I keep getting surprises thrown at me as I pedal west. Preconceived notions of people and places get thrown out the window on one hand. On the other, I’m noticing a lot of shifts in the way I perceive the world and how I problem solve after being on the bike this long. Cruising through Amish Country was a day that highlighted both.
I’m starting to dial in the food intake. I’ll start the day with a banana and energy bar, then ride 10 or so miles and get a big breakfast. I taper off from there. I’m always hungry no matter how much I eat, but this seems to be working ok now. So on this day, I had the first breakfast at the camp site and then rode into Angola, where I intended to stop the night before.
But not before seeing a pontoon for sale with no trailer:
Further down the road I saw a local who really wanted to show off the caboose they acquired in front of their double wide trailer on their “estate”:
And then it was into Angola. I stopped at a Speedway for some Gatorade and energy bars and some locals started talking to me. I was just catching a breather when they came out with a Gatorade and a $20 bill. This kind of unexpected generosity is so heartwarming and it keeps me going more than people realize. I always do my best to show the gratitude I feel.
Then this guy told me where to get breakfast in between scratch offs:
I headed into town, and Angola went epic in their town square:
With a full stomach I pushed west over long, straight stretches of ripply county roads. The wine was seriously starting to push against me but I realized I didn’t care that much.
One interesting thing about riding several days in farm country is that I get to compare everyone crops. This farm was doing far better than others around it:
I wanted to get sprayed by one of these:
The heat had been manageable, but it’s starting to climb into the mid 80s. I’m definitely starting to feel it.
Up the road I saw these, which looked like trailers that have been skinned:
I’m telling you, it’s the small things out here. I’ve said it before and I’ll surely say it again. I get really excited by slight disruptions to rural farmland.
I made it into La Grange, where I stopped in the park around Town Hall to eat lunch.
There were some cub scouts who were very emphatic about selling chicken, but I wasn’t buying.
Just as I was finishing up and ready to hop back on the bike the sky looked ominous and I felt rain coming. With all the wind I wasn’t crazy about the added insult to injury but after the rain south of Philadelphia and the treacherous C&O I didn’t care too much.
Sure enough, within minutes of me peddling on, the rain came. And it left just the right sheen to highlight a patch of road crap:
I had been too locked into the zone to realize what it was. But you know how there are oil stains on the road from cars?
Horse shit is the oil stain in Amish Country.
I had heard I’d see Amish buggies, but I ended up passing upwards of 20 or so. And each of them had a horse pulling them that needed to lighten the load a bit. I tried my best to weave in and out of it, but eventually I just didn’t care. I had miles to push in the rain to get me to my stop for the night in Elkhart, and I was having an authentic experience amongst the excrement.
I started thinking about how buggies effect the local economy. Where do buggie drivers get their carriages? Do they make them by hand? Are there artisanal buggie builders? Are they passed down in the family? Soon I had an answer:
A buggie dealer! I got truly excited about this, in no small part because I could take a breather under their awning hoping in vain for the rain to die down.
I did notice something odd in the road. With the heavy rain and bumpy roads a lot of water was popping up and making puddles. All the puddles had a lot of white bubbles in them, almost like dish soap or something. Deductive reasoning kicked in. It wasn’t soap. It was horse piss. And it was spraying all over my legs and bike along with the rain water as I pushed on. I just laughed it off.
I made it in to Shipshewana, which felt like an Amish metropolis. Lots of flea markets and stores selling Amish wares. And corn, apparently, with a suggestive raccoon:
And this is the last picture of the day, for two reasons. First, rain and my phone don’t play well together, as I painfully learned coming out of Philadelphia. Second, just as I was getting through Shipshewana I made it to Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, which took me about 30 miles from Shipshewana south to Goshen, then north to Elkhart.
This trail was sublime. Maybe part of it is that it’s relatively new in good condition, but I think more so it had to do with being a long, wet, rainy stretch of trail that came along right when I needed it. It was another period on this tour where I completely blushed out on my bike. I was getting soaked, grooving to some ’88 Dead, and pushing 20mph. I was completely caught in the moment, which is exactly where I want to be. The rain kept the masses away, and I had dozens of miles all to myself. I realized how much stronger my legs are, how much better of a cyclist I’ve become since leaving New York, and how there was nowhere else I’d rather be.
It felt like a great becoming. Touring Jeff has kind of become the Standard Jeff. It would feel strange at this point to go back to a straight life, going to work every day with the same traffic and same roads and the same work. More than ever I’ve adapted to endlessly adapting. My daily circumstances are forever shifting with the only constant the revolutions of my pedals under me. It had been building all along, but on Pumpkinvine, I was consumed by the realization of it. I decided I wanted to keep that beautiful trail for myself. No pictures, just the memories of the feeling.
The trail ended in Elkhart, where I met Luke, my host for the night. I was his first Warmshowers guest and he did a fantastic job on his first night hosting. I did laundry and had a nice bed for the evening, and we went down the street to Iechyd Da Brewpub for a beer and pizza. Both were phenomenal.
I crashed early and woke up early, which is becoming the standard for me. But before I left I got a beautiful view of the St. Joseph River in the morning: