Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 23 Planes, Trains, and Bike across the Grainy Plain Pittsfield – Plana, IL 113 miles

I got a gift today: no wind and the flattest day of the trip. I realized that the bluff country around the Mississippi at the end of the day yesterday gave it that New England feel, but today it got really hill-less. It probably gave me 20 more miles that my legs otherwise did not have. Even though it was hot (low 90’s), this kind of flatness allowed me to get in a cadence I could sustain for a long time; Now that my resting pulse is 40, a flat road allowed me to just turn pedals over with little difficulty except the eventual fatigue of the legs.

This weekend I have planned to stop for two days in Kentucky. I have never been there. It will give me to rest before the push over the Apps. I passed a stunning amount of corm and soy, but no wildlife. Corn is so abundant here that the 10 foot high stalks serve as a windbreak if they are planted close enough to the road, and they are. Trains are quite the presence out here, hauling grain and coal in many directions. The noise this engineer made almost suggested the locomotive had never been photographed before.

The closer I get to the east coast, the more I am struck by the vastness and diversity of our country. In six hours time a plane took me all the way across the continent, and now over a month to get back. Sometimes I’ll peer into the sky and wonder where all the vapor-streaming jets are headed. A few hundred miles east of Denver, I thought a pack of them were headed there; for a moment I wanted to turn around and follow them since Colorado mountains are familiar and attractive territory to me.

Of course, the diversity of people in the U.S. is as stunning as the diversity of landscapes. I wondered what this food store sign would say of it was in Newport Oregon; maybe dungennes crab and geoduck clam. In Sneads Ferry perhaps it would say shrimp and oysters. Anyway, I was perfectly content to pass on the store specials and kept riding through the miles of corn. My legs might be starting to resemble frogs legs right now.

Out of nowhere, for the last 20 miles of my trip, I caught a bike path that paralleled the road. After getting passed by thousands of trucks, it is a treat the find a bike path and turn my mind off to the traffic. The first autumn mulberry and alder leaves are falling and the crickets serenaded me as I pedaled on.

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