Friday, June 29. Chester, IL to Alton, IL. 88 miles of riding in 6:02 hrs of riding – ending in 103-degree heat.
Sorry, I just had no ambition to take pictures today - of friggin cornfields and asphalt and trucks!
Another scorcher, though not quite as crazy as yesterday’s temp.
Did the early morning thing and got up at 4:30, made coffee, scarfed down a bowl of granola and put the kit on. Now I have to admit that today was one of those days where the “joy of riding” was just not in my picture. Matter of fact I was just dreading today’s ride. This for two reasons: I just cannot do well with heat, especially in the multi-hr stuff; and second, I had decided to bite the bullet and do the exact route that I’d done last year and ride to Alton – via a bunch of paved state routes with plenty of traffic.
The American Dirt mindset was just totally gone today. I just wanted to get miles in, get them in fast, get the hrs in, and get the hell off the bike once the thermometer hit 100. This kind of riding may be challenging, at least from a physiological standpoint, but to ride in a bloody oven all day – be it dirt, gravel, pavement or friggin leaf litter – it’s just miserable for me. Anyway, that’s my rant. Can’t be chocolate chips and pretty flowers every day, every ride. There’s always a little bit of poop on long trips like this, and today was my elephant sized pile of it!! So I got rolling at 6 AM sharp. Judy hung at the hotel and did the fitness room for a bit and was to meet me somewhere along the line, with just 3 road changes the whole day.
A part of my reasoning for today is the fact that we have to cross the Mississippi River in one of three places: in Chester, where we were staying, but that puts us way south of the Katy Trail and almost forces you to go through St. Louis; or you can cross in E. St. Louis – a hellhole of a place that I AIN’T riding a bike through; or up in Alton, IL, where you bypass all the city hell. That was my choice, to put in one big ugly day and get it done by riding up to Alton. So as soon as I got going on Rt 150, it was just the steady line of truck traffic zooming by. Turns out that there’s all these mines in S. IL and the truck traffic is off the charts on all these state routes. And so it was on 150, with this miniscule berm and 60-mph trucks cranking through.
And I figured that maybe it would get better when I got on Rt 4. NOPE. Same &^^#%@@ as on 150, though I did have a better berm. God, I’ll tell you I’m just burned out on these main roads. It’s just such a chore to ride them anymore – not to mention dangerous. But I kept telling myself that “it’s just one day, it’s just one day, and then we will be back to the backroads.” The morning was a bit hotter than yesterday, and much more humid. Heck, I had beads of sweat rolling of my forehead and nose just about an hour into the ride – at 7 AM where the temp was 86 degrees. Rt 4 is pretty flat and it’s just a frying pan of a road with almost no shade, amidst an infinity of cornfields. I was able to maintain a good rhythm and pace though due to the lack of any considerable climbing.
Judy met up with me just north of Sparta, IL. I knocked down 2 iced water bottles and a coke and jammed on. Next stop on 4 was Mascoutah. Made that in really good time. Again, downed 2 iced water bottles and had a bologna sandwich. Off again, this time to the I-70 overpass. Now by then, the temps was easily over 100, maybe like 101-102, and the humidity was pretty intense – no, it was getting stifling. The coolish breaze from the morning was replaced by a warm wind as I was riding, so the evaporation-cooling effect was definitely not there as it was yesterday. Made that meeting spot at I-70 where Judy had no choice but to park in the blazing sun cuz there was virtually nothing around to provide shade – for miles! Two more iced water bottles and I was on the road again, this time to the jcn with Rt 140. Ok, so at that point I’d gone through 6 iced water bottles, and I still wanted to make it to Alton, probably around 35 miles away at that point.
I think through drinking water like crazy, I mean like crazy, I was able to keep the pedal down and keep my pace fairly moderate for so long in such heat and humidity. Made it to the jcn with 140, where Judy had indeed found a shade tree to park under. You know the drill – 2 more iced water bottles, and add an ice cold coke to that. This was the spot where I was hoping to get to, round about 70 miles in. but I still felt as though I could crank out another 10 miles, so Judy went like 5 miles down the road west on 140 just to be safe. Made it there and waved her on for another 5. Well, that turned out to be about 8 miles due to the “where to park the van in the shade” issue. And that was fine with me, because I just wanted to get this thing in the books and get the hell off the bike for the day.
Made it to the outskirts of Alton, where the traffic was just horrible, and the suburbs were crushing in on me. THAT was the endpoint, just about 3 miles from the stripmalls and the chaos. I loaded the bike with 88 miles in for the day, making it to the outskirts of Alton. Went to the hotel and did this glorious shower. By then the temp outside was crazy hot, like a blast furnace when you open the hotel doors. Heck, we have the van parked next to our room window, and just as we did yesterday, we have all the windows down, and all the vent windows up to allow air to circulate in the van. Went out to the pool, and sat in the cold water after the shower. As soon as you get out you can feel the crushing heat.
Did the Golden Coral Buffet and damn did I eat. Relaxing now with a few iced beers from our ice chest. Ok how about a little TMI? So I went through a 2-liter bottle of water, which we re-bottled in waterbottles in the ice chest during my ride. I drank another half gallon of water since I quite riding - and I’ve only pee’d once!! All that water and just one little ole pee. That’s how much water I bloody lost today.Tomorrow we’ll cross the Mississippi River and do a short day to St. Charles and the beginning of the 265-mile Katy Trail. This is a real winner of a Rail Trail. I want Judy to be able to ride for a change and have some fun rather than do the support crap all day, so I’m going to back it off on the mileage and just try to make it such that we can both enjoy for several days on this trail. The heat is still to be here, but not in the mid 100’s – no, prediction is for high 90’s to 102. At least on the Katy you’re shaded for miles of riding. That’s a plus. So, from the frying pan here in Alton, IL I hope you guys are cool. All the best…Pete