May 26: Bluffton to Celina, Ohio - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 26: Bluffton to Celina, Ohio

Our Tibetan prayer flags
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THE NEWS HERE is about the oil that continues to flow from the broken well in the Gulf of Mexico. In a way, it's Celina's fault. For it was here, in the big lake beside the town (pronounced "see-liner") that oil men first drilled beneath water.

The lake was dug for a dollar a day and a shot of whisky by Irish and German immigrants. The lake was a stock for the new Erie-Miami canal which formed part of the waterway down to the Gulf of Mexico, where they're having such troubles at the moment. The link operated for just 20 years before the railway arrived to do the job a dozen times faster.

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The ride from Bluffton was unremarkable, just lots of quiet roads past scattered farms. We reached Celina early and stopped at the library to catch up on this tale and do all the things you do when you're let loose on the internet.

The librarian asked, as we left, what we were doing in town. I said we were there to meet a man I had last seen on the steps of the youth hostel in Pippa's Passes in Kentucky, four years earlier. There we had talked into the evening and put much of the world right. We planned to tackle the rest of the world's problems tonight.

"Ah," said the librarian sweetly. "You mean Hans? Hans Rehrmann?"

I said I did.

"He's pretty well known round here," she smiled, a phenomenon Hans attributed to the local paper not having enough to write about. He and Joan live five kilometres out of town in a lovely house that has been home for three decades. Behind it is a green and leafy garden where, prompted by a couple of bottles of beer, we played what Hans assures me is called hillbilly golf. It involves

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flinging weighted strings at a frame a dozen paces away and judging who, if anyone, has managed through his alcoholic haze to hook a string round the frame.

Huffy used to be in Celina. Hans said they employed 2,000 people, making the sort of bikes that get sold in supermarkets. "Then in the 1990s they closed the factory, having forced the union to accept all sorts of pay cuts and changes of conditions. They moved to a non-union factory elsewhere and then to Mexico. The last I heard, they were in China. Nobody in Celina rides a Huffy."

Evening clouds over Celina.
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Hans moved to Celina because he met Joan, who said Hans left vast piles of beer bottles outside his apartment, "so that I concluded he was having wonderful parties up there but really quiet ones, because I never heard them." It never occurred to her that one man could sink quite so much.

Hans and Joan: lovely people
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That evening we drank Burning River, I think it was called, a beer brewed in Cleveland and named after an embarrassing moment when the fire brigade was called to put the river out. It was so polluted that it had caught fire.

Times were different when Hans first came to Celina. "I never saw it but there used to be a sign here that said 'Nigger, don't let the sun go down on you here.'"

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 238

Hans's bike, loaded and ready to roll
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"You'd be surprised how many people read this and say 'Former, military, huh?' and offer me help as a result."
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