As we woke up on the second day of our trip, we felt like post-apocalyptic elementary school survivors. The classroom still had chalkboard taunts written on it from when the school was shut down several years earlier. With “Jake loves Lisa” and “Kevin is a butt” on the board like hieroglyphics, it was clear everyone just left school one day and never came back. One of the most interesting experiences was making our coffee on a JetBoil in the vacant but very clean and organized school cafeteria.
As unorthodox as it was, we were appreciative to have stayed the night out of the rain and away from the midwestern Mosquito swarms of the Tippecanoe River just a few hundred feet away. After our breakfast of leftover pizza, coffee and kind bars we were ready to take on the world. We were attempting a 110-mile trek to Muncie, Indiana, the home of Ball State University.
Our next stop was Peru, Indiana, about 47 miles away. While you may be thinking of Incan ruins and llamas, the route to this Peru was surrounded by the local Mennonite and Amish populations of central Indiana. This land is also where a lot of the world’s supply of popcorn is grown. After some country roads and a nice shaded rails-to-trails paved bicycle path, we arrived in Peru and had lunch at a local pancake house called Gabriel’s.
While refilling our calories with multiple buttery stacked pancakes and French toast, we started thinking about where we were going to sleep in Muncie. Although there were few campgrounds, I decided to see if my college fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, had a chapter. After a quick google search, I dialed the president of their chapter who was as inviting as a person could be. Before I got off the phone, we had been offered a place to sleep, Gatorades to drink, and homemade fettuccini alfredo. The brothers could not have come through at a better time.
With our bellies full of maple syrup and Muncie on the horizon, we started strong on our 63-mile afternoon journey. We quickly found that bicycle gods were not has forgiving that afternoon as they had been previously. What the locals called a “second summer” had come on that day and the temperatures in rural Indiana reached 95 degrees with severe humidity. Additionally, the winds had changed to where we had a direct headwind and it felt like we were riding in a commercial steamer. The distance we had estimated would take us about 6 hours took us closer to 9. Although the corn was tall, there was little to protect us.
Exhausted and dehydrated, we arrived at our Lambda Chi brothers’ house with our headlamps. Their curious and enthusiastic spirits lifted us as did Social Chair Jason Cardenas’s homemade fettuccini alfredo. I don’t think there will ever be another Italian dish so satisfying. After the fettuccini, we went out and got some ice cream, some beers and some local pizza. We told them about our mission for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and without a blink, they started sharing the word on Social Media and offering to help. We want to give a huge shout out to Micah Germann, Bryce Sigsbee and Jason Cardenas for their help.
That day we learned that Ball State University was named after the Ball Brothers, the famous Indiana entrepreneurs who created the mason jar and bottling empire. We learned that electrolyte tablets were life savers when you feel like you are in a cornfield sauna. We learned that Indiana was full of amazing people who could take us in and make us whole again. After our 110-mile journey, we slept well that night with our bellies full and a roof over our heads once again.