Well I finished my first self supported multi-day tour and there’s no way I can fit it into one post. In fact I think I’ll do a post for each day and a final post about equipment and stuff. So here we go, day 1 bright eyed and bushy tailed.
I was up at 4:10AM, the best way to describe it was like Christmas for a kid, you see I had built up such a huge expectations for this trip that it had been consuming my thoughts for the last couple weeks. Of course things never really work out like you plan them, it was 41 degrees Sunday morning. Shauna went to work and I went about finding ways to delay my departure. I downloaded some TV shows for her to watch while I was gone, I washed the dishes from last night, and spent about an hour adding new music to my phone.
It was a 7:45 when I finally got going, but the temperature was about 50 and the sun was shining so it was a nice time to get moving. It’s been 5 years since I rode a loaded touring bike, and I had completely forgotten how awkward that can be. My bike weighed around 58 pounds loaded down and with 4 bottles of water. The first time I stood up and stretched I nearly ran off the road, as I remembered it takes much more muscle to keep a loaded bike moving in a straight line. On a flat where I’d be going 15 with little effort I was working hard to go 12 and on the hills its like a hand is pulling you back as you climb then giving you a push once you roll over the top.
There was a bit of a problem with my route. A week ago in Mahomet IL some guy named Pendleton shot a cop in the arm who pulled him over in front of his house twice in a row as I understand it. I’m sure there is more to this story, this Pendleton was a known criminal hothead who had several run ins with the law in his home near Eddyville in Pope County, right where I’d be passing through. The police had discovered he was holed up somewhere in the Shawnee Forest around Eddyville and were searching the area. It was highly publicized that Pendelton was armed and dangerous and possessed advanced “wilderness survival skills.” It was suspected could possible be holed up deep in the forest as the truck he stole in his getaway was found nearby. Sounded a bit like the plot of Rambo to me.
This Pendleton was a massive idiot, and like many massive idiots he was armed to the teeth with assault rifles that you can buy at Rural King, but the police response was maybe a bit over the top? Around 8:00 as I was leaving Harrisburg I was passed by 4 state police cars sirens on. An hour later I passed by Cedar Grove Church where the Illinois State Police had set up a field headquarters. I imagine there were hundreds of people involved in the search for Pendleton. A truck load of army guys fully loaded out for battle came by shortly. Had Pendleton raised an army out in the woods, was he holding someone hostage was he planning on leading a insurrection against the state? What the heck is going on?
I got to Eddyville and found the quick mart to be packed with cops. The Eddyville blacktop was my destination because it was where I would first be on the official Trans America trail. At the intersection I rolled up to a very young state trooper who was standing there with an assault rifle and a Sherriff’s deputy who was also standing there said, “Woo bud, where you going?” The tone and words he used kind of stunned me, they were just so not what I expected. I expected him to say, “This road is closed sir.” I didn’t know what to say, and after a few seconds I mumbled Eddyville and pointed down the road. “No, No, No, No way, you ain’t a going that way,” he said. Again I was stunned. It was just so not the words I expected to hear from a police officer.
“What’s going on down there?” I asked, though I knew that they must have found Pendelton.
“Bad stuff, it’s a bad situation,you need to just go on down the road” he said. With that I just turned and left, as I rode away I laughed a bit out of nervousness more then anything. The kid with the machine gun was making me very uneasy. The whole morning had been tense and quite honestly the police response seemed so over the top. As far as I knew up to this point the only person to have died from all this was a woman who was hit by a State Trooper rushing to the scene at an intersection.
“What’s so funny!” the guy yelled at me as I rode off.
“My Dad said I shouldn’t have gone this way, I should have listened to him,” I yelled back.
Good ol’ Ed
I continued on down route 145, and took a shortcut on the Waltersburg road to route 146. I’ve been on the road a few times on a bike, its hilly and rough. I tried to keep my speed in check and avoid the largest holes but eventually I hit one and heard the sound of something breaking. I stopped and didn’t see anything wrong and continued up the hill, at the the top I saw my friend and fellow mountain biker Ed walking around. He lives in a nearby town but owns a cabin here in the Shawnee, he showed me around the place and the awesome two story Kayak shed. He told me they had Pendleton cornered over there and they had been having gun fights and throwing grenades at him. “Wow, it really is just like Rambo,” I said.
After Ed’s tour I checked out my bike and found a broken spoke. I thought, well this would be a good place to quit, or maybe Dad could bring me a spoke. I was so ticked at myself because for two weeks I thought about buying an emergency fiber spoke, or coming up with a way to fix spokes enroute, but decided I would be OK without. I loosened up my brake so that it wouldn’t hit and continued on with Ed’s phone number, he offered to give me a ride if I couldn’t carry on.
