Saturday was by far one of the hottest days I’ve ever spent on a bike. 83 miles in 107 degrees with humidity. Not a cloud in the sky, the scorching sun burned down on us for 8 hours. It was so hot, in fact, that the blacktop was soft under our feet, allowing us to leave indentations with our shoes (see picture below). Rob, to his credit, rode 50 miles in this unbearable heat!
In order to avoid the heavy Chicagoland traffic, we decided to attack St. Charles from the West. We left Effingham on Friday morning, rode to Champaign (to see my alma mater, U of I), then rode 83 miles on Saturday to Carlock, just north of Bloomington/Normal. Today we rode 63 miles north to Starved Rock Park, near Utica. Monday, we’ll ride 60 more miles north to Sycamore and make it to St. Charles (my hometown) on Tuesday, a week ahead of our original schedule.
As we were stopped for a break on a side road just outside of Anchor, IL, a farmer stopped to check on us. His farm in Anchor has been in his family for 125 years, growing primarily corn and soybeans. Having spent his entire life in the area, he is well known. Everyone calls him “Beefy.” What he loves about being a farmer is that he is his own boss and he is responsible for all of his decisions – the good ones and the bad ones. I suspected from the pride Beefy exuded in our conversation that he also loves carrying on the family tradition and being a staple in the community.
Clearly we were the most excitement that Beefy had seen all day. He insisted on leading Justin to the bar in the next town to meet some of his friends. It was there that Justin met Fergy, the retired cheesemaker. A man of little words, Fergy simply said “I loved it.” When Justin and Beefy probed for more about what he loved about his job, Fergy just smiled broadly and said, “Loved everything.” Apparently Fergy felt his 40 years in the industry said enough. Nonetheless, we appreciate Beefy’s efforts and Fergy’s participation.
- Starved Rock State Park (I remember visiting as a kid, but it’s so much easier to appreciate as an adult after riding 3,100 miles to see one of Illinois’ 7 wonders.)
- The blacktop that sank under our feet with the heat (here’s a picture of Rob’s bike shoe print)
- Getting dogged by two labs who chased us about a mile down the road
- Getting dogged by two corgies who couldn’t quite make it past their yard
- 2 deer (alive!) prancing through a wheatfield and disappearing into a cornfield
- The wind farm – so beautiful to watch the turbines dance in the wind making power
- Corn that’s already shoulder-high (when I was growing up, it was “knee-high by the 4th of July” – makes me wonder what they’re feeding that corn….)
Day 49/50 Stats
Day 49 miles: 83.90 miles
Day 50 miles: 63.43 miles
Total mileage: 3,132.83 miles
Total interviews: 83
Road kill count: 1,112
(Added 26 yesterday and 29 today. We avoided Chicagoland traffic by riding through corn fields instead. Inevitably animals out here have a better shot of making it across the road.)
Destination for Day 51: Sycamore, Illinois (about 30 miles from my mom!)