Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Entering the West

July 15, 2013
Salem, IL to St. Louis, MO

How the heck are we blowing through states so fast?! It felt like we just reached Illinois and we're already leaving it for Missouri! This trip has really been surreal. If it wasn't for the map I've been keeping of where I am everyday I don't think I'd believe we've already made it this far across the United States. Today was a long day, but I biked with some awesome people and we had some good adventure along the way. Unfortunately, the day got off to a rough start when one of the girls on our trip got her tire stuck in a groove between the shoulder and the road and went down hard on her face. She's totally fine, just going to have a gnarly black eye, but it definitely made the rest of the day a little scarier. I biked with two guys today that I haven't really ridden with yet, Sean and Phil. We had a of fun even though the road conditions were less than ideal. Around mile 25 though, we stopped at a huge reservoir where many people moor their sailboats and go swimming. A big group of us all took the mile detour to the swimming area and enjoyed a nice swim in the lake before we had to get on the highway. 

The sweepstakes challenge today was mildly more difficult than precious ones--the best optical illusion picture. For example, you could look like you're holding something that you really aren't. My group used the playground and came up with this optical illusion that I thought was pretty clever.

After we left the park and got back to riding, we were on the worst road ever for biking. There was so much gravel and debris in the shoulder as well as giant bumps and potholes. None of us talked basically the entire way to lunch because we were so focused on lookin down at the ground making sure we didn't hit something. It was a very stressful ride with little time to look around. Luckily I was only missing more corn fields but still. After lunch we hit a freak rain storm that cooled the area down a bit since it was absolutely sweltering. We caught up with another group and started biking with them. At one point we all had to stop at a gas station to fill our camelbacks up with ice and more water. One of the guys in the group we met up with is from Missouri so he was telling us a little about where we were going. He mentioned that he thought we would be rerouted around one of the sketchiest towns in the country, East St. Louis in Illinois right near the river. However, our cue sheet actually took us right through it. Luckily nothing happened to my group, but a few other groups got stopped by firemen and department of transportation workers asking them if they were lost because no one in their right mind would actually bike through the area that we did. It was pretty freaky. Nonetheless, once we made it through, we hit the Mississippi River and the Illinois-Missouri state line! It is unbelievable that we've made it this far! 

Crossing into Missouri we could see the St. Louis arch in the distance but we ended up biking in the opposite direction to get to our host site, the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Again, we were biking through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods and getting strange looks. 

More groups got stopped here as well asking if they knew where they were. I had no idea tha St. Louis was such a dangerous city! That afternoon I took my bike to the bike shop and the guy fixed my derailer so I don't have to get a new one! It was awesome. Afterwards we tested out the metro system in St. Louis and went downtown to the area near Washington University at St. Louis. It was not very hopping on a Monday night but they had some interesting places roger food and drinks. 

St. Louis seems like a really cool place and I'm happy we get to stay an extra day to build and explore here! We've finally made it the gateway to the West! 

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