Friday, August 10, 2012

Bike America Day 51: Nine States!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day's distance: 66.5 miles
Overall distance: 2,667 miles

Our early 5am wake up call Thursday morning meant cool temperatures when we emerged from our tents. My dad and I rode first and the sun was low in the sky. I wore my most neon shirt so that cars could see us. I was cold while riding for the first time in two weeks and I did my best to appreciate it.

Our Adventure Cycling directions told us we’d be riding under the railroad tracks and, when my dad saw the rail bridges off in the distance, he asked if I wanted to stop for a picture. We were too far away and I said we would when we got closer. As we approached, we saw that there was another set of tracks on the ground before the bridge. We rode toward it and then we heard the familiar “choo choo” coming from down the tracks. The front of the train was about 50 yards away. We could have bolted across but we stopped to watch it pass. I imagined people in movies like Dennis the Menace and Water for Elephants running alongside trains and jumping onto them. It seemed like a really scary thing given how fast this one was going. I also tried to compete with my photographer fiancĂ© and take pictures of the train with a blurred background but I was too close to the cars for it to look any good. I’m also just not that talented.

We arrived in Iroquois, IL shortly after and took a seat in their only restaurant. My dad and I shared a ham and veggie omelet and my parents sipped coffee.

We talked to a local who told us about other cross-country cyclists that come through. He said they get a couple a day during the summer. Their city park, which we could see from the cafĂ© window, has showers and an indoor space where bikers can sleep. We were sorry we hadn’t known sooner and assured him that we’d definitely spend the night if we ever happened to be riding through there again. He was from Chicago and had a brother in RichmondVA with whom he visited DC. His brother is a runner and runs both the Chicago and Marine Corps Marathons every year. I was extra excited by this because my two friends Nikki and Hadley respectively, are running those races this fall.

We did a little cheating in Iroquois and locked our bikes on a sign post to hop in the car. Our back-roads route was empty of a “Welcome to Indiana” sign so we drove four miles down a highway to get a picture with a sign. Then we drove back to resume riding from where we’d left off.  

We arrived at US 41 where my mom was planning to switch with my dad. The only problem was that there was a big detour sign in the middle of our planned route and my mom was nowhere in sight. We turned up 41 and met her about three miles up. Then they switched and she and I rode back to the route and on to Brook, IN. The detour added a total of 7 mils to our day. We sat at a gas station cafe in Brook for a while, eating a small first lunch. I had iced tea, a piece of bread with pb and nutella, and some fruit and veggie salads my parents had bought.

My dad left the car there and rode out and back with us for a while. He’s been doing a lot of that since Ragbrai ended wanting to keep his average daily mileage up to at least its current 44.

My mom and I rode the end of the day alone and finished at the intersection of CR 700S and CR 230E, where section eight of our map ended. We’d be driving up to Chicago that afternoon so it didn’t matter that we weren’t in a town or near any sort of camping. On our drive north, we stopped in a Panera for lunch number two. I saw their “Free Wifi” sign on the window and was reminded of one of my best friends, Nicole. She worked at Panera in high school and college. One time someone came up to her behind the counter and asked for a wifi, pronounced “weefee”. They apparently weren’t familiar with this kind of internet and thought they were being offered free food. We made endless fun of this person but, as poor college students, appreciated their desire to take advantage of free food, something we did on the regular. I laughed and ordered a “you pick two” with a greek salad and a Mediterranean veggie sandwich.

We sat outside and it was luxurious. I stole one of the comfy chairs from a different table and switched it with my hard one. I had been wearing SPF75 imitation Nuetrogena sunscreen that my mom purchased at Walgreens in Wyoming. It worked well but was impossible to rub in, leaving my skin coated in white. Kind of like wearing zinc oxide on my nose but over my entire body. I figured that this is the time, if any, to look like a nutcase in my sunscreen. My mom laughed at me so I made her take a picture for the blog.

We arrived at the Clarion Hotel near Chicago Midway airport and I set up to blog. I was distracted by the gymnastics and swimming on tv, which I was very excited to watch, but I managed to jumble many thoughts and photos together about Ragbrai. I have since realized that I may have been too critical about the week. Nathaniels comment saying “So you’re saying Josh, Ben and I were boring Ragbrai companions?” inspired me to re-read the post five days after writing it. I realized that there may have been a few lines implying that I would have had more fun had we partied harder or gone down some slip and slides and I’d like to clarify. Ragbrai was wonderful and I honestly wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. This entire summer has been all about biking and I was happy to have Ragbrai be that way. It was a different experience than the one I had with Joyce and Ben two summers ago but that makes it unique and special. It still felt small in comparison to the entire summer and felt less monumental than it would if done alone but I was never bored and was happy with my friends there.

Dinner in the motel was a salad inspired by a photo I’d seen on instagram. We made a salad of spinach, rasberries, peaches, and queso cheese. Goat cheese was our first choice but the store didn’t have it. I found myself starving all night despite my double lunches and my many snacks. I went to bed hungry and ready to take the next few days off.

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