Thursday, April 24, 2008

Georgia Montage

I Made It--927 Miles

Only had 50 miles to go but they seemed like waiting-for-Christmas-as-a-kid-slow in coming. Called Kirk's mom, Mary, 6 miles out from her house. At age 87 she ducked out of her FT job early to raise the garage door for me, sort of like Motel 6 leaving the light on for you.

That I pedaled 927 miles, climbed a total of 29,459' (averaged 2,104' climbing per day), that I had no flats, no mechanicals, no need for Counter Assault Bear Spray (although I must have sweet talked at least 30 dogs off my heels), no threatening cars, is all still sinking in.

That while this was an unsupported ride (no support vehicles), I had tons of support, some planned and lots unplanned:

Kirk--well, he's my alpha and omega but in this context he was my prime encourager and lest we forget he rode the first 3 miles with me.

Loribeth Cohen of Re:Fit Inc. who has helped me manage and maintain my physical recovery readying for this Tour.

Suzanne Joseph, friend and PT/Manual Therapist of Center IMT Chicago

Dave E--rode twelve Chicago lake front miles with me.

Rhonda and Marian who ate dinner with me in Manteno, IL.

LeRoy and Joyce south of Sidney, IL who dried my clothes and carried me to Charleston, IL in their truck.

Bill who carried my bike, gear, and me across the flooded road on his tractor near Vincennes, IN.

Steve and Marianne who gave me a sabbath day in Smiths Grove, KY and drove me to Nashville, TN when I had NO LEGS.

Shirley and Charlie who rode from Cornersville, TN to Huntsville, AL with me and let me overnight at their house (and cat-sit Puddy).

Roger who rode with me from Atalla, AL to Anniston, AL (there are those A words again) and who drove me over the buttermilk mountain in rush hour.

Peggy, Roger's wife, who opened their house to another cyclist.

Earl Russell of Cycle Smithy for taking my calls day or night advising me on bike stuff I know nothing about.

Joe Reichert of Amlings Cycles for his encouragement, supplies, and advice.

Joe Ebberhardt of Village Cycle Sport who has been supporting my cycling ventures since May 4th 2001--the date I purchased my first recumbent bike, the one I crashed on May 5th, 2001.

Rolf Garthus and Scott Cole of The Hostel Shoppe for introducing me to the Volae Century ES, the bike that carried me from Wilmette, IL to Columbus, GA.

Bryan, Daniel, and Katie--our adult kids who are by biggest fans and supporters.

Legions of treatment professionals, church friends, cycling friends, friends and colleagues working their own recovery and guiding others to find recovery for themselves.

There's a thing that we PAC Tour riders call PED--Post Event Depression. I'm there. I've been planning this event for 9 months. I love being on the road. This tour is over. It's a real mixture of sad/glad.

I'll soon begin planning my NH Tour scheduled to launch late August, 2008.

Georgia On My Mind

I would cross the line into GA at about mile 40. When it happened I wanted to stop and call a bunch of folks and shout WooHoo, but forewent the frivolous pleasure and pedaled on to Franklin, GA to the Village Cafe Inn. It was another of those places, like the Locust Cafe in Booneville, IN where it took 25 minutes to get two poached eggs and some hash browns. Also like the Locust Cafe there were some neighborly locals who were most curious about my routes, travels, weather, more, and more. I actually amended the last 20 miles of my route to Lagrange, GA based on my conversation with a retired trucker who had hauled cross country for 48 years. Figured he knew a thing or two more about the roads than I.

My first night and last night were in "high class" hotels--Country Inn and Suites and The Holiday Inn Express. Pulling in to the HI Express I felt a world of weight melt away. It was the first night I fell asleep without an anxiety ball in my stomach wondering if I had what it took to go the distance the next day. Lagrange even had a Starbucks. I walked a mile that evening and again in the morning for my Soy Tea Earl Grey Misto, my comfort bev.

A Words

Albertville, Atalla, and Anniston, Alabama places I'd never heard of before but which have become part of my memoryscape for sure.

