Some days are exciting, some are thrilling, some are frustrating, and some are just ridden. Today I rode. Yesterday, I met some great people in Mexico. I started the day in Bowling Green, Missouri and crossed the Mississippi through Louisiana to arrive in Illinois. Sounds logical, right? All I can say is, look at a map.
It was personally very exciting to make it to Illinois. I was born in Chicago Heights, graduated from the University of Illinois, and spent my first 25 years in the state. As soon as I crossed the Mississippi, it just felt a little more like being home. Second breakfast came quickly in Atlas at a small cafe. The local farmers were at the next table, where I could overhear all the latest politics, sports, and news in their conversation. It wasn’t quite NPR Morning Edition, but it was very entertaining.
As I headed out the door, they wished me safe riding and warned me about the big hill that was coming soon on my way to Pittsfield. Sure enough, there was a long hill where large trucks were gearing down as they attempted the climb. I think my large breakfast made it harder than the length or incline of the hill. By now, I have done just about every kind of hill. I know the Appalachians are still awaiting me, but I had certainly climbed worse by now.
Even before I had crossed the Mississippi River, I had seen a sign indicating “Springfield 96 miles”. My plan for the next few days was to make a short day of 68 miles to Jacksonville, then a 77 mile ride to Decatur. It would then be 180 miles back to Indianapolis that I could pretty well break in half across 2 days. I would pass through Champaign and the University of Illinois, but it would have to be a short stop.
I made good time to Pittsfield. For the second day, I was without my bike computer. Hidalgo had gone brain dead yesterday morning and a hard reset did not get the bike computer to function. To add to my navigation problems, my phone was not getting any data services. I had bars, but it was an “extended network”. What that meant was I could send and receive phone calls and text messages. I could NOT get any Internet service or get useful details from Google maps. When I looked at Google maps, it would put a blue dot on my current location. It would only show major roads and not label every road. I could not ask Google maps for directions or see how far the next town was. I wished I had a paper map. The only thing still working was the compass on the bike and my watch. At least I didn’t have head winds to deal with, for the most part.
I took only a beverage stop once between Pittsfield and Jacksonville. I hit the outskirts of Jacksonville close to 3 PM. I made my way into town hoping to find some of the hotels I had researched the night before. My phone still couldn’t find them. I called Becky for help and went into an Arby’s for a milk shake. In times of crisis, you need ice cream. Becky gave me some suggestions. When ordering my shake, I asked the girl at the counter if they had wifi. She said they did, but it was not for public consumption. When I explained my situation, she took pity on me and gave me one of the more cryptic passwords I’d seen for access to their network. I went out to my panniers and grabbed my tablet, so I could have a bigger screen. I got the data on the hotels, but I also wanted to satisfy my curiosity about hotels in Springfield, a route, and distance. The nearest hotel in Springfield was 32 miles away. After phone calls, milk shake, rest room break, filling water bottles and repacking, I decided to go for it. It was close to 3:45 and I should get there by 6:30 if I didn’t stop much or for long. It was going to be close to a hundred mile day. I was lucky the bike computer could not tell me for sure. Of course, it couldn’t encourage me with progress reports, either.
I was fortunate to get mostly cross wind and sometimes a little bit of tailwind wind. Had I been going against the wind, I would have been found on the road dead. I tried not to look at my watch. I wanted to know how much farther, but if I couldn’t have accurate data, then I didn’t want false hopes. After an hour and a half, I thought I saw a water tower in the distance.
There were no towns in between that had more than 200 people, so it meant I must be getting close. When I finally got to the water tower, I had finally got service on my phone. Google maps told me I was still 6 miles away and I had missed a turn on the suggested route. I finished the ride about 6:10pm. I had made very good time and got a little help from the wind.
I checked in, showered and searched for dinner possibilities. I usually do some laundry by hand in the tub, but there was only a shower. I asked the front desk if they had any facilities and was told their sister hotel did and we could use it. Armed with a fistful of quarters, my bagged dirty clothes, and my detergent I headed in that direction and an adjacent restaurant. The machine washed while I ate third breakfast.
So finished my estimated 99 mile day. Without a computer to tell me for sure, I might just call it 100. Tomorrow I will do 73 to get me to Monticello. This will give me a little more time in Champaign and a shorter, final push back home to Indy.
The Lone Rider