Day 30, 4/26: Cape Girardeau, MO to Harrisburg, IL (81.4 miles)
Day 30 started off with crew continuing the awesome breakfast trend with french toast and more bacon. We left early at 7am to beat possible projected thunderstorms, and crossed over the Mississippi River into Illinois shortly after leaving. Everyone was riding in a big group again and we did have a minor domino effect collision around mile 10 as we were slowing for a turn, but luckily no one was hurt too badly. The first 30 miles were gorgeous, with fields of yellow flowers everywhere and we zipped along quickly to the first rest stop.
After the first rest stop, we got onto the Tunnel Hill State Trail of crushed limestone for 50 miles, basically the rest of the day. Many of us had never ridden on crushed limestone before and it turned out to be much better than gravel, but still a bit slower than pavement. The trail was beautiful, with trees forming a canopy on either side and it was just us and nature. Around halfway through the trail after a long slow incline, we reached a long tunnel which was cool but also a bit scary to go through. After lunch, the day started getting pretty darn hot but at least the last 25 miles went by rather quickly. We did see at least 2 snakes on the trail – initially we thought it was just another stick but then it moved/lunged!
We arrived at First Baptist Church around 3-4pm, and not half an hour later, it started thunderstorming and even hailing – we had arrived just in the nick of time! Pastor Chris and his parishioners provided a lovely dinner of salad with strawberries and amazing vinaigrette, meat and veggie pasta bakes, bread, and brownies + ice cream, and we really enjoyed chatting with everyone. That night, Pastor Chris had arranged for us to split up into groups and stay at individual parishioners’ houses overnight, with real beds and everything, which was incredibly generous. Thanks so much to everyone who took us in! 🙂
Day 31, 4/27: Harrisburg, IL to Evansville, IN (73.4 miles)
The next morning, we had breakfast at our individual hosts’ houses and then met up again at the church. That day was projected to have more of the thunderstorms that we had just narrowly avoided yesterday, so we rolled out at 7:30am. It started raining not 5 minutes after we left and we made it about 10 miles before we saw lightning/thunder. For safety reasons, we never bike if there’s lightning or thunder, so we all caught up with the van and piled in to wait out the storm. We waited for probably about an hour until it looked like the storm had passed on radar, and set back out on our bikes, but then 5 minutes later, we saw lightning again. Turns out there was a little blip on the radar that hadn’t passed yet and this time we waited out the storm at a propane station. Most people didn’t feel comfortable riding with the possibility of a thunderstorm, so all but 4 riders racked their bikes and rode in the van. The 4 riders continued on and this time the storm had truly passed and the weather actually cleared up and turned pretty nice.
A few riders unracked after lunch since the weather looked clear, and joined those already riding for the last 20 miles. The last 20 miles definitely had some terrible headwinds/crosswinds but there were some fun descents as well. At 3pm we had an educational event at the University of Evansville, where we talked to physical therapy students about R4WH, global health, vector-borne disease, and bike fit ergonomics. We even got interviewed by a local news station while at the university – check out the story here!
That night we stayed at the Evansville YMCA, in their one of their nice multi-purpose rooms. We also continued to be astounded by the generosity of strangers – a woman that crew met at one of our gas station rest stops offered to buy us bike equipment and groceries after she heard about what we were doing. A few of us also stopped by McDonalds for a snack after our educational event and met a man who was really interested in our cause and offered to buy us pizzas for dinner and have them delivered to the YMCA. So we had a ridiculous amount of pizzas for dinner as well as groceries for the next few days, all thanks to the kindness of strangers 🙂