The bike had a bit of a hump in the wheel but it seemed to be working, still I took bumps as gingerly as possible. On route 146 I encountered my first rider headed towards me and he was waving for me to stop. Wow, my first real encounter with a live tourist. “Hi, you riding the TransAM?” he asked.
“Me, nahh, no, just riding a little bit to Mammoth cave,” I answered.
“Oh, ok, yeah it seems like most people are riding East to West right now,” he said with the wind taken out of his sails. I would later find out why. He told me was riding from Washington DC to Washington state almost all of the TransAm. I sized him up, B-17 saddle, Surly Long Haul Trucker, big beard, yeah he definitely looked every bit the serious bicycle tourist. One detail I noticed was the nice tripod strapped across his rack. I almost asked him about it, but instead out conversation focused on the manhunt for Pendleton and the fact that Eddyville blacktop was shut down. He was really interested and wanted to check it out. I told him he could be riding into a warzone then we talked a few minutes about Southern Illinois. Eventually I became worried that I was taking up too much of his time and we went out separate ways. I would later discover something interesting about Tyler which I’ll reveal in the next post. I should have asked him if I could take his picture.
I made it to Elizabethtown where I took a break and looked at the river. I saw another rider looking around town and talking to a local but he didn’t seem interested in talking to me and a moment later he was gone. I encountered him climbing on 146 out of town and started talking to him. He pulled off the road and just kind of stared at me.
“Umm, something wrong?” I asked.
“No I just don’t want you riding beside me on this road.” He replied. I looked up and down the empty road.
“Allrighty, have a good one,” I said. The guy was pulling a very loaded BOB trailer and he was climbing slower than me. I missed the turn onto Tower Rock road, and later took a side road back to it. Then my map fell off my handlebar necessitating climbing a huge hill twice. I eventually got to the Cave in Rock Ferry with about 60 miles. almost 10 more then I planned and about 25 more then if I had taken the shortest route.
The guy with the BOB trailer was waiting to get on the Ferry, but I had showed up right when it was taking cars on, great timing. I walked around with a stupid grin on my face as the the Ferry, um ferried us over the Ohio river. On the other side I tried talking to the BOB guy again and this time he was quite friendly. I took his picture at the “Welcome to Kentucky” sign. His name was Hannock and he was riding from Los Angles to Maine, in a few miles he would turn off my route and turn onto the “Underground Railroad” route which would take him North through Indiana and Ohio eventually to the Northern Tier. He said this was his last bike tour, and by the far the longest, and that his wife had gave him the go ahead to do America, at this point he’d been gone for about 25 days, he wasn’t really sure. I think he must have at least been about 2000 miles in.
Yarrick the Dutch Chef
After passing through Marion Kentucky where I enjoyed a long break and some ice cream I ran into a guy named Yarrick from the Netherlands. He looked to be having a great time. He was dressed in casual clothes, and wasn’t wearing a helmet. He was very friendly and I think would have talked much longer. He told me he’d spent the night at Utica Kentucky at a volunteer fire station and was headed to Marion Kentucky where he hoped to find free lodging indoors at a church. He was putting in 70 miles for the day. He was loving America, especially the wide open empty spaces, but was he was unhappy with our food. “All your food here is no good, all I can find is just convenience stores that sell junk, you see my occupation is a chef. I have a cutting board and knife set in my bags but I can’t find any fresh meat or vegetables to cook.” He explained.
“Yeah we don’t have that have that stuff here,” I answered.
“Yes, in the Netherlands every small, even tiny towns, have a fresh market with a good variety of fresh foods for cooking,” he explained.
“Yeah, no one cooks in America, we just buy frozen stuff at Wal-Mart and eat out alot.” I answered. “In the past every little town had a similar market, but Wal-Mart and super markets you know,” I tried to explain but I don’t think he could quite grasp why there wasn’t a tiny little gourmet market in every town of 300 people.
I would have enjoyed riding with Yarrick for awhile, or just hanging out and talking some more, but I had more pressing concerns. It was 5:30 and I desperately wanted to stop riding. My rear hurt, my legs hurt, well everything hurt. I just wanted to find a place and stop. I had picked an abandoned church to stealth camp at near Clay Kentucky and Yarrick said he thought Clay was about 12 miles away. I was at 90 and I just really didn’t want to ride anymore.
My salvation would come a few miles up the road at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. I saw the tops of tombstones on a high hill to my left and climbed up the drive to see the most perfect tiny church perched atop a hill overlooking beautiful bottom pastures and a lake. The sign said Sunday services at 11AM and no one was around. There was a shelter and picnic tables, even a swing set if I got real bored. I decided this would be the nights camp spot. Still for the next few hours I was scared someone would show up and run me off. I was very slow to unpack, and spent almost an hour just laying on the perfectly manicured grass and staring at the perfect blue sky as the sun wound down into what would be a perfect sunset.
It was pretty much perfect.