After Nashville, we did some pleasant riding in Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, then connected back up with the TransAm route in Cave-In-Rock, IL. Being on route is a relief – although most people on route still think we’re crazy, they’re a bit more used to seeing touring cyclists, so the conversations are a bit more relaxed. It’s also nice to just follow the signs and maps, rather than trying to decide which roads are best to ride on.
Meredith’s dad split off from Cave-In-Rock, but not before preparing us some brats with roasted potatoes and onions. No one really enjoyed camping that night – there were few moments we didn’t have mosquitoes or other critters crawling on us:
That night, I started feeling really drained of energy, and felt my sore throat worsening. I was sweating pretty bad, so obviously I assumed I was contracting rabies from the dog bite that happened the prior week. The irrational fear of rabies kind of put a damper on the next couple of days. Thankfully, four days and 250 miles later, we received a call from the Guernsey County, OH Sherriff’s office letting us know that the dog that bit me was healthy and up to date on shots (I had called the Sherrif earlier with the address of the bite, asking if there was anything they could do). This phone call was way more of a relief than it should have been. Fast forward to today (May 28), and I’m finally starting to feel more energized again.
Despite the illness, I really enjoyed riding through Illinois and Missouri. The terrain was moderately hilly, but interesting. Southwestern Missouri (near Farmington) was a gem – I had no idea there were so many vineyards and wineries (although we only stopped at the breweries).
We stayed with a warmshowers host (Nathan) in Farmington. He’s the high school principal in town, and had just wrapped up graduation, so there was a small gathering going when we got to his house. We felt welcomed right away, and had a blast sharing food and beers with his friends and family. We also met Brian there, who has both toured and raced the TranAm. He took us to breakfast the next morning, and gave us some great tips and enthusiasm.
The rest of Missouri was swell. We made it through the Ozarks, and rolled into Springfield, MO for a rest day, again staying with warmshowers hosts. Our hosts Doug and Rae completed the TransAm in 2005. They remembered it like it was yesterday, and gave some good tips and enthusiasm. The food they prepared for us was also the best I’ve have on this trip.
Springfield, MO was not the most bicycle-friendly city, but the residents were still incredibly generous and welcoming. Special shout out to the folks at Sunshine bikes, who did some pro-bono bike fit work for Meredith (bringing the bars up closer and higher for a more comfy riding position). We got lunch that day with our philly friend Megan’s grandparents, who informed us that Springfield was the “cashew chicken capital of the world.” I feel like I’m learning so many things on this trip that I never knew I needed to know.
Earlier in the week, we were warned of some baseball sized hail from cattle farmers at the store in Bendavis, MO (fact: hail is always measured in sports ball sizes). It was to start around noon on Saturday. This was useful knowledge, as we were able to roll out early Saturday to get settled into the Ash Grove, MO bike hostel before the weather hit. A lot of towns on he TransAm route are very accommodating to cyclists, offering free places to camp and/or bathrooms. Some of them even have houses open as bike hostels (Ash Grove, for example, which even gives free access to the city swimming pool). As we were eating nachos by the pool, the storm rolled in, reminding me of the awe I used to feel during big storms in Iowa as a kid (sorry Philly, your thunder is lame). Sure enough, the power went out, and we spent much of the rest of the day navigating the house with headlamps.
After Ash Grove, we had a few (23) more miles of rolling hills before being dumped onto the flats of the Great Plains, which we’ll ride through Kansas and into Colorado. This morning, we’re about to leave Pittsburg, KS for Chanute, KS. I don’t have a whole lot to say about Pittsburg, except that they still have a family video store, and the sonic drive-in does not have any options for people who aren’t in cars. And, for those of you keeping track, it’s been 30 days since I left Philadelphia on April 29. 22 of those days were riding days, and 8 were rest/exploration days. Since leaving Philly, I’ve pedaled 1478 miles.