Hannibal Missouri to Bloomington Indiana bicycle trip 2008
Shelly and I drove to Hannibal, Missouri to visit Mark Twain’s early home and do the sites. I had my bicycle strapped to the luggage rack on top. Mark Twain has always been one of my favorite authors. Ernest Hemingway said that American literature began with Mark Twain. Throw in Edgar Allen Poe, and I agree.
On the way we drove along the Mississippi and saw the flood damage. Many of the roads and bridges were still out. We saw many homes built 10 feet above flood stage that were thoroughly destroyed. They called the 1993 floods a ‘once-in-500-year’ event. Some people were calling the 2008 floods ‘another once-in-500-year’ event. Looks like they have now used up a 1000 years. But maybe they should consider recalibrating their 500 year events.
In the last few years I have noticed a real decline in the auto-based tourist business. Last year in Taos, New Mexico the open roads were refreshing. Not so many people were willing to drive so far to visit. But those open roads would later translate into closed, boarded up art galleries and tourist shops. The most remote of the tourist destinations will be the first to be hit my peak oil results. Inadvertently, peak oil will help restore many rural areas because of the reduced human traffic.
The city of Hannibal Missouri also showed this. I saw many boarded up tourist buildings. Locals told us that business was down 50-60%. They said that some of it was because of fear of the flood. As it turned out, the levees held up at Hannibal. But the tourists did not know that.
We stayed at a cheap but adequate Indian-owned motel. How can the Indians from Gujarati province manage to own and make money from these borderline motels? Well, one of the ways is that the live in the motel. One mortgage instead of two.
We visited Mark Twain cave. It is a must see, and the basis for Tom Sawyer story. Jesse James truly did hide out in it, and Mark Twain and his boyhood buddies spent many a day in it. We took the riverboat ride, NOT a paddle boat ride though. It had diesel engines and props. Not bad, but not a major event for me. The riverside park on the north side of the city definitely worth visiting. We picnicked below a statue of Samuel Clemens with a wonderful visa of the Mississippi River. We also visited the eight buildings composing the Hannibal city tour. It was worth it too, visiting Mark Twain’s boyhood home, his father’s law office, and the home where Becky Thatcher grew up.
On Sunday morning, July 27th, I took the bicycle off the roof of the car and loaded it up. Shelly drove off, promising me just ‘to call’ if I couldn’t make it and she would come back and get me. So I set off pedaling at about 7:30 am. If I learned anything from riding long-distance from George Christensen, it was to ‘leave very early, before the mid-day heat’. Very quickly I crossed the Mississippi Bridge and entered Illinois. The highway departments do allow bicycles across interstate bridges when there is no other way across.
As soon as I pulled off the expressway on the Illinois side, the sign said
Now a sign like that stops all vehicle traffic in its tracks. But I have learned to continue on. In 2003, I rode from Cancun to Honduras. In Belize the signs said that Highway 1, the coastal highway, was washed out from the recent hurricane. I choose to continue. I had the highway entirely to myself for over 150 kilometers. I came to several washed out bridges. With a few I could carefully walk my bicycle across. But one was entirely washed away. The water below was waist deep. I stripped naked except for my shoes and carried my panniers and bags across the first trip, and my bicycle the second. then I dressed and continued. Again, I had the road entirely to myself as I rode along the beach. I camped out along the beach that night. In the morning as I walked my bike out to the road. I saw a very large cat. It saw me and took off running in a burst. I believe I saw my first wild jaguar in my life.
But here in western Illinois, I would only be seeing ducks, deer, and many small mammals. I rode eastward, bucking a strong wind, toward the washed out bridge. My worry was that the water was going to be over my head; difficult to ford without making a raft. If I could not ford the water, I would have to backtrack over ten miles. that would negate all my morning progress.
When I finally got to the bridge, it was completely gone, washed away in the fury of last month’s floods. The good news was that the water now wasn’t over my knees. Ten minutes later, I was riding on the other side, with another ten miles of road to myself.
