By Judy Steffes Special to Published Aug 10, 2007 at 8:59 AM

I’m having less luck securing church hotels. It’s probably because I’m pulling into my destination city later and later in the evening and don’t have a chance to work the community.

Spending the night in Angola, Ind., delayed by several showers. Spent a good 45 minutes on some guy’s porch along Hwy. 20, watching the rain and listening to his dog bark. I got back on the road even though I had reservations about the traffic. Hwy. 20 was a two-lane road with little shoulder. The semis passed so close it was almost intimate.

Angola was a cute community with a three-story military statue in the middle of town. A woman at a coffee shop helped me find a cheap motel. I’ve been settling for the mom and pop motels. The Libertybelles or Bonniebelles; every town has one. This joint was at the far north end of Angola, over three hills and across the road from the Ramada. I wrap up with 71 miles on the day.

$38 for the night, I’m wet and it’s raining. The key to the motel room is just that, a metal key, not a card with a metal strip. The key fob reminds me of the license plate on the towing chain, setup for the gas station bathroom. The door frame at my room is splintered and looks like the door’s been kicked open several times,. The air conditioner is full of gunk and the room smells like the inside of your high school guitar case. It’s perfect.

My goal the next morning is to make it to the far western edge of Indiana, my reservation is Gary, Ind. I’ve been warned extensively about Gary; avoid it entirely, go around it, catch a ride.

Just outside of South Bend near Elkhart, Ind., I get turned around on Hwy. 20. Pulling into a gas station a nice man named Glen helps get me on the right course, with a little history added in. "Well, you continue west on 20 but then there’s a split and back in the day ..."

Another man at the opposite pump can’t help but offer his input and then a woman joins in the mix. I stand back and watch; it’s exasperating. They have as much consensus as a teenage drug deal. Finally Glen solves it by telling me to throw my bike in the back of his van and he’ll take me to the other side of South Bend.

"It’ll save you a little time," he said swinging open the white doors of his work van. Glen is in his mid-60s and extremely close to retirement. He’s a plumbing manufacturer, which explains the safety guards on the sides of his wire rim glasses. Glen is sporting a t-shirt with a fishing theme and that gets us talking about his passion. "I went from carving fishing decoys to duck decoys," said Glen who got hooked on hand carving after his son bought him a five page how to book.

"I made a hand-carved mahogany rocking horse for my grand kids," said Glen proudly. His primary carving tools were old straight edge razors. "That stainless steel crap never holds its edge," he said, talking about finding his tools at tag sales and grinding them down to serve his purpose. Glen is just busting to share his passion for carving.

"Ya know, a lot of carousel horses have a fella that carves the head and then an apprentice carves the body and they never look right."

Glen was so adamant about getting his rocking horse right, he went to the county fair and spoke with a farmer and a vet to help him get all the body angles correct.

Glen’s finished product stood 36 inches at the ears. "It took me two years to finish," he said proudly and secretly sharing that he signed a handmade certificate in a time capsule and buried it in the body. When asked if it was difficult for him to give it away he said, "My grandson can come over to my house and play with it whenever he wants."

Made it 83 miles to Michigan City, Ind. that night. Gas is the lowest I’ve seen at $2.56 for regular unleaded. There was also a time change in there somewhere. Nobody in Indiana can explain it either. I go to the Elks club for one simple drink and get kicked out. Nobody believes I’m a member back home and nobody wants to sponsor me.

To hell with the Elks, I didn’t want their stupid beer anyway. I have to plan for Gary. 

Judy Steffes Special to

Judy is a Milwaukee native who is ever exploring the country. Her favorite mode of travel is her 21-speed, blue Centurion bicycle, which she bought after high school. Judy has worked in the local media for the past 20 years. "I need to do something to support my biking habit."

Judy has an extensive history in radio news, having worked at WISN, WUWM, WTMJ, WKTY in La Crosse and WBKV in West Bend. A strong interest in sports also had Judy reporting for ESPN Radio covering the Packers, Buck, Brewers and Badgers. "One of my first Brewer games at County Stadium the security guy yelled as I walked into the locker room ‘LADY IN THE LOCKER ROOM.’ Now it’s so commonplace. But that story makes me sound really old."

Judy is currently working at WISN-TV in Milwaukee. She is a freelance writer and her pieces have been seen in The Small Business Times and The Business Journal. Her travel journal has appeared in Minnesota Trails Magazine, The Statesman and the West Bend Daily News, to name a few.

Aside from biking, running and being active in her community, Judy is known as someone who is "very, very thrifty." "I get candles for Christmas. My friends call them my space heaters because I normally keep the heat in my house at 40 degrees during the winter. It’s not that I can’t afford to turn up the thermostat, I just hate paying for heat."

Judy said her "conservative attitude" plays a part in her bike tours ... not needing to pay for gas and frequently spending nights camping inside churches. "First of all, it makes me feel safe since I’m traveling alone and second all you’re doing is sleeping, so why pay for that. It’s no wonder I can’t ever get someone to travel with me."

Judy grew up in Whitefish Bay and graduated from Dominican High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Judy is the second oldest among seven siblings and spends a lot of her time working as a "park tester" along with her eight nieces and nephews.