Macomb to Nauvoo: Drinking like the locals
Friday May 14, 2010, 59 miles (95 km) – Total so far: 378 miles (609 km)
I’ve planned a way out of town that avoids Hwy 136 (even though it has huge shoulders here). I pass over a river that is flowing right up to the bottom of the bridge (which will flood and close this road a couple days after I pass by). I then have a couple hills to climb. One of these climbs from a river bottom is so steep and long that I have to walk (the bike store owner in town warned me of this). After this, it is fairly flat for awhile, but then there are quite a few gentle descents and climbs in and out of creeks.
I finally get to a county road which I plan to head west on for about 12 miles. It’s a pleasant ride, and I pass by several old cemeteries and a nice curvy section along a creek where I startle a doe which goes crashing off into the woods.
I have a break at one of the cemetery entrances – giving my butt a break. It is not a happy body part for the first couple weeks of the ride, including today, but it will eventually harden and get used to the seat.
At one point I can see a dog waiting for me at the bottom of a hill. So I pedal furiously down the hill (my max speed for the day) and manage to outrun the barking hound on the uphill. I get just a little further along and see the warning sign lying on the pavement that says: ROAD MAY BE IMPASSABLE DURING HIGH WATER. No shit!! The river is not just over the road but is at least a hundred feet across and metres deep with a swift current. Damn – this was going to be a great route. So now I have to turn around and get chased by the dog again and detour back to 136. This adds about 10 miles to the day, but at least there are gentle grades and a 4-foot shoulder on 136 to Carthage.
I also have a bit of a headwind today but compared to the previous days it feels downright calm. I make good time, though I’m ready for another butt break at Carthage. It is really busy for a small town. Some kids at the high school yell out, ‘where you heading?’. I just yell back, ‘West!’. I see the Carthage jail, where Joseph Smith (Mormon founder) and his brother were killed by vigilantes after the brothers’ arrests. I don’t bother to go in though as it’s already 2:30 and I’ve got many more miles to go and unknown road conditions.
I encounter a few more hills outside of Carthage and it’s then fairly flat until I’m just outside of Nauvoo. My only concern is the amount of really crap beer containers all over the roadside from Carthage to Nauvoo. Bud Light, Keystone Light, Natty Light. This is big-time Mormon country. So do they leave home and go out and drink and drive in secret, since they’re not supposed to drink alcohol? It is rather curious and the greatest concentration of littered alcohol containers I will see on my trip.
So my last few miles see me hitting gravel to go in the back way to Nauvoo. The longer alternative is a busy county road with crumbling pavement and no shoulder. Verne is not keen on gravel, but I’m getting used to short stretches on it. The first two miles are okay, but the last mile has recently been graded and there are no hardened vehicle tracks to follow. It’s so soft it’s hard to steer and I sink in with the weight of me and the bike. I’m going so slowly and bouncing so much that I quickly decide to walk. My butt likes this and it doesn’t take too long to walk the mile. A dog comes out with an intent to chase but loses interest quickly.
I finally get back to pavement and have just a couple steep downhill and uphills to get to town. The campground is up on a hill, so I put in a final effort for the day and then call my folks to tell them I’m okay.
A bit later on a guy comes over and asks if I’m LDS. ‘Why, no, no I’m not.’ He then introduces himself and says that he’s with the big group of guys and their sons that are camping over the way. (I’d seen them earlier and had put some shorts on over my Lycra, assuming they were LDS folks and trying to be respectful of this). He tells me that they are all very conservative (which I take to mean that they disapprove of me – what would they think if they knew I was married and biking alone!) and that he’d invite me over for dinner but it would be very awkward since I was a woman. But he wants me to know that if I need anything, or anyone bothers me, to just let him know. It is simultaneously a nice gesture and a reminder of the status of women in his world.
I can see the Mississippi River in the distance from my campsite. After so many years of dreaming about it, I really am doing this ride!
Ave Speed: 8.8mph (including 1 mile walking and ¼ mile pushing bike up a hill)
Max Speed: 27.4