Day 13: Easing Back In: Tupelo, MS to Jeff Busby Campground, MS, 71 miles, 1,043 miles total

Sometimes it is hard to motivate after a rest day, and I thought getting going would be especially difficult given how hard we had been pushing.

Despite fretful sleep, we woke early. After stuffing ourselves on the complimentary breakfast at the hotel (which, surprisingly, was better
than many as far as free breakfasts go), we were out and ready to roll by 8:30 am. As I gingerly set myself down on the bike seat, I was pleased to discover the seat felt pretty good, and as we pedaled out of town, the legs also felt fresh. I guess, the rest day (plus two solid rest nights) worked their magic.

It could also be that the day was gorgeous — sunny, but cool with a gentle NE tailwind. And the Trace was equally gorgeous — smooth black pavement, small rolling hills, and little traffic.

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Plus, we had the easiest day yet–just 71 miles to the campground straight along the Trace. No need to hunt and forage for food; we had done that yesterday. So instead, we pedaled along chatting idly about life, work, and how cool this trip is. Oh, and in doing so, we realized we had forgotten to take care of some house/work related issues, so we used a sunny spot to do some “office work” and make some calls for about a half an hour. I guess real life creeps in every so often, even when you are on vacation.

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As we were finishing up this “work”, we met a couple, Rick and Joanie, from Alaska who were driving a small rv around the South–starting in Texas and ending up in New Orleans, where they would store the RV and head back to face Anchorage’s winter. In classic small world (Kevin Bacon 6 degrees) fashion, Mike and Rick soon discovered a common colleague/friend connection. My mom, Jo, is the master of this — she once ran into our neighbors in the restroom at the Continental Divide. And legend has it that a college friend recognized her voice during a darkened cave tour. Whenever it happens, it always amazes me that with billions of people, billions upon billions of connections exist just under the surface. All we need to do is scratch lightly upon the surface of a stranger’s life to reveal them.

Given the short day, we also took the opportunity to stop at various points of interest, including a section of the Old Trace called the sunken trace.

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Despite these stops, we pulled into Jeff Busby campground around 3:30 pm. With the sun still high in the sky, we almost didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Luckily, the campground was filled with friendly people. A Canuck from Montreal came by and admired the bike (apparently he had bought a tandem at one time and it wasn’t a hit with the wife). The camphost is a gregarious Aussie, named Ian, and there’s two other bikers in camp: a solo biker on a loop from Huntsville, AL to Natchez, MS, and the solo dude on his hoopdy again. This campground is one of the most pleasant we’ve been in so far. I guess we deserve a little easy riding. But don’t worry, we aren’t going through too soft. Tomorrow will be longer (although Mike informs me that the tailwinds should be even stronger)!

Till then, we are fat and happy and safely tucked away in the green tent, ready to sleep at the late late hour of 8:03 pm.

Day 12: Tupelo, MS rest day #2 — 0 miles, 972 miles total

Today was our second rest day of the trip, and just shy of 1,000 miles in 11 days, we were cooked and needed the break! We woke up in our hotel room, left the bike safely against the wall, and slowly made our way out to explore Tupelo a bit.

IMG_4574Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Apparently, he went into this local hardware store asking his mother to buy him a rifle. She refused, favoring a guitar. I guess that made some difference to rock-n-roll history….

IMG_2112We walked through a nice neighborhood to a grocery store to load up on staples for the next session of riding and had lunch/coffee at a nice local cafe. The owner asked which of us was the big Elvis fan bringing us to Tupelo. I must have looked a little confused because he said “Oh, I’m just messing with you” and asked where we are from. We talked a bit about riding the Trace and then we moved on, noting the Elvis-inspired public art.

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In all we probably walked about 5 miles so after lunch we chilled at the hotel, Chandra fixed my therm-a-rest pad with a patch, and we generally relaxed trying to do as little as possible.

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Finally, to not walk more, we took a cab out for mediocre mexican dinner and saw some of the area impacted by a massive tornado in April. Before going out for dinner, we got to wish our niece Geneva a happy 4th birthday in Tokyo as she is celebrating with Chandra’s sister Keiko and her kids. Technology is cool!

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Now we are watching the final game of the World Series (go Gigantes!)  and contemplating whether we will make it past 9:30 PM. Tomorrow is only 75 miles on the Trace with a predicted tailwind, so we will pack in the morning, make a leisurely start, and look forward to the final 6-day push of this journey!