Huntsville to Anniston is about 113 miles, too far in one day hauling gear up 4,600'. So I left Huntsville's flowering beauty and cacophonous, or maybe just humorous pluralism, for Albertville, AL. If I try real hard, I can say Alburvull. I try to blend but not sure I do a very good job. Albertville was pretty humble as evidenced by its shopping mall next to the Micro Tel. However, it got 4 stars for hospitality. I needed to email my route to Roger, another PAC Tour friend, whom I would meet the next day in Atalla, AL in the WalMart parking lot. The Micro Tel had no computer access but they were most gracious and called over to the Jameson about 1/3 of a mile away and made arrangements for me to use their guest computer. Nice.

Roger's wife, Peggy, drove him to the Atalla WalMart. Before we rolled out she offered to carry my panniers in her car to their house where I'd be overnighting. Oh my gosh, what freedom to not have to carry the gear!! Roger and I clipped along averaging 2 mph faster than I had averaged the whole trip. Loved it.

After lunch Roger, Peggy and I drove most of my route in what was left of AL. Hard to believe I would soon be in my 6th and final state of this GA Tour. There was a steep 800' mountain pass, probably just a bump to the locals, on a curvy road known as buttermilk (if you put a bottle of milk in the car at the beginning of the road it will be buttermilk by the time you get to the end because the road is so churny) with a lot of rush hour traffic and three BAD angled rail road tracks. Roger offered to drive me to the other side of these obstacles the following morning.

My Self-Talk was speaking to me: I will ask for and accept help. I said: Let's do it.

Bama Style

Charlie and Shirley headed out on Friday to NC to train in the mountains readying for the PAC Tour Provence, France trip. I decided to hold up in Huntsville for a day (had a day to give calendar-wise) since there were to be head winds of 25 mph all day all the way to Albertville, AL (pronounced Al.bur.vull). It was a great day to work on my blog and cat-sit for Puddy who was not at all thrilled to have a cat sitter.

Walked a mile to the Piggly Wiggly (a grocery store) and ate lunch at a Chinese Restaurant. What made this dining experience extra special was its depth of pluralism. A white proprietor/host, Hispanic servers, Chinese food, Southern lady diners, and Gospel Music piped in for all to enjoy, to a back drop of the world's most dramatic videos of death defying horrors, like rescues from a burning high rise in Indonesia or a worker being electrocuted atop a phone pole, flying off and somehow living.

The Mexicans were humming "I Need Thee Every Hour" while they put sugar packets in the little containers: You can check out the whole tune on YouTube if you click the link.

I need Thee, O I need Thee!
Ev’ry hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Saviour!
I come to Thee.

We also had The Lord's Prayer and "I Come To The Garden Alone"

Only in Alabama.

Self-Talk In Cornerville

I learned again, in Owensboro, that when we assume, you got it, it makes an ASS out of U or ME. My erroneous assumption had been that if there was a hill, (or bump) I had to ride it. Never occurred to me that walking it was an option. But when in Owensboro and I had NO LEGS, I walked a few bumps. From Nashville forward I would assess the upcoming hill and make informed choices whether I rode it in my middle chain ring, my granny gear, or I walked it. Sometimes it was just nice to get off the bike and walk it up the hill to use some different muscles.

I learned a lot in Owensboro that peacefully spirited my forward riding. My self-talk, not really a mantra, went like this, and I said it many, many times each day:

"I will be humbled;
With God's help I will make it;
I will ask for and accept help;
I will end the day with a smile of gratitude."

Tennessee was breathtakingly beautiful--houses gracing 50-100 acre plantations, horses grazing, trees in full, flowered, spring dress, and I took it all in. My foul weather gear went in deep storage in my panniers, and I shed another, and another, and another layer of cover-up with each stop for a bottle of hydrating fuel.

I met PAC Tour friends, Shirley and Charlie F., who ride tandem, in Cornerville; they're training for PAC Tour's trip to Provence, France this May to ride Mount Ventoux. So, they rode the 70+ miles to Cornerville to meet me and then we rode back to their house in Huntsville, AL the next day.

