Thursday, June 6th – Our Route 66, Epic Journey #4, Epilogue

On May 31st, our rest day before our 2-day train ride home, we took the day to visit parts of downtown Chicago. Visiting the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park and Oz Park. We rode Chicago’s “L” train for the first time and did a lot of walking.

20190531_140932(At the entrance to the Conservatory. It hosted large varieties of flora and fauna.)

20190531_16444820190531_164804(Inside and outside of the Cloud Sphere, a.k.a. the “Bean” in Millennium Park.)

20190531_165133(The Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. There was to be a gospel choral performance that evening.)

20190531_15540520190531_16004820190531_154707(Wizard of OZ statues in Oz Park, couldn’t find the one of the Cowardly Lion.)

20190531_165953 (Part of the Chicago skyline in the afternoon.)

On June 1st, we were lucky to get home as a portion of track in Iowa was flooded in about 6″ of water by the Mississippi River!! Previous and subsequent day’s Chicago-to-Emeryville trains were cancelled because of track flooding!!

20190601_17491520190601_174943(The flooding outside of our train’s window!!)

20190603_IMG_9009

(Arriving in Sacramento after our 51-hour train ride from Chicago ready to ride home.)

20190603_IMG_9012

(Peggy and Jerry met us at the train station!! So great to see them again!!)

We’ve been home for a few days now and have had a chance to reflect upon what we had just completed. In the beginning, this felt like a very daunting adventure. Our unfortunately short-lived traveling companions, Peggy and Jerry, shared a lot of valuable information about their past self-supported rides and we drew upon their vast experience. As we had never done a ride like this before, we had a laundry list of things that needed to get done:

  • The very first thing, get Fay a new touring bike! In October, she got a new Trek 520. This new model came with both front and rear racks as well as STI shifters! So, this was perfect for her!
  • Acquiring our panniers! We wound up buying all of them on either eBay (most of the bags) or Craigslist: Rob’s Ortlieb front panniers (Craigslist)/Arkel back panniers (eBay); Fay’s Arkel Front panniers/Ortlieb back panniers (both on eBay)
  • Acquiring lighter weight items: new Therma-Rest Neo Air sleeping pads (also on eBay), a 3-person backpacking tent (Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3), and, multi-use sandals
  • Purchasing a new Jet Boil which had a regulator
  • Getting freeze-dried food for those possible camping dinners
  • Getting rain jackets,
  • Larger-sized dry bags,
  • A solar charger and battery packs

We had purchased the Adventure Cycling Association Route 66 map set earlier and Rob took the opportunity to plot out the entire USBR (US Bicycle Route) 66 route on the Ride with GPS app to help in researching on-route and/or near-route eating/shopping places and lodging options. Fay had found on the website, CrazyGuyOnABike.com, blogs from others who had previously ridden Route 66. He used these blogs for reference in doing some initial planning of daily routes. Plotting out the entire route and using those blogs provided some useful information for at least the initial 3 weeks or so of our trip.

Then came the practice run carrying our gear:

We’re not going to lie, but Fay remembered the first time we did a practice run with the panniers on her new bike.  When she rolled it down the driveway, she was surprised at how heavy and hard to maneuver it was!  Her first thought was “how the hell am I ever going to ride this thing with all this weight on?” Let alone trying to balance and not fall over. She remembered last year when she thought that she would probably never ever do a self-supported ride in her lifetime.  She thought her knees would never be able to handle that combined weight, especially climbing hills, of bike and gear.  Also, back in December, she reinjured her right knee, so, she was very concerned that it might not hold up on the trip.  She did everything she could to strengthen it and ice it down after a workout.  But, the knee did fine!  Sometimes after a long hilly day, it would hurt, but it all turned out well.  After a while your body got used to riding with the extra weight.

Our thoughts about this trip:

Now that we’ve completed our first self-supported ride, a number of our friends have asked us about which type of touring we like better, supported or self-supported? Our overwhelming answer is SELF-SUPPORTED. And here’s why:

Having the flexibility of planning out ride our days:

This was the biggest reason for us answering this way. Being able to plan our daily routes ourselves and not having to follow a scheduled timeline. On our past, long, supported rides, all the stops and overnight locations were all planned out for us. Even though we were carrying our own gear this time, being on our own gave us a lot of flexibility to push farther if there were tailwinds or cut back on our miles knowing if there was going to be headwinds and/or a lot of climbing. It also allowed us to make any stopovers to visit family and friends along the way. If it was going to be an awfully rainy day, we didn’t have to ride and take that day off. Whereas in the past, we had to ride in whatever the weather was that day.

The idea of traveling with no support:

On this trip, a lot of people would be curious as to where we were going, from where we started and why we were doing it. When we answered from Santa Monica to Chicago, they were also amazed at how far we were riding! And doing this ride just to do it!!

