Let me start this post by saying that the Adventure Cycling Association does a fantastic job. I will be leaving the Trans America route within the next couple of weeks and will miss it dearly. They take you down the roads which William Least Heat-Moon would call the “Blue Highways” of America. They are the roads you take if you want to see the real America. Mostly less-traveled pavement. Through small towns. With incredible scenery unraveling in front of your eyes.
With that said, if you really need to get to a destination quickly, you better get yourself off-route. And that is where I found myself on Saturday as a rolled out of Cave-in-Rock. I had read the notes in some of the sign-in books at a few hostels. We stopped here after our first 100 mile day! After the only 100 mile day of the trip, we found ourselves here! We are so cool! Alright, maybe not the cool part, but I wanted me some of that. I wanted a century and I was looking at the perfect opportunity to do it. I had over 100 miles to Murphysboro, motivated by a day off at a cabin with some nice people that I had met in Kentucky. They were in Danville, working a BBQ fest and even put me up in one of their friend’s hotels that night. I was on my way to Murphysboro within the next week and they had rented a cabin there while the were competing in a BBQ competition.
After 25 miles in the Shawnee National Forest, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. The route was taking me up and down some steeps. I was already gassed and it would take me well into the night to get to my destination. I had to go off route. I asked a local and checked the information on the maps on my phone. It was settled. I would head up to Harisburg and then straight West on State Highway 13. I’m not afraid of highways. Sure, people look at you as if to say, What the hell are you doing here? But I don’t care. The shoulders are wide, pavement smoother, and there are more gas stations at which to buy chocolate milk and Gatorades.
I didn’t get to 100 miles that day. I pulled up to my destination at 98.8, but I had made it to a down day. Yes, I could have taken a spin around the block, but that’s just not how I roll. You have to earn it.
I met Shelley, of Desperado’s BBQ in New York, and Craig, of Firehouse BBQ in Florida, at 17th Street Bar and Grill, in downtown Murphysboro. While there, I was lucky enough to meet Mike Mills, owner of 17th Street and BBQ legend (not pictured, sorry Mike, but thanks for dinner!). Look up his book, Peace, Love, and Barbecue.
Shelley and Craig brought me out to De Soto, to the cabin for a great day off. We drank 17th Street Amber, watched football and fished out of the pond in the backyard.
Sunday morning I woke up at sunrise and walked out to the back deck. It sunk in for the first time. I had traveled here on a bicycle. I might just make it.