I set out from Bloomington, Indiana with my bike at 2 pm on May 19th, 2014, heading to Ozark, Illinois, 230 miles away. I had done no previous conditioning for this trip, so I knew I was going to pay. I gave myself an extra day, to get to the Heartwood Forest Conference, which would begin on Friday, May 23rd.
My touring bike in full dress. This bike is 18 years old, and I have put around 35k miles on it. I have replaced almost all the components by now. Just add food and water and I am carrying everything I need to travel for months.
I rode west for 2 hours, climbing 4 steep hills until I got to highway 67. On the way, I passed the isolated country farm home where my son’s mother and I lived for 6+ years, where we conceived and raised our son, and where our wonderful Labrador Retriever, Trout Ears, is buried. It was maybe too much remembrance of things gone past for me. So I kept pedaling.
Turning south west onto Highway 67, I was hit by a 20-mph head wind that was to stick with me for the next 2 1/2 days. It was a strong, miserable one, one where, after I had pedaled up a hill into it, I had to still pedal downhill. Headwinds like this are demoralizing to me. It was not as bad as riding east into the trade winds in Cuba, or westward in Ireland. But it was hard. No matter though; I had no choice but to pedal.
Highway 67 is a well-paved highway, with a 6-foot wide shoulder for the most part. I do like wide, paved shoulders. Along it are a string of small towns. Most of them are in obvious decline, with boarded up brick buildings on the town squares and lots of ‘For Rent’ and ‘For Sale’ signs. Along the way, I saw closed factories which used to be the mainstay of these small towns. Now it appears the only jobs are in large scale industrial agriculture and coal mining here.
At the end of my first day, I pitched my tent on the far side of elevated railroad tracks. I was out of site of everyone, except from the engineer of the train. I quickly passed out from the day’s fatigue. But in the middle of the night, inside my dreams, a train came barreling down on me. In that twilight zone between dreams and waking, I was getting run over by a train. I looked out of my tent in the late night to watch a coal train pass by.
My favorite silos are the SUCK-UP models. What are yours?
The next day I bucked winds again all day to get to Vincennes, Indiana. I choose not to cross the Wabash on the Highway 64 expressway. I pedaled south of the city, toward the old wooden bridge named the ‘Wabash Cannonball Bridge’. That night I slept well in the middle of a cluster of farm grain silos. I was up before sunrise and on the road. The bridge itself was single lane. I was 1/3 across it when cars came at me from the other side. They did not see me as a cyclist, and I imagine that they simply were not used to seeing someone crossing the bridge on a bike. So, in the dim light, I had to wave for them to slow down.
In Saint Francisville, I found the local cafe and had breakfast with the early rising farmers, truck drivers, and delivery men. They eyed me over when I entered their private lodge. But in a few minutes, we were drinking coffee and chatting it up. They were friendly enough, offering me road advice and such. I pulled out at 7:30 am, into my 3rd day of stiff headwinds. A cyclist simply gets no rest from them. If you stop pedaling, you quickly stop. No coasting.
The day heated up to 90 degrees. In my exhaustion, I stopped and
…ate an entire watermelon all by myself. I was still thirsty.
My phone said we were in for heavy thunderstorms. I was tired. So I pulled over early at the Interstate 64 and highway 1 intersection. I found an abandoned railroad line and set up my tent. I got inside just in time to listen to the thunderstorm and the rain pound on my tent. Then I slept thru it.
Next morning I was pedaling before dawn. The wind had relented. I measured my speed at 14 mph. I would not be able to keep this pace up through out the day, but it sure was an improvement over the wind bucking. of the previous days.
I see these regularly along country roads. They are mostly commemorating the life (and death) of a young male, and an unending lifetime of heartbreak for family and friends.
I am in gasland now. See the flare fire? I see these pumpjacks extracting residual oil, while burning large amounts of volatile gases. What a waste. The purpose of the conference I am pedaling to is about the effects of hydraulic fracking.
But today, I detect a slight northerly wind on my back. Luckily, I find a rails-to-trails lane, and I ride it in isolation for 30 miles. By sunset, I arrive at Camp Odessonk, in Ozark, Illinois. I have covered 85 miles. That is about as much as I can do. I am relieved.
I am also dog tired, sore, blistered, and dirty. I take a good shower, double shampooing my hair. I removed the bandages from my feet. And ahhh, clean clothes. I talk with friends, and then drop off into deep, deep sleep. I assure you that you will not ever need sleeping aids if you are bicycling long distance.
My campsite at the conference.
Reunited with old friends
And now, about fracking:
Dick Cheney successfully lobbied for fracking to be exempt from the Clean Water Act, AND for the list of the 800-some ingredients (many deadly toxic) that are injected into the ground to be proprietary trade secrets. For those of us who depending upon our well water, we currently have no idea what is being injected into our water tables. This is egregious.
The first stated purpose of fracking was for energy independence. But now, with the US building 14 natural gas liquidation plants on the coast, it has become clear that we will exporting much of this gas. And why? Because the price for LNG is higher overseas. So much for our local benefits.
Depending upon the locations, frackers can even declare eminent domain and frack your land regardless. The machine of industrial dominance will let nothing stand in its way. Besides the poisons, pollution, and near permanent surface damage to the land, there are also real earthquakes caused by the pressurized injection of waste fluids. For more information, watch the documentaries GASLAND, and GASLAND2.
I am now, officially, a Kentucky Colonel. See for yourself. My, the honors never stop.