They’d also ask where was our support vehicle? When we told them that we were on our own, they were very surprised!  We explained that we had done 3 supported, multi-week tours in the past, and with that support, felt very secure and confident that if anything happened, we would have the help of our route leaders.  But, now that we were on our own, it was initially kind of intimidating. But with each passing day, we felt more and more confident being on our own and in our abilities to figure things out.

Ultimately, everyone we encountered wished us a safe journey.

We also utilized a lodging search tool which was new for us: Warm Showers. This is an app where cyclists sign up to be a host for other touring cyclists (complete strangers, mind you!!) or ask to be hosted. We had signed up previously as a host and this app proved to be a very useful lodging search option a number of times for us on this trip (see below).

Some statistics and fun facts:

Total miles ridden:                            2,633 miles

Total elevation (entire trip):            85,700+ feet

Total ride days:                                   50

Total rest days:                                    8 (one of which was forced by weather)

Most consecutive ride days:             8

Longest ride day:                 May 17th, 77.5 miles, to Springfield, MO

Shortest ride day:                 April 12th, 12.4 miles, to Kingman, AZ

Coldest day:                           April 25th, El Morro RV Park around 30 degrees in a.m.

Hottest day:                           April 8th, Amboy to Fenner don’t know how  hot, but it was hot

Most climbing in a day:      April 11th, Needles to almost Kingman, 4,591 feet

Days rained upon:                1

Days hailed upon:                 1

Days hearing tornado warning sirens:          1

Total times camping:                                         18

Number of Warm Showers hosts:                   8

Nights staying with a Warm Showers host:  10 (an additional rest day w/2 separate hosts)

Nights staying with family/friends:                3

Sets of bike tires used (each):                           1

Bike parts replaced:                                           1 – Rob’s rear wheel

Flats:                                                                      Fay – 0, Rob – 2 (both on day 2)

Number of touring cyclists encountered:      4

Number of Buddhist monks encountered:    1

We had a great time doing this ride. But, there was also, to paraphrase the Clint Eastwood movie, “the good, the bad, the ugly” and the sad.

The good: all of the wonderful people we encountered: from our Warm Showers hosts to just random people curious about us on our many daily stops. Also when our route brought onto an interstate, the truckers would move to the fast lane to lessen the impact of their passing us at high speeds (sometimes 70+ mph)!

The bad: some of the impatient drivers trying to pass us on hills and blind curves on 2-lane roads!!

The ugly: In one state (OK), where roadsides were just littered with all kinds of trash.

And the sad: The negative impact of former businesses on Route 66 which were now abandoned and dilapidated because of the building of the interstates, in particular I-40, bypassing them.

We’d like to thank all of you who followed our blog on this first-of-a-kind cycling tour for us. We hoped you enjoyed reading about our experiences along the “Mother Road”. Like with our 3 previous supported rides, we’ll always treasure these memories.

We very much enjoyed reading all of your comments (even though it sometimes took us a few days to reply to them) and greatly appreciated you taking the time to write them! They’re what helped to keep us going. So, thank you for those!!

Until our next “epic adventure”.

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Thursday, May 30th – Day 58 – Matteson to Chicago – LAST RIDE DAY OF ROUTE 66!!

Screenshot_20190530-100234_Ride with GPS
Best part of the day:     Reaching the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Worst part of the day:  The crazy Chicago streets at rush hour

Distance: 54 miles         Riding Time: 5hrs 8min

Bed count: 38                 Sleeping Bag count: 20

Chicago at last!!

Well, the day that seemed so far way had finally arrived! Our last Route 66 ride day!!
Being that we only had about 41 miles to our finish line, we took our time getting ready. Our Warm Showers host, Roberto, would be home in the afternoon around the 3pm-4pm time frame, so, that also allowed us to have a later start. Had a decent hotel-provided breakfast there at the Quality Inn.

Back in our room, started to repack our panniers in anticipation of Saturday’s train ride. What to put into the two panniers each that would be checked as baggage and what to take on the train as carry-on. We knew that we would need some packing tape to secure our dry sacks to one of our checked baggage panniers to make it as one bag.

Finally got underway around 9:30 riding back down to the bike path from which we had left to get to last night’s hotel. As with yesterday on this path, it was tree-lined from the get-go. Meandering on another bike path through Chicago Heights, surface streets and another bike path through Lansing (bringing us within about 1,000’ of the Indian state line!) and even another bike path taking us on the west side of Calumet City eventually got us to the lower southeast side of Chicago.

Now we were back on surface streets making our way to the Lakefront Trail which runs along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Along the way, another cyclist came up from behind and marveled at our bikes and panniers! He heaped all sorts of praise at what we were doing. A quick stop at a signal allowed for introductions. George was visiting his son who lived in Hyde Park and was out for a ride. He said that he and his son would be riding the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans in a few weeks. We asked if he knew where Grant Park was, and specifically, Buckingham Fountain. He said that he would lead us all the way there!!20190530_154955(Our guide, George, who led us to our finish line!)

