The last few days brought some perspective to my ride. Since Pueblo, I have made plans less far into the future. While the first half of the ride, with Bruce and Dave, largely stuck to an advance itinerary (often out of need as towns were 60-80 miles apart and had few hotels), I am now doing little of that. I generally check the weather and then decide how to ride the next few days. I make hotel reservations a couple of days in advance. On Day 38, I just rolled into Carbondale without a hotel reservation and found a room at the Super 8.
That night I looked ahead and saw that Elizabethtown, IL (the young person who let me into the hotel called it “E-Town”) was on the Ohio River and had a couple of hotels. At 78 miles out, it was a good distance. I called one of the hotels and found it had only four rooms, none of which were occupied. I took the “Mammy Rose Room.” This hotel changed my ride—at least the next few days.
The Historic Rose Hotel is owned by the state of Illinois—which obviously needs a hotel marketing class given how few people seem to stay here. This is the best hotel I have stayed in the whole trip. And it cost me $60 (half price for cyclists). It was built in 1806! Rooms are large and, if not luxurious, definitely filled with old stuff (I cannot judge antiques). I ate a fried catfish dinner on the deck of a restaurant on the river and less than a quarter mile from my hotel. Photos of all this stuff at the bottom of this page. The hotel has a big porch that overlooks the Ohio, River. I sat out there last night talking to family members on the phone. I had a couple of beers. I slowed down! My mindset shifted.
I changed my plans for the next few days. I decided that I needed to have coffee on that porch the next morning. I needed to relax there and enjoy the river. My previous plan, was to get on the road early on Day 40, ride 100+ miles to Owensboro where I would find the next convenient hotel. I looked at other options. The ACA maps showed a bike hostel at the First Baptist Church in Sebree, 65 miles down the route. I have not stayed at any hostels, so why not give it a shot. And right now, as strong as I am feeling about my riding, 65 miles is good rolling recovery day. The next two days will be shorter and get me ready for some of the steep Appalachian hills. And most important of all, I am sitting on that porch, drinking my coffee, and writing this blog post.
Day 38: 114 miles, 5171 elevation (at least 5 wheeees)
Today I crossed the Mississippi River and passed into Illinois. I underestimated the mileage (and time) for this ride. Before I started, I plugged Carbondale into Google Maps bicycling and it said 99 miles. A long day, but I planned to make it to Carbondale by 5:00 to stop at a bike shop (no needs, just some nice to haves). I forgot how much different the ACA Route can be from the more direct Google Maps route—and the backroads it suggested pushed the mileage to 114 and the arrival time to 5:15. Oh well. It was a nice ride. It was not too hot—highs in the 80—or humid, and I felt pretty good after the ride.
Day 39: 78 miles, 4570 elevation (3 good wheeees)
The downside of the Illinois part of the TransAmerica Trail is the signage. It is almost nonexistent. Missouri was very well marked. Fortunately I do have Bruce’s Ride with GPS files in my Garmin. The upside in Illinois, low traffic back roads. For much of the ride I was only seeing car every 20-30 minutes. Relaxing. Well, except for those steep rollers. Lots of 8, 10, even 12% grades are getting me ready for Eastern Kentucky later this week.
Who let the dogs out?
I have shared some of my fears and trepidations with this ride. In the beginning of the ride, it was whether my fitness would be up to the task. Fortunately, as evidenced by the last week or so, I have ridden myself into pretty good shape. There remains one major fear for me to face—the dogs of Eastern Kentucky.
I bought the ACA map set for the trail a few years ago and underlined “Loose dogs abound in rural Kentucky so you will likely encounter them. Be prepared.” There was a link to an ACA blog post, “How to stop a charging dog.” which I read. I also read other blog posts and a Reddit thread on the topic. The ACA blog advocates just getting off your bike and walking it, and the dog will no longer see you as pretty.
Since riding the trail, I talked to some westbound riders who have already experienced the “dogs.” It is not fun. I heard that one of the Ride for MS riders was bit by a dog and is going through a course of rabies treatment. I have been chased by a couple of dogs so far on the ride, but nothing serious. I am also concerned that as I ride away from or pay too much attention to a dog, I end up not paying attention to cars. I am concerned.
Before the ride I bought pepper spray. But people on the ride say that only works if the dog is already pretty close. Plus, if you don’t take into account the wind, you might spray yourself. Several people recommended air horns. They say it can startle the dog and give you time to get clear. I recently stopped at a Walmart and bought two small hand-held air horns. I will let you know how it goes in about a week.
Photos and stories
Here are some photos and stories from my last few days.
Across the street from my hotel in Pilot’s Knob I saw some old relatives.
No good photos while on the bridge over the Mississippi as I had to ride in traffic (though there is a short video from when traffic briefly stopped—see the Relive video). But on the other side, I was in a new state, Illinois!
I have been surprised at how few TransAm cyclists I have encountered these last few days. On Day 38 I met Barret (from Bend, OR) who was riding westbound back home. His wife is sagging him In their RV. On Day 39 Matt (from the UK) rolled into the Historic Rose Hotel at about 8:00. Enjoyed chatting with both, but I have not even seen anyone else in the last two days. I expected to see many more.
While in Carbondale, I connected with a good friend I worked with at Emory University. Terry Clark is now Dean of the College of Business at Southern Illinois University. We had breakfast and caught up on old times.
Rolling into Elizabethtown, IL, I was not sure what to expect. Rural towns have varied greatly in how nice they are for a visitor. This one is on the Ohio River, so I had high hopes. The town is nice and the hotel is nicer.
The Historic Rose Hotel is such a cool place. If you are into the details, you can zoom in below.
Here is the hotel on the river side. I stayed in the room on the lower right, the Mammy Rose room. There are only four rooms in the hotel. They give tours.
I could see this restaurant from my hotel porch. I ate a great fried catfish dinner on the deck on the right.
The next morning, I got up early, drank my coffee, and saw a beautful sunrise. I am glad I stayed here to hang out. I have already lubed my bike chain (the rain a couple days ago made that an overdue maintenance activity).
I even saw a couple of barges floating down river. This one is hauling coal. It was so long.
It is about 8:30 and I am finally going to start getting ready to leave. I have to get my cycling gear on and go through my checklist. I am so glad I took some extra time to enjoy this wonderful hotel—and hotel porch. It was much-needed food for the soul.