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All Night Long

I was ready to make progress. Nothing could hold me back. It was getting dark, I was still wearing sunglasses and there was one hundred miles to Chicago. I had decided not to muck around anymore. Life was too short.

The sun was setting over Indiana. I couldn’t sit down on my bicycle seat because of the extreme pain but I could stand on the peddles. There was absolutely no wind. There were many cool fishing spots and lakes and ponds that came into view. I came upon the Elkhart River. There was a wonderful spot called Mallard Roost. I assume that’s where the ducks hang out but I actually have no idea, all I know is that if I were a duck that is exactly where I would be.

There was some fear in the back of my mind about Indiana, the state as a whole, about traveling across it at night. I had no choice. My app was telling me that there would be no wind that evening. The sun was just about down, it took forever to set. I would peddle over another rolling hill and the sun would still be there, lingering, calling me. I was chomping at the bit. There were bugs. I noticed that if I stopped peddling I would get swarmed. I kept moving. I came upon some local boys/men fishing at a really cool lakeside village called Diamond Lake. At tractor pulled past me in the road. Wow, this was a place! It was green and fresh and organic.

I kept moving and wondering what the night would be like. There was another small town with trailers and a deli. How far would I get? Where would I sleep? My goal was Indiana Dunes National Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Supposedly, one can see Chicago from there, across the water, maybe they call it the Bay of Chicago. I didn’t know what I might run into. What if there were wild animals? What if I got a flat tire or the bike broke down out in the middle of nowhere? There were so many unknowns. The day before had been a disaster but I had survived and was still making time.

One thing was consistent, I never stopped making progress. I had detours like Ithaca. I had a day off here and there but only for extreme rest and recovery. Never once did I feel totally great and just sit there looking around. Every moment that I could ride, physically, I was moving — west. Or moving in a direction that eventually would allow me to go west.

And this evening was not an exception.

The road straightened out and leveled off. All of my lights and phone were completely charged and topped off. I was pumped up. I popped a vitamin B pill and my Nitric -Oxide pre-curser pills. I was ready for anything as long as I didn’t sit on the bike seat and peddle. I could lean my leg against the seat momentarily to rest but never sit and peddle. I have a really great bicycle. It is a Cannondale Cyclocross that I have set-up for touring. I use Italian touring tires that never go flat. I use slightly oversize tubes in there. The tires for this journey were 35 mils. The wheels are hand-built by a company in Grand Rapids called Velocity. They are cross country racing wheels, though I don’t actually race. I have minimal stuff. I have a waterproof Ortlieb rear-rack side-bag.

I began to kind of fly. My bike can roll along without much peddling. It’s possible for me to peddle for a moment and roll for a few minutes, under the right conditions. It’s also possible for me to pick up the pace for long periods of time. One thing I noticed was that out there in the dark the moon came out and the stars were very bright so I needn’t unnecessarily wear out my headlight. I could easily make out the road in the darkness. I could see radio towers far off in the distance. I could see light from a big city way to the north, they must have been South Bend, Indiana, which was the nearest location at this point.

I really started to make time. It’s hard to judge how fast one is traveling in the dark. You can’t really focus on the things you are passing. You have this odd feeling of motion. It feels like you are flying. you can’t really see the road. You know where the road is generally. The big fear under these conditions is hitting a pothole when you are not expecting it, at speed, under load. This circumstance could be a disaster. So if the moon ever went behind a cloud I would periodically turn on the light. If a car came upon me, which I could see approaching for miles, the lights would go on. But most of the time I was out there flying across the countryside in relative darkness.

There is a rhythm to the whole thing. There is a pace. A mood. A feeling. A sense. You get to know the road. You know if there are bumps. You know if there are holes. You know how fast you can go. You how long you can keep up the pace. You know how to pace yourself. You know how much energy you have left. You know when a coffee might be a good thing. You know when there is something out there in the darkness with you, watching you. Such as a Tasmanian Devil, otherwise known as a Feral Hog. I had some run-ins with wild pigs that night, of which I will elaborate upon in the book that I am publishing of the adventure. They are powerful and devilish and they will attack!

One becomes keenly aware of one’s surroundings.

At night there are less distractions. There is no wind or sun to slow one down. Your heartbeat becomes the soundtrack for the adventure. Your breathing becomes the lifeblood and connection to the universe. It is an intense feeling to measure yourself against vast spatial distances involving the moon and the earth and the stars and clouds and the surface of the earth. The air and the fields all come together. This the closest I have come to the sensation of flight. Riding the bike at night with the lights off provides a hypnotizing gyration that is similar to self-propelled flying. The laws of gravity slip away in the night.

And it is only when all drugs have left your system. When the lungs are trained to take in vast quantities of oxygen. When the muscles can make easy use of the workout. When the mind is sufficiently resolved upon a task. When there is just enough risk and danger in the air. When one can feel himself snatching success from the jaws of defeat. That one gets that feeling such as I was experiencing that night.

It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to elaborate for too long upon these notions, but to put the idea out there.

I pulled into a gas station. Wamo, that was a quick 40 miles. Back on it. Wamo, another 25.

I got to a town called Lakeville. This was my kind of town. The homes were very laid back. I could tell it was a kind of vacation spot for down-to-earth folks. I was getting a good feel for these types of things, like what kind of town I was in. I am happy to report that no two towns in America are the same. each town has an individual character. At night it can be difficult to discern but there are always the telltale giveaways. This town had no 25-hour gas station. That tells you something right there. There was a gas station at an intersection. I walked around the property looking for an outlet. The worst thing that could happen, in my situation, is that if my phone were to run out of battery power, I would be lost, until such time as that power could be restored. I was always on the lookout for a good place to charge up. I walked around to the back of the station and there was an outlet. There was a grassy patch of lawn right there. I was suddenly come over with the idea that I needed to lie down. I did so. I rested there for about 45 minutes and not one car drove by either of the streets I was at the corner of. That tells you something about a town as well. Do you feel comfortable lying down at a gas station at 3 in the morning in a town you have never been to or heard of? It tells you what a beautiful place America is. I got up at about 4 in the morning. It was time to move on.

Lakeville was such a nice town that I would love to return to, one day, specifically for its laid-back quality that would be awesome to see during the day. I calculated the mileage to a town called La Porte, which would be my staging ground for my assault on Indiana Dunes National park.

At this point, I had cleared more than a hundred miles that night and was still going strong. The nap had done me well.

I went up a little hill, over a small dale, and came upon a thickly wooded residential area. The smell of mint invaded my body, it was the most pleasant sweet smell I had ever experienced. I was in the woods now. No longer in open fields where I had spent most of the night. I had the feeling that the sun was just about to peekaboo out into the five o’clock morning. There was that very strange light early in the morning when shapes appear and disappear. Things morph out of the darkness and the world begins to wake up. The birds are very aware and respond to these moments before anyone or anything else.

All of the sudden the real Indiana was revealed to me. Indiana became the most interesting place I had ever seen or experienced. the earth was red. The hills and forests were breathtaking. I felt as though I had had the whole state to myself, as I had crossed it so completely by bicycle that night.

Fishkill, Indiana, just east of La Porte but west of Lakeville at 5am June 4th, 2020, after almost 3 weeks of riding my bicycle from Westport, Connecticut. Photo by Todd Tracy For Odyssey X