The day started off good enough. We got a late start, having stopped at a diner, GeeJay’s, for breakfast in Cave in Rock. I was very optimistic about the day, because a few days back, while in Kentucky, someone had said, “after Elizabethtown, Illinois, you’re golden. It’ll flatten out.” These words echoed in my head for days, and I just couldn’t wait for E-town, where I knew, I KNEW the terrain would finally level out. Turns out, he was wrong. Completely and entirely wrong.
Yet, I continued believing that Elizabethtown and flatness were only ten miles away! Stupid clueless me! I guess I don’t know what I expected -- well, actually I do -- I expected a flat road. With no hills. And maybe possibly a little down hill. Let’s face it, I expected smooth sailing to the Mississippi River!
In hindsight, I should have known better. Only a few miles into the ride, on a full stomach, my bike fell on me because the hill was so steep I stopped moving forward. Yes . . . the bike fell on ME. Not the reverse. Then, a couple miles later, the french press flew off of Melissa’s bike and shattered (which I later used 20 feet of duck tape to fix). This set the tone for the rest of the day, but I tried to keep the dream of flat roads alive.
We climbed hill after hill, which I was okay with, because soon we hit the sweet town of Elizabethtown. Wonderful Elizabethtown I thought, with all its bars and carry-outs, Gateway to the Flat Lands! We felt pretty good. We felt so good that we stopped and bought a few beers and loaded them on our bikes to enjoy later. We hit the road. The flat, smooth-sailing road . . .
Except that that was not what happened. The road from Elizabethtown heading west was horrible. My dream of flat roads began to shatter. It was borderline mountainous. After the first huge hill I felt defeated. After the second, I was a little devastated. And I felt tired. Tired of endless hills. Halfway up the third huge hill is when the tears started.
I bawled. I cried more than I have ever cried in my life. I stopped midway up one and just stood on the side of the road, mouth open in a wail, tears rolling down my face. Every time I heard a car coming I would grab a water bottle to hide my face, acting like I was just taking a water break. At that point, had I known where one was located, I would have found a greyhound to drive me home.
The crying lasted for a good 20 miles. I cried on uphills because I was tired. I cried on down hills because I knew there would be a corresponding uphill right around the corner. This bike tour is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Harder than a half Ironman.
The country-side was boring. There was nothing pretty to look at. The sun was blazing down on us. Every drink I took out of my water bottle was boiling hot. Bugs were ricocheting off my face like a pin ball machine. We were on a busy road with motorcycles blaring past us, loudly going a million miles an hour. It. Took. Forty-five minutes to push our bikes up just one hill.
Five hours after we had left Cave in Rock, one hour into having heat stroke (seriously), we hit Eddyville, a mere 32 miles away. You could have stuck a fork in me. We stopped at a gas station and I consumed two bags of chips within two minutes.
And that’s when we saw the horse running down the road. The guy riding the horse saw our mesmerized faces and stopped. For a second I thought I was seeing a mirage. Peanut the Horse was so cool. He could bow and he could do the grapevine across the parking lot with all four legs. Eldon, the horse rider, was really cool, too. He told us about the horse camp that he was at for the weekend, Hayes Canyon Campground, one mile away. (If it had been any further than that, I would have put myself and my bike on Peanut.)
Hayes Canyon was without a doubt the most amazing campground I have ever been to. Every camp had a horse corral with the most beautiful horses. Along with horses, everyone had a friendly, tail-wagging dog.
People kept stopping to chat with us. People were out walking their tail-wagging dog or riding their grapevining horses. Four older women were driving “the strip” in a golf-cart, cat-calling at us whenever they passed. Eldon and his father, who used to be Amish, stopped by and invited us to dinner. The campground and the people there made all the pain I had experienced on the bike that day worth it.
Fireworks were set to start at 9:30 p.m. I feel asleep at 8:30 and only slightly remember Eldon pulling up in his truck to invite us to watch them with him. I fell back to sleep listening to them go off.
Yes, this is how we felt.
Paradise! Not a dry county!
The view out of Elizabethtown. Over the next hill is brimstone and fire.
Our next-door neighbors at Hayes Canyon.