Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Mississippi Levees

After our rest day at Carbondale we had planned an early start to beat the forecasted high temperatures and humidity.

Not renowned for our early starts I was rather chuffed when we managed to push our bikes out of the room at 9 am. After a good bye chat to Bruce and his wife, who had flown down from Dallas to meet him for a few days, we set off.

Well I say set off; I made it ten meters across the car park before my rear tyre ceremoniously deflated! After stripping all the kit off the bike and repairing the puncture we had lost 40 minutes. Unsure if my tyre had seated correctly we rode into town to get the bike shop to look at it, it was immediately given a clean bill of health and the tyre pumped up to full pressure.

Tony had taken his bike to another bike shop down the rode and was advised it needed another bottom bracket. After all our bike issues were sorted it was 11.30. Being lunch time \ second breakfast we decided to grab a sub and chips. We eventually departed Carbondale at 12, so much for an early start! Our destination being Chester, home of Popeye.

The first few hours riding was nice but nothing to Blog home about, the scenery changed as we got south of Murphysboro. Vast flood plains stretched out around us and the roads were long straight and flat; these nutrient rich fields were full of various crops and protected from the mighty Mississippi by levees running parallel with the rivers banks. The view across the plains was impressive with various ponds and streams all abundant with bird life.

Later in the day the route took us up onto the tracks that run along the tops of the levees and with only a few cars an hour passing it was a sunny, peaceful ride with an amazing vista back across the flood plains.

We were stopped at one point by a large man in dungarees who wanted to know about our trip. We explained about the Trans Am and he was intrigued and asked if a free camp site on his land further up the road would be of use to Trans Amer’s. We assured him it would as there was nothing else through this stretch. He drove off seemingly keen on getting a project underway to help out cyclists!

At that moment a dog appeared behind us and our Kentucky dog senses kicked in, but no longer armed with Boneo biscuits or rocks my options were limited! This wolfy looking Labrador, Alsatian cross was on me in no time and determined to lick me to death and follow us both to the Pacific! Why weren’t the Kentucky dogs like this one? Eventually it’s owner caught up with us as our new levee guide dog lead us along the road, tail wagging. He was quickly told to get in the car and his Trans Am adventure was over!

We arrived at Chester IL and tracked down the base of the “Fraternal Order of Eagles”, our hosts for the night. What we didn’t know was that they were having there 2010 Eaglefest and the grounds around the vast social club where full with Fair ground rides, a music stage and a volleyball competition. It seemed like the whole town was out partying.

One of the Eagles showed us to a custom built cyclists cabin at the bottom of the car park and gave us the key to the shower room. On entering the cabin we found a sleepy sun burned Korean cyclist who was also Trans Aming; we chatted with him for a while and then went and had a wander around the Eagle Fest. The covers band where playing some passable Rolling Stones and the inebriated crowds seemed to be having a great time. We eventually got back to the cabin and we’re soon in the land of nod!

We got away reasonably quickly even though I had my second puncture in two days! Being Sunday breakfast options were limited, so a Subway breakfast roll and a coffee did the trick. We took some photos of the Popeye statues leaving Chester and soon arrived on the banks of the Mississippi ready to cross the huge bridge over into Missouri (MO). With no hard shoulder we had to hold our ground whilst pedalling across, but it wasn’t to bad and we were soon in our 4th State of the USA.

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