Monday, May 30th, Memorial Day awoke with a welcome visage: warm, sunny, blue skies; not even a thought of rain in the air or in the forecast.
The new roads bypassed the truck-laden roads out of Joliet and 12 miles later I was on the frontage road of I-55 aka Old Route 66. Nothing could be sweeter after yesterday's hard-earned fog-sodden completion.
Oooops, the pavement ended. YIKES, was I so mesmerized I missed a turn? Turned around to find my maybe missed turn and, VOILA, my close encounter of a police kind #3. The Sheriff re-directed me through the unpaved road, onto Duck Pond Road, and finally Dresden, my red carpet into Coal City. Duck Pond Road was Avatar Forest magical with frogs singing, cottonwood puffs filling the air like huge snow flakes and cool tranquility.
Fluid unload and reload at the Coal City ACE and on my way again, except not really. Heading South out of Coal City was the beginning of 25-30+ mph winds and temps that reached 95 for the rest of the day into Bloomington. No worries. I had plenty of daylight for the remaining 90 miles, plenty of bottle fuel, bars, and all would be fine. Plus, I would pass through Gardner, Dwight, Odell, Pontiac, Chenoa, Lexington, and Towanda. I could cool off in the service stations, no biggie.
By the time I reached Odell I had a disquieting sense that all was not fine. This was only the 4th day in 2011 I had ridden in Illinois with short pants, short sleeves, and short fingred gloves. I was not heat-acclimatized.
I had a serious bout of hyponatremia several years ago in the Cochise Classic--the result of coming out of the temperate October climate in IL and into the heat of AZ for the one-day ride. I've been told having had one bout of hypoNA predisposes you to future bouts.
By Pontiac I'm huddling in the shade of The Pontiac Family Kitchen's awning and putting ice under my helmet and down my shirt, the first of several more such attempts at cooling. The wind is picking up with each hour of the day and is solidly and relentlessly in my face. Pontiac's bright spot was a conversation with the Pritchards, long-time curators of the Pontiac Route 66 Museum, who were leaving the Family Kitchen.
By Lexington I'm seriously questioning whether I can make it to Bloomington, yet my options are none but to keep moving forward. Sat for a long while with as much skin as I could put on the cool tile floor of the Freedom Oil Convenient Store with ice under my cap and inside my shirt downing Hammer Endurolytes like Pez Candy, and having no idea whether I was ahead or behind with electrolyte replacements. I'd only peed once in 8 hours, not a good sign. Drinking nauseated me and even Lays Classic potato chips, the only convenient store food I can eat, wouldn't't go down. My caloric intake for the day was downright puny--a Larabar and a couple of bottles of fluid.
I'm in trouble. Big trouble.
My elapsed speed has been reduced to something like 8.5 mph with all the stops I've needed to make to slow my heart rate down, cool off, etc. Stopping once again under an overpass between Lexington and Towanda I have my #4 close encounter of a police kind. Steve Kennedy, State Police pulls up along side me, gives the thumps up sign in questioning and I return with the thumbs down. We chat, would I want to put my bike in his back seat? That was downright humorous. I smiled the first time since the Avatar Forest. Can you even imagine getting a Bacchetta Ti Aero into the back seat of a sedan??? I thanked him for his kind offer and pressed on down the road toward Towanda. He says he'll send another officer out a little later to check on me. It was a relief to know that someone knew I was out here.
Once again my cool down ritual at The Fast Stop in Towanda with 11 miles to go. Each of these 10 mile stretches seem like 25 or 30 on regular days. Four miles out of Towanda close encounter of a police kind #5 this time it's State Police Officer Eric. He says a lot of people are worried about me and we're going to load my B into his trunk and he'll SAG me into the motel. With tires, weapons, first aid kits, and more in his trunk, I think it is a full miracle we were able to lay the B on top of it all and bungee the trunk lid with my cable lock. It was only 7 miles, but it felt like 30.
After checking into my room I reached for my phone to call Kirk and my phone was GONE!! I know I hadn't been thinking clearly for several towns, but my last memory with my phone, which I could have sworn was in Towanda, was moving it from my hip pouch to the pouch on the back of my bike seat so the dripping water from the ice in my shirt and under my cap wouldn't drown my phone. Phone lossage was indeed a show stopper. I had to call Kirk via the hotel room phone. Amazing I even knew his number since he's speed dial "K".
Decision made. I would need to layover in Bloomington an extra day to recoup and regroup including buying a new phone. Did call the service station in Towanda to see if my phone had been found. No such luck, although the thought of riding 24 miles round trip to pick it up, had it been there, sounded like an over-the-top challenge at the time.
Sometimes when I fall short of a goal I beat myself up with a cacophony of self-talk. This was not one of those times. I had planned well, trained well, and was fully ready. There is no way I could have heat-acclimatized for mid-90's and high winds in one day. After all, I had been wearing winter or storm gear up to this very day for 6 months!
I was grateful for the SAG; grateful for having had the hyponatremia experience several years ago so I could, at least, knowledgeably try to manage my physiology; grateful for Hammer products to give me the confidence that I had supplements at hand designed to support athletes under such conditions; grateful for 5 different Officer Friendlies along my way; grateful for the Pritchards who brightened Pontiac for me;grateful for Paul, the La Quinta Proprietor, who was genuinely relieved to see me arrive safely; and grateful for Kirk at the other end of the hotel phone line who, as always, was full of support and constructive problem solving.
Day 2 in the books.