A mile from the Cornerville Econo Lodge I met RJ. He had pulled his pick-up truck off to the side of the road and flagged me down waving an ice cold bottle of water. Said he lived just over the ridge--Deliverance Country. Hoped I wasn't planning on riding over there, 'cause I was likely to hear banjos playing. (I didn't tell him that was exactly our route for the next day. BTW, we didn't hear any banjos, but did encounter many dogs excited for something new and different to greet and chase). He said he was a touring cyclist and always stopped cyclists with loaded panniers just to chat and share road stories. We did just that and then we both went our separate ways.

I hadn't seen Charlie, Shirley since PAC Desert Camp 2006 in AZ. So, we had lots of catching up to do at the truck stop across from the Econo Lodge supping on black eyed peas and collards.

I Swanny To Goodness--Tennessee

Kirk and I had a high-end breakfast buffet at Gaylord's Opryland before he headed by air north toward home, and I, I resumed pedaling south to GA. (Remember Willie Morris's book, North Toward Home in which Morris, Harper Magazine's controversial editor in the 60's, chronicles his memoir of our country in transition and his coming of age in a period of tumultuous cultural, social, and political change?)

My confidence had been shaken in KY. I needed to get back in the saddle, if you can call a recumbent seat a saddle and "just do it".

I'm fascinated by language of minimization. I seem to encounter two distinct ways folks tend to think about their world of experiences. There are the minimizers and maximizers. Maybe all of us do both just depending... Cyclists can be great minimizers when talking about their untoward events. We talk about road rash, leaving skin on the road, and coming off the bike when referencing our crashes. Two terms I heard a lot down here, south of the Mason-Dixon Line, were 'bumps' and 'sloping grades'. Bumps are those short, 1-2 block-long, 18-24% grade hills. Sloping grades are the 2-10% grades that go on for 1-6 miles. I found never-ending bumps and sloping grades from Vincennes to Columbus, GA. I found myself needing to walk the bumps but being quite comfortable on the sloping grades. Don't know if I had bumps bigger than boat ramps and interstate overpasses to train on in Chicago if I'd scamper up these bumps on my recumbent hauling 40# of gear or if that's a skill I'll leave to the young bucks riding uprights. Guess that means I'm an old buck-ette. And, for the record, I do have a number of cycling events on my Bucket List.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Opryland Respite

Two dates served as mid and endpoint anchors for this Tour to GA--April 14th the date Kirk had booked months and months ago for us at Gaylord's Opryland, and April 23rd the date I was to present my 2006 Southern Transcontinental Cycling Tour to the 300+ member Columbus, GA Rotary Club. I had to make Nashville by April 14th come hell or high water, I think that's how the expression goes. I won't go so far as to say the dark, foggy, windy, COLD, rainy six days days preceding my arrival in Nashville, were hell, but I had, indeed, found the high water.

Thanks to Steve's lift from Smiths Grove to Nahsville, I made it to Opryland within a couple hours of Kirk's arrival by air.

Opryland reminded me of a land-locked cruise ship. Lots of places to walk, eat, browse (though there was nothing I could even muster a want for), and the sound of waterfalls outside our patio door. Oh, and lest I forget the leaf mime.

I think I finally got warm in Nashville.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Humbled in KY

My PAC Tour friend, Steve D. from Smiths Grove, KY drove to Owensboro to ride out with me from Owensboro to Russellville, KY. (His wife, Marianne, drove him over, an example of support we cyclists need and often are blessed with from our spouses or s.o.'s. One of my all-time greatest Mother's Day gifts was when Kirk took Amtrak to Bloomington, IL from Chicago to pick up my car I had driven down there so I could ride the last two days with PAC Tour's Route 66 tour which, of course, ended in Grant Park in Chicago.)

