Monday, 27 June 2011

Day 25: Washed out in Popeye land

Day 25
Carbondale to Chester 40miles

Another early start today, as I planed to get to Farmington.

On the road by 7am. Decided to go slightly off route today to cut out a few miles. The maps actually had two alternate routes you could take from Murphysboro (just past Carbondale) to Chester. One hilly, the other flatter and going along the Mississippi. I decided to go for New-Labourish 'Third Way', which involved staying on the main road for a bit before joining up with the Mississippi route later.

It turned out to be a great decision. The riding was some of the flattest of the entire trip. Actually gave me a good idea of what I can expect to achieve when I reach Kansas.

I could see what effect all the recent rain had had on the area. There were fields which were almost completely underwater and trees for which you could only see the top – the trunks were submerged. I had one little shower get me a bit wet, and also passed under one of the most ominous looking clouds ever.

But overall the ride was going well. Averaging over 14mph, I expected to get into Chester before 10am, and then cross over into Missouri. As I approached Chester the road got really busy with heavy truck traffic. There was a loading area on the side of the river and trucks were constantly coming out of it. Made for some quite scary riding in parts.

But then from everything going swimmingly, it was suddenly going, well, swimming. An absolute downpour of rain soaked me to the skin within seconds. And just kept getting heavier and heavier. With the huge trucks shooting past me all the time, getting buffeted by winds and slowly struggling up the hill into Chester, it was quite scary riding.
Wasnt feeling very welcome by the time I arrived!

Made it into Chester, and headed to the first restaurant I could find to get out of the rain and get something warm inside me. I few conversations with the locals seemed to suggest that the rain wasnt going anywhere anytime soon. So I deciced to call it a day and find somewhere to stay. It wasnt the end of the world. By taking the shortcut I did, I probably covered 50miles on the actual route, so wont have lost too much time.

Managed to find a hotel which would let me check in early. Even the short ride there left me very soggy (had my rain coat on by this point). I think the woman behind the desk took pity on me, as she gave me a disounted rate! At least I could get dried off.

By about 1pm the sun had managed to come out, so I decided to explore the town. The main claim to fame of Chester is that it is the home of Popeye! Apparently the creator of Popeye based the characters on real people in the town! So my first stop was the Popeye museum. The woman in there was very friendly (even let me have a free postcard). Turns out there are statues of the main characters all around the town, and she gave me a “map to the Stars” showing where they were! So I went on a little exploration on my bike to find some of them. Was actually nice to be able to spend a bit of time in a town doing something a bit different.
Some of the statues I managed to find
The Popeye statue was right down by the bridge over the mississippi that I will now be taking tomorrow. You could see that the river waters were a lot higher than they would be expected to be.
Tomorrow I WILL cross this bridge!

I think tomorrow I'll still aim for Farmington. There is a free cyclists hostel there, and also a bike shop. Might chuck Whiskey in for a quick service as the bike shops in Carbondale were all shut on my rest day as it was a Sunday. Might also try to get my hair cut! The big miles of the last week mean I dont have to be too concerned about losing a day. My plan is still to get to Pueblo within 40days of starting. Should hopefully still be able to do that. If I can average over 15mph on the flat ground then, weather permitting, could get through Kansas pretty quickly.

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