Another day, another state! Today we woke up super early at 5:45 because Nick needed a massive day to make his deadline. We got packed quickly (we only had sleeping bags on the couches, so not much cleanup) and headed to a diner. It was in the back of a gas station but was insanely good. We traded final bits of wisdom before saying goodbye and getting a picture, only to ride together for 10 miles through the morning haze and humidity.
It was a nice send off, as Nick took the dirt road that Google Maps was telling him to take. Some things never change (he’s been riding the dirt roads google takes him on all trip).
The sky was overcast and gorgeous, which kept the sun away but seemed to keep the humidity up.
I had a pretty long section, 30ish miles with very little along the route. Without the sun blasting me I was able to make good time and only went through one and a half bottles in like 2 hours.
At one point in the ride I spotted a bug in the shoulder and veered around it. It angrily buzzed at me, in a much louder and more aggressive tone than I would have expected it capable of making. That wasn’t my only encounter with bugs today. Throughout the day I got tiny gnats all over my arms. This isn’t uncommon, it happens almost every day, but today’s quantity was much higher than usual. Maybe due to the proximity to the water. Further, as I was riding along I felt a sharp itching to the rear of my right quad. I itched it but the itching turned to pain. I pulled over and almost ripped my riding shorts off to get to the bite. It was a massive swelling welt already. I dug through my bag and found some anti-itch cream which really helped, thankfully. I’d later find a similar bite right where my butt hits the saddle. I have no idea how a bug could have bitten me there through my padded shorts. I didn’t see any bugs like that, I suspect a very small one got in my shorts somehow.
Anyways, the ride continued over rolling hills. I passed some construction and the flagman told me that a rider had come through from California earlier today (or maybe he meant yesterday). I proceeded on the fresh asphalt up a steep long climb. The workers stopped cars from going through while I rode, which I appreciated, but it probably took 15 minutes to get through. I’m sorry to anyone I held up!
I could feel the humidity increasing as I continued over the hills. At one point I saw a huge crane circling overhead looking at something, but I couldn’t tell what. I turned onto a busier road with a narrow (but at least consistent) shoulder. It joined up with another road, and the strange road markings they have in Illinois displayed incorrect math problems for some reason.
I eventually arrived at the town of Elizabethtown, IL after what felt like forever. I pulled into a gas station and they were just serving lunch. I got some roast beef, which one of the locals said he’d driven 2 hours for, and a cold drink. Man that meal was good. I think I was mostly starving but it truly got me set for the rest of the ride. Hot food is the best. I sat around the station for a long time cooling off.
This town was right on the Ohio River, and I got my first glimpses as I rolled through downtown. The river marks the border of Illinois and Kentucky, so it was also my first view of that state.
I also saw a massive river barge headed upstream. Tower Rock itself wasn’t visible so that was disappointing. I turned around and headed back towards the route and the huge climb. It was brutal, long and steep, turning nearly unrideable at the very top. I almost had to get off and walk, but barely held on. I was panting and could feel my childhood asthma coming back. At the top I needed time to recover. I returned to the route and rode over the steep hills there, and was simply thankful they weren’t as steep as the tower rock road climb. Soon I rolled into the town of Cave In Rock, my last town in Illinois. There are two features here.
The first is a state park with a massive cave that used to serve as a bandit hideout.
The second is a ferry over the Ohio into Kentucky!
I went to the cave first. The park was very hilly and I took a wrong turn and ended up climbing an unnecessary hill on accident. Luckily at the top was a restaurant that sold me a cold soda to recover. I rode down to the actual rock and took a million pictures. It’s the middle of the day on a Wednesday so I was totally alone in the cave. It was eerie. There was natural light through a crack above.
I left the cave and took a phone call, then headed over to the ferry. It was so cool, they run back and forth constantly. Cars just line up and wait, probably up to 15 minutes at max. I boarded and talked with the guy manning the deck. He told me to be careful of Kentucky roads, and that he had another cyclist through yesterday. He also told me that the odd bikes I’d seen in town were just maintained by a small group of residents
As we neared the far bank, and Kentucky, catfish, or something, started jumping out of the water. They were huge. We docked and I got off the boat last, saying goodbye to the ferryman and officially entered my second to last state of the trip.
When we entered Illinois Nick made the observation that upon entering a new state you’ll get a burst of energy, and he’s not wrong. The excitement keeps you moving, and everything seems new. Indeed, as I rode a soon saw my first Amish buggy of the trip, clip clipping along (sorry for heavy breathing)
The country here was very Amish, there were signs for saddles and plows and stuff. I wanted to stop at an Amish market (Yoder’s Variety Store) but a woman coming out told me there was no food inside, and that rain would start within 30 minutes. I got passed by the buggy and then got back on the road to try and beat the rain. The Kentucky roads are shoulderless, winding, and with fast traffic. Definitely not my favorites of the trip so far. They also have marks from all the steel wheels buggies coming through
I rode the very long feeling and hilly 11 miles to Marion Kentucky without too much excitement. I arrived at a church that will host cyclists (Hilton of the Transam some people.supposedly call it). Indeed, there’s a nice lounge, bunk beds, a shower, and wifi (though the wifi wasn’t working for me). The pastor was super nice and let me in. They’ve been hosting for a long time, including the original 1976 Biketennial, the guest book for which is laminated and displayed proudly. They really care about their cyclists here! I got a shower then headed out to get dinner. I didn’t feel like going far so just stopped at a subway and got a massive sandwich and soda. I then went to McDonald’s for second dinner and free wifi. Now I’m sitting back at the church trying to stay awake writing this. I need sleep, so goodnight!
Distance: 60ish, maybe more
- Bacon, eggs, toast, pancake, oj breakfast
- Protein shake
- Cliff bar
- Roast beef
- Texas toast
- Mashed potatoes
- Banana pudding
- Meatball marinara