Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Day 4 - no one said it would be easy

So I have had to do a lot of thought about what to write today... I feel like I have let myself and others down. But I figured that the best thing to do on this day of 3 parts was to start at the end and then go back to the beginning and let you make your minds up as to whether you agree.

Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes...(oscar wilde) well I guess I gained a lot of experience then

Part 3- the end of the day
So I had shaken hands with 2 strangers as they handed me my bike from the back of their car. Relieved to be safe, tired but also wishing today hadnt happened. I crawled into a really nice room, ordered dominos, plugged in all electricals and then set about catching up with facebook and emails whilst mentally bashing my head against a brick wall over and over. One voice in my head said... it was only 20 miles and you probably covered that in the detour anyway, and on a rest day you can go out and do the 20 miles... the other voice was the one doing the bashing! So I sat down to tell all, no hold barred, and hope that disappointment isn't your main feeling.....and here I am, hoping that having read that you will continue to read to discover how and why.

Part 1- The beginning of the day
I woke, at 4am, as seems to be the pattern, dozed a little, but then got it together to aim for an 8am departure. Breakfast was handmade waffles, which was pretty cool and a reasonable cup of coffee.  Packing up my stuff took a lot longer than expected so approx 8:15 I was on the road. Sun was shining, birds and ctickets were singing, music in my ear and a good wind to guide me along at 15-16mph.  I settled into a rythm and no sooner than I had I saw an open route66 museum with the famous buried cars outside... I had to stop. Got some stuff as memorabilia and chatted with the owner who seemed to know about me (lol). Took lots of photos (see below) and chatted away. Time flew pasr and id lost a good chunk of time, but it didn't matter cos the weather was good and I was feeling good. Back on the road and the towns whizzed by until my sat nav got slightly confused due to the fact that I was completing one planned day and starting the next. How did I find out that I was heading in the wrong direction? Not using technology that's for sure. In a moment of .. somethings not right, I looked at the sun and realised it was to my right and I was heading back north. Fortunately I realised before I had gone too far and it didn't take me long to get back on track.
The miles whizzed by and at the same time as cautioning myself against it, I was feeling on top of the world!

I reached the outskirts of st louis at around midday, in good time ... and stopped for a while to admire the view (pic below).
The bridge was lovely, I ciuld see for miles and I felt that I had bridged one hurdle.. this was the end of illinois, shortly I would be in missouri.  This was also a symbolic place cos it is at this point that route 66 turns westwards.
I felt quite reflective as I stood on this piece of history and marvelled at all the chains of events that had led me to this point, good and bad in my life that meant I was nearly 300 miles in to a journey of a lifetime.

Part 2 - welcome to missouri
St louis itself, a city, generally i dont like them much anyway. I entered the city in what was probably a less afluent area. Stories of drive by shootings fleeted through my head, but only for an instsant, cos actually I felt pretty safe
The roads were wide and there were signs everywhere saying share the road with bikes, a good omen I thought. The university area was pretty and due to traffic and lights, it was taking a while to get through the city. So I continued on and stopped briefly at a very nice pub wher I ordered a very very good sandwich!
The road out of st louis on rt 66 is highway 100. Im not going to say much or dwell on highway 100, but even for a very confident cyclist, it was not a pleasant road and I don't think I would drive it again. That said, I got out of st louis safely and continued on. 
Im not sure where things went wrong but they must of at some point beacause although I was on a good, what seemed like a main road, in fact it wasn't, and a very hilly one at that too. It went up and down very steep sections, so much so that I had to walk up 2 hills cos the lowest gears werent low enough. That didn't  matter so much. What did matter was that due to the hell of st louis and highway 100 it was getting late, and the hills werent helping.   Then I found a better road which took me back to the main road but at a price of more miles, hills and time.  I wasn't worried or scared though. I had all lights blazing and was managing to freewheel fast enough down the hills to get most the way up the next (33 mph seems to have been my top speed) and I was doing it like the pros, head to the handlebars, bum in the air etc. I was even starting to enjoy myself again.
I got to a gas station on the main road and stopped to see how far away from st clair I was. 20 miles was the estimate, followed by ... you are not doing that in the dark are you? I replied thay I thought I had to as there wasn't amywhere to stay around there. But actually I had made peace with the fact that I was going to be cycling in the dark, I would just be extra careful. Then someone else came up and said that he thought it was too dangerous as there wasn't really any hard shoulder, then a third gentleman came over and said pretty much the same thing and offered me a lift with my bike to st clair. 
Now I know that I have been joking about plaques in the lifts at work, but having felt that I had dodged one bullet today (highway 100) and all these local people telling me it wasn't safe but there was no where to stay I made a decision that I do in many ways regret.
However it was that point that the words of a very wise person came to mind, who told me not to cross the line between broken and unmendable. I chose the hardest but probably the most sensible. I felt like I was 100 ft from the summit  of everest and had to turn back to ensure I made it down.

So that's the story of the day and I leave it up to you to make of it what you will.
the kind gentleman in the car said ' when you get to LA you won't care about the 20 miles' . I see what he is saying, however I think I will, so with that in mind I plan to, at some point do an extra 20 miles to complete the distance.

So now I m going to eat my pizza, shower, and prepare for a much much earlier start tomorrow, with no early distractions.
I am making use of my experience.