June 16-30

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Monday, June 16, 2003

Mr. Snowden's prepared us a nice country style breakfast - sausage, eggs and biscuits. Our departure puts us in the canine hell. The highest per capita dogs chases for a 10 mile stretch. It's almost unnerving when you find yourself less interested in the scenery and more concerned about the homes with a poor understanding of the "leash" law. These aren't ordinary dogs, to put it into perspective, one business we passed trains "Treeing Dogs" and half of the houses seem to have kennels out back where they house their hunting hounds. Presently in Berea, Kentucky - one of the few sizeable towns we hit in the State. What was slated to be an aggressive mileage day was sidetracked by errands and rain. Aaron located two kind individuals (Andy & Paige Beichler) who opened up their home and feed us chili and beer. We might not leave.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Berea seems to be the transition point from the Appalachian area to the blue grass part of the state. Fewer dogs, no mountains but lots of windy/hilly roads. This section of the trip has fewer services, which is why we are presently in a hotel in Harrodsburg, KY. Though I've so far avoided all the fast food chain restaurants, with an all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant next door and a constant, nagging hunger, I knew I'd come out ahead.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

We are presently sitting at a picnic table drinking Budweiser and talking with a fellow cyclist, Dick Nye. Dick has had a tough day on his bike and this seems to have pulled lots of his hard-times cyclist stories to the surface. He has the same plan I do, the TransAmerica Trail to the Lewis & Clark trail. It's comforting to know that others are embarking on the same trail this late in the year. We've now entered into the Knobs as the locals call it, the Bluegrass region as the rest of the States knows it. Today was milder, with rolling hills and dairy cattle. We also encountered our first corn field which I found comforting since I associate that with the Midwest i.e. home and open, non-hilly plains.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Today's ride reminded me of one of the joys of a bicycling - being enveloped in the aromas. In this specific case, I am not referring to the smells of nature, but the Bluegrass regions other claim to fame - whiskey. For miles I passed through pockets of spent mesh and alcohol. A short 12 mile detour from our route landed us at the steps of the Maker's Mark distillery in Loreto, Kentucky. The bicycles seemed to catch the eyes of many of the visitors and we hoped their admiration might result in a showering of gifts, i.e. whiskey. When that didn't materialize, we opted to purchase our own bottle in anticipation of our pending 1000 mile mark. The distilleries facilities were magnificent and we truly enjoyed the tour. As for the ride, the weather held for the most part, only some scattered drops. It's been three weeks now, and we have yet to have a 24 hour period without rain. If the forecast holds, tomorrow may be our first.

Friday, June 20, 2003

I think I have finally won the battle against the strange smell emanating from my shoes. Three weeks of perpetual wetness gave them an attitude. Today was indeed the first twenty-four hour since departing that we have not had precipitation. One solid scrubbing coupled with some time in the sun seems to have killed the mildew. An absolutely wonderful day on the bicycle. Stopped by Lincoln's birth place today outside of Hodgenville. The interpretive center was tastefully done and I cherish the visit since it provided such a heartfelt presentation on the unique individual that Lincoln was. Hodgenville did all in it's power to capitalize on its ties to Lincoln. A sampling: Lincoln Jamboree, Lincoln Plaza, Lincoln Village Restaurant, Lincoln Farmer Market etc.. I was somewhat perplexed to see road signs indicating horses and buggies. This question was quickly answered as we pulled into a gas station for lunch alongside an Amish man with his two sons parked in a special area reserved buggies. We spent over thirty minutes on a small country road without seeing a single vehicle and passed some glorious stretches of wildflowers.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

According to the cartographer, we are out of the Knobs and can expect to encounter only minor hills until the river valley. Encountered several other cyclists today, all moving east. It was a little disconcerting to cross paths with one couple who left on the same day as us (from San Francisco) and yet here we are meeting east of the Mississippi. In our defense, they had a sag vehicle (a car carries all their stuff) and were on the short route (only 3000 miles relative to my 4500). Arose early today and made our destination by 2 p.m. It allowed me to clean the bicycle, write some postcards, do laundry, tune the bicycle, and deal with most of my "to do" list. We have found another friendly fire station in Utica, KY that has opened its doors to passing cyclists. The first cloudless day and the forecast looks promising. Being outside under these conditions couldn't be better.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

