Day 17: Rawson to Celina

Punishment for laziness

Since leaving Cleveland, my motivation for just putting my head down and cycling has been waning.  The lack of fixed target points with hosts waiting, has allowed a tardy mentality to set in.

What should have been a period of bigger mile days over easy terrain with no significant hills and relatively light – if consistent – headwind, has become a week of lazy cycling.

Each day has started far later than would be ideal.  Each day has been far more interval-prone than the weeks before.  I’ve had days when I’ve headed off at 11am, finished for the day about 7-8pm, yet have recorded only 4.5hours of riding.  And each day, I’ve struggled to crest that 100km minimum distance.

Today I paid the price!

After meeting up with my garden-host, Eric, for breakfast in the next town down from Rawson, some 7miles away – which was covered in fairly good time, I took a bit of time before I got going again.

The plan was to head down to Lima (15-20 miles away), then continue down to Portland, Indiana.

Lima, Ohio is the supposed setting for a particular TV programme (“Glee”) about a high school’s musical/performing club.  While I’m not a fan, I know some of my friends are and thought they might appreciate the location reference.

Seizing the opportunity to type on a keyboard, rather than tap-tap away at a mobile phone screen, I stopped in at Lima’s public library – and got blog up to date.

By the time I left though, almost 3 hours of prime midday riding time had slipped by.  Despite being pleased to have blog to date, I berated myself for the time lost.

Exiting Lima, I passed a massive oil plant which produced an almighty stink, but more worryingly, the flared gas was being blown in my direction. The first time on this trip that I’ve had a good tailwind and I couldn’t enjoy it for all the fumes I was breathing!

Punishment further came when I was just arriving at St Marys.  The clouds, which had been building, opened, spilling their contents like an upended swimming pool.  Utterly torrential!

I sought shelter – and hot coffee – in a restaurant on the edge of town and assessed my camping options.

I wasn’t going to make it much further, due in parts to my lethargy, daylight remaining, and the huge storm approaching.

I considered the State Park – but didn’t see the point in over-paying for the ‘privilege’ of pitching tent; Grand Lake (a heavily polluted bile of green algae so thick visibility is less than 1mm) seemed, on the map, to offer a few spots for wild camping along its northern shore; or there were a couple of town parks throughout and south of Celina, at the northwestern point of “Green Lake”.

I opted to aim for West Lake Park, yet keep an eye out for other suitable locations.

I first discounted the space behind a closed bowling alley, despite there being good tree cover and knowing nobody would see me from any direction.  Then I found the frontage of a building company which offered good overhead and side cover, underwhich I could unroll my sleeping bag (external electric sockets also).  A lakeside Marina and golf course didn’t look appealing, nor did a spot hidden just off the road, behind some bushes, that seemed to be an unfenced water/gas/electricity meter/shut-off point.  I even considered staying in a motel for the first time this trip – but $75/night is equivalent to my food budget for 5 days, so was reluctant!

In Celina’s Pullman Bay Park, I found a day-use picnic shelter, semi-enclosed and with electric sockets.  I envisioned how and where I could pitch my tent in the corner – protected with roof overhead but exposed to elements from all sides.  But there was a couple lingering there also, so I took note and moved off to check on the other 2 parks.

There was a noisy party going on in a house immediately next to the second park so I didn’t even stop, and in the West Lake Park, I found another day-use picnic shelter.  Providing the same shelter as the other Park, but in a much better location, I tried to set up camp by pitching my tent on the hard concrete floor and securing it to the fixed benches.  It didn’t really work, but it would have to do. Particularly as the torrential rain was back again, this time with thunder & lightning also.

I set myself up as best I could, had a quick tortilla dinner, and atop my camping mattress, tried to get to sleep.  The storm however was close and closing in further.

After about half an hour (estimated), the wind very suddenly picked up, thrashing the rain horizontally into the side of the tent.  Fearful that the tent would roll, I spread my limbs across the floor to ground as much as possible, and plunged arms and feet into deep pools of water.

My tent was flooding.  Yet I couldn’t get out the tent for a few reasons: my being in the tent was probably the only thing keeping it from being blown away; the storm would be worse outside the tent than in it; I had nowhere else to go, and no safe means of getting the 5km back into town and possible safety.  I actually hoped local police might see me and disallowing my camping, might allow me to sleep in a cell for the night.  No such luck!

I bailed out my flooded tent as best I could with my ultra-absorbent travel towel, then had a restless night sleep through the worst storm I’ve ever encountered in my life.

In the morning, I chatted to a few folk by the shelter and learned that a tornado had touched down and wrecked havoc only 30 miles south.  My horrible night could have been a whole unimaginable lot worse!

Check out my ride on Strava.

Relive my ride.

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