Thursday, June 28. Harrisburg, IL to Chester, IL. 82 miles of riding in 6:08 hrs of riding – ending in 108-degree heat.
Wow. This is just the most incredible weather you can imagine to ride in. It’s a carbon-copy of last year’s trip, but this year the hot weather has come 2 weeks earlier and it’s even freaking hotter.
Got up at 5 AM and jammed asap to get ready to ride. With the forecast for 104-108 today, I just didn’t want dilly-dally too long and loose precious “cool weather” ride time. With temps like this you’re in the 100’s by 11 AM. Jude microwaved some water for coffee and made me some granola with Almond milk. I loaded the van and we were gone within 40 min of waking up. Got on the bike and got rolling at 5:50 AM in pretty reasonable cool temps in the low 70’s. Now last night I decided to ditch the ADT route for today so I didn’t have to deal with the bloody truck traffic that I had dealt with yesterday. The ADT route was to take me down SR 145 and 147, and by the looks of it, that spelled trucks, trucks, and more trucks. So I’d gotten my IL gazetteer out and my digitized maps out and planned a route of my own, hoping to hit gravel along the way based on the roads being tiny county and township routes. But really the big question was going to how long could I ride in the heat before pulling the plug.
Got on a nice little chip-seal back road and headed west towards the city of Marion, IL. Now have to say from the get-go that none of my roads proved to be gravel. But on the up side, they were just great little back farm roads with dag gone near zero traffic. I did a good bit of zigging and zagging to keep a parallel with Rt 13 into Marion. But wow, I had damn near everyone’s farm dogs chasing me as I rode by. They sometimes came out in 2’s and 3’s. Reminded me that some days ago – and I forgot to blog about it – I was being chased every 15 min by a dog or two. So this one dog just wasn’t listening to my shouting out NO, NO, and it kept coming at my right ankle. So I let the bastard get right about next to my ankle and I quickly unclipped pulling my leg backwards and up-kicked the sucker with a giant thud resonating off his chops. The dude kind of stopped dead in his tracks and shook his head a few times like a boxer shaking off a good punch. Loved that one. But today the NO, NO did the trick – no kicks needed. Heck got to say that it’s somewhat of a game for me now with all the chasers out there. It’s like, “which one of you guys are going to have the nads to really come at me? Because I will give you my best kick!”
Anyway, my roads were just so relaxing and mellow. Unfortunately I had to re-enter Rt 13 W because there’s a giant complex of lakes right in the middle of my route and you have to use 13 to skirt them. All the roads just deadend at the lakes, and you’d have to ride some 20-30 miles due south just to ride around them and then ride that same distance back north to get on the same parallel again. So met Judy in Marion for the first stop, got a coke and bologna sandwich down and kept rolling. The stop was almost like a pit-stop, with us trying to save time to keep me going. Next meeting area was to be Carbondale, about 16-18 miles to the west. Did my own routes again, and again, go gravel. But they were nice little farms roads way off the busy Rt 13 that’s really a super straight shot from Harrisburg to Carbondale.
And once again, I had to re-enter Rt 13 due to the lakes to get the last 4-5 miles into Carbondale. So by the time I pulled into Carbondale the temp was 90-some degrees and it was only 10 AM. Problem was …no Judy! I rode all around our meeting place – the jcn of Rt 13 and 51. Nothing. Now there were these kind of derelict looking dudes kind of sitting around in the park scoping me out. This is pretty much the same thing you’d see in Grace Park in Akron. Rode around for a second time to see if maybe she was freaked by the place and parked a bit further from the park. Nothing. So I finally pulling into a shady spot away from the dudes and fired a few phone calls to her. No answer. Must have called like 5x with no answer. So I immediately began to kind of freak a bit, drawing up all these nightmare scenarios in my head of what could have happened. I mean she should have beaten me there by a good hr, but nothing. So the sweat is beginning to just flow due to the temp and the fact that I was beginning to stress a bit.
About 10 min later here comes the van driving towards me. No nightmare, no disaster. She had just stopped at a place to pick up some groceries. Whew! Ok, next step was one of two things: look for backroads on a northerly route off of Rt 151; or just shuck it and get the damn day done and get out of the sun by hooking up with Rt 3 northwest and stay with quickness and big paved roads. I opted for second choice, deciding to take Rt 13 to 149 to 3 to Chester – the very route I’d done last year. I knew what to expect and I knew I could do the ride in this heat + get some miles in for the day. So that was the plan – FLY. Went 13 to Mursphysboro, 149 to jcn Rt 3, and Rt 3 to Chester.
The first stage was just fine. The second stage, 149, oh yea, that brought back some fond memories – of all the bloody hill climbing on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. At least this time I wasn’t lugging 75 lbs of gear up and down those pups. I passed a guy fully loaded with gear on his bike just before the first big climb, and I shouted out some encouragement to him. But by this time the heat was really beginning to get to the blast furnace range. Made it to the jcn with Rt 3 to meet Jude and got an ice cold coke and some fresh strawberries. That hit the spot for sure. At that point I knew that the last stretch, the 25 miles to Chester, that was going to be a toughie. We decided that it might be nice for Jude to wait for the biker I passed and give him coke and strawberries. So I got it rolling.
Put it in the big ring and just hunkered down and began riding at a tempo pace, just to get the hell out of the heat. The road was fairly flat due to it being on the Mississippi River floodplain, and right up against the eastern bluff. Jude passed me at about 8 miles into the 25 and shouted that she’d meet me in 10 more miles, so I just kept chugging away at the big gear. As the miles rolled on the heat just became insufferable. The wind earlier from riding kind of kept me cooled off, but by this point the wind was beginning to feel hot. Reached Jude with 8 miles to go and I could have bagged it right then and there but for the fact that I was just a eyelash away from doing the total ride so I could start in my stop place the next day. I hit a iced coke and got several big shots of water, and then ushered her onward so I could get it done.
Now I’d seemed to remember this climb going into Chester, so the first one, with like 3 miles to go, that wasn’t a surprise. It was long and steep, and I was just dripping wet at the top, with the sweat just trickling like a small waterfall off of my handlebars from my arms and hands. But I got up this one and then there was another, albeit smaller, but then another after that, and another. It was just this long set of false summits, one after the next, and my legs were starting to quiver with small muscle spasms when I’d get out of the saddle. Finally, and I mean FINALLY, I topped out and was in the downtown. There waiting for me was Judy, with all the van doors open but her driver’s door. She was equally as exhausted as I was having to sit there in the freaking sun stop after stop. The time and temp sign in the city read 108 degrees. I was at my end on this one. I could not have pedaled another mile. I just had to sit down in this doorway and guzzle a coke. Didn’t talk much, didn’t think much. I just sat there staring into a void. Odometer read 82 miles in just over 6 hrs of riding.
Way back in Carbondale we had called a hotel and got a reservation for the evening in Chester. NO camping in this heat. No way for her, no way for me. Maybe it’s the age thing, but I’d suffered enough for the day, no way we were going to sit around a campground in 108 degree heat for the rest of the day and into the night. Got to the room and I just got down on my hands and knees in the hotel room and sipped ice water for 10 min. Showered and drank more ice water and then ate a bologna sandwich. Felt much better once the water, the food, and the shower were done.
Judy, she’s the champ of the day, trying to get in a run in the morning while I was riding, doing some food shopping while I was riding, and running all over hell’s half acre for me doing the support. Kudos to her. I couldn’t have done today without her help.This could be the MO in the next several days of riding: starting early, ending early, and motor pacing the route to beat the heat. And of course we’ll motel it until this heat spell dissipates a bit. Hope you’re all staying cool………..Pete