 

***Addendum: Hoopdy

Aside

*** Ever wonder how to spell “hoopdy”? Apparently, according to the Urban Dictionary, you can basically spell it any way you want (e.g., hoopty, hooptie, hoopdy, hoopdi, hoop-d) without any significant change in its meaning of “a piece of shit vehicle that must (or should) be embarrassing to drive for some reason.”

 

Day 11: Riding Toward Rest — Colbert Ferry, AL to Tupelo, MS, 74 miles, 972 miles total

This morning, I awoke feeling as fresh as a daisy — run over by a coal rollin pick up truck.  Yep, the morning definitely felt like the sixth consecutive day on a bike.  As Mike mentioned, it isn’t so much the legs (although they are weary), but more the soreness and fatigue of exerting from a single position for hours on end.

Usually, only a cup of coffee will get me moving on a morning like this.  But today, there was an additional reason to bounce (crawl) out of the warm sleeping bag and get packing.  Instead of our usual coffee and oatmeal, Mike had promised me a hot diner breakfast at a little town about six miles along the ride.  This was, in part, a luxury, but it was also a necessity as we had been unable to find oatmeal in any quantity small enough that we would want to carry it at our last couple of grocery stops.  And so, by 7:30 AM, we were packed and on the Trace.

But not for long, because as soon as we pulled onto the Trace, we spotted road closed and detour signs, which usually a not a good thing when bike touring.  All those prayers must still be working though, because the detour pointed us right toward the little town of Cherokee, AL.  We cruised along southerly bound for a couple of miles toward town, when we saw the detour sign point to an easterly left turn.  Knowing Cherokee to be dead south, we decided to take a chance and ignore the detour sign.

Besides, the weather was beautiful and the sun was coming up over the cotton fields.

Sunrise on the Trace

Sunrise on the Trace

Within a few more miles, we snuck up on the backside of Cherokee and parked ourselves as the local breakfast spot.  JJs is just the type of diner that one finds scattered in small towns across the country, at least those small towns that are still lucky enough to have an open restaurant.  Local men loudly opined their views on how the SEC (as in Southeastern Conference, not Security Exchange Commission) selects its football champions to their counterparts seated at different tables and booths throughout the diner.  Sticking out, we found ourselves a corner booth and enjoyed the best the diner had to offer.  Luckily, at this point, we are not picky and even diner coffee and unseasoned omelets with processed cheese taste delicious.  And, Mike even got to have the trip’s very first BREAKFAST PIE!

Breakfast Pie at JJ's in Cherokee, AL

Breakfast Pie at JJ’s in Cherokee, AL

Turns out, the large men arguing the SEC particulars were part of the town’s fire crew.  As they out, they confirmed that they had set up that detour a few days back when there was some water issues closing roads into town.  We had made the right call in ignoring the detour, saving ourselves an extra three miles of riding.  The day was looking good!!!

And so, even with the breakfast stop, we were on the bike and riding toward Tupelo, MS, by 8:30 AM with six miles and food safely under our belts.

The Trace offered another beautiful day of riding.  Although our rear ends were uncomfortable and made us fidgety on the bike at times, the rolling hills kept us occupied and a slight to moderate headwind kept us from overheating.  The predicted morning rain never materialized, and we made good time, traveling mostly in silence toward a rest day.

Riding the Trace--somewhere between Colbert Ferry and Tupelo

Riding the Trace–somewhere between Colbert Ferry and Tupelo

One of the things that I love most about these trips is the synchronicity we have other, both on and off the bike.  On the bike, we feel each other’s effort.  Even without looking ahead, I know when the road ticks upward as I feel Mike lean into the pedals and I match him stroke for stroke.  When the strain requires down-shifting, I let off and watch as the chain moves left to a smaller ring.  Coming out of a downhill tuck, we know when to uncurl ourselves and start pedaling again.  There’s no need to say anything.  We just know and adjust.

Off the bike, the rhythm is similar.  We have a routine for loading and unloading the bike. And we go about setting up camp, making repairs, and cooking dinner without the need to ask where things are, what needs to be done next, etc.  We’ve done this so many times that we could do it in the dark (actually, we have done it in the dark).  For example, last night, we got a flat in the small tire on the BOB trailer.   As I was pitching the tent, Mike pulled the tire off and located the puncture in the tube and the offending shard of glass in the tire.  Without saying anything, I walked over to patch the tube (I always do the patching), while Mike wandered off to get us water.  By the time the patch was dry, he was back to finish the repair work and I headed back to finish setting up camp.  It’s a strange thing to be so in sync with another human being.

