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Day 29 – The Big Muddy

Kirksville, MO to Quincy, IL

75 miles

 

 

 

Well today or more accurately last night we found out that one of our riders had an accident on the road yesterday and was airlifted to the University of Missouri hospital in Columbia MO. I was ahead of Mike Two (my name for Mike S) and the other riders so can not report accurately at all as to what happened. It seems from the talk now working around the group that for some reason Mike passed out going down one of the rollers and suffered a bad cut on his head. I don’t know more but am assured at this point that he is doing OK and is being kept in for observations to maybe try and find out what made him pass out.

 

The group took this news hard and I feel for some it might have been a jolt back to reality that this isn’t a club jaunt out on a Sunday ride. This is a serious ride which has to be taken very seriously for all 43 days of riding. It is very easy to get complacent being in the saddle day after day but one false move or bad decision could be critical. Anyway I wish Mike Two a speedy recovery and can say I missed him out there today. Mike and I chatted quite a bit during rides as we passed each other often in the early parts of rideseach day.

 

So I think with the news about Mike and the thought of another 106 mile ride tomorrow everyone set out a little more reflective first thing. Well that is apart from Terry, Terry gunned it from the start. Bruce had mentioned before I left, that with such a big ride tomorrow at the end of a long week, we should treat today as a recovery ride and save as much energy as possible for tomorrow. Terry had obviously decided to get to the hotel as fast as possible and then have more time to rest up there before tomorrow. Once out on Irma I sort of agreed with Terry and hit the pedals and set off in pursuit of the Texan tornado. Terry was long gone and I found myself first with Ken and then with Mike until we reached the first SAG at 32 miles. Out came the sign that we had now passed the 2,000 mile marker which seems incredible now I think about it. The few of us there at this time had our pictures taken with the sign and then headed off again.

 

 

Up until now the clouds were our friends keeping the temperature down and riding conditions perfect on a very quiet Sunday morning. It seemed to me that not only do the people and villages rest on Sunday out here but it felt like the fields and animals did too. It was quiet and sleepy and beautiful. However the clouds had other ideas and began to gather and darken with every mile I rode. I looked a few times behind me and could see the tell tale signs of a storm brewing. Luckily as I kept my eye on the sky, ready to take cover if needed, I watched the dark skies pass from the right to left far behind me and then appear in the distance to my left side and ahead of me now. Knowing the wind was taking the storm away from us I didn’t worry when I saw the one and only lightening strike way in the distance. So thanks to Terry we had beat the storm, unfortunately most of the riders behind had gotten a little wet as the clouds passed over our path.

 

 

I knew Terry was now long gone and soon enough I saw Barry fly by also, as I had stopped to buy a soda. With a helping wind I set off after them and it didn’t take me long to tick off the miles almost all the way to Quincy. A few miles outside of town we joined US 24E (a major road) and headed towards Quincy. All off a sudden I rode past some bushes towards a bridge and there was the Mississippi River. It is big, very big. I am sure it gets much bigger the further south it gets but this really is a proper river. Irma and I took the right line on the south bridge, which is for the East moving traffic and headed over to the other side and Illinois. It is quite strange riding over such a large mass of water on a busy road bridge. You want to look sideways at the water that catches the corner of your eye, yet you know you have to be really conscious of the road and traffic as you cross the bridge with no bike lane or shoulder to ride on. The state border must actually be in the river somewhere, so of course the Illinois sign is on the riverbank on the far side. I stopped and got off Irma, waited for a quiet moment and ran back to get a picture of the sign before quickly getting off the road and back onto my ride. Up a steep hill I then thought I had not really gotten any photographs of this memorable natural landmark so I turned left and left again and headed back down to the river a little further along the riverbank. Here I found a really nice park to see the river up close and to get some pictures. As usual I got chatting to a few people and especially one family that I had offered to take their picture saving them the selfie problems of a family of 6. The usual followed, Boston, LA, I couldn’t do that, your crazy.

 

 

The payback for this moment was to now have to ride back up a very steep hill into town from the river. It is obvious now, that a river of this size must have steep banks or the town could be swept away any year of flood. Well with the steepness of this hill, Quincy isn’t going to flood anytime soon. So all that was left to do now was to ride through a really nice part of town with some quite spectacular and individual houses all the way to the hotel.

 

 

I was in the hotel early enough for lunch followed my a much needed nap, so I think Terry had the right idea all along. To be honest with you I am feeling pretty good I think. Yes my thighs are asking me daily to give them a rest for a while and my hands seem to be losing there strength every evening but apart from that I feel fine. Tomorrow is going to be a test for the group I feel. It is noticeable that people are tired of the continuous ride schedule, different hotels and chain food choices. Now will be the time that tests our determination as to whether we think it is important to ride every mile or not. For me it is important as it was the test that I set myself 10 months ago. I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t finished. With still a long way to go I can honestly say I am not finished, far from it and have felt more alive this past year, than I have done for probably most of my life. Take it from me and certainly don’t wait for an illness to decide to live every day as fully as you can. You don’t need to ride a bike across a continent or climb the highest mountain, sometimes its just a conversation with a stranger, a stop to help someone by the side of a road or a smile to a kid in a wooden shed that can fill you up inside. Look after yourself, your body is the best thing you will ever own so take care of it well. Finally don’t rush through life that fast that you don’t live it, I have seen many on the roads so far with no time for a cyclist. It is as if they can not lose the 30 seconds it takes to slow down and then pass safely, so what will they do with the time they think they save by rushing, probably sit down and wait to recover from their far too dangerous drive home.

 

Tomorrow we head to Springfield, IL a 106 mile ride so lets hope the weather behaves and helps us complete yet another century.