Reaching the Lakefront Trail, it is a maze of bike and pedestrian paths running sometimes side-by-side, sometimes separate and sometimes one and the same path! It’s signed pretty well to tell cyclists and pedestrians which path to take, but, you know there are those pedestrian who don’t read the signs!!

We had 9 miles on this trail, sometimes in quite congested areas with other cyclists zipping all around. Hardly heard a single rider who passed the three of us say “on your left” or something of that nature. Not much in the way of cycling etiquette from what we’ve observed.

The Lakefront Trail is a beautiful trail. Because of all the rains, the high water level of Lake Michigan was lapping OVER the stone shore edge!! Wow! Lake Shore Drive which runs right alongside of the trail was packed with cars heading in both directions!

Finally, we left the trail and turned towards Grant Park and the fountain. The drivers had no qualm blocking an intersection or crosswalk when the light was against them in their efforts to squeak through the traffic light. So, we slithered our way across Lake Shore Drive to the park and started looking for the fountain. And what a sight it was when it came into view!! The Chicago skyline in the background made for some great photos!20190530_195856(Our ACA finish line, the Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park, Chicago!! Route 66 ride was now complete!!)

Then we Google-mapped our route to our Warm Showers host’s place, about 9 miles away, and started for there. Immediately Fay said, “we’ve got to go to the Route 66 begin sign!” We knew it was fairly close as we had looked it up beforehand, but, we had to negotiate a few very busy Chicago surface streets to get there. There was nothing fancy at that spot at all, just the sign on the street sidewalk! 20190530_163259(Of course, we had to get to the “official” start of Route 66 here in Chicago.)

We had texted Roberto that it might take us an hour to ride miles to his place. So, once more we set off for his place. It was back to the Lakefront Trail for us. Missed a few turns to exit the trail and Google maps rerouted each time. Fay wanted us to find a grocery store nearby to pick up some dinner items. Found a Walmart Neighborhood Market fairly close to where we were and made a stop there first. That hour by which time we thought we’d get to Roberto’s had quickly passed. He texted us asking if we were okay and that he had an event to attend, but, created and sent us 3 videos of where to go to put our bikes, where he’d hidden the keys to his place and about the inside of their apartment. All were quite useful! We let him know that we were good and would eventually arrive.

Remapping our route, it took us on Clark Street for almost all the way. We still had about 4+ miles to go! Rob appeared to have a problem with his phone (thought it was dead!!) and we found a Verizon store real close to the Walmart on our route! He’d been charging up his phone earlier with his battery pack, but, wasn’t able to see his screen! The clerk there asked him to unlock the phone! What? Rob took off his sunglasses and saw that the phone screen’s brightness was real low possibly from the very low battery level prior to recharging (obviously with sunglasses on, it looked blank!). He knew right away how to reset the brightness level. Problem solved and we were back on our way!

Then another stoppage! This time for a picture as we came up to Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, right there along Clark Street!20190530_181528

The Clark Street road was a bit bumpy, but, at least had a bike lane and there were a lot of bike riders out on the roadway (most without helmets)!

Finally, we reached Roberto’s place and watched his videos. Wheeling the bikes to the backyard, we saw the basement where our bikes would go. Unload the panniers time and down a small flight of steps our bikes went. We thought about leaving our non-essential panniers there, too, with the bikes, but, there was an open skylight where any rainfall could get the basement floor and thus our bags wet, at least the bottom of the bags. So, we carried everything up to the 2nd floor.

Roberto’s place is the 2nd floor a of cute 3-story, brick, apartment house. He shares it with three other roommates, none of whom were home when we arrived. We were able to use the big sofa in the family room and had full access to the kitchen. After a nice hot shower, we enjoyed our dinner of a Caesar salad with chicken.

Roberto eventually got home an we made our introductions. He’s a real nice young man who’s done a number of self-supported cycling trips. We talked for quite a while about all of our various adventures. He’d been a Warm Showers guest many times, but, said that this was his first time hosting.

It had been a long day and we were ready for bed. The huge sofa was plenty of room for us. Pillows and blankets were all we needed.

Our Route 66 epic adventure was now done. It was kind of sad in a way, but, also very satisfying in what we’d accomplished, completing our first self-supported, multi-week ride. And we knew that home was just a 2-day Amtrak train ride away.

As we have tomorrow off (our train home doesn’t leave until Saturday), Roberto had given us some suggestions for places to see while we were here in Chicago. Not sure what we’ll do as most of these places are at least 6+ miles away and we’d rather not get back on our bikes. Tomorrow, we’ll need to take a little time to double check our repacking of our panniers for what we check-in and carry-on on Amtrak and figure out what we’ll visit. Roberto also gave us some good info about the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) trains (a.k.a. the “L”) and getting around on it.

Time for a well-deserved night’s rest!

Until our next post….

