Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back into the frying pan

Wednesday, June 27. Mt Vernon, IN to Harrisburg, IL. 65 miles of riding in 4:47 hrs.

Had to cut it a bit short due to the heat today – 94 degrees right now at 3 PM. Just got to be a blast furnace out there.
         Did the early bird thing again this morn, and then while I was working I got some water boiling on the burner for Jude. Ate breakfast and slammed some coffee and we were out of the campground at 7 AM and I was riding at 7:30 – still too late and we have to work on this because of the heat forecast for the next week. Got rolling on the ADT route through Mt. Vernon, which was kind of nice because I hit some nice stretches of gravel road. This gravel out Southern IN is like really thick, so I have to choose my line wisely or else I could be on my rump by washing a wheel. I’ve been choosing the extreme sides of these gravel roads because the gravel is either not there and it’s just earthen, or it’s pretty thin. So I’m kind of crossing from side to side of the road on this stuff as it thickens and thins. So I was cruising along quite nicely at like 14 mph on this gravel stuff what with another nice SW tailwind, and a bit into the ride I came to this gate across the gravel road. On the gate was the now familiar  “No Trespassing” sign, the addendum; “violators will be prosecuted.”
         Yea, I’m getting really used to this crap. It’s happened so many times now that I’m just pretty much immune to it. So I re-rode my route back to another gravel cross road and took that. I had to get back on pavement at the next jcn because I had no other choice here. So I ended up doing Rt 62 across the Wabash River and into IL. So it took me about 5 full days to cross IN on paved and gravel backroads. A normal crossing of IN for a cross country trip with be 3 days, maybe, just maybe 4 days max. So this route definitely adds some mileage to the crossing.
         Met Judy at this little place called New Haven. My stomach was just not feeling too good this morning so I just had one coke and nothing else. Gee, I wonder if 6 eggs mixed with bacon and diced hotdog in combination with full-force java was my undoing this morning? The next stretch was a big question mark. I just cannot delineate between gravel road and paved road on map, GPS, Google Earth, Gazetteer, or anything else. So I suggested that just in case it’s gnarly gravel that Judy to the LOOOOONG way around to meet me. Like my route was 16 miles and I sent her 38 miles to stay on good paved roads. Well, surprise, my route was like on pristine pavement – a total disappointment for sure, not only for my ride but for sending Judy all over hell’s half acre to meet me when she could have driven the very same road. This road was just in the middle of a blast furnace, flat, with corn on all sides of me, just winding to the south into a cross-headwind.
         Limped into the second meeting spot in Shawneetown with my stomach still on the fritz. Just did ice water at this break and then took off for the biggest question mark of the day, a section through Shawnee National Forest. My hope was that this would be rugged, wild and gravel. Well, I got that for half the section. Started on pavement but within a few miles of leaving Shawneetown the road went to gravel. When I was nearing the change of road surfaces I could see this big plume of lime dust in the distance that a Jeep 4WD was kicking up as it passed me. Suddenly I was out of the cornfields and into this spectacular hilly, wooded terrain with rock outcrops and nothing but the smell of fresh pine permeating the air – I think Scotch and White Pine. And the road did this slight change from gravel to beat to hell pavement every so often. In some places it was just a thin, 6-foot wide strip of pavement in the middle with nothing but gravel on the sides.
         After that I was back on pavement, but the surroundings were just so great that I wasn’t too disheartened about it. What I was riding through here was just so unlike what I’d ridden through in IL last year. This area, the Shawnee National Forest, is more reminiscent of a foothills area in a western state. And yea, there was climbing all right, but it wasn’t the steep, power climbing stuff I rode through in Southern IN. No, this was much gentler climbing that was about 10-15 min long, and definitely not little cookie stuff. So the road just rolled up these long, mellow climbs and then descended, over and over. Really enjoyed riding this section, and would love to come back here to hike and backpack the River To River trail, which snakes all through this area for 129 miles. It’s just so NOT Illinois down here. This is a true wilderness area.
         So my final stretch of the day was off the wonderful backroads with much solitude and so little traffic…to this absolute cluster&%^&$#^@ of a road – IL Rt. 34. I now know why I’m trying to stay all backroad on this trip and Rt 34 is my reason why. There was little to no berm, heavy traffic, and worst of all was the fact that this is some kind of truck route – in a massive way. Just convoys of these gravel-hauling trucks passing me at like 60 mph. It was pure hell. I was thinking about all the cross country riding I’d done on roads like that and how now I’m just totally fried on these state routes. And the problem was that this thing just kept going and going and going. I mean there was just no end to it. I’d figured on like 2-4 miles. Nope, more like 6-7 miles. At one point I’m like, “did I take a wrong turn here, cuz this is just way too long compared to what I had seen on the maps.” Finally, after hoping and praying that that friggin thing would link with Rt 145, where I was to meet Judy, I saw the jcn. Glory, glory, glory…free at last!
         I was just smoked from putting the hammer down on that Rt 34 section, so when I pulled in to where Judy was parked, I pretty much knew that the fight was out of me for the rest of the day. It was only 1 PM, but the heat and traffic was just crazy. And so as we sat there at this parking area at the jcn of 145 and 34, with me in the van knocking down an ice cold coke and some ice water, we watched the line of trucks going up and down Rt 34. Sometimes there was like 5 of these long bed gravel haulers in a row making the turn onto or off of 34. Got to be mining trucks or the like with such a stead flow of truck traffic.
         It was motel thirty! We needed AC and R&R. So rather than search out the campground I had looked up in the morning, we drove straight into Harrisburg and got a 50-buck motel. No passing go, no collecting $200. It was done. Now the next 10 days in this neck of the woods is just insane: 99 to 109 degrees each and every day. God, this is like Groundhog Day all over again. Absolutely have to start early and end early + do more moteling along the way than we had hoped for. I can’t fathom hanging at a campsite in 100+ degree heat each and every day. Ok, until tomorrow I’m out………Pete 

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