I was hitching when I last wrote, and a ride came. The guy took me to Iron Mountain [Michigan], where I found spokes at Smitty’s Sport Shop, but no tool to remove the freewheel. Dave’s Bike Shop was closed because Dave was away on a trip. An old guy at a machine shop routed a nut to the shape I needed, but the metal was too soft to stand the banging. (Had a pasty at Vespa’s Delicatessin.) Then I heard about Machus Sales and Service. They carry bike parts, a mile’s walk from there. Also heard that they had a gas station a block away where I might find out if they have the part. I talked to Johnny at the station – big, heavyset, laughing, rough looking, one of the guys – and within a couple minutes he had the freewheel taken apart. Not off but apart, with tiny ball bearings running all over the ground. Damn. I really didn’t know if I’d ever get it back together. I put the spokes in, then the hard part. Managed to get some of the ball bearings from the basement of the Western Auto store, where I had argued with the guy earlier about the chance of bending a spoke past the freewheel – not so friendly. Finally, with some help from Aaron Gustafson, the guy working at the station, everything came back together. Aaron invited me to spend the night at his place. One of the quietest guys I’ve ever met, except when he is talking about motorcycles. He took me up to see Pine Mountain the next morning before I left.
That was Wednesday. I felt great, the bike worked fine, and I put in about 125 miles from Iron Mountain to a park on US 2 just west of Blaney Park. Met a couple girls from Iowa, Lynne and Jeannie, and visited with them at the park. Then it rained. All night. Mosquitoes wanted to get out of it, too, so they joined me back under the trees. It was a fairly miserable night, and I took off at 4:30 AM. The rain had stopped, but the clouds and mists that were left made the early morning kind of eerie but at the same time pleasant. The sort of scenery that brings thoughts of adventure and feelings of far-away-ness.
All the way to Saint Ignace it was cloudy gray. For a while the sky approached a nighttime sky and I thought I’d be drenched. But no rain. Not until I hit Cheboygan, then pow! And it’s been raining ever since, with short breaks in between showers and downpours. Plenty of thunder and lightning. It’s Friday morning about 8:00, and I’m in a motel near Vanderbilt. About 130 miles yesterday. I had hoped to get past Gaylord but made the mistake of stopping at the store here, and then it was too cold to start out again. I figure about hundred 180 miles to Lansing. Have to at least make Mount Pleasant today because I’ll be wet and cold again and don’t have the money for another motel. (I talked to lady down from $7 to $5 last night.)
Damn rain. And these were the days for speed, too. What a drag. Doesn’t look like it’s going to clear up, but when it slows down again, I’d better hit the road.
Guess I’d better pick up those missing days again. Sunday at about 11:00 the rain let up again and I rode. Stopped many times to get out of the rain and finally landed 36 miles away at George and Mary’s Bar at the junction of US 8 and US 51 [in Wisconsin]. Spent a fairly miserable evening there, asking various people if they could carry a bike to Rhinelander where there was a county jail and perhaps a bed. My sleeping bag was wet. No luck. Several guys bought me beers; I bought myself several beers. Then a guy I suggested I call Chuck Crowfoot, a deputy who lives up the road and who just might be working the night shift. So I called Chuck Crowfoot. He was not very happy about it all. “First of all, I don’t make a practice of this sort of thing. Secondly, you got me out of bed, which doesn’t make me very happy. But if you’re still at George and Mary’s at 10:30, I’ll give you a ride on into Rhinelander.” Big, unhappy voice. Damn. So I sat there for two more hours, very nervous. No more beer. The atmosphere was cold; so was I. Sunday night and a few local people in to drink and visit; no one much much interested in talking to a stranger. Finally Chuck Crowfoot shoved the door open and boomed, “Where’s the guy looking for a ride?” “Right here.” “Well, let’s go.” I went.
Chuck Crowfoot was as big as his voice, didn’t look at me when he talked, gave another short lecture about how he didn’t usually do this sort of thing, then asked where I planned to stay in Rhinelander. I asked him about the jail. No go; they can’t do it. Wasn’t being ornery but explained just why it wasn’t possible. I asked for suggestions. After talking for a while about various motel spots – “The only cheap places would be on up at the north end of town, but those are regular flophouses.” – he said he guessed I could probably sit in the office for the night. He didn’t think the guy on duty would mind. I snatched it up. Then he softened a little bit more and said I could even sleep in the back of his station wagon if my sleeping bag was dry enough to keep me warm. I snatched again. As it turns out, Chuck Crowfoot wasn’t all that rough, just wanted to sound that way. I guess a sheriff’s deputy should sound that way. I spent a warm, comfortable night in the garage of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department.
The sun shone when I left Monday morning. I thanked Chuck Crowfoot, and he acknowledged, still without looking at me.
The morning was going fine until just outside Crandon. Pop, pop! Two spokes broke. No one in Crandon had the right size. I rode to the next town, Laona, and no better luck. Met Malcolm, who invited me out to his cabin in Silver Lake for some lunch. I ended up spending the night there with him and Bert. I left the next morning before they were up, rode to Laona, hitched a ride to Iron Mountain, which brings zigzagging back up to date.
It’s Friday, July 23, 9:05 and still raining. Time for a shower. If it’s still raining then, I go anyway.