Date: October 15, 2009
From: Carbondale, Illinois
To: Goreville, Illinois
Route: Small country roads on the TransAm Trail
Miles Today: 32 miles
TOTAL MILES: 2,555 MILES
Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph
Weather: Cloudy and gray with a high of 50 degrees, some drizzle
License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois
Broken Spokes: 3
Yesterday I failed to mention that our Carbondale host, Joe Ferrell, lives right next door to the building where we stayed during our 1994 TransAm crossing. His landlord just happens to be Mark, the owner of that building! What a weird and wonderful coincidence that was. Carbondale is where we met our friend Joe Gromala (what are the chances these guys would both be named Joe...) whom we ended up riding with for several days and have remained in contact with until this day. Joe Gromala is currently cycling somewhere down in Peru...
We took Joe and his friend Geordie out to breakfast to thank them and we rode past their university, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. It was fun to visit with these two and share the stories of their recent TransAm crossing. We had to ride another 2 miles or so across town to collect one last birthday card for Gregory that we had forwarded to the Carbondale Post Office. He was thrilled to receive a card and $5 from Sonya and Dan, our good friends and neighbors back home. We called them right away and had a nice visit. Dan was surprised we'd made it this far. He also wanted to know if he should start looking for property in Paradise so we could move back. It is nice to be missed but we are content in our travels and happily pedaling away with every intention of continuing. Before heading down the road we also made a detour to the Goodwill where we picked up 3 books for Gregory. At 70 cents each they were the bargain of the day. He already finished one this evening!
Not 5 miles out of Carbondale on Giant City Rd. we came upon this incredible medieval fantasy castle play structure. We did a double take and with no hesitation flipped a u-turn and went back to explore this wonderful treasure. Lucky for us we met Eunice on the road and asked her where the entrance was. She just happened to be the gardener and had locked up for the day because it was so wet. She opened up for us and told us that the castle was a memorial to Jeremy "Boo" Radley who was killed in a car crash on this very corner. His parents, who live across the street, have built the castle and continue to maintain it as a labor of love. Boo loved medival times and fantasy thus the theme for the park. We spent almost 2 hours there climbing all over the castle and exploring secret passages. Gregory now wants his dad to build one for him! I don't know if the next "fort" will be this elaborate but we did get some great ideas.
We definitely underestimated the hills of southern Illinois. We had one brutal climb today that was 17 percent! We almost had to give up but we actually made it to the "summit" without stopping! The hills are tough but the quiet scenic back roads are beautiful. The fall colors are really starting to show and the crisp cool fresh air actually makes for nice cycling. I have to admit I think I'm sweating more now (suited up in full rain gear) than when we were cycling in 100 degree heat!
At one point in our day we noticed several vultures circling in the distance and when we got closer we had to cycle past the fox lying in the road that they had targeted. As we rode by we must have had over a dozen vultures circling above our heads! I felt like I was in the Alfred Hitchcock movie. Worse yet was the sight of the poor little fox. Gregory asked me if it was his stomach hanging out and I had to confirm that plus the intestines. Not a pretty sight.
We also crossed paths with a special breed of bull. Later we were told that this gentleman breeds an American longhorn with a Watsui from East Africa to get this particular bull with these enormously thick long horns. He was like nothing I'd ever seen before so I made Mike stop for a picture. I got off the bike to get a little closer (after all I did have a fence between him and I) but then Mike reminded me that I had a red jacket on! The bull didn't seem to give a hoot but all of a sudden we heard the dogs. They were hightailing it down the very long drive of this property but we hopped on the bike and skedaddled right out of there in a hurry!
I was really struggling at the end of the day and eager to be finished but when we crossed the interstate just outside Goreville and checked out the first camping we saw I was more than willing to keep on riding to the other side of the city rather than sleep right next to the noisy interstate. Those last few miles were tough and we were happy to pull into the grocery store. While Gregory and I wandered the aisles, Mike found out there was a restaurant 2 more miles into town and he was ready for something hot. We hadn't eaten since breakfast, except for some snack foods, and were starving. (This was part of the reason those last miles were so tough...not enough fuel.) Gregory and Mike polished off the quart of chocolate milk Gregory had already selected and we headed to Delaney's Restaurant. This proved to be an excellent choice because once again good luck fell upon us.
As we finished eating, we watched the owner's son Colin (about 2 years I'd guess) playing with this 5 foot high mechanical pirate skeleton that would dance to different tunes. He'd press the button and make a run for it. It was pretty funny and Gregory kept egging him on. Eventually Gregory started to play with him and they had ice creams together. Pretty soon his grandpa, Pete, showed up (after finishing his postal route) and started chatting with us. (He says his daughter Sarah claims Delaney's as her restaurant but he and mom pay the bills. Ha. Ha.) After learning that we planned to ride 2 more miles out to Ferne Clyffe for camping, he suggested we might be able to stay at the Methodist church and had his waitress Jackie make a call. Pete came back to tell us Jeannie would be by to get us in a half an hour. So, we ordered up more pie and coffee. Pete also generously offers free desserts to cyclists. The coconut cream and apple were to die for.
The basement to the Methodist church was a weary cyclists dream. We were out of the cold and had a bathroom and couches to sleep on not to mention hot coffee in the morning. Jeannie introduced Gregory to the church Calico, Grace so we also got our pet fix. After chatting with Jeannie and Katie, we tidied ourselves up and nestled down in comfy chairs to read and write.
Earlier I was telling Jeannie what we were doing to homeschool Gregory and she said those sounded like Boy Scout characteristics. I told her that Mike was an Eagle Scout and we then learned more about their very active chapter at the Methodist Church. She said something like 40 percent of their grade schoolers were in the troop. She offered Gregory some of their craft projects and let him have anything from her supplies he was interested in. He ended up getting creative with the construction paper after his journaling and reading. He finished an adapted version of Robin Hood in one night! With it so cold and getting dark early it was nice to be indoors and to have light and the comfort of furniture to hang out. Our days are much shorter now and daylight savings isn't until November 1st. We stayed up late and crashed hard once the lights were out.