Sunday, July 25, 1971

I’m home. Got here at 1:30 yesterday afternoon, with all the excitement that I expected to feel at homecoming.

I finally hit the road Friday at about 10:00. The rain had stopped. It was cloudy the whole way, and the downpour started again at about 2:00 near Higgins Lake. Drenched again. But I kept going and made it to Aunt Glady’s in Mount Pleasant at about 9:30. 

It’s good to be home. I knew it would be. Everyone’s here for the first time in about a year. The stories will be fun to tell, for a long time I think. But it feels really good to relax.

Friday, July 23, 1971

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.

Sunday, July 18, 1971

The sky is pink orange in the East. I’m at a wayside just east of Catawba, Wisconsin, and it’s raining hard. Only about 95 miles yesterday after all. I may have gone further, but I stopped along the road for a while to help an old couple who were trying to load a U-Haul trailer with stuff from an old cabin. The way that old guy was puffing, I was wondering for a while if he was going to make it. They fixed me a couple sandwiches before I left.

By the time I got here it was dark. The stars were out and really bright, and it was cool enough so there were no mosquitoes. Perfect night to sleep out. I was really comfortable until it started raining. I crawled under the plastic and brought my camera inside. The first was a drizzle, then it quit. Now it’s going again full tilt, too heavy to ride. So here I sit. 

Saturday, July 17, 1971

I’m at a Dairy Queen in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, about 200 miles from Michigan. I’ve come about 70 miles so far, after spending the night at Deer Lake with Dave Coyte and his family. I came only about 70 miles yesterday and quit early because of the heavy traffic. US 8 is as narrow as any road I’ve ridden, and the traffic has been the pits. But I’m making fairly good time in spite of it and should top 100 miles today.

The visit with Pat and Diane was good but not all I had hoped. Diane was sick, and and they were both somewhat hung over from the company party the night before. Had a steak dinner with Pat, though, and a pretty good visit. Then Dave came over and took me out to meet Susie.

The ride through Minneapolis and St. Paul was really a drag. It was hot enough to work up a good sweat, and the city dirt stuck right to me. Traffic was bad, and I rode against a fairly strong wind on Highway 61 going north from the cities. Not the best day of riding by a longshot.

Back to the road.

Thursday, July 15, 1971

I phoned Michele’s grandmother and came to her apartment in downtown Minneapolis for supper. A heavy rain and hail storm blew up, and Pat and Diane got home late, so I spent the night in the guest room next door to Mrs. Fallon’s apartment. This morning I talked to Pat and will spend the evening with them. Called 3M Company and spoke with Dave Tollerud [Stanford classmate]. He has a girlfriend south of town and is coming to visit tonight. I’m anxious to talk with him.

Wednesday, July 14, 1971

Didn’t feel like writing last night, so I’m back to try again. I’m in Minneapolis, sitting in front of Pat and Diane Fallon’s place. They’re away for the day, and I’m tired, so I’ll just wait.

As I was saying, the annual kegger at Lake Faulkton: We drank beer from about 2:00 ’til about 12:00. No, not constantly, but enough to get a good buzz on. Met a whole mess of guys whose names I won’t try to remember. A very relaxing day.

Sunday morning I fished with George at Lake Faulkton. Jeez, he’s a funny old guy. Whiny, squeaky voice, dirty jokes, really loud and tiresome sometimes, too. No bass, only a few bluegills and crappies. About midday we all piled into cars and drove to Jean and Eldon’s hog farm near Gettysburg. Jean’s like all the other Bartholomews, loud, rough, ready for a laugh. Eldon’s a big simple farmer, a former sheriff, who likes to drink once in a while when it doesn’t interfere with his work. Loves Pollock jokes, laughs big. Eldon’s proud of his farming. We went fishing again, this time at Oahe – good mess of walleyes, a few white bass. No walleyes for me. Bob was there to supply more normal companionship.

Car busted. Got home at about 2 o’clock, left Monday morning about 10:30, with an invitation for duckhunting at the end of August.

Monday I rode about 95 uneventful miles until I met a guy trying to fix his car along US 12 just east of Henry, South Dakota. I asked if I could help, but neither of us knew what to do. Visited for a while and ended up spending the night with the Gene Page family on his farm a mile and a half north of there. They were a really great family, much more controlled, less raucous than the Bartholomews. I realized that many of the people who have taken me in are those who already have a bunch to take care of. The Tabaccos, Hougens, Bartholomews, they all had a pile of people. At Gene’s home were his four boys and one daughter, two cousins, a grandmother, plus about seven or eight visiting relatives and neighbors that evening. Everyone was interested, yet everyone also had their own interests and things to talk about. Kurt, a sophomore, played guitar for a while. Gene and Marv taught me about dairy cattle. Everyone was very friendly, never pushy. It’s the sort place I really, really want to visit again.