I had wanted to turn north and ride to Quincy, Illinois and visit my aunt Mildred (actually my father’s cousin) who turned 100 in February. In a car I would have. But on bike, it would be a full day’s trip. So I turned south on highway 96 to follow the Mississippi. I spent the rest of the afternoon bucking 20+ mph winds in 90+ degree temperatures down to Mozier. I have learned to prefer hills and mountains over continual strong headwinds. I remember riding into the trade winds in east Cuba. The winds must have averaged 30 mph without relief. The moment you stopped pedaling, the winds would blow you backward unless you braked. The worst I ever had was in west Ireland, climbing up a few mile rise, going straight into a 40 mph rainstorm. I kept pedaling simply because there was no place to hide anyhow, and the pedaling kept me warm.
Occasionally I would stop and just lay along the roadside to rest and cool off. But within 5 minutes, someone would inevitably stop and ask if I were okay. After I answered affirmative, they quickly left. Rural hospitality. In the coming days, the people of rural Illinois were particularly kind and helpful to me. If I were to get uninterrupted rest along the roadside, I would have to rest out of view of traffic.
In the heat, I alternately fantasized between chocolate shakes and cold beer. I had to ride 20 miles before I had any opportunity. One-third way thru a chocolate shake, I gave it to a dog. Two cold beers and a quart of water later and I was doing better. I tallied up my water count, and I had drunk at least a 2 gallons of water total today. It is easy to drink a quart an hour when you are riding in the heat.
It was about 7 pm and I was beat. I had only gone about 45 miles. Not much, even for a first day. I knew I was out of shape, and yeah, I am getting older. But I had expected more of myself. My heart and lungs were fine. But my legs hurt. And my sore ass was the worst. I have learned from previous bike trips that these will go away. The important thing now was to eat and get my rest.
Locals told me that I could camp along the Mississippi at the Rip Rap Wilderness Area. I rolled in and set up my tent 30 feet from the bayou’s edge, near a lonely fisherman. the only thing he said to me was ‘Posed to storm tonight’. I spread out in my tent and stretched comfortable. Sleeping would be easy tonight, if I could just cool off.
My second worst camping storm ever…
At around 9 pm on Sunday night, I was deeply asleep in my tent along the Mississippi river after riding 45 miles on my bicycle. In an instant, my tent flipped over with me in it. Coming out of deep sleep, for a moment I truly thought that a big animal was attacking. But there were no bears here. The non-stop lightning said storm, but the wind screamed tornado. The roof of my self-supporting tent had collapsed to the floor, on my face. Thru the lightening I could see that the rain fly was torn off. I grabbed the the aluminum tent supports and held them hard as sheets of rain pelted the side of the tent. Without the rain fly, within minutes, everything within the tent was soaked. Sleeping bag, pad, clothes. Before I had passed out, I had remembered to double wrap in plastic my camera, phone, maps, and books, including LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI by Mark Twain. Ironic that I had just read his descriptions of the violent thunderstorms on the Mississippi. For a half hour I had to hold onto the tent from the inside to prevent it from being completely torn apart. I did not need my headlight as the lightening was so continuous. I counted as I saw each incredible flash of lightening as if the tent were transparent. five seconds = one mile, then 4 seconds, then 3, then 2, then 1 and then sound and light together. BAMMMMM! I felt the shock wave and I heard a tree crack above me and begin to fall. The deepest of fear in me as it came down. What have I gotten myself into? I could not see it. the was nothing to do, and no time to do anything anyhow. The tree crashed next to me and shook the ground. I fumbled with my flashlight. The trunk was 20 feet away, and branches were covering my bike, and I could touch my bike from the tent.
