Rachel Pilley
yahoo-geocities1999 American Lung Association Big Ride Across America

THE BIG RIDE ACROSS AMERICA 1999

Rachel Pilley - Rider #82


JOURNAL - PART 6
JULY 12-JULY 18
NEW ULM, MN - LISLE, IL


Day 29 - July 12
New Ulm – Owatonna, MN.

Tonight we are camped in the Owatonna fairgrounds and we are blessed with more great hospitality as the town of Owatonna showed us a great time. Dinner was awesome as it was both plentiful and delicious. They presented us with a smorgasbord, which included such entrees as pasta primavera, chicken, enchiladas, and manicotti. There was an abundance of fresh salad, and the piece de resistance was fresh green beans. Everything was delicious and there wasn’t enough room in my stomach to put as much of it as my taste buds would have liked, however, I did manage to go back for seconds of beans as fresh vegetables are something that I have really found lacking for the most part. In addition to the great food, a band, (Mud River Dogs) that won first prize at the county fair came out to entertain us and the mayor thanked us for choosing their town as one of our stops. The fact that we didn’t do any of our camp chores yesterday worked out perfectly because we managed to get all of our laundry done today with incredible ease: there is a nice clean laundromat right across the street. In addition to the laundromat there is pub, which overlooks our camp. After dinner we headed across the street for a beer and air conditioning and we watched my kite fly high above our camp as it stayed aloft, anchored to my tent.

Todays ride started out with a bit of a breath-taker. As we were navigating our way out of New Ulm Scott had a close call with a pick-up truck. We were making a left-hand turn and the driver of the truck obviously thought that we were in his way as he wailed on his horn.

It was humid day and the scenery was mostly farmland and small towns as we made our way to the Mankato, 23 miles into the day, and the major urban area on today’s route. The Minnesota River runs through the middle of Mankato and splits the city. On the west side of the river we road through a beautiful residential district with huge mansions sheltered under giant shade trees. After crossing the bridge we found ourselves in what appears to be an old industrial area of town before a steep 200 ft (in ½ mile) climb back up onto the plateau where the newer development is. We had been asked by the Big Ride staff to try and be in this newer part of Mankato for 11am as they were having a media event at the Dairy Queen. We arrived at the DQ with time to spare so we indulged in some DQ treats. While being served I marveled at the DQ stuffed doll that was on the counter and the manager came in and gave me on to attach to my bike…Curly Top is now strapped onto my trunk bag, my second ride mascot.

After leaving the DQ media event I dragged Scott through a number of stores in the vicinity, as I had to find some sandals to replace those that I broke last night. We searched through four different department stores before I finally found a pair to fit my narrow foot in K-mart. It was a good thing too because Scott was starting to get a little impatient with my shopping venture.

The remaining 50 miles of the day was un-noteworthy as we passed through small towns and lots of open farmland. It was a hot and humid day as we didn’t have any winds until the last 10 miles or so (when they decided to blow against us), and while the days’ mileage was average, I had mentally had enough by the time we reached the Owatonna City Limits. Unfortunately, however there was still 4 miles to ride to camp (including a good sized hill) and they were undoubtedly the longest four miles of the day.

Day 30 - July 13
Owatonna - Winona

It was one of those mornings when you wake up and look at the sky above. There is some cloud coverage overhead, but in light of the great weather we have been having, you opt to leave the rain gear in the gear bag to be hauled to Winona via the truck. That was one decision that many of us Big Riders would soon regret.

We headed out on Route 14, eager to get moving because of the coolness of the morning. By mile 16 we are experiencing a light sprinkle of rain upon us and we are hoping that it will remain at that. We weren’t so lucky. As we road on, the rain got harder; by mile 18 the sprinkle was a downpour and we were quickly getting wet. The first water stop was at mile 19.3, in a Dairy Queen parking lot. Numerous riders were there before us, trying to wait out the storm under the eves or in the store doorway. Scott and I quickly joined their ranks as we considered whether we should push on through the rain. Just as we were squeezing into a bit of shelter a the Dairy Queen employee opened up the doors early to allow us to seek shelter indoors, out of the rain. About 20 drowned cyclists and crew piled inside. After about 15 minutes, Scott and I looked out the window and noticed that the rain had slowed, and we decided to try and get some more mileage in before the heavens opened up again. We dashed out while other cyclists watched, undoubtedly thinking we were mad to venture into the elements as the DQ employee was providing free coffee and hot chocolate.

