On Wednesday I pedaled out of Toledo and into the Great Ohio Wilderness, which turns out to be very...flat. And farmy. And flat. And farmy. Over and over*. I felt like I was riding on a stationary bike in front of a projection screen displaying a fifteen-minute loop of cornfields and ranch houses. After forty-six skull-numbing miles of pedaling past farm clones, I arrived at my destination: East Harbor State Park in Marblehead, OH. My plan was to take the next day (Thursday) to rest, recover from the half-cold I had, swim in the lake, tend to my 'Words with Friends' Scrabble addiction, and eat Sun Chips.
After tooling around the campground to make sure I had picked the Absolute Best Possible Campsite, I unpacked my things and set up my tent. As I made dinner (undercooked pasta with semi-rancid cheese and limp carrots) the sun drifted below the horizon and several armies of mosquitos emerged. I slapped at myself and did the Spastic Mosquito Dance (imagine a marionette operated by a drunk epileptic). Unimpressed with my dance moves, the mosquitos continued biting. So I busted out the big guns: no-deet lemon eucalyptus hippie bug spray...which the blood-suckers ate up like A1 sauce. Cursing (and still slap-dancing) I put on all of my rain gear. I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head and cinched it tight. After a few minutes spent fruitlessly poking at my rain suit, the frustrated vampire cloud mobbed my face, biting my eyelids, nose, and cheeks till I scratched at myself like a methhead.
Done with dinner (and done acting as Blood Buffet for the mosquitos) I withdrew to my tent. As I read about fun and exciting local tourist attractions (a drive-through African safari/petting zoo! Kids love it!) I heard a rustling near the picnic table. I set down my brochure and pointed my headlamp toward the noise. A small black-and-white striped creature stared back at me while sorting through my table scraps. Bravely, I shrieked and ran (in my underwear) to the bathroom to hide from the skunk. Pinned to the bathroom door was a helpful poster warning against skunks and advising campers to stow all food in their cars. This did not improve my mood.
After half-an-hour of cowering in the restroom, I cautiously returned to my campsite to find...TWO skunks. Fighting. I scurried back to my bathroom hideout. Fifteen minutes of self-pity later, I again crept back to my tent. The skunks had gone, and I cautiously inspected the wreckage: they had rifled through my handlebar bag with their dirty skunk fingers, pulled out a baggie of vitamins, and chewed through a packet of watermelon Pop Rocks. I hope they got indigestion.
Exhausted, I went to bed. I slept restlessly, visions of thieving skunks and tomato-juice baths dancing in my head.
I spent the next day at the beach; no skunks there. I laid out my washcloth-size 'quick dry' towel on the sand and surveyed my surroundings. Miniature waves lapped lazily at the shore. Rotund bodies wrapped in colorful swimsuits dotted the sand like a handful of spilled bonbons. A pair of bored-looking border patrol guards tossed ho-hos to a growing swarm of seagulls.
After swimming to my heart's content, I returned to my towel to airdry and do my only "work" for the day: writing this blog post. I had planned to write as I sat peacefully on the beach, enjoying a calm summer breeze. But the late afternoon retreat of the sun brought out gangs of stinging flies. I tried to ignore them. Unsuccessful. I did the Spastic Fly Dance (which is very similar to the Spastic Mosquito Dance). When that didn't work, I resorted to typing while half-running down the sand, squishing any sandcastles in my wake and playing a losing game of hopscotch with the seagull poop.
Exasperated with the flies and unable to concentrate, I left the beach and retreated to my fully-screened, insect-free haven (a.k.a. tent). As I sat cross-legged on my thermarest typing, a man and a woman walked past my campsite. The man paused to examine my pannier-laden bicycle. "Hello," he said with a German accent. "You are a bicycle tourist?"
"And you are...American?" (said with barely-disguised surprise)
"Well...it's just that we don't see so many cycle tourists here in the U.S. Many in Germany, but not so many here. So it's very good that you are riding a bicycle. More Americans should ride bicycles; it would solve many problems, I think."
We chatted for a while and then he (Clive) wrote his address in my sketchbook and told me that if I ever find myself 30 kilometers west of Berlin I have a place to stay.
*Yes, yes, I know not all of Ohio is flat farmland, but the section I biked through today definitely was. I look forward to meeting the un-flat/farmy portions of Ohio.
Mileage for the day: 46
Total mileage: 863
The beach (pre-black fly invasion)