The lightening continued for an hour, and then a hard steady rain. I worried about the bayou rising. But the wind was too strong for me to pack and move. My gear would be blown away, and besides, my bike looked lodged beneath a branch. I could only wait. I was now shivering. The temperature had dropped to maybe 65 F, but soaked and in the wind, I was suddenly cold. How to keep warm? In the collapsed tent I pulled my waterproof rain pants over me and put on my poncho. I tightened the hood around my wet hair. 25% of all heat loss is thru the head. I remembered that from mountain climbing days. My plan was to use them as a wet suit, to hold a layer of warm water between me and the fresh rain. Gradually, it made a difference. The winds eased a bit, but the rains did not stop. Finally I released the aluminum tent poles. But the tent remained collapsed. I forced myself outside the tent into the with my light to examine. I found the rain fly torn and flapping. But more seriously, several of my aluminum poles were bent from straight to about 110 degrees.
I thought for a moment that this was the worst camping storm ever. But no, it was the second worst. The worst was camping in the north Lofoten Islands of Norway, latitude 73 degrees on December 21st, 1992. I was then in a Jansport 4-season dome when blast of wind shredded it from around me. It blew me over and some of my clothes and camping gear away. In 23 hour-a-day darkness, I would not find a trace of any of it. I staggered back to the car. For the next week, I would sleep in the back seat. But that is another story…
The rain continued. Amazingly, I somehow managed to fall asleep, completely soaked. My sleep was interrupted several times in the night by new lightening bursts and gusts of wind. but I still managed to pass out again. That was how tired I was.
At the first glimmerings of dawn, at about 5:30, I got out of my tent and stood in the rain. I couldn’t get any wetter than I was. My fingers and toes were all white and wrinkly, like you get when you swim all day. I gently tugged on my Cannondale bike, trusty companion to me for the last 11 years and 20,000+ miles. It had carried me across Cuba, England, Ireland, Mexico, Arizona, and to work for 7 years. I would have hated to lose it. I gently dislodged it from the branch. I could not see any damage other than dirt and debris gumming it all up. I noticed that the bayou was now at the edge of my tent. when I had gone to sleep, it had been 30 feet away. I quickly began packing up. I stuffed all my gear in any order into a large bag I had. It had to weigh 5 more pounds from the water. In the semi-darkness I walked my loaded down bike back to the pavement. I got on it and began to ride. Ahhh, it was working. A quarter mile later I came to a tree blocking the road. I carried my bike around it. Then I came to another one. Looks like I would have this road to myself today too.
I had 10 miles before sunrise. I saw a mechanic working in his garage. He let me use his vice to straighten out by bent tent poles as best I could. Later I would sew back up my rain fly with my sewing awl. I then I rode across the peninsula to Illinois river. In the small riverside town of Kampsville I treated myself to a hot breakfast and coffee. Coffee! I had about 20 miles and it wasn’t 8 am. A good, if wet start.
I took a ferry across the Illinois river and began riding straight east, into another headwind. It was a cloudy cool day, which was fine for me. I put my head down and rode and rode. I saw a lot of storm damage. By 1 pm I had 50 miles. I was hungry, and it was now sunny, humid and over 90 degrees. I saw a small cottage with a for sale sign. I rode 100 yards down the driveway. No one was there. Great. Out of eyesight of the country road, I hung all of my wet things on a fence line. In the direct sunlight, some things began to steam. I made a lunch of cheese sandwiches, fruit and veggies. Then I sewed up my rain fly and lay in the grass. I slept a few wonderful hours in the shade. When I awoke, all my things were dry. I packed up and began riding east again. I got to Carlinville, Illinois that day by 5 pm. I had done 60 miles on my second day, and I was not as tired. Good. I hit a bar and had 3 beers with a few retired professors. Turns out Carlinville has a ‘work-study’ college there. The bartender offered to let me stay in a home she was selling. It was getting late, and I was getting giddy, so I accepted.
I looked about the home. It had been owned by the former chair of the English department at the local college. She had been retired for a number of years, and had died suddenly as a result of a fall. In looking about, it was clear to me that she had been living her last years in poverty. And how would my last years be?
I lay on the carpet at 8:30 and went into a deep sleep.
