After 93 miles the day before & 54 that day, about all I could do was coast into a shady corner of a strip mall parking lot on the north side of Lancaster, Ohio. I just about collapsed off of my bicycle & leaned against the stubbly concrete wall. It was about 5 o clock & by no means had the day cooled off at all, the shaded wall was only made comfortable by a corner wrapping wind that would blow through every fifteen minutes or so.
As I sat & let my phone charge in a plug falling from is opening, I began to plot my sleeping arrangements for the night. I had passed a park on the way in, some baseball diamonds & a row of trees toward the back, edging along a body of water somewhere between a creek & a river. It seemed like my best option. With nothing else to do while the sun went down, I people watched. Overweight couples & families trickled in & out of the Chinese buffet on the corner, saddened middle aged men in old gas station shirts walked into big lots empty handed & left with who knows what. & off in the distance I could see a buffalo wild wings & an idea formed, I will talk my way into a couch at wild wings. The clientele looked young, the dudes slightly broish, the girls in packs. I figured it was my best bet if I didn’t want to be sleeping next to third base for the night. I locked my bike outside & proceeded slowly thru the double doors, a blast of AC hitting my sun burnt skin & as I approached the hostess stand, the petite girl manning the wooden counter already had a look of concern. “This may be a weird request, but i’m biking across the country & was wondering if any one who works here may put me up for the night. Would you be able to ask around for me?” She never did really answer, she kept staring past me as I told her I’d be back in a half hour to see what progress had been made.
Back outside I felt defeated as I rolled my bike back to my shady corner, as I sat down a tall blonde, pushing 18 at best walked by & entered a set of doors I hadn’t even noticed, south beach fitness. & the mental train started rolling. Bikes, fitness, friends, of course, this could only lead to success. The AC stung my skin again as I entered, three young girls staring me down from behind a counter & before they could even say I word, I unleashed my spiel again, this time to a more positive response.
Questions of my travels layered from the three different voices, my head bouncing between eyes trying to be polite & answer all the questions & in a brief moment of silence “well I guess you could sleep here” the blonde one said, pointing to a couch wedged in a corner fifteen feet behind me. “At the very least you can use our showers, let me call my manager” my eyes followed her as she disappeared into a side room & the melee of questions commenced, the shorter blonde losing interest & sauntering off to wipe down equipment, but the brunette battled on, unrelentingly.
The blonde emerged & started right in, “first, my managers jealous, he has always wanted to bike across the country. Second, we have some partnership with a hotel up the block, they come here & we can stay there, he said I can get you a room for the night.” As soon as she finished speaking, she started laughing & it took me a minute to realize it was at the involuntary jaw dropping that had occurred with her statement. “Free?” I asked, “yea some weird thing, I don’t know but ill make you a reservation” already dialing the number before she was even finished speaking. She hung up & handed me a business card with her name & number on it.“Just tell them you work here, good luck” I stood stunned muttered a thank you & walked out.
It can’t be this easy, I thought as I biked up a curving hill in the direction of the hotel. “My friend Tiffany just called & made me a reservation” my shirt was brown with dirt & sweat, my hair matted from the helmet, my knees cracked as I walked, I was preparing myself for disappointment. “ You’re room 226, breakfast is from 6-9am enjoy” & that was it, I grabbed the card keys from her hand before she could reconsider & rolled my bike to my room. My bags & body hit the bed like a knock out & a bit of disappointment came over me, I wouldn’t get to use the bug spray I had stolen earlier in the day, but the feeling quickly faded under the sound of laugh track television.