After a great night’s sleep in the icy cold cyclist shack, we had an exciting morning. We stopped in the center of Chester for some photos of Popeye-related decor.
We woke early to enjoy the hotel breakfast when it started, and then took our time, finally rolled out around 9am with Chester, IL as our goal. After 3 consecutive 80 mile days, today was only 50. We rode slowly, too, as temperatures were forecast to reach 97F!
There is an alternate route option along the Mississippi River, which we were hoping to do, to avoid a few hills in the heat. Less than a mile into the alternate, though, we found out the road was closed ahead. While looking at our map to see if there was any option other than the normal route, a man on a motorcycle pulled up to talk. He said it is often flooded in area ahead (and they had a lot of rain recently). He offered to ride up quickly to see if we would be able to get through or around. When he returned, he informed us that it was flooded several feet deep near the river! We chatted for a few more minutes and then parted ways; it was so nice of him to go out of his way for us!
We backtracked up the hills to Murphysboro to avoid the flooded area. At the top of one hill, a guy in a car stopped to talk to us. He urged us to stop at the radio station up the road but didn’t explain why. Before getting there, he passed us again and relayed the same message, so we figured it was worth checking out. Upon arrival, they offered us ice water in exchange for a 10 to 15 minute interview which they would air sometime in the following week! It was really fun and unexpected. It turns out that the host of the show (who interviewed us) is also the mayor of Murphysboro.
We started at 6:30AM again today to get the majority of our miles in before the hottest part of the day. Despite the heat, we covered almost 250 miles in the past three days. The goal has been to make it to Carbondale, IL by the end of the day today, where we will reward ourselves with a hotel night.
We took a mid-morning convenience store break for ice cream and danishes. While we enjoyed our treats, two cyclists pulled in. Bryan and Dario are racing their bicycles across the country in the second annual TransAm Bike Race. They are among about 40 others and at the time were holding 9th and 10th place. We had heard talk of this group coming through (they’re riding west to east), and we passed several racers previously who must have been the leaders, but none wanted to stop and chat. Rather than steel frame bikes and heavy bags, these cyclists sport carbon fiber racers with very small bags. When Dario tried to lift up Rachel’s heavy bike, he shook his head and in an Italian accent said, “Impossible!” Despite their lightweight setup, these guys are extreme, riding 200+ miles per day with only ~4 hours of sleep per night. Bryan joked that the leader must be an alien. Not because he is so fast, but because he only sleeps for a few hours in between stretches of up to 36 hours on his bike.
We woke up early and were on the road by 6:30am. We put almost 50 miles in before lunch, with a goal to reach Cave-In-Rock State Park in the early afternoon.