The backroads were rather serene, and the covered bridges did not disappoint. As the afternoon wore on and we were wearing thin, we decided to pull over for a peanut butter snack (Peanut Butter Powwerrrrr!). After being chased by someone's pack of dogs, we pulled over in a patch of shaded grass next to some corn with a house not too far away. I had just gotten my solar panel set up and was sitting down to some spoonfuls of peanut butter when a car passed, stopped, backed up, and the driver, an older gentleman, got out and came around the car. "I've got a suggestion for you, if you want it," he said cheerfully as he approached. "Oh great," we both thought, figuring his suggestion was going to be getting the hell off his property. Even though we had not yet encountered anyone so brute...paranoia still ran high in our minds. We were pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be quite the opposite. I later asked, and he said that it was not his property and with a wave of his hand assured us no one would care that we were sitting there. What a relief to my nerves! The conversation proceeded with all the usual, "where you from, where you going, where you going tonight" banter. "Do you need some water?" If you've been reading our blog at all, you know that of course yes, oh my god, do we need water.
Now that we have enough experience with it, I feel at least somewhat qualified to offer advice on the maintenance and replacement of the sliders on the tent zippers. Not sure what I'm talking about exactly? What if I asked you, "Does your zipper not shut after you've zipped it?" If you answer yes to that, then it might be time to replace your sliders. If you're still not sure what I'm talking about (it's okay, I didn't either 20 months prior to this writing), then read on, and I'll teach you as best I can. There's all kinds of advice out there on gear, much of it probably better than mine, but this is my (our) blog. I do what I want. In fact, others have already put in considerable effort to educate the masses on the ins and outs of zippers, so I'll be borrowing some of their material for this post. No need to reinvent the wheel, I suppose.
We rolled out around noon the day we left Bainbridge. Still not ready to chill out about "start times" and "distance covered," I was kinda stressed about this departure time because everything I'd read about bike touring was all "up before dawn," "pedaling by sunrise," and "50 miles a day, easy." So far, our experience did not add up to this, and, being how I am, I thought it meant that everything about how I was doing it was wrong. We don't need to hash out my psychology, but I will say that a part of me tends to be a rules-follower. I've been known to follow a recipe, even when I think the recipe is flawed and am then disappointed when I didn't follow my instinct instead. I am learning to let go of the anxiety that, for me, comes with going against certain grains. I'm continuing to realize that life really has no rules, and you're probably better off following your own...or not even sticking to those, actually. You are allowed to sleep in, you can ride as much or as little as you want, and lunch doesn't have to be eaten at noon.
When you're on the road for long periods of time, the ability to perform your own bike maintenance really comes in handy. I've certainly had to adjust my derailleurs and brakes a fair amount of times, changed more than a few flats, replaced some broken spokes and spent more time than I'd like truing a wheel that just wouldn't stay true. More recently I can add building a whole new rear wheel and derailleur installation to that list.
Building a bicycle wheel is no small task that requires a good amount of patience and, when you're out in the sticks, a little improvisation. Now you might be wondering why someone in my situation would go about such a task in the first place, so perhaps a little backstory is in order. The stock rear wheel on my bike has had almost daily problems since we first set out. Our first night out I found the bike perilously unstable, but didn't have time to look into it and just assumed it was a complication of riding with a lot of gear. After over a week of riding like that, I discovered that several spokes had worked their way out of their nipples leaving the wheel unsupported in some areas. This left the wheel permanently bent and almost impossible to true.
Things don't always have to be simple and slapped together while you're camping. This extremely sweet dessert, inspired by classic campfire s'mores, can add something special to the evening if you have the time and resources to make it. It's more complicated than the typical "roast marshmallow, smoosh between two crackers" fare, but it's not quite as complex as you might think. It uses the same ingredients as s'mores with a few additions, and the bit of added effort makes a mighty difference. You just might feel fancy enough to put on your least dirty clothes and eat it with your pinky up.
Regarding the egg: I know it's sometimes hard to keep eggs while you're travelling and camping. I have substituted a mashed banana with great success, but if you don't have a banana (or the egg) (or the milk, powdered or otherwise) on hand, you're better off just having regular old s'mores. The filling ends up being taffy-like, and while delicious, it's hard to get a clean and simple spoonful.
The next 7 days were pretty much pure bliss straight out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. The property where we camped is that of my best-good-friend's (Beastie Back Eastie...referenced in Poop Story) grandparents and is a beautiful wooded piece of land where their house is tucked in amongst the trees, and they have a sizeable clearing where they allowed us to camp. Having never met Adam, and me just once, it was very kind and generous of them to let us stay. The weather treated us to drier 80 degree days and 65 degree nights, but the mosquitos did not get the memo to relent. No matter. While what we were doing was still primitive camping: digging holes for poo, filtering creek water, cooking over the campstove, it was an absolute luxury to not have to setup and strike camp everyday let alone find a place to camp. Though we were still adjusting to life outside, at least those elements were eliminated for awhile which allowed us much more leisure time and relaxation.
That June, before we'd left Indianapolis, Beastie Back Eastie had invited us to join her family on their inaugural week-long camping trip held at a property near her grandparents' at the creek. That trip was full of fun activities and social interactions, swimming, skipping rocks, fishing, roasting marshmallows, hiking, the works! She and I even took a girls-only swim down the creek a ways during which I saw my first ever bald eagle. It was nice to be back at the creek again to quietly appreciate its beauty and serenity. I often found myself wondering what memories BBE had of this spot or that.