But you needn’t fear that we live the days in complete silence.  There’s plenty to talk about . . . we just don’t need to talk about mundane logistics very much.

The Trace has various interesting historical markers and points of interest.  Although we don’t stop at every one, we use the most interesting ones as an excuse to stop and take small breaks, especially those that also house restrooms and water.

The Bear Creek Mound was built between 1100-1300 AD and used for ceremonial or elite residential use.  (I guess the Native Americans also had their 1%ers.)

Bear Creek Indian Burial Mound

Bear Creek Indian Burial Mound

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At another stop, we ran into another biker–of a sort.  A lone biker on an old cheap Walmart bike, with a gallon jug of water on one handlebar and a backpack hanging off the other.  When filling water bottles, he inquired about our trip.  Turns out, he’d been at Colbert Ferry as well, probably a day or two before us.  Before parting, he told Mike, “I gotta get me a lady friend and a bike like that.”

We’d been stressing a little because over the last few days, we’d developed a squeak emanating from the back half of the rig that had been growing increasingly louder over the miles.  It was hard to diagnose as it only occurred when riding fully loaded (which means we can’t recreate it at night when we have the time to fix it).  We’d been biking along thinking it could be the free hub (bad news if so) or the rear drum brake (also not such an easy fix) or perhaps the rear rack or the BOB trailer.  We’d been hoping it was one of these less essential parts, like the rack or trailer wheel.  Seeing a guy riding mile after mileon a old hoopdy/hooptie/hoop-d*** bike reminded us to keep these things in perspective and not get too obsessed about chirps and squeaks along the way.

Even so, when we got into Tupelo, we did stop in for some expert advice from Brian at the local bike shop, Bicycle Pacelines.  Thinking the likely culprit to be the small wheel on the BOB trailer (which has over 6,000 loaded miles on it), we had Brian take a look.  Although the wheel is probably out of grease, it still spins easily, so we bought a new quick release skewer and continued onward to the hotel . . . which meant dinner!

Our plan had been to buy a six pack of beer, order a pizza and watch Game Six of the World Series from the comfort of our king-sized bed.  Alas, the pizza joints in this town (or at least those that aren’t Pizza Hut) don’t deliver, so after laundering and showering, we took a short walk through the motel parking lots to The Lost Pizza Co.  A popular place, the line was so long and Mike was so worn out that he nearly fell over waiting in line to order.  But order he did–two beers, one large salad and one large pizza.  YUM!

The Happy Hippie (vegetarian) pizza at Lost Pizza in Tupelo, MS.

The Happy Hippie (vegetarian) pizza at Lost Pizza in Tupelo, MS.

And yes, we ate all but three slices of that large pizza.  We could have finished it off, but I wanted to save room for the Fro-Yo next door and for a seventh inning snack.  Hudson would have been proud of us.  We mounded 1.5# of Fro-Yo and toppings into to-go cartons and happily headed back to the hotel, devouring spoonfuls of chocolate, coffee and caramel goodness as we walked.

When we got “home”, Hudson must have had his rally cap on, as the Kansas City Royals royally spanked the San Francisco Giants 10-0 in a must-win Game 6.  We made it to the 7th inning, but with the score at that point 9-0, we succumbed to the eight pillows and king-sized bed.

Tomorrow — nothing, or at least, nothing that requires riding the bike!

 

 

Day 10: The Natchez Trace — Shady Grove, TN to Colbert Ferry, AL. 84 miles, 898 miles total

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Last night we ended our day at a cyclist only camp on the Natchez Trace. We were tucked in a horse staging area and all alone. At 3 in the morning we awoke to the loudest most extensive coyote “conversation” I’ve ever heard. It was amazing! It would die down then a single coyote would start again. It’s strange since they started calling after the sliver of moon had set. I don’t know what got them going, but we listened for a long time until the crickets retook the stage and their buzzing lulled us back to sleep.

