June 5, 2015 Elizabethtown, Illinois
After an interesting, educating, dog-chased ride across Kentucky, I hopped on a little ferry today and crossed the Ohio River into Cave-In Rock, Illinois. Although the cave has historical significance, with my growing up and working in the film industry, I mostly knew it from the cave where bad guy Walter Brennan tried to get the better of Jimmy Stewart in "How the West Was Won". After checking out the cave, I continued on what turned out to be a good, but very hot 68 mile day to Elizabethtown, on the banks of the Ohio. I've ridden 11 days straight, with 2 more until I take a full rest day in Carbondale, IL, home to Southern Illinois University. I'm going to Carbondale because they have a good bike shop that can bleed my rear hydraulic brake of an air bubble. For the last 4 days, the brake has been coming and going out, which can be a little unnerving when my 250 lbs of bike, gear and me careen down a hill. The shop in Carbondale said they'd bleed it in a flash and I'd be on my way. I need a rest day anyway - I'm getting stronger and rode about 450 miles in the last week, and although I feel like I can keep on going, the wiser side of me knows I'll pick up even more ground if I take a good break.
Last night, my last in Kentucky, I stayed at a Baptist Church in Sebree. Pastor Bob and his wife Violet have opened their church dorm, showers, ping pong, pool table, kitchen, laundry to cyclists since the Trans-am trail was established 39 years ago. Seven of us, going in different directions, checked in last night. Bob walked us through the facility and told us the only thing he would like in return was for all of us to come to dinner at their home later in the evening. We all showed up and Violet was finishing a dinner of chicken, stir fried FRESH vegetables, lima beans, corn, homemade sweet pickles, white bean stew, homemade relishes, steamed vegetables, cornbread and pie. She put us all to work, so it immediately felt like a family preparing the table/food for a big dinner. We ate and each shared our stories, then Violet shared hers. She grew up as a sharecropper's daughter in Mississippi, in a drunk dysfunctional family with 10 brothers and four sisters. Her horrible story, and how she extricated herself from a terrible, unhealthy life was incredibly moving and inspirational. After 3 weeks of mostly camping and eating (pardon me) crap from convenience stores and bad diners... and all of us missing our families... Violet and Bob created a one night family with cloth napkins and everything :) We all felt renewed and even a bit civilized. It was the most wonderful last night in Kentucky I could have ever imagined.
Sunday afternoon, I'll arrive in Carbondale for two nights of hotel living - yeah baby. Then only another day or two of Illinois until I climb over the Ozarks through southern Missouri. I'm so grateful for the entire experience, but meeting open hearted people who don't know me and welcome me into their homes and lives... it's the best. Violet also had one request of all of us... she had to hug each one of us before we went back out onto the road.
It doesn't matter that I'm a Jew in a Christian home, or that our politics are night and day, or our worldviews are as polemic as possible... there are a lot of good people out there that put the core of who we are and what we all need, love and security, above everything else. That's good to know. Thanks for riding along.
1. Baptist Church/Hostel in Sebree, KY
2. Pastor Bob, Violet, and Kiwi Bike Traveler Carol
3. Yours truly in my last day of Eastern Kentucky farmland
4. Cave In-Rock, Illinois
5. Crossing on the little ferry on the Ohio River
6. Meeting traveler Min, from Seoul. Min is eastbound from San Francisco to Yorktown, VA. When I met him, he has speakers mounted on his handlebars and he was singing along at the top of his lungs to Celine Dion singing the Titanic theme song. Sweet guy wanting to really see America, broken English and all.