No Name Tour: Day 4 – Headwinds Are a State of Mind

After yesterday afternoon’s massive feed, I fell into a food coma in my hotel room. Laundry was accomplished. Nats best Cubs on the telly. I slept for 8 hours.

Just what I needed.

The hotel breakfast was decent: cereal, OJ, coffee, yogurt, fruit (including 2 apples for the road), and toast.

As I left the hotel the wind nearly blew me over. Once I got on Route the wind was in my face. I was determined not to fight it. So I plodded along at 8 miles per hour. During the day, the wind intensified and my speed crept downward.

No worries. The temps were cooperating, staying in the high 60s and low 70s.

I decided to just forget about how long the day would take. I stopped from time to time to check out the sites.

It turns out that a business in Santa Monica (the western end of Route 66) makes huge fiberglass statues as advertisements. Most of them look like Paul Bunyan carrying an axe or whatever matches the business being promoted. Mufflers were popular. A hot dog business in Illinois had one made with a giant hot dog. It’s named the Paul Bunyon statue because of restaurant trademark conflicts. It now stands next to the road in Atlanta, Illinois.

Paul’s a whole lot bigger (and my head is much smaller) than he looks in this picture.

I was plodding along thinking the bike gods that the road was mostly level.

I stopped in the town of Elkhart and had a light lunch at an Amish cafe. I was happy to get out of the wind for an hour.

The wind picked up even more when I saw Stephen and Bernd coming my way. Steve is from New York and Bernd is from Germany. We had a nice chat. They were loving their tailwind. Steve said they rode more than 80 miles yesterday and “didn’t break a sweat.” He also said that the winds were so strong in Arizona that he was literally blown off the road into a ditch.

Steve and Bernd happy to riding the wind

Isn’t bike touring fun?

I rode into Springfield expecting to camp but the campground looked boggy so I headed into town in search of a hotel.

Along the way I saw some signs for Lincoln’s tomb so I checked it out.

It turns out that 3 of his 4 sons (Robert is buried in Arlington) and his wife are also buried here. This surprised me because Willie was buried in DC (the basis for the book Lincoln in the Bardo).

I know my history fanatic friend Jessica is going ape over these pictures but there’s more! Lincoln’s tomb is just up the hill from the graves of the Korndog (sic) King and Mr. Accordion!

I’ll bet that made Jessica spit her cerveza.

After checking out an inexpensive Howard Johnson’s they looked like a perfect spot for meth sales, I ride into downtown and grabbed a room at the Wyndham. I’m on the 28th floor and I can hear the wind howling outside. I have an amazing view of Springfield and let me tell you it’s totally not worth the picture. (I grew up in Albany and I’d feel the same way about the view there do don’t give me any grief y’all).

In spite of the headwinds I logged 52.5 miles today making the tour total 225 miles.

Tomorrow I check out Lincoln’s house before riding headwinds outta town.

No Name Tour: Day 3 – Getting My Ass Kicked on Route 66

At the motel last night I watched the Nats play the Cubs on TV. I fell sound asleep in the 4th inning (or thereabouts) and woke up at 1:30. I stayed up for a few hours then faded away until 6:30.

I ate a pathetic motel breakfast again (cereal, OJ, coffee) and headed out into a stiff headwind that never relented.

I just put my head down and did my best. 8 miles per hour.

The route occasionally had a path next to it. The path was made from half the old roadway. It was nice and had Burma Shave signs.

Don’t pass on hills or curves

If the cops don’t get you

Morticians will

Burma Shave

I crawled along until Normal. Normal strikes me as a strange name for a town. It practically begs you to suspect the place is full of weirdos.

Normal gave way to bike paths through Bloomington. I wonder if the locals call it Abnormal.

I became hopelessly lost about the same time as I started bonking. I was not a happy camper.

With help from the google I escaped Bloomington but managed to bypass all kinds of restaurants and food stores.

I ended up at a crappy gas station shop and made do with a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich and two Gatorades.

Here I discovered it was 83 degrees outside. So had heat to augment the lovely headwinds.

I have to say that this was one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. I did 88 miles into a headwind last summer but that was downhill with cool temperatures. (And the views along the Blackfoot River in Montana were awesome. The Illinois prairie not so much.)

Back on the trail I decided to end the day at McLean. They had a Super 8 with a diner across the street. I got there as yet another nasty thunderstorm was approaching.

At the diner I ordered breakfast. There was enough food for three people. Oink.

I noticed a few morbidly obese people in their yards along the road today. There were several more at the diner. Depressing.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for more fun with heat and headwinds. At least the hotel has a much more ample breakfast set up that I will attack with Kennedy-esque vigah.

41.5 miles today. Total so far 212.5.

No Name Bike Tour: Day 2 – Getting My Kicks

Something must be wrong. I slept like a log and my knee didn’t ache. Good thing I was in a hotel because a storm went through the area and had golf ball sized hail.

