Day 61- Rensselaer, IN to Peru, IN Indian Trails Campground, Peru, Indiana After leaving Chris and Jodi’s hospitable home (not without having to return after 15 minutes because I luckily remembered having forgotten my e-book in the comfortable room I stayed in) I reached the Indian Trail Campground in Peru, Indiana which, although actually not far from Interstate 31, is located deep in a wood and has a very natural feel to it. On my walk through the wood I found a large pond almost completely covered in algae and an improvised home with an old camper almost covered in plants. A fence with a sign “Hell with the dog, beware of the owner” is meant to deter nosy visitors like myself. I find out that this place belongs to the two young people – well actually, the girl seems very young and the man seems too old to be her partner and too young to be her father ….- who delivered firewood to a camper next to my nice covered campsite. I walked up to them and, thinking they were putting the wood there for themselves, asked them if they planned to stay for the winter. The hesitation was only short and the girl said, ”Yes, we are, but not here. We live up over there in the wood.” “Doesn’t that hornets’ nest in the tree near the boats worry you?” I want to know. “No, they have so far only attacked other people – we think they know we love nature …” Ok, well! The manager of the campground is another surprise. She raised five children, her first one was born in Mainz, Germany, ^in the US army barracks in the 1960s. Her husband had an army career so he went back to Europe after spending some time in the US and having another 4 kids. In Germany, however, he had a German girl and a kid waiting for him. After the divorce he completely abandoned his former family and still lives in Germany, now retired. The lady remarried and now manages the large campground with her husband who is suffering from nose cancer probably caused by the fumes of the spray paint which he inhaled for 18 years. He is proud never to have used a sissy mask during his spraying! He later owned a gas station in the south before he moved to rural Indiana with his new wife to manage the campground … Very nice and friendly people, uncomplicated and very talkative – the lady even tried to remember some German! I’m right on my plan to reach Cleveland around the 18th or maybe a bit earlier …Sorry, the gps-file contains two days ... this happens if I forget to delete the previous day's data in the machine ...
Day 58 - Cambridge, Ill - Wenona, Ill, 08.09.2015 Sept 9
Just for the sake of honesty: After going north instead of south on Hway 18 after the town called Henry, I was a bit frustrated because of a detour but I was too stubborn to turn back and figured out a way to keep the "damage" small - after all, it was only 6 miles or about 10 km more ...
Michelle spotted me first. I was walking around the washrooms at the City Park a bit undecided because nobody had answered my phone call to the town hall and I wasn't sure whether to camp in the sheltered park. But she came up to me full of smiles and said:"You don't know about our showers, do you? You're walking the wrong way!" It turned out that her boyfriend, a retired teacher, had installed a bathroom with a shower just for cyclists in the building at the ball park/City Park in Wenona some years ago. She gave me the number code for the doorlock and I got to use a fantastic "cyclists only" bathroom!! What a service.
Michelle mentioned that she had thought that noone would be coming to stay here anymore for the year (yes, I am late in the season ....) and she told me stories about some of the more memorable "guests" they had met over the years. We had a laugh about the unhappy teenagers who were travelling with their parents on tandems all summer. What a "treat" for teens to see the back of their parents' heads for weeks during their summer vacation!
However, it turned out that all was not quite in order with Michelle. She is an active member of the HOPE organisation for a very sad reason: About twenty years ago, her seven-year-old son was abducted in front of their home on his way to church and then killed. She is wearing a steel ring engraved "For Ever Seven". She loves all her children but, she says, "had I known I would lose one in such a way I would not have wanted a single one!"
Michelle has raised four more children and at the age of 48 is a proud and happy grandmother of two. But that is not all. Her boyfriend - the one who built the cyclists' bathroom - just last Sunday lost his 26-year-old son in a car accident! This family has definitely had more than a fair part of suffering!
Setting up my tent, four teenagers came by and wanted to know about me. My answers to the obvious questions they didn't quite believe at first. "So you went through the glaciers in Canada - but you're only wearing a t-shirt ...!" So I showed them some of my equipment and they started to give me credit. After telling them a bit about my story and showing them how I cooked my meals they asked if I was famous. "Well, not really, but who knows," was my answer. They jumped at this and asked me if I would include them if I became famous. "Are you the first one to do this?", they asked. "Don't you see the many cyclists passing through here every summer?, " I asked back. "Well, in the summer we usually go away to see family". They were incredible.
