After the ease of riding the Katy Bike Trail, we go a full dose of reality when we crossed into Illinois on the Clark Bridge that spans the Mississippi River.
John crossing Mississippi River on Clark Bridge at West Alton MO
Jaine crossing Clark bridge over the Mississippi River
As you can see, I'm keeping an eye on Jaine to make sure she crosses the bridge safely. (Honestly I don't know how that postage stamp wound up in the picture, I was definitely pushing the wrong buttons on my cell phone)
Freestyling can be brutal.
When we crossed into Alton IL, the traffic became insane, the shoulder disappeared and the 'white line' on the side of the road was either broken up or non-existent. One lady passenger in a big pickup rolled down her window and yelled "FIND A TRAIL!" and I would have to admit I was inclined to agree with her. I was hugging the white line all the way and traffic was heavy enough to give no quarter. Jaine and I figured that 2 pm would produce light traffic, but we were wrong.
Once we got about 5 miles away from Alton IL, traffic decreased significantly, things got a lot less stressful and drivers were much more considerate. We took Hwy 140 all the way to Greenville IL, then later took Hwy 127 to Pinckneyville IL and then to Murphysboro IL to pick up the route mapped by Adventure Cycling. Luckily, Hwy 127 improved considerably as we went further south and by the time we hit Pinckneyville the shoulder was as wide and smooth as a regular lane of traffic.
I'm seriously considering writing to Adventure Cycling to lobby the state of Illinois to improve the shoulders of Hwy 140 from Alton to Greenville and Hwy 127 from Greenville to Murphysboro. If those roads could be made bike friendly, it would be a great alternate route through Missouri utilizing the Katy Bike Trail and safely getting back to the Trans America trail in Murphysboro.
When I was riding from Pinckneyville to Carbondale, my right gear shift started sticking and I was forced to manually move my shift lever to change gears for my back tire gear cassette. This is very problematic with all of the hills I started to see in southern Illinois and when I got to Carbondale Illinois, the home of the Southern Illinois University Salukis, I immediately went to 'The Bike Surgeon' bike shop and had Ryan work on my bike. Ryan is extremely meticulous and hard working bike mechanic and he completely tore down my shift system, cleaned it up and made my shift system work like new. Excellent job without a doubt.
While I was waiting for the bike to get fixed, a reporter from a local TV station, MIchelle Madaras of WSIL in Southern Illinois, came in to the shop to report on bike safety. She was to interview Ryan about important cycling safety tips, but since he was busy fixing my bike, she decided to interview me about bike safety once she found out I was bicycling across America.
What a blast! Of course anyone who knows me understands that I am normally reticent and somewhat reserved in my demeanor, but they set up a camera, hooked up a microphone and I believe I said some useful things that would improve bike safety from both the drivers and bicyclists point of view. Michelle said the interview went well and that I'd be on TV sometime soon. Yup, she's gonna make me a star!
Actually, there was a reason why WSIL was reporting on bicycle safety. Recently, a 59 year old man was killed when returning home from work on a bicycle and WSIL wanted to inform the public on common sense safety tips to help both bikers and automobile drivers share the road safely.
When the interview was over, Michelle and I talked about my trip across America and then I learned how she arrived at her current profession. Michelle is an extremely talented woman. Presently, she is a TV news reporter, but she was an ice skater of professional caliber in her past and has competed all over the United States and the world. She really understands what it takes to compete at world class levels and when she instructed figure skating at the university, she could see which students had the 'eye of the tiger' required for top flight skating. I found that intriguing. She said it's one thing to develop muscle memory to perform all of the skating maneuvers, but the most important component for true success in skating is the mental toughness required to pick yourself up after hundreds of falls and keep going until it's perfect. There is no doubt that she has picked herself up off the ice thousands of times since she started skating at 4 years old and I am certain Michelle will have a successful life in whatever she chooses to do. Some people are just like that.
Well, it's time to end this blog. It's 11 pm and I have an 80 mile ride tomorrow. Tomorrow morning I'll wake up and if I'm dragging my butt out of bed and wondering what the heck am I doing this for, I'll think of Michelle pulling herself off the ice after a fall and get my butt back on my bike and start pedaling.
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