Raincoat Hokey Cokey (USA Day 29)
“Cycle across the USA,” they said. “It’ll be hot, though,” they said. “Hot and dry. Pack suncream. Leave those waterproof socks at home.” They said a lot of things. Some day, they will pay.
The American Midwest has never seen so much rain. Lake Michigan has risen by either six inches or two feet, depending on who you ask. The Mississippi has been permanently flooded for the last three months. Pretty much every farmer’s field is flooded, as we’ve seen, which means a massive corn crisis is on the horizon: that’s ethanol for petrol, food for livestock, syrup for…everything, just gone next year.
With this leviathan of unrest looming over the horizon, it is perhaps trite to try to measure our saddle discomfort and wet feet against a whole region’s climatic and economic collapse, but I’m doing it anyway. I really wish it would stop raining. Or, if it’s going to rain, I wish it would just come down steadily and quietly for a period of hours, rather than all at once (and the kitchen sink) followed by blazing sun, then random wind, then torrential rain again. After our longest stint of continual cycling since a rest day (a week ago in Columbus, if you’re not keeping count), I’ll spare you the details here but suffice to say the protracted dampness is, ahem, rubbing us up the wrong way. Thank goodness for chamois cream.
After bidding goodbye to Maurice, we set off for our penultimate day before Chicago. Today was long and fractured, with more costume changes than that Bucks Fizz performance. Jacket on, hood on, phone away, lunch, hi-vis on, sleeves up, jacket off, suncream on, another lunch, jacket on, jacket off, etc. The oddest part was that the 70-or-so miles weren’t really the issue. Our legs are used to that by now. What we found tough was the boredom, the frustration of never quite getting where we wanted before the weather turned on again, and those bloody rubbing saddles. Not literally bloody. Ooch.
About fifteen miles south of Gary, Indiana, the most dangerous city in America if you listen to various locals, a young man with a skateboard approached us asking if we’d seen “a black guy, buncha tattoos.”
“I’m supposed to meet him here. I walked all the way from Gary. Could you throw on a hotspot so I can call him?”
We couldn’t. I was in the process of frantically searching all seven of my four bags for our power bank before we, too, ran out of battery.
“Ah damn,” he said, angry, and then threw his skateboard into the woods.
We spent the rest of the journey trying to work out what exactly had happened there. The best we could figure was that he’d come all this way (without actually skateboarding, because he couldn’t) to return the skateboard to his friend, only to find no friend in the pre-agreed location. He then left the skateboard in a safe place (a tree) and returned home, to inform his friend of which tree. If you can reconstruct a more coherent model of the meaning of these events, let me know in the comments.
We’d arranged to camp in the garden of a WarmShowers host, but when we arrived they announced that the grass was waterlogged, and we’d more be swimming than camping, so did we want to come inside. Well, we didn’t let them ask twice. It was the most warm, wonderful evening, and now we’re only a day from Chicago.