“Where our family name ‘WORKER’ came from”
I was riding my bike before 6 am, leaving Carlinville Illinois, heading due south to Hillsborough, Illinois to visit my cousins and and kinfolk. Some of them had the last name of ‘Worker’, just like me. Throughout my life, whenever I have answered that my last name was ‘Worker’, people have heard ‘Walker’. Innumerable times they have said ‘I have never heard that last name before’. Some have assumed that I have changed my last name to ‘Worker’, or that it was simply an alias. And numerous prospective employers have commented that they really liked my last name.
My dad literally hammered my last name into me. There were seven kids in our family. Our father worked long hours at the Shell Oil Refinery in Hammond Indiana. And then he came home and worked more. I remember him as always looking tired. We were always well fed and clothed, but there was not much surplus. So my brothers and I took whatever local work there was. Cutting grass, pedaling ice cream carts, caddying, garden and yard work, odd jobs, chores of all sorts, anything that we could get that paid some money. I inherited jobs from my older brothers, and we would fight with neighbor kids for these jobs. Fight like in ‘fist’. It was our only way to get spending money. All the neighbors knew that one of the Worker boys would be available for some kind of work. Our dad would even tell them beforehand that we would do it. We got to keep all the money, so we didn’t mind. And we had no choice but to do a good job, or deal with our dad’s wrath and instant justice. For better or worse, it was just like that. There were no ‘innermost feelings’ here.
Our dad also kept a large garden. We would sell strawberries and tomatoes, and later, young maple trees, lots of them. We sold stuff along roadside, strawberries at 25 cents a quart. All the money went to the family. ALL of it, and no options. So my brothers and I picked and ate lots of strawberries and tomatoes. Whenever we found something rotten, any other brother was fair game. Our dad would gut laugh til he was red in the face as he watched our rotten food fights. He especially liked it when one of us got hit real good up side the face. But it would infuriate our mother. She would yell about how much more washing she would have to do. That made my dad laugh even harder. Sometimes he would even join in and smack us with rotten berries. None of us had the courage, or stupidity, to ever return fire on our dad.
I remember one Saturday afternoon in the spring. I had already picked over 30 quarts of strawberries. (By the way, 30 quarts of strawberries is a hell of a lot of strawberries to pick. It has long been my personal record, that I have no intention of ever breaking). I told my dad I was going swimming at the pond with the neighbor kids. He shouted NO. There must still be 5, maybe 10 quarts left to pick. I told him I would pick them when I got back. I started to walk off with my friends. Next thing I knew I was laying on my back with my dad straddling over me. WHAT’S YOUR LAST NAME, BOY? SAY IT! Worker. LOUDER. Worker. LOUDER! WORKER! And don’t you ever forget it. Now gitchur ass back into the patch and pick the rest NOW, and I don’t mean maybe!
Fast forward 30 years. My young son Jesse has refused to help me with work outside. I grab ahold of him hard and shout WHAT’S YOUR LAST NAME, BOY?…
The name ‘Worker’ is highly uncommon. It appears that everyone in the US with the last name of ‘Worker’ can trace their descent from Jon and Julia Vudjchek. We are all distantly related. It started when Jon Vudjchek and Julia Bulke emigrated on a cattle boat from Pardubice, Czechoslovakia, around 1859. Family legend has it that they met on the boat. They first came to Collinsville, Illinois. Jon was drafted and served in the Civil War. He came back, married Julia, and they proceeded to have 12 children, each born two years apart on the even years of 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1874, 1876, 1878, 1880, 1882, 1884, 1886, and 1888. Eleven of the twelve lived long lives well into adulthood. Jon and Julia had a 260 acre farm near Bingham, Illinois. It is still owned today by the Worker clan.
