My post yesterday was lame due to exhaustion, so I shall attempt to make it up from the safety of beautiful Oconomowoc tonight. First, a little chronology:
We woke up early to tour Valparaiso, and met with our sweet and accommodating tour guide Hannah who showed us all things English, music, and travel (just how I like it). I also love the chapel on campus -- "chapel" hardly does it justice but the building and the atmosphere are fantastic. I will definitely be applying to both Butler and Valpo!
At about 9:30, we began our trek to the University of Chicago. A few hours later, I had my very first up-close-and-personal encounter with the south side of Chicago. Here I learned that dressers, dead cats, and cucumbers are acceptable and appreciated forms of littering -- they are in fact highly encouraged. I also learned that the best place to throw (and ultimately shatter) beer bottles is definitely in the six-inch wide bike lane. My favorite part about the south side of Chicago (besides all the sagelike wisdom of course) is the 70 year old homeless man who recommended that I "work that fanny girl". That could quite possibly be the greatest thing anyone has said to me ever.
When we emerged from the south side we quickly arrived at the University of Chicago. Unfortunately, we were an hour late for our appointment due to outrageous headwinds, but the staff was super nice and they talked to us anyway. I think maybe I'll just make biking to see people my standard practice -- everyone is always so nice when you casually drop, "Yeah, I rode my bike here to see you," into the conversation! 😉
The University of Chicago seems like a fantastic place to be a wild and untamable English major, and I will definitely be applying there as well!
After the second college visit of the day, we pressed on along the Lakeshore Trail in Chicago with beautiful views of both Lake Michigan and the cityscape. We stayed on the trail for about twenty miles and then continued on out of Chicago into the network of suburbs (Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park...) At this point I was getting rather worn out and so entertained myself with shameless commentary to my dad about the veritable behemoths housing Chicago bigwigs. Then, my aunt Amy called and asked to meet up with us at a McDonald's en route to cheer us on and provide us with cupcakes. We loved seeing her (and the cupcakes) and were incredibly encouraged by her kindness -- and the food.
Unfortunately, due to headwinds, we were not making good time. We were stuck going 12 or 13 mph instead of the usual 15 or 16 we can manage on longer rides. This added time meant we were out until after 10:30pm, exhausted and frustrated and sore. Our gracious hosts for the night, the Syversons, kept in close contact and offered to bring us snacks, come pick us up, anything. Finally, five miles from their home we just hit rock bottom and surrendered. The Syversons picked us up, brought us to their house, and provided us with chocolate milk, spaghetti, and lodgings. In the morning, they brought us back to the exact point where we had called it quits the night before and we set off again.
Today was difficult because it was day four and that meant some discomfort and pain. Again, we had headwinds -- 10 mph, which was actually a significant improvement from the past few days. However, my dad and I are both exhausted. I spent much of the day battling fatigue, stiffness, soreness, discomfort, and some strain on my mental game. I just really, really didn't want to do today.
But here's the thing -- the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to terms with it. This thing we're doing -- it's hard. I've done centuries before and they weren't too bad, but these are consecutive centuries. And what's more, they're HARD centuries. The wind has been unspeakably wicked this whole trip, not to mention freak rainstorms full of thunder and lightning that disappear as quickly as they came and an unbelievable amount of construction on the planned route. It seems as if pretty much everything nature can throw at us it has, and I've found myself desperately wondering if there wasn't some reason that this thing has been so freaking hard.
Finally, I have some ideas. I think that this whole time I've been trying to make this ride work for ME -- stop whenever I'm feeling uncomfortable, work really hard to make sure the ride is pain-free. But every time I touch my phone or glance at Facebook, I see all these amazing people saying all these amazing things, and I'm so encouraged and so ready to jump back on the bike. I have the tools and I have the support -- what I think I need is just to accept that this ride is going to be painful at times, and that that is part of the journey. It's been hard, harder even than I expected, but that's okay. I fully intend to finish this ride, because I think that is what I need to do.
Today we had to stop 8 miles early because both darkness and a sudden, violent storm flew in, forcing us to take shelter in a nearby garage. Kurt, the owner of said garage, came out and talked to us, offering us a ride to Oconomowoc because the lightning storm was showing no signs of letting up anytime soon. He would be another example of a random Good Samaritan we have encountered on this trip, because along with the insane weather we meet some pretty cool people.
Tomorrow is a rest day, and I have already settled into relaxation mode via this ice cream masterpiece and a long phone conversation with my dear mother.
More updates to come, thank you all for your wonderful support. You guys keep me going.
PS - Yellow car now stands at 49 for Dad and 48 for me. We were actually tied, but my last car was a Hummer, bringing my tiebreaker to +2, then Dad got a yellow bug, putting him back on top with his tiebreaker at +2 as well! Unbelievable.