We woke up in a big, comfy bed this morning down in Renate and Jim's basement. We felt super cozy and very refreshed. Ahh. Renate made us oatmeal. We added nuts, berries, yogurt, bananas, and granola to it - it was really good! After breakfast, I went to the bathroom, and their cat, Sinatra, followed me in. He jumped up on the back of the toilet and he was rubbing up against my shoulders and purring while I went to the bathroom! It made going to the bathroom a little weird, but I thought it was funny, so I wanted to share. :-)
After thinking over Jim and Renate's offer to bike with us and then drive us over the bridge today, we decided to accept. We thought it would be great to bike with someone else, and also, even though we don't really want to take car rides (because we want to bike the whole way), the car ride would help us get a lot of miles today, which would really help with our aggressive plan to get to Nashville and back by Friday night.
Renate and Jim seemed happy with our decision. I was still stunned that they offered so much help in the first place!
Jim offered that we could leave as much stuff as we wanted in his SUV, and he'd drive it to us when he came to pick us up tonight. I was pretty excited and emptied just about everything out of my panniers except the food. Nathan only took his dry bag off, but he left all of his panniers full - overachiever.
Before we left, Jim and Renate gave me a new helmet mirror! I've been looking for one for a couple hundred miles now, but bike stores are always either closed or don't have any. They had an extra one that they bought special and were waiting to give to someone. They told me I was the "lucky person". There's a guy from Ohio (I think) who hand-crafts these helmet mirrors and then sells them at bike events. The piece that connects the mirror to the helmet is made from a bike spoke, and the mirror itself is hand-cut. Apparently they all go like hotcakes and are very coveted mirrors among bikers! Wow! They each have a different picture on the back of the mirror. Mine is a bison and a baby bison. :-) I put it on my helmet, and it works AWESOME! The image is so clear, and it doesn't shake around when I ride! This is definitely the best helmet mirror I've ever had! Thanks Jim and Renate!
So, we were finally ready to go. Jim (the host) left for work, and Jim (the guest), Renate, Nathan, and I set out on our bikes. Renate was going to lead us 60 miles to Metropolis, IL. Jim (the guest) was only going to accompany us a few miles to the Mississippi River, then he was heading home. I was super excited to have a lighter load on my bike, but as I rounded the first corner, I almost fell!! My bike handled TOTALLY differently now that I'd emptied so much out of it. It didn't have nearly the resistance it usually did when I maneuvered it, so I was constantly over-steering it now! It wound up taking me a while (10 miles or so...) before I got used to it again. Seems like Nathan had the right idea! Who knew it would've been better to leave everything IN my bike bags!!??
We got to the Mississippi, and I was instantly filled with emotion. I was left speechless just looking at the river. It seemed like such a milestone. I was amazed at our progress, amazed at our trip, amazed at God's faithfulness in helping us get all the way here, just totally amazed. We took some pictures and video to document the occasion, and then we were off to the bridge to cross over into Illinois.
Just before the bridge, Jim said goodbye, and the three of us continued on. We stopped in the middle of the bridge to take a picture at the Illinois border sign.
It was pretty windy today. I think the wind was over 15 mph! There was a huge storm coming up from the South and another coming over from the West. We didn't know if we'd get any rain or not, but if we did, it was going to be a downpour.
Renate lead us the entire way. She is 55 yrs old, and in fantastic shape. It was a workout just to keep up with her....and I had taken most of the stuff out of my bike bags!!
We rode through the Shawnee National Forest, and it was really beautiful. The fall colors are in full force here, and the trees are so full and thick that they make canopies over the roadway every once in a while. Really cool!
Renate has a different approach to dogs than Nathan and I do, and as we rode through the National Forest, we had dogs chase us a couple times. Nathan and I always stop for dogs, but Renate just puts the pedal to the metal and tries to outpace them! This worked OK for her and Nathan, but I was in the back, so the dogs always got started running when they saw Renate's bike, and then ultimately chased MY bike because I was last.
