I’ve been riding on US-50 for pretty much my entire time in Illinois and it looks like I’m taking it all the way to St. Louis. I’ve found that riding the same road for a few days has some pros and cons to switching roads and trails several times throughout the day. For one, it is kind of boring at times. With no need to look at a map or directions the mind needs something else to focus on, it is almost like a forced focused meditation. I find myself intentionally looking around at different things and changing my focus to really observe what is around me. I’m taking this opportunity to take more pictures and look for some diversity in shots. One friend has asked me to take some train pics of the opportunity presents itself so I’ve been trying to do that, if there is anything in particular you would like me to photograph please let me know. I’ve already noticed patterns in “likes” among some friends.
My route today is relatively short, about 50 miles, so I’m taking my time. The road is flat and I’ve tried taking breaks at cool spots to think and put my thoughts into written form. For lunch I stopped in a small town called Salem, Illinois with a population of about 8000. I’ve found that anything over about 6000 is good news for me, it means a bank, gas station with air pumps, and several food options are likely. Anything below that is usually just something to blow through or just refill water.
While at lunch a man asked me about my ride. The bike is a conversation starter and I’ve found older men are quick to ask me about it and people eavesdropping will often chime in. The man and I started talking about a variety of things including his grandson’s deployment to Iraq and the general state of the world. It turns out he has been in Salem for close to 70 years and has worked in the oil business as a laborer for most of that. Unfortunately he may not have a job much longer because a new law requires a degree and certification for his position (which has something to do with monitoring pressure and repairing valves). He doesn’t even have a high school diploma so the chances of him getting the degree and stuff is slim. He’s frustrated but optimistic about his future anyway. He is definitely a resilient man.
As I get ready to turn in for the night I’m optimistic about the path ahead. I enter Missouri tomorrow, where Dustin and Megan are from. I know there are hills, mountains, bad days, and troubles ahead but I’m smiling and looking forward to what the future brings.