Chicago Trip / Day 1: US 35 is a feckless bitch . . .
I’ve been studying the route to Chicago for a long time. US 35 seemed to be a good choice to follow, with a few major caveats. For example, right through Dayton itself it’s an incredibly busy four lane highway, indistinguishable from an Interstate. Through parts of Indiana, it is an Interstate as it and I-69 romp northward together in an orgy of asphalt.
But before 35 slips on its “come hither” look and goes straight north with I-69, and after it gets over it 4-lane “Hey, look at me! I’m a real road!” ego trip through Dayton, it becomes a nice little sedate 2 lane with ample room for a bicycle in the breakdown lane. The better to pedal my fat ass, my pretty.
To get to 35, I had to take a few other roads. Ohio 725 took me out of Centerville to the little town of Gratis:
Gratis? As in, “Free”? “No Charge?” Then, yes, thank you, I’ll take a complete town.
The busting metropolis that is Gratis hadn’t quite yet embraced the whole “Rise and Shine” by the time I got there. I stopped for breakfast at the local BP station. The lady working the counter had one of those, “Yeah, I’m here on Sunday because I need the hours, NOT because I give a shit whether you come back to visit us again,” demeanors.
Breakfast, Gratis BP style:
From Gratis it was a pretty short trip to intersect with 35. 35 greeted me with open arms. It said, “Come with me, Bicycle Man. I’ll give you the ride of your life!”
I was smitten. For some time I’ve been carrying on with US 23 and US 40 which run north / south & east / west out through Columbus. All of them carry big trucks and fast cars and I’ve always felt a special bond with them riding my little human powered two wheeler along the berm.
35 was wild and unpredictable. Sometimes it’d go north. Sometimes it’d head west. Part of it would be rock solid asphalt and then it’d shift unpredictably to crushed / packed stone. Like my other two loves, 35 could be cosmopolitan and rip right through the heart of the big cities, then quietly meander through little Americana towns, with a friendly shoulder for the grazing cows comparing notes on the latest rolling iron.
As I said earlier, I knew 35 was going to run off with 69 (and what say you keep those dirty jokes to yourself) at some point, but, before then, it was going to deliver me safely to Richmond. I was going to console myself with a new bike path while 35 finished her tryst with The Big Road, then pick her back up towards Gas City, IN.
Imagine my feeling of betrayal when, without notice, 35 did this:
Without even as much as a “how do you do,” 35 said, “Hey, I’m going to play with Interstate 70 for awhile!” “But, but,” I stammered, “I can’t ride the Interstates in Ohio on a bicycle!” 35 dismissed me with a wave of her guard rail, and shot off at 65 miles an hour, leaving me confused, betrayed, and alone.
I angrily consulted my phone’s mapping system. “Why didn’t you tell me?” The phone blinked back unperturbed. “I showed you the evidence. In 16 million colors. You didn’t want to believe me. I told you 35 wasn’t what you wanted or what you needed. But you had to see for yourself.” I quickly closed the map app and put the phone back in its handlebar mount. (I heard the odometer whisper to the phone, “Play something off his Favorites Playlist. That’ll calm him down.”)
Sullenly, I did the unthinkable for a bicycle rider. I backtracked. Yes. Went back a half mile. I knew what I needed. A couple of quick, down-and-dirty, “it doesn’t mean anything” jaunts down some back-alley county roads to get to . . . her:
I sang the Simon and Garfunkel song for her:
Hello Forty my old friend . . . I’ve come to ride on you again . . .
40 didn’t complain. Didn’t ask a lot of embarrassing questions. Didn’t want to know whose asphalt had been under my tires. Just smiled wide, showed off those great four lanes she’s known for, took me by the hand and said, “C’mon. Let’s go into Richmond and see what’s new there, shall we?”