 

Wednesday, May 29th – Day 57 – Dwight to Matteson

Screenshot_20190529-100212_Ride with GPS
Best part of the day:      Not getting rained upon!

Worst part of the day:  Wauponsee Glacial Trail (bike trail)

Distance: 63 miles         Riding Time: 5hrs 36min

Bed count: 37                 Sleeping Bag count: 20

Slept in a bit this morning. Last night’s big storm cell had long passed. No motel-provided breakfast where we stayed last night, so, it was oatmeal (Fay) and Pop Tarts (Rob) for breakfast. There was a McDonald’s next door where Rob took the short walk to get coffees for both of us. Rain water was still puddled out on the streets. Finally got ourselves ready and on the road at 9:30! That’s really late for us!! The only other time we left later was all the way back to Albuquerque when we left our friend’s, Rich’s and Susan’s, place at after 1pm, but, we only had about 16 miles that day.

Back on Route 66, we were once again splitting I-55 and the railroad tracks for the first 7 miles riding past more corn and soybean farms still very water-logged. When we reached the village of Gardner, there a short eastward ride, still on 66, that took us away from the interstate and through this quiet town. Then a nice ride through the village of Braceville and on to the town of Braidwood.

In Braidwood, we stopped at a Route 66 classic, the Polka Dot Drive-Inn. It’s been there since 1956!! A 50s-themed, active restaurant. 20190529_11432720190529_11362020190529_11371920190531_10112720190529_114418

The restrooms were covered in pictures of either Marilyn Monroe (the men’s room, of course!) and Elvis (for the ladies!). We only had done about 16 miles of riding, but, ordered some food anyway! We split a large order of chili cheese fries and each of us had one of their large-size Artic Blasts (like DQ’s blizzard)! Not exactly regular cycling fuel, but, it was good!!20190529_115915

A few more miles further down the road in the town of Wilmington and we came upon the recently reopened Launching Pad, another Route 66 classic diner. They have their huge Gemini Giant statue out front. While we stopped for pictures of it, a motorcyclist had also stopped. 20190529_130150

He was riding to Las Vegas and had started today from Chicago on a brand new Harley! He said that he was planning to take (only) 3 days to get there! We guessed he’d be riding about 11-12 hours a day!! Wow! And we thought we were putting in a lot of saddle time.

Back on the road, our route brought us to our first bike path, the Wauponsee Glacial Trail. Right off the bat, it was a crushed limestone surface. It was slow and go, about 8mph, as we had to negotiate puddles in numerous spots along the trail. This surface brought back bad memories from our BTUSFMS northern tier ride where we were on this same type of path on the Erie Canal Way, also after heavy rains, where our bikes’ drivetrains got all covered by the limestone particles! At least our fenders helped this time!

We stopped at a crossroad where Rob checked to see if there was a way to get off this trail and use surface roadways. It was already 1:30 and we still had almost 30 more miles to go to our ride’s end! He managed to find a road, US 52, which ran somewhat parallel to the trail and would lead us to where we wanted to go!

Snaking through a few more surface streets, we eventually got on the Old Plank Road Trail. This was fortunately a paved trail, even if it was a bit bumpy at times! For the vast majority of it, we were riding through a canopy of trees, but, we had 17 miles of this! There were also a whole bunch of cross roads to stop/start. A lot of these Illinois drivers don’t stop for cyclists waiting at a crosswalk to cross the street. We spent a lot of time waiting for an opening! So, it seemed like it took forever to get to where we left this trail to get to our hotel. Along the way, though, we encountered several other cyclist who when seeing our loaded bikes asked how far were we going. We’d chat for a few moments after which they would speed away.

But, get to the end of this trail for today we did (we’d be back on it again tomorrow). We’d found a Quality Inn in Matteson online as well as a grocery store, Aldi’s, nearby. Hit the grocery store first before riding the short distance to the hotel. It was almost 6:30 by the time we got in our room!

Along today’s ride, we’d been trying to contact our Chicago Warm Showers hosts to confirm our staying with them tomorrow and inquiring if it would be okay for a 2nd night, the 31st, as our train tickets aren’t until June 1st.

Tonight, we got the go ahead for both nights, thank goodness, as otherwise we’d have to find other arrangements for Friday! We had a couple of other Warm Showers host request acceptances, but, they were over 9 miles away from our finish! Tomorrow’s hosts are about a ½ mile away!

It’s nice again to be inside as another storm system will be hitting us late tonight! When will it all end? Rain is still in the forecast for tomorrow, but, it appears to be a negligible amount, and, we’ve only got 40 miles almost all on bike paths! So, it’ll probably be another somewhat late start.

AND, it’s our last ride day on this trip (well, except for when we get back into Sacramento and we ride home from the train station)!! We’ll have ridden the entire ACA Route 66 route!

Until our next post….

