What biking across the country feels like

After having spent a few thousand words talking about where we’ve gone and what we’ve done, it probably seems all I do is drink beer and ride bikes. And there’s some truth to that, but a lot more does happen.

After powering through Ohio, Indiana, we’re now well into Illinois, and frankly it’s been uneventful. This part of the Midwest is loaded with not much more than crops, silos and tiny towns. I’ll put it this way: when the 25 of us left Iroquois, Illinois, the town’s population instantly shrunk 20 percent. The open fields were scenic for a bit, but the vicious headwinds which follow suit have made riding really challenging.

What we look like in action!
What we look like in action! Riding in a double pace-line was the only way to best the headwinds of central Ohio.
Joe, Jen and Kristen kicking it under a tree at a rest stop.
Joe, Jen and Kristen kicking it under a tree at a rest stop.
Joe admiring the Illinois River next to the trailer.
Joe admiring the Illinois River next to the trailer.
A massive wind farm in Illinois. This was the most exciting scenery of our ride that day.
A massive wind farm in Illinois. This was the most exciting scenery of our ride that day.
Setting up camp our first night in Illinois under a pavilion!
Setting up camp our first night in Illinois under a pavilion!

Ipso facto, the Midwest is friendly and very hospitable, but the rides themselves have been pretty forgettable. So here’s what a day in the life is like as a Northern Tier rider.

We wake up when the sun rises, which a few months ago would’ve sounded like hell to me, but it’s actually really opportune. I adore mornings, and waking up slow even more so. I spent the better part of my last 1,000 mornings laying in bed for a while, eating a bagel and catching an episode of Sportscenter over the course of an hour. Nowadays, I pack up my tent, sleeping bag, pillow and sleeping pad, cook oatmeal, throw on bike apparel, double-check my tire pressure and derailleur, and take off in about an hour.

Most of the day, operating is pretty simple. Keep hydrated, ride swiftly and eat whenever possible. Like I said in an earlier post, I just concentrate on getting to the next rest stop, wherever it may be. Riding has gotten easier each day, and I’ve actually graduated from the Caboose Squad! I’ve been running with the lead pack lately, and showing up to camp early has been just delightful. Maybe Richmond’s conditioned me to thrive in heat and humidity, but the more the sun beams down, the better pace I’ve been riding with.

Variables which can instantly change a ride, in order of how much I loathe them: 1. Flat tires. 2. Rain. 3. Headwinds. 4. Shoddy pavement. Flats are inevitable, a massive monkey wrench into your pace and just a headache to deal with. Rain and headwinds are self-explanatory, and shoddy pavement both slows you down and increases paranoia of flats.

It’s always exciting to pull into a new town and see what it’s like. If a campsite has free showers with hot water, it feels like a Marriott. Whenever we’re put up indoors with electricity, a kitchen and a laundry room, we might as well be staying in The Ritz-Carlton. However, the more rustic the camping, the more likely we’re all to hang out and kick it together, which is one of the best parts of the trip. I’m getting to know people I would’ve never met otherwise, and everyone on the trip is from a different walk of life. Not to get sappy, but I just adore my teammates and route leaders.

We’re in the middle of a generally bland two week stretch of the ride, but in just one week we’ll be in Minneapolis for three days! We’re over 35 percent of the way done, which is pretty shocking. Sometimes my body feels like it’s already churned out 1600 miles, sometimes I feel as good as new. I’m writing this via the WiFi of a café in Henry, Illinois and they’re about to close, so I’m checking out!

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