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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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CH 13 Illinois

Chester Illinois

Chester Illinois

Taxidermy IL

An interesting taxidermy place…it was closed otherwise I would have popped in to visit!

I woke up today on the futon around 8 AM surprisingly I wasn’t hungover from the Blue Moons we pounded down the night before.  I thanked Phillip for his hospitality.  He left for class and I stuck around updating my blog, eating waffles with syrup for breakfast and packing my gear for today’s adventure.

I finally got back on the TransAmerica Trail today after being off of it for over a week since I journeyed off to see Trevor.  The scenery truly turns your head and the pictures I post do not do it justice.  I wish I bought an expensive camera before I left to get better shots, however, I think my phone does quite well for what it’s worth.

Chester, Illinois

More scenery from IL

I took a rest day and only trekked about 45 miles since I left around noon and grabbed some accessories for my bike at Phoenix Cycles.  I bought some tape for the inside of my rims so hopefully my front tubes will stop popping, a patch kit and two more thorn resistant tubes. 

Surprisingly I did not meet anyone today on the road, which I found rather odd since it’s Friday. Nonetheless, the scenery made up for it ten fold.  I’m at a campground right now charging my electronics and scoping the area for a spot to stealth camp.

Chester, Illinois

Chester Illinois – Wandering down the open road in Chester, Illinois

Chester Illinois

One of the many, murky, rivers in Chester, Illinois!



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.

CH 13 Illinois

CH 13 Illinois

I awoke at 6 AM with a long 90 mile day ahead of me.


Where I met my boy Ronnie who fed me, and gave me a map so I could get to Carbondale, IL!

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.

Carbondale, IL

A beautiful lake on my way to Carbondale, IL to meet up with Philip!

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.

Sam Dale Lake State Park Illinois

Sam Dale Lake State Park

Sam Dale Lake State Park

I ended up resting at a church off US 50 near Buchanan Drive.  At first I figured I’d stay out of the heat and cool off, but after telling everyone my story I ended up sleeping in someone’s old home.  I never did catch their names, but nonetheless, an exceptional bunch of people.  I showered, ate a big dinner and prepped my gear for tomorrow’s journey.

Sam Dale Lake State Park Illinois

Taking a rest at a church near Sam Dale Lake State Park!

I woke up around 8 AM and pedaled 65 miles going down US 50 and US 45. I decided to use the car route on Google Maps since I didn’t want to get stuck on gravel roads again.  I looked on in the distance seeing corn field after corn field with mint interlaced in between ever so often.  I stumbled across a church where I indulged in yet another peanut butter sammich and plopped under a tree to get in the shade.  The sun beating down on me all day in every direction with only a cloud in the sky.  My nose beat red and left ear slightly singed from sunburn, but my spirit still the same.  I now know why Illinois is called The Prairie State.  Besides being flat there is not much around, but corn, oil rigs and the occasional mart.

Sam Dale Lake State Park Illinois

Entering Sam Dale Lake State Park in Illinois

I came across a Citgo off of US 45 and grabbed some bread and a cold Arizona Tea.  I sat outside in the shade on a bench to rest.  The last three days the temperature consistently in the 90’s and my mouth dehydrated no matter the amount of fluid I drink.  The store clerk came outside for a smoke and we chatted for a bit.  He inquired about wrestling. where I was from and headed.  I found it odd his high school did not have a football or wrestling team.  The area did seem way out in the country so it made sense.  He talked about his dream of being an MMA fighter.  I told him he should follow his passions and do it.  Granted he’d need to get into better shape and quit smoking, but it would bring happiness, which is most important.

We sat outside for another five minutes and a K9 unit showed up.  This dog barked, growled, scratched the window of the SUV and it didn’t occur to me until later, but I knew why.  I shook my head and laughed, that could have been a dilemma.  I headed down the road to Sam Dale Lake State Park and staked out for a few hours before finding a cozy place to sleep.  I am looking forward to getting back on the trail for more scenic views.

Sam Dale Lake State Park Illinois

The view across the lake at the state park…it was beautiful!

Quarry Indiana

Wanderin’ on a Blast Site…Kaboom

Wanderin’ on a Blast Site…Kaboom

Lawrenceville, Illinois

I woke up at 4:30 AM to crickets chirping in my ear.  As soon as I stopped moving they would start right back up again so I decided to prep my gear for an early departure.  I refilled my hydration pack, ate a peanut butter sammich, charged my phone and headed out at 6 AM.  The terrain around here is so flat that covering over 60 miles in a day is relatively easy. I wanted to make up for yesterday.

I pedaled for 30 miles and ended up grubbing on some leftover pasta I found in my pannier.  Google Maps Bicycle Beta sent me on all sorts of random roads.  The problem was in these parts of Indiana a lot of roads are closed and under construction or they consist of gravel, which isn’t ideal for road bikes.  It’s similar to riding a sports car in the snow.  You have zero traction.  I spent a good part of those roads walking.  Then all of a sudden I ended up in front of a huge pile of broken up asphalt with a road closed sign.  I decided to continue onward and check it out.  I stumbled upon a beautiful lake and took a few pictures.

Quarry Indiana

I trekked down this closed road, with pot holes, and gravel everywhere for ten miles until landing at a blasting site where I almost got trespassing charges. Instead the guy just gave me directions. Thanks Indiana!

Since I do not like to turn around I continued going down the closed, half paved road and ended up in a blasting site.  At this point I could not hide the fact I was trespassing so I asked for directions and a man pointed me in the direction of Route 67.

A drop of sweat dripped off my nose secret second from the scorching temperatures.  With the heat index it was well over 100 degrees today.  My shirt drenched in sweat and eyes beginning to tear so I stopped at McDonald’s to cool off.  I refilled my hydration pack and bought a large Hi-C drink to get some sugars in me.

I asked a couple for directions to Vincennes and the nearest campground.  Bad mistake on my part. Aside from his directions being horrible, he went off on a political tangent and his pessimism towards my trip made me stop talking to him.

I pedaled down the road towards Vincennes and my back tube popped again.  I replaced it with my last tube and literally within 500 feet it popped again.  My frustration level at an all time high, but I maintained my composure and luckily found a bike shop called Bicycle Outfitters, five miles away.

I gave them a call to figure out there hours.  With only 2 hours and a long hike ahead of me I decided to walk up the hills, ride down them and ride the flat terrain to get there quicker.  About an hour later I finally arrived.  I realized the reason my tubes kept popping was because the bike mechanic from Bikesmiths sold me the wrong tubes.  I needed the larger tubes for my new back tire.  Allen from Bicycle Outfitters also hooked me up with thorn resistant tubes, which are much thicker and last longer.  The perfect tube for touring.  They let me change it in the store and I told them where I was from and where I was headed.  We chatted for an hour.  He directed me towards Red Hills State Park in Illinois.  He sparked my interest when he mentioned he used to do BMX and is now into go-kart racing.  Both activities I would like to try.  Some of the modified go-karts can hit between 110 and 150 mph.  That’s just insanity going that fast that low to the ground.

Quarry in Indiana near a Blasting Site

Exploring around the blast site!

I grabbed six tubes and headed out.  I am currently at a church in Lawrenceville, Illinois where I plan to camp for the night.

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