Illinois 2010 – Day 6

Weldon Springs State Park to Lincoln: Toughest day of the entire ride

Tuesday May 11, 2010, 33 miles (53 km) – Total so far: 227 miles (365 km)

It’s still raining when I wake up, but the storms have passed. I pack up everything wet, and as I leave I attempt to pay my fee. It’s within the camphost hours and their car is there, but they don’t answer to my calls of ‘hello’, ‘HELLOOO’ in a louder voice, or a knock on the camper door. Well, forget it, I don’t have the correct change for the campsite, so I give them the closest that I have, which short-changes them by $3. I put the money in an envelope and leave it with a note that I stick under a heavy napkin dispenser on their picnic table. But I don’t care, they can come chase me down for those $3 if they like. It’s not as if I can escape the scene very quickly!

The town of Clinton is a short ride away and the wind seems ferocious already. I try to keep off the main streets, and in doing so, come to the other side of town before passing anywhere to get food. I have a couple protein bars Mom gave me, so I pull up on a sidewalk by a park and decide I’ll try the blueberry. Oh, it is awful!! It tastes like seaweed – and sure enough, that’s one of quite a few gross ingredients. I choke down half the bar and decide I’ll have to be a lot more desperate than this to eat the other half. I head down to a river bottom, then up a short, steep hill for a right turn that takes me northward over a 4-lane divided highway and then back onto county roads. It would be quicker to take State Hwy 10 between Clinton and Lincoln, but the county roads have been so nicely paved and so sparsely driven, that I figure an extra 5 miles is okay.

However, the 33 miles I ride today are the toughest of the whole trip. It’s a cloudy day and there is a strong headwind coming straight at me out of the west southwest. The flat fields offer nothing to slow the wind and I crawl along between 4 and 7 miles per hour the whole day. It is pretty miserable, but my ‘I’m living my dream’ thoughts keep me going for the first 1.5 hours. I keep thinking about how I’m totally free and not sitting behind a desk and how I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing than riding my bike at this exact moment. The cruellest bit of this part of the ride is that whenever I look back, the water tower in Clinton does not seem to diminish in size. It reiterates how slowly I am moving.

This picture sums up this day – lots of this into a strong headwind.

The next 1.5 hours are a bit more of a struggle as the wind increases even more and my food supply diminishes – this big riding effort is being sustained on half of a gross blueberry bar, half a box of graham crackers and 6 squished Reese’s Cups. I still can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing, but I can think of some pretty choice words for the wind and my speed. The contrast between14 mph with little effort yesterday and the full-on effort for 5 mph today is cruel.

I know from my pre-trip research that Lincoln has a Cracker Barrel restaurant. I love their chicken n’ dumplings and their turnip greens (two more favourite foods I love and can’t get in Oz). So I get through the final 1.5 hours of the day by promising myself that I will treat myself to a motel and Cracker Barrel if I ever get to town. In these last couple of hours, I let myself stop for a few moments at each county grid crossroads – i.e. just about every mile. I’m still out of shape so this is an arduous day. Each time I turn south for a mile the lack of a direct headwind is exquisite and I push the speed up to 8.5 and feel like I’m flying. Finally, I can see the interstate in the distance. It ever so slowly gets closer. By the time I reach the airport on the northeast side of town I’m exhausted. I push into town, but having no map, it’s a bit of guesswork for where the information centre might be. I end up riding in on historic Route 66 and spend an exhausted few moments resting in the shoulder of the road right in front of an old antique store and Route 66 attraction.

I head further in and end up in the downtown area. The downtown looks really cool – with old neon signs, brickwork murals and architecture and businesses from different decades all co-mingling. I pass by the railroad station where Abraham Lincoln christened the town with watermelon juice and where he stopped on presidential tours, etc. But I’m too exhausted to really appreciate it and note that this would be a cool place to check out one day, just not today. Once in downtown, I find signs directing me to the visitor centre.

I try to parallel the busy road on a side street, but return to it when I see a Casey’s gas station. I need something – my sugar levels are low enough I’m starting to shake. Not quite in my right mind, I go in and buy a root beer and some chili cheese Fritos (another favourite junk food I can’t get in Oz). Next door is a park containing the Postville court house, a replica of the courthouse Abraham Lincoln visited on his circuit as a young lawyer. I try to appreciate this historical significance but my greatest appreciation is being able to collapse behind some bushes and the air conditioning unit out of the wind out the back of the place. I’m still warm from the ride, but everyone else is wearing winter jackets because the temp is in the low 50s. Sorry, Mr Lincoln – esteemed former president, for sprawling out like a dead body behind the court house where you got your start, I just couldn’t help it.

Once my blood sugar rises and I pry myself from the lawn I find the info centre a couple blocks west. I pick up some info on the town and ask the chick where the motels and such are. She is very friendly, even though I must look half-dead. She directs me a couple miles north and west. The divided highway has been bypassed by the interstate, so the traffic isn’t too bad. I note, and somewhat appreciate, some of the old Route 66 motels as I ride north and then fight the wind to the west, riding on a newly paved Woodlawn Drive with a very nice shoulder. There are plenty of facilities (grocery stores, banks, etc) along this interstate exit road and I make a bee-line for the Super 8. Once I get checked in and get the wet tent spread out to dry, I head over to Cracker Barrel for my promised meal. They may have been the best chicken ‘n dumplings ever!

I’m very appreciative of the calm winds and a place to dry out the tent in the room at the Super 8.

Ave speed: 7.5mph

Max speed: 21

20 mph winds WSW gusting to 35 mph

Leave a Reply