Back on our bikes we had clear riding again for the next ten miles or so until the heavens opened upon us for a second time. Unfortunately for us, there was no DQ in sight this time, so this time we took shelter in a gas station convenience store. We bought a hot chocolate each and then got comfortable on some upturned milk crates that the employee dug out of the back room for us to sit on. There we were, sitting on the milk crates in the middle of an aisle, watching the rain come down for quite some time when in walked Rick. He was absolutely drenched to the point that he took off his gloves and wrung them out, leaving a puddle of water. Finally after about 40 minutes the rain eased up again. We thanked the attendant for the hospitality and hit the road again, wondering how many miles we would be able to get in this time.

We left Route 14 and crossed onto a county road that rolled its way into Rochester. It was beautiful riding as the road was quiet and we enjoyed great scenery, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves entering into Rochester and riding alongside the traffic. We made our way through the city and pulled in at the check point outside the YMCA. We had the usual bite to eat of macaroni salads, and other delicious left-over concoctions that Wally and Rene had come up with and then decided to use the facilities inside the Y. As we were crossing the street Scott and I attempted to splash each other by stamping into the puddles on the way. We were already thoroughly soaks, so stamping into a puddle didn’t bring with it the usual fear of getting your feet wet. It was actually some what enlightening to no longer be bothered about getting wet.

It was starting to get warm and muggy as we got back on the road again. We pulled out of Rochester and the route turned southward, into a gusty and tireless headwind. Fighting the wind was draining as we made our way up onto a ridge before heading back down into the Mississippi valley. As we continued on, the wind became more of a crosswind, which kept threatening to steer us off coarse, and relentlessly zapped us of energy.

Ten miles further we pulled into another pit stop. While Scott went off to use the washroom, I lay down on the grass and realized that I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Another tem miles on, at about the 60 mile point, I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open and began to get grumpy. It was time to get me a cuppa tea. We pulled into St. Charles and stopped at the Subway – no tea. I was now starting to get very grumpy. How could any self-respecting Subway NOT serve tea? “HOT Tea?!” they ask… We rode into town and stopped at Dee’s Café in order to fill me up with “hot tea”. Dee’s was a busy blue collar joint with great pie and people watching opportunities. Three cups of tea later we were back on the road again. I was feeling much better, had a little more spring in my mood, and the next 10 miles were a little easier despite the continuing winds.

At long last our course ventured more northeast and gave us a break from the winds as we cycled through a lovely rural valley with picturesque farms and corn crops growing up the hills as we made our final approach toward the Mississippi. But, sure enough, as soon as we reached the bank of the river, we turned back into the wind, fighting for every inch of the next four and a half miles.

At last we made it into camp, and were excited by the prospect of spending the night in University dorm housing instead of a tent. While we had the option of pitching our tents on the little plot of grass beside the dormitory, Scott and I paid the $20 to share a dorm room. The camp location had been changed to the University instead of another private park and campground as one of the other Big Riders is from Winona and has ties to the University. When she indicated that she could get us into the dorms at a small cost to each rider, the ride organizers opted to move our camp site to provide us all with the choice. I think that most riders have elected to sleep in a bed rather than another night on the ground.

After getting checked into our rooms and having showers we piled onto a bus to be shuttled a nearby convent for dinner. We had a good meal of meatloaf and fresh veggies and then piled back onto the bus to be taken back to the dorms. Scott and I then took a wander down the street to a local corner store and purchased a bottle of wine to be enjoyed in the room. I went to have my knee massaged and worked on by Michael, the ride’s massage therapist while Scott went downstairs to make his nightly call home.

Day 31 - July 14
Winona, MN – Viroqua, WI

What a horrible night we had last night!!! Upon returning to the dorm after dinner and purchasing the bottle of wine, Scott remained downstairs to make his nightly phone call home to inform Pat about the day’s events. When she heard that we were sharing a room together she gave him an ultimatum to move out and get his own room or to forget about their relationship. After much discussion and debate, Scott came up to the dorm room and told me what had happened. While I was thrilled that he had not bowed to her ultimatum, I felt for him and the obvious bind that he was in. There are definite feelings developing between Scott and I that neither of us are sure if we want to, or are capable of ignoring, but even so, it is difficult for him to walk away from a ten year relationship just like that, knowing that he is seriously hurting his best friend. We sat up for some time talking, me listening to Scott’s dilemma and him trying to come to terms with what he was going to do while being both torn and hurt. To make matters worse, our room was like a sauna. There was no air conditioning in the dorm, and even with the window wide open we didn’t get a draft. It was stiflingly hot and muggy, as though Scott’s situation wasn’t enough to keep anyone awake. I managed to get some restless sleep, but I don’t know if Scott got so much as a wink.

