Day 26: Chicago, IL – La Porte, IN
Distance: 93 miles
Vertical: 545 feet
Day 27: La Porte, IN – Bryan, OH
Distance: 118 miles
Vertical: 843 feet
Things just keep on going for us. It’s gotten tricky a couple of times the past few days, but our wheels are still rollin’ and despite the constant soreness and sleepiness we are determined to make it to Boston by the 28th.
Two nights ago we had the blessing of spending the evening with the Kubalanza’s who treated us like kings. We had an amazing ride into Western Springs, IL which is just west of Chicago and finished the ride before 4:00pm which hasn’t happened for pretty much this whole trip. We enjoyed some great food, cold beverages and the best damn chocolate chip cookies I have ever had the blessing of putting in my belly. I ate over ten of them, which I’d be concerned about if my metabolism wasn’t running at breakneck speeds. I’m concerned about my ability to bring my diet back to a reasonable daily caloric intake when we finish up in Boston, guess I’ll just have to keep on cycling.
The day after was somewhat sketchy for Matt and me. I always say that I’ve grown up in a “Bellevue bubble” and large cities that aren’t Seattle have always somewhat intimidated me. Although we rode into Chicago through some okay neighborhoods, the environment still felt off-putting. We also didn’t have much of a bike lane and there were some aggressive drivers. A lesson about road biking that’s been constantly taught on this trip is that you need to ride cautiously but also confidently. Take away one or the other and you significantly increase your chances of getting hit. Luckily we’ve toned in our abilities in both areas and got to the waterfront of Chicago unscathed.
Coming up to the waterfront was a breath of fresh air. It felt a lot like being on the waterfront in Seattle. Had I not known that it was the waterfront to Lake Michigan, I would have guessed it was the ocean because the water seemed endless. There was an aquarium, museums, vendors, etc. But there was also beaches lots of grass and a massive trail that bordered the lake all the way through Chicago. Despite numerous casual bikers, joggers and walkers that were all over the trail, it was really nice to bike along the water for a large number of miles.
That day was also confusing because we had to deal with a time zone change that was coming that evening. I am unsure why but some counties in Indiana are in the Central time zone and others go by Eastern time, apparently some of them don’t use daylight savings time either. I hope they have some logical explanation because to me it just seems confusing. It also made our afternoon difficult because although we were in the Central time zone the whole day in Indiana we were staying in Warsaw, Indiana that night which is in the Eastern time zone. So not only did we get a late start that morning but we were also losing an hour that night. The culmination of the two led to us not making it all the way to South Bend before it started to get too late.
Matt and Nigel got started this morning right where we left off the last night (as we always do) and so we decided to make our first checkpoint for the day at Notre Dame. I drove in and biked around the campus for a while finding the places where I had to take Matt and Nigel to get a cool photo of them. One of my discoveries was a tree that had thousands of different colored ribbons tied onto it. Notre Dame has a ton of cool statues and monuments with plaques that identify the point of interest and luckily the tree had one as well. The plaque said that the ribbons tied on the tree represented loved ones who had fought cancer. To me, that was beyond cool. The tree was emblematic of our cause and we had to add to it. So Matt, Nigel and I all tied ribbons onto the tree for our various friends and family members. I tied mine on for my father, Kyle Charvat and the numerous other family members of mine that have fought cancer. Something about that gesture from the University is unbelievably touching. I am really inspired to try and bring something like that to our campus at the University of Washington. Just a small addition to the tree like that gave me a huge amount of investment to Notre Dame. If I ever find myself near South Bend, Indiana again, I will absolutely be going back there.
It wasn’t too long after Matt and Nigel left from the campus that I got a call from them saying that Nigel had broken another spoke. Matt made sure to remind me that it was the one that I had bent when Nigel and I collided in Osakis, Minnesota. Despite being kind of offended by the comment (salt in the wounds, much?) I had a duty as sag wagon driver to swoop in and help figure out the situation. The way the spoke broke made it impossible to use our nylon temporary spoke and for some reason we only seem to get mechanical issues on Sundays when most bike shops are closed. The nearest open bike shop was nearly two hours away by car in Fort Wayne, Indiana. So Matt continued on his own and Nigel and I went to get his spoke fixed.
When we arrived at the bike shop we were greeted by the same unfortunate news, the shop didn’t have the right kind of spoke for Nigel’s wheel. We told the owner what the other bike shop had done (they took a hooked spoke and bent it to make it straight which would then fit Nigel’s wheel) he instantly replied, “Oh, I can totally do that”. So, within 15 minutes we were out of the bike shop and on the road. It was by far the quickest turn around we have had in a bike shop thus far and the best experience. The owners were a super cool married couple who talked to us about our ride while Nigel’s wheel was being worked on. They also bent a couple extra spokes for us to take with us because we don’t want to have to go through the ordeal of finding a bike shop on a Sunday again. So if you ever find yourself in Fort Wayne, Indiana and in the need of something bike related, you absolutely need to go to INRush Bicycles, they are the best.
We all were reunited on the border of Indiana and Ohio where Nigel took over for the rest of the day because we were nearing quittin’ time and there was still a long distance to go. We figured one pair of fresh legs would go a lot faster.
A Theta Chi alumni from Ohio University put us up in a motel tonight in Bryan, OH and fed us at his home 15 minutes away. We had an amazing time talking to him and his wife this evening and are now each enjoying our own comfortable bed in a very comfortably air conditioned room. Yet another example of people being unbelievable generous and welcoming to us. Despite some of the mishaps, this is one of those days where I wish the ride would never end.
Until another spoke breaks,
P.S. I also wanted to thank the Hoag family for hosting us last night in Warsaw. They cooked an awesome meal of lasagna, burgers, green bean casserole and fruit. After we sat by a fire and cooked s’mores which I haven’t had in so long and tasted like heaven. Thank you guys so much!