Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2014: The miles roll by - Day 5

(Day 5 of my 2014 Connect the Dots Tour)

I slept well in the quiet campground, and woke to another sunless sunrise through grey overcast.

Breakfast in a bag ala Jet Boil
It was Saturday morning, and with only two days left, I had decided the night before I was not going to ride the two 100-mile plus days it would take to finish at home Sunday night.

With two good days, I could make it to the Indiana border, but not all the way home. In a couple of phone calls Linda and I worked out a tentative schedule, where I would meet her Sunday afternoon where I-74 crosses the Wabash River.

There was some sense of letdown, but I didn’t let it overwhelm me. I was still having a great time, despite the weather and other surprises. I wanted to stay focused on the fun, rather than being bound to a tough schedule. With the final plan in place, I looked to the day of riding ahead.

Some campground maintenance.
I was out of meals, so I would need to provision today, and find camping meals for the Jet Boil, if possible. I also needed some batteries for my taillight and headlight. Before I could hit the road, I had some maintenance tasks after 330 miles. My right / rear bar-end shifter was loose in the handlebars, which required some disassembly to resolve. I then checked every single rack, fender, chain ring, and bottle cage bolt, and that took care of a few more items.   I also went ahead and patched the two pinch flats from Day 2, so I now had three good spare tubes.

With my bike back together, I broke camp and was riding a little before 10. Once again my interstate impressions were betrayed, as I discovered that Effingham had a reservoir lake and active summer community of boating, cottages and vacationeers. I crossed a handful of feeder creeks before finally entering the outskirts of town. The quiet streets were soon overpowered by the rumble of interstate traffic, with a half dozen gas station and restaurant signs towering over the quiet ranch homes.

My 1 mile pickup ride over "brick & seal"
I always feel a quiet sense of satisfaction when biking into a location I have only driven too before. Over the years we have stopped in Effingham dozens of times for gas and meals, but never ventured more than a mile from the off ramp. But now it was another connected dot on my travels with a more intimate knowledge of the surrounding countryside.

I had hoped to hit a McD for 2nd breakfast (what can I say, I like the biscuits!), but I missed by 10 minutes. Then I spotted a Walmart sign, and decided to take care of provisions first. I wheeled my loaded bike into the front alcove, locked it, and smiled at the greeter as I headed in. The hunting and camping section had the 2 more meals (dinner and breakfast) I needed, and then I picked up some fresh fruit, a few more Clif bars, and batteries. I loaded everything up, installed the batteries and was ready to roll again.

On the way out of town, I found a bike shop, and that meant a floor pump! I stopped in and topped off the tires, and was set for the last two days. It was just after noon when I left the Effingham city limits.

It was more small farmlands and backroads as I rolled along. My destination was Walnut Point State Park, about 75 miles northeast. It was mostly grid roads paralleling I-57 for the early afternoon before turning east. The quiet back roads gradually moved me farther and farther east, and eventually out earshot of the interstate for the last time.

One of the biggest challenges continued to be fresh chip-n-seal, of in this case, small-rock, big rocks, pieces of bricks and seal. Yes, one road had a bunch of broken up bricks dropped in tar. It was about 20 miles out of Effingham when I hit a road that was impassible for a bike, or at least one with 700x28 wheels. I was between intersections and resigned to walking, and changed into my camp shoes to portage the bike, since the side of the road was also rock strewn.

After 10 minutes of walking, the road beyond the next corner was just as bad, and after another ¼ mile of walking, I was able to wave down a passing pickup to ask about the road ahead. The young driver thought it would go back to pavement in about a mile, and said he could give us (bike and me!) a lift. It was bumpy mile ride in the back the pick-up truck, sitting on an implement tire while holding my bike upright.  Thankfully that portage took me over the worst road for the rest of the day.

A unique trail between the towers.
I stopped for lunch in Mantoon, and from there I picked up the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail, which took me east to Charleston. It was a very quiet rail trail, riding beneath and between a line of double power lines. It was crushed limestone, but I made very good time. I passed a few bike riders along the way, the first I had seen since leaving the Katy.

I was riding under overcast skies with temps in the low 70’s. I had not seen sun since the sunset in Hermann on the first day, but at least I had not had more rain since day 3. The winds were mild, but almost always headwinds. For all the expectations and concerns about heat and humidity, it felt more like early fall or late spring.

After I left the trail, I was riding mostly north. The overcast was again quickly darkening the early evening sky, and I made the campground entrance a little before 7:30. By the time I had checked in and set camp, the heavily wooded campground was gloomily dark under the overcast sky. 

Though my riding had been dry, there had been rain over the campground earlier that afternoon, and it had never dried out. By the light of my headlamp, I quickly set my tent, and then fired up the Jetboil for dinner. The campground was pitch black around me as I finished dinner, with a just a few campsites visible through the surrounding foliage. I actually turned on my bike taillight to find my way back to my tent, since there was no lighting anywhere near the tent sites.

It was after dinner that I realized the camp showers were on the other side of the lake, almost a mile away. I considered riding my bike, but the campground was so dark, I didn’t feel safe picking my way with a single cell headlamp. So I headed back to my tent and settled in for the night.

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