June 23, 2006
I spent the morning in my motel room writing yesterday’s journal entry, shooting off a few short emails, and generally being slow about getting started… so I didn’t start riding until eleven. The weather was great today with dark, shady clouds early, and big puffy ones later. It rained on me for ten minutes or so, and it felt great! The rain was light, cool, and steady, and I actually wished it hadn’t stopped!
Southern Illinois already has a different character than Kentucky. There are plenty of rolling hills, but they seem to be more rounded at the top than the hills to the east, if that makes any sense. There’s also more woodlands and less wide open farmland. I think the change in weather with the departure of the heat wave makes a big difference in my perception as well.
One thing I’m remembering to write about tonight is the wildflowers. A couple of days ago I began to see many of them along the roads, often bordering farmer’s fields. Lately I’ve been passing these patches more frequently, and now today I’m seeing whole fields of flowers.
There weren’t many places to stop today as far as towns were concerned, but it didn’t matter because I was enjoying the riding so much. Later in the afternoon I was passing a gas station that I hadn’t planned to stop at, when a loaded touring bike parked there caught my eye. I pulled in to meet its owner.
The first thing I noticed riding up to it was the bike – there was a trailer attached, and the bicycle was the exact same make and model as mine! The rider was sitting on the sidewalk next to it, with his head in his hands apparently taking a nap.
“Hey, nice bike!” I said.
The rider’s name is Josh, from the Albany, NY area, and he’s riding west. He started in Tennessee, and he’s headed up toward Washington State, not necessarily following a designated route. He’s been roughing it, sleeping out wherever it looks okay, and last night he ended up near a Walmart… in a ditch underneath a billboard, wrapped up in his tarp during the storms! He says that a tornado touched down twice about eight miles from where he was staying.
So after hanging out and talking for a little while, we decided to ride together and split a site at a campground for the night, 15-20 miles farther on. It was a nice evening for riding with the sun coming out, and good to have some company. “See the bird sitting on that bale of hay?” is a typical example of conversation.
So were stopped at an intersection checking the map when a woman pulled up beside us in her car.
“We have a westbound rider from Wales staying with us tonight,” she says, “Our house is right up the road, and you guys are welcome to come camp out too, if you’d like!”
We ride a half mile down the road to Mary and Harry’s home. “Do you want to take a shower?” she asks, “Swim in the lake in the back yard? Do a load of laundry? Do you want a beer?”
Ummm… yes! Wow.
Josh and I take showers, and they take us to a local state park with a restaurant for an all you can eat dinner – fried chicken, mash potatoes, biscuits, corn, green beans… oh yeah. “They” = Harry and Mary; and “us” = me, Josh, Megan (From Wales), and her pen pal friend from Illinois, whose name I forget. There’s great conversation covering a wide array of topics, as we all have some unique experiences and backgrounds to bring to the table. Harry and Mary are both cyclists as well. Harry did a west to east cross country trip about ten years ago, and he’s also a Vietnam veteran and retired firefighter.
So right now I’m in my tent on their front yard typing this, and Josh is talking to some friends from home on his phone. I have a full belly, and can’t believe the good fortune of meeting all these people within a matter of hours today. Josh can’t believe it either, especially after a wet night in a ditch! Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.