May 29: Huntington to Fletcher, Indiana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 29: Huntington to Fletcher, Indiana

TO TRAVEL, to travel properly, is to broaden the mind. It is to see, to understand and experience. How surprising, therefore, that the Adventure Cycling Association doesn't point out that a couple of miles from the Northern Tier route is the world's largest collection of outdoor privies. Or the largest outdoor collection of privies, however you want to put it.

It is the world's largest - and quite possibly the world's only - exhibition of outdoor privies.
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They are khazis, loos, lavvies, dunnies, bogs. Little wooden sheds for the comfort of mankind and designed for just one purpose. And all in a row up a path in the little nature reserve just south of Huntington and just north of the jog that the Northern Tier takes to skirt the town.

There are privies with heart-shaped windows, and a two-seater privy for true togetherness, and privies with bells outside to summon greater urgency on the part of those within. There are no signs to it and no explanation once you're there. You are left to assess everything at face value. Or bottom value. But not, it seems, to try for yourself because every door is padlocked. It seems that a family amassed them and left them on a grassy area between the nature reserve and their home. When they grew too many, some were given to the town museum and the rest stayed where they were.

Of such things, and Dan Quayle, is America made glorious.

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TODAY WE HAD yet another tailwind. The only times we have had the wind against us have been our excursions south from the established route. Tonight, we are staying beside the lake at Fletcher, a village little bigger than its camp site. Most of those not camping are mowing their lawns. A man is rebroadcasting his favourite country music station. America is a noisy place.

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There is a welcome for cyclists at the entrance. A ragged doll on a bike sits above a map of America on which the Northern Tier has been drawn in. "Welcome bikers", says the sign on the bike, the wheels of which light up at night.

An off-duty fireman welcomed us. We didn't know then what his job was, of course, although he was bringing us a can of beer to quell the heat. A picture of a mountain on the side of the can turned blue when the contents were sufficiently cold. "Cold-activated can" said the print.

Mellow after a beery welcome
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"You the boss?", Steph asked.

"No," he said. "I just guessed you could do with a beer."

He was with his wife and a younger woman whose enthusiasm for sunglasses had left her with panda eyes. Two children were playing draughts, or checkers as it's called here, on a patterned rug.

"I'm full-time on the fire service," he said. "Used to paint fire engines for a living. Did other things too, of course. Then the fire chief says 'Say, why don't you come and join us?' So I did."

His wife was in her 50s. She wore a yellow and blue bikini under a light top. Her dark blond hair was pinned up and carefully teased and everything suggested she had been a stunner when she was younger and that she had taken care to stay attractive. Her husband had taken less trouble. I wasn't at all sure how fast he could run up a ladder with a hose pipe. Today's wasn't the first beer he had sunk.

"What you guys doing tomorrow?

"Heading for Rensselaer and then the train for a day out in Chicago."

"You been watching American Idol?" the woman asked. American Idol is a talent competition on TV. I said we had never seen it. Most American TV we have seen has been weather forecasts and treatments for haemorrhoids, a word I'm not sure I can spell but an illness I know how to treat.

The woman looked disappointed.

"The winner of American Idol came from Chicago," she said, trying to ignite our enthusiasm. I'm not sure if she was suggesting we might meet him or that recent events trumped the town's history. We were rightly dismissed as having nothing of consequence to add to the conversation and it turned into a debate on whether this was the first or second year in which the winner had driven off in a car.

Towards the end of the day...
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This is the first camp site we have been to not covered by "Don't" notices and "Forbidden" signs. There are few signs anyway and those are positive: "Welcome! For the enjoyment of others, please..."

Steve, the owner, is casual and laid back and drinks beer with his regulars. He has run the site for years and his parents ran it before him. It is a wonderful location and the welcome couldn't be bettered. The showers were less than surgically clean but, heck, warm water is warm water and the charge was just $7, including another can of beer. You'll get no grumbles from me.

And finally the day comes to an end.
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