When I woke up at the hostel in Farmington, I felt like I had been beat with a bat. I was not looking forward to getting up and moving, but knew I needed to. I had texts from several people. One was Dustin. He wanted to know what my plan for the morning was and was considering riding out of town with me. Another was from fellow Team Noah member Matt Johnson. He had the same plan- to ride with me. Before I could answer either, I had a call from Matt. He was on his way to Farmington and wanted to know what was up. I was getting frustrated in my exhausted, just- woke-up-after-5-hours-of-sleep-and-245-miles-the-day-before state. Folks were excited to see me and be a part of my race, but I wasn’t feeling it. I let everybody know that I was heading to The Factory Diner, a great little breakfast place in town, and they could meet me there.
Matt and his son parked their car near the hostel and were there when I came out to leave for breakfast, as was Dustin. We all rode over to the diner and sat down for some breakfast. Another local cyclist friend, Wayne Linenbringer, was there as well as Enrico. Enrico had slept in Ellington, then gotten up early and made the trip to Farmington. We all ate and shared stories. It was a nice meal.
After breakfast, Enrico headed across town to the local bike shop. The morning had gotten away from us a bit. Dustin, Wayne, Matt and his son all had things they needed to do, so I headed out of town on my own, but not before stopping just down the street to see my wife. The bank she works at is right on the route and she was outside waiting when I came by. I gave her a kiss and set off reluctantly. I honestly didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t stay and finish the race though, so off I went. It was 10:15AM.
The ride east from town is one I have done many times. Of course most every ride I have done through there ended with me coming back home. It felt strange to be setting off for the coast some 1800 miles away. I rode along mindlessly with dead legs that I had earned from the zealous ride the day before. There was no power in my pedal strokes and each hill felt steeper than the next with my jello legs.
About 20 miles out of town there is a hill that I affectionately call Turkey Mountain that is a mental boundary to me of my home area. On the map it is named Madden Hill, but the entrance to Turkey Run Estates is near the top so I call it Turkey Mountain. That is much more fitting I believe. As I rode up toward the crest of the hill, thinking about how I was leaving my home turf, a car came zipping past and then pulled over just ahead. It was my good friend John Robinson. He and I have ridden together a lot. In fact, I’ve likely ridden more miles with him than any other person. He had been stuck at work and decided that he just didn’t want to let the opportunity go by without coming out to wish me luck in person for the rest of my trip. It really meant a lot to me that he made a special trip to see me! We chatted just a minute and I headed on over the hill and eastward.
The ride to St Mary seemed quick. I stopped at the gas station there for some food and then rushed down the the hill a half mile or so to the bank. I was out of cash and in my exhausted state, I had forgotten to grab some at the bank in Farmington. Fortunately I caught them just before they closed- it is a very small branch that has limited hours and closes early.
After St Mary, it was up and over a couple hills before dropping down into the river bottoms for 10 miles along the pancake flat farmland that stretches out next to the Mississippi River. Right before crossing the river there is a gas station that I did not intend to stop at, but had to for a restroom break. It annoyed me to stop there as I wanted to stay moving, but it had to happen. Back on the bike, I crossed the river and was in Illinois. Only two more state lines to cross after that!
Right by the river is the town of Chester, known as the home of Popeye. The creator of the Popeye cartoon is from there and there are all sorts of statues and murals memorializing him around town. I skirted through the town quickly and didn’t stop, trying to stay moving.
As I rode out of Chester, I continued to feel sluggish. I just didn’t have any power in my legs. The prior day had really taken it out of me. I slogged along the rolling hills until reaching the relatively flat roads around Wine Hill. From there, I had my sights set on a gas station ahead where I had a planned stop.
When I rolled into Campbell Hill I found that station and took several minutes there to rest, eat and store up fluids. I was a bit frustrated that it was already 3:45PM and I had only made 67 miles. Granted the later start didn’t help, but my will to move was a bit broken with my tired legs. I once again reluctantly set off, contemplating what the rest of the day would hold.
I rode on, through the little town of Ava. I felt like I was struggling for every pedal stroke. As I rode, I was pretty dejected with my performance on the day and my lack of ability to bounce back after the difficult day before. I felt like I was fighting myself and decided that there wasn’t a point in beating my preverbal head against a wall any more. Murphysboro was ahead and I would get a hotel room. I rolled into town, grabbed drinks and snacks at a gas station, then headed to the America’s Best Value Inn for a room. I had only made 87 miles.
Once in the room, I ordered delivery pizza and gorged. Then I slept. I received a bunch of texts and calls that evening from friends wondering what was up. I answered vaguely. My day across Missouri had done some damage and I needed some recovery, but in retrospect, I have to admit that I was really not into the race mentally at that point. Going through my hometown was really hard. There are so many instances in a race like this that make you doubt or want to stop. Being that close to my own bed had made it even harder. I was close to quitting, but knew better than to make a decision when tired or hungry. I would see how I felt in the morning.