Ride to the Rockies, Day Thirteen
Rain and thunderstorms had kept me awake for an hour or so the night before starting at about am, and I had laid in my bag listening to the thunder overhead, worrying that perhaps camping under the canopy of a tree may not have been the best idea. But the thunder sounded like it was cloud to cloud instead of cloud to ground. I could hear the storm moving from the northwest to the southeast and it eventually calmed down over head as it headed off. I soon fell asleep again.
I woke up about 7:30 and everything was wet, including clothes in the pillion bag where I had also thrown all the rain and cold weather gear. Everything in the new Ortlieb panniers and the Nelson-Rigg tail bag stayed dry as a bone, including my laptop. The new purchases were paying their rent and I didn't regret the high price I had paid for them. I couldn't do anything about the tent, however, and it was folded, rolled up, and put away wet.
As I was leaving I rode up to the office to deposit my camping fee in a drop box, as it hadn't been collected the night before, when a guy drove up on an ATV and opened the office. I went inside and he offered to make us both some hot fresh coffee. It turned out that he and his sister ran the campground, having inherited it from their parents. I handed him my $23 but he would only take the twenty. We sat down and talked for a while. He had played music at a local biker club bar Friday night. It was Tuesday morning and he was still feeling rough. He coffee did us both good and I thanked him after a couple cups and headed back onto the road at around 8:30.
Near Cashton, there was a WI 27 detour that took me through the hills, partly on WI 131, a very windy and wooded road running along the Kickapoo River valley. It had turn after turn of fast sweepers. At Bloomingdale, US 14 and 61 joined 27, and soon after they joined, 27 and 61 left and headed south on their own while I followed US 14 southeast until Lone Rock where I crossed the Wisconsin River, downriver from the famous Dells, on WI 133, and as soon as I got across the river I turned onto WI 130 soon joining WI 23. I missed my turn onto WI 191 so went east on US 18 until I saw County Road K, which I noticed connected with 191 and its junction with WI 39, my next highway. K was paved but rustic and ran through pretty back country. Eventually, I turned south at New Glarius on WI 69 and headed into Illinois, leaving the rolling Wisconsin hills behind below Monroe and entering the flat northern Indiana-like farm country of Illinois, where the state highway kept its number.
The game now was to dodge the Chicago area as I headed around its southern edges toward South Bend, Indiana. I stayed on IL 26 until Dixon, crossing the Rock River in Chicago-like traffic in the mid-sized Midwestern town. I crossed I-88, taking US 52, which made a convenient run southeast toward the north and south running I-39. I crossed the Interstate, jogged south on IL 23, then east again on IL 18 and then IL 17 and began the process of making easting with an eye to avoiding the Chicago Metro area along with the thunderstorms from last night that I could see looming in the southeast. I got close enough to the edge of the storms to get a few drops but no more.
I had one more sizable town to pass through, Kankakee, before passing south of the Chicago Heights area and running into Indiana. East and north of Kankake were huge wind mill fields supplying, I supposed, the residents of Chicago.
It was mid-afternoon as I entered Indiana. I jogged north on US 41for a few miles, then east again on IN 2 past I-65, then north again on IN 10 to IN 8, jogging again at US 35 to US 6. I started calculating how far it was and when I would arrive in South Bend. It didn't look good for avoiding the numerous deer darting across from clumps of trees on each side of the road among the cornfields. I started getting nervous as it was getting quite and shady under the trees, so I kept a careful eye on the edges of the road ahead and occasionally a covered brake as I made my way east and north toward Walkerton, now that I had passed the Chicago and Gary areas to my north.
At Walkerton, a little town I had gone to as a kid with my dad and grandpa to attend horse auctions, I took IN 23, which ran straight, more or less, into South Bend. Halfway there I hit a detour and was turned east. I went for miles and never saw another detour to get me back on 23, but realized I was on IN 4 which I knew would intersect on US 31/20, the new loop around the city that I wanted to get on. I passed Potato Creek State Park and soon was on 20, the eastern side of the loop around South Bend. Ironwood was just a couple miles on and it headed toward Joe's. The sun was still peeking over the horizon as I found Joe's street, and after only one U-turn I found his house and him standing in the drive, as Ihad tipped him off via text message when I had gotten to the corner of his street.
I pulled up into the drive and we moved the bike into the garage. I pulled off stuff I would need inside, especially for a shower, my first priority since the last time I had one had been in Kila, Montana, five days before. My hopes were dashed, however, for also doing my laundry for the sopped and dirty clothes in the pillion bag and my riding pants that had been worn for thirteen days and a couple cold nights. The storm I had slept through in Wisconsin had passed South Bend and left most of the city without power.
I had a shower by candlelight as soon as I had downed the beer Joe had waiting for me, then chatted with Joe and his wife, Jan, messaged home, and uploaded videos to the laptop from the GoPro while I ate cold leftover pizza.
I hit the sack clean, dry, and satisfied and didn't bother to set the alarm.
Miles so far 6,130.0