Thursday, September 7, 2000  - Galena to Freeport

After a day completely off the bike, I felt more rusty than rested. Now I understood why Tour de France racers go for rides on their “rest” days.

Segments of Thursday's ride traced the Stagecoach Trail.

I was tested early and often by the hills heading east from Galena. I had been expecting the climbs on Black Jack Road, but these relentless hills caught me by surprise (I should have known better, having been to northwestern Illinois before). For me, the toughest hill on the entire GIT came on Guilford Road. Not only did I have to drop down to second gear, not only did I have to resort to zigzagging to manage the grade, but I had to stop several times in total oxygen debt as well. It really wiped me out, and it was still early in the day.

This was the big hill that really kicked my butt.

This is another view looking back while catching my breath.

Once again, the scenery was great but the riding was hard. Although it wasn't a GIT checkpoint, I stopped at Apple River Canyon State Park for pictures and a banana.

I had a snack and posed for a picture at Apple River Canyon State Park.

Then I headed for Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park. Following a route to avoid gravel and to pad the day's mileage a bit, I rode up to Warren near the Wisconsin border. The cue sheets said to turn at the south end of town, but I kept going into Warren because I needed water and Gatorade. It was a pretty hot day, and whenever I stopped, beads of perspiration covered my arms. I was annoyed to see " no bicycle" signs on IL 78 downtown. I ignored them.

I headed southeast on the Stagecoach Trail paralleling a railroad. This road had moderate traffic compared to the virtually empty roads I had ridden most of the day.

Tiny Nora made the most of its presence on the Stagecoach Trail.

The cue sheet was wrong in saying that the alternate route avoided gravel--Pin Hook Road was all gravel beyond the first mile or so. It wasn’t a problem for my 700x38 tires, though. I continued to Lake Le-Aqua-Na, the last state park on my list of checkpoints to visit.

For a completely different look compared with Apple River Canyon above, I left my helmet on this time.

After the requisite photos, I was on my way around 3:00 PM. I still had another 20 miles to Freeport. It turned out to be straightforward and uneventful. There were lots of hills, but not the worst I had encountered. I passed through the little town of McConnell, then crossed IL 26 and headed to Henderson Road for the final 8.6 miles south into the wind to Freeport. With legs tired from climbing, I was beginning to suffer. The cross streets that I was counting down seemed to come more and more slowly. Finally, I came into the east side of Freeport and the intersection with Illinois 75.

My wife and I planned to meet at the intersection of IL 75 and US 20, and I was looking forward to getting off the bike and eating a big dinner. Then I saw something I hadn't expected--US 20 was under construction and detoured through town. Uh-oh. This meant that the normal intersection of 75 and 20 was bypassed. So, where would we meet? I kept going on 75 past the regular intersection to the detoured intersection. The car wasn't there, and it looked like the luck we’d had finding each other on this vacation had run out. I began to panic. She could have been anywhere in Freeport. With a population of over 25,000, Freeport is a fairly large town. Not only would it take time to cover the area, but I was looking for a moving target! I rode back and forth along the busy US 20 detour a few times, and then I rode around some other streets. It was like the Tour de Freeport, a big lap around town. I came back to US 20 on the west end of town and rode east. I was becoming desperate. Ten miles ago, I thought I was done for the day. My body certainly had felt that way. Now I was running on adrenaline alone, wondering if we would ever find each other. Nearly defeated, I gave US 20 one more try. As I turned right to follow the detour and headed down a slight hill, I saw our car turning left onto a side street. I yelled my wife's name as loud as I could, charging down the hill to try to follow her. When I turned onto the street, she was pulled over. She said she didn't know I could yell like that! I was thoroughly exhausted and so happy to see her. I loaded up the bike and got in the car, still a little shaky from fearing that we wouldn't meet. The total for the day was 76 miles. At least it was easy to find a room. I had already scouted out every motel in town as I searched for our car.

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