Day 37: Murphysboro to Chester
After I finished writing my blog post this morning, Joe made bacon and scrambled eggs for Crispin and I. Joe was actually a winner for a cooking show on The Food Network. Naturally, he made a great breakfast.
We packed up our panniers soon after the meal and decided to ride the alternate levee route that Joe described to us last night. It had rained overnight and was still drizzling. On the bright side, the road was mostly flat.
When we were taking a water break on the side of the road, a pickup truck from the other side stopped next to us. The driver was an 84 year old man named Willard. At first, he asked about our trip and where we are going, then the conversation turned sour when he told us that Jesus is the only way and Islam is a fake religion and shouldn’t be in the US. I wasn’t going to debate with him on the side of the road, but if we were in a restaurant sitting face to face like the time I chatted with Pastor Jim in Boonville, KY, then I would have. This time Crispin stepped in and told him that we are all the same if we strip down to the basic principles of these different religions. I thought we were going to be here for awhile then another pickup truck stopped in between us. We took the opportunity to get on our way.
We got to the levee not far down the road. Crispin wanted to ride on top of it. I was hesitant because it’s all gravel and maybe bad for my tires. I rode on it anyways because when will I have another chance to ride a bicycle on a levee. We rode for two miles or so and I didn’t like it at all. It was bumpy with all the rocks. I told Crispin that I’ll be surprised if I didn’t get a flat tire. I was so glad when we got off the levee and onto a somewhat paved road.
Then there was the coal facility in the small town of Cora. We saw some kind of a conveyor belt that looked like a bridge going over the road. Not far down was a mountain of coal. Our Warmshowers host, Joe, had told us the coal in Illinois has sulfur in it so it’s a subpar product. Crispin surmised that this coal would probably be sold overseas, where the environmental regulation is lax.
Just as I was passing by the mountain of coal, my rear tire got a flat, just as I had predicted. Under the drizzle rain, Crispin and I spent about 20 minutes to fix the inner tube. After I injected one canister of CO2, the tire wasn’t at its highest pressure but we had to ride on.
As we got close to Chester, the rain started to pour. I felt like I was taking a shower while riding my bicycle. We had to climb a few hills. One of them was too steep for me so I walked my bike in the downpour while numerous coal trucks passed by me, spraying water on me. Once I got up the hill, Crispin and I took shelter at a carport on the driveway of a house. We were eating some snacks when an older couple came out of the house. Like most people, they were very nice and allowed us to stay awhile.
Once the rain eased a little, we rode two more miles to Chester. We ended up riding about 42 miles to Chester from Murphysboro since we had missed a turn earlier in the morning. After a late lunch at Hardee’s around 2:30 PM, we came to the bike hostel at Fraternity of the Eagles bar and restaurant. There we met Frank, a cyclist who is aiming to go 100 miles a day from Yorktown, VA, to San Francisco, CA.
After we settled down in the hostel the rain stopped. The three of us had an early dinner at the bar and restaurant. When we came back to the hostel two more bikers showed up. They are a couple from Boston. While they went to get food, I decided to try and fix my broken tube by patching it, but the hole was too big. I cut a section out to use it later as a tire boot if needed. I went back to the bar and restaurant and found Crispin talking to the new bikers. Their names are Jill and Zack. We shared our experiences over beer and had a great conversation.
I’m going to call it a day and walk back to the hostel. There will be 5 of us total sleeping in a small room tonight. I hope there won’t be too much snoring.