Steve and I left at 7:15 a.m. in yet another steady rain, 39 degrees which meant the wind chill had to be in the low-mid 30's. We hit the first hill and I had NO LEGS. Nothing. I walked up that hill and a number of next hills. Cold, scared, embarrassed to have Steve come all the way over for this??? What to do?

In Sacramento, KY, 28 miles into the 85 and after only 208 of the 3,500' to be climbed that day, I said, Steve, I don't think I can do this today. Somehow I need to get myself someplace where I can rent a car and drive to Nashville. I need a day of rest, a sabbath day.

We looked like Canaries in our rain suits, huddled under an overhang, Steve calling Marianne to see if she could/would come pick us up. We rode on to Greenville, KY, about 50 miles from the start, and waited for her there.

At Steve's home in Smiths Grove, I cleaned my bike, took a hot, long shower, washed my clothes in a real washer, not the sink, we feasted on good food and fellowship,lots of fun reminiscing about the 2006 transcon, and fragile fantasizing about maybe another one in 2009?? Maybe??

Monday, April 14th, Day 7, Steve drove me around his 29 mile loop with about 4,000' of climbing through Mammouth Cave National Park and then on down to Nashville, TN where we hooked up with Kirk at Gaylord's Opryland.

With a day's rest and's predictions of warm, no precip, and full sun for the rest of my Tour, I should be able to find my legs on the 15th and ride on to Franklin, TN.

Made It To Kentucky

Day 5, Left Vincennes, IN and headed to Owensboro, KY, my 3rd state on this Tour.

Another high, 25 mph cross wind, now from the west. At least the wind burn on the left side of my face would now be matched by the new on on my right side. No rain, that's a blessing. But, the wind chill is in the low-mid 30's again. Ended this day with 3,500' of climbing, preceded by climbing 3,375 into Vincennes the day before. Climbing short, steep hills I work up quite a sweat, then freeze on the downhill or flats with my wet shirts. By Lynnville, IN I'm looking for anyplace to duck in, a barn, garage, house, anything to fill up my water bottles, pee, and hopefully change out my wet shirts for dry ones from inside my panniers.

Nothing. Petersburg, Winslow, Arthur, Spurgeon, Somerville--they do have names and are on the map, but they must be smaller than Birds, IL, the bustling metropolis of 51. So, no respite at any of these. Start to pray in earnest. When up ahead I see a church steeple. Hope. But would anybody be home? Grace abounds. It's Saturday and the good church folks are out in a legion of 6 doing much needed church clean-up and repairs. The church is sided only in tar paper. They're glad to let me take literal sanctuary in their restroom to make the necessary changes.

10 more miles and I'm in Boonville. My spirits lighten because Boonville is only 30 miles from Owensboro. While the population of Boonville is 6,000+ and is the Warwick County Seat, it has the retro look and feel of a town stuck in the 50's, and that may be giving it 10 years worth of youthful credit. I stopped at the Locust Street Cafe, at the recommendation of some construction workers. It took 25 minutes to prepare 2 poached eggs and some fried potatoes. Another diner, a woman about my age, probably, but who looked like she had lived life hard, had a wandering eye and hearing aids. She was wondering where she could buy a reticulated bike like mine. I asked her if she had a computer, and if so she could Google for the nearest Recumbent dealer to her. Well, she didn't have a computer, but BoBo did. Well, check with BoBo, maybe he can help you out.

Flooding was pretty severe in these regions. I thought I was crossing the White River, but it was the flood before the White I first saw. (See pix above)

I really wanted to take a picture of the Ohio River for my canoeing friend, Valerie. Alas, no good Ohio River pix. The bridge is 1/2 mile long, 2 lane, no shoulders, a fair amount of traffic, and high winds blowing me all over the bridge. Just relieved to have made it across without losing traction while crossing the expansion joints, or getting blown into the oncoming traffic lane in the presence of another car.

April 11th: Day 4--My Chariot Is A Tractor

Stopped in Martinsville, IL at the P.O. to mail off a letter of gratitude to Joyce and LeRoy. Saw my first spring flowers.

