day six: Missouri, Indiana, Ohio

13Jun11

Distance traveled: 700 miles (1,126 kilometers)

Route: I-44 from Rolla to St. Louis, then I-70 to Columbus and north on I-71 to 271 until the turnoff for Highway 303 toward Peninsula.

Except for a brief, and partly unintentional, stop in St. Louis to take a look at the St. Louis Arch in the morning light, most of my day was spent driving through the farmlands of Indiana, which are incredibly picturesque in the spring.  Classic barn and silo combinations in conjunction with just the right amount of woods, and endless green fields filled with bright yellow wildflowers.  The car was humming along and it looked like I’d be in Peninsula in time for dinner.

Watching the landscape was a way to keep from thinking about the fact that I was getting closer and closer to Indianapolis, a city that’s become the Bermuda Triangle of cross-country trips for me.  When I was 15 and driving across country with my parents the water pump in our Volvo destroyed itself just outside of Indianapolis and we had to spend a few very uncomfortable days in a small motel room with inadequate air conditioning and ice cubes that tasted like garlic.  On the return leg of my cross-country motorcycle trip I blew a fuse outside of Indianapolis at night and had to ride with no lights until the next available exit, where I spent the night at an overpriced Motel Six.

Since the van was humming along so nicely this time around, I thought I might be about to break the Indianapolis curse, but just about ten miles outside of Indianapolis, something started to feel funny.  At first I thought that it had suddenly become a bit windy on the road, since the van was swaying a bit and I had to keep correcting the wheel.  I was cruising down the road at about 80, and even with the light wind it felt perfectly safe to pass slower-moving traffic.  But as I drove, the strength of the wind began to increase.  Except it didn’t feel quite like a normal wind, and finally I noticed that the trees by the side of the road weren’t moving at all, at which point I turned off at the next rest stop to find my rear left tire entirely flat, except for the fat framing nail sticking out of the treads.

Luckily, I had a jack with me, and a full-sized spare.  Unluckily, though the jack had fit fine underneath the back wheel in the parking lot of the auto parts store where I bought it, once the back wheel was actually flat the jack no longer fit correctly.  Moments like this are what the letters AAA are for, and a crew was out within the hour.  They swapped my tire out and told me that I might be able to find a shop to fix it down the road, at the next exit.  I ended up getting a new tire (the old one was destroyed by having driven on it) at the local Buick dealership, which was pretty much the only available option.  Three hours and a hundred bucks later, I was back on the road.  I definitely was not going to be on time for dinner.

As I drove through Ohio, the sun went down and it started to rain.  In the dark, mile after rainy mile, I kept thinking of my friends in Peninsula, who live on an organic farm — the Neitenbach Farm — where they grow herbs and vegetables, from which they make various products that they sell at the local farmer’s market.  I used to be roommates with Pam years ago in Petaluma (we’re old friends from high school), but it had been years since I’d seen her, and even longer since I’d had a chance to see her husband, AJ.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the last time I had seen AJ was at his and Pam’s wedding in Colorado, a chaos of delight that included a minister that never showed up, and — once another minister was rounded up — a fantastic party afterward.
The Neitenbach Farm is located in the middle of the Cuyahoga River, which is famous for having caught on fire in 1969.  As I drove along Akron Peninsula road I could see tall trees lining the road, and I saw at least five deer, stock still with eyes glimmering in the headlights.  I think I got to the farm at about midnight and there, waiting for me, was what I had been dreaming of — a salad made with farm-picked greens and a plate of pasta topped with recently picked morels.  Pam, AJ, and I stayed up for a few more hours, catching up.  They invited me back in autumn to come help out on the farm for a few days, and I’m totally looking forward to it, especially since AJ promised that he was going to teach me how to wheelie the tractor.  Unfortunately, however, I’m going to miss one of the most epic events that I can possibly imagine — the annual combine harvester demolition derby down at the local fairground.
So, a long, hard day on the road but luckily (wait for it) there was an uplifting morel at the end of the story.


One Response to “day six: Missouri, Indiana, Ohio”

  1. 1 Pamela

    Thanks for posting this…I love reading and seeing your adventures! Hopefully I will see you on your way back through Peninsula!


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