Nearing Two Thirds of the Way
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Skimmed the Illinois Plains in a Heat Wave
I am writing this at the end of a very hot ride of 87 miles across the rolling Illinois Prairie. Tomorrow is a rest day so no blog unless Champaign turns out to be a cultural gem like Abilene - current signs are not good but there is a section of fine mansions.
After the cross-winds, the heat wave. The central and eastern part of American is experiencing temperatures usually reserved for the summer and we finished today in a shade temperature of 95F and 85% humidity, more or less the same as yesterday, the weather channel says that this feels like 97F and we agree with that! The weather index, a measure that seeks to put all the conditions together so that each day can be compared hit 100 yesterday, so it was a century in two ways. When we started today at 07:20 the temperature was already 84F. This is very pleasant to ride in, it is only when the sun reached the zenith that it becomes oppressive. For this reason we spun out the first 60 miles fairly quickly in a group of five and then Penny (the highway flyer) and I just stroked in the last 27 miles at a steady pace (18 - 20 mph in a gentle tail wind) drinking all the time
Perhaps because it hasn't rained, there were no cicadas around today.
This part of Illinois is heavily forested but also a fertile farming area. The crops are not just wheat and corn but all types of vegetables. It is generally flat and what hills there are only climb on gentle gradients for a few 10s of feet. There were a few small, smart towns along the way with populations of 200 to 400. Whereas before we could track the path of the road into the distance by huge grain elevators, now there are far less of these but we can still see the next town well before we arrive by the lolly pop water towers.
The first break was in a town called Chestnut and in a field just outside the built up area is the equi-centre of Illinois.
The roads in rural Illinois are not as good as we have got used to and there are frequent holes, both large and small, to trap the unwary. Most disturbing of all there are cracks running along the road surface just slightly wider than a road bike tyre that have been filled with tar. Unfortunately the tar has softened and if you put a wheel on the crack it follows it like a rail road. Very unpleasant the first time and it nearly had all five of us off in one group crash
Back to black snakes; an American friend who is reading this blog has sent me a note saying that black snakes are good snakes because they eat other poisonous snakes. To prove it he added a picture of one munching a rattler. This convinces me all the more to give them a wide berth.
Now to reflect back on the ride so far. By our count we have ridden 2,222 miles out of 3,415 miles total so down to 1,200 miles to go; we have ascended 93,400 ft In addition to the data mentioned in the last rest day blog, we have crossed the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers.
The bikes are looking reasonable (don't do this trip on a cheap bike) if more than a little travel stained but the chains are worn as are the tyres (three tyres that have survived so far). We have slightly lost count of the number of punctures we've had but we think it is 17.
Penny and I are in good health and high spirits. Penny says she needs a haircut but then when doesn't a woman need a hairdresser?
I need to get into good trim for the next section because Rick, our lovely mechanic returns from his pharmacy tonight. It was he who inducted me as a Texan and with Dana as a 'good old boy' after several 'beastings' up the early hills and he wants a return match as we approach Brattlebro'. I cannot let the Wills Wheelers and Cobham Crunchers down at this stage!!!
Our elder statesman, George, today rode despite his injuries to the second stop a distance of 63.5 miles. A great effort for anyone but particularly for a gentleman of 75 with bumps and bruises all over his body, limbs and face.
So a short break,
Live the dream!
Chris and Penny