We rolled out of Martinsville with some gusto, having had a shower and a decent meal the night before. Leading the way, I had a great coast going and used my momentum to confidently turn the wrong way. As a side note, there really is no wrong turn, though it might not seem like it in the short term. Needless to say, we pulled over so I could re-route. In a moment of clarity, I turned on the terrain feature on Google Maps. Sweet relief! We found a valley route going northwest on the map. Eager to end the rigors of hilly southern Indiana, we decided without hesitation to take it.
Sure, we had headwind, but this valley did not disappoint. Not only were the hills reduced to a long slow grade, the blacktop was fresh. So fresh, in fact, that the lines had not yet been painted on. I remember thinking, as we rolled through, that "...if you're gonna have headwind, *this* is the way to have headwind!" It was getting to be about midday, and I was feeling the familiar need to stop and rest and eat, so we found a nice spot in the shade by the side of the wooded road. We carefully parked our bikes lest they tumble into the ravine below. My bike tipped over a couple of times, much to my frustration, but, as I would later realize, I was still on the learning curve about good bike-parking technique. We still experience spills from time to time, but they are now, thankfully, few and far between.
Two sandwiches later, we were relaxing, and I was playing a little Clash of Clans. My clanmates happened to be talking about the eclipse, which is how I came to realize it was happening right over our heads at that moment. The ambient light became quite gray, almost like it was cloudy on such a sunny day, and gradually brightened up again, and that was that. Not long after that, we heard a distant droning sound that seemed to be getting gradually nearer. Slowly coming up the hill was the line-painting crew with a long string of cars behind it. Pure, unadulterated entertainment for us, and surely very annoying for the drivers in a hurry to get where they were going. We wrapped up our break and continued heading up the hill which was growing steeper while our water supply was dwindling. A look at the map indicated a township fire department, and my thought was "They're a fire department! They'll give us water..." At this point, we were still too shy to fill up our 10L water reservoir using water fountains or bathroom sinks. Not to mention the added weight since we were still pretty weighted down by all the food we left with from Indianapolis.
Relieved at reaching the top of the hill, we were a little disappointed that this rural fire department was uninhabited. We went across the street to the alternative: a convenience store. As we rolled up, I noticed a few older gentlemen sitting in chairs outside shootin' the breeze and also a sign on the door saying something about no public restrooms. I assumed this also meant we wouldn't be allowed to fill our water bottles. It turns out the restrooms were closed to the public due to the size of the septic system and building code restrictions. I proceeded inside with that sort of rude desperation. I wasn't going to leave without water, or at least knowing where to get some nearby. As it turned out, and this is very common, especially in rural areas, the convenience store was also a very busy "quick stop" restaurant. With my helmet on, I aksed the hurried gal working there, "Would you mind if I fill up our water bottles?" giving them a wiggle in mid-air to indicate their emptiness. With a tone of voice that said, "Of course!" she was very friendly, and I forget her exact words, but I enjoyed the cold air conditioning while I filled our bottles with some nice cold water from the water dispenser on the soda fountain. In fact, I believe I took the bottles back outside, we emptied them into our water reservoir, and I went back in for 2 more bottles full.
Ever so slightly rejuvinated, we made our way onward and, quite literally, upward. The steep hills were back, and passed, no doubt, with plenty of stopping, walking, and griping on my part. One interesting note, however, is that I noticed a mailbox painted a lovely aqua color, the color of a pool, with the last name Pool on it. Our water supply was, again, dwindling, so we made for the nearest possible fill up point, a Baptist church in the middle of nowhere. Not only was the water low and the temperature blistering hot, it was fixing to rain. We could see storms in the distance as we rode, and we knew the wind direction, so we knew it was also about time to seek shelter or else poncho up. We parked our bikes, I took the water bottles inside without any worries because my experience with people in churches is that getting water should be no problem whatsoever.
I entered the quiet building, admired the sanctuary a bit and noticed a jacket and some keys lying on a nearby table. An instinctive turn down the hallway toward the water fountain led me through a small library room where three teenagers were studying and doing homework. To nip awkwardness in the bud, I simply asked if there was a water fountain where I could fill our bottles, giving the bottles the essential, "they're empty" wiggle. I spotted the fountain in the adjacent hallway before even finishing the question, so it was really more to let them know, "Don't worry, I'm not weird, well maybe a little, but I'm just here for water." A person wearing a bicycle helmet in these parts has certainly come a long way as there's nothing but cornfields and the occasional house, or church, for miles and miles. "Yeah!" they said. "Just be careful though," the boy said. "It's got a bit of pressure." Heeding his warning, I gingerly pushed the bar to run the water, "You weren't kidding!" I said. I got our bottles filled with minimal mess, and as I left, I told the kids, "I might have to send my boyfriend in, if for nothing else than to enjoy the a/c for a little while!" No sooner than I returned to Adam and our bikes did it start sprinkling. Our first rain! "Well," we said, "what should we do?" Ultimately we decided to put the rain covers on our panniers and roll over to the awning and wait out the storm.
I'm not sure how to describe the next 45 minutes or so. It poured buckets, and we ended up being ministered by Pastor T.R. Pool. Remember the pool-colored mailbox? Pastor Tim was very enthusiastic, and I didn't get a chance to ask him if that neat looking mailbox I saw a ways back was his or not. He talked for the entirety of the storm, and I really did enjoy hearing his story, but once I saw that he was holding a few pamphlets behind his back, I realized it was not so much about sharing stories as much as it was about trying to get us to join his church. It really put a damper on the conversation for me. By the time the storm was over, I was really ready to move on from this place. Suffice to say his style of ministering did not resonate positively with me. I can't blame Pastor Tim if his ministering and my faith choices weren't compatible.