We checked out of the dorm and then road back to the Tau Center (where we had dinner last night) for breakfast before heading back out to the banks of the Mississippi on our route out of town. About two miles into the day’s ride I realized that I had forgotten to turn in the dorm room key, and considering the penalty that would have been imposed on my credit card for doing so, I decided to head back so I could return it. Scott went on ahead and we agreed to try and meet up again later in the day. While my little return trip did add an extra four miles to my day, it did give Scott and I a little time apart in which we could both think about the difficult decision which lay ahead of him.

Heading back in the right direction again after I had returned the dorm key, I was caught between riding hard in an attempt to catch up to Scott, and going slow so as to give us each some needed thinking time. I made my way along the bank of the Mississippi watching the gentle giant meander and weave her way across the countryside, and before I knew it, I was crossing the river and entering into Wisconsin. As with every other state border, Wisconsin was no different. There was a group of other Big Riders gathered around the “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign, taking pictures.

After stopping to take a photo, I was back on my bike again, reluctant to linger too long as I was still hoping to make up time on Scott. Pit stop was only point was in a mile, and I thought that would be a likely place to reunite. The route wound us around and underneath the Main Channel Bridge and through the industrial area of La Crosse until I arrived at Riverside Park checkpoint, aptly named as it was beside the river. I pulled in, gave my rider number, and made a quick enquiry as to how long ago Scott, rider 68, had come in. To my surprise, he hadn’t reached checkpoint yet. I must have unknowingly passed him along the way. With that in mind, I took my time at checkpoint to relax in the shade of the trees, enjoy some good leftovers, and wait for Scott to pull in. He arrived about 20 minutes later and informed me that he had pulled off the road some ways back to call Pat and continue on their discussion on last night. It was obvious to see that the issues were still waging heavily on him, although he said that he felt much better for having talked to her again and resolving some issues.

Riding back out of town, we passed by the Old Style Brewery, which boasted the “Worlds Largest Six Pack” outside. There were six vats, or urns painted to look like Old Style beer cans, and the sign read: “133,300 Barrels of beer, or 688,200 Gallons of beer. *Enough beer to fill 2,340,394 cans *Placed end to end, these cans would run 365 miles *Would provide one person a six pack a day for 3,391 years.” Now that’s a lot of beer!

The route followed the east shore of the Mississippi River south for about 6 miles into a stiff headwind. The going was slow and laborious, but the scenery was good. As we were about to turn east, leaving the Mississippi behind, we pulled in at a side of the road bar to grab a quick burger and rest before heading on. After the nourishment we turned onto SR 162, a much quieter, more scenic road through a valley with farms on either side. We followed SR 162 for about 7 miles until we reached the sleepy little town of Chaseburg. It was a really picturesque town, with large shade trees providing a canopy for the streets, kids bikes left abandoned in the street, one small general store standing alone, and an elderly gentleman sitting lazily on his front porch watching the world go by.

Almost before we had completely left Chaseburg behind us, we were faced with a 1.5-mile climb out of town. Fortunately, we were on a quiet road, with lots of shade trees, and hardly any traffic, which enabled me to crisscross back and forth across the road, minimizing the vertical gain for any given revolution. Just as I was beginning to think that the hill would never stop, we came out of the trees, around a bend and up onto a plateau with fields of grass stretching out into the distance. We pulled in at a water stop, refilled our bottles, rested in the shade and wizzed down the backside of the hill.

The scenery just didn’t stop. We rode along quiet country roads, up and down the rolling hills. As we came up on one ridge we heard the sound of kids, only to quickly realize that we were crossing over a dam and the kids were swimming in the lake. Being that the day was in the high 90’s, I was all to eager to join them in a refreshing dip. We left our bikes on the bank and walked through the trees along the edge until we came across the whole crowd of kids handing out by a rope swing. We introduced ourselves and grabbed hold of the rope to make a swinging splash entrance into the lake. We enjoyed the reprieve for about 20 minutes before we pushed on the remaining miles into camp.