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We awoke and headed up onto the Trace to see what the hubbub is all about. Imagine a perfect road with hardly a bump, little traffic, no trucks allowed, everyone knows bikers are there, a 50 mph speed limit, and a wooded buffer on both sides. For 450 miles. It’s cycling bliss! That doesn’t even consider the history and background of the place. I will link to some information. Before planning for this trip I had heard of this place but only in passing. The more we’ve learned the more fascinating it is. And so we only rode half a mile before stopping at the Gordon House – an 1830s brick house that a ferry operator’s wife lived in until 1859. Beautiful from the outside its pretty run down inside.

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We moved along only long enough to see a section of the original trace. Amazing to walk on a dirt path that conveyed so many people over 100s of years mostly by foot. Granted, bike travel is much faster than walking but the feeling of the changing environment and getting around on your own power is similar.

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Some of the land near the trace is beautiful and pastoral although often you can only see the gorgeous forest to the side.

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The terrain remained hilly but with shallower grades. That means longer time grinding away up hills and long but not as fast descents. The temperature reached about 85 degrees and the wind was from the south. All that combined with being the fifth straight day riding meant a certain amount of “gaman suru” or pushing through discomfort. When people see our narrow saddles they assume the worst in terms of discomfort and they are on track. But it’s not just sitting on a narrow saddle but really being in a single position for this many hours that makes you ache. For example, if you were to say binge watch an entire season of House of Cards in one day (I don’t recommend it!) you will likely switch position from lying on one elbow to the other. Imagine being in the same position on abike for 8 hours a day for a week. Yes, the pain is in the bumstead, but it would be hard to lean on one elbow that long too. All this is to say that on the 5th day in a row in the saddle there’s a fair bit more fidgeting and shifting around trying to be comfortable. The slow going exacerbates the discomfort, fighting up sometimes seemingly unending hills sometimes in granny gear going near a walking pace. Then *bam!* gravity, overtopping the crest, it’s 45 mph for a mile or two. All the while the gorgeous scenery and perfect road and companionship made it bearable.

This characterized the morning until we stopped for elevensees at the Meriweather Lewis national monument. Lewis – of Lewis and Clark fame, was walking to DC with his expedition journals along the Trace and spent the night in 1809 in a sort of saloon in TN. He died of a gunshot wound in the night. He was depressed since Clark was getting all the props for the expedition but some suspect foul play. Scandalous! In any case, it’s clear his last living night was at this spot on the Natchez Trace and his tomb and a monument remain. We explored the area, ate, and pressed on.

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We hoped to get to Collingwood for lunch and provisions but our pace was so slow in the headwind and hills that we stopped at a picnic area to eat. It was a gorgeous picnic area with water and tables and we shared our stories with curious local and tourists – all of whom were inquisitive and supportive (although they all say they wouldn’t ride like this!). Then we pressed on to Collingwood which was rumored to have a grocery store and we hoped it did!

As happened in northern Illinois we keep encountering small towns – even those with food stores listed in the adventure cycling maps we are using for this part – with boarded up buildings. Is this a remnant of the recession? Is it part of the general shifting away from rural life? We did see a few massive estates yesterday and an airstrip capable of handling private jets in amongst the boarded up towns. Maybe it’s just another indication of the widening gaps in income in the US. “By the way, Smithers, do load a couple extra lobsters and a case of Dom onto the plane. I think the country store may be closed. ”

Anyway we found a small grocery store in Collingwood and while Chandra was inside I was struck by the loud trucks and ruckus of town being off the Trace was jarring. I was just replying to an email from a friend who informed me that the knucklehead who buzzed is yesterday was a “coal roller“. I was writing back and feeling a little discouraged about people In general when a guy saw the flag and said “Wisconsin. You’re far from home!” I said we’d been riding since last Saturday. He said “where’d you fly into?” I said no flight just riding. He smiled and we both laughed a bit. “Well right on man” he said as he left. Faith restored.

We got back onto the Trace for the final 24 mile push to camp. Everything changed! The hills of Tennessee gave way to Cyprus swamps and cotton fields and flat ground.
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Despite the headwind we made amazing time and the miles ticked by. The smells are different (more piney as we left the oak hills behind) and the bugs and animals are different. It’s humid and warm although not for long.

Riding on the Trace in the hills (that just this morning we remarked reminded us of the driftless area in Wisconsin) and now into south is a privilege. We feel like we’ve earned some easier terrain by working hard to get here. Tomorrow morning we will hit a rural diner for breakfast and make our way into Tupelo Mississippi. Can’t wait for some rest and maintenance of bike and legs and bums. Fun fact – bag balm is amazing! Made to relieve stress on cows’ udders, works well on human bums too!

