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The Sun The Heat & The Wind — Indiana

Standing in front of the public library trying to latch onto the free wifi signal to upload pictures to Facebook at 6am in downtown Liberty Center, Ohio on June 2nd, 2020, while riding my bicycle across America. Photo by Todd Tracy for Odyssey X

I took off from Liberty Center, Ohio at 6am. My big goal was to make it to the Pacific Coast. The next smaller goal was to hang out at a national park like Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, or Glacier National. To get to any of these places, I was figuring that Des Moines, Iowa, needed to be gotten to first. But Before that, I needed to get to the Indiana border. And once there, I noticed on a map that there was a town called Butler. So, Butler, Indiana was my immediate goal.

Leaving Liberty Center, Ohio June 2nd, 2020 — Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X

The road was pretty straight at this point. I made a lot of miles early. I pulled into Ridgeville Corners. This town didn’t offer much for me but I found it interesting. I was just looking for a coffee, mid-morning coffee. I found it at a gas station. I was able to charge the phone up a bit out front. I moved on pretty quick. It looked like Indiana wasn’t too far away. This was June 2nd, 2020. The pandemic was raging. Out here folks weren’t as worried about it as they were in the big cities. The small towns weren’t experiencing outbreaks. I was getting a hell of a lot of sunshine.

I peddled out past Ridgeville. I was going west, there was no doubt about that. The sun was just over my head. I knew it was about noon. There wasn’t much out there. Just fields. A road. Me on a bike. Then it hit me. The wind. The dreaded wind. There was nothing left to block the wind’s great effect. The wind was going east. I was going west. Boom the sun was in my face. I was in the middle of nowhere, for real this time. I could barely make any time. Holyshit, this was insane. I hadn’t even really considered it. I had heard of many accounts of bicyclists encountering wind but I always thought like, “it just wind.” No, it’s not just wind. It can stop you. No matter how hard I peddled, which was normally so easy, I was stopped dead in my tracks. It was only about 30 or so miles till the next town. I could do that in 2 hours. I could do it in two hours if I was going fifteen miles per hour. But I was slowed way down.

I can remember pulling into a church parking lot. They had a pavilion outback. It was the perfect place to shelter from the sun. I plugged in my phone to an outlet. Bummer no power. Oh wait, there is a circuit breaker over against the closet wall. I flipped the switch and my phone started charging. I was hoping the wind might die down and then I make my leisurely way into Indiana. I stayed there trying to nap for about 40 minutes until I just had to get back out there.

Boom, I was back out on the county road. In the midwest everything is a grid and county roads take you where you want to go. I was getting really hungry. I could see on the map that there was a Mcdonald’s about 25 miles away. The closest place for food. The only problem was — the wind wasn’t letting me get anywhere. I started to panic a little. All of a sudden, I wasn’t having fun anymore. I wasn’t asking for much, I just wanted to ride my fucking bike! West!

I was having a meltdown. I made the executive decision to power through it. The Mcdonald’s in Butler was my goal. I might not be able to make it across the midwest. I might not be strong enough. The elements might be too much for me, but I was going to make it to Butler no matter what. I peddled as hard as possible, directly into the wind and sun. Doubts about my journey became more than just doubts. If the wind was like this I just plain ol wasn’t gonna do it.

But I did have energy in the tank and I kept up my fight against the wind. I was getting crazily sunburned on my face. I was on these weird roads with only farmland all around me with no clumps of trees.

Finally, I came to a sign that said state line Indiana/Ohio. Wow, this was a really big development, though I still had miles to get to Butler. I had to continue. I think as it got near about five in the afternoon the wind let up in little bursts of relief. I was wiped out. Then I slowly fell into Bulter Indiana. I had no idea what to expect.

I crisscrossed the downtown area, keenly aware that the McDonalds was on the other side of town. I wanted to see what was what there. I didn’t see much that called out to me. The streets were empty and all the stores were closed. Every state had different rules for the lockdown of the people during the pandemic. My arrival in Butler felt like a scene out of the Zombie Apocalypse. I made it to the outskirts of town where the McDonalds was and is.  I ordered but was not allowed to sit inside. Outside there was no shade. It was about 530 and the sun was still brutal. There was nowhere to sit except the burning hot asphalt of the parking lot. I sat there sweaty and melting. The last 30 miles had taken me 6 hours and I used the energy of traveling 200 miles. Going against the wind was insane. All I can say is that there was nowhere I see that looked like a good place to camp. I looked in the ditch on the side of the road, if there had been shade there I might have considered it.

