Tomorrow will probably be the last day of riding in the US. I’m now in a hotel near Cleveland, a city on the shores of Lake Erie. I’ll take HW 90 all the way up to the Niagara Falls, where I’ll be crossing into Canadian soil.
After leaving Madison and Savaş behind, I headed towards Chicago. I was coming close to a crossroads where a few phone calls were waiting for me. Ada’s birthday, mom and dad, then finally an old friend who lives in Indiana. Fırat and I have known each other since we were little boys and somehow grew up to be very similar people. That rarely happens with childhood friends. Normally, when you look at the face of an old friend, you see the how they’d been 20 years ago. There usually isn’t much to share other than old memories. That’s not the case with him.
I had to make a decision about where to go after Chicago. Seeing Fırat would mean a day going south and another coming back up north. But it would be worth it…
Chicago was amazing. I have been to this city before. But it feels completely different with a motorcycle. Being a part of the traffic and having the time to fool around, I spent a few hours on the streets. Everyone had a place to go except me. I didn’t even have a place to stay and didn’t want to pay for one either. Hotel rooms are same everywhere, they’re just cheaper outside the city.
Trying to get out, took some time. I had to stop at every toll station, taking my gloves and wallet off, paying the attendant, and putting them back on. A ritual I had to repeat almost every five miles. At around nine, I was still in an industrial area called Gary. I tried a few hotels but they all seemed a bit shady. “Is this a safe neighborhood?” I asked the girl behind the check-in desk. She couldn’t hear me because of the thick safety glass. A trucker with a heavy accent told me to move on for 20 more miles. Later on I heard that Gary was called the a**hole of US. I don’t know if it’s the shape and location on the map, but the acrid smell of sulfur suits fine to the analogy…
Riding 85 mph on the highway at night never felt safer. Sometimes I don’t want to stop at all. When riding, I feel home. Everything feels right. Everything is how they’re supposed to be.
By the time I paid my last toll, all the booths were empty and even the attendants had gone home. Self serve… Finally I found a place to sleep. I don’t know if it was really safer or my standards of safety had declined, but I slept fine.
The road to Indiana was easy. People are very obedient to traffic rules here. I guess they have a strong sense of punishment. Billboards with biblical quotations seem to work fine for the purpose. University of Indiana is like a cultural oasis in the middle of this conservative environment. Bloomington is a perfect small town with an incredible demographic variety composed mostly of students and academicians. Fırat and Mary received me with an amazingly rich supper table. Mary is 6 months pregnant. They live a peaceful life and already know which hospital to go to…
It was probably the most interesting night I had so far in this trip. First I met Okonkwo. A very old professor of folklore who traveled extensively in his youth. Fırat takes him grocery shopping every Thursday so that’s what we did together. We walked slowly between the isles taking our time to read the small print behind the packages. No sugar, salt or flour… Yes, the muffins have less sugar than the loaf… Okonkwo bought me a tube of tomato paste for my camp meals. I asked him to sign the package so I would remember him every time I use it.
We then went to a casual meeting of cognitive science doctorate students in a Mexican restaurant. The waitress asked how many we would be. Firat said “Unpredictable!” as if he was talking about the result of an experiment. Salsa and phenomenology work well together. At one point I found myself talking about non-existent sensory modes. That was after two beers. We had a lot more to talk about with Fırat. I know very well that if I stayed for a week, we would still have more talking to do. He needs to write. I need to go.