We are lucky to be here and make it this far. After resting we are thrilled to explore the rest of the way to NOLA!

Day 9: Tennessee Hills: Dover, TN to Shady Grove, TN, 96.6 miles, 814 miles total

Whispering Pines Campground might not be the most appropriately named spot, what with its proximity (about 50 yards) to TN Hwy 79. On the plus side, the shower was hot, we slept like logs, and the fog in the morning was gorgeous.

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We got our earliest start to date, leaving the campground by 8:30 am, and pedaling through the thick fog. We quickly turned off the highway onto Old Rte 76 and cruised along the empty road–fog in front of us, autumn trees on each side. After about four miles, we were surprised to find ourselves at the intersection of Hwy 76 and Old Rte 76 (again). We had gone in a complete circle. Perplexed, we turned on the phones and discovered that there was yet a third intersection of the two 76s. It was this third option that would lead us south toward the Natchez Trace trailhead.

On the right track (literally), we continued on and made good time through beautiful rolling hills. We stopped for a snack on the porch of our “dream house”! Cute, isn’t it?

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The fog burned off and the hills turned steep as we crawled our way toward Waverly, where we stopped and ate lunch at a little memorial grove commemorating the disaster of 1978. Not-so-fun fact: Waverly was the site of a L&N train accident where 20,000 gallons of propane gas exploded–decimating a large chunk of the town and killing 16 people, including their fire and police chiefs. I think I had heard this history not that long ago as part of the news reporting on more recent train derailments.

We headed out of town and continued along beautiful scenery with long ups and downs. Both of us like climbing hills, and these were fun, although some quite challenging. We hit a trip best on one: 52 mph. (Yes, the hill we had to climb to do so took its toll, but it was worth it.)

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And — with one major exception — the drivers here were exceptionally courteous about sharing the road. More than once, a driver would hang back giving us space on a long descent and ensuring the cars behind didn’t crowd us on narrow sections. Overall, the drivers here seem much more courteous to bikers than the drivers we regularly experience on Wisconsin’s country roads.

The one exception was some dimwit who had rigged his pickup truck to blow black exhaust at cars (and bikers). We got a blast of it as he zoomed past us, clearly trying to give us a scare. I can’t understand why someone would spend money to do something intentionally mean. But it was just a glancing insult to an otherwise awesome day.

Due to the hills and short fall days, we barely made it to the campground before the sun set. But Mike had picked up a little refreshment at the last convenience store.

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Home for the night is a cyclists only campground. Tomorrow we will finally be on the historic Natchez Trace.

Mike made a lovely dinner and we ate by the fire restoked from existing hot ashes left by a recent visitor. After tidying up camp, Mike beat me in the trip’s first game of cribbage.

There’s a sliver of moon in the sky, the hum of cars going someplace, and the yips of a coyote pack. Everything but is and our little green tent seems far off and of a different world.

All in all, another great but exhausting day.

Day 8: Southern Parkway Riding: Cave in Rock State Park to Dover, TN. 103 miles, 718 total

We left illinois this morning to spend a few hours riding through hilly western Kentucky and on into Tennessee.

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We arose feeling a bit weary
and knowing that short steep hills and headwinds would greet the day. But first we checked out the Cave at Cave in Rock. Fun fact – marauders hid out in the cave in the late 1700s preying on passing boaters. I put on my best marauder face.

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We enjoyed the scenery a bit before heading to the ferry across the Ohio River into Kentucky.

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Once into Kentucky we were greeted by amazingly courteous drivers who slowed dramatically when they got close to us and often yielded the entire lane to us. We found a lovely porch outside a closed community center in Carrsville where chandra enjoyed a little time I a rocking chair.

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A welcome change from southern Illinois was the lack of dogs chasing us. We probably did 10 or more full out sprints to outrun dogs chasing us from farms. We have Halt pepper spray but really don’t want to use it. There’s nothing like a stoker feeling the threat of an approaching dog homing in on her fast moving legs to “pile on the coal” and increase the speed. It’s exhausting!

