Towards Lafayette!

I awoke the next morning to the sound of Joe and Angie getting ready for their day ahead. We said our farewells, Angie offering their home to me for as long as I felt like staying that day. I cooked oatmeal and sat by their warm stove, reading a book that Angie had suggested I take a look at before I left.

I took myself on a short tour of downtown Goshen, passing the farmers market and stopping at the food coop for a few supplies. The town, to me, struck a note somewhere between sleepy and bustling. I would be happy if I ever have the opportunity to visit again.

The day was sunny and warm. Soon after I left downtown, I noticed a small farm that sat adjacent to the Millrace Canal paved trail that was leading me out of town. I rode along its eastern edge, taking in its sprawling green pastures across the canal. The trail wound along the farm and led me eventually along a stretch of tall pines that bordered the driveway leading to the farmhouse.

When I saw a man clearing debris from the strong storms that ran through a few days prior, I decided to stop and talk. The man was named Bruce, and was care taking for the property while the owner was away. We discussed Clay Bottom Farm and others in the immediate area before he offered his as a place to stay during any future visits.

I rode out of Goshen (pronounced like ocean) and through the farm fields and small towns that make up the Indiana countryside, enjoying the sunny day and the encouraging wind coming out of the north. As the sun began the descent from its late afternoon peak, I began to notice a dull pain in my left knee that would soon after begin to slow my progress significantly. As I came to terms with the fact that I would be unable to reach Tippacanoe State Park as I had planned, a man in a small black pickup truck pulled up and asked for help in finding a (hopefully) nearby road. As we worked out a solution and began the customary discussion on what the (hell) was I doing?, the man offered a ride, which I happily accepted.

We spent the next 3 hours becoming friends as Steve explained his past experiences as a Colorado hitchiker, a busted and reformed pot dealer, a spiritual man, a father, lover, and dreamer. He had always felt himself to be a mountain man, and had a vision to someday traverse the Rockies with pack animal and supplies.

We both enjoyed the company, and he graciously dropped me off 40 miles beyond my original destination, leaving me with what food he could find in his truck compartment, and wishing me well.

We never did pick up the love seat that I helped him to locate earlier that afternoon, although he did pay for it. The Amish woman whose classified ad had brought Steve out of his way and into unfamiliar territory was single, and it was obvious to me that he was interested in getting to know her at least.

A handshake is as good as a kiss…..a contract, I mean!

We left the Amish woman’s home, both of them agreeing to meet again later in the week.

Steve and I never did exchange contact information, and as he drove away that evening, i couldn’t help but to find myself hoping that something good would come of that upcoming Thursday love seat acquisition.

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My first warmshowers experience

I left the diner and rode through the beautiful downtown of Goshen as I made my way to Angie’s home. She had agreed to open her doors to me only a few hours earlier that same day. I had been waiting among the pumpkins and mums on the front porch for only a minute or two when Angie and her 9 year old son Joseph pulled up next to the curb. Our salutations were incredible.

Aside from greetings from close family and old friends, never before had sensed a level of comfort from strangers in regards to me. Never before have I felt so unjudged. For those who know their family, I would come at no surprise, but for me it was my first exposure to a group of extraordinary and amazing people.

We were all soon sitting around their wood burning fireplace, discussing Joe’s school (the fact that he has skipped a grade in math and science, and recently closed a willing friend into his homemade duct tape backpack when an unsuspecting passerby asked “what’s in your bag?”…), their family’s love for costumes (no matter the time of year), and other stories of stepping out of comfort zones (Angie and her daughter Monica buying a barbecue truck as almost vegetarians and joining the fair circuit during a summer break when Angie was getting her Master’s Degree).

They were inspirational to me as people who were comfortable and happy following their dreams. Angie’s son had hitchhiked across the US twice, and left friends while bike touring in South America to return to his Love in California. Monica dropped out of school with three credits to go in order to change her pursuit from being a teacher to being a hairdresser (don’t worry, she has since acquired her diploma, AND is happily working at a salon in Goshen).

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We sat around late into the night talking about the virtues of a wood stove, telling stories about family and life, and smiling over pictures and memories; celebrating the moments that life has provided.

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We are Now Fundraising!

In the spirit of “Good food and good health for all”, I have set up a fundraiser to benefit Heifer International.  They are most widely known for their work in providing livestock, education, and tools to individuals and communities that struggle with access to healthy food.  Additionally, they focus on women’s empowerment and clean water.  You can visit their website for more info.

Visit www.crowdrise.com/biketofarm if you would like to donate.

Many thanks to Digital Color Graphics (DGC) of Indianapolis for donating business cards to give to folks that I meet along the way!

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Amazing People in Goshen, IN

Arriving in Goshen was a welcomed end to a long day. The town is a beautiful mix of Amish farm influence, small town local businesses, historical buildings, and newer ideals like a web of paved trails and a twice weekly farmers market (new?).

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A young couple recommended Toni’s as the best best coffee in town. Expecting a fancy coffeehouse, I realized my snobbery when I arrived at a diner very similar to a Coney Island. It was perfect.

I went inside and soon was involved in a multi-party inquisition into what exactly “mush” was, which was selling for $1 according to the daily special board. As the employees worked tirelessly to answer my question, a man walked in and sat down a couple tables away, becoming the second patron. Within a few minutes he was telling stories about his days as a bike commuter in Goshen in the 70’s, his solo bike trips to the Mackinaw Bridge and back, and some of the wisdom that he had gained along the way. It was then that I told him that I was also a biker, etc. etc.

He left the restaurant to have a look at my horse, and soon returned with an absolutely beautiful walking stick that was a product of his “spare time”.