The hills and scenery continued, and after a while we came across a horse drawn buggy heading down the road, complete with an Amish father and daughter. They didn’t want to be personally photographed, but didn’t mind me catching a shot of the buddy pulling away. As we rode on, we checked out each farmhouse to determine which ones were Amish and which were not. The Amish farmhouses have no power to their homes, and do all of their farming chores without old-fashioned man and horsepower. It was really interesting to see how the Amish farms were sandwiched between modern farms, and I wondered what kind of profits each brought in.

Somewhere after leaving the lake, I became acutely aware that there had been a map error. It seemed that we were out by about five miles. I was tired after swimming (using different muscles) and the rolling hills just didn’t stop. We came around one bend, and I was hoping to see the Viroqua water tower off in the distance, but all I saw was the road continue on, rolling hill after rolling hill. At that point my sprits sunk low. I was pooped and wanted to be in camp already. It is funny how an extra five, unexpected, miles at the end of the day can be almost too much to handle, despite the fact that even with them you are doing less than the daily average. The mental aspect can be so huge!

At last we pulled into Viroqua and made our way through town to camp. We are camped in the county fairgrounds, in the middle of the horse track, with dinner being served in one of the show buildings. Dinner was a little disappointing, but we made up for it with a walk across the field a little later on to the ice cream parlor. It was a beautiful day today, with some tough riding up and down the rolling hills, but I will sleep well tonight in preparation for a century day tomorrow: 105.7 miles. I just hope it’s not like the last 30 miles of today!

Day 32 – July 15
Viroqua – Madison, WI

The route is supposed to open at 6 am, and breakfast is supposed to be served from 6-8am. Camp closes at 8:30 by which time everybody must be on the road. Well, that is what they told us at the orientation just over a month ago. Since then, things have changed a bit… We got up at about 6:30 this morning, a little later than usual, but not completely out of character. The first thing that I noticed was that a good percentage of the tents were already down, and it looked like a lot of riders had already left. We made our way over to the show building for breakfast only to find that we were latecomers and they had run out of hot food. We were lucky to scrounge up a bagel, small container of orange juice, and a few bits of fresh fruit. As we headed back to take down our tent, we noticed that the crew was already packing up the port-a-potties. Not even 7am and camp was dismantled! I guess it was because most people left really early in anticipation of a high mileage day.

Out on the road, my fears came to light. The rolling hills that we had been fighting for the last thirty miles of yesterday were still with us today. Even the route map states “med to steep rollers first ½ of the day”. My knees were aching pretty bad so we took it slow. The hills were big enough to make you break a sweat to reach the crest, but not big enough to give you much reprieve on the way down. As soon as you reached the crest of one hill, it was back down to begin the cycle again. Scott kept remarking that the toughest mountain range we have had to face so far has been in Wisconsin. The hills may not be great, when compared to the Rockies, but the mere number of them is absolutely exhausting. It was promising to be a very long, hot day.

We followed Rt 14 into Madison, all day. However we spent very little time actually on the busy road, but rather crossed back and forth to take quiet roads on either side. We encountered a fair amount of road construction, which made for some difficult riding in some parts. One half-mile segment of the road was a thick bed of gravel, waiting to have tarmac put down. I was fortunate to be able to navigate the gravel with my thicker knobby tires, but many riders had to get off their bikes and walk that segment of the road because their tires were too thin that they would sink too deep into the gravel and not be able to get any traction.

At the height of the day we came across the home of Frank Lloyd Wright which had a visitor’s center. We stopped for a bit to check it out, but unlike many others, we passed on the tour. The day was another hot one, with temperatures in the low 90’s, but it was muggy, and we still had 40 plus miles to go. The morning had been hard, and I wanted to conserve my energy for the afternoon portion.

It was one of those days when the miles just kept on coming. Many cyclists opted to stay on Route 14 and head straight into Madison, rather than crisscross back and forth, adding mileage with every turn. While it was an attractive idea, Scott and I decided to stay with the designated route… heaven forbid that we shouldn’t do the whole ride. So one we went, stopping for two lunches as our energy stores required, each time pouring over the map determining how much mileage there was still to cover. While much of the afternoon portion of the ride had been relatively flat, the last ten miles into town were tough. At mile 95 we had a steep one mile, 140 ft climb up onto a ridge. My knees were screaming and we still had eight miles of rolling hills into Madison. By the time we reached the dorm it was 6pm, and I was exhausted.

