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  • Writer's pictureAl S.

Tippecanoe & Indiana Too - Dayton, OH to Matteson, IL

Updated: Jan 24, 2023



Back on the road after a day off in Dayton, OH, I headed into the farmland of Indiana. There was a lot of flat country, good roads, and not a lot of cars. I stopped by the Indiana Dunes National Park before crossing the state line into Illinois.



 

May 28

Mileage: 72.2 miles

Odometer Start: 2721.1

Odometer End: 2793.3

Avg Speed: 11.5 mph

Max Speed: 25.0 mph

Riding Time: 6 hrs, 15 mins

Dayton, OH to Losantsville, IN


From Dayton, there were only about 40 miles left to get to the Indiana state line. It was raining when I left the hotel and there was a bad headwind which slowed my progress. To make matters worse, the temperatures were abnormally low for late May. I quickly became cold and wet. It wasn't intolerable as long as I kept pedaling, but this was the most uncomfortable I had been so far on the entire trip. Fortunately, the rain tapered off after an hour and I only had intermittent showers for the rest of the day. The headwind was a different matter. That persisted all the way until I set up camp for the night.


Brookville Station on the Wolf Creek Rail Trail. This was the last stop in Ohio.

I rode the Wolf Creek Rail Trail for the first 15 miles to the town of Brookville, OH, but then had to ride on the small rural roads through wide open farm country until I crossed into Indiana at the town of Richmond, IN. It was quickly apparent that I had reached the Great Plains. There were flat cornfields at every turn.


The navigation becomes pretty easy when all of the roads are straight lines and all of the intersections are at right angles. I mostly just pointed my bike west and headed for Indiana. The only navigational issue I encountered was almost riding onto I-70. I missed a turn and the road on which I was riding morphed into the on-ramp for the interstate. I figured out that I needed to turn around pretty quickly, but that is the kind of thing that can happen when you are riding unknown roads.


I was into Indiana by lunchtime and grabbed a bite at a cozy little restaurant. This also gave me a chance to warm up a bit. From Richmond, IN I hopped onto a rail trail called the Cardinal Greenway. It runs for 62 miles up through Muncie, IN. Nothing beats a good rail trail!


It was still cold and wet in the late afternoon. I reached the small town of Losantsville, IN late in the afternoon and decided to stop and camp alongside the Cardinal Greenway for the evening. I really didn't want to go any further because I was losing dexterity in my fingers due to the cold. I got my tent set up and crawled into my sleeping bag. It took some time, but I finally started warming up once I was in my comfy sleeping bag. The temperatures were down in the upper 30s overnight, but my sleeping bag is rated for 22 F, so that was no problem.



 

May 29

Mileage: 63.6 miles

Odometer End: 2856.9

Avg Speed: xx.x mph

Max Speed: xx.x mph

Riding Time: x hrs, xx mins

Losantsville, IN to Converse, IN


Disappointingly, I accidentally reset my cycling computer at some point in the afternoon and lost all of the detailed statistics for the day.


It was still cold when I started out in the morning. I reached Muncie, IN in time for breakfast. Google Maps showed a bakery a short distance from the trail, so I rode over to it. I was looking forward to a good breakfast and a place to sit, eat, and warm up. Of course, when I arrived at the front door... it was locked. There was a sign taped to the window that said they were closed for the next couple of days so their employees could enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend. Ok... Plan B.


The Muncie Station on the Cardinal Greenway in the middle of Indiana.

There weren't a lot of options for breakfast in Muncie and I finally settled on a couple of muffins and some tea at a Starbucks. That was quite a disappointment compared to the breakfast that I had originally anticipated. To make matters worse, they closed the dining area due to COVID, so I couldn't even sit inside and warm up. I had to eat on their patio and try to find a nice sunbeam.


It is interesting what happens when you lose the framework of everyday life. I honestly did not realize that it was Memorial Day Weekend... I didn't even know it was Saturday. The day of the week just doesn't matter most of the time when you are traveling in this manner. I found that this was true for almost the entire trip. I really only paid attention to facts that were directly relevant to my situation. If you asked me what time the sun rose and set, I could tell you to within 10 minutes because I needed to know when I could start riding in the morning and the latest that I could ride in the evening before it became too dark for safety. Other facts, like the day of the week... I just lost track of them.


I continued making my way northwest over the course of the day and eventually stopped in the late afternoon at a little town called Sweetser right at the end of the Cardinal Greenway. This town was nice enough to provide a covered pavilion with running water and (most importantly) a live outlet where I could charge my phone and tail light. This was the perfect spot to take a break and think about where I would camp for the evening.


As I was sitting there re-hydrating, another cyclist on a long distance tour rolled up. This was Brandon and he said that he was headed from Myrtle Beach, SC to Seattle, WA. He was the first person I met that was also traveling cross-country. His bike was loaded for bear. He had so much stuff strapped to his bike that I don't know how he kept it upright. He had bags strapped to the front, the back, onto his handlebars, a bag attached to his frame, and stuff strapped to the top of his rear rack. He even had a fishing pole strapped to his bike. His route was taking him down through Missouri, while mine was going through Iowa. That didn't bother me too much, because after talking with him for a few minutes I realized that I did not want to spend a lot of time with him.


I stopped for the night near a small town called Converse, IN next to The Sweetser Switch Rail Trail. Once again, this was not an officially sanctioned campsite, but I won't tell anyone if you won't.



