Do You Believe in Dairies? (USA Day 28)
I watched the sun rise over a field of soy, I think, planted hastily by desperate farmers because the flooding has left no time to grow corn. Yesterday’s self-imposed sloth had done just what we wanted it to: we felt fresh-brained and ready to continue north.
Due to the uncertainty of where we’d stay tonight (we wanted to get to Monterey, but didn’t know of anything actually in Monterey) we left early, planning to make calls as we went, and if that didn’t work we’d arrive as early as possible in order to find somewhere to pitch our tent with permission. The Nickel Plate Trail runs north of Kokomo all the way to Rochester (about fifty miles) meaning that most of the day was offroad, the sun dappled behind shady trees and verges, the tarmac ahead of us skittering with chipmunks and rabbits and regular puddles of overripe black raspberries. The going was good: miles ticked over just as they’ve done in recent days, and before we knew it we’d reached Peru. No, not that Peru. That’d be quite the morning of cycling.
Despite repeated calls to Monterey’s fire department and Methodist church, the former eventually answering with bewilderment and audible shrugs, the latter never getting past answerphone, we were no closer finding a place to stay. Then, after stopping to stroke a very excellent roadside cat, we rounded the corner to find ourselves blocked by a seemingly infinite goods train rolling past at half a mile per hour. We cursed our luck, as did the cyclist who rolled up behind us. He turned out to be Maurice, a kind gentleman, interested in our laden packs, in training for a big 100-mile ride and heading home, to…Monterey.
Great! He knew the area! Excited, we asked where might be good to pitch a tent, and he suggested his farm. We jumped at the offer, arranging to meet him back at his place as soon as we could get there, and the anticipation of the day’s oncoming stress leapt onto the last carriage of the train, never to be seen again.
The next thirty miles were a grinning blur. With accommodation sorted until Chicago and the miles proving no challenge today, we knocked them out with Bradman-esque reliability. A quick lunch at Wendy’s (vouchers 1&2 exhausted) led us into the last section, back on Indiana’s flat farm grids, this time with a blustery crosswind and an enormous sky filled with the most gargantuan black cloud I’ve ever seen.
Of course, we had to cycle right into it. The rain held off until the last three miles, when it deposited a metric basploosh right on our heads. By the time we arrived at Maurice’s farm we were soggy as cooked leeks, but not so dazed to fail to notice the sheer size of the place. This dairy farm had sheds for 3000 cows and a sort of visitor’s centre with lounge, kitchen and shower, which Maurice made clear was ours for the night. Forget camping – we had a house! But the hits kept on coming: his wife had made us spaghetti and her friend had baked cookies, the coffee maker was already on and Amy found a massage chair. We sat, chatting to Maurice, Connie and Charlotte about dairy farming, dangerous American cities and Downton Abbey (the three Ds) before withdrawing to our private quarters for a quite excellent sleep.