But not today in Kentucky. We saw more horses than dogs and enjoyed fall colors lining the path as we climbed over the bluffs of the Ohio River. About halfway through the day, we reached land between the lakes which is a national recreation area designated by JFK. It’s closed to commercial traffic with a low speed limit, perfect macadam, and hunting hiking etc. land on both sides of the road extending the the dammed Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. This is a southern parkway much like the Natchez Trace where we start riding in a couple days. It’s a glorious way to travel! Not only are cars courteous, but bikes are expected to be here so there’s no arguing our placement – not quite so where coal trucks rule the road. I should say yesterday the coal trucks were ubiquitous but also more courteous than many cars. In fact yesterday the coal trucks were stressful and I feel like we stressed them out too. They came by every couple minutes often with little or no shoulder for us to get out of their way. One of them slowed to our pace (and was probably surprised to be following us at 37mph down a hill) for a while so I pulled off into the gravel to let him pass once we slowed as the road headed uphill. He clearly thought we ran off the road unintentionally and stopped to see if we were ok. I bring up this aside to note both that many people express concerns about big rigs and bikers but big rigs have always been professional in our experience. I fear a weekend warrior not knowing how to drive a huge RV much more. But also I want to note that some days we ride through areas where bikers are anomalous or even a danger but today on this southern Parkway we got to shed all such stress and enjoy the ride.

The hills impacted our pace as did the morning headwind, so the last 8 miles or so were in the dark. We have good taillights though and Talula has loads of reflective tape so an little time in the dark is no big deal. We Aren’t at the campsite we hoped to reach today, but it will do and some minor route adjustment has us tapering distance from about 93 tomorrow to 80 to 70 into our rest day in Tupelo.

Today we really also felt like we are entering the south. Accents are different, fall colors are not as far along, the landscape is changing and it’s warmer every evening. So at this campground next to a loud road I bid you adieu until tomorrow when we reach the Natchez Trace.

Day 7: Tailwinds and Trucks, Murphysboro, IL to Cave in Rock, IL, 94 miles, 605 total

We woke before dawn as usual. Not because any alarms were set, but rather because our clocks have adjusted to the natural rhythm of the outdoor world.

I have to admit though, I woke up grumpy. I lay in the tent and considered the reasons for my discontent.
Mike? No.
Cold? No?
Sore? Not really.

Finally, I realized what it was. Having dined on pasta boiled in lake water, I was none to thrilled at the prospect of coffee and oatmeal made with lake water. I would rather (and could) forego breakfast altogether. As Mike gathered the breakfast things, I conveyed this reality to Him and disappeared back into the tent to get dressed and pack things up.

Several minutes later, Mike appeared with a gallon container of clear clean water. Plenty for breakfast. Once again, strangers reward us with kindness and generosity. The man a few spots down — who apparently had down some bike touring in his younger days — had seen Mike and decided we needed the water more than he did. And so, my dark mood lifted as the hot dark coffee hit my blood stream and I saw the beauty of the morning — herons on the lake, autumn colors in the trees.

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And, Mike was making oatmeal!!!!

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After paying our camp fee and informing the park ranger of our unhappiness at the lack of water (or more accurately, the lack of information about the lack of water), we were on our way.

Usually, it takes longer than I think to get to a destination (even a halfway point), but this morning, it seemed like we had just started when we found ourselves in Marion, IL, about 30 miles. The quick pace to get there though, rapidly dissipated as we wandered around looking for fuel (something we should have gotten on our rest day, but spaced) and groceries (I wandered around the unfamiliar store for far too long).

Still, we thought we were doing pretty well as we had 60 miles to go and it was only a little after noon.

And Mike had finally found PIE!!!

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Ah, little did we know that first, we would have to go 20 some miles of rolling hills on a very busy road with about half the traffic being large semi trucks filled with coal–and mostly with little to no shoulder. Riding single lane roads with trucks can be harrowing and exhausting, especially for the captain. Although the trucks were (for the most part) conscientious about moving over and giving us some space, they are still loud and scary when they go by.

So, we were quite relieved to finally be able to turn off Hwy 34 onto IL-146 toward Cave in Rock. But we quickly discovered that the hills we knew were coming at the end of the day were not kind, gentle rolling hills, but rather steep suckers that went up and down and up and down and up and down for the last 15 miles of the day. Mike says that today is the first day he really feels like we have our legs back. I guess he must be right, because although the hills were long and we were tired, the legs kept propelling us forward to the top of each hill without too much complaint.

We, unfortunately, did not arrive at Cave in Rock State Park to actually see the cave; nor did we find the beer that we both craved after the long day. But we did get nice warm showers and a hot easy meal, so once again, all is well and we are content.