My father’s older sister, the very insane Aunt Gladys, told me many years ago that all Jon ever did was work. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. No holidays, and never to Church. Never. I guess 12 children will do that to you. And none of his children ever went to church either. They had to work on Saturdays and Sundays. He worked first in the local coal mines, and then on his land. My father told me that his father, my grandfather Edward Worker, said that Jon made all of his children work all of the time. My grandfather described Jon as a terror, shouting at them in his heavy Bohemian accent. (Interesting that my father later described my grandfather as behaving in the same way.) My grand parents never sent my dad to church, and my dad never sent any of us brothers and sisters either. ‘They just want your money anyhow’ I can hear my dad grumbling. And guess what? I never sent my kids to church either. I don’t think any of my brothers or sisters ever sent their kids to church either. So it’s been a long family tradition. I guess we’re a family of non-intellectual atheists. “All religion is just a bunch of superstitious bullshit” is something any of us might say.
Well, the locals had trouble pronouncing Vudjchek. Too many consonants. And he insisted that everyone pronounce it correctly. So the locals just began calling him ‘the worker’. Aunt Gladys said that sometime in the mid 1890’s, Jon and Julia’s children suggested that they all change their names to ‘Worker’, to honor Jon’s hard work. According to family legend, this triggered another of Jon’s rages. He forbade any of his children from ever changing their names. And he also had his tombstone carved with his birth name on it. He died in 1901. His granite tombstone today sits in a small rural cemetery in Bingham Illinois, with his name spelled ‘Vudjchek’. I have visited it numerous times. But this time I visited it on my bicycle. In places on the tombstone, I already have to trace the letters with my fingers to get birth dates. According to my aunt Gladys, within a year of his death, all eleven remaining children changed their names to ‘Worker’.
My father’s people are country people. They may farm some, but they mostly have day jobs. In rural Illinois, where so many of the local plants have closed, they take what they can get. I have three second cousins who have been, or are, prison guards. These are the new steady jobs around there.
For two days I rode my bike around a 20 mile radius, visiting my relatives and cemeteries. It was rural hospitality at its best. All of my relatives feeding me, asking me to stay a while, visit others, to fish the family pond. In general, my relatives owned lots of land. Hundreds of acres to a family. Some of the land might be marginal. But they felt very good about owning land. And so do I.
“What I take with me on bicycle trips… and riding home”
Many have asked how I keep my gear on my bike down to less than 25 pounds on long journeys. What do I carry with me, and how do I carry it?
I have a 700 tire size touring bicycle that has 4 pannier mounts, a rear rack with a large bag, and a handle bar bag. One pannier is for strictly mechanical purposes. It has my tools, extra tubes, tire, and most of the replacement parts that I might need. The second pannier has my clothes. I carry no more than three changes. I find that nylon and polyester are very useful because they wash and dry rapidly. I always have 2 very bright bicycle shirts with me, for visibility sake. I carry and ultra light, complete rain suit, a first aid kit, and my personal effects. In the large bag on my rear rack I have the following:
1.A one-kilo, three-season, one-person tent with a rain fly
2.A one-kilo, three-season, ultra-light sleeping bag
3.A folding insul-chair. It snaps together into a chair, and also spreads into a sleeping pad.
4.A waterproof piece of 6 mil plastic to spread my tent on.
And that is it. All of this is enough to live in for a month, free of motels, rent, bills, and neighbors.
In my third pannier, I carry food and additional water. The two water bottles I have attached to my bike frame are not nearly enough. For long stretches, I may carry an extra gallon or more of water. If I carry a fourth pannier, it is for the extra things I may accumulate. On my recent trips, I have not needed the fourth one.
In my handlebar bag, I carry my valuables, camera, phone, maps, headlamp, and items that I may need quick access to. This bag snaps off the bike quickly and has a shoulder strap. When I lock up and leave my bike, this bag always stays with me.
I do NOT carry a stove or anything to heat food. I used to, but I manage without it now. If I am flying my bike thru an airport, it is no longer possible to carry fuel for the stove. So I when I ride hard for for a good distance, I may reward myself with a good hot meal at a local diner.
