July 23 - Just What We Imagined Illinois Would Be

After starting the day with a flat (Will's rear; rim tape slipped off spoke hole), we rode down to US 36 at Rockville, the "Ernie Pyle Highway". Our first stop: Ernie Pyle Rest Area.

"Does anyone know who Ernie Pyle was?" I asked.

"Movie actor?" Cheryl said.

"Song-and dance guy?" Will added.

"No, no, no! You guys have it all wrong. Anyone know?"

"Uh, gay-rights activist?" Will ventured.

Exasperated, I tried to explain about WW II, war correspondents, weekly report from the front, and attempted to compare him to a current columnist. I raced through the ones I knew: George Will? Bob Greene? Ellen Goodman? Dave Barry? None of them seemed to fit. What a journalist needs, obviously, is a good honest war to bring out the human best in his reporting.

"Oh, I was confusing him with Gomer Pyle," Cheryl laughed.

Western Indiana is famous for covered bridges. (We learned in PA they're covered so horses wouldn't see the water, and not spook as they crossed.) We kept seeing signs for them the day before, but as the day lengthened, we didn't want to deviate from the straight and narrow. At the E.P. Rest Area, they'd placed a 121 year old covered bridge over a dry gully. We got our covered bridge experience, pictures, and engineering lesson after all.

The day had been planned for back roads south of US 36, but the road was so flat and devoid of cars, we stayed put for more than fifty miles. I got awfully excited when the road actually turned, and was sorely disappointed when I couldn't get a digital picture for you. Will found my interest in the road's bend a bit odd, but after 38 miles of perfect straightness, it seemed worthy of celebration.

During a leg with Cheryl on back of the Tandem, I noticed two guys walking towards us. This was odd, as we usually saw no pedestrians, especially on a supposedly major highway such as this. As we passed, I said, "Hi!", and they returned a friendly nod. They had on cotten tee-shirts, one of which said "Moonbat", wore shorts, carried water bottles, and appeared a bit sweaty. A few moments after we passed, I reflected this was not the typical attire for the area; that is, they were not covered head to toe with Levis and plaid shirt. Just as I realized they were "not from around here", I saw an SUV (Jeep Cherokee or something) pulled into a side road, with a mountain bike outside, a carrier on top, and plastered with red and blue signs.

"Must be their car", I said, and pulled over to check it out. I looked inside, and saw a very healthy, slightly bearded and sun-tanned blond guy, in tee-shirt and loose, long lycra pants. I looked at their signs, and saw "TransAmerica Relay: Running from LA to NY".

"We're doing the same thing you are, but going the other way on bikes."

He didn't seem too curious, although he was smiling and friendly. Between us, Cheryl and I discovered that Jesse Riley and Micheal Kenney were running about 50-60 miles/13-14 hours a day (actually, one was running, and one was fat-tire biking, having "blown" his knee during the first week) for charity and fun. Another guy ("the old one", who looked about our age), was supporting them, driving 2-4 miles at a time, getting out and walking with the runner while the biker waited. They had gone 48 days, with 16 more to NY. Their sign read "...2900 miles...". Their direct route basically followed "old roads" next to I-15 and I-70. They'd met a few other bike groups going West to East (naturally), but we were the first going the other way. We compared a few other notes, and were each then on our separate (an opposite) ways.

"Boy, I'm glad we're doing this now, before everybody starts doing it, "Cheryl said.

Will complained about their pace to NY compared to ours. Cheryl retorted, "I bet they don't have a seven-year old to take care of, or a family fighting with them."

As I rode, I pondered about their singular drive and commitment: 13-14 hours a day of running! I'm getting strained just keeping us going with anything over 8 hours of biking!

Later, we went south from US 36, towards today's campsite at the Corps of Engineers camp on Lake Shelbyville. Passing through Lovington (pop. 1100), we weren't sure of our route (we had to pick up SR 32 in town, and had seen no signs). I drove over to a convenience store, and asked a tall, bearish looking bearded gentleman in striped overalls with the name "George" over his pocket. (I usually trust men with beards, having one myself.)

"Is this the road to Sullivan?" I asked, after I'd gotten his attention.

"Sure is!" he said with a friendly grin. "Just go down this road, and go left when you come to the 'T''; you'll run right into it!"

"Thanks". I hopped back on the bike, and started off; he open the door to his pick-up, paused, and said with a smile, "You don't have much air conditioning on them things, do you now?"

"I don't know; get up to 15-20 miles an hour, work up a good sweat, and it's just like a swamp cooler!"

This really got him going; the sound of his laugh faded right into the start up of his pick up. The funny thing is, of course, that it's the absolute truth; nothing beats a good bike ride when the temp's 85 degrees, and the road is downhill, with a tail wind, all the way into Sullivan.

Miles: Will, 82; Al (Tandem& single), 82; Cheryl (Tandem & single) 65; ; Ann (Tandem) 22.

Total Miles: 1294

**Next Day's Journal**

-Al Bikrutz