Day 6: Back in the Saddle. St. Louis, MO to Murphysboro, IL. 104 miles, 511

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We will say more about our rest day later, but it was great to hang with Chandra’s cousins Julie and Mark and their young son Hudson. So much fun! Hudson made us a map so we won’t get lost.

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Map by Hudson

 

We rolled out after a nice breakfast and Hudson filled our water bottles.

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We were taken with the contrast of the canyon like city streets leading to the Eads bridge.

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(Fun fact – Eads bridge was the first over the Mississippi and has a rich history).

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Going through East St. Louis was uneventful. There were many abandoned areas and much of the city seemed downtrodden, but before long we were on yet another beautiful paved (and new!) bike path – this one along the light rail line. Made us wonder whether we should be thanking Scott Walker for this infrastructure since it all seems made during the stimulus – likely with Wisconsin’s refused rail funds.

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In any case, it was more easy travel and ultimately gave way to hollows, hills, coal mines, and now a lovely campsite in Lake Murphysboro state park. Riding into the park was several miles of steep hills and – once again – no drinking water! There are RV Sites across the lake and the must have water but in the tent area where we are – none! We used algae flavored lake water to make dinner and we will stop trusting the incomplete information on the IL DNR website! Tomorrow is our last Illinois stop – water there? Stay tuned.

So the day after a rest day is always hard in a way. While resting you really try to actually let your body recover and starting up again is tough! Plus getting to spend time with great hospitality and connection to family makes it easy to think “this is it – we can stay for a week!” But behold – the game is back on. It’s also sweet to re enter the rhythm of the road. It was a little uncomfortable to get back on the bike, we had a headwind and the air was cool. But the vistas were gorgeous, the air clean and cool, and the miles ticked away as we shared great conversation, played stupid word games, and even wrote a song about a bathtub Jesus we saw in someone’s yard. It’s good to back in the green tent with. 104 mile day down. Tomorrow is only 85 miles or so with hills but tailwind. We adjusted our route after talking with Chris in St. Louis and shaving about 20 miles off our original plan for today and tomorrow will make it a more mellow day.

My stoker is already asleep and the dogs across the lake have finally stopped barking. Time for me to retire as well. Until tomorrow ….

Day 5: Hanging with the Freiman-Shimabukuros, St. Louis, MO, 0 miles, 407 miles total

Ah, the first glorious rest day, and we get to spend it with my cousin Julie, her husband Mark and their adorable little boy, Hudson!

A Warm WelcomSince it was a school day, we were under strict Hudson orders to get all our shopping-laundry-bike repair chores done before he returned home from school and piano practice, so that we would have enough time to play!  So, that is what we did.  Chores, in the morning, and then, when Hudson got home, we played backyard baseball.

Hudson #2 at bat

Hudson #2 at bat

Hudson Throwing His Curveball

Hudson Throwing His Curveball

The game was close, but in the end, Hudson’s team with the assist from invisible base runners and a double home run beat out the visiting team.

We clammered into Mark and Julie’s Honda Fit (I mention only because it was their purchase of a Fit that made Mike and I consider the Fit when we were car shopping.  We all love the car that is little on the outside and big on the inside!), and headed to pick up my cousin, who works at Wash U.

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We ate at a great local pizza place called pi (as in 3.14), which despite not being in Chicago, is apparently a favorite of President Obama’s.  We tried out everything–deep dish, thin crust, even their gluten-free option (well, okay, Mark was the only one who (not by choice) had the gluten-free).

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Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis, MO

Again, under Hudson’s strict orders, we left some room for dessert.  After eating, we walked, danced, raced up the street to Fro-Yo, where we filled our cartons with yummy frozen yogurt and toppings.

But the day wasn’t yet over.  Due to student teacher conferences, Hudson would be off school for the remainder of the week, which meant that we could stay up and watch Game 2 of the World Series.  Hudson is a serious Royals fan (since no Cardinals fan would root for the team that knocked the Cardinals out of the playoffs), and the Royals were down 1-0 even with the home town advantage.  But, he put on his rally cap, and BOOM! within the inning, the Royals were up and would stay up, winning Game 2 and tying the series!  That’s a pretty powerful rally cap!

Even though Mike’s a Giants fan, we would have to say that today was a PERFECT rest day.  Special thanks to Julie, Mark and especially, HUDSON!!!