When we passed our first dog of the day, we all kicked it up a notch and tried to go as fast as we could. By the time I rode by though, the dog was pretty close(!), so I stopped. Renate and Nathan were flying down the road ahead of me, and got pretty far away, but the dog stopped chasing me when I stopped, so that was good. The second time, I decided to keep going and stick with Renate and Nathan, and this time I almost had a really bad experience.
It was just a little, Terrior-sized dog that was chasing me, but he was right up with me, barking at me and eyeing my ankle and calf pretty well. I really thought he was going to bite me, so I tried to unclip my shoe just to wave my foot around so he couldn't get it. Well, somehow I lost my balance, started to wobble pretty bad, uncliped my OTHER foot...and I don't really know what happened next, but somehow BOTH feet came unclipped, and I had them both up in the air, and my whole body was kind-of flailing around trying not to fall or get bit by the dog. Well, that DEFINITELY threw the dog for a loop, and he decided he didn't want to try and bite me anymore, so he stopped chasing me. Somehow I regained control of my bike, but I was pretty shaken up, and I had a LOT of adrenaline pumping.
I decided I did NOT like this approach to dogs. I told Nathan how I almost got bit (he didn't know because he and Renate were riding ahead of me), and how trying to ride past dogs wasn't working for me. Being my hero, he offered to ride in the back. Yay!
So after Nathan got behind me, we had a few more run-in's with dogs, but I always stopped (so Nathan had to stop), and the dogs stopped, and we didn't have any more trouble. Phew!
I think that trying to race away from dogs could work if it is just a single rider (maybe two riders), but when you get a group of riders, you're not ALL going to get past the dogs - there's just too much space between the first and last bikes; the dogs will definitely catch up. Also, especially for loaded bikes, it's a real risk to try and outpace them, because 1) the chase riles the dog up more, so he's faster and more excited/agitated, and 2) loaded bikes are HEAVY, so it's really hard to go really fast. Both of those things are NOT in a rider's favor. My advice to all riders, whether riding alone or in a group, loaded or unloaded, is to stop for dogs. It has worked every single time for Nathan and I.
I told Renate about stopping for dogs, and she said she's never tried it before and thought it sounded really scary. I told her she really should try it. My conversation with her reminded me of conversations we've had with other riders about dogs. They usually always say they try to outrun them, and I think they do it mainly because of fear. But I think it's unnecessary to scare yourself and rile the dog up so much. If you're a biker, PLEASE listen to my advice and try stopping for dogs that give chase. It works! I know it's really scary to try for the first time, but I'm telling you it has never once not worked. (One tip: When you stop, say/shout "NO!" in a commanding voice as well.)
Besides the dogs, nothing too out-of-the-ordinary happened today. We stopped for food a few times at places beside the road that Renate recommended. It was beautiful, and she showed us some really pretty and serene places. As we left the Shawnee National Forest and the shelter of its trees, the wind picked up, and we now felt all 15 mph of it. This made the last 20 or so miles tough, but we made it to Metropolis!
Renate told me earlier in the day that when her and Jim (her husband) ride, they always race to the city limit signs, so when we saw the Metropolis city limit sign, I pushed hard and said "I'm gonna beat you!" as I passed her. I don't think she expected me to race her, and she started laughing. I beat her and held my hand up in the air to celebrate my victory. :-)
Metropolis, if you didn't know, is not just any city, it's the home of SUPERMAN!!! Yes, really, I'm not kidding. Metropolis, Illinois. There is a giant Superman statue downtown, there are Superman and Superwoman cutouts with places for you to put your head and take a picture, there is a Superman mega-store, etc.. It's amazing.