I just ate 2.5 pounds of canned Ravioli and a bag of chips as well as some mulberries from the tree next to our campsite. It was an obnoxiously large can, the type you would expect to see in a school cafeteria. I've bloated my stomach to the point that Buddha would be worried. I hurt, and yet I continue to do this night after night. The scary thing is I will wake up hungry. Every element of our first ten miles today was perfect. Mild hills, light breeze on the back, sun in the sky and the perfect temperature. We logged a little over 70 miles today and have set up camp under a pavilion in the county park in Marion, KY. Tomorrow we cross into our third state - Illinois.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Ah, my beloved Illinois. This morning we caught a ferry from Kentucky to Cave In Rock, Illinois. Since I didn't know the words to my state song, I sang the Chicago Bears' fight song hoping nobody would notice. Judging by their looks, they did. Stopped in Elizabethtown for lunch at a classic country-style restaurant and enjoyed an incredible meal of pork chops and cornbread for next to nothing. It got hot today, into the 90's and with limited water stops along the way. We camped outside of Simpson at Cedar Lake Ranch. Darren Shoemaker, the owner, not only set us up with a good site, he went and bought us beer at a store 7 miles downs the road. After several consecutive nights of dry Kentucky counties, we all felt we deserved a beer for our efforts. I will forever call Darren the "Ambassador of Illinois" for his kindness. The campsite was deep in the country and put us in the middle of the great outdoors. Two nearby lakes offered us an amphibian concerto and the surrounding forested was saturated with fireflies. It's good to be back in my home state.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The people in Illinois have been incredible. Not only do they offer to fill our water bottles, but they also ask if we want ice. Sure, a minor thing, but something that is truly appreciated when you are bicycling in high heat. On the downside, the roads in Illinois have proven to be the most poorly maintained. Lots of gravel and potholes which makes the hills dangerous at any speeds. As I say that, I did managed to break the 40 m.p.h. mark on a downhill today. A record that I hope I do not break. I must be somewhat warped, I almost miss all the Kentucky dogs and the accompanying adrenalin rush a good chase offers. Presently in Carbondale, IL, a college town with all the amenities we could possibly need.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I've now been on the road for four weeks. Though my average mileage has been less than I initially expected, I have also managed to get the toughest part of my trip out of my way. The forecast called for a high in the mid nineties with high humidity. All the excuse we needed for a "zero" day. The former "Bike Surgeon", Mark and his wife Rachel have been kind enough to put us up for two nights. Mark also did some adjustments to my gearing and it now runs smoother than it did coming from the factory.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

For only the second time during my trip (today and my first day), I departed the morning without any travel companions. It was strange to cycle without James and Aaron and I can already tell that their company will be missed. I also strayed from the maps for the first time in order to get up to Hartford, IL where I will meet my parents and then embark on the Lewis & Clark trail. Today was my highest mileage day yet and they were all hard earned. My route was flat but with an unrelenting headwind and brushes of bad weather. It destroyed me. Highlights, an admiring employee from Subway who donated a free sub to my cause in Pinckneyville and a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation from a restaurant patron with whom I spoke. I also continued to encounter some super friendly people in the small towns along the way.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Another high mileage day in order to get to Alton, IL in time for the parent's arrival. Passed through lots of farming communities and had almost no climbing to with which to concern myself. Outside Alton the narrow lanes and high traffic amounted to some of the more stressful cycling of the trip. Looking forward to another zero day tomorrow and spending some time with mom and dad. After that, it's on to the Lewis & Clark trail.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

I've now been on the road for one month. It is only appropriate that today be a zero day. Mom and dad took some time away from the business to visit. It was a truly relaxing day spent at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Hartford, IL and the Cahokia Mounds a little further to the south. Mom and dad treated me to the gamut of good things: b-b-q, fine wine, hotel room with warm showers and all the calories I needed. It was an utterly relaxing day and I can honestly say that since the start of my trip, I've haven't felt so far from the bicycle (that's a good thing on occasion).

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Since starting on the trip, there have been several occasions where I've logged long days, woken up the next day and felt as though I had a full body massage from a long-handled sledgehammer. Yet I never had any hesitations about getting on the bike again. Today was different. I think the stressful conditions of the two previous biking days and mom and dad spoiling me made it all the more difficult to depart this morning. That's why I deserved a day like today. Bike trails, quaint towns, and free camping below a brewpub. Crossed both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers today via ferry and eventually found myself in Missouri, my fourth state. St. Charles was delightful, bricked streets, historic town and the start of the KATY trail, a gift of the rails-to-trails. I logged my highest mileage day and felt strong at the end. The trail passed through some dense forests and along miles of limestone bluffs. The cottonwoods were releasing their airborne gifts and as a bike trail should be, absolutely no traffic.

Monday, June 30, 2003

All the wildlife and no road kill. It's a different world to travel along a bike path. I couldn't even take a gander at the number of rabbits, deer, turtles, snakes and other assorted creatures I encountered today. And with only slow moving and relatively silent bicycles to deal with, the animals are less likely to get scared and even less likely to end up a casualty. I stopped in Hermann, MO to rendezvous with a good friend from high school, Patricia Burke (Dyke) along her mom and stepfather. I had a wonderful time chatting and as I expected, the time passed too quickly. I was back on the trail (after fixing yet another broken spoke) with Tebbetts as my destination. The KATY is obviously a weekend haven for bicyclists. In 70 miles, I saw only a dozen or so cyclists on the path today. I also climbed a total of 284 feet today - next to NOTHING. Oh joy!