Tuesday, May 28th – Day 56 – Bloomington to Dwight

Screenshot_20190528-163914_Ride with GPSBest part of the day:     We can eat whatever we want for only a couple more days

Worst part of the day:  The rain gods getting their revenge

Distance: 58 miles         Riding Time: 5hrs 16min

Bed count: 36                 Sleeping Bag count: 20

We had a window open all night in our room as it never really got cold overnight. We got up at 6:30 and got ourselves and our things together. It was a somewhat cloudy morning, but, a pleasant temperature.

Julian and Noha had been out for an early morning bike ride and we had a breakfast of cereal, granola and yogurt while they were away. They wanted to be back before we were ready to head out. They had been a fantastic host for us. We learned so much from them. After pictures with them, we were on our way. 20190528_081512(With our wonderful hosts, Julian and Noha!)

Returning to the bike path that was close to their home, we weaved our way through Bloomington and the neighboring city of Normal (originally pronounced nor-mahl’, I guess a French pronunciation). Then it was onto some city streets and the Constitution Trail bike path once again.

A lot of our route for the first couple of towns after Bloomington-Normal, Towanda and Lexington, was on a bike path. Actually, this paved bike path was one lane of a now unused 2-lane side of Route 66. In its heyday, a lot of Route 66 here in Illinois as well as in Missouri was a 4-lane, divided highway. Nowadays, only one side is used as a 2-lane roadway while the other half slowly deteriorates and get overgrown with grass. Our route also got us back onto the regular, busy, 2-lane Route 66.

20190528_090516(Auto races anyone?? All we need ar the engines!!)

This same type of bike path continued in short spurts before and after Lexington and Chenoa. We took a 2nd breakfast at a McDonald’s in Chenoa after 2 hours and roughly 27 miles under our belt. That told you that we had the wind behind us!!20190528_103135(Notice the graying clouds in the background? A foreshadow of what would come later.)

Back on the bikes, it was all on the 2-lane, busy, busy, no shoulder Route 66 again sandwiched between the railroad tracks and I-55. The skies flip-flopped all morning: cloudy at the start, then the sun came out, then cloudy, then sunny a bit, etc. The winds began to change away from being favorable.

We rolled through the town of Pontiac and arrived in Odell. 20190528_131949(This old gas station as we entered Odell. Now a gift shop.)

Odell brought back memories for us as it was this town where we had our overnight stay back in 2015 on the Bike The US For MS northern tier ride. We had set up our tent at the Odell Pool Park. Nothing interesting about that except that a huge thunderstorm passed right through town that night! Winds and heavy rains and the threat of a tornado! The tent kept us very dry as compared to some of our other rider teammates!

20190528_13350920190528_133135(The Park’s pool area in the background. The pavilion and grassy area where our 2015 BTUSFMS group camped that stormy night.)

We stopped there at the empty Pool Park for a break of PB&J on flour tortillas. Looking to the west, the clouds were starting to get darker. We had about 10 miles to reach the town of Dwight where we planned to stay tonight at a motel.

So, we got a move on hoping to beat any possible rain. Well, the winds had picked up, possibly 20+ mph coming from the west now (we were heading north). We still had our helmet brims on and our heads were really getting pushed to the right by the winds blowing on the brims. Then we felt the first few drops and then several more. Made a stop to get out our rain jackets (for only the 2nd time!) and put on our panniers’ rain covers. We could see in the distance what looked like a pretty steady rain and we were riding right into it!

Now, it was raining harder and the wind gusts stronger, almost blowing us off the road! At about 5 miles from our motel, the winds blew Fay’s brim right off of her helmet and didn’t even realize it!! Rob stopped to go find it where it wound up about 30 yards back and 30’ off the road in high grass! When Rob returned to his bike, he saw Fay WALKING her bike along the roadside because of the strong crosswinds and was afraid of getting blown over. Rob did the same and struggled rolling his bike in the somewhat soft gravel road shoulder.

We probably walked about a 100 yards before the wind let up enough for us to get back on the bike. But, the rain was still coming down. Our feet were soaked! Arriving in the town of Dwight, we stopped at a nearby business for 1) shelter, 2) to get our bearings, and, 3) make our motel reservations. 20190528_145859(Taken shelter after having been drenched for a few miles. Our Costco rain jackets worked well as did our pannier rain covers.)

Finally, finally, that storm cell passed and we were able to ride again on the wet and puddled road.

We had about a couple of miles left to go to the motel, but, quickly found a grocery store on the way. Fay picked up some items there for our motel room dinner.

We were never more glad to get to our room, get a hot shower, hang our wet things all over the place, and enjoy our evening’s meal.

Checking our remaining map panels, it looks like we’ve only have 100 miles left until we reach the finish! Two days, 100 miles, piece of cake! If only the weather will cooperate!

Right now, there’s ANOTHER (yes, another) thunderstorm rolling through dumping rain and blasting thunder! When will the Midwest catch a break from these storms??

Screenshot_20190528-222636_MyRadar(This is a screen shot from the My Radar app for our area (note the blue bullseye) at 10:25pm!)

