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

May 13, 2014

Steubenville to nowhere in particular

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LOOK, I DON'T mean to moan but if yesterday was hard then today it was disastrous. And I won't moan because the countryside today was glorious, precisely what I came for. The price, of course, was that I had to climb repeated hills to see it. Steep up, steep down. Over and over again. And repeat until the end of the day.

In the end I just gave up. I was bushed, hungry and dehydrated. I stopped at a crumbling house set back from the roadway on the left and up a rutted mud path. It had a leaning grey-white veranda and window curtains that may once have strained soup. The plan was to wobble my knees and ask in a failing voice if there might be some water. And maybe a place to camp.

How things used to be
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I rehearsed my role to perfection, then hammered on the door. I worried it might fall off its hinges but it held. There was no answer.

I walked once round the house, then through a graveyard of tractors and farm machinery, past a sleek and mildly inquisitive black dog that wagged its tail in a fenced enclosure, finally joined by a furry cat that didn't look as though life entailed much fending for itself. They and a glistening horse in a meadow suggested people keener on animals than themselves.

But, no, they weren't there. I'd seen an idyllic little meadow where I was prepared to camp without permission but I felt happier setting up in that moment between being able to spot poison ivy and being too dark for anyone to see me. America is a land of No Trespassing signs and I haven't got the hang of wild camping here yet.

And so I sat on the rocking chair in the porch, making friends with the cat while willing it to keep a distance. And then I shrugged and went back to the meadow and set up camp and ate nothing, because I had nothing, and drank just a drop of water, because I had barely any. It took ages to cool down. And when the thunder started, I knew not only that I was safe from discovery and that I'd recover at last, but that I could leave out my pots and plates and have a supply of rain water for the morning. In which I wasn't disappointed, because it rained all night.

A slender, bearded man a couple of hours back, who'd jumped out of his car and shouted "You wanna waste some time, man?", told me, with the air of an only partly repentant hippy, that "The good news, man, is that it's gonna start flattening out real soon. And then, man, it's gonna be real flat, know what I mean, man?"

He was right up to a point. It didn't start flattening out "real soon". It didn't flatten out for the rest of the afternoon. But then, if you're locked in the 1960s, I suppose time has a different dimension.

Anyway, it's been a glorious day. There was simply a bit too much of it, man.

Old barns always have a warm attraction, don't they? But those with this advertising on the side must have social significance becaus they've so often been better preserved and, sometimes, the advertising repainted
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Just the countryside. It pleased me.
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Today's ride: 100 km (62 miles)
Total: 841 km (522 miles)

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