Friday, 22 April 2011

Day 2: Bloomington to St Louis, MI

No working Wi-Fi in the hotel last night so two day's worth of updates today, you lucky people!

I woke early, had a light breakfast in the hotel, and loaded up the bike.Still very cold, but dry at least, and my riding gear had dried out from yesterday.

Setting off the first order of the day was fuel. Petrol (gas) here is about $3.80 per gallon. As there's 3.8 litres in a US gallon, that makes it almost exactly $1 (62p) per litre, and still the Americans complain! I'm told that it's cheaper in Missouri as there's less tax, and most expensive in California.

The first stop of the day was a visit to Funks Grove where they make what is supposedly the best Maple Sirup (that's right, 'i' instead of 'y'). On tasting a sample I tend to agree, and had to buy some to take home. So I now have half a pint of sirup to transport for the rest of the ride and then fly home with. I hope the bottle's strong otherwise it could get messy!

A bit further down the road is the Dixie Truckers' Home, so I decided that brunch was in order. It's been a Route 66 establishment since the 20s, although I suspect it's been rebuilt since then.

Not much further, in Atlanta, I came across another Muffler Man, known as Tall Paul. This time his muffler has been replaced with a giant Hot Dog.

Now I had to get a move on. It was 2 hours since I left the hotel, and I'd only covered about 25 miles. However, I did make one more stop when I spotted this Muffler Man - this time he really was advertising an auto repair shop, but someone seems to have removed his muffler. Strange.

Pushing on then, and I came across this rather imposing courthouse in Carlinville. There was a public outcry when this was built as costs went well over it's budget and it ending up costing around 1 million dollars. That was in 1870, when a million was a lot of money. The Mayor who commissioned it was also having his own house built at the same time, and it looks like it's made from the same type of stone. Maybe the residents had reason to be suspicious?

By now the temperature was beginning to rise a little, and the sun even put in an appearance, pushing it up to over 50F. The riding is good and I have not done many miles on the Interstate yet. The old Route 66 alignments often run parallel to them though, and many stretches are badly worn, meaning a bumpy ride. Often there is the Interstate on one side of you and a railway track on the other.

I was now getting close to the Illinois/Missouri state line, and one thing I really wanted to see was the Chain of Rocks bridge, which spans the Mississippi river. Once part of the old Route 66, it is now closed to traffic, and only pedestrians and cyclist can cross it. The outstanding feature of this bridge is that it's one of the few that has a corner; mid way across the river it changes direction! I'm sure there were sound engineering reasons for this at the time.

I did walk all the way across the bridge, and so entered Missouri on foot. Of course I had to retrace my steps back to the bike, so I also left Missouri on foot.

That was the last of my sight-seeing stops today, and it was time to head for tonight's resting place on the outskirts of St Louis. Unfortunately I'm not going to have time to go into the city, as I need to get an early night and prepair for tomorrow, as I've decided to put in a higher milage day and try to reach Springfield, with plenty more things to see on the way.

I noticed that there's a lively looking Sports Bar and Cafe a short walk from the hotel, so that's where I'll get dinner tonight.

So, in summary, a much better day in the saddle: the weather has improved, temperatures on the increase and no rain at all. I'm also getting used to the size and weight of the bike, had fewer wobbly moments, and feel more confident with it now. It does seem the ideal type of bike for this sort of trip.

I did have two minor scares today though.
The first was bike related: I've mounted the Zumo GPS system on the handlebars, but it obscures the view of the fuel gauge. A bit silly you might think, and with hindsight I'd have to agree. However in my defence, there is a "Range" display on the bike, which tells me how much further I can go with the remaining fuel. Needless to say, this is wildly over optimistic, and was still telling me I was good for another 50 miles when I fortuitously happened to catch sight of the fuel gauge, which was reading empty.  I moved into economic riding mode, and passed through many small gas-station-less towns (population of a few hundred) and was mightily releaved to ride into Edwardville and see a Shell gas station!

The second was when I was walking back over the bendy bridge, having seen no one else around, only to spot a group of "youths" having a fight up ahead. To get back to the bike I needed to walk past them on this quite narrow bridge. As it turned out, they were just larking around, and paid no attention to me at all. I did feel a bit vulnerable for a little while though, and it's reminded me that I do need to take care.

For those interested, here's today's route (yes, I remembered to switch on the GPS tracker), and some more pictures :

Today's Mileage: 195
Total Trip Mileage: 398

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