Not long after I left Gratis I saw this sign:

Which has absolutely nothing to do with anything. But I had to take a picture of it.

Not far from that sign, I saw a mile marker sign that told me Richmond was only another 25 miles away. I did some quick calculations and realized that I was going to get into Richmond real early. Way way earlier than I’d planned.

One of the websites that I’ve discovered since starting to think about The Big Ride Two Years Hence is Bicyclists themselves, the creators of the site wanted a world wide database where those of us on the road might find someone local who’d be willing to let you use a shower, sack out on a downstairs couch, or even heat some vittles for you.

In planning the trip to Chicago, I tried to utilize the database to cut down on some lodging expenses. I’m quite happy with the Motel 3s and Super 4s (they’re only half as good as Motel 6 and Super 8) of the world. I’m easy to please and after a 70, 80, 90 mile day, I could fall asleep on the garage floor if that’s all the space someone had for me.

Because the one immutable law of the universe is I have lousy timing, all five people who were in the WS database in the Richmond area were busy on the Sunday I was going to be in town.

One very nice lady, Amy, and her husband were actually attending RAGBRAI — the annual ride across Iowa (this was RAGBRAI’s 40th ride) — and they told me that if everyone else bailed on me, I’d be welcome. It’s just they weren’t going to be home so I’d have to cool my heels until about 11PM until they arrived.

They coincidently lived right off of US 40. In fact, when I made my trip to Richmond last year I went right by the street they lived on. I knew the area, knew it was commercial, and figured I could easily entertain myself for 7 or 8 hours. Amy suggested dropping my gear off on their back porch. Even taking a nap back there if I wanted.

I had figured I’d arrive in Richmond about 3PM.

At 11:00AM this sign greeted me:

“Hi,” it said. “Welcome back to Richmond. You must have put some serious spin in those wheels, fat boy, to get here so early.”

Sunday was one of those incredibly rare days that only happens about twice a year. The temperature is moderate — 70s / 80s. The wind isn’t trying to knock you down. The humidity is non-existent. The sky is a blue generally only seen in Thomas Kincaid paintings. The thought of wasting that gorgeous day sitting on a porch . . . well, wasn’t the whole reason for being on this ride in the first place was to ride?

I stopped at Taco Bell to ponder. Amy had texted me at one point to say they were going to be even later than 11PM. They were going to tell their dog sitter to unlock the house and allow me to go on in and make myself at home. While sitting at Taco Bell my mind wandered . . .

After Miss Indiana departed The Mexican Phone Company (Taco Bell. Get it?) my brain’s circuits rebooted and I could think again. I decided I was going to try and beat my all time record of 117.28 miles by riding on to Gas City. Ironically, I set that record back in 2011 by riding from Richmond all the way back to Columbus in a single day.

Gas City was 78 miles away. I’d already ridden 50. If I survived the trip (ha!) I was going to shatter the old record.

I rode over to the local CVS and bought a “Thank You” card for Amy and her husband, Kurt. I wrote my heartfelt thanks for opening their house up to a stranger — you can’t get any stranger than me! — and explained that I simply had to keep riding. As bicyclists themselves, I hoped they understood. I put the card on the porch (right where I could have been napping!) and headed off.

Google had told me about The Cardinal Greenways bike route that went from Richmond to Gaston, IN. Unfortunately, what it didn’t tell me was where the trail head was. I got a vague sense of where it might be and pointed my bike that way.

I got to where I thought it should be, but, nothing. No sign. No bicyclists. No parked cars. There was a cop sitting in his squad car talking on a cell phone. I rode over. He paused his conversation. I apologized for interrupting and asked him if he knew where the trail head was.

He told the caller that he’d have to call (him? her?) back. He suggested that I follow his squad car. Told me the trailhead wasn’t far. I said, “As long as you don’t expect me to be able to keep up with you!” He answered, “I’m a bicyclist myself. I won’t leave you.”

Before he even got out of the parking lot we were in, he stopped his car, got out, and walked over to me. “If I get a call, I don’t want to run off and leave you. So, you’re not from here, are you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yeah. I guessed. Tell you what, just turn around and look over there at that flag pole by the post office.” I did as he suggested. He came over and pointed over my shoulder. “See those guys riding the bikes? That’s where the trail head is.” Huh. All of about 200 yards away.

As any two bicyclists do when they’re together, we compared rides we’d ridden. He was 51. I told him that he was young whippersnapper in comparison to my 54. I told him about my plans to retire in two years. He asked what I did and I told him about owning a massage therapy business. I mentioned my ride from Columbus to Richmond. He said he makes it to Columbus all the time because his sister is an assistant pastor at a church that I actually happen to know about. I told him the next time he was in Columbus, stop by my biz and I’ll treat him to a massage. Gave him one of my business cards.

He asked where I was headed and I told him Chicago. That the only thing that had me a tad bit worried was Gary, Indiana. He grimaced. “Yeah.” He put his hand on his weapon and said, “Here, just take this. Bring it back when you come back through.” Made me laugh.