Oh, I almost forgot. I stopped in the little town of Rockham Monday morning for a drink. Came out of the john and saw a Michigan license on the car at the pump, walked in to visit with the guy at the station, and it was Mike Carr, welder foreman from Motor Wheel, visiting relatives in South Dakota. Son of a gun!

Left the Pages about 10 o’clock Tuesday, rode as far as Kranzburg, then hitched up with a guy from there to Montevideo, Minnesota. I was anxious to get Michele’s letter in Willmar before I called her Tuesday evening. Tore through the 37 miles to Willmar and got to the post office at 4:59. Another good letter.

I spent a miserable night at the Community Park at Diamond Lake northeast of Kandiyohi. The camping fee was three dollars “by order of the County Board.” I ignored it; they didn’t notice me. I ate twice-their-price hot dogs for supper, try to rack about 10:00. The mosquitoes swarmed. Damn. Finally at about 3 AM I gave up. The moon was full, and I rode by it and a pinking easterly sky until breakfast in Litchfield at about 5:30. It was a good day on the road; my progress was quick. Passed through Chele’s old hometown, Wayzata, and stopped for my free lunch at Phil TeGantvoort’s Phil-Up Lunch in Minneapolis. Larry had said in a card that I’d be coming. He was remarkably as I had pictured him – big, red-faced and jovial. Visited for a while, then came out here to Michele’s cousin’s house. Nobody home, but they left me a note and number. I tried it several times without result. Then I happened to think I ought to call Chele’s grandmother while I’m waiting around. Looked at her letter – aha – same number as the one Pat and Dianne left. Nobody home. Don’t feel like riding, and it sounds like the cousins are really neat people. Think I’ll take a nap.

Tuesday, July 13, 1971

Another backlog of writing. When I’m with so many people all the time, it’s hard to get away by myself to write. That’s alright; people are more important.

Saturday afternoon I went out to Lake Faulkton with a bunch of guys from South Dakota State. I had arrived just in time for the annual kegger.

Saturday, July 10, 1971

I’m at Tom Bartholomew’s house in Faulkton, South Dakota, watching a baseball game on the tube. Being lazy.

Thursday I made about 85 miles, bucking a strong head wind the whole way. I camped for the night at the edge of Bowman, North Dakota, with a couple Petes from Oregon who were traveling on big road bikes. The most significant part of the day was talking with old Nick at the grocery store in Plevna (population about 200). Nick advertised me to everyone who came in, gave me crackers, salami and a drink for a midmorning snack. He’s another of those Montanans who’s fabulously proud of the little farm community and countryside he’s lived in for 54 years. It was fun to talk to him.

Friday only about 65 miles. Another headwind and I really pooped out. In the town of Lemmon, South Dakota, I met Don Bartholomew and his cousin from California Bob Whitney, asked where was a good place to stay in town, and ended up spending the night with George, Bessy and the whole family. Had a fresh fish dinner, a shower and a bed, got up at about 5 o’clock this morning and rode with them to Tom’s place here in Faulkton. The lift not only got me past a lot of boring country and bad wind, but also give me a rest today and a chance to go fishing for bass and trout tomorrow. It’s really cool; seems like they’d do anything to make sure I’m having a good time. I am. And clean clothes!

About 1000 or 1100 miles to go, I think. Anxious to get home.

Thursday, July 8, 1971

Before I left town yesterday I horsed around getting my glasses and watch fixed (the watch stopped again, though) and buying some clothes. Finally took off at about 1:30 or 2:00. Stopping in different places, I began to get the feeling that everyone knew about me already. I guess they did. Two ladies at the Bean Bag, where I brought my liverwurst, had apparently spread the word. I was in an ice cream parlor when a fairly hip couple walked in, ordered and asked the lady there if she had heard about the guy riding a bike from Portland to Michigan. She said yeah, he’s sitting behind you. They were passing through en route to Portland and told me that everyone in town knew about me. Wow I’m a celebrity.

I rode 42 miles and camped in a rest area just east of Locate. Met Leonard and Marion Balcom from Oregon, headed for Alpena, and they invited me to dinner. Chicken fried in butter, mm, good. Mr. Bolcom is a skipper on the West Coast and only works about half the year the rest is for land travel. I’m having my corned beef and baked beans cold for breakfast. The Balcoms just left and so will I as soon my gear is dry and packed.

Today the Dakotas.