One rest day the hard way, please

Today was an excellent day. 54 short miles from Zanesville to Columbus, Ohio, and we relished every one of them. Rolling into your destination before noon means that you have effectively bicycled your way to a free rest day. If our sleeping space was open to us (there’s an art show in the church we’re staying in) I can guarantee you that the nappers would outnumber the waking. It isn’t an unusual occurrence with this bunch.

I’m starting to get these weird memory lapses that involve forgetting entire stayovers and towns that we stop in. On a physiological level I’m sure it has something to do with my brain redirecting energy towards vital functions like breathing and blinking so that I don’t fall into an exhaustion induced coma after each ride. It’s a fair tradeoff as far as I’m concerned, but alarming all the same. Szymon had to explain to me the layout of the building and the surrounding area so that I could remember what Zanesville was – a town that we left less than 8 hours ago as I write this post. It is a sort of bizarre experience, sleeping in a different building each night with only short glimpses of the locale to fill in the blanks along the way. It isn’t uncommon that I wake up entirely disoriented and uncertain of where I am. Usually when that happens the feeling fades as you take in your surroundings, identifying familiar objects or remembering what was happening immediately before you slept. If you are able to sleep deeply the moment that you close your eyes and you have no identifiable objects to rely on other than your own backpack and sleeping bag, the feeling tends to linger.

Today was the first day that we got to ride on a flat surface since leaving New Jersey on day… 2 I think it was. It was incredible. Our bicycles became something greater than themselves, carrying us effortlessly across the types of roads that can only exist between two cornfields. As we close one chapter (Mountains: A Horror Epic) and begin another (Oh Yeah, This is Why We Live in the Midwest), these are the things that stand out in my mind:

High-Voltage Power Lines: Having never come across lines of this sort before, riding beneath one for the first time was an unusual experience. The crackling sound that is produced as they usher lightning from one village to the next is quite enticing and I would’ve liked to stop and observe them more closely, but I’ve heard that they deliver cancer almost as effectively as they do electricity. It was kind of a treat rolling by them when we did cross their path, though.

Nacho Cheese Smell: One of the great mysteries of the natural world, there exists in these lands some agent of smell that creates what can only be described as an exact, one-to-one, chemically identical smell to bright orange 100% synthetic nacho cheese. It comes and goes as it chooses, available to be smelled at the top of mountains in Pennsylvania as well as in cities with names like Famousnameville or Naturephraseburg. Baffling and delicious, this elusive scent is a real treat for the hungry biker.

Roadkill: America’s new top export. Although the original settlers preferred trapping and shooting their game, today’s Americans know that the automobile is by far our most vicious and effective weapon. Not until you’ve seen the semi-rare bluejay lying defeated on the side of the road two days in a row or a rabbit that has been turned entirely inside out by the pressing force of even a lowly mid-sized sedan can you begin to understand the power that we each wield over the lesser beasts. And the smell will help you to understand it, too. Roadkill smells bad when you’re in a car going 45 and you’ve got the fan venting in air from outside. Roadkill smells like angry death that has been left out of the refrigerator for too long when you’re on a bike breathing heavily pushing 8 up a hill.

Tomorrow we ride for Indiana, and when we arrive, we shall all be known as Centurions. Let the 100+ miles of glory commence. After much sleeping and eating tonight.

Comments (4)
  • Matt Cillick says:

    Memory lapses on stayovers will happen, but you would be surprised how many things you’ll remember a year or two from now. Last year I managed to find many of the stayovers from 2 years ago by pulling up town maps and trying to remember turns and landmarks.

    Yes flats are great, until the headwinds come (normally South Dakota). Enjoy any tailwinds you happen to get.

    Good luck on your century (I think it’s the longest day on the ride at around 110 miles). There should be showers waiting for you at the stayover there.

    Matt

  • Mary Chlopek says:

    Hi Jordan,
    I’m loving the fringe benefits of a flat ride as they play out in your detailed notes. I trust you will rediscover your love of the plains, and by the time you reach the rockies, you will all laugh in the face of mountain biking. Having spent the night in Eastern Oregon pondering just where that overpowering burnt hair smell came from, I think nacho cheese sounds like a delight for the senses…if only it were stronger than the smell of road kill. Good luck with your 100 mile days!

  • Colette Whicker says:

    hey boy…mom here….as i read your entry i am reminded of the words of your great grandmother Daniel…she was quick to return a keen look of scorn at those who belittled the ‘plain’ nothing but corn and soy beans of the midwest….she said it was more beautiful than any quilt that she had ever labored over…in the coming days i should guess that you will come to a clear understanding of her love and appreciation of the patch work effect of the farmers efforts….stay safe…big day tomorrow!

  • Lisa Seekins says:

    Hi Jord! Just completing the circle of sisters. I would love to know what/where/when things are happening in Sioux Falls. Someone let me know if possible. I don’t want to pass up the chance to hug your neck while you’re here. Just a little word of warning though. . . although SF is a beautiful city, between here and Rapid City, there isn’t a whole lot of anything. FLAT DRY NOTHINGLNESS. Until you get to the Bad Lands. They were one of your Grandpas favorite things about SD. If I tried to define their beauty, I would fail miserably. It’s a satisfying consolation to many hours of nothing but the road. I would almost bet you would be hoping for a PA hill to break up the flatness. Be safe,have fun. Love, Aunt Lisa

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