Day 67: Chased by Storms (working book title) (Napoleon to Crystal Rock Campground)

Ohio has 88 of these stylin' courthouses

Ohio has 88 of these stylin' courthouses

MWe left the soft grass of Napoleon to the French and Frosty Boy, on a mission to ID Rachel. Birth certificate in hand, we headed for Bowling Green, for coffee and for a post office with a visa counter. 

We intended to take county road P in, were rerouted by more construction (as on every other useful road in Ohio), but the riding was good and easy, on roads that were mostly empty. I'm listening to Garden of the Beasts, an account of the lives of the American ambassador to Berlin and his daughter Martha during Hitler's rise to power. So most of my memories of the ride, addled by decaffeination, have overtones of 1930s Nazi Germany. The road took us 27 miles straight into Bowling Green though, a decidedly more docile town. 



I hunkered down at Grounds for Thought, a coffee shop with great coffee, decent lemonade, and no outlets. It is also a used book store.  Because I have no self control, I picked out two more (a Gibson; an account of the early Iraq war); in the process discovering a sci fi novel by Newt Gingrich.

I also dove deep into the Warm Showers listings for Pittsburgh, and stumbled upon Ellis', who I did the AAAS mass media fellowship with. He's no longer in Pittsburgh, but he reached out to some friends and came through 250%, I say, prescient since I'm writing this in the future.

Once the passport application was filled out in black (not blue) ink, signed, stamped and submitted to the U.S. Government, we took off toward a private campground in eastern Ohio. Only we found that it's closed on Mondays, so we turned our wheels north toward Sandusky Bay and headed to Crystal Rock. Highway 6 turned into this mega busy road being repaved and otherwise improved in 17 different spots. Maybe 5 miles in, Rachel stops and says something about getting off the road and I thought it was because of all the road work. But she motions for me to turn around and there's this grey, immense cloud bank racing behind us, literally a wall of darkness, rain visible as it blurs the countryside. We decide to pull over to the gas station ahead to wait out the storm, though it's still so hot and humid I'm in my token Hawaiian shirt. In fifteen minutes, after a Kit Kat bar, it's clear the storm is going to pass by on the west side without even touching the blue sky above us. 

We stop in Fremont for groceries, Fremont, Ohio, also the home of President Hayes' presidential library. It is fenced off. For the last hour to the campgrounds, I listen to Sarah Vowell try to find some family history in a five-day road trip on the Trail of Tears. 

The campground is pretty, you know, commercial. Mowed grass. A few RVs. Close to the scenery, but not close enough to see the scenery. Whatever it's 8:30 pm and I'm hungry so we binge on an entire family can of baked beans, accompanied by corn and pre-cooked wild rice. We also take some very long, hot showers. 

The whole northern US is supposed to be able to see the aurora that night. A Slate article declares that most of those states expect clear skies. Ohio's is almost completely clouded over. We bike down to the Bay but can't tell if the flashes we see are lightning or electrical storms. After failing to uncork the wine, then dropping it on the ground, we give up and head back to the campground. 

It rains all night. 

Day 11: What we don't know won't hurt us (Susanville to Madeline)

After yesterday, we needed a better day. Just a day with distance; on this trip, when you're not moving, it feels like you're losing space. Where would you be if you had moved? Not in Susanville.

If they're not busy, highways are the safeways: guaranteed to be paved and with a greater chance you'll find towns and/or water along the way. We rode passed the Walmart and out onto 36, toward 395, taking the long way around (not directly passed the state prison, as Google suggested). The first bit was busy and for a while after we merged onto 395, we had little-to-no shoulder. But the high mountain farmland was verdant, the mountains austere in their distance, the birds content with the bugs in the ground.

Our last stop for water for 50-some miles was the Lichtfield general store. It was too early but we had hot dogs for lunch. Moving on, a dead donkey stank by the side of the ride. Pretty much as soon as we summited the first hill, leaving Susanville and the valley behind, we entered high desert. 

And for miles and miles and miles that's all it was: high desert. Kind of like the bits of Mojave you drive through to get to Joshua Tree from the Bay Area. Flat and shrubby, with more life than you'd assume, with grey rocks pouring upwards out of the earth in the distance. 

I love the desert. Despite my best attempts to claim the forest or the mountains as my favorite ecosystem, I feel most at peace in the flat dusty vague sands of the high desert. Mmm. A kind of quiet and balance you don't find elsewhere.

We made it to the rest stop with a fountain of non-potable water just in time, just as we were running low. We filtered and refilled, then pushed on. We didn't think we would make it to Madeline, 72 miles from the Diamond View Motel. In the final few miles, two quarters of a circular rainbow framed the sun. We made it by dusk. Madeline, pop: 22.

We knocked on one of the.. five houses in town and Stan, balding, red-faced, in a ripped orange shirt, answered. He acted like a startled bear: wary, confused, ready to attack. But we're pretty harmless. He warned us we should be carrying shot guns. He let us sleep in the yard across the street from the house, under two big trees. He told us he'd rather live out there, poor, than in New York City, rich.

Rarely have I been graced with a prettier sunset.

Listening to: Steady Rollin' by Two Gallants