Riding through central Illinois was actually pretty nice. The area is very flat, just like Kansas, but with more trees and things to see. Smaller farms dot the area and there are more houses along the roads. At this point, my Mom and Elaine left to go back to Wisconsin and Jaine went back to her work as SAG support. Unfortunately we couldn't ride together for the entire distance like we did on the Katy Bike Trail, but Jaine was able to get a few rides in when we hit the hills of southern Illinois.
Yes, there are hills in southern Illinois. Southern Illinois becomes very wooded as you ride towards Murphysboro and by the time you hit Carbondale, it's got the same feel as southern Wisconsin. Meeting my first big hill in Illinois in a way put a shock to my system. Ever since Pueblo Colorado, the ride has been pretty flat. Once in a while there might be a slight rise in the road or maybe the grade goes up a bit, but for the most part it's an easy ride.
Southern Illinois is actually more like Kentucky and there are some pretty steep hills that need to be climbed. Not only that, but the people in southern Illinois speak with that distinct southern drawl that you find in Kentucky. By the time we hit Cave-in-Rock IL (yup, that's the name of the town, including the hyphens) the road is pretty much like riding a roller coaster and the people are ' speakin' suthern lak it should be spoke'. I printed out this dictionary to hep me communicate with my southern brethren and found it quite hepful.
At Cave-in-Rock we crossed the Ohio River on a free ferry and proceeded to hit the hills of Kentucky.
Ferry crossing the Ohio River coming in to pick up passengers at Cave-in-Rock IL.
Jaine in SAG wagon on ferry
Kentucky welcoming us to their hilly state. Maybe the sign should read "I'd turn back if I were you!"
A "babe in the woods" getting ready to hit the Kentucky hills.
Here's a map of the elevations of the hills we were about to hit:
On further investigation, I noticed that the elevations were not as high as the Rockies, but the frequency of hills were borderline insane. It looked like the entire state would be one big rollercoaster ride.
As I was going up and down the hills a song popped into my head that I hadn't heard in years. Remember this one?
Wolfman Jack gives the intro (never knew there was a 'wolf woman'; it's a scary thought to imagine Wolfman Jack's wolf woman shakin' her tail) but The Ohio Players were actually very talented back in the day. 'Dig' those threads and the 'robot' dancers...what a hoot! Wow, wow, wow! :-)
Anyway, riding the Kentucky roller coaster turned out to be a lot of fun. Western Kentucky is a lot like Southern Wisconsin and I actually felt quite at home. I'd get to the top of a hill, pedal like a madman picking up a lot of speed and use the momentum of the ride to get to the top of the next hill. I was doing 70 mile rides and even got in a very hilly 117 mile ride and still felt pretty good. By the time I hit central Kentucky the hills started to flatten out a bit and the hills tended to lose their steepness. The weather was hot and humid and I would lose up to 8 lbs a day but it was mostly water weight and I'd get it back in time for the next day's ride.
Eastern Kentucky is much different than the rest of the state. We were in the heart of Appalachia where the hills become mountains, the trees are much taller and thicker and the valleys are much narrower. Everything seems 'pinched' and one felt somewhat 'smothered' or 'enveloped' by the terrain. There were a lot of Civil War historical signs and I could easily see where an entire army could be hiking down a valley and have no idea that another enemy army could be hiking in the valley of the next ridge and neither would know the location or existence of the other. The hill climbs were getting more like the Rockies except the distances were a little shorter but with much steeper grades. The downhill rides were very twisted and tight...the curves came very fast and speed limits for the curves were 25 mph or less.
Riding bike in Kentucky requires focus and I'll tell you about that in a future blog.
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