The smell and sound of a factory hard at work filled Martinsville's air. Asked the postal clerk "what-iz-it" borrowing the phrase from the little Black kid who wondered what my bike was on Day 1. He said the factory made counter weights for those huge industrial cranes. Sounds like an important contribution, I said. "Yep, they do quite the business, shipping them all over the world."

Martinsville, IL is on the map.

Friday was a gift of dry, and sun with a promise of warmth, such a blessing after rain and cold for the first 3 days. I was nearly giddy. Even stopped for lunch at Taco Bell in Robinson, IL to be served by Cynthia who proudly wore a 12 year service pin. I asked for 3 veggie tacos and she absolutely froze in her tracks. "You want what?" 3 veggie tacos. "We don't have veggie tacos". Can I just have 3 tacos with beans and guacamole? No cheese, no meat, no sour cream. "Oh, OK. I'll have to charge you for the guacamole, but I won't charge you for no meat." OK, whatever.

20 miles from Vincennes I'm in Birds, IL, a village of 51 people, made up of 22 households, and 13 families. Median family income is $25,000. I'm fast approaching the Wabash River and I'm beginning to wonder, and maybe worry a little, whether the roads will be flooded given the torrential rains of the last days. Some interesting conversations with 4 of the 51 people of Birds who frankly aren't much help. So, I pedal on deciding, "It will be what it will be". And then it was.

The road was flooded. I rode up to water's edge and heard the voice of warning echoing in my head, "never enter when flooded." I sit down; take off my cycling shoes, and put on my Crocs. Decide I will enter the flooded area anyhow, carefully shuffling along carrying one of my panniers. If this works, I'll make 2 more portages across the 50 yards of flooded road. Mid-way across, I bust out laughing at myself. "Susan, this is not a river. This is a cornfield. There are no currents in cornfields." Phew, glad I had this profound insight.

Got to the far side of the flooded road, put down my pannier, stood up and there before my wondering eyes did appear a John Deere Tractor with a front loader piloted by Bill. "Need some help?" What kind of help did you have in mind? "Well, I think I can put your bike in my front loader and the rest of your gear on the back of my tractor and get you safely across." I actually pinched myself to see if this was real. Seemed like I had just climbed into the pages of the old testament, or something.

So Bill and I rode across the flooded road, loaded my bike and gear, and me by his side, and off we rode to the east side of the flood zone. Bill just happened to be on his way home from helping a friend landscape his yard. This was his way home. Valerie's words rang again--"God's Timing."

April 10th--Day 3--Sanctuary South of Sidney, IL

I realized I needed to off-load some gear. With Sayd's help at the Paxton Inn, I boxed about 4# of gear, and hoped I'd find a P.O. en route to mail the stuff back home. I also realized the day was going to be fierce, weather-wise: BIG, BIG rain with winds that ultimately gusted to 54 mph. I was scared, my stomach churning, yet going forward was the only option I knew. I had to be in Nashville on the 14th to meet Kirk. We were both very much looking forward to our little Gaylord's Opryland get-a-way. It would mark about the midpoint of my ride and a much needed respite for him.

I called my friend, Valerie from Washington IS, WI. Among many, many ultra distance canoeing ventures she has done, her most epic was a two-continent canoe trip spanning 3 years from the Arctic to Antarctic. Valerie is a person of deep faith who understands passion, drive, focus, intensity, reliance upon God, faith, fear, adversity, grace, and victory--all defined in God's terms. She talked; she prayed, while I tried to swallow my grits and eggs at the Paxton Grill next to Sayd's Paxton Inn.

I really didn't know how this day was going to be lived out, but staying in the safe harbor of the Paxton Inn would not this day reveal. The winds were manageable and the rain was but a sprinkle. Wind chill was in the mid 30's.

I found my P.O. in Rantoul as well as a much needed bathroom. I thought maybe this was karma that this day would turn out OK. But 40 minutes and 8 unnecessary miles later I was still in Rantoul trying to get around or through Chanute AFB and a golf course. I was caught between cursing my bad fortune of having lost so much time when the wind and rain was still manageable and Valerie's words about "God's Timing."