The complementary breakfast wasn’t worth the price. A small bowl of Raisin Bran, toast and jam, and coffee. Normally I’d eat everything twice but not today.

It was a dreary day with cool temperatures and drizzle. On went my rain jacket.

On the road by 8:30 or maybe 7:30. I have time zone confusion. On the way out of Kankakee I was treated to the curse of the miles long freight train. Actually it was fun watching it roll by. Forever.

Once freed I was treated to a tailwind for most of the morning. I had decided to ride west to intersect Route 66 in Dwight, Illinois. I let the google do the navigating.

Off I went on country roads, a very pleasant experience until I hit the unpaved part. “Continue for 9 miles.” The google likes to joke.

After about five I turned off and headed to the two lane highway.

Did I mention that these roads are level. (Bike tourist never use the “f” word.) I was clipping along at 15 miles per hour with little effort. What a pleasant contrast to yesterday’s slog.

The fields were quagmires so I knew camping wasn’t going to happen.

As I rode into Dwight, some 37 miles after I began, I could tell I was bonking. The fuel from breakfast was used up. Fortunately there was a family restaurant at the turn to Route 66. (Family restaurants are ubiquitous in the Midwest.) I ordered lunch and was thrilled to see piles of food arrive at my table. It took me close to an hour to down it all. No crumbs for the mouse this day.

Just before entering the restaurant I checked my weather app. It predicted a thunderstorm for the next two hours. It was a false alarm.

I rode 66 southwest with the wind aiding my effort. The highway is concrete with many patches and pot holes. Many years ago the state decided to let the western two lanes deteriorate. It reminded me of snowmobile trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

My original plan was to stop in Dwight but it was barely afternoon so I forged ahead to Pontiac. On the way I passed through Odell where I crossed my route from last year. I re-took a picture while I was in town.

Pontiac boasted several museums. I went into the Route 66 museum. It was filled with memorabilia. I thought of my friend Rachel’s descriptions of the Haines, Alaska Hammer Museum.

Route 66 changed course several times. In Pontiac there are sections that date back to the late 1920s. Somebody decided to build a bypass in 1930.

There are restored buildings along the road from time to time. The Standard Oil station was cute. It would have looked better with a big 1930s car out front.

Despite the fact that the trail is clearly marked and that I had an actual map of the road, I missed a turn south of Pontiac. The level terrain made it no big deal, perhaps an extra two or three miles, but I felt embarrassed to have screwed up something so simple.

I recovered and found my hotel outside Chenoa. The desk clerk is from Gurjarat in India. It’s amazing how many small town hotels are staffed by Gurjaratis. I often wonder how they find these places.

After check in I discovered the tap water had the faint smell of sulfur, probably untreated well water. I’ll be buying bottled water for tomorrow.

So Day 2 ends at 70 1/2 miles. I’m hoping the Nats v Cubs game is on the telly tonight.

Props to all the folks back home who participated in Bike to Work Day. Thanks to Monica for offering to grab a shirt for me.

The No Name Tour: Get Me Out of Here

The last few days have been a scramble to get important stuff done before I leave for the tour. Today involved trips to the post office and putting together all the stuff for the tour. This took way too long. I had hoped to get to the Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in DC that my friend Katie Lee told me about but I ran out of time. Check it out if you are in town over the next ten days.

After about 90 minutes of work, The Mule is ready for a bike tour. Me not so much. But the time has come.

Mule at home

You will note that this bike weighs a ton. Some of the load is consumable. Maps. Soap. Chain cleaner. Lube. A book (Devil in the White City). I switched from a Kryptonite U-lock to a much lighter Ottolock to save weight. But I added two water bladders and a water filter so the bike weighs about as much as it did at the start of last year’s tour.

The bike feels much heavier though. I think I need to work on weight distribution. Everything in the so-called water proof panniers is in a plastic bag. That’s because the panniers have proven not to be water proof. Live and learn.

The engine is a bit heavier than last year. I attribute this to beer consumption. This year I consumed; last year I did not. After a few hundred miles and some temperance, I should be complaining about my pants being too loose.

Last year my body was in decent shape except for a sore left shoulder and arm. After a cortisone shot, that problem seems to be mostly gone. My left knee is very wonky though. I am seriously worried about it. The hills of Missouri should be a tough test.

Weather looks nasty. Missouri and Kansas seem to be having nonstop rain and thunderstorms. Let’s hope tornados are not in the mix.

I have the tour route roughed out. The starting point is still up in the air. Presumably I’ll start on Thursday from my in-laws house near North Judson, Indiana. If so, I’ll ride 60 miles to Kankakee, Illinois. On Day 2 I will connect with Bicycle Route 66 about 20 miles away. There is some discussion of driving me to Chicago where Route 66 begins. My first day will then likely be a confusing 65-mile ride to Joliet, Illinois. (If this is anything like riding out of Miami, I will be cussing for 6 or 7 hours.)

We shall see.

Oh, I don’t yet have a name for this tour, so I’m calling it the No Name Tour.