Biologist on a Bike

Day 49: Chester, IL to Devils Kitchen Lake Campground, IL


Distance: 62.47 mi
Average Speed: 11.1 mph; Max Speed: 36.1 mph
Elevation Gain: 2, 054 ft
Average Temp: 86.2 F; Temp Range: 68.0-104.0 F


I stayed up a little later than I might otherwise have done, typing up yesterday’s post after dinner and talking to my companions. That was made up for, I think, by a sound night of sleep. There were 6 bunks in the little cabin, only two of which had mattresses. I decided that the mattresses looked a little….used. Instead of claiming one, I inflated my sleeping pad and put it on one of the bunks. Between level ground, a roof and walls, and air conditioning, I slept very well. I did wake up chilled at one point, but I had expected that and had my sleeping quilt handy to pull over me. Problem solved.

Where I woke up, Day 49. My bunk is the one on the right. You know, the one with all the laundry hanging off the bunk right above it.

When my alarm went off, one of my bunkmates was already awake. My alarm woke the other, but he was okay with this, thankfully. Just as I stayed up later than usual talking last night, it took a little longer than usual to get ready this morning, thanks to breaks for chatting. The worst part of the morning was when I walked out of the bunk house and got hit in the face with a wall of humidity. That it was already muddy out was not a good sign. I made a point not to delay too much as a result, and rolled out by 6:30.

The humidity meant that the day was unpleasant weather-wise pretty much from the start. Wildlife conspired to make it worse. Not quite an hour into my day a bug flew into my arm. This happens more than you might expect; insects for all that they’re good at avoiding fly-swatters, are not the most competent of pilots. It bounced off and I noted “black, large, possibly beetle.” I got two out of three. It was a wasp who, when she bounced off my arm, landed on my leg and proceeded to take out her anger at her own poor flight skills on my thigh. Twice.

I swore, brushed her off for good this time, then revised my swear from “son of a bitch” to “bitch” as I pulled over—the stings of certain bees and wasps are modified ovipositors, after all, so only females can sting. Inspecting the site of the sting bordered on public indecency, since it was less than 2 inches away from my groin, but there was no one around to see, and I doubt I would have cared if there had been. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a bee of unusual appearance which might have left behind a stinger embedded in my leg. I found no stinger, but there was plenty of sting. I fished out my afterbite and put some on hoping it would stave off the worst of whatever my reaction to the sting might be. I’m not allergic to bee or wasp stings in the way that requires an epi-pen, but I’ve been stung by enough different species of wasps and bees to know that my long-term reaction can vary from “less itchy than a mosquito bite” to “a palm-sized red patch that hurts and itches for several days.” Two inches below the groin, in a spot that rubs up against the saddle nose, is a bad position for stings of the latter kind.

The first stop for the day was a convenience store where I topped up my water bottles with plenty of ice. Three older gentlemen were sitting in the store drinking coffee and chatting and when I came back in for some more ice, one asked me where I was headed. I explained my trip to them after a “Gott im Himmel” from one of them.

After the plains of Colorado and Kansas, I really appreciate the shaded lanes I’m finding here.

Stop number two was in Murphysboro, and by this time it was not just muggy but uncomfortably hot. I sat at this stop for longer, planning out the rest of my day. I wanted to make a few stops in Carbondale before heading out towards a grouping of a few campsites about 10-15 miles further down the trail. I called in a prescription refill to the CVS and looked up the addresses of the various bike shops in town.

What kind of biologist would I be if I could ride past this sign without stopping for a photo?

My bike is still shifting a bit oddly. If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing, the chain sometimes slips off the smallest chainring leaving me pedaling with nearly no resistance. This scenario gives me about 2-3 seconds to release my feet from the clipless pedals before I lose so much momentum that I fall over. But if I pay attention, this doesn’t happen, so I didn’t go to the bike shop for an adjustment. I needed a few other things. Since my chain lube leaked, I wanted to replace that. Then there was the matter of my helmet mirror. It fell off when I was resting somewhere about two days ago. I only noticed once I was on the road and reached up to adjust it only to find that it wasn’t there. I felt a bit naked without it, and haven’t listened to anything on my iPod since, wanting to pay extra attention to the sounds of traffic. It was nice to get one back in place. Finally, over the last 3000+ miles my cycling gloves had stretched out to the point that they were clearly due for replacement. All three items obtained, I set back out into the heat of the afternoon.

There were three campgrounds in relative proximity to each other about 10 miles after Carbondale, with a fourth another 15 or so past that. I always intended to pass the first one, but I rode right past the second without realizing it. The third, Devil’s Kitchen Lake Campground, was marked as primitive on the maps. In my head this means no electric and a strong possibility of pit toilets and no showers. I figured I’d go in and inspect the site before deciding whether or not to continue on to the further campground. My legs had the miles in them, but the heat was a major factor in the decision. I would rather stop early today.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake

The campground was a pleasant surprise. True, there wasn’t electric, but there was a bath and shower house. Even more surprising, the showers had hot water! And there was a cell signal, so I could check in with the family and post some late blog updates. The only down side is that there were no swimming signs posted at the lake, so I couldn’t jump in to cool off that way. Not that anyone would have noticed, since I am the only person here. I haven’t even seen the campground host. I expect it’ll be a quiet night tonight. Hopefully a good night of sleep as well! Tomorrow is also supposed to be hot, so I want to get a pre-dawn start, if possible.

Roadkill count: 2 birds, 1 armadillo, 1 fox, 4 possums, 2 raccoons, 1 squirrel 8 unknown mammals, 2 turtles

Map Day 49

2 thoughts on “Day 49: Chester, IL to Devils Kitchen Lake Campground, IL

  1. Linda Schmelzer

    You are really making progress! And I can picture where you are (were). My friend lived in Murphysboro and in Carbondale for may years. You’re not that far from the Mississippi, but you’re also not far from Paducah. Once you get to Kentucky, you only have one more state – is that correct? Safe travels!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *