Berkeley, CA - Gibson City, IL
Total Trip Mileage : 3,100 Miles
Total Elevation Climb : 96,000 feet
Total Days on Road : 42
Greetings from the Gibson City, IL, the place where I grew up and spent the better part of my life so far. I arrived this morning under great weather and clear skies with my good high school friend and soccer teammate Ben Kaeding who made the journey from Fisher to Sangamon Ave. But before getting into the celebratory and fluffy details of arrival, I will entertain you with tales of riding through East Central Illinois by bicycle, traveling at 15 miles per hour. Well, that statement is about as exciting as it sounds and there aren't that many stories.
However, the last two days have been exciting for me at least. Starting from my home in Berkeley, I had imagined in my mind at least once a day how great it would to be back in the
Midwest, riding on lonely country roads, surrounded by corn. Well, that dream has slowly become a realilty over the past few days. From Heyworth to Fisher via Route 136 was a whopping 33 miles. But since I couldn't take 136, that number gets rounded up to a nice even 44 miles, which I stetched out as long as I could. I got o
ut from Heyworth a bit late and had the timing just right so I could visit LeRoy for lunch. (you know it's a slow day if you're planning out your day around going to LeRoy for lunch). But I got there a
round 12:15 and hit up the McDonalds. I hadn't been to a McDonalds in at least a few years and I had been craving some chicken nuggets and fries ( a childhood favorite.... along with dairy queen of course). Did you know, that chicken nuggets now come with 10 nuggets and not 9 like they used to? This was the first shockwave that it is true, about portions becoming bigger at fast food outlets. I guess time has been passing me by a little too fast. Or maybe they had heard that this poor starving jobless kid on a bike was passing through town... I imagine the former is probably true.
Well after turning a few heads and downing my 9 nuggets and 1 extra in Leroy, it was off on another overland adventure to Fisher. I took mainly back roads which in my opinion have way more character and provide me a little sanity because of the few cars that go by.
I was pleasantly surprised by a red truck that drove passed me and gave me a friendly wave... a feat that in my book is already above and beyond that of any good cycling samaritan. But THEN, he came back (with his dog), with a cold gatorade and powerbars (first, i didn't know that farmers ate powerbars). How awesome was that? I was very appericiative and told the gentleman thank you. He told me he was also a cyclist and it looked like I was pretty thirsity.. (I know he was just being nice, but I did wonder if I looked THAT bad that someone needed to offer me some water, maybe it is time for this trip to be over)
After that run-in, I started seeing familar things, the windmills to the west of gibson, those enormous white tanks near Fisher, News-Gazette mailboxes, ahhh home. So eventually, I made it to Fisher and made camp there at the fairgrounds. I think of the many places that I camped, Fisher was actually the most hospitable. Maybe I gave the aire of being a local despite my skin-tight clothing. So after trying to fit in with the local middle schoolers on their bikes, I made the rounds in town, visiting all of the local attractions such as the water tower, the caseys, and the ingolds grocery store (twice). I would have visited the stop light, but such wonders of rural life are limited to big towns (like Gibson City).
It was a great evening though. I was about to scrub off in a typical city-park-under-the-faucet bath, but then the local youth soccer kids started a practice which kind of killed that plan. But it was around that time when Ben showed up to say hello, then my parents (after a 10 hour drive from Atlanta). So it was a great reunion right there in Fisher, IL, at the site where Ben and I and my parents were years ago playing soccer against the Fisher Bunnies. As an aside, the Bunnies seems like an unfortunate name for a team mascot. The only mascot in this area that may be less-ferocious than a bunny would be the Hoopston Cornjerkers . In a ring match between those two, I'm not even sure who would win. The bunny might start eating the cornjerker and then we'd be in real trouble. However, if you're ever in Fisher, go to the fairgrounds and you will see a depiction of the most aggressive looking bunny you'd ever seen on the bottom of their watertower.
Later in the evening, I was paid a visit by another good high school friend Justin Bond. By that time of the evening, it was probably well past the social prime of Fisher, so we decided our next best option, the Rantoul Wal-Mart (i am being sarcastic btw). After a nice pleasant trip to Wally's World, it was time to retire. I went back to my little estate on the Fisher Fairgrounds and called it a night.
So onto the grand finale of this whole story. I woke up this morning around 7am in Fisher, IL. A feat that I never thought I would do in my life (waking up in a tent in Fisher, not riding across the country)I made my typical oatmeal and started packing my things. My dad actually came by a little bit later and helped me get my things going. As an added bonus, Ben Kaeding would be riding back to Gibson that morning with me. Ben rolled in around 8:30am and we got our day started that way. Ben was prepared for a big day, I offered him a pair of bike shorts to substitute for the pair that he had handcrafted himself (I won't go into details, but it was pretty hilarious). But we laughed at the fact that back in middle school, when traveling such a distance between Gibson and Sibley was a necessity, this would be no big thing. But we are a few years older these days...
The ride this morning was great and we probably couldn't have gotten any better weather. The ride was a short one and we cruised into Ford County after about 45 minutes and took a well deserved break. The big spectacle in the morning would be that a Police/Firetruck escort would be waiting for us outside of town. (wow. awesome.) So it was quite a bit more than I was expecting in terms of a welcome, but it was an awesome and pretty unforgettable.
While I was riding though, I was thinking to myself, those people driving on 47 are not going to be happy about this, but at the same time, it felt pretty good to be cruising down the middle of the highway without a worry to traffic.
Once arriving to town, things moved pretty quickly. I had the opportunity to say hello to a handful of people who had come out to greet us but it wasn't long before I was in the WGCY Studio having the opportunity to chat with Frank, Gary (who I had been talking with via cell phone for weeks) and my high school teacher Mr Tompkins. All in all, it was a pretty awesome day and alot of fun to see everyone again and have a chance to answer questions and chat about the ride. But again, as I've continued to say, I really am indebted to those who have been incredible supporters of the ride and the fundraising effort to make this all possible.
So where do things go from here? This definately won't be the last post because I am known for always forgetting to say things... so there will at least be one or two more. However, they future posts will likely be quite a bit more boring. Additionally, I would love to keep any readers updated on my adventures here in the near future, but for some reason I feel that "suparunsacommunitymeeting" or "supahelpscatherineplanwedding" won't really draw much of a following. Actually, now that I think about it. I do plan on making a quick post on cycling as well as what i'll be doing back in SF... but that may come in a few days
Also, the fundraising effort isn't quite over yet. We've raised nearly $5000 in total and we'll be having a reception on Monday at Railside Golf Club in Gibson City at 4:30pm in hopes of raising a few extra dollars (however, feel free to come by and say hello regardless!) - big thank you to Justin Bond for helping organize that. In addition! After speaking with Tommy of TNT Signs and Designs of Paxton, he said he would be donating all of the proceeds from t-shirt sales 100% to the fundraising effort! Thanks Torri and Tommy!
That's all for now. I'm a little sad that it's over, but also glad to be home. Thank you everyone for such a warm welcome. Have a great Labor Day weekend!