23 May 2000
I am a Traveler. Boil me down to my essential ingredients. Cut away all of the nonessential fluff in my life and this is what I am - a nomad without a camel - a gypsy born not of gypsies.
My life, whether good or bad, has left me with few opportunities to live in that world, however. So when the opportunities present themselves; when my time becomes my own, I head for the open road to experience dreams of "What is behind the next bend?" brought to reality.
One such time occurred in May of 2000. I had a week free from all external responsibilities. No work to do. Nothing on the calendar. Only the internal responsibility of answering the 'call of the wild' that was all too often drowned out by the noise of everything that demanded attention in my life.
I could see the week approaching and began to prepare for adventure. The form of trip was easy to decide upon.... Bike.... My beloved Rans recumbent was down in Springfield Illinois sitting in my parents basement just waiting for me to wheel it outside into the fresh air where it could shake off the cobwebs of its sleepy existence of the past year and feel the grey smoothness sliding beneath it as we rode to parts unknown. I wanted to get it back here to Sheboygan Wisconsin where I lived now and this was the perfect chance. The question was, how long the trip be and what would I need to take? Technically my calendar was open for a total of 11 days. A day to let Greyhound do the driving for me. Three days to see my family and friends. Seven days to ride. It looked doable. With some research, I found places that I wanted to see along the way. I ordered a Beast of Burden Coz trailer via the internet and had it shipped to my parents house. I got my bus ticket and headed south.
The weekend was spent in an altogether too short of time with my family and friends. The bike trailer had arrived a few days earlier and so I spent some time getting it together and testing it out on some rides with my dad. It really seemed to work well, and I was pleased. But that was under recreational conditions and unloaded - the real test was yet to come.
It took me a couple of hours to get everything packed and arranged so that everything was balanced right. I had a loaded handlebar bag, a bag behind my seat, and the trailer (which I dubbed "Bob" after its manufacturer. I included a small medical kit under my seat and several softshell water bottles strapped to the trailer yoke. Perhaps foolishly, I carried with me a box of microphones that I had been storing at my parents. Totalling nearly $2000 in value, they used up most of the space within Bob. I wanted to have them in Sheboygan and didnt feel like shipping them... Then I strapped a backpack on top. The trailer was rated at 50#s and I think with all of my gear, I was right above that (maybe 60#).
So, finally, I was ready... Tuesday the 23rd. Sunny, warm. A beautiful day. Everything was packed and ready to go. Around midday, I headed north out of Springfield and got onto Route 29. As soon as I could, I started taking the single lane country roads. Very beautiful scenery. Proof that Illinois is most attractive the farther you get from the Interstate. This was one of my favorite stretches of the trip. The newness of the ride. The smell of adventure in the air. Anticipation of things to come with every turn of the cranks... Passed an ostrich farm. Amazing creatures to watch. They combine an interesting blend of gawky awkwardness and beautiful gracefulness. Later, I encountered a private preserve of some kind that had deer...
After a few hours of pleasant riding, I crossed the Sangamon River and entered Mason County. There was a little bit more of an uphill slope to this since I was leaving the river bottoms. Slower going. At one point, midway up a long hill, I came upon an intersection and stopped to rest and check my bearings. The road had trees growing up to the edge which cut off the breeze and fostered a sticky atmosphere loved by insects the world over. I couldnt find my location on the map and was about to move to a more private/cooler area when a pickup truck came up to the crossroad. The guy stopped and asked if I needed help. (He explained that his brother did bike trips so he recognised my look.) He was able to show me where I was which turned out to be further north than I had first thought. I was pleased. As he pulled away he asked where I was headed. "Manito", I said. He wished me luck but obviously didnt think that I would make it before dark.
Because of the slope, I wasnt able to ride to the top of the hill from a stopped position which forced me to walk the bike up partway--but then I was back on course.
I arrived in Forest City between 6 and 7pm. Rode through town with the intention of going to Sand Ridge State Forest to spend the night. On the northwest side of town, there was a city campground that appeared vacant and fairly secluded (although there were a # of somewhat rundown houses across the street). I rode in and there was no indication of a closing time or a usage fee so I decided to stay the night. Took the bike up to a wooded area situated behind the camp lodge-type building. The woods were Pines so there was little undergrowth and perfect trees for a hammock. Just up the hill from my postition was a cleared swath of land for a power line chain. Thought about camping in that area but saw that the ground had numerous cacti so decided against taking the bike there.
Found 3 trees situated in a good relationship to each other. Strung the hammock between 2 and locked the bike to the 3rd which was in the middle and just to the side of the first 2. Then I hung a cord between the first 2 trees a couple of feet above my hammock. I threw the tarp over the cord and staked off 2 of the corners and laid the other side over the bike which essentially gave protection to both me and the bike. Of course B.O.B. had to remain outside but he didnt mind and he had the first watch anyway. Called the parents on my cell phone and was pleased to find that I had adequate reception. Then I went into my hammock and slept my first night.
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