We explored and took pictures while we waited for Jim to arrive with the SUV. After he arrived, Nathan and Jim pulled off the amazing feat of fitting both our bikes and all of our bags into the back, then we hugged Renate and said goodbye (there wasn't enough room for her or her bike, so she was just going to wait in Metropolis), and took off across the Ohio River into Kentucky. We have now officially been in THREE states today: Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. A record! (The second picture is the Kentucy border sign from inside Jim's car.)
In Kentucky, Jim took us to Gander Mountain where we bought more of our extremely-hard-to-find fuel for our camp stove (yay!), then to the Kentucky Welcome Center to get maps. As we rode through Paducha, KY (which my mom tells me is the quilting Mecca of the world), I mostly had my head down eating yogurt and granola bars, so I didn't notice any of the quilting stores (sorry, Mom). While I was stuffing my face, Nathan and Jim were talking about campgrounds in the front seat.
I took an unexpectedly long time to find a campground. After a while of searching and asking directions, we finally pulled into the Canal Campground in Grand Rivers, KY at the Northern end of the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. We thought we'd finally found a place to camp for the night, but the gate was closed and locked.
I stayed in the car (I think I had fallen asleep) while Nathan and Jim went to talk to the camp hosts. There were two RV's with lights on and Camp Host signs, but no one was home at either one. They also found that the self-pay station was covered over. So we just pulled the pin out from the gate, opened it up, and drove through. Jim dropped us off at a campsite, and we figured we'd straighten out payment with the camp hosts in the morning.
We were all a bit surprised at how long everything had taken. I felt bad for Jim, because it was after dark, and he still had to pick up Renate in Metropolis and then head all the way back home to Cape Girardeau...probably about 100 miles! We thanked him and he was very happy to have been able to help. What an amazing guy!!
Nathan and I went to work setting up camp and making dinner. We noticed that there was no one else camping anywhere around us. It was kind-of eerie. After dinner, we pulled out our computer to check the weather, and saw that there was supposed to be "severe" weather tonight and tomorrow!! Weather.com said we were going to have 26+ mph winds and "strong storms". I'm not sure what a "strong storm" is, but it doesn't sound good. The wind was supposed to arrive around 2am, and the storms were supposed to get here around 9am and last for hours. I hadn't rained at all today, thank goodness, but it looked like we were going to get it pretty good tomorrow.
We had hoped to go 80+ miles tomorrow to Clarksville, TN, but now I'm not sure how far the weather will let us get. Feeling optimistic and determined to make it, we got in touch with someone from WarmShowers.org in Clarksville, TN and asked if we could stay tomorrow. He wrote back and said 'yes'. Woot! Now we just need to see what kind of 'strong storms' come our way.
So, back to the present, we decided that since no one else was camping around us, and because we couldn't stake our tent down (the ground was all gravel), we'd move to the bathrooms for the night (again). This way nothing would blow onto us in the night, we'd be out of the storm, and our tent wouldn't flap like crazy in the wind either.
This will make the 2nd time we've slept in the bathrooms....something I never thought I'd do even ONCE! The boys bathrooms had more floor space than the girls bathrooms, so we chose to set up in there. We quickly realized that all the extra floor space in the boys bathroom was in front of the urinals...and that floor space looked a little more yellow than the rest of the floor. GROSS!! So we ended up setting up in a little corner far away from the urinals - totally defeating the purpose of choosing the bathroom with more floor space.
When we were ready to go to bed, Nathan went to turn off the lights, but he couldn't find the light switch. After looking all over, we couldn't find it anywhere. There was no way to turn the lights off! And this place was bright too. There was a solid double-strip of florescent lights across the back wall by the stalls and another across the front wall by the sinks. I bet even in mid-day, you could walk into this bathroom and it would appear bright.
We decided to sleep with our winter hats pulled down over our eyes. I only felt a little like I'd just been kidnapped. It was all so crazy and silly, we just had to laugh!
Well, we can certainly add today's events to our list of memorable experiences from our cross-country bike trip! We'll let you know how the wind and storms turn out tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and goodnight from the bathrooms of the Canal Campgrounds!