Across America

I’m in Ohio, on my way to NYC. Time to backtrack and tell you how it all began.

I set off on Monday…but I only rode as far as a muddy riverbank outside of Niverville. Where the Red and Rat rivers meet is where, in 1874, my Great-Great-Grandfather and his 9-year old son arrived by riverboat from S. Russia along with about 35 other families. That’s where I stopped for my first night, and was joined by about 20-25 friends and family, including an impressive showing of my uncles and aunts. We built a fire and Menno Kroeker retold the story of that first landing. My aunties gave me schnetjie and honey, jereischte tveiback and a guardian angel. Then everyone left, the fire died, and I crawled into my tent for the night.

My father and I at the start of the journey

In the morning I was off. I skipped across the Canada/US border, making jokes that the guards didn’t find funny in the least. Then I zig zagged my way south, sticking mostly to secondary roads, where I speeded and enjoyed the curves. I camped my first night just outside of Minneapolis, having made more than 700km for the day.

First night of camping

I set off again, taking the very scenic 35 down the west side of Wisconsin before cutting east to Chicago. I’d made 800km by the time I arrived in Wilmette. There I found my old friend Chris Hipschen, his wife LIza and children Harry and Jennifer. I hadn’t seen Chris in 12 years. He looked just like he did when he lived on my couch in Chicago, and we had a lot to catch up on. A warm bed, good meal, a few beers and many stories later I set off once again.

Day 3 wasn’t too great. It took me hours to get out of Chicago heading southeast, and then when I did get out I made the mistake of hitting a freeway to make up for lost time. I hate freeways, their traffic, their horrible human encampments at the exits. It is impossible to get food that is not deep-fried at any of these stops, and that is a fact. Too many big 4×4 family wagons careening along with one person inside, sucking away on a super big drink (only 29c to upgrade to XXXXXXXXXX-large!). For some reason the bike feels very uncomfortable on a big highway, although I go no faster than I do on a small road. She also does not like it, I guess. I got rained on, several times, and was miserable and my jaw ached from grimacing.

Finally, in early afternoon, I snapped out of it and found the 613 cutting across western Ohio. Much better. I’m still doing 110-120km/hr, but now the bike feels steady and safe, and I get to down shift and roar around curves, slow down and see all those pretty little American country towns. Sturdy red brick buildings, green lawns and so many American flags I sometimes wonder if they grow wild around these parts. The towns are really very nice. Late in the afternoon I rolled into yet another one of those towns and found a man washing his firetruck outside the firehouse, women and children hanging around outside in the sun. Oh, where have the 1950s gone? The fireman directed me to a hotel, and that’s how I ended up in Findlay, Ohio for the night, holed up in a dodgy motel where the front desk guy, an affable Indian, told me he’d never seen a Canadian motorbike before. Yea right, I bet he says that to all of them.

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