A True craftsman never has to sell his product. People take it away from you.

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On to South Bend! (I thought)

After four nights at Miguel and Kari’s, I felt that it was time to move on. We woke
Up and milked together one last time. Yarrow the cow kicked a milk pale out of Keri’s hands as she was exclaiming how excited she was to make more ice cream. We didn’t cry over the spilled milk. In fact we laughed, chatting about how the cows don’t always like what you say.

After watching Miguel skim the cream from a previous days’ milking, he treated me to a cup of the skim milk that was on its way to the pigs. They are very lucky little porkers.

I packed my bags and we said our goodbyes. Keri surprised me with a plate of amazing jalapeño cheddar for breakfast,along with a ton of dried pears and beef jerky for the road. They waved me off as I rode away.

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The winds were still strong as Sunday’s storms fizzled out. What began in the hills as a gentle breeze quickly became a strong headwind as I made my way into the flat open farmland of northeast Indiana.

I had emailed two warmshowers hosts early that morning, one of whom declined early in the day. Receiving a text from Angie in Goshen, IN provided a helpful boost as I struggled to ride at the pace of a slow jog.

As I started to again feel sick with over exertion, I was passed by an Amish buggy that I happily drafted off for the following four miles before reaching the pumpkinvine trail, a 16 mile stretch that would connect me with my final destination, Goshen, IN.

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Miguel and Kari’s amazing place

Thursday morning I woke up and realized that I had just slept for 12 hours. I’m not sure how that’s possible but it felt good.

The ten mile ride to my first planned destination was not easy. It was, however, beautiful. The route took me through forested hills and past Amish farmers with their horse and plows.

Miguel I met briefly while at a small music festival at an organic farm in the Irish hills. Our conversation replayed in my mind several times until I met Kari at the farmers market in Ann Arbor. I recognized her from having read a beautiful poem at the same festival, and we struck up a conversation about the fermented vegetables she was selling. Eventually she invited me to “come visit the cows!”, writing down the address of the farm and a phone number as well.

As I approached the house on my bike for the first time, knowing that I was getting close to the correct address, I found myself hoping that this farm was indeed where I would be staying. There was a calm and serene feeling when i got near that never really left the whole time I was there. I stayed four nights in all, and It was sad to leave on Monday.

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Miguel and Kari have simplified their lives through permaculture and faith. Their passion and dedication for sustainable living is unwavering, and considered in every decision they make. The lumber used to build the beautiful farmhouse’s recent addition was cut and milled on their property. It was built by family. Their definition of organic is much more stringent than that of the USDA. They love their lives and are thankful for the work that they get to do every day.

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Activities that I was lucky enough to partake in included the morning milking, feeding the pigs, eating amazing pieces of cold cow tongue covered in fresh cream cheese, gathering apples for cider, and digging up dandelion (tooth of the lion) roots to be dried, roasted, and ground into a morning coffee-like drink.

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There is really no way to explain the food. Take the best dairy products you’ve ever tastes (cream, cream cheese, milk, ice cream) and multiply the experience by infinity. It shouldn’t be compared to what can be bought in the stores. I would highly recommend treating yourself to the experience that Miguel and Kari can provide to you through their food. Their cows eat all organic pasture grass, each have 14 acres of land if you divided it up, and basically do whatever they want. The milk reflects this, both in taste, and according to them, nutrition as well. Being raw milk and having avoided the pasteurization process the product is wholly different than what can be legally sold in stores.

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We’re really doin it!

As I pedaled away from home, the blend of feelings was quite unique. “I’m really doing it!” mixed with “what have I gotten myself into!” Mixed with “What a beautiful sunny day!”. As I rode through Gallup Park, something within me felt a little different than usual. For one, I was going about 1/3 of the speed I am used to. This what somewhat troubling. On the other hand though, did it really matter? The worst that could happen is a night outside in some backwoods hollow, getting discovered in the morning by hunters who I’d probably become friends with. I have the proper gear (did I remember my sleeping pad?).

Google maps, which I used to decide on my route for the day, did an amazing job of planning the route. Specifically taking into account traffic levels, bike lanes, and paths & trails, the service provided an amaZing route. Even through Ann Arbor, where I regularly make the effort to take new roads and sidewalks just to see what’s there, I was meandering through neighborhoods, parks, and trails that I never knew existed. By the end of the day I had ridden over 30 miles on smoothly paved bike trails.

Luckily for me, the small challenges of the day were quickly forgotten as the next tiny blessing appeared before me. Whether it was a Great Heron or Sandhill Crane flying along beside me, riding through the amazing (old Victorian) architecture of Tecumseh and Adrian, the beautiful sunset, picking apples and grapes for lunch, or just reaching the next road to turn on, it was somehow easier to appreciate the subtle beauty of what life had to offer.

9.5 hours after leaving Ann Arbor, I had gone 80 of 90 miles I had planned. My hosts, being dairy farmers, were gonna be in bed at 830…before I could get there. Having ridden in country darkness for the last hour, and having pushed myself physically, another quick stop for trail mix turned into the realization that nothing had ever sounded better than getting into my tent in the 30 degree night air. The path of least resistance led me to the front porch of the owner of some prime real estate…a patch of grass between the house and the barn which provided what looked like a fortress against the strong westerly winds. A slight bit of dumbfounded hesitation on their parts quickly turned into an offer of both food, and a night in their heated trailer down the road. “The beds are all made”, the wife said. I couldn’t believe my ears! As I crawled into bed, I couldn’t help but think about how my life and my perspective on it had already been impacted so much by the adventure, and how I felt like I was getting sick.

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