15. Into the Midwest

We delayed leaving Owensboro KY on Wednesday, May 26, waiting for thunderstorms to pass, but by early afternoon we needed to start moving in order to reach our destination of Sebree, KY, 32 miles down the road.  So, into the rain we rode. It was actually a bit refreshing after the heat and humidity of the previous few days.  The rain gradually subsided over the course of  a couple of hours, and the countryside looked and smelled reinvigorated by the rain. Our route was entirely over backroads, and we really enjoyed the ride despite the rain at the start. 

Late in the afternoon, we pulled into the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in the small town of Sebree (pop. 1,475). There, we were soon met by the pastor, who showed us to our overnight accommodations in the Cycling Hostel the church operates.  The church opens the entire, spacious basement of their facility to bicyclists to stay overnight, free of charge.  The basement includes a full service kitchen, bathrooms, a lounge area, rooms to sleep in, and a special “Cyclist’s Room,” which includes a shower, fresh towels, sundries, cots to set up to sleep on, information about restaurants in town and along the route ahead,  and gear left behind by other cyclists for others to use. How gracious of the church to share their facility in this way. 

At the church,  we met Ethan, a twenty-something who had quit his job in New York City, sold his possessions, and was pedaling to California to search for new work and a new phase of his life. We also met Mark and Pat, a recently-retired couple from the Chicago suburbs who are riding the TransAmerica Route from Yorktown VA to Astoria OR.  The five of us went out for dinner to the Sebree Dairy Bar and enjoyed exchanging our stories of the road over Buster Burgers, fries and soft drinks. 

Dense fog greeted us when we awoke Thursday morning.  We briefly considered delaying our ride due to the fog, but we decided that the cool of the foggy morning would actually be a welcome start to what we knew would become a hot and humid day.  Ethan said his goodbyes, and off he rode west, his destination for the day much farther than ours.   We knew we’d see the Chicagoans at our destination of Cave In Rock, IL (pop. 273), for they had reservations to stay in a cabin in Cave In Rock State Park, which is located on the banks of the Ohio River. We planned to camp in the state park.

The 56-mile  ride was beautiful, but the fog did indeed burn off by mid-morning, leaving us with high humidity and temperatures in the high 80’s. We were warned by a local we met  along the way that a bad thunderstorm was expected to hit the area at night. Not confident in our tent’s ability to keep us dry after our experience in Hot Springs, NC, we called the lodge at the state park mid-afternoon and snagged the last available cabin (there are only six) for the night. Miraculous, on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend.

We encountered  Mark and Pat late in the ride, and joined them for the free (thank you Kentucky tax payers) ferry ride across the Ohio River from Kentucky into Illinois at Cave In Rock. As it turned out, the cabins are duplexes, and we had reserved the other half of the cabin where Mark and Pat were staying.  We enjoyed a relaxing dinner with them at the restaurant in the state park. Later, as Shelly and I relaxed on the Adirondacks on our covered deck,  and heard the thunder and watched the lightening and hard rain all around us  as far as we could see, we felt extremely grateful that we were in a cabin and  not hunkered  down in our tent.

The next morning we had breakfast with the Chicagoans and explored the cave-in-the-rock together, a large limestone cave on the shore of the river. Then we hit the road. 

The Chicagoans had decided to detour off the TransAmerica on a more direct route towards  Carbondale, IL (a two days’ ride for us) because the weather forecast was for continuing bad weather, and the options for overnight accommodations along the TransAmerica before reaching Carbondale were poor. We followed suit, detoured away from the TransAmerica, and pedaled up to Harrisburg IL, where we would overnight before continuing to Carbondale the next day. 

It was a tough 36 miles. There were some steep climbs up out of the Ohio River basin, but worse than that, cold temperatures, high winds out of the west and thunderstorms were our real challenges du jour. Riding north, the winds battered us from the side, so hard at times that I actually had to lean my bike to the side, into the wind, to maintain my balance. Fifteen miles from Harrisburg we turned west towards town, and the hated crosswinds now became the really-really-really-hated headwinds for every single stinking inch of those 15 miles. We puttered into Harrisburg exhausted, but grateful to have a motel room rather than a campsite (even though I had mistakenly reserved a smelly smoking room). 

We met equally-exhausted Pat and Mark for dinner. There was alcohol involved.

Saturday’s  44-miler from Harrisburg to Carbondale was a comfortable ride, even though it was still quite cold and cloudy. We rode a state highway with a wide shoulder all the way, and the few uphill grades we encountered were long and easy.

We’ll stay here in Carbondale until Tuesday. Our bikes are being tuned up, and friends from St. Louis are driving down to visit us Memorial Day. 

We really enjoyed our week pedaling through Kentucky: beautiful, peaceful countryside; nice backroads; friendly people. But crossing the Ohio RIver from Kentucky into Illinois was a welcome milestone for us, marking the end of our route through the South, and the beginning of our route through the Midwest.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Pam

    Thanks for taking us along on your ride. And the photos are a bonus visual!

  2. Diane Schilling

    Happy early anniversary! Glad to hear your journey continues on though there are definitely big challenges. The ride may not be easy, but you have each other for support. Thinking of you!

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