20 miles later I'm in Saint Joseph, IL having passed through the likes of Thawville and Flatville. Surely the founding fathers and mothers of these fine towns could have been a little more inspired than Thaw and Flat; then again...

I take safe harbor in Subway to fill my water bottles and get up the nerve to press on as by now the rain is coming down forcibly and the winds are steady in the mid-upper 20's with gusts in the 30's. The rain is described by as "heavy"; hard to hold the bike on the road with the likes of these.

10 more miles. My Sealskinz waterproof socks are working as far as keeping my feet dry, but I have about an inch of water between my sock and shoe, sloshing with each pedal stroke. I need to stop, figure out where I am in relationship to my destination--Charleston (I think it's 40 more miles); how I'm going to get dry, keep going, and deal with the even worse weather forecasted for the rest of the day.

Maybe I can find a friendly house. Maybe the owners will take me in and let me dry my clothes; let me talk to Kirk; give me time and space to figure out what to do. The first few houses I looked at with this plan in mind looked really scary.

Then I came upon a house that reminded me of that of some good friends who are hog farmers in Sycamore. There was an electric candle on in their kitchen window, a good sign I thought. I pushed my bike up the steep, crushed gravel driveway and parked it under a tree. I prayed they didn't have a dog that would defend its property when it saw the likes of me. I prayed that the owner, if home, would open the door. This, I think, is one of those times when it's easier to be female than male. I believe doors might open more easily to a female in distress than a male. I don't know, just my thought. So I knocked; the door opened; they had a cat.

I introduced myself and he told me he was LeRoy. I invited myself in. I could not believe the puddle I was making. It was as if you had taken the laundry out of the washer before the spin cycle and just held the whole load in your hands. I remember saying to LeRoy, best case scenario, I wonder if I might dry my clothes in your dryer. He said, "Why certainly, but I don't know how to run the dryer. Please come in, but through the garage, and as soon as my wife comes home she can help you.

Clothes in my panniers were perfectly dry so I shed the wet for the dry and waited for Joyce to come home to run the dryer. We should have run the clothes through the spin cycle before putting them in the dryer, but the extra time it took to dry gave us, LeRoy, Joyce, and me, time to visit, tell some life-journey stories, talk to Kirk, and for LeRoy to come up with the winning solution--would I like him to drive me to Charleston putting my bike in the back of his pick-up truck.

God's timing, Valerie's message to me. Had I not had my challenges getting through Rantoul, I would have been 40 minutes past LeRoy and Joyce's when the wind and rain ground me to a halt.

LeRoy and I had a great visit all the way, 40 miles, to Charleston. I learned no one in IL had yet plowed their fields--way too wet. LeRoy is 72 and still works his 1,900 acres of beans and corn, all by himself. It costs about $400 just to plant and harvest a square acre, excluding the cost of farm implements; and they have about 1M of farm machinery. Those are all numbers, risks, and a life-style I really can't begin to comprehend, just as I'm sure he can't comprehend a Chicago life-style.

The storms came and went all day rolling through in waves.

God's timing. Sanctuary in Sidney. Matthew 25:35-36 applied--I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed to dry my clothes and you let me use your dryer; I needed to get to Charleston, and you carried me in your pickup truck. LeRoy and Joyce were Christ for me this day.

April 9th: Day 2--Sayd Had No Clue

The big rain of the night before had dried up, but the winds had not died down, no not at all. BIG cross winds steadily gusting in the 20's. Wind chill in the morning was in the low-mid 30's but warmed nicely to the hi 40's, maybe even lo 50's by the time I hit Paxton.

Saw some herons and hawks today, along with several deer, and several team of dogs who came out to greet me. My strategy is to befriend them. With the weight I'm carrying and the wind not at my back I certainly can't out ride them. So, I just tell them they're good dogs, they're doing a good job and I'm glad to see them. So far (and I'm now in Huntsville, AL and a veteran of many dog encounters)that has been an effective strategy bringing them either to a halt in their tracks, or warm tongues of social greeting.