A clear and beautiful, hot and breezy afternoon followed the storm, and the next several miles, again, passed by relatively uneventfully, although the flat terrain was a very welcome change. Before arriving at the tiny town of Stilesville, we had been debating whether to push it to Bainbridge. By Stilesville, we would have ridden 23 miles that day, and Bainbridge would be another 20. We decided we would at least stop at the Dollar General to fill our water reservoir. I am usually the lucky one who gets to go inside and enjoy a pinch of air conditioning and fill up on water. So in I went and came out with not only water but also some snacks and food. We were getting low on protein rich foods, and I knew that's what we needed. Adam had wanted peanuts, and I decided against the peanuts, opting for peanut butter instead and when I came out, I said, "Well, I didn't get peanuts, but I think you're gonna like what I got instead." Two cans of vienna sausages to have as protein snacks, one of which we demolished in probably less than 94 seconds or so. After that began a life spent eating peanut butter at every meal and snack time.
The hour was getting late, we were tired, and I was beginning to feel fatigue in a few areas. We just kept sitting outside in the parking lot, enjoying not bicycling for a spell. As time wore on, and we continued to enjoy not riding our bikes, we decided to relocate behind the building where we found a relatively secluded spot that was flat and flanked by a massive cornfield. We closed the night by pitching the tent after a smidge of dinner, whipped up on the campstove. It was pasta with soup for sauce (powdered soup packets), and probably a can of vegetables. I was able to charge my phone on the campstove and get just enough reception to make my attacks in Clash and bid my clanmates goodnight, still being vague about our location, though one friend in particular, I'd call him a friend, was wanting more specifics because he wanted to follow along on our journey on the map.
We slept without the rainfly, as per the norm in those sweltering days and sticky nights, and we indeed slept well but not long. It was the first day we'd put in fair mileage. It was good, and we were looking forward to our potential arrival in Bainbridge the next day. The alarm was set for an hour and a half before sunrise, and we packed right up and rolled out quite a while before first light, and I believe it was our fastest packout before or since. We decided to stop for breakfast after a ways. I had seen a lake or large pond on the map that I figured we could stop by to enjoy some views while we noshed. So in the dark of morning, we pulled over at a large pond, parked the bikes, and just as we had gotten all the breakfast supplies out and were about to light the campstove, dawn was breaking, and we heard a man say very sternly, "You know this is private property right?" We politely indicated that we didn't and, given our loaded bikes, mentioned that we just pulled over to have some breakfast, leaving the conversation open for the chance that he might realize we meant no harm and would allow us to enjoy our breakfast by what turned out to be his pond (or one that he shared with the neighbors, it was never clear.) He was firm in wanting us to leave, so we obliged, and, not wanting to disturb any other homeowners by accident, I asked if he knew of any public parks in the area. He said none that he knew of. "Okay, thanks," we said. I smiled with a twinge of disappointment as we packed up and continued biking. Hungry, not hilly, but windy.
A short stretch brought us to an intersection with a state highway where there was a triangular patch of grass with a tree or two. We didn't see anything indicating that it was private property, an odd place for a picnic, at 7 am, no less, but we parked again, pulled out the breakfast spread, again, and I set to making oatmeal and coffee as Adam watched the skies and repeatedly warned me that clouds from the west were bringing rain. I was really focused and insisted that we still had time, but how wrong I was! It began to pour, and we had no choice but to scurry. It was a moment of good teamwork as Adam hovered over the already going campstove wearing his poncho while I clumsily put up the rainfly. I grew more than a little frustrated, and became overly stern, to say the least, but in the end, I got it pitched, trying to enjoy the downpouring. We moved the breakfast spread under shelter and enjoyed our coffee and oatmeal, a little wet, but certainly not soaked. The rain lasted a good while, and I remember joking that we did it right by putting the rainfly up after it started raining. We sat and watched traffic go by, listened to some music that someone in a house adjacent was blasting, and as the downpour turned to a sprinkle and faded away, we dried out the tarp and the rainfly and packed everything up to continue our trek to Bainbridge. It was a beautiful and mostly relaxing morning, and at the end of it all, not 3 miles down the road, I noticed a nice looking public park with a pavillion and everything. This would not be the last time we noticed something that would have been nice if we'd just pedaled a little farther.
The day's ride passed rather uneventfully, until the very end of it, of course, when we were greeted by the neighbor's barking, fun loving dog as we, drenched in sweat, pushed our bikes up one last steep and slidey gravel hill to our destination in Bainbridge. We did bust out a few Reno 911 quotes as we passed Reno. We also stopped for a pretty serious peanut butter consumption session, and I did consider breaking this leg of the ride into 2 days due to tired muscles, but with a little huffing and puffing, we made it through one last zinger from the terrain to end up walking across the finish line, wholly ready for a nice week of camping.
To describe our fatigue, I'll leave you with this: when we arrived, at about 4:30 pm, we didn't even notify our hosts, my friend Rachel's grandparents, of our arrival. They'd been expecting us though, so we had an oportunity the next morning to greet Ed with a little more pep.