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.

No Name Tour: Day 1 – Headwinds, Rumble Strips and Thunderstorms

The day began with my in laws taking us out to the Fingerhut Diner in beautiful downtown North Judson, Indiana. Maybe it was pretour jitters but I couldn’t finish my omelet. My tummy was in knots and my left knee was barking at me.

We went back to the in-laws’ fabulous home atop a sand hill (the land around here is either sand or bog). I packed up and my mother in law offered me some granola bars and a fig bar. I put a few in my handlebar bag because what’s a few more ounces when your bike weighs a ton.

The engine

Hugs and kisses were followed by me riding The Mule down the curving driveway and into the wind.

Crops are only now being planted around here so the vast fields offer little break from the constant winds from the south and west. I was going west south west so my entire day was spent fighting the wind. Of course, as the day wore on the wind speed increased. Did I mention that I hate weather?

The county farm roads were empty but disconnected so I had to use two lane highways from time to time. I spent about five miles going south on US 421. It had rumble strips along the narrow paved shoulder leaving me no choice but to ride in the travel lane. I spent most of the time looking in my rear view mirror (if you tour without one you are a fool). Dozens of tractor trailers and dump trucks passed me. They all gave me plenty of room. Only one honked at me.

I turn west onto Indiana Highway 10. No rumble strips! But still beaucoup trucks. Fortunately 10 gave way to some paved county roads that I had all to myself. I used the google to navigate the grid and made it quite along ways on these bike friendly lanes.

Better than a rail trail

Alas, all good things must come to an end as I rejoined 10 with still more trucks. Cowering to the edge was a bad idea. I caught my front tire in some gravel and nearly crashed. Luckily my wheel caught pavement and I recovered traction.

As I headed due west I could see the skies on the horizon darkening. On coming traffic had its headlights on. No bueno.

First state line of the tour

I arrived in the Illinois town of Momence and stopped to check the weather radar. As I did I heard a rumble of thunder. The radar showed a massive line of dark red approaching from the near northwest. It had dozens of lightning strikes displayed.

Eek!

I have been caught riding in Midwest thunderstorms several times before. They are scary. Heavy rain. High winds. Hail. Lightning.

Fortunately the google indicated that a fast food joint was only two blocks away. Having ridden 50 miles with only the fig bar to eat since breakfast I understood that the universe was telling me to eat some French fries.

And do I did. I munched slowly as I waited an hour for the storm to pass. Thinking ahead I made a motel reservation ten miles west in Kankakee.

After the storm passed, I hopped on The Mule, made two turns in Momence and rode 10 miles straight to the motel. I didn’t even care that scores of cars zoomed past me as I rode.

And so I arrived at the Super 8 covered in road spray but feeling pretty darned good about the first day of the tour.

I still have no idea if this left knee of mine will hold up to daily abuse but there’s only one way to find out.

Onward to Bicycle Route 66 tomorrow.

No Name Tour – Day 0

We drove 13 hours to north central Indiana today. My mind kept ticking off all the places along the way that I have bikes to and through in the past. Many good memories. Okay, riding over the monster hill in Wheeling in my recumbent in 2005 was no picnic.

Tomorrow morning we go to the local diner then I take off for Kankakee IL. I will stay in a motel since it is supposed to be a stormy night.

Wind will be an issue. There are no crops in the fields to hide behind. Maybe the weather gods can give me a push.

My left knee is very unhappy with the time in the car.

The Olympics has a motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius. Faster, Higher, Stronger. The motto for this tour is Maior, Corpulentiores, Deterioria Mereri. Older, Fatter, Sorer.

Onward.

And a note to the folks back in DC: I am sorry to have miss led this year’s Ride of Silence tonight. As my father used to say: you done good.

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.