Day 29 – Golconda to Murphysboro IL

My campground hosts never showed up last night so I thanked them for their donation to the cause and slept on their porch. I would have put up the tent but I knew I could hit the road earlier if I didn’t have to dry out a tent, and the porch was perfectly comfortable with my sleeping quilt and air mattress. (FYI if you’re new to sleeping quilts – they save weight because they don’t have a back, which in regular bags doesn’t do much good anyway because the loft gets squished beneath you. The quilt is down and like a bag it can be cinched up at the feet and even at the head, but your air matress keeps you warm below. Mine can be compressed down to a tube about 6″ diameter and 8′ long – it’s tiny).

Porch camping. First I just leaned the bike and waited. Then I unpacked my tablet to blog. Then I got out dinner. Around dark I committed and unrolled my air matress, sleeping bag, and pillow (air pillow – a luxury at about 2 oz).

I ran out of coffee so I bee lined for the local dariette in town for breakfast. The scene there is getting pretty familiar – one or two tables of farmers and other local gentlemen, generally older, sipping coffee, having breakfast but mostly solving all the world’s problems. It’s exactly like the scene I’ve visited my dad at when he was alive, downtown in Bolivar MO.

That ribbon of highway

I still pass scores of cemeteries on the route – at some point I just stopped photographing them. But even here, they are quite old – this cemetery was founded in 1849. I mean, not east coast old but still…

Harley’s of southern Illinois. Relationships can only be guessed at from the stones.

It was the second day of pretty serious hills and it’s starting to get a little old. There were several long stretches where the road is straight but rises and falls with the hills. You try to run down the hills as fast as you can and hang on to all the work you did to get to the top of the hill by turning it into momentum to get you as far as you can up the next one. But it’s a losing game from a physics standpoint. The faster you go, the more your wind resistance increases – so you lose energy faster at the bottom of the hill when you’re going fastest. So you only make it part way up the hill and you get to climb another one. Shift into the easy gear, crank, crank, crank to the top of the hill, run down shifting up into bigger and bigger gears as you go faster, then as you go up the hill, shift lower and lower until you’re in your grandpa gear again and at a walking pace. Repeat until lunch.

Climb, climb, climb, descend. Climb, climb, climb, descend. Repeat as necessary.

I hadn’t counted on southern Illinois being so pretty (or so hilly). Actually it reminds me a lot of Missouri. For some reason I thought the land between the Ohio River and the Mississippi would be flat. Illinois could work on their litter problem though (actually western Kentucky too). On much of this trip, ever since Maine, I’ve been impressed with how little litter is along side the roads. I remember there being a lot more when I was a kid – all kinds of cans and McDonalds wrappers and such. But this morning I saw quite a bit by the road. There’s a little old lady I know from Chinatown in Oakland that could feed a family of four with the aluminum cans I saw on one hill this morning.

I met Eastbound Kevin this morning. I was impressed with how light he’s traveling. He just has an insulated “space blanket” and wears all his close at night to stay warm. He started in Astoria OR but had to take some time off due to a hand that went completely numb. I would say that’s a fit issue, eh Coach Matt?

I have seen so many churches in this part of the county, from little country ones to big suburban ones. I’ve started noticing their billboards more. They say everything from “potluck next Tuesday” to bible phrases that I don’t quite get – like this one.

“Repent for the Kingdom of God is at Hand”. I didn’t have a clue what that meant so I looked it up. I thought that repent meant to ask forgiveness for ones sins – which is one interpretation. Another is that “to repent implies a total alteration in the mind, a change in the judgment, disposition, and affections, another and a better bias of the soul. Consider your ways, change your minds: you have thought amiss; think again, and think aright. True penitents have other thoughts of God and Christ, sin and holiness”. I like that interpretation but “repent” is such a heavy word and I don’t like it. It implies, shame and original sin; ideas that I don’t think do us much good.
“Jesus is Love” which we all know, of course, is a song by the Commodores featuring Lionel Ritchie.

Consequently, with the peddling being kind of repetitive, I starting thinking about some of the church signs. One little country church had a bold sing proclaiming “Jesus Loves You” which at first I thought seemed kind of empty but then I started to appreciate it. For me to appreciate Christianity often takes what I imagine is a slight re-working of what I think they meant. I see “Jesus Loves You” as a way of saying – “you’re perfect, just the way you are” which is something that we call all use reminding every so often. But this is in opposition to what I often hear from Christianity; that we are all sinners until we are born again, or confess our sins, or repent. That just seems backward to me. It’s the fundamental east vs west difference, right? West says we come from the original sin so we must be forgiven. East says we are all perfect but sometimes we screw up. In my own personal philosophy I’m going to side with the east on this one, and its my belief that’s what Jesus, the carpenter, surely meant.

Well I was thinking along those lines when I came upon this bus emerging from the forest.

Nature always wins – eventually.

It’s amazing how nature works to absorb our work back into it. It’s pretty quick at it really.

After taking that picture, I got back on the bike, and I felt like a good conversation had been interrupted. I was eager to get back to it. And I said out loud to myself, “So, you were saying?”. I laughed out loud at that too, because it was so ridiculous – like I caught myself talking to myself. No one for miles knowing it, and had you been there, you’d think I was nuts, and maybe you will anyway now that I’ve invited you there.

My fellow energy geeks will recognize this as the cut-rate, non-trademark infringing Willie Wirehand. Most of you over 40 have seen his more popular brother, Reddy Kilowatt. Here’s a comparison for perspective; Reddy is to Willie as Lego is to Megablocks. Frankly I’m stunned that anyone would want a logo that looked anything like Reddy Kilowatt these days.
I wash and dry your clothes, play your radios, I can heat your coffee pot, I am always there, with lots of power to spare, ’cause I’m REDDY KILOWATT!
For a long time I’ve wanted to do a photo series on how we butcher trees to accommodate power lines. Case in point; see the perfect rectangular hole put in this tree? I could do a whole poster with any number of similarly scarred trees. I can’t tell you how many photos that I’ve shot carefully to eliminate power lines or minimize their impact. We give up a lot when we give up all this space to power lines. Have you ever seen a neighborhood where they’re buried? It’s a huge visual improvement.

I arrive at my humble abode for the night, ready for a hot shower. Maybe I’ll have two.

America’s most average hotel. Perfect.

Lately I’ve been hungry for salty snacks – wonder why…

Yes that’s good old NaCl. Lots of fluid and salt replacement tonight.

4 thoughts on “Day 29 – Golconda to Murphysboro IL”

  1. Another great post Jim. A couple of random things…..yes, hand numbness can be caused by a bike fit problem. One-sided numbness is much harder to diagnose than bi-lateral numbness. Of course, it could also just be nerve entrapment….

    Carbondale IL is home to Southern Illinois University. Did you get a chance to take a peek at the uni?

  2. Thanks for being brave enough to write about your reflections on churches and scripture. Strangely enough my Buddhist practice has made me appreciate Christianity a lot more. I think I was raised with a rather plodding, literal version that didn’t make sense to me. But as you say there are so many ways to understand scripture, our task is to bring openness and heart to the task and see what we may find. As far as I’m concerned it all comes down to love, generosity, and stewardship.

  3. Loving reading your thoughts and knowing you have the time and space to have them. I realized as I was reading today that this is a bit like reading someone’s autobiography. I will know you better while you will know nothing more about me. Kinda weird but still enjoyable!

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