Nineteen: Company! (Elizabethtown to Murphysboro)
Usually I ride by myself. It’s rarely lonely. You meet folks during breaks, chat with the occasional cyclist, and some evenings stay together at a hostel or campsite with other tourists. But today I rode about 60 miles with Trevor. He’s the guy headed to Moab to learn to build straw-bale houses. It’s different to ride with someone. You get outside your head a lot more, and tend to move a little faster clip. It’s nice to have the company now.
Right out of Elizabethtown I ran into hills. Not super steep, but one after the other after the other. Good warmup for the Ozarks. I met Trevor about 40 miles in, where he stopped to talk to Cade, an 18-year-old cyclist working his way from Kansas to Georgia. He’ll pick up the ACA’s Underground Railroad route right over the Ohio and turn south.
Trevor and I decided to ride together for a while. Our paces are about the same, except where I stack the miles early, he does late. He’s camping along the route, so rides till nearly dusk before calling it quits. We broke for lunch in Goreville, where Trevor turned a few tricks in the skatepark on his loaded touring bike. Fun to watch.
We passed though Crab Orchard, a beautiful fish and wildlife area before Carbondale, which at more than 20,000 people, and home of Southern Illinois University, is one of the bigger cities on route. The map takes you around the edge of Carbondale, but we decided to ride in. We passed right through campus (quiet with school out) en route to the library.
Right after 5 p.m. between Carbondale and Murphysboro (population: 15,000) we rediscovered rush hour. Even our supposedly quiet roads quickened with commuters.
Home tonight is Lake Murphysboro State Park. While I called for information, a man sharpening a Bowie knife in the square told Trevor we should go to Gene’s Place for a beer. Far be it for us to argue. Busch drafts, $1.25. Our bladed bud was on to something.
No one answered the phone at the park, which is about two miles off route up Illinois 149. On arrival we worked our way to the tent site (all ours, except for a brilliant white egret and a small army of bullfrogs). There’s no water or electricity, so we weren’t too distraught not finding anyone to take our money.
Peanut butter and banana sandwiches for dinner. I’m eating my way out of this weight problem.