Monday, September 9, 2013

A Big Lake, and Old Friends

I'll let you in on a little secret about my blog posts. I have to look at my map to remember what exactly I did in the last week.. And this week has felt particularly long.

I started in Freeport, Illinois, talking my host into giving me a 30 minute ride out of town, as I was afraid I had too much distance for one week. Out this way the ground is noticeably flatter, and wind hasn't been a problem this week, so I managed to make good time. In a typical week I have a couple high intensity days, and then a couple average or below average days, but this week every single day was over 50 miles.
I witnessed a truck and tractor pulling contest for a little bit.  
My first day out of Freeport I was passed by a couple motorcycles, then half an hour later stopped in at a gas station for something or other. A guy and his wife who had passed me half an hour before on their bike came and asked about my trip. After hearing I was a Christian, they prayed with me, then he gave me $20 and they went back to their bike. A couple minutes later, the lady came running up and handed me another $15 "from me!" she said..
Within a week, I'd been given $57, yet only spent about $25.
Flat. But even flat has little rises and dips..
Eventually I approached the Chicago area. Except, going as far south as I did, all I saw was the hour radius suburbs. At one point, due to construction, I ended up passing maybe 100 cars sitting still. As I passed one, a lady called out to me and asked where I was going and such, and asked if I'd read a book about some Appalachian Trail through hikers. I always like it when people on the road talk to me. 

Like the young man I forgot to mention from the day before, who stopped at a stop sign, and acted like he didn't have the slightest clue why anyone would want to do what I was doing. Haha, I was entertained by his incredulity at just how far I'd ridden, and would be riding. 

I had a couple intimidating left turns on main roads, but eventually got off the main road. Sleeping out in the open is something I really don't mind. long as I'm in low population areas. Fortunately, the more reluctant I'd be to sleep out in the open, the more likely someone is to be available to put me up for the night.

Outside Joliet, I stayed with a guy who, the Friday after I left, was going on his own bike trip. For him, it was 1600 miles, in 6 weeks - part of it fully supported (not carrying his own gear), part lightly loaded, and the last part fully self supported. 
I spent a lot of time on bike trails that were made out of former rail lines. Here the trail dead ended, and I guess they just left the tracks for a memento?
Through the heavily populated areas, I was fortunate to spend almost 50 miles during a three day period on paved bike trails. While I was isolated from the surrounding towns by trees, being in close proximity to friendly people sharing the path (none of them talked to me, but we exchanged smiles) was nice. 

The next night I stayed with a single lady, retirement age, another bike traveler. By the way, age is no excuse for lack of activity. These people I've met typically maintain higher day riding average distances than I do, and yet are usually between the ages of my parents and grandparents.

One thing I'm realizing.. the more time I spend with people who habitually travel by bike, the more obvious it is that I had no prior experience. My habit of starting a ride so late in the day, how much weight I carry, that I don't just ride for a couple hours non-stop, that I'm unintimidated by roads others would avoid at all costs.. 

One of the best parts of riding on a bike is your extreme mobility. After foot, a bicycle gives the most versatility when it comes to terrain. In the last week I've had to carry my bike across two railroad tracks, go through several construction areas (sometimes I go up on the sidewalk to avoid the road hazard), and past two dirt closed road barricades. I've had to push my bike across grass, across highway medians (in Montana), and through a big puddle.. er.. washed out road section. Whenever I see a sign saying "local traffic only", I assume it doesn't apply to me, and keep going. So far I've been fine.
Road Closed? No problem.. I've been on many closed roads already. 
Ok.. I see why the road is closed.. How come Google doesn't know about this?
After the above picture, I met a guy, also at an intersection, driving home from work (as a nurse). He had the most enthusiastic reaction to everything I said about my trip of anyone I have ever met, or could imagine meeting. He said he did a lot of mountain biking, and always wanted to do something like what I was doing, and wished me luck.
I've never before been close enough to a coal fire plant to see the waterfall around the bottom..
 It's nice to be back in rural areas..

The area around Michigan City, Indiana reminded me of the Oregon or Florida coast.. I guess they did call Chicago the third coast.. Michigan City is a resort town. But unlike Seaside, for example, not every square inch has been turned into a 4000 square foot vacation rental home. That said, the process is under way..

Someone told me the lake gets up to 80 degrees in the summer..
Lots of construction going on along the shores of Lake Michigan - this in Michigan City.
You can barely make out the Chicago skyline, some 50 miles away..
Back inland I went. I'd once again pushed my mileage too late in the day. I had almost 60 miles to ride on Thursday, and still had 40 left at 2 pm - with my energy reduced after 3 days of high effort, and the sun going down in 6 hours. I made it, but it was a bit of a push.. 
Lots of vineyards in this part of Michigan. Interesting. Sure smells good..

As I entered the woods, three deer crossed the road, causing an oncoming motorist to suddenly almost stop. 

Another 4 lane highway I had no reason to ride on..
Finally I made it to my cousin Kyrsten's house. Or, more technically, the apartment where her aunt, uncle, and cousin, are living. I've met her aunt before, but her cousin I've not seen in at least 10 years, and I'd never met her uncle. I made it to their house on Thursday, which then gave me a few day reprieve from riding. It was great meeting up with Kyrsten again - one of very few girls I've never had any trouble interacting with.
One of the newer buildings at Andrews University.
 She took me on a tour of the University campus, and came up with the idea for the shot below, which really turned out quite well.
People keep telling me I should photoshop in an apostrophe..
Kyrsten and I 
While in town, I met up with some old friends - Kristina Stojanovic (formerly Kettenburg), who I'd not seen in perhaps 10 years, with her husband Endi I'd never met, and David and Cindy White, who I'd not seen in at least a year. I didn't know either of them were in the area, but we got in though through Facebook. It was nice being around people I knew again..
Andrews has their own water tower.
Oh, and it was nice going to a Sabbath School class that reminded me of my Stateline group. Musical people are hard to come by, for one thing..
Another apostrophe opportunity..
I've started missing my church friends a bit lately..

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