David Freeze: The storm leads to an amazing afternoon
Editor’s note: Salisbury native David Freeze is cycling from Mobile, Alabama to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Post is chronicling each day of his ride. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was up and ready to leave the Motel 6 in Jeffersonville, Indiana even while it was still dark. With my red light flashing on the back of the bike, I headed over to the Ohio River and started riding upstream to the east and north. As I rode by the many boat builders on the river, the area became more residential. Personally, I love seeing the river flow so easily along, even though it is high and muddy with all the rain. I stopped to take lots of pictures of the river and of two new bridges that are being built. Plenty of debris, some of it large, was floating by as well.
The early morning weather forecast was one of the most threatening that I had ever seen while on one of my bike rides. There were no morning storms in the area, but the forecasters called for certain severe weather this afternoon. With all the riding in the Deep South behind me, this morning turned out to be the most humid one yet. I was sweating without any severe hills and keeping a watch on the western sky. Winds as high as 60 mph and hail were predicted, as well as possible power outages.
I rode through Utica, a residential area that boasts the slogan “Keep Utica Unique” and I think they are succeeding. Some of it was ultra high end residential, making me think of spending just a few days watching the river slowly drift by.
I rode out to State Road 62 and continued my north and east direction. At first, the shoulders were huge and I had plenty of time to look around. One of the most amazing sights of my whole ride lasted for several miles on my right as I entered Charlestown. It looked like a huge facility of some type, similar to the Spencer Shops, that had clearly seen its better days. I noticed a few trucks driving around, but the entrance was only through one gate. My curiosity was up, to say the least. I stopped in Charlestown to reload on food and drinks, but mainly to find out what the facility was. I asked Lorne Stricker, a glass and window installer, while he filled up on gas. Lorne told me that the whole place used to be the Indiana Ammunition Facility. It was used from the 1920s through WWll and then even some in the 1970s and ’80s. Lorne said that it was all going through an environmental cleanup and would eventually become commercial property. Loren also told me that the Army had its own little private community for its officers who worked there. Before we left, both of us wished the other a safe day with the storms coming.
As soon as I left Charlestown, the road turned crappy. The pavement was rough, the shoulders were falling apart, and they were narrow. Going up one hill, I had quite a bit of trouble staying on the bike because the shoulder was falling away. Finally over a series of hills, none too bad, the road started to straighten out as I rode through New Washington and Hanover, still on SRs 62 and 56.
The clouds were seriously thickening by this time, amazing to me how quickly they did. I had a decision to make, to either stay on 62 and bypass Madison or head down into the town and see if I could find a good, affordable place to stay to beat the storm. I took the town choice and headed down a very steep hill on 56. I figured the river was at the bottom of the hill and it was, but so was this beautiful, historic town. I learned later that most of the buildings, homes and others, were part of one of the largest historic districts in the nation. There is a famous street here that had multiple safe houses for the Underground Railroad, but my trip in was too quick to look around. My stop at the grocery store before heading to my motel was a comedy. The skies were very dark, lightning and thunder was already here, and heavy rain was imminent. My plan was to run in, grab a few things and run back out and head for the motel. Once inside, everybody else in town seemed to want to pick up a few things, too. After much too long, I came out, hopped on the bike and pedaled into a huge headwind as the rain started to fall. With a little help, I found the Riverboat Inn and had to climb a steep hill just as the downpour started. I got wet, but not much because the Inn had a nice covered area out front.
The rain poured for a while, and I chucked my wet clothes as soon as I got a room. I splurged on a river view room, one that I could watch the Ohio drift slowly by, just as I had thought about earlier in the day.
I got the bike dry and sat down for a few minutes. They rain gradually went away, and the sky looked much better. I walked across the bridge back into Kentucky, the same thing that I will do on my bike tomorrow. This time, I got a Dairy Queen Blizzard and walked back, all the while with my eye on a huge riverboat tied up along the Madison bank. I noticed that there was smoke coming out of one stack and there was some activity around it, so I headed that way. I got there just in time to see the American Queen untie from the moorings and back out into the river. The boat was huge, and sound of the calliope playing made me think of how many times this had probably happened here over the last 150 years. This one event rates near the top of my list for the trip so far. Seeing the riverboat makes me want to ride along on one of the big rivers.
On my way back to my room, I spotted Walnut Street, the street where many of the URR safe houses were located. I got pictures of some that seemed most likely.
Madison is certainly on my “plan to return list.” What a beautiful little town. I will ride around it some more in the morning before I head back into Kentucky to continue to head northeast.
Many of you have been asking if I am eating enough, and just exactly what are my staples this time. I have been starting most mornings with a couple of egg and cheese biscuits, probably followed by pastry or cookies of some kind. Bananas and power bars are mixed in too. That continues through early afternoon, when I usually ramp it up with a diet Mountain Dew added to my water bottles.
Late afternoon includes cookies or some type of carbs. Then at night, it has been watermelon, massive amounts of yogurt, maybe some French fries, more power bars and bananas. Sometimes pizza or Subway tops it all off. Bottom line, don’t worry about me getting enough to eat. I’m fine, though eating some things that I don’t usually eat when at home. Less ice cream and Reese’s Cups this time, and more watermelon and yogurt. I am doing much better at staying hydrated. And, I am amazing the store clerks when I use my Safeway discount card from Oregon two years ago. Safeway owns Kroger or something like that, but evidently some smaller chains too.
Tomorrow, on to Kentucky again, with an eye toward Ohio. Only 52 miles today, but I had a wonderful afternoon sightseeing on foot. It’s been a great trip so far, everything I hoped it would be. Another adventure tomorrow!