Monday, October 19, 2009

Never thought I'd be on a boat (so soon, anyway)

Total distance: 953.9 km

The past couple of days have been utterly wonderful. They're the kind of days that make us glad we chose to travel like this, and filled us with gratitude and humility for the generosity of our fellow human beings. We'll tell you why in a minute.

After we left Mt Vernon we made our way through the south-western side of town seeking a bike trail we had been told ran along our anticipated course towards Columbus. This resulted in much faffing around and confuzzlement, since the trail in question wasn't very easy to find, and the only section we did manage to find led us straight into a drag racing track (fortunately not in use at the time).  As it turned out, the trail had not been completed yet, which was probably why it was all so confusing.  By the time we had ridden around the race circuit, we decided that it was just going to have to be a road day.

We headed west on the 36, with the occasional vehicle buzzing past us a little closer than we would have liked. That being said, we were once again dealing with a narrow shoulder on the road, so it wasn't really ideal to begin with.  We eventually entered the town of Centerville, where we decided to stop for lunch.  After a brief chat with the local deputy Sheriff about our trip and where we might get spare bike parts in town, we settled ourselves in the nearby park to make our sandwiches.  It was actually freezing cold, to the point where it was incredibly uncomfortable to take our gloves off, or sit still while eating.  One of those few times when it was tempting to hop on a Greyhound to take us a little bit further south, and out of range of the liquid nitrogen wind that tends to blow across from the Yukon territory.

We pressed on towards Columbus, having decided that despite the cold, we would try camping for the night.  Our destination was Alum Creek, a little sliver of State Park just north of Columbus.  As it turned out, the campsite was quite difficult to find, especially as the Visitor's Centre was already closed.  Undeterred, we went exploring, and after a few circuits through the freezing cold, found ourselves riding up to the marina used by the Alum Creek Sailing Association.  There were a few people hanging around, and we figured we'd ask them if they could direct us to the campsite.

After a few moments of giving some surprisingly complicated directions that involved skirting around some roadworks, they suggested that we just put up our tent inside the pavilion they had put up that day. It turned out that we'd come across the preparations for their last pre-Winter race, and they were happy for us to shelter ourselves from the impending frost by putting our tent inside their bigger tent, and jokingly suggested we could serve as "security" for the night. Then a funny thing happened; they suggested that we also hang around for the following day (Saturday) and go out sailing with them, and stick around for the party they would be throwing after the race. It's pretty hard to say no to such a wonderful offer, so we didn't.

Anyway, most of the folks who were involved headed home and left us to set up our camp, but some people were sleeping on their boats, and they invited us out for pizza at a local restaurant/pub. So we bundled into their truck, and headed out into the night, for a really fun dinner, interspersed with conversation about travel, politics, English slang, etc. And then they insisted on paying for our meals. Afterwards we crawled into our tent and reflected on how lucky we were to have met such nice people. But there was better to come.

The following morning we decided that we'd like to go out sailing, rather than head off on our bikes, as these kind of random encounters and adventures were exactly what travelling by bike was all about. Even though neither of us had been sailing properly before. We mingled at the pre-race meeting, and signed aboard the crew of a fellow named Brent, who had  been intending to sail his yacht solo until we showed up.  Without much further ado, we hopped aboard the Teak-Keel-Ah, and headed out onto the lake.  Brent showed us the basics of what we would be doing, and what to do when the boat would tilt crazily, and off we went.  Once we had the hang of it, it turned out to be great fun.  Luckily, being on this trip meant that we had the right kind of wet-weather gear to sail through the cold and the spray.

We supped on hot apple cider and Kettle chips between races, and considered it all to be time extremely well spent.  We ran three races, and got quite good at chucking ourselves from one side of the deck to the other to tack the jib (the little sail at the front, for ye scurvy land-lubbers out there) before the end of it.  After the third race, some people on the other boats were starting to feel the cold, so we decided to call it a day and head back in to shore.

We got stuck into helping with the party preparations, which for us mostly involved taking care of the tiki torches.  Everything else seemed to be pretty well in hand, and people started to bring in mountains of food.  There was even going to be a band, and it actually turned out to be a Halloween party of sorts.  A handful of people took this opportunity to dress up, which added a bit of extra entertainment to the evening.  By nightfall, the party was in full swing, and we had a grand old time socialising with the masses, eating excellent food, and tearing up the dance floor to the Classic Rock supplied by the band.  At one point, we were actually called up on stage to give a rendition of "Deadly Animals (Come to Australia)" by the Scared Weird Little Guys.  The impromptu rendition we had given to our dinner group the night before had apparently gone down well, so the whole crowd had to hear it.

We actually got several couch surfing offers, which again made us feel very very welcome.  We ended up accepting the offer from Mike (one of several folks called Mike), a fellow Australian who had been living in the US for several decades.  The guest room was certainly several steps up from a tent!  We also got some information on bike trails we could take to Cincinnatti, which proved invaluable.

The next morning, Mike drove us back to the marina, where we collected our gear and repacked everything more efficiently.  Several people came up to us to say their goodbyes and swap addresses with us before they went off sailing for the day, and we lingered for a little while afterwards, taking in the beautiful clear sky and brightly coloured autumn leaves.  We took quite a few photos before we could wrench ourselves away and get onto our bikes.  We did a brief detour to watch everyone sailing in the distance, and then headed for the bike path that would take us through Columbus.

We stopped briefly in one of the suburbs to restock on a few supplies, and then headed onward, still marveling at the beautiful weather.  The bike path turned out to be pretty good, though not quite as flat as previous ones.  We decided to take a small detour into Columbus itself, just to have a bit of a look.  We were rewarded with some very nice photo opportunities, including the Santa Maria, which is a little ship docked on the shore of the Olentangy river - presumably a replica of Christopher Columbus' boat of teh same name. Very cute. While we were there, a small group of pirate-clad kids was being given a tour of the ship and told about what life as a pirate would have been like. We then rode a little figure 8 through Downtown Columbus, had a look around the German Village, and then headed onwards to our camping destination for the night, which was the RV park in Alton, a little way west from Columbus. It turned out to be a bit pricey, but does have Wi-Fi access, which meant that most of this blog post was written in our tent!

We got there without further ado, and tried to get ourselves set up pretty quickly, as it was a clear night that promised to be cold. We did actually have a little frost this morning, but luckily not in the sheltered spot where we camped. You can definitely tell winter is hot, er, cold on our heels though. That being said, we're not actually heading due south today, but slightly northwest, in the name of visiting a little town called Mechanicsburg. For those of you who don't understand why this is exciting to us, we suggest that you follow this elegant and finely crafted link.

So in the last couple of days, we went looking for a campsite, and instead wound up being fed for free, to the point of bursting, sheltered, entertained, taken sailing, and generally treated like celebrities. It's a great shame that America has a bad reputation on account of the actions of its government and big businesses, because without fail the people we've met have turned out to be helpful, friendly, kind, and open-hearted, wonderful people. And it's hard to say just how warm and fuzzy that makes us feel.

1 comment:

  1. Yana and Sundance, Thanks again for visiting us at Alum Creek and letting me abuse you during the race on Saturday. I hope you didn't come away with too many bruises. I'll send you our email address so you can keep in touch. Fair winds in your travels,

    Skipper of Teek-Keel-Ah