Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rolling Through Illinois

[Note: I've been wifi-less for a few days, so I've backdated this post.]

After ferrying across the Ohio to enter Illinois, yesterday I rode over the Mississippi to leave the state. It was a short trip through Illinois, basically two days of riding extended by one rest day in Carbondale. Though Illinois is a relatively flat state, the Transamerica manages to find the one band of hilly terrain that stretches across Illinois' southern tip.

I had prepared myself for a potentially unpleasant ride through Illinois based on the reports of other cross-country riders. Most people who have completed the Transamerica will offer you their opinion on the state whose residents are most likely to throw a bag of trash out of their car window at you. Illinois is mentioned often. (Missouri runs a close second.) Fortunately, I had no such experience.

I spent Thursday in Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University. With the students gone for summer, the town was quiet. It offered the first selection of ethnic food in hundreds of miles. Thursday morning was spent at the Bike Surgeon, one of the three bike shops in Carbondale all within one block of each other. Chris, co-owner of the shop, tuned my bike and fixed a number of minor issues. (For any readers who found this blog because you are thinking of riding the Transamerica, I highly recommend the Bike Surgeon. While I'm on the subject, based on my experience and those of others I have spoken with, I also strongly suggest that you avoid Blue Wheel in Charlottesville, VA. They have been repeatedly unhelpful and unfriendly to Transam riders.) The afternoon was devoted to a double feature at the first movie theater I've passed since Charlottesville: Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Iron Man.

I left Carbondale late in the morning yesterday, so that I could stop at 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro for lunch. It was only a twelve mile ride, but I still managed to work up an appetite. Cyclists, who had done the Transamerica in prior years, emailed me to make sure that I didn't miss this award-winning barbecue. The combo platter of baby back ribs and pulled pork did not disappoint.

The hush puppies, thankfully, were also delicious because I was regretting ordering another fried food and not taking advantage of the rare opportunity to eat a vegetable.

As I approached the Mississippi, I had some of the flattest stretches of land since my first days of riding. Unfortunately, I also had my first notable headwinds. The last ten miles of road were dominated by commercial traffic. I felt like I was being run out of the state by coal trucks.

The bridge over the Mississippi was in Chester, IL, the hometown of the creator of Popeye. The city celebrates this fact with a museum/giftshop, murals, and statues of the cartoon characters scattered throughout town.

It is also home to a large prison that once housed John Wayne Gacy. After two shakes at Sweet Pea's, the town ice cream shop, I headed to Sainte Genevieve, MO, a historic French town that used to sit on the banks of the Mississippi, but now rests to its West. I had dinner at a local bar where the town lawyer and the waitresses exchanged the type of banter that I thought only existed in screenplays. I spent the night at a well-worn downtown hotel, the only affordable option among the luxury B&Bs.

1 comment:

Jaime said...

I remember the Popeye!