As for footwear, on this last trip I used only my Crocs. Nothing else. No socks or anything. They are, to me, the best invention in footwear in 30 years. I have the original pair that I got 4 years ago, and have thoroughly beaten up since. I do not blister in them after pedaling 10 hours a day. They are ventilated, wash easily, and are perfect when it is raining, as long as it is not too cold. Extra shoes are heavy, and take up lots of space.
So, that is it. And what about bathing? In the summer I can find hoses in public parks to rinse and cool off. I can take quick baths in public bathrooms. And, if the water permits it in remote areas, I can go for swims in streams and lakes. In the wilderness, that is my preferred means.
I left Fillmore, Illinois at sunrise and visited Jon and Julia Vudjchek ‘s grave one last time. I rode to aunt Priscilla’s for a visit. (She was actually my father’s cousin, but the English language has no clear word to describe that relationship). She is now a widow, living alone, in her mid 80’s, and living a vigorous life. I am sure that she thought it ‘unusual’ that I would come by bicycle. But she smiled at it.
About 10 am I headed off east, to home. I would first go to Vandalia, and then pick up the famous highway 40 for thirty miles to Effingham. I had already ridden a bit on Route 66 up north. I didn’t get any kicks on route 66, but there it was, obscure except for the sign. 80 years ago, riding a car from back East on route 66 to California was the trip of a lifetime. Later it became Highway 40.
Highway 40 was completely flat. by 1 pm, it was 90 degrees, but I had a tailwind for the first time on the trip. 15 miles an hour worth. Not really cooling, but enough to really boost my speed. So I kept pedaling, averaging close to 15 mph. I got to Effingham in the late afternoon. I had to decline the offers of help from families in pickup trucks who volunteered to carry me thru the heat many additional miles. I politely explained that that was the point: To make it thru the conditions. As I saw it, riding on flat land with a tailwind and some heat was not really an obstacle.
After a quick dinner, I rode out 10 miles east of Effingham. I only had an hour before sunset, and I was getting fatigued. So I began looking for a campsite. I quickly found one of my favorite kinds, an abandoned farm house. I pulled in and found a flat, clean concrete area behind the barn, completely out of site of the road. I set up tent and then walked around in the remaining daylight. I studied the abandoned farm equipment on the place and explored the lonely sagging barns. They were filled with antique farming gear. The house was gone, but some of the outbuildings were still being using. No doubt a neighbor farmer had bought the land after this farmer had called it quits. Near where I was camping was a mid 80’s Ford pickup truck. It had violently crashed into a tree and then been towed to this location. The crunched sheet metal had not had time to rust. In the middle of the shattered windshield was the round bulging imprint of a head. I thought that no one could have survived the wreck. I looked inside the crunched cab and saw beer cans and beer tabs, and a Playboy magazine. The magazine’s date was March of 2008. What was the story here?
In my tent, I read LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI for a while and then crashed out into the deep sleep of the truly fatigued. I was up well before sunrise. In the darkness I ate a cold breakfast and was pedaling on a country grid road in complete fog. No one could see me, but I could hear any car from ½ mile away. I still had the strong tailwind and I made excellent time thru the corn and soy beans country. By 11 am I had 50 miles under my belt. I had ridden thru 2 ‘towns’ on the map, only to find that there was no longer anything there. I was out of food and water. I saw a farmer working out front his place with a few Amish boys he had hired. I asked for water and he gave it to me. My streak remained unbroken. Every time I have asked for water in every country in the world, the people have always given me water, without exception. Maybe that says something about the true nature of people.
I have found the best maps for bicycling across the USA to be the detailed Delorme state guides. I tear out the page that I am on and fold it into the map section of my handlebar bag. I can then look at maps while I am pedaling. But sometimes, what you see on the map is not what you get on the road. This picture shows the ‘road’ that I had to walk my bike thru.
I continued pedaling toward the Wabash River. It was hot and dry, but the wind was pushing me.
When you are cycling, you have time to see the detail. you see all sorts of things motorists won’t. Every day I found bungee cords, tools, even cell phones. And some times you see strange things that you would normally pass up. Check out this sign.
