Outside Carbondale to Chester, Illinois. (25 mi.) Mile 1187The Incredible Lightness of BikingOK, I'll admit I was getting discouraged. Today is my 51st birthday, and even when I have been in the best condition, I am not a gifted athlete nor that strong. It has been difficult for me to keep up the daily mileage necessary to make it to the west coast without layover days for rest, especially in this stifling heat. I really want to complete this goal, yet I was really overdue for a break from camping, heat, and hills. It was great to have a friend in Carbondale who pampered us for a while.Many readers of this journal from back home know our host, Bill Davies. Bill is in the physician assistant program at SIU. This last winter, he had months of severe back and leg pain related to a ruptured lumbar disk, and underwent surgery a week ago. He is getting around with a cane, but doing much better. Victoria and his two daughters are presently in Oregon where Victoria is working short term and visiting friends.Bill went out of his way to feed us and haul us around.Bill drove us all over on errands, starting with a trip to "The Internationally Famous Bike Surgeon" (according to his shirt), where Mike dropped off his rear wheel for a new rim. The Bike Surgeon is another personality on the TransAm Trail, though not quite comparable to The Cookie Lady. He has a poster in his shop quoting bike guru Gary Klein:
"Riding is about the rhythm and flow. It's the wind in your face and the challenge of hammering up a long hill. It's the reward at the top and the thrill of a high-
speed descent. Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit. After a while, the bike disappears beneath you and you feel as if you're suspended in midair."
"Yeah but," I was thinking, "does the wind always have to blow in your face?"
Actually, I do love bicycling and traveling this way, but it's the extra weight that challenges me on the hills, so we came up with another plan. We mailed home another 8 lbs of things we had thought we couldn't live without and shipped 17 lbs of tent and camping gear on ahead to general delivery where we hope to be in a few days. This will lighten our load for the Ozarks coming up tomorrow. Instead of camping, we will get motels, but we will also try to put in 60+ mile days in order to try to make the west coast in time, and see how this plan goes.
Flat riding, light bikesFor my birthday, I got new bike sox and gloves. You know you need new bike gloves when you think you are smelling another road kill 'possum and it's really just your gloves. I have also received positive email from all over and this has been very much appreciated. For the final gift, Bill dropped us off on the outskirts of Carbondale and took all of our panniers on ahead to the Best Western in Chester. Mike and I then rode "naked" (a bicycling term meaning: without the panniers and load) along the nearly flat Mississippi flood plane into Chester, our bikes light and fast, with Mike pulling and me drafting. We started after 4 pm to try to get past the heat of the hottest day yet here. Now we'll finish it off with a hot tub soak and some effervescent beverage. I am doing better already!First view of the Mississippi River