Saying goodbye to southern Illinois and my new friends was bitter sweet. I was ready to hit the road again though. I've been riding my new bike for almost a week now. It isn't walking but it ain't all bad either.
For an inexperienced cyclist such as myself, this past week has been very challenging. I'm crossing Missouri through the Ozark mountains. Pulling a heavy dog uphill has been killer on my legs. It's been interesting to see new muscles growing each day.
My first night out I slept in the town of Farmington. A bunch of kids were playing in the park as I was setting up my tent. One of them came over to me to see if I was homeless and in need of help. After I told him my story he sat and talked with me for most of the evening. He wants to study philosophy, he questions everything. I was grateful for the company on my first night out.
From Farmington I rode to Centerville. Of course high hills and challenging. In Centerville I camped on the courthouse lawn. In the morning I had eggs and biscuits and gravy at the diner in town. From Centerville I went to a little campground called Powder Mill. A nice small campground on the river.
From there I rode some intense hills to Eminence where I stopped at a watermelon stand and ate my first yellow watermelon since I was eight years old. It was glorious. While eating, I met two other bikers, they were heading east though. However, it was nice to meet other people out there riding. After the watermelon, I rode five more miles to Alley Springs CG. It's right on the Currant River, it was so beautiful I decided to take the next day off for river fun.
As soon as I pulled into a site at the campground, my neighbor campers asked if I wanted to come have dinner with them. They had gone canoeing that day and had been slow cooking a roast all day while they were on the river. After dinner we had milk and cookies, then he gave me a huge bag of orange cherry tomatoes from his garden. I then spent the evening watching the sun set over the river, the bats swooping down at the bugs and eventually the stars dance across the sky. After terrible hills I was grateful for an awesome ending to the day.
The campsite I had chosen backed right up to the river. So the next day I spent hanging out in the water with Brown. The water wasn't cold, it was perfect. I popped cherry tomatoes in my mouth all day enjoying the amazing weather. It's been a very mild summer here, most days it's in the low 80s. Everything was beautiful, such an awesome day off. Later that evening one of the park maintenance guys I had met earlier that day brought me fish tacos for dinner. I had already eaten but I didn't mind having second dinner.
The next morning I headed out with plans to bike to Houston, MO. Just eight miles from town I was on the side of the road resting when two bikers rode by. I called out and they stopped and we determined we were heading to the same place and would camp together that evening. They rode on. After I finished eating I headed out and met back up with one of them in town. We camped at a local park and learned about each other's journey, it was great. They put in some serious miles and are faster than I am or else I would have asked to ride along.
The next day I rode to Hartville. When I got into town and found the court house I saw another biker. He was headed east bound though. He was an older guy, burned out as a lawyer and started walking. He's walked through forty nine states and is now biking them. We had some great conversation into the evening.
So far biking is very challenging but similar to walking, you just gotta keep moving forward.
I'm super grateful for the time I spent in Illinois. Such an incredible experience, a vacation within a vacation. Thank you for helping me during a difficult time in my journey.
Thank you readers. Thank you friends from Southern Illinois. Thank you to the new people I've met in the past week that have shared food and conversation.
There aren't as many pictures as usual since my phone is mounted to my bike. However, as I get a better feel for biking and get into a routine, updates and pictures will come more regularly. I also have a ton of pictures from my time in southern Illinois to upload. Soon...