More tornadoes are being reported right now in the Kansas City area!! Glad we’re safely indoors!

Until our next post….

Monday, May 27th – Day 55 – Springfield to Bloomington

Screenshot_20190527-183514_Ride with GPS
Best part of the day: Our Bloomington Warm Showers hosts

Worst part of the day: Another muggy day

Distance: 61 miles Riding Time: 4hrs 49min

Bed count: 35 Sleeping Bag count: 20

One interesting thing we forgot to mention from a couple of days ago when we rode into Springfield. As we were riding into Springfield on 9th Street, we encountered pot holes, nothing new throughout this trip, but, it was what we saw at the bottom of the pot holes, bricks!! At one time the streets were made of brick like back in Lincoln’s time, but, was eventually those roadways were covered by asphalt.

Getting back to today. This morning, we learned that a tornado had hit the town of El Reno causing death and destruction. We had ridden through that very town on the day we arrived at Rob’s brother’s place and was only about 15 miles from their home! It’s eerie that more than one town through which we had previously ridden has either been hit by a tornado or had a tornado scare! That tells you how lucky we’ve been being able to dodge these severe storms ever since we hit the Midwest.

As for today, Christine made us a nice waffle breakfast this morning. We then headed back to our room to finish getting our stuff ready and loaded onto our bikes. Karl was joining us on the ride out for about 6-7 miles showing us the way, but first, he took Beau for a mile run (Karl on his bike, of course!!).

The weather was sunny and a bit warm for 8:30 when the three of us were ready to go. We said our thank you’s and goodbyes to Christine and off we went. Taking a nicer way out of their residential area than Rob would’ve used, Karl led us back on our ACA route towards the town of Sherman. Along the way, Karl told us that he was actually blind in one eye, having been that way since his premature birth. So, he always had to ride on the right side. He’d kept track of all the miles he’d ridden which he said was around 175,000! Arriving in Sherman, we said our thank you’s and goodbyes to as he took his leave to return home.

Like yesterday, our route was pretty much flat and straddled both I-55 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks past farms of newly planted corn or soybeans. Because of all the recent rains, the plants were well below in size for what they ought to be by this time. And once again, we had nice tailwinds for the entire ride!!

We rolled into the town of Lincoln and stumbled upon the Logan County Clerk of the Circuit Court building. It was there that Lincoln gave a 2-hour speech at a Republican meeting there on the building’s steps.20190527_10575220190527_105817

Took a Subway break further down in Lincoln. Brought in our map to continue figuring out to what town we’d want to ride tomorrow. It was a nice respite. Continued on again still sandwiched between the interstate and the RR tracks. So, not much to see but the same tilled farm lands.20190527_123905(These plants should be so much bigger by this time, but, the rain has impacted their growth!!)

Rolling into the village of McLean, we came upon a US flag-lined main street since today was Memorial Day. The folks in these parts are very patriotic and had a small-town feel.

20190527_12423520190527_124334(top: In McLean, a mural with the US flags going down the block. bottom: looking down Main St. and all the flags on both sides of the street.)

20190527_130742(Grain silos and a waiting train outside of McLean.)

Our route eventually got us to a bike path, the Constitution Trail. We paused momentarily to text our Warm Showers host, Julian, to let him know that we were now about 10 miles out and should take about an hour for us to arrive. This was a very nice bike path. It brought us into southern Bloomington where we had to navigate some surface streets before returning once again to the bike path.

Soon we arrived at our destination. Julian warmly greeted us at his door. He immediately recognized Rob’s bike as one from the bike maker, Rivendell! How surprised we were when he told us that he had three of them! One of them, a Hubbah Hubbah tandem which they use for local rides, and the other Rivendells, a Clem Smith and a Quick Beam, were single rider bikes!20190528_08104520190528_081056(top: Their orange Hubbah Hubbah tandem and Julian’s Clem Smith; bottom: Julian’s QuickBeam; all with Brooks saddles!)

His wife of 13 years, Noha, was at the side door to greet us as well. We unloaded our essential stuff before putting our bikes into the shed. Inside the shed, Julian showed us his “small” collection of bikes: the three Rivendells, two other single rider bikes, and, a 2nd tandem, a Bilenky which had S&S couplers for when they’ve traveled long distances to cycle.

Then we went inside their very old, but, cute 2-story home. Julian had been doing a lot of work on their house the last several years. He showed us where our room was (upstairs) and we got ourselves cleaned up. Their shower’s bathtub was of the vintage “claw” tub style! Julian said it was about 100 years old! We’d never showered in a tub of that style! It was so neat that the stairs creaked with every step we took! So, you always knew when someone was using the stairs!!

