Distance: 75.24 mi
Average Speed: 11.0 mph; Max Speed: 39.6 mph
Elevation Gain: 3,353 ft
Average Temp: 83.9 F; Temp Range: 55.4-109.4 F
The fireworks last night were every bit as loud as I expected. However that was countered by my exhaustion and the magic worked by @dearestscooter and the Sleep With Me Podcast. Once I fell asleep, I was out for the night. Well, not quite. I was out until I woke up at around 3AM feeling a bit cold. How lovely that the temperature has dropped to the point where I wake up feeling cool. I pulled on another layer of clothes and went back to sleep. Even with the new layer, I woke up in the morning curled into a fetal position and a bit chilly, but overall it was a good night’s sleep.
I was packed up and on the road my 6:30 with hopes of getting to Illinois, a ride of over 70 miles. But yesterday I had wanted to ride over 70 miles and didn’t even make it 60, so I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Instead, I took stock of where the potential stop points were and just rode.
The hills were still bad today, but not as bad as they were yesterday. This was a good thing, because it seems that my knees have not forgiven me for yesterday just yet. They do not appreciate having to push that hard in the lowest gear, and I don’t blame them.
Despite the stress on both body and mind, the scenery is gorgeous. I mentioned to somebody the other day that it took until Missouri for the forests to start looking “right” to me. This is the kind of forest I am most familiar with: predominantly deciduous, with thin underbrush (thicker at the edges such as near roads) and a few conifers thrown in here and there.
Farmington, the town where I had hoped to stay last night, was charming to ride through, filled with old houses and shade trees. I stopped at a gas station convenience store for some coffee, a pastry, and to top off my water bottles and Camelbak, because the next stop was at least 30 miles away. Normally, three water bottles would be more than enough to get me 30 miles, but with these hills, I wasn’t so sure. The woman behind the counter asked me if I was alone and commented that she would have been to scared to ride alone. This is a common theme that I’ve heard, but I assured her that other than a few moments, most of which were caused by motor vehicles or weather (neither of which cares if you’re alone) the trip hasn’t been scary.
About halfway from Farmington to Chester, I passed a touring cyclist headed west. He started June 13th and is currently having some bike issues that he hopes to get fixed tomorrow at the Farmington bike shop. We swapped information about the hills. I told him that the ones to the west would get worse, he told me that the hills don’t really stop until a few hundred miles from Yorktown. He also said the dogs in Kentucky were scary. Lots of people have said that, and I’m definitely planning on acquiring some dog deterrent in the next few days. I have already been chased by a few dogs here in Missouri, but most of them didn’t have overly aggressive body language, and the few that did stopped shortly beyond their property line, satisfied in having frightened me off.
Finally, after 73 miles, I reached the end of US Bike Route 76, which I have been following across Missouri, to cross the Mississippi River!
There was construction on the Chester bridge (as you can see in the photo above) and for part of it there was only one lane. This was annoying, but had the bonus of meaning that I got to stop in the middle of the bridge with no cars coming up behind me to snap a photo.
And then I was in Illinois! My home state. I texted the family and my brother asked if I was tempted to turn north and just ride back to my place. Since my keys are in NJ with my car and my pets, it’s not as tempting as it might otherwise be. Besides, I have my mind set on dipping a tire in the Atlantic to mark the end of my journey. That just wouldn’t work if I didn’t ride there to do it.
Chester Illinois is the home of Popeye the Sailor Man, and there are statues of the various characters all over town as well as murals and similar. Frankly, I’m surprised that every entrée at every restaurant doesn’t come with a side of spinach.
I checked in with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who have a small bunkhouse for cyclists. The bunks themselves are wooden and built right up against the walls. The room is small but air conditioned! And there’s a bathroom and shower in nearby buildings. All good, as far as I’m concerned. Then, after a trip to Walmart to buy some food, I decided that I didn’t really feel like cooking, so I went back up to the Eagles’ Aerie where they said they had pizza. They didn’t have any without meat, but one of the patrons just told me to order Dominoes. The woman behind the bar looked up the number and gave me the bar phone to call, so I ordered a small mushroom pizza, then got a beer from the bar, which one of the patrons paid for. It wasn’t very crowded, but that was good for me, so I spent a pleasant hour or so sipping my beer, downing the entire pizza, and chatting with people about life, my ride, and other randomness.
Back in the bunkhouse there are two other riders, one headed east and the other west. We talked about our bikes. One gentleman has an internal gear hub: heavy and expensive, but less fussy than derailleurs and less likely to wear out chains. The other talked about the steel in his bike frame. I went to clean and lube my chain only to discover that my chain lube had leaked all over my bike tool kit bag. Thankfully, some other rider had left behind a half-full container of chain lube, so I used some of that, not that my bunkmates for the night wouldn’t have helped me out. They both offered.
Now I’m full, my bike is clean-ish, and I’m about ready to enjoy a night sleeping in an air-conditioned room.
Roadkill count: 3 birds, 9 armadillos, 1 cat, 1 deer, 10 possums, 1 rabbit, 1 raccoon, 1 skunk, 15 unknown mammals, 4 snakes, 11 turtles, 1 frog