It is our second night in a dorm, and this time they are paid for by the Ride. We checked into our room and were trilled to find that they each have an air conditioner, the beds are made up with real sheets, there are little shampoos, mini soaps, and real towels. It is like staying in a hotel! I had almost been dreading this dorm stay since our stinky hot night in the Winona dorms, but tonight will be a good, comfortable sleep.

Right away we headed over to the dinning commons for a great dinner. These people are used to feeding hundreds of people, good food. The selection was great, and there was a much of it as we could eat. I iced my knees while we were eating, and then we headed back to the dorm room to shower and get cleaned up before Scott and I met up with Elise, Brad and George to head out to a local brew pub for a beer. The day had taken its toll on me and I was only able to consume one beer before my body was saying enough.

Now back at the dorm, I am sitting out in the hall finishing up this journal entry while Scott is in the room making his nightly call to Pat. As soon as he is done I will be crawling into my bed where I am sure sleep will claim me quickly. Tomorrow should be a little easier, only 80 miles.

Day 33 – July 16
Madison, WI to Belvedere, IL

Oh what a wonderful night sleep I had last night. Nothing at all like the dorms that we had in Winona with no air conditioning and no breeze. Last night’s dorm room was cool and comfortable all night long! It was so comfortable, as a matter of fact, that neither Scott or I stirred until 6am, and even then we were sorry to drag our buts out of the comfortable beds. But, alas, the unknown events of the day’s ride ensured that we didn’t lull around for too long. We packed up our bags and made our way back downstairs to the dinning commons for a breakfast that matched the awesome dinner we had last night, and then we were on the road again by 7am.

Yesterday’s long ride took a toll on me. I was having a hard time getting going this morning as my knees were aching something bad. As we were making our way out of the city we rode along the shore of Lake Monona where we stopped to take a photo. I climbed off my bike and lay down on the grassy bank, my knees bothering me already, and we weren’t more than 2.5 miles into our 80 mile day.

As we left the city and made our way into the surrounding rural areas, we encountered a head wind. As though I wasn’t already having a hard enough time, my faithful combatant reared it’s ugly head to kick me when I was down. I tucked in behind Scott in an attempt to ease my path, but even so, I was having a hard time. Scott slowed up his pace, but no matter how slow he went, I still felt like I was pushing too hard, making my knee worse, and having a hard time keeping up.

About 10 miles into the day we stopped on the side of the road to take a little break. We had brought some cookies and a small container of milk with us and decided to enjoy them now. The headwind was wearing me down, my reserves were low, my knee was getting worse, and my psyche was dropping.

Back on our bikes again, thoughts of sagging were plaguing me. My knee was so sore, and it was just getting worse. I couldn’t keep up with Scott, so I was holding him back which made me feel worse. He was trying to be supportive and encouraging, but the frustration on having my body fail me was becoming too much. I had rode every mile so far and sagging at this point was not a decision to be made lightly.

5 miles later, about 15 miles into our day, I stopped and hopped off my bike, letting it drop to the roadside. I couldn’t take it anymore. I plunked my but down on the curb and eventually convinced my trusty cycling-companion to go on without me. After much persuading, Scott pulled away and left me to either make my way slowly, or to throw in the towel and sag the remaining 65 miles into camp.

I sat there for about 5 minutes, with my head in my hands. Angry. Frustrated. Torn. How could my body let me down like this. I want to be an EFIer (an acronym for someone who doesn’t miss a mile of the Ride), but to push on could potentially do more harm than good. The decision wasn’t easy. What should I do?! I’ve never been a quitter before, and I don’t feel like quitting now!

That was it, my decision was made, I wasn’t ready to quit just yet. I sat there for another couple of minutes to muster up my determination and focus to give it another try. With the pressure of trying to keep up with Scott, (or at least, to not hold him back) gone, I got back on my bike and told myself that I would only go as fast as I could go. I started to ride, driven by the anger and frustration. I put my head down and concentrated on my pedaling, minimizing the pressure on my knee.

It is amazing what a little focus and lack of pressure can do. I was somewhat surprised to find that I was feeling better. My wheels were turning and I was getting a bit of rhythm going and my speed was picking up again. I was going to finish this day, I thought to myself as I passed by the first water stop.

