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May 20- Day 44

I'm sitting in the rain writing this. Covered in dirt and mud, sitting by my broken bike. The sidewall blew out. I have to replace the tire, no other way. It can't be fixed. Problem is, I am a hundred miles from Marquette. It happened six minutes after I left camp. I fixed four flats on the inner tube, which didn't help because I didn't realize the importance of the sidewall until after I reached Kenton (I got a lift from Trout Creek to here by a forest ranger, Trout Creek has only houses, Kenton has stores at least.

I've got two signs up: Need HELP: Bike Broke and Need HELP: Marquette in order to try and hitch a ride. Later I taped the two together and put my message in larger print. I'm hoping the couple I rode with yesterday come by like they said, but I fear they might have started before me (probably not, but everything else has gone wrong today)

When the ranger picked me up I broke down and almost hyperventilated. If I wasn't so alone, it might have been different. I however, have no support. I'm alone, and explaining that case to the ranger made me feel even more so.

I finally got a ride. The couple from yesterday didn't show up, but a guy heading close to Sault Ste. Marie picked me up in his truck. Phil confirmed what I had heard about the Upper and Lower Peninsula rivalry, and offered the thought that in fifty years every American will have their own lawyer.

My god, the rain! It is as bad out now as it was in Winnipeg! I'm so glad I'm in a truck!!! Well, except for one scary incident. The truck hydroplaned and spun out of control, but Phil was a excellent driver who managed to avoid a crash and keep on the road. Whew!

In Marquette we picked up a tire and inner tube, the continued on. When I get as far as he'll take me, then I'll put it on. No tire sealant, but if this tire is as advertised, then I shouldn't need it (it's rimmed with kevlar).

The rest of the drive was partially filled with small talk. I talked about the book and the survey, he talked about his dissatisfaction with work and his boss. The last two hours were mostly spent in music and silence. At one point we found ourselves stopped behind a van, waiting for the road crew to wave our line of traffic through. I thought it was a little league team, since they wore caps and uniforms. Then I noticed one had a beard, and the other had to be over two hundred pounds the way he was making the van sway when he moved. Add to that Phil noticing the cage like barrier to the driver, and it was obvious this was a prison van. But why prison uniforms of blue and orange?

Finally we got to the I-75, nine miles from the Sault Ste. Marie bridge into Canada. But I still had to fix the bike! Phil dropped me off at a nearby motel, and I wished him well. Hopefully he'll find the kind of life that will make him happy.

But now, the bike. It was still pouring rain. About half as bad as Winnipeg. I asked the lady working in the motel if I could fix my bike inside where it was dry, and she let me use the back room. While I worked on replacing the rear tire, she offered advice and tools that I might need. My bike computer broke AGAIN, and so after the hour it took me to finally replace the tire and inner tube I had to fix that as well.

Meanwhile, my sleeping bag was going for a run in the dryer, thanks again to the lady who worked there.

The rain still wouldn't let up, so I asked if I could set up my tent out back (so I could dry off again before starting tomorrow). This time I had to ask the owner, to whom I pleaded my case. He agreed.

All that was left was to pack everything up and set up my tent. I grabbed the bag, then went for the pegs.

No pegs. Nowhere to be found!

The poles?

NO! I had left my poles and pegs back at the camp past Paynesville!!!

I know how it happened. It was raining when I packed, and I had used the mens washroom to pack my gear onto my bike, and the woman's washroom to pack my tent. Both were quite roomy, but I wanted that room to spread and pack the tent properly. This was where I made my mistake, I must have left them in the woman's washroom!!!

It was about this time that I heard that there were going to be thunder storms tonight.

Let's just say the first words I thought were: I'm screwed.

The pegs I can replace easily. Thick twigs would do. But what about the polls?

Well, that solution might never be known, because the owner came in at that moment and offered me the use of room 18 for free! It hasn't been cleaned since its last use (like I care), and I eagerly agreed. What luck! What unbelievable luck!

I'm going to have to write an article about this trip through the states. Despite the hardships, I've found nothing but helpful Americans willing to lend a hand (well, aside from having to wait four hours for a ride in Kenton). Phil had even chipped in 20 bucks towards the replacement tire, and for that I am EXTREMELY grateful.