Then it popped into my mind! — A motel. That’s what I needed. I looked it up on my phone. Unfortunately, the only candidate was a Red Roof Inn, 17 miles west, in a city called Auburn. I was really out of my element here folks and I just needed a room to get out of the sun and to de-stress. I called the place and the girl said that she would hold the room for at the internet price, there was no fear of the joint being sold out before I got there. I told her I was on my bicycle and that I would be there as soon as possible.

I felt like I must have been crazy to get back on the bike and head back into the wind and the sun. But I did it. I poured on the power. I employed a tacking zig-zag approach to the route that enabled some relief at times. But man I can still feel the sun on me, burning and burning, and the wind pushing against me so. I was really fucking determined to get to this Red Roof Inn. This was a big deal. If I could just get there, faster faster.

Downtown Auburn, Indiana, at about ten minutes to 7pm on June 2nd, 2020– Photo by Todd Tracy For Odyssey X

Finally after zigging zagging through cornfields I finally got to a city. This was more of a normal city of thousands of people. Butler is considered a City but there are only hundreds of people there. Buy Auburn!, this was a real place. And the Red Roof Inn shared a parking lot with a WalmartSuprcenter, which had become my go-to place for supplies such as Cliff protein bars and Gatorade.

I walked into the lobby. The girl from the phone was there. She was surprised to see me in the condition I was in. Within a few minutes, I was in my room.

I showered right away. I found out in the shower that my rash had reached maximum terribleness. I had been sitting in the seat all day, conserving my energy. But I will just lay it out there; I was sweating and I literally peddle my ass off. Skin was actually missing. Because it was my ass I couldn’t see it directly so I took a picture to make sure I didn’t need to go to the hospital. There is a thing called saddle sores which can need emergency care. I wasn’t at that level quite yet but this was serious. I won’t share the picture here but skin was gone and it was really painful.

I was too tired to go to Walmart to get the special creams. I did anti-infection bacitracin cream which I believe saved me. I was way dehydrated and sunburned. I slept okay on my stomach with my ass up in the air and the air conditioner cranking. In the morning I had to leave the motel but I was not yet ready to hit the road. I figured I could go into Walmart and walk around buying bandages and energy bars. I was still recovering from the day before. But I was starting to learn from my mistakes.

My friend Greg sent me a link to an app called Windy which shows the direction of the wind and predictions for which way the wind will be blowing anywhere in the US. The wind was a major issue and I was so grateful that this was a possible solution. My buddy Kenny sent me some money for the motel so I didn’t need to worry about that expense. I gave my girlfriend in Fairfield a complete rundown.

When I left Walmart I wasn’t sure if I could even ride the bike the pain was that bad. One thing that I learned is that if I am experiencing pain I don’t want to soldier through it because I am causing more damage. Another thing I learned is that the wind is more powerful than me. I cant take on the wind. mother nature is more powerful than my body. My will is strong enough to be an actual danger. I couldn’t afford to fuck around out there. This was serious business.

Now I had to see if I could actually ride. I had purchased some new pantaloons at Walmart. I was upset that the trip was costing so much more than I had planned. There was good cloud cover that day — thank god. There wasn’t much wind either. I headed north to a town called Kendallville. It wasn’t too terribly far but it would put me back on my course. Auburn had been a little bit of a detour to the south. I stood up in the saddle. I dared not sit down. I was deathly afraid of getting saddle sores that would need surgery. I stood up and peddled all the way to Kendallville. I was still tired as fuck.

Kendallville, Indiana — photo by Todd Tracy For Odyssey X — June 2nd, 2020

In Kendallville, I got some drinks and headed over to the town park. There it was nice. I was in the shade, no one bothered me and I was able to organize all my stuff on a park bench. I had a plan of heading out into the country at about 6 or 7 seven when the sun was going down. I was still determined to make this trip happen if it was possible. If it wasn’t possible I wouldn’t hurt myself trying. I couldn’t take any more chances. I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes. This was serious business.

I slept on the park bench till about 6pm. My new goal was Indiana Dunes National Park, on the other side of the state. From there I would be able to see Chicago. And certainly, there would be no laws about taking a nap on the beach. So I could pedal all night. Get there in the morning and then just sleep the day away. Seeing the city of Chicago on a bicycle ride from Westport Connecticut would be a big notch on the chain if I could get there. My hand injury was starting to heal pretty well. I was able to ride with two hands again. I dared not sit, not even for a minute.

I headed out of Kendallville heading west. The sun was in my eyes at first but knew it wouldn’t be for long. I remember the gently rolling hills of Indiana. The state was quite beautiful. There were lakes and fishing spots. I kept going. Eventually, the sun went down. I have a picture of this sunset.