Tuesday - Kendallville, IN. I was in the grocery store buying dinner for the night while Mike stayed outside with our bikes. As I checked out, a man in front of me in line said, "Are you Cheryl?" No, I replied thinking I must look like someone he knows; this happens to me regularly. "Well I'm Phil and you're staying at my place tonight." What??? Confused, I stuttered and wondered what he was talking about but he quickly followed up by telling me he had just talked to Mike outside and he already had directions to the house. Well, great! So much for having to search for a campground.
When we arrived, we found ourselves at an old, historic mansion taking hot showers, being waited on for dinner, with a place to sleep on their living room floor and hanging out with Phil's entire family. I've never seen someone so proud to meet us, telling us over and over that we made his day. Phil had never seen people touring on bikes before, was enthralled with our story and immediately called his local newspaper to schedule an interview for the next morning saying we were, "the story of the year!" I don't know about that. We're just doing what makes us happy, but we let him go with it.
The next morning Phil proudly marched us down to the newspaper for our interview, hugged us good-bye and sent us out to breakfast at his favorite restaurant, compliments of him, on our way out of town.
Mike, Phil & Cari outside the newspaper office in Kendallville, IN.
Wednesday - Napoleon, OH. As we pulled into town Mike stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom while I stayed in the parking lot and chatted with a family. I discovered they were locals and asked if they knew of a place to camp. After a moment's thought, the guy, Rick, replied that he couldn't think of any campgrounds but his parents own a cottage down by the river and we could camp there. We followed their truck through town to the river having to full-out sprint to keep up. We used to race bikes and were used to riding at that intensity but on this trip it's a leisurely pace and it was a lot of work to keep up for those 3 miles!
Upon arrival, Rick called his parents to okay our camping there while we talked to his 2 kids and wife, Chris, who made sure to point out there was a camera on the property. In other words, that was her way of letting us know that even though we claimed we could be trusted, they'd catch us if we weren't. I could tell by the tone of the phone conversation that Rick's parents weren't too keen on the idea of letting a couple of strangers stay on their property so Rick invited them down to meet us. Within minutes, not only were his parents, Art and Cathy, there but also his brother and nephew. It felt like we were in the middle of the Smith family reunion.
It didn't take long for Art and Cathy to realize we were harmless so they invited us to stay inside the cottage, use the shower, drink the soda in the fridge and use their fishing poles to go fishing that night instead of sleeping in the lawn. What a score, especially since we knew it was supposed to storm that night.
We all hung out by the river and chatted for a while and less than 10 minutes after they all left, Art returned with a 6-pack of beer for us saying he felt bad for not having any cold ones in the fridge, some money to go out for breakfast the next morning and an invitation to stay for as long as we wanted because no one hardly uses that cottage anyway. Mike was delighted to have an hour of daylight to fish that night, caught a fish and again we fell asleep feeling thankful for the generosity of strangers.
Art & Cathy's cottage along the Maumee River. Napoleon, OH.
Our home for a night.
Thursday - Sandusky, OH. As it got late in the day we found ourselves between 2 fairly large cities which generally means no campgrounds, other than hotels, and a lot lower concentration of people who are willing to trust and take in a couple of vagabonds for a night. We eventually spotted a hide-out to pitch our tent along the highway and although it wasn't very nice, it would suffice for the night.
It had been a hot day of riding so Mike went across the road where there was a little market to buy us cold drinks before we set up camp. He got there and found it was closed but noticed a man sitting on his front porch a couple of houses down. Figuring he should go say hello so as not to look so suspicious, Mike found himself asking about camping and the man, Harold, offering his back yard. He came and got me and by the time we were to the front door, it was open and we had a bed, shower, laundry and permission to eat anything in their fridge our little hearts desired. He showed us his workshop and the wagon he built a few years back - his pride and joy. We were genuinely impressed and became fast friends.
The house was ours for the night; he and his wife actually lived next door. After our quick tour Harold said we better go meet his wife and that he'd, "surely catch hell for this!" Seconds after we stepped out of the door his wife, Shirley, appeared from across the lawn. Names were exchanged but before any questions were asked Shirley made sure to let us know she was not yet completely trusting of us by pulling out a palm-sized miniature pistol from her pocket. "I came prepared. Harold was over here by himself and I wasn't sure what was going on" she said with a wink. I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. We look so innocent and the thought that someone would think we'd do any harm was amusing to me. They proceeded to show us their 2 huge dogs - as if the presence of guns wasn't enough to ensure we'd remain true to our word that we were trustworthy!
They left us to ourselves for the night and we enjoyed a night of comfort, luxury and sleeping in a bed for the first time in 2 weeks. While we were packing up this morning Harold knocked on our door saying he'd pick us up in 20 minutes to take us to a local restaurant they frequent so we could have a good, big breakfast before we took off. Our morning was spent talking of guns, gambling and traveling and we were once again invited to stay an extra day to relax and rest. As much as we thoroughly enjoyed their company and would have loved to stay, we had already scheduled a rest day for tomorrow and had to catch a ferry this evening, so unfortunately it didn't work out.
They sent us on our way making sure we were wearing our brightest clothing so we'd be safe, making us promise to keep in touch so they know we're okay and asking if we'd meet them in Las Vegas (their favorite place) once we're back in California. I think we just found ourselves another set of grandparents!
Mike, Shirley, Harold & Cari in front of the house we stayed in. Sandusky, OH.
All in all I'm baffled at how easy it's been for us to be accepted into the lives of people we encounter. I love it, embrace their stories, lives, generosity and hope we continue to have such luck - it's things like this that make this adventure so much more than just a bike ride. And one thing is for sure - we're going to have an awful lot of good karma to pay back once we finish this trip!