Monday, March 17, 2008

Pushing It

A five-town tour on Route 5, wherein Andy pushes his luck, and a few other things, as well.

It was above freezing. The roads were clear. I had a free afternoon. There was only one thing for it: go riding!

Bundled up, I zipped from Winona Lake through Pierceton (where Deborah teaches at the elementary school) to Larwill (where Deborah teaches at the middle school) and on to Route 5, which is one of my favorite roads, partly because it goes so many interesting places, and partly because it gets there in interesting ways. Straight lines are boring, and straight is the norm for most roads in northern Indiana.

In Larwill, I paused to finally get a picture of what Deborah and I call the NotAStore. I'm not entirely certain what this place really is, but there are about 50 lawn ornaments out front, and a large sign proclaiming,


Freedom of expression through lawn ornamentation is not without its perils, apparently.

From there, I buzzed through the twisties (well, what passes for twisties around here) to South Whitley, only to find my favorite burger joint, Carol's Corner ("at the stoplight in South Whitley!") was still closed, but promising summer jobs soon. Pity. I could have done with a cheeseburger around then. Their food is good, but it's more the fun in getting there, and the cool outdoor-drive-in-ness of it all. But 40° was apparently a bit too cold for the standard Carol's Corner Waitress Uniform, so I turned my wheels northward again.

As I passed through Larwill again, I noted that diesel fuel was now at $4.25 per gallon, and reflected that, at that price, there wasn't much savings to be had by switching to some of the new diesel motorcycles I'd been reading about. I eyed my trip meter (most motorcycles have no gas gauge) and made a mental note to stop in Cromwell to fill up.

On I plunged through the long shadows of the trees covering the rare ridges in this part of the state.

After ten miles or so, for the fun of it, I followed a sign I'd never followed before, and wound up in the bustling metropolis of Etna, and pulled into a gas station. It was closed. And, from the looks of it, closed for good. The pumps still read $1.24 per gallon — don't I wish! — and the orrery-like cluster of gears that ran the display was just visible through the weathered pane.

As I was looking over the foreclosure notices, a man whose beard and hair would have done Dumbledore proud poked his head out of a house down the block and hollered if I needed anything. Just stretching my legs, thanks. Which wasn't quite true. At that point, I was more interested in the weathered old station, and the forlorn, once-busy character that seemed to glow in the afternoon sun.
(I've got more photos over here.)

Several long and rutted dirt roads later, I found the highway again, and arced around the graceful corners that bring you into Wilmot. Wilmot is pretty much two bends in the road, a dozen houses, and a lake, but it does have the very cool feature of having a working water-powered grain mill.

We'd stumbled upon this place years ago while we were out motorcycling, just the two of us, and we'd gotten a tour. Today, though, the place was silent, waiting for Spring.

Puttering into Cromwell, I made for the local gas and deer check-in station. But even a hundred yards away, I could tell something was wrong. The windows were bare of their usual fluorescent sale stars. There was a "for sale" sign in the window. No gas. I checked my tripmeter. 158 miles since the last fill-up. No problem. I had 60 miles left...

At this point, you need to understand three things:

  1. I used to own a smaller motorcycle that got 85+ miles per gallon, and would go to the reserve tank at exactly 220 miles, every time.
  2. I wasn't on that motorcycle.
  3. Back in January when the bike got soaked on it's side, the gas gauge "idiot light" stopped working.

Which means that if you only vaguely remember how many miles you get to a tank, and you've been using more gas because of the cold weather... you're likely to do what I did a few miles later: stop at a gas station, use the bathroom, and leave.... without buying gas.

I was still within sight of that gas station when the engine started sounding a bit different, a feathery, fluttering sound from the exhaust in place of its usual bark. I was on the main road again when it sputtered, and I realized exactly where I'd gone wrong. I whipped the bike around and tried to make it back, but it was no use. I pulled in the clutch, and rode it out as long as I could, but I still ended up pushing the bike over a mile back to that same gas station.

For once, I was glad that Indiana is relatively flat!

For additional photos from this trip, I've got several on The Other Blog, arranged by town: Larwill, Etna, Wilmot, and Cromwell.

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