Distance: 76.59 mi
Average Speed: 12.0 mph; Max Speed: 34.8 mph
Elevation gain: 3,235 ft
Average Temp: 77.3 F; Temp Range: 64.4-86.0 F
I woke up later than I intended to. This is the curse of sleeping in a comfortable bed. In my tent, unless it’s cold out, there’s very little to tempt me back to sleep besides the actual need for sleep. In a bed, on the other hand, it’s so very, very easy to roll over and nod back off. But I did eventually get up and, after spilling my first cup of coffee all over the place, manage to eat breakfast and check out of my motel room. It was already 7:15 AM Central when I started riding, and I was going to cross into the eastern time zone today, for good this time. (I crossed into it for a few hours two days ago, but then left again before the day was over, so it didn’t really count in my head).
The weather reports predicted lots of rain today, and I made sure to pack my rain gear at the top of the pannier. Right before I got on the road my mom texted me to say that it was raining by her (New Jersey) and to ask about my weather. I responded with this:
It was okay for the first hour or so, but after that I pulled out my rain gear. The rain jacket didn’t last long, though. I can handle my legs and even my feet being warmer than usual while riding, but my core is another story. My options were 1) wear the jacket and be hot and soaked in sweat or 2) don’t wear the jacket and be less hot and soaked in rain. Either way I was going to be wet, so I opted for the rain.
At my second break for the day, around 11:45 AM Eastern, I pulled into a convenience store thinking to buy a snack of some sort. They didn’t have any pastries or similar that caught my eyes, but they did have a sign advertising 3 pancakes for $1.99. Technically, they weren’t serving breakfast any more, but the lady behind the counter made me some anyway. Definitely a good decision. They were large and fluffy and hit the spot.
Then it was back into the rain. To be fair, the rain was never hard enough to affect visibility or have an impact on traction while at normal cruising speeds (10-15mph), it was just persistent. So persistent, in fact, that my feet got soaked through my shoe covers. Squishy, wet socks make me mildly cranky, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I did my best to ignore it.
I was planning on meeting an internet friend, KMC, in Springfield in the afternoon, so around 2 I texted my ETA and we made plans on when and where to meet. And from there, it was only 21 miles left to Springfield. Not long after that, I rode through an area where there were a large number of black buildings that looked a bit like shabby apartment buildings all packed together. It didn’t take long for the smell to cue me in. Whiskey distillery. And the fumes were potent. I can only imagine what it would have smelled like had the temperature been much higher. Loretto is the home of the Maker’s Mark distillery. I do like bourbon, but given that it was a Sunday, I figured it was likely that their visitor area would be closed. And I can get that brand at home. I took a picture and moved on.
I was concerned at the start of the day that I had left too late for a meet-up to be at a reasonable hour, but I arrived in town around 4:15 or so. And that’s where the interesting part of the day begins.
There was a guy sitting under one of the pavilions at the park charging his cell phone. I almost diverted to the other pavilion, but this one had the bathrooms attached, and I needed a rest stop. This guy, whose name I forget though he did give it to me, likes meeting people. And helping people. And talking to people. Especially that last one. And he could talk!
I learned that he’s living out of his SUV. That he’s going back to Florida in a few weeks because he misses the beach. He can’t go right now, though, because he needs to wait for his next social security check to pay the insurance on his car and update his driver’s license. Jobs are unreliable, you can lose them, but social security is there for life, so he doesn’t bother working or looking for a job. But he also has no money and hasn’t eaten since yesterday morning. The charger in his car isn’t working; he suspects that there’s a short in it. HE’s going to buy a few powerbanks at Walmart so he can charge those to keep his phone charged so he can use the GPS while travelling. He has a number of lady friends who miss him, and regularly refers to women as “chicks.” He hasn’t been in jail for 15 years. His brother has been out of rehab for less than a week and is doing well. There is such a thing as a psychic psychiatrist. He loves talking to them because their ESP makes them interesting and they can tell when you’re lying to them. And do I need a pair of binoculars? They’re camouflage and fold up nice and small and he’d like to sell them…
My favorite was when he tried to be knowledgeable about my gear and came over to look at my Trek 520 and said “That’s a nice bike. Looks like a 10 speed.” Erebus has 27 gears.
I messaged KMC about the odd guy. When she arrived, she asked if I needed to be rescued and I said I’d really rather not leave my things behind. A few minutes later, all my stuff was packed up in the back of her SUV and we were driving to a Mexican restaurant that I had looked up while half listening to the man’s chatter.
The restaurant was colorful and clean, and the menu had a vegetarian section. Score!
Dinner was tasty. I got bean nachos and a combo plate with a cheese enchilada, bean burrito, and a tostada. While we ate, we talked about all kinds of things. Family. School. Jobs. Sources of stress. And I told a few of my trail tales about some of the people I’ve met. When we were finished, she asked what I wanted to do. I remembered seeing on the addendum that there is cyclist only camping in Springfield, but that they request 24 hour notice. I said I’d like to call them and see if they’d let me stay after explaining that I didn’t feel comfortable in the park. She then reiterated an earlier offer to rescue me for the night and after a second of consideration, I accepted it.
Her family was gracious and welcoming when she brought home a stray for the night, and I’m once again moved by the kindness I’ve experienced as I journey across the country.
Roadkill count: 6 birds, 1 cat (kitten), 1 deer, 1 mouse, 2 possums, 1 raccoon, 1 skunk, 2 squirrels, 9 unknown mammals, 1 snake, 1 turtle