 

May 30

Mileage: 73.3 miles

Odometer End: 2930.2

Avg Speed: 12.5 mph

Max Speed: 29.2 mph

Riding Time: 5 hrs, 49 mins

Converse, IN to Rising Sun Campground next to Tippecanoe State Park


Most of the day was spent riding rural roads through farm country. Rural Indiana is not particularly exciting. There was one stretch of nice bike trail leading north out of Peru, IN. The Nickel Plate Rail Trail is paved and makes for easy riding. I got on this trail at the halfway point and rode about 22 miles from Peru to Rochester.


After passing through Rochester, IN, I was back on the roads. I managed to get 3 flat tires over the course of the last 25 miles I rode on this day. Two of those flat tires were because of the same piece of small metal that had embedded itself in my tire.


Obviously, every time I get a flat I spend some time carefully checking the tire for anything that might still be embedded in the tire. There is no point in changing a tube just to immediately get another flat. The first flat tire of the day was annoying but uninteresting. I found the problem with the tire, swapped the tube and was on my way. The second flat tire was really annoying. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything in the tire and I couldn't even find a spot where there was a puncture. I assumed that I ran over something that punctured the tube, but then was ejected from the tire.. Once again, I swapped the tube and was on my way.


Once I got the third flat tire of the day, I was becoming actively angry. I had traveled less than 20 miles since the last flat tire, so I suspected that something was still stuck in the tire and I overlooked it when I fixed the previous flat. This time, I was very meticulous about changing the tire. I marked the tire at the stem so I could match the hole in the tube with a specific point on the tire. Sure enough, there was a tiny little piece of metal embedded in the tire. I could not even feel it when I ran my finger over it. However, I'm guessing it was poking up just a tiny bit when there was weight on the tire and this was sufficient to put a hole in the tube over the course of an hour. After removing that bit of metal, I was good for the rest of the day. It was a serious relief when I found that problem because getting random flat tires every 30 miles is not a tenable situation when you are covering 70 to 100 miles every day.


I have to say that the roads in Indiana are some of the best in the mid-west. They seem to be consistently paved, but have very little traffic. In the rural areas, there were times that I could ride 15 minutes and not see a car. I will also give credit to the drivers of Indiana. I was sitting on the side of a tiny little road in the middle of farmland fixing one of my flats. There were probably only 5 cars that passed in the 20 minutes it took to fix the tire. Of those cars, 3 of them stopped and asked me if I needed help or a ride somewhere.


I spent the night at the Rising Sun Campground which is right next to the Tippecanoe State Park. My campsite was right on the banks of the Tippecanoe River and was quite a pleasant place... except for all of the other campers who hadn't ridden their bikes 70 miles that day and stayed up partying until 2

My campsite on the Tippecanoe River about 20 miles west of Rochester, IN.

As I was finishing dinner, 2 people on bikes pulled into the campsite immediately next to me. They were Dan & Lisa from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. (I'm sure they told me which of the Twin Cities they were from, but I have since forgotten). It turned out they were headed from their home to Washington, DC on a 2 week tour. They have done a number of long tours and this was just their latest adventure. We had a very enjoyable conversation about touring and things we have seen and experienced... and then we turned in and did not get a good night's sleep thanks to our neighbors.


 

May 31

Mileage: 109.2 miles

Odometer End: 3093.3

Avg Speed: 12.5 mph

Max Speed: 30.3 mph

Riding Time: 8 hrs, 43 mins

Rising Sun Campground to Matteson, IL



I headed north with the intention of camping somewhere around Indiana Dunes National Park. This was the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, so I figured that all of the people that were filling up the campgrounds would be headed home so they could go to work tomorrow. There is a campground at the national park, another one at the adjacent state park, and several private campgrounds in the area. I was confident that one of those places would have a flat space where I could set up a tent.


The entrance to Indiana Dunes National Park.

It was about 50 miles up to the national park and I was there by around 2 pm. I stopped by the park and talked to a couple of rangers. They informed me that they knew with certainty that the campground at the national park was full. They offered a couple of suggestions and I made some calls looking for an opening. There was nothing to be had. I probably could have found a place to stealth camp if I had really tried, but the entire area had a lot more development than I expected. I decided my best bet was to keep on riding.


Leaving the national park, I got onto the Calumet Trail. This was an (alleged) bike trail that turned out to be a muddy single track alongside a railroad. Many places on this "trail" were covered in 6 inch deep puddles due to some recent rains in the area. I did my best to ride around the puddles when I could, but sometimes there was no option but to ride through the water.


To make this trail more interesting, the puddles served as home to a large number of water snakes. At the time, I believed these were water moccasins (also known as cottonmouths). Their coloring was very similar to a water moccasin when viewed from the seat of a bike... and I was not planning to get close enough to give them a thorough inspection. All of these snakes were babies and were only about 6 inches long, so they were not a threat to me. There were dozens of these snakes in almost every puddle I rode through. It never left my mind that if there are baby water moccasins in the puddles, then there must be mama water moccasins nearby. I was only on the Calumet Trail for about 3 miles, but it seemed a lot longer due to the snakes and the puddles. It was only later when I had a chance to Google some snake facts that I determined these babies were actually the non-venomous Common Watersnake.


My bike computer showing the total from my 109 mile day.

If you want to understand my concern and confusion between these 2 different types of snake, check out some pictures for the Common Watersnake... and then look at a picture of a Water Moccasin. The coloration and markings are sufficiently similar that it is hard to distinguish the difference at a distance.


I kept riding west through Gary, IN and then into Illinois. This was the 8th state of the trip. It also put me square into the southern suburbs of Chicago. I eventually found a hotel in Matteson, IL. In addition to a fabulous shower, I ordered a pizza and had it delivered to my room. My total mileage for the day ended up at 109 miles. That was the longest I have ever ridden on a a single day. I was pretty happy with myself.



 

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