Hello from Carbondale, IL. Since leaving Pueblo, Colorado we have biked more than 100 miles a day, traveled down memory lane with John’s family, and battled the heatwave that has consumed the U.S. from Midwest to East Coast.
After having a successful meeting with the professors from Colorado State University – Pueblo, we departed east. Despite starting in the late afternoon we still managed to bike 60 miles to Sugar City, CO. There, we visited Lynette’s Sugar City Cafe, who’s owner has a quite impressive collection of cookie jars. Unsure where we could sleep, we asked the owner for an advise. She told us that we can ask the Mayor, who was dining there at the same time as us. We received a permission from the Mayor of Sugar City to sleep at the town’s park.
The following day, woken up by the park’s sprinklers, we set out to cross the the Kansas border. Due to strong headwinds, we were unable to accomplish our daily goal. After biking 85 miles, we stopped 11 miles short of Kansas border in Sheridan Lake. The locals we met at the gas station told us that we can stay at their Sheridan Lake Bible Church, where there is air conditioning, a full kitchen, and a fully stocked lazy-susan pantry. This was like a gift send from heaven. We were happy to take up on their services.
The next day we crossed into Kansas and encountered many cyclists who were on a similar journey. The next two days we biked from sunrise to sunset, covering more than 100 miles each day. We slept at the local high school football fields in Bazine and Chase, KS. On July 14th, we made it to Wichita. There we stayed with Stan from Warm Showers. In Wichita, we had plans to meet with professors from Wichita State University, unfortunately, we were unable to meet up. This gave us time to sit at a local cafe and send out more emails to universities.
Our next stop was Fredonia, KS. On the way there, a local farmer stopped and gave us cold water and fresh peaches. 20 miles out from the city, we decided to take a shorter route and ended up on back country gravel roads. In the last 6 miles of our journey, we stumbled upon a big challenge. Locals told us that Kansas has been experiencing a lot of rain in the past couple of days so the surrounding rivers were higher than usual at this time of the year. Our road was blocked by a fast moving river that we were unable to cross. Alternative routes were also blocked by the river. With high speed water the bridges fell in. It kept pushing us farther off the route until we were able to find a high bridge that allowed us to cross. We got into Fredonia quite late and went straight to bed.
On July 15th, we crossed the Missouri border entering John’s home state. Biking through Missouri is like biking through John’s childhood. We swung by Joplin, MO to say hi to his parents and then moved on to Springfield, MO. John has a big family. In Springfield, we stayed with his cousin and met his extended family. John’s sister makes the best pie. The thing is, John loves pies. Throughout our journey, he would never pass an opportunity to stop at a pie joint. So far, we have tasted more than 20 pie slices. John’s sister’s pies has is the best pie so far.
While relaxing with John’s family we reached out to Missouri State University and had a meeting with Dr. Kathleen A. Kennedy, head of the history department. The meeting was successful. Dr. Kennedy was excited about our mission and after the meeting, she expressed an eagerness to continue the conversation down the road. The following days in Kansas were brutal. Our hundred mile quotas during the heat wave were more than our bodies could handle. We went through 10 liters of water each day. Our jerseys were drenched with sweat. We were afraid to go in to any establishments, worried that we would stink up the place.
On July 20th, we crossed into Illinois. Now, in Carbondale, we plan to meet with professors from the Southern Illinois University, then head for Kentucky, while looking forward to end of the heat wave.