At mile 27, Harry pulled up along side me in one of the support vehicles. He said that he had seen Scott who had asked him to keep an eye out for me as I was having a hard time and might want to Sag. I thanked Harry for his concern, but told him that while I was having a hard day, I wasn’t ready to sag yet. As he pulled away and drove out of sight, I found a new strain of motivation. While I knew Scott was telling Harry that I might Sag because of concern for me, I was determined not to be shown up like that. Crazy, I know, but at the time it gave me an extra push to keep going. Before I knew it I was pulling into the Checkpoint at mile 37 to enjoy some of Wally and Rene’s great Tuna-maccaroni Salad.

After having my fill at the checkpoint I was back on the road again, to tackle the rolling hills and headwinds. The temperature was beginning to rise and shade was scarce as the sun was directly overhead, but despite everything, I was doing okay. I was actually feeling good. I was going to finish the day.

Before I knew it I was in Beloit (mile 57), the border town between Wisconsin and Illinois and I was about to cross the line into Illinois, our 8th state. At that point I realized that I hadn’t picked up a postcard from the Wisconsin yet, and I needed to do that. (I will keep my word to Tony in New Zealand that I will send him a postcard from every state I go through.) As simple as you might have thought it would be to find a postcard, I ended up riding around town for about an hour in search of one; Beloit Wisconsin isn’t exactly a tourist town, and postcards were hard to come by. At long last, however, I was successful in my quest and I headed the couple of miles back to the route and the Illinois border.

The Illinois ALA met the riders a few hundred yards into the state. I stopped for a few minutes to thank them for coming out, but didn’t stay long for a few reasons: my jaunt around Beloit and tired me out more than I had bargined for, and we were now on a new course, heading south, directly into the headwinds that were picking up in strength. A few miles later I pulled in at the pit stop with 15 miles left in the day. I stayed for about 45 minutes, resting my knee, mustering up some energy, and allowing Harry to take good care of me with a backrub, cold water, ice, and a little shade before gritting my teeth and pushing the last fifteen miles through increasingly bad traffic into camp.

We are camped in a beautiful municipal park, with lots of shade trees, in Belvedere. When I finally pulled in, I was met by Scott who directed me to where he had set up my tent for me. He was pleased to hear that I had made it the whole way without Sagging. I had a good shower and then chatted with Dave Fitton for a while before we were all shuttled off to the First Baptist Church for a good dinner of meatloaf, pasta, carrots, salad and ice cream.

Dusk is beginning to set in and we are getting to see our first fireflies of the trip. They are everywhere with their little neon glows. Fireflies aren’t something that we get on the west coast and I haven’t seen them since I was four years old, living in Iowa for a year. They really are neat and providing me with much entertainment while waiting for my turn on the massage table. Michael, our volunteer massage therapist, is going to work on my knee. Hopefully it won’t be so bad tomorrow with only 65 miles to go, but with lots of traffic as we make our way into the Chicago area.

Day 34 – July 17th
Belvidere, IL to Lisle IL

We work to rain this morning, and lots off it. There is nothing more difficult than getting out of your tent in the morning knowing that you have to deal with rain. Everything is wet. Your tent is wet, your bike is wet, and you are going to be wet in no time. The only good thing about these mid-west rains, it that they are a lot warmer than our west coast rain. But, as with most things, getting going is that hard part. Once you are on your bike moving forward, (with all your rain gear on) it doesn’t seem to matter as much. At least it makes a nice change from the blistering hot sun.

Breakfast was a three mile ride out of camp, at that local Legion hall. It was good grub and consisted of pancakes, sausages, and the like. The only problem was that it was just far enough away from camp to ensure that we were all thoroughly wet by the time we got there. We hung our jackets in the entrance foyer, but still, it was a soggy dining experience.

After the decent breakfast we were on the road with our heads down, putting the miles under our wheels. For the first half of the day we were riding through quiet, rural areas, with flat farmland on either side of us. The terrain was nice and flat, with none of the rollers that we had encountered yesterday. The roads were nondescript, and a couple of times I felt like the route was taking us around and about, doubling back on ourselves, but it was probably just my imagination. We had been dreading this day’s ride for some time now, as we had heard the horror stories about that increasing traffic as you get closer and closer to Chicago, but to my surprise, the traffic wasn’t too bad and we were able to ride side by side for much of the morning. Aside from the warm rain, it was a good morning’s ride.

