Where am I? A garden shed with an AC unit. What night is it? Well it's volleyball league night, or 25 cent wing night depending on how you approach life.
I'm at the Fraternal Order of Eagles stomping grounds in Chester, IL, home of Popeye. Tomorrow morning when I cross the river into Missouri I'll be sure to snap a picture of his statue.
From a guy I met at the bar, the town can be anywhere from 6,000-8,000 people but they take into account the 3,000 prisoners they keep hostage. All things considered, this place was hopping for a Thursday night in small town USA. On this trip, I'd like to stop after the the first draft but the Yankee fan to my right was good for some conversation and I still needed to order some wings. Great mix of people in there, I'm going to have to look into their organization when I get home.
The ride today was perfect. I would pay to do it again. The 20 mile stretch of flooded farm land from Gorham to Cora was unforgettable. There were two points where I had to ride through a submerged country road (max water depth one foot). I was pretty much surrounded by water for my entire run alongside the Mississippi River levee.
The ride was flat for the majority of the nearly 60 mile tour. It was not without it's bumps though. I ate two meals in Carbondale today. It wasn't planned that way. I rolled into Carbondale just as the clock struck 10 am. That was planned; I was dragging my feet at McDonalds knowing the bike shops wouldn't open until 10.
My initial goal was to replace the sunglasses mirror I had been using on the road (to see behind me, I somehow slept on in and broke the stem). Sean, the Civil Engineering major who is about to graduate from SIU, helped me through my bike troubles. By his estimate, my rear tire had 30% left, so I thought what the heck I'll replace it here. A quick switch and a swipe and I was back on the road, for a couple blocks. A combination of the 90 degree heat, rear end payload, and freshly inflated inner tube, caused a pop similar to the start of the Boston Marathon. I wasn't pleased, but if it's broke around here we fix it (Dirt Road Anthem).
My tube was missing the little inner screw to keep the air in so I walked back to the shop, Sean actually switched the tube for me, which he didn't have to since I didn't buy it there. Shit happens. If you're curious, the shop in Carbondale is called the Bike Surgeon and I added a sticker from them to represent Illinois. Two thumbs up for service.
So far I've biked from the Chesapeake Bay to the Mississippi River. I'm crossing the country in much of the same way it grew. And I'm seeing American life in its natural habitat. I'm experiencing the the stops not on the interstate and the people that aren't trying to sell me a keychain with their city on it.
If you're searching for ways to be creative on your next vacation, buy a bike and go somewhere in the U.S. There's this whole place we don't see on TV, and I love it.