May 30: Fletcher to Rensselaer, Indiana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 30: Fletcher to Rensselaer, Indiana

AMERICANA AT ITS BEST today. It is Memorial Day weekend here, the equivalent of Armistice in Europe but at the start of summer rather than the beginning of winter. And a much less solemn tone .

The start of summer is evident. The days have been lodged in the mid-30s -"August weather in May," as Joan Rehrmann put it back in Celina. It is weather that leaves a cyclist thirsty. The first chance to copy the fireman and put out an inner fire was Buffalo, the second place of that name we have been through but smaller and more cheerful than the first. There in the back of the gas station where we downed cold drinks and the continent's weakest coffee was a tall, lean man with an incongruous gut that pushed through his T-shirt. He wore dark glasses indoors. I took a dislike to him and left Steph to answer the usual questions.

He couldn't even ask them properly.

"Coffee and sugar give you energy, right?"

"Gotta be in good shape for a ride like that, right?"

That's no way to be a courtroom lawyer.

And then, far better: "Pancake breakfast across the street, you know that?"

I took an interest for the first time.

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Doing things bigger and better: Buffalo's fire trucks
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Across the street was Buffalo's volunteer fire brigade, where scarlet and gold fire engines had been parked in the open so lines of people could snake indoors, drop a donation in a box, collect a tray and then gorge pancakes (more like soft, doughy bread than European pancakes), sausage and scrambled egg. The fire station was filled.

"Six hundred and thirty so far," said the woman in the middle of the three checking those who came in.

"That's the same as the population of the town," I said, remembering the number on the town sign.

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She looked surprised and said: "Yes, I guess that pretty much else."

I asked who was thanking whom. Was the fire brigade repaying those who supported it or was the town thanking the firemen? "Oh, bit of both," she said confidently. "The townspeople here, they

True Americana: a pancake breakfast served by a small town's firemen.
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And eaten by a small town's population.
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think a lot of their fire brigade. And the firemen want to say thanks. So a bit of both, I guess."

From there the ride grew duller. The wind pushed us again but the trees thinned, the fields grew larger and the houses and people became scarcer. We became a corner in a triangle of time, distance and space. The soil here is light and fertile. But it must grow heavy in winter because tractors have double rear wheels and many work on tracks. The crops are what keep Rensselaer alive. It is a place of charm if not of striking beauty, with an airy college and an imposing city hall.

And you know what its main product is?

Popcorn.

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 137

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