Nowhere in particular to West Lafeyette - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

May 14, 2014

Nowhere in particular to West Lafeyette

NOBODY found me in the night. Given the weather, they'd have been crazy to try. Or very determined. There were puddles round my tent and enough overnight rainwater in the pots and pans to make half a cup of coffee.

I sat there, drinking it in the silence, still hot from the day before, and watched a plane break through the clouds as it headed for Columbus. On board, sitting near the back, were 18 married Round Tablers increasingly anxious that everything that happened in Las Vegas really should stay in Las Vegas.

I think I'm in Amish country. Certainly there are yellow diamonds on poles beside the road with silhouettes of their buggies. But, curiously, not of the horse, as though the Amish had denounced their use as well. The man at the first house along the road looked Amish. I thought perhaps Mennonite, because I'm not sure how to tell the difference and I didn't like to ask.

He didn't wear the blue overalls and flat hat I've seen in Pennsylvania but he did have the distinctive brown eyes and an effort at a chimney-brush beard.

"So, g'morning to ya," he said with a wave as he stepped off the veranda of a doorless house he appeared to be repairing. He can't have been too keen to get on with his work because he was out to see me long before I reached the door. "Come for water, have ya?"

I said I had, that I was dry, and offered two bottles.

"May take just a moment," he said as we walked to the side of the house. "Pump's kinda getting on a bit."

It started firing with a single pull, though. Which confused me even more because I thought Amish foreswore all mechanical help. Not that I was going to complain as I watched the rusty mechanism lift and then fall as some unseen works lifted water from the depths.

"Could taste a mite rusty, d'ya mind that? Comes up steel pipes, see?"

It didn't taste rusty. It tasted wonderful.

I asked out of politeness but also from interest what he did on the farm.

"Oh, got some cattle," he said airily. "Milkers for the most part."

"Quite a herd?"

"Mebbe six or seven," he said, in that way that all farmers have, as though they just couldn't remember how many they'd bought and how many they milked each morning. Getting details out of a farmer is a lifetime's work. So were distances. He knew how far it was to the next small town but not to the one beyond it. I got the impression he had never heard of it.

"Don't do that much travellin'," he said with a mixture of explanation and embarrassment.

The hippie's hills hadn't yet ended. I had an hour's worth of them, as far as a small country store to the left of a T-junction.

"Now it'll get flatter," the owner said, surprised that she had a customer so soon after taking the bolts off the door. She'd only just put the coffee on.

I sat outside and drank. I watched pick-ups arrive, driven by men who could have been auditioning for the Village People. One by one they passed with a "Howya doing?", to which I used to try saying "Well, I still have most of my teeth and the scourge of dandruff seems just a distant memory...", but they don't care. I have now resolved to Talk American, for which I have compiled a short list of useful phrases I have picked up. In case you want to join in, here they are:

1: Howya doin'? (No answer is expected, still less sought to this question and to try it merely creates confusion.)

2: Sure thing. (This can be used in all circumstances, such as "Thank you" - response "Sure thing".)

3: Way to go! (This appears to make no sense at all, and I doubt that it does, but people shout it as you pass, so I assume that at least they know what they're on about.)

I have another two and a half months here so I'll let you know what other advances I make in talking like a local.

The shop woman and, eventually, the hippie were right. It has suddenly become a lot flatter. Not that that stopped my having a decent struggle up to the campground above West Lafayette. That's the town I thought I'd enjoy for a day off had I not conked out last night. But lord knows what I was thinking of because excitement in West Lafeyette is watching cars turn right on a red light.

The people here at the campground were so astonished to see me - to see anyone - that they let me stay for nothing. I am now hiding in my tent because, yet again, thunder is crashing and the sky has fallen upon me.

Way to go!

Today's ride: 54 km (34 miles)
Total: 895 km (556 miles)

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