Sayd runs the Paxton Inn. He had truly never seen the likes of me guesting at his Inn. He wanted to know if I had stayed at a private hotel the night before when in Manteno. I had no clue what a private hotel was. Well, a private hotel, he told me, is one operated by a private individual, like him, not one run by by a chain. Between you and me, given a choice, I'll take the chained variety any day. This was quite a humble abode, but it was warm, dry, and on the route.

Sayd wanted to know what I thought about all the time while I was riding. I told him I just tried to stay open to the Holy Spirit and to discern how best I could live my life accordingly. He just looked at me with that, "What are you talking about look." I tried again. I told him it was a celebration ride, a ride to celebrate health, recovery, and gratitude for all the gifts of people and healing that had been given me over the last years. He smiled thoughtfully and said, "I don't know what you are saying." (English was not an issue; he was as fluent as I). So, finally I said, you know, I just use my riding time as time to pray. Those were at least words he understood, but I still don't think he had a clue.

Hinduism and Christianity are not that far apart, but Sayd and I were apart by canyons.

The miles from Manteno to Paxton were corn and bean field holy, but the municipalities along the way were humble, indeed. Loda, for example,(a town of 420) had its Township Council Meeting the night I was passing through. The Meeting Agenda was posted on the front door of the Town Hall. That night there would be an Invocation, Pledge of Allegiance, New Business (none) and Old Business (none). But, I'm sure they would be glad to see one another.

April 8th: Leaving Home--Day 1

Kirk promised to ride out with me, a truly loving behavior from one who rides maybe 100 miles a season, who had an early morning meeting, and who doesn't have the togs to make winter cycling palatable.

6:30 a.m. greeted us with a temp of 43 and winds out of the east. Kirk rode all the way to Dempster and McCormick Boulevard (3 miles); we did the kiss&ride thing and he U-turned to home and I pressed on for GA, wondering what these next days would bestow upon me.

Dave E. met me at Montrose and the Lake Front Path. Wind off the lake was shivery so at about 12 miles into the ride I was needing to make my first of many clothing adjustments. Dave U-turned at 67th and I gratefully headed west with hope of losing some of the wind's bite by leaving Lake Michigan's edge.

I was now in uncharted territory for me--67th, 103rd, 123rd,145th, 167th and Halsted, Vincennes, Western. My Garmin GPS kicked in big time and for the first of what would be a myriad times, I was oh, so grateful to have both my cue sheet and my Garmin. The neighborhood was pure blight, Chicago's finest were cruising the streets, and 7 year olds were standing alone on an island in the middle of 95th and Vincennes. One little guy saw me riding up to the light and stop. His curiosity got the best of him and he hollered out: "What-iz-it?" meaning my recumbent. I hollered back as the light turned, "It's a bike." I thought about the 22 African-American children/teens shot and killed just this school year on Chicago's south side. Wondered if random bullets might sail my way, and if not, why not, and why those 22?? I thought about all the north suburban 7 year olds whose parents wait at the bus stops with them in the morning and who are there to greet them in the afternoon. Different cultures, north and south.

I discovered beauty in Beverly! My ethnocentrism is showing. I was totally unprepared for anything on the south side to rival the opulence of the North Shore--the estates of Evanston, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff. But indeed the homes were elegant along Longwood, their rolling expanses of land would not be rivaled again till TN.

I didn't leave the urbania until 60 miles from home, just south of University Park. Glad to see the corn fields; wasn't glad to find an unpaved road, but my new steed was stable and rumbled the rocks just fine.

I arrived in Manteno about an hour before the sideways rain came with 32 mph winds and gusts up to 38. Grace, that's all I can call it, Grace.

Rhonda and Marian joined me for dinner at Applebys in Bourbonais. Haven't been there since I was consulting at Parkside Lodge of Manteno back in the early 90's. Small world.

Successful first day.