Back downstairs, we got a chance to relax with them where we learned that they are political science professors at Illinois State University. A few days ago when we had researched Warm Showers hosts for Bloomington, we had read their profile which said that they’d cycled in Japan! That excited us! So, we got a chance to learn more about their experiences cycling in Japan, specifically on Hokkaido Island, where we are contemplating as a possible cycling destination next year.

They’re also traveling to Germany this summer for a class reunion of Noha’s. They’ll be bringing their “traveling” tandem with them. After that event, they’ll then be cycling to Denmark, take a ferry to Gothenburg, Sweden, then cycle to Trondheim, Norway!!

Julian made a wonderful pasta dinner with delicious homemade bread and a Caesar salad. We had chocolates for dessert.

They’re a fascinating couple who have done a lot of cycling and we had a great evening learning about all of their adventures!

Until our next post….

Sunday, May 26th – Day 54 – Rest day in Springfield

Best part of the day:     Meeting up with our BTUSFMS friend, Mike Tipton

Worst part of the day:  Not quite a rest day

Distance: 0 miles           Riding Time: 0hrs 0min

Bed count: 34                 Sleeping Bag count: 20

Old habits die hard. Trying to sleep in on a rest day is not the easiest thing when you’re riding 5-6 days/week and wanting to get an decent early start. Our hosts said that it thundered last night, but, we didn’t hear a thing!! I guess we were really knocked out!

Our plan today was to hook up with our 2017 Bike The US For MS Pacific Coast teammate, Mike Tipton. He was up here in Springfield with friends to attend dirt-track motorcycle races held here annually on Memorial Day weekend. He had some time this morning to reconnect after having breakfast with his friends and before the races started. He would take us to the Lincoln Tomb and the Lincoln Presidential Museum.

Our host, Christine, fixed us up a nice scrambled eggs and English muffin with coffee and OJ breakfast. Mike came by around 8:45 to pick us up. Karl and Christine were going to a matinee movie and would be able to pick us up around 4.

So, off Mike and the two of us went first to Lincoln’s Tomb.20190526_091559

Mike had been there before and told us of the story where there was a plot to steal Lincoln’s body and ransom it off! The plot was thwarted in mid-execution by the U.S. Secret Service (an agency which Lincoln created, but, not originally as a protection agency!). Lincoln’s coffin is buried underneath 10’ of concrete inside the tomb. 20190526_09052820190526_090402

The remains of his wife, Mary, as well as 3 sons, Eddie, Willie and Tad, are also there in the tomb. The fourth son, Robert, is buried in Arlington.

Outside, there’s a large bust of Lincoln where you could rub his nose, supposedly for good luck!! 20190526_090103

Next, Mike drove us to the State Capital Building where we took a tour. It was very informative. The building has been in existence since 1823 (I think). It has the tallest dome of any U.S. state capital building. What was thought to be a 25-minute tour wound up being about 45 minutes. 20190526_10505120190526_10204020190526_10212320190526_10215420190526_102240

Outside of the Capital building, looking up at the underside of the dome from the ground floor, a close-up of the dome, part of the circular depiction of Springfield’s evolution starting with foriegners and the native peoples.)

When leaving the building, we saw that it had rained and was still a light drizzle. Lastly, he drove us to the Lincoln Presidential Museum. There was a new statue there and he hopped out so that we could get a look at it. 20190526_15553220190526_105710

We said our goodbyes and headed into the museum.

20190526_115104

(Mannequins of the Lincoln family in the museums central area. Note only 3 sons. Son, Eddie, died at age 3 due to tuberculosis. This is the most photographed place in the museum.)

Karl and Christine had a membership to the museum and let us use their card which saved us about $35! Karl had said that we could spend anywhere from 2½-3½ hours there. There were two theaters and a number of exhibits which followed Lincoln from his boyhood to his assassination and return to Springfield for his final resting place (and that attempted body snatching).

The museum had a Subway restaurant inside and we stopped in there for a lunch break. We also took the time to check for a Warm Showers host in Bloomington, tomorrow’s overnight stop. Our first hosting request proved fruitful thankfully.

A little before 4, we let Karl and Christine know that we were ready for pick up if their movie had finished. They came by shortly after and back home we went. A lot of walking today and not too much rest as it were.

For dinner tonight, Christine cooked up some Brats on toasted hoagie buns, with baked beans and corn on the cob. Very tastsy! A Riesling was also enjoyed by all! Ice cream for dessert preceded and a couple of games of Jenga downstairs. The blocks were cut and sanded foot-long 2x4s!! That made for another hour of good fun and conversation.20190526_194016(Trying, impossibly, to keep Beau from having his tail whack our “tower”!)

20190526_193250_1785(The rascal, but, loving Beau!)

The forecast for tomorrow morning? A possible thunderstorm. We’ll have to wait it out until later that morning before we’re able to get rolling. We’ll check the radar again when we get up.

As said earlier, we’re off to Bloomington and another Warm Showers host. Looking ahead, we’re thinking that we’ve got only two more ride days in between tomorrow and our last day’s ride to Chicago! What started looking so far way, Chicago is now just days away!

