Dayton to Dublin, Indiana - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

May 18, 2014

Dayton to Dublin, Indiana

Bike rack at the Wrights' old shop in Dayton; graceful, practical and relevant
Heart 0 Comment 0
The bike shop where the Wrights spent their spare time pondering aeroplanes
Heart 1 Comment 0
The Wrights' workshop, copied from a single remaining photo
Heart 0 Comment 0

THE WRIGHT brothers, who gave the world aviation, also gave it bicycles. Or made them and sold them to Dayton. But I was right that there wouldn't be much to see at the bike shop they had once owned in Dayton. I wasn't even going to bother to stop but it was right beside my way out of town and it seemed silly not to.

Well, there's not much there. Henry Ford bought the contents decades back and shipped them to his own museum. What remains is the original building, doubtless more spick and span than way back then, with a handful of old bikes and some delightful photos and a reconstruction, based on a single surviving photo, of what the workshop had been like.

I feel sorry for Dayton. The Wright brothers did all their work there but they took their plane somewhere else to fly it. The Smithsonian in Washington then got its hands on it. And Henry Ford carted off the bike shop. Dayton does its best, an impressive best, to cling to the legend but it's all more tenous than the city must hope.

Actually, I wouldn't have got into the bike shop if I hadn't come by bike, I'm sure of that. The breathless Ranger in charge had only just ridden his own bike 10 miles to work there and the sight of a fellow spirit pressing his nose to the window was too much to ignore. He opened up half an hour early, recited rather than told me how the Wrights had asked dozens of cyclists how they turned corners so they could apply the same principles to flying, then locked the door again behind me.

There's an old road - the Old Dayton Road, indeed - that runs west out of the city. It has long said goodbye to the traffic that deserted it for the bigger and newer highway to the south and so, after a handful of grimps to test if legs and lungs were still working, it made for a couple of pleasant hours' riding.

The problem was that it didn't go on for ever. It joined the new road and the new road, chocker with traffic, sighed in surrender and gave up its generous shoulder just as it crossed into Indiana. It was a nasty surprise because it happened just on reaching Richmond and at just the point where everybody found it pressing to visit the black hole of supermarkets, alleged restaurants and other charms that went on for miles.

Anything had to be better than that - and what was really better was Lemonade Day. It was Lemonade Day in Richmond and the surrounding counties.

My first inkling came when I saw a cherubic boy of about 11 standing behind a home-made stall at the end of his garden, yelling "Wanna drink?" at me from several leagues' distance. I found him because I took the first promising side road and rode into a leafy suburb beside a hilly park.

I said I did and I stopped, handed over a dollar, told him to keep the 50 cents change, and looked down to see a fidgety little girl of maybe three at my knees.

"Why you dressed like that?", she asked.

"Like what?"

"Why you got...", and, stuck for the word, she mimed wearing shorts.

"Because I'm cycling."

I don't know if that satisfied her or if she had been distracted. She looked at me, still stepping from one foot to the other and tugging at her skirt, and then she said: "You from Mississippi?"

"No," I said. "Why?"

"You talk kinda funny."

There were stalls about every 200 metres right the way through town.

Lemonade boy, learning the tricks of capitalism
Heart 2 Comment 0

"It's to teach the kids business," the small child's mother told me with an expression that said "Me, I rather like your accent." "You'll see stalls on every street now."

I pointed out that her son already had the makings of a sharp businessman, having taken a dollar and given no change. The mother, not knowing I'd told her son to keep the change, gave him a look that said: "Capitalism has its limits, my boy."

"You want some change?", the boy asked sheepishly, quick to sense trouble and a way out of it.

"No, you keep it," I said again. And he did. But I bet he got an earful from his mother until he persuaded her of his honesty. Poor kid.

My day ended in Dublin, which an ambulance man told me came from the capital of Ireland or "because there's a hill outside town and they had to double up the horses."

He and I started talking because I'd pulled into their headquarters beside the road and asked, embarrassed, if I could camp on the small lawn. A quick call to the town council, which owned the land, and the deal was done. More than that, I had the run of the station, its kitchen, showers and office.

The shift leader, Pat, was the warm, smiling and reassuring man you'd want looking down at you once you'd been knocked off your bike. But I'd already found that road accidents were low on their list. So were fires: they went to maybe three a year. Mostly their work was heart attacks and sudden breathing trouble.

And heroin overdoses.

"A depressed area like this," Pat said, sitting in the chair in front of the computer on which he'd looked up my next day's route, "there's a big heroin problem. It comes into Cincinatti and it spreads out from there."

"But if it's distressed, how do they pay for the drugs?"

He shrugged.

Heart 0 Comment 0

"From the money they get from the government, I guess. There's no work on the farms here and the factories have gone, so there's nothing to do. And I suppose they take drugs just to pass the time at home."

"And what's the greatest risk?"

"Going into the house after you've had an overdose call. Your safety. You never know what you'll find, whether the dealer will be there, whether there'll be knives or guns."

"And has that happened?"

He shrugged in a world-weary way.

"Had a guy pull a knife on me once. We were taking him to the hospital and he decided he didn't want to go and he came at me with a knife."

"And do you get training for that?"

"Nope. But I got the knife off him. Police had been there and all but it seems like they didn't pat him down enough and they left this knife on him and he came at me with it. They're just deranged, some of them, crazy people."

Today's ride: 107 km (66 miles)
Total: 1,295 km (804 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0