I woke up several times off of County Road 1900 laying down in the woods to leaves rustling and twigs breaking. I heard the tiniest of footsteps go by my head. It must have been a opossum, skunk or raccoon. At first it startled me and between that and the humidity made it impossible to get any sleep, but as it cooled down I fell off into a deep sleep.
I awoke at 6 AM with a long 90 mile day ahead of me.
I propped up my bike and pedaled down all the random backroads my GPS took me. Being still in the countryside made me fear long gravel roads and sure enough I hit one or two of them along the way, but off CH 13 I met Ronnie and Carol Shelton who put their tractor work on pause to ask where I was headed. They told me a story of a divorced man who lost his kids and decided to travel everywhere by bicycle with his three dogs. He’s been doing it since 1999 and made the Fairfield, Illinois paper. Ronnie worked 47 years farming, cultivating corn, pumpkins, you name it. He retired a few weeks back and since trying to figure out what to do with all his free time. I felt like an entertainer telling them my story. I even posed for a picture so they could show relatives and neighbors they met someone cycling coast to coast, which made me smirk because they never heard of Delaware. They spent their whole life within 300 miles of Wayne City, Illinois. We chatted for a few hours. Ronnie gave me a map, directions to Carbondale and eventually invited me in his home where his wife prepared two delicious cheddar cheese, bologna, and mayonnaise sammiches with a sun drop soda. I refilled my hydration pack with their well water and said my goodbyes.
I followed US 51 to US 14 connecting to US 37 with the occasional back-road. Once again I destroyed two front tubes today. I am beginning to think my rim is bent and needs to be replaced. Every tube popped at the front side of the valve. I will swing by the local bike shop today to see what they think.
About 15 miles away I met a cyclist outside of Carbondale who gave me alternative directions. He lived on the streets for a year and told me if my place didn’t work out a homeless shelter called The Lifeboat would take me. I thanked him for his help and continued down the road heading through parts of the country.
Then three dogs chased me down and would not back off. The one, within inches of biting my leg. I wound up and mule kicked him in the face. The owner yelled and commanded the dogs back in the yard. I busted his face up pretty bad, but continued on unscathed.
I arrived on Walnut street where I met Phillip Brewer through CouchSurfing. We exchanged stories and his interest in hosting me came from my open request for a place to sleep near Murphysboro. He knew about my touring coast to coast, but unaware I sold all my possessions, which made everything more unknown and exciting. Apparently, he spent a few weeks hitch hiking to Georgia, his hometown, from Illinois. Along with parts of Montana. It interested me. I always wanted to try it. To see random parts of the country with a complete stranger. Not knowing where you’ll end up is the fascinating part. He completely understood.
I showered, changed into some cleaner clothes and we headed out to Pags Pizza. We got a pitcher of Blue Moon and a medium deep dish pizza. The first bite in and I could not stop eating it. The crunchy crust, thick layers of cheese and sauce melted in my mouth. I thanked him for covering the tab and showing me around town. We planned to hit up the bar, but decided to call it a night. I passed out on his futon in the living room with a full stomach. I will definitely look into CouchSurfing again as I continue down the road.