Until our next post….

Saturday, May 25th – Day 53 – Staunton to Springfield

Screenshot_20190525-183018_Ride with GPS
Best part of the day:     Visiting Lincoln’s Home

Worst part of the day:  Couldn’t think of anything!

Distance: 69 miles         Riding Time: 5hrs 25min

Bed count: 33                  Sleeping Bag count: 20

It was nice morning when we rose around 6. Favorable winds were going to allow us to do a longer ride today.

Yesterday, we had reached out to another Warm Showers hosting couple in Springfield and they graciously accepted our request to be their guest for not only tonight, but, tomorrow as well.

Once again we had the hotel’s breakfast, got packed up and on our way by 7:30 (one of the more earlier times we’ve managed to get going!). It was a mostly flat ride today riding first through the villages of Mt. Olive and Litchfield on Route 66.

A little history lesson here, Route 66 had slightly different roadways back in the days. We’ve seen signs like this for Route 66, for example for the years 1930-1940 and 1940-1977, on the same roadside pole, but, pointing in different directions! But, eventually the two roads would meet up further down!!20190525_085104

Our route brought us once again parallel with I-55 passing large, plowed farmlands. There was a mapped bike path near the village of Waggoner which we bypassed (ACA said in their updates that this path was not well-maintained). A very slight drizzle brought some cooling relief. We made a quick stop to put on our pannier rain covers to protect them, but, as the temperature was still warm, we didn’t feel the need to put on our rain jackets.

Took a Subway break at a truck stop at the village of Farmersville. Splitting a foot-long BMT sandwich refueled us. Back on the bike, we continued past more farms along both sides of I-55. Finally, we turned away from the interstate when we reached Divernon and deeper into farms of harvested corn fields.

Eventually, we reach the town of Chatham where we had thought of staying. Another break at a McDonald’s before heading out for the last 18 or so miles to Springfield. The first 8-9 miles were on the Interurban Bike Trail. It was a decent trail with only one interruption for a road crossing.

Back onto surface streets in southern Springfield, we came upon the Lincoln Home National Memorial. We had planned to stop there beforehand. It was a lot more than what we expected! 20190525_170544(The Abraham Lincoln family home.)

The Memorial is a four-block area of 1860s period restored homes. At the visitor center, we signed up for a tour of the home where Lincoln lived for 17 years! It was a fairly small, two-story home where the National Park Service rangers guided visitors inside. Going up the stairs to the 2nd floor, our ranger guide said that the handrail we used was the very same handrail used by Lincoln himself!! That was the only thing we could touch!! It was a fascinating look at their home.

20190525_16162620190525_16200420190525_16243520190525_162745(From a few rooms in the Lincoln houses. The bottom picture is of a writing desk where Lincoln received a letter from a little girl saying that if he wanted to be elected President, he ought to grow out his beard. Because women liked the whiskers and would get their husbands to vote for him!)

There were a couple other homes open for visitors to enter. The rest were various offices of businesses.

It was around 5 that we started for the home of our Warm Showers hosts, Karl and Christine, about 4 miles away. Christine was outside when we arrived and warmly greeted us. We moved our bikes inside their garage and grabbed our needed items. Then out came Beau, their 6-year-old, golden Lab. A real sweetheart of a dog!! Christine showed us to our bedroom which was downstairs. Their downstairs also was a large, entertainment spot with a full bathroom!

Karl arrived home soon after and we made our introductions. After getting showered, we joined them upstairs to get to know them more. They both rode bikes, but, Christine’s riding was not as extensive as Karl’s. He had ridden the Southern Tier back in 2011 in two separate segments. In early ’11 with Christine driving and finding lodging spots and Karl cycling, they started in Texas and went to St. Augustine, FL. Then later that year, they drove to San Diego and did the same thing back out to Texas.

For dinner, they took us out to a place called Fulgenzi’s Pizza and Pasta. 20190525_192050(Outside of the Flugenzi’s restaurant.)

This place also had hamburgers and something call a “Horseshoe”. They said that the Horseshoe was a Springfield specialty. What it is is a couple of pieces of toast on the bottom, followed by a choice of meat (hamburger patty, ham, ribeye and a couple other possibilities), a mound of French fries then smothered in either a white or cheddar cheese sause!! (They have a smaller version called a “Ponyshoe”).20190525_194008(The “Ponyshoe” (l) and the “Horseshoe” at Flugenzi’s.)

Karl definitely recommended this! So, Rob had the Horseshoe and Fay the Ponyshoe. They were good and filling! We had soft-serve ice cream there for dessert!

It was a long day and we were glad to be taking a day off tomorrow after riding after 7 straight ride days and knowing that rain was in the forecasted for all day. Fay had been able to get a load of laundry done today, so it will be nice to have clean riding clothes, more than just our bike shorts, when we head out again on Monday!!

Until our next post….