I asked them to write down their names, age and one wish for their own lives or a comment and Kaily, 12, the youngest one in the group, asked me if I knew what a "Smore" was. When I said I didn't, she didn't believe me. "You travel in the US, you're what? Old? and you don't know what a "Smore" is???? So she wrote down the recipe: "Wish: For you to eat a smore. Ingrediants (sic) Grahm crackers, Marshmellows over a camp fire, Hershey chocolate." Okay, so I'll try that one in the near future! I was bold enough to ask them, "So, do you guys know what a "banana boat" is?" remembering the wonderful experience in Canada. They just laughed and yelled, "Of course! Who doesn't!!"
"But if you don't know a "Smore", what do you guys in Germany know? Do you know "Nike", "Converse", "Mac Donalds" ... Well, what was I to say? "Hey guys, of course! They're all international brands. It's just your food brands I don't know. And, by the way, don't tell me "Smore" is a brand. That's just a word you made up." "Noooooo!, everybody knows Smore.....". And so on ...
Kelsey, 14, is new at her school and is trying hard to get to know new friends. Nick, 15, tells her that everyone else is fake, they aren't really willing to become friends and she should stick with him, that's enough. And then he tells her the story of why he was suspended last year:
"All teachers are crap! Last year I was so fed up with Mrs. Smith, you know what I did? I caught a fly and squashed it just so much that I could stuff it into Mrs. Smith's Coke straw. And when she inhaled the fly it started to move and she spat the coke all over the place! That was great!"
Ethan, 15, dreams of becoming a Pro Car Driver or a mechanic (whatever comes first ....) and has his own set of problems. He has had several heart surgeries and has a pacemaker. His left ventricle is not completely developed. I asked him how he got along with it and it seems that he has found a good way to live with his disease. The pacemaker reduces his heart rate and he knows that when he gets his heart rate too high (over 86 - 90) he will suffer from exhaustion. He is open and very clear about his situation. A great boy. Although he is 15, too, he looks younger, surely due to a retarded physical development. I wish him all the best!
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Day 54 - Monona, IA to Dyersville, IA 28 Aug 2015
My most uncomfortable (riding) day so far - who said this was supposed to be fun!?!
90 km against the wind, constant rain and then first signs of an approaching conjunctivitis! My right eye has started to pain and is constantly wet. I covered the eye against the wind with my buff for the last 20 km but I am glad that from Monday I will have some rest from the wind when Niklas and I will be touring by car for a week. I have always known that my bifocal phototropic glasses are great but don't really shut out the wind enough. I can't stand lenses so I need correctional glasses. Bought closer fitting sunglasses today but I don't see as well .... A ver lo que pasa... as the Spanish say.
I have entered "Catholic" country, or so it seems. I came across the "first consecrated church" of Iowa in Petersburg and quite a few farm houses are decorated with statues of the Madonna ...
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church is a parish of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The church is located in Petersburg, Iowa, United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first church building for Saints Peter and Paul parish was constructed of limestone in 1868. The present church was completed in 1906. It was constructed in cut-stone in the Gothic Revival style. The interior contains an intricately carved high altar, dark woods and gold trim.
Completely wet, I checked into a motel in Dyersville today ...
Today I again had one of those short but significant encounters which either oppose or confirm what you seem to know about this country. When I came into the Super 8 motel - an international chain present in Europe, too - the manager handed me over to a lady in her early fifties to check me in. It turned out that I was her very first customer and that the manager was guiding her through the computer-based check-in procedure. Both were very concentrated on the process and later the manager thanked me for my patience - well, I wasn't going to run away ...
Later I met the manager in the cafeteria again and she told me that this was the fourth person she had trained for this position but that she had a good feeling about her. I asked about the previous people and she went through them all: there was a young man in his late twenties who left after a short time because he had something to do with dealing drugs; a 19-year-old decided to go back to school ("school" in the US includes higher education such as college) and the last one in the trio finally found a full-time job so here she was, training the fourth person in a row, hoping she would stay on a while.
"But it's nicer than working alone after my other job," she added. "Why, for you this is a part time job, too?" I asked. "Yes, I used to get by with this job here, but my health insurance has increased its rates so much that I had to get another job last year. I just didn't want to tap into my savings so I got a morning job at a school just across from where I live."
"That sounds good," I said and she replied, "Yes, it's easy work, I clean tables and help the kids with their morning meal."
Many people here seem to have more than one job, especially if they work in the service industry ...
And the issue of health insurance arises again and again in my conversations. In Montana, the state where everybody! seemed to be Republican and some openly expressed their hatred towards President Obama and, basically, any form of government at all, even mentioning the word "health insurance" automatically led to the exclamation "ObamaCare is killing our country, our way of life and the Health Industry!" (cf a previous post)
I close this evening with listening to a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra ... Life is great!
No pics, sorry
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