5:15am- Wake up, shower, stretch. Dress, base layers. Prepare water, food. 85 miles from Champaign, IL to Springfield, IL... I can do this. It is dark.
6:30am- Breakfast in the hotel lobby, coffee, toast, juice,banana. The sun meets me and my Fuji Royale II at the start.
7:00am- On the road, heading directly west. Next stop Monticello, IL. 9mph winds from the N/NW. It is cold. Hazy, don reflective gear, turn on tail lights, put on headlight. So far so good.
9:00am- Arrive at the Brown Bag Deli in Monticello. On schedule. The place is immediately familiar and I remember that I was here in 2003 after the wedding rehearsal of a good friend. I eat a fabulous toasted turkey salad bagel and coffee. Missing my friend, wish we had time to see them on this trip, but it is too far to drive. The sun keeps traveling.
10:00am- Back on the road. My route takes me through Allerton Park outside of Monticello, where my friend was married. Memories. I ride by the statue of the Sun Singer, which Robert Allerton had made and placed in the park. He originally saw it in Stockholm and wanted a smaller version for his yard, but the maker made it for him in original size so he had to find a bigger space for it. I pass a buffalo farm. It seems they are all looking at me. They look strong and healthy. Still on schedule. Still in front of the sun.
11:15am- On 1400N heading directly west again. At a non-descript intersection, checking my compass because the road signs are turned around. Check in with my wife, take off a layer. I'm surprised I have a cell phone connection. I feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. These fields are vast. I can see for miles and miles around. I am alone. Sing when you ride far and the wind is pushing you back, and you are alone and it is cold. It helps. I think of the state of our country, farming, respect of our land, how we return to this very ground, dirt. I think of the Native Americans, war, disparity of thought. I hit gravel, wet from yesterday's rain, slogging through for a couple of miles in this takes a toll on speed and comfort. The sun and I are neck and neck.
1:30pm- Latham, IL The Korn Krib Resaurant built in and around grain storage bins. I use the bathroom, and refill water. No time to sit and eat here. Have to keep moving. Beginning to tire more. Dogs! The young one is fearless, comes toward me non-stop. I dismount so he thinks twice. He tries to get behind me for the attack but I turn to keep him at bay. He is ruthless. I walk by the house till I get far enough to satisfy him that I'm not a threat. I get on bigger roads to avoid more dogs, and think they'll be even smoother, but I was wrong. Hard packed gravel, but bumpy. Takes a toll on my energy, slowing to less than 10mph. I plod along, hurting, falling morale. Finally, Hwy 54! I'm less than 5 miles from my childhood home. But the sun has taken the lead.
3:45pm- A second wind. Ride through the old neighborhood, see the old house. Haven't been here since 1995. Family no longer owns this house since parents divorced back then. I lived there from 1978-1995, half of my life. It pains me that I can't come back. It is for sale, $159,000. The trees my father planted are large now, forest-like. I had to ride my bike here this time instead of just drive by. Going slower gives the memories time to be remembered.
4:50pm- Arrive at my destination. Time to go in to visit my grandparents with my wife and two daughters. Time to stop looking to the past and keep moving forward. Special times, creating new memories. It is dark. The sun wins, barely.