I'm in the room now. And I am EXTREMELY exhausted. Not physically, I only biked 7 kilometers before everything went to hell. Oh yes, that reminds me...

Time spent cycling: 0:36:02

Distance traveled: 7.46 km

Total distance: 3364 km

Average Speed: 12.4 kph

Maximum speed: 25.8 kph

Current Location: Sharolyn Motel, Room 18

As I was saying, I'm not physically tired. I'm emotionally drained. For a long time, a very long time, I thought I was screwed. But I had persevered in a few ways. I didn't panic when the tire blew. I got off and patched it as best and repeatedly as I could. I made it to the next town despite the constantly deflating tube and got a ride from a forest ranger. I methodically got around to making a sign and trying to hitch a ride. I got a ride, got replacement tires and tube, and eventually got a place to stay for the night. Life overall is good. But while I'm learning a lot about people, I have, for the time being, stopped having fun.

Can you imagine what would have happened had I not got my ride and tried to rough it out? Ready to set up my tent in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, only to find I couldn't set it up! And no bike to get me to a bigger town!

I get two common responses when people hear about my trip. Either they think it's cool, or they simply ask "Why?"

Once, I simply rattled off my usual answers. The book, the newspaper articles, the survey, the adventure...

Now, I can't help but think: "I don't know!"

Oh, and for those of you who think I'm cheating with these helping hands. In a way, yes I am. However, consider the following: Had I stayed in Canada, I would have had to take the bus from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, because the roads there are narrow, without shoulder, and constantly crossed by logging trucks. Even the Canadian Cycling Association recommends this. It's considered a death trap.

From Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie is over 580 kilometers. That is almost exactly the distance I have covered as a result of the largess of strangers. So I still covered the same distance on my own power down here as I would have if I traveled through Canada instead. Sounds fair to me, and cheaper too!

I have to get something off my chest...

I'm not proud of the fact that I blubbered a couple of times (to the ranger and in the store I got the cardboard from), but I was alone in the middle of nowhere, almost literally the middle of nowhere. To be honest, I shouldn't have had this kind of problem, but I know why I did. It's happened before, when I pulled my first all-nighter in a donut shop, three years ago in Portland, Maine...

I had come off the Kangamengus Pass in the Appellations and was making such great time that I figured I'd go all the way to Portland and catch the next ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. On the way it rained, then it turned ugly. Lightning which not only hit, but lingered for a full second. I had stopped under a covered gas station until it passed, by which time it was very dark. When I reached Portland, I found out the next ferry wouldn't be for 20 hours! There was nowhere to set up my tent, and the local hostels were all in lockdown after midnight. I couldn't find anywhere to stay that night, and eventually I decided to pull an all nighter in a Dunkin Donuts. I was in the same blubbery emotional state around then. And the reason is simple: Things didn't go according to plan.

Let's not mistake this with "Things didn't go smoothly", because I always plan for the most reasonable delays and events. I expect them, and I don't mind them. But when things go so way out of whack that I don't know what to do, I have trouble handling it with grace. I can handle it, but I blubber. When I'm with somebody I know, I complain instead (just ask Wyatt). It's the loss of control that affects me. In Maine I had no control over finding a place to sleep (it was also my first adventure). Today I had no control over getting a ride or fixing my bike. I'm getting better at handling it, but I'm still a child in the ways of this world. I have a lot of growing up to do.

There. I just wanted you to understand.

Now that I'm in reasonable comfort I think I'll have a long warm bath. It's been nothing but showers since Brooks, Alberta! Too bad I finished War of the Worlds, I'll have to download some more soon. Hope that internet access is working soon.

So, for tomorrow... A quick ride back to Canada (I had bought 9 days of insurance, but will only have been here for 4 thanks to the rides), find the hostel, pay for one night, and find a camping store where I might find replacement poles and pegs. The poles will be a problem, unless I find a similar style tent. The shape is pretty unusual. There is no Mountain Equipment CoOp here, so that option is out... This could be a big problem...

Ahhh... that bath was nice. Small tub, but good enough. Probably have another one tomorrow. The bed is a giant soft sponge. I sink right in, nice and squishy. That's nice for a change.

Oh, and yes, there is a Gideon's Bible here as well.

Onto Day 45...