Woohoo! I got to my hotel in Gilman today (right next to the train tracks :) at about 1:30 pm! Total hours: 5, total mileage: 34 miles.
I was ready for a relaxed afternoon, though – I’ve ridden 141 miles in the last 3 days. At 4:00 on Sunday I honestly didn’t think I’d make it this far. Now I’m tired but pretty healthy and happy, although I have a sunburned nose (as usual for me during the summer), nasty saddle sore, and a hurting crotch. I’ll bear you the dirty details.
Today was a beautiful ride. Quiet, leisurely, through the cornfields and along the river.
(Oh, and his name isn’t really Malcolm…that’s just what I’d been calling him to myself because of his profile name…and I let it slip while the camera rolled.)
Although there’s not much that’s romantic, really, about this landscape. All of the cornfields are enormous, and at the end of the rows there are signs with some GMO company logo and a mysterious series of numbers. No sign of any people, just fields and fields of corn, some soybeans for good measure, and the shoulders of the road lined with pretty purple wildflowers and swarms of butterflies.
Gilman, by the way, is a shocking sort of place. Granted, the town I rode through on the way to the hotel felt like a town with a community (nice front yards, cobblestone streets, and a nice little main street block with a handful of shops), where I am now is definitely where the traffic is – human and automotive. I can see the overpass over I-57 out my window, past a Shell, BP and Marathon gas station, a McDonald’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Monical’s Pizza (where I ate dinner), and a couple of gas station “travel plaza” restaurants. I suppose it’s what people need when they’re driving down the interstate, but it’s such a shame that this is normal traveling fare. After a day riding through farm fields, communing with deer and a couple of dogs and lots of birds and butterflies – and I’ve only been on the road 3 days, two days in really rural areas – it’s somewhat jarring to have to walk to dinner on the street with tractor trailer trucks because there’s no shoulder or sidewalk, and to feel so incredibly tiny next to the huge scale of the vehicles that pass me and the big fluorescent signs and oversized gas station plazas that I pass.
My yogurt cart seems miniscule, totally forgettable, in this car-centric environment. When I’m on a street that’s two lanes instead of five, things are on a human scale, people without cars around them pass by me and are at an approachable distance – literally and figuratively – to interact. This Gilman interstate exit, however, just makes this project seem like a needle in a haystack, buried deep, deep deep down, invisible and unreachable.
But then I think of the kindness of all of the people I’ve met, and really it’s the human scale of social relationships that I’m targeting anyways, and my heart is warmed. My fantastic hosts from last night are, as I write this, on their way to my hotel to return the clothes I forgot in their dryer this morning when I hit the road. I’m so inspired to return all of the generosity that I’ve encountered on this trip, I can’t wait to get back to Chicago and welcome people myself, and I also can’t wait for the years ahead when I am truly in a position to return their generosity for other new friends.