Our route manager is from the Chicago area, so today’s checkpoint was in is his family’s driveway, about 47 miles into our day. Wally and Rene pulled the RV into the driveway and had their usual spread of leftover out for us, and there were a few cookies and other treats to be found on a table inside of the garage. It was nice to meet Rob’s family as they had all turned out to meet us and catch up with Rob. We said our brief hello’s and then pushed on out as the rain was finally letting up.

Almost immediately upon leaving the checkpoint there was a noticeable difference in the terrain and roads. We had moved out of the countryside and were in suburbia. Although traffic still wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, it was getting worse. We make our way along the route and then found that we were entering Fermilab were we spent an hour or so learning about the underground particle accelerator on the grounds. I found much of it a little to scientific and advanced for my understanding, but Scott seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

After leaving the Fermilab we make our way along urban roads for another 9 miles until we arrived at the Benedictine University Fields which will be our camp for the next 36 hours. We are camped in between the sports fields, between the gym and the dorms. Showers and restroom facilities are available in the gym, food is in the dining commons (where we will be able to purchase a decent and economical meal tomorrow on our rest day) and there are even computers with internet access in one of the dormitory lobbies.

Camp is a little empty this evening as quite a few riders have decided to get a hotel room in downtown Chicago (a 40 minute train ride away), while others who live in the vicinity have opted to go home. A great majority of the riders decided to head into Chicago this evening, but Scott and I, didn’t feel up to dealing with the rat race of getting into town and then back out again in time to make it back to camp for a good sleep. I have never been to Chicago before, but I think that it will have to wait for another time. We learnt from our last rest day in New Ulm, that the best possible thing to do with a rest day is exactly that… rest. If you try to pack too much into those days, you don’t get anything accomplished and you wind up being exhausted. Plus, there is too much to see and do in Chicago to possibly fit it all into one short night and day. Tonight, we are going to catch a ride into a local pub with Mark and a group of other riders who are of similar minds… we may miss the big sights, but I’m sure we will have good time.

Day 35 - July 18th
Lisle, IL Rest Day

Today was a rest day, and Scott and I did just that… rest. I don’t know what time Scott go up and moving this morning, but I slept in and lounged in the tent until about 10 am. I had well miss the token muffin that the ride organizers would provide for our rest day breakfast, but that was okay because I was anticipating a good breakfast in the dinning hall. Well, I missed that too. We hadn’t been out extremely late last night, but I guess that not getting back till 1 o’clock in the morning took it’s toll on me. It has been a long stint of riding between days off – 8 days, and I guess my body needed appreciated the opportunity to sleep in.

Last night’s pub event was a good time. We went to a Mexican bar with a patio in the back and managed to get a table for the ten of us who were there. We ordered pitchers of beer, a few bites to eat and enjoyed a warm summer evening. Nothing too outrageous, just a good time.

Once I finally got up and moving this morning, and after I had had a little to eat, I spent a good bit of the later morning using the computers in the dorm lobby. I checked my email, sent a couple, and then spent a good bit of time reading the journals of some of the other riders who I have come to know so well. It was really quite interesting to read their journals online, knowing the people that they were talking about, the places they were describing, the hills they were referring to, and getting it all from a perspective different from my own.

After using the computer, I took the opportunity to call my best friend, Candace. She asked me where we were and when I told her that I was in a Chicago suburb she started to laugh. She apparently thought that it was just incredible that one of her friends would go for a bike ride…. to Chicago! Funny thing is, that it hadn’t really hit me until last night, either, until I saw a map of the United States in the club van. We had all poured over it, looking at Seattle and then rotating our heads in order to look at where we were now, Chicago! It really struck me then how far we have come. One little mile at a time, day after day, and now here we are, 4/5th of the way there! Wow!

By about noon, Scott and I caught a ride over to the local Laundromat where we were dropped off, to be picked up again in a couple of hours. We took the time to wash our stink cycling clothes and catch up on a little journal writing. Once back in camp again, we met up with Tom, Landon and Ted who were getting a ride over to the AMC movie theatre complex. It was such a stinking hot and muggy day that Scott and I jumped at the idea of tagging along… at least movie theatres are air conditioned. Scott has wanted to see “Notting Hill”, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, all summer long and with thirty theatres at the AMC complex we figured that we would have a pretty good chance of getting a convenient show-time. We were right. Landon, Ted and Tom ventured off to see “Wild Wild West” and we all met up again afterwards to have dinner at a brew pub across the street before returning to camp. Tomorrow will be another century day (102.1 miles).