I have never been one for big cities or large tourist destinations. When I arrive somewhere I put my running shoes on and go out and explore. What better way to see a place than to get lost in it? I can safely say we got lost in America – a lot. Ohio was a beautiful place to run, a balmy twenty eight degrees with quaint towns every few miles and rolling fields as far as the eye can see. Like everything in America, the fields are not higgledy-piggledy like in the UK, they are clean straight lines, uniform and organised. I guess with so much space there is not the demand for land like there is in Britain. The streets are in blocks, the crops are regimented – they have never even considered a dilapidated dry stone wall dissecting a field at a 34 degree angle.
Ohio was so much more pleasant than Pennsylvania, the muggy heat had disappeared, and it was drier now. Early morning was brilliant, the stillness and serenity of a country morning, I had not experienced anything like this since I ran in Scotland on the first ‘Epic Run’ and prior to that I can only recall such peacefulness as a child in Malham. The tranquillity and the weather had meant that I had run a 4 hour and 17 minute marathon on the first morning in Ohio.
Columbus, Ohio was one of my favourite cities. Cities are not usually my favourite places, but Columbus is different. Columbus has a small town feel but with large city buildings. We moved along through the city, prior to the commuter infiltration. The architecture of the city is beautiful, nothing garish or lavish, just simplicity and class. Its buildings like its inhabitants are friendly and thoughtful. The buildings feel to be part of the landscape, like they have always been there, as if they are natural.
Out of the city, we were into the countryside again. The seamless, effortless transition into nature wondrous in its elegance. As we left Columbus, cornfields filled my view on one side with soya beans on the other. The corn stood tall, ripe and ready in many instances. The fields went for miles into the distance. I couldn’t help but think of the amount of corn and soya bean produced in this area, it must surely cover the entire world’s need for these vegetables. There is acre upon acre of plantation, a massive contrast to the concrete jungle of New York, we had left behind a week earlier.
Map of Ohio Photo Gallery
Running along to side of the road cloaked by cornfields you notice how well kept the small pieces of grass are that border the fields. One of the highest selling items in Ohio must be the ‘sit on lawnmower’, never in my life have I seen so many people mowing their grass. I watched as an elderly gentleman manoeuvred his mower up and down the roadside, cutting his small strip of grass that bordered the enormous corn field. It seemed quite pointless to me, to be cutting the grass when only a few inches from the grass was 6ft high corn, but it gave the old fella something to do!
As I approached another farm I noticed that the RV had stopped and was speaking to the farmer. He was not mowing the grass but had come out on his ‘sit on lawnmower’ to see what it was we were doing. His name was Burt Montgomery, a 90 year old Korea Veteran who had farmed this land since he was 7 years old, his sons and now grandsons still farmed this 2,000 acre farm He recanted tales of his youth and how the farm had developed over the years. We told him what I was doing and who I was raising money for. As we told him about ‘Help for Heroes’ he paused, took out his wallet (which by the looks of it was as old as he was) and gave us $20 for our charity. A veteran helping other veterans! Burt, by the way, didn’t look a day over 50 – maybe the farming life is what has kept him looking so young. Also, his little strip of grass was immaculate! Burt Montgomery another true hero in a world which is apparently lacking them.
Afer a week on the road we were ready for a bed, to get off the RV and get a change of scenery for the evening, cabin fever was beginning to take hold. A friend from my university days had moved out to America a few years earlier, originally relocating to LA they had now settled in a small leafy town called Loveland, Ohio. A better name for a town, I think you would struggle to find. We dined that evening with family and friends, a beautiful home in the heart of Ohio. We told stories of the road and our adventures so far. I sat with Sion and laughed about our university days, remarking on how incredible it was that we were both sat in Ohio 15 years later. The kids playing and running around took my mind away from what was still to come. You can always count on kids to raise your spirits, they don’t understand failure, they have no concept of time and space, for them we were on a “Big Barbie Truck” and I was just riding my little bike. The fact that we had been going for a week and still had 2,000 miles to go through deserts and over mountain ranges was not something that they had even considered. Thank you for your smiles Griffydd and Bronwen, one day I hope you will realise how much you and your family helped me.
Goodbyes are always hard, even more so when a 3 year old wants to come with you. After the goodbyes were finished I pressed out of Loveland on my bike. Our final destination for this day was a place called Batesville, how very American I thought. Batesville, however, was fairly uninspiring, just another town, but for us a stop off on the way to bigger things.
Afer Batesville, we headed into Indiana and up towards Chicago. The heat changed all the time, sometimes muggy and humid other times dry and baking hot. The RV was used more as a cooling station; cold showers becoming a frequent occurrence during my day. They helped immensely in settling down my heart rate and just calming my body temperature to somewhere near normality.
During the planning, the heat of the country was always on my mind, I tried my hardest to block it out but it was becoming more of a battle against the heat than against the road.
Hitting double digits on the days done was a massive boost. 10 days and we were still in the game. Cycling in Indiana is hard, not hard like mountains and deserts, it’s more the monotony of the landscape. Straight roads and cornfields, they are endless and afer a couple of days of them, they are mind-numbingly boring. The roads are so straight and the heat so intense that as you look into the distance the road hazes into the heat and it becomes a blurred wave of colour, mentally having apparently no goal to aim for is hard work. On Day 10, we stopped and rested in a small town called Frankfurt, like the previous towns across the country the water tower stood prominent on the edge of the town with Frankfurt written on it in large black letters. You can see the water towers before you see the towns, a clear indication that you are nearing civilisation once again.
We closed in on Chicago, once again the fields gave way to the streets and the traffic built to a point where I couldn’t safely run or cycle on the road. On the outskirts of Chicago, I jumped in the RV and we headed to a hotel. We had decided to stay in a hotel that evening, we hoped to have a decent night’s sleep before the real Route 66 began.
Completing day 10 I was shattered, I needed sleep and I needed to stop. I lay in the back of the RV a window above my head and I watched for a few minutes as the world whizzed by, my eyes became heavy and within seconds I was gone. Completely exhausted, I drifed into a deep slumber.
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