So you can damn well bet your ass that I made sure NOT to forni/masterbate on Fry family property.
I crossed the Wabash into Indiana around 4 pm. 75 miles so far. A good day for me. I saw big cantelopes for sale for $1.50 I easily ate one. I found out that the Wabash valley is one of the best melon-growing areas in the Midwest. 10,000 acres of them, coming to market a month earlier than the surrounding areas.
Time to find a campsite. I have found a number of fine campsites along railroad tracks that cross country roads. This works very well when there are trees around. I just walk my bike down the center of the track until I find a clearing near the track. A few hundred yards down the track, near Sullivan Indiana, I found one. The rails looked a bit rusty, so I figured it was a low-traffic line. I pitched my tent near the track. 85 miles today. Ok for me. Then I read LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI for a few hours before I passed out and went straight into deep dreamland.
Four times that night I got violently run over by trains. Four times trains came by, the engineers saw my tent, and they blew their horns. Coming out of deep sleep, I thought the train was coming right over me. The noise was just tremendous from 15 feet away. And every time the train passed, I wondered ‘What if it jumps the tracks?’ Useless wonderings.
Up next morning before sunrise I hit the road in the partial darkness and pedaled hard. I still had the tail wind. A big country breakfast and coffee and I was jamming. By 10 am I was in Linton, Indiana. I visited the classic BMW motorcycle shop there. I used to go there 25 years ago. Then on the road again, heading toward Bloomington.
I have been increasingly noticing the pervasiveness of gambling, especially among the poor and near-poor. When I was a kid, the only place that a preson could legally place any kind of bet was Las Vega. Wow has it changed. At a convenience store, I watched a man put $10 in gas in his big old truck, then sit next to me to have a coke and cigarette. He then proceeded to buy eight one-dollar instant lottery tickets, one at a time, and scratch them open. Each time he said to me mindlessly ‘Let’s see if I’m gonna be a millionaire this time’. I saw this scene a few times daily while bicycling. The people who seemed to need their money the most were wasting it the fastest. My dad once said to me something like ‘gambling is a voluntary tax on the real stupid’. He never gambled. He even threatened to smack me around good if I ever gambled. Later I would realize that this was a gift from him. After he passed away, my mom told me that once a pair of card sharks beat him out of his whole pay check. He wanted to ‘hunt them down’. But he promised my mom that he would never gamble again. According to my mom, he kept his word. I myself have never bet in a casino, race track, off-track, and I never will. My gambling inventory for life is as follows:
1.Maybe 100 dollars wasted on dollar lotto tickets
2.$200 wasted on sports betting.
To the best of my knowledge, that is it. Gambling is not cheap, and it definitely is not a thrill to me. I am hopelessly against the gambling culture that now so dominates our country. This I can say, it is NOT a positive or zero sum game. The whole community loses with the increased bankruptcy rates, divorce, domestic violence, and indebtedness that comes with it. I feel that it is a sick, pathetic industry that preys upon peoples’ vulnerabilities. I have banned my children from gambling as best as I could. Enough.
Onward. It is hot and dry when I pull into Bloomfield, Indiana at around noon. 30 miles to go, of the hilliest roads on the trip. I guzzle up large amounts of water, put my head down, and climb slowly. When I get tired in the mid day, I find a church and lay out behind it for 20 minutes. (Churches are great places for mid day breaks. The people there have never driven me off one yet.) I stop and talk with the local farmers and mechanics whenever I feel like it. Old vehicles and tractors sitting out front are generally good bait for me. Coming into Solsberry, Indiana, I get some hills that are so steep that I walk my bike up them. Exercise different muscles. And then a two hour leisurely ride on beautiful country roads to my home. I am tired and greasy and wet. I push the bike up my long stone driveway. My dogs greet me furiously. Ahhh, home. It’s even better when you have to work at it like this to get back. I am feeling tired and just great. 8 lbs lighter (don’t worry, if history is the case, I will put it back on). And Shelly is there to hug me.
I must do more of these bicycle trips, while I still can.