an interesting office - relaxed, but with intensity. I got to meet the CEO, CFO, lobbyist, policy folks and others. Melissa explained the business to me later at dinner.

After the intros, Melissa and I decided to go spend the rest of the day catching up. We got a hotel out in the suburbs since I wanted to start my ride tomorrow from outside Chicago and because her apartment in Chicago is less than visitor-friendly.

We checked into our hotel and then went out for dinner. The suburbs of Chicago are sprawling masses of two lane highways and strip malls. It seems to go on forever. it's like no city I have ever seen. I have no idea how far we are from the actual center of Chicago.

Dinner was lovely. We went to a restaurant called 'Cooper's Hawk', which fancied itself both a restaurant AND a winery. It was actually quite nice. All of the wines are made by the restaurant. I had my first glass (I had half the glass) of wine in weeks. It was a white wine. And yes, a half glass was about all I could handle. Note to potential suitors: I am now a cheap date.

Melissa and I caught up about everything. She is one of those friends who I feel comfortable talking to about life, goals, love, etc - I'm honest with her in a way that is rare, putting my ego and self-consciousness aside. I know she doesn't judge and I know she gives good advice.

We enjoyed dinner and went back to the hotel. I planned my route for tomorrow - I will be going to Culver, IN, where I spend 5 summers of my life at Culver Military Academy. Culver always brings back positive memories and it's a gorgeous campus.

Today was my shortest day. It felt good to rest my legs, but strange. My ridiculous hunger hasn't subsided, which reminds me of a funny story from today. I keep snacks in my panniers. I like keeping lots of snacks. You know, in case I get caught in the middle of nowhere, cant move, and need snacks to survive. Anyway, when I came out from Melissa's office, someone had BROKEN INTO my bike panniers, in particular, the snack compartment. They had rifled through my snacks eating anything they could find. The culprit lacked the civility to open my pannier with the zipper, instead choosing to CHEW through my bag and pull my snacks through the hole that he or she had created. The whole thing was very bizarre, but certainly commonplace for such an unsavoury location as Westmont, IL.