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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Pedaling Against Hunger: Facing the Elements, Ozarks

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Editor’s Note: Justin Field, UD Class of 2011, embarked on a TSD-sponsored bike-ride across America to raise money and awareness for the Food Bank of Delaware. This is an update on his progress as he travels through Virginia. To read his last entry, click here.

Day 18-19: Carbondale & Justin’s Birthday

Illinois State Line
Illinois State Line

After about a week pedaling through Kentucky, we finally made it to the Illinois state line where we were greeted with a highway full of coal trucks that didn’t seem to care much to give bikers their space.

After a nerve wracking twenty miles into the wind, we found a Pizza Hut. Again, our timing could not have been better. As we parked our bikes, it began to drizzle and then the sky turned black and a huge electrical storm began.

As we calmly ate our lunch inside, the rain poured down and lightning struck all around us. Just as we were ready to go, the sky cleared and we were on our way to Carbondale for the night.

The next day was my birthday so we slept in (until 9:30), and took our time hitting the road.

Today’s ride took us along the Mississippi River. We rode through the flat plains bordering the river, where houses are literally surrounded by the overflow water from the river.

We stopped to fill our water bottles at a tiny bar where the locals told us our planned route was no longer viable because the road was underwater.

Pedaling Against Flooding
Pedaling Against Flooding

The locals rerouted us to a road with a little less water on it, and we had to ride our bikes through about a foot of water. With waterlogged shoes, we continued up onto a levee, which is a large earthen wall that keeps the Mississippi from flooding the plain next to it.

The views were fantastic, and we rode for a few miles with Gerry, a local out for a bike ride on the levee. He told us the last major flood was in 1993, and the levee was breached. After a nice, flat ride, I had a nice Birthday dinner with Karey and his parents at an old (and apparently haunted) Inn on the river.

Justin's 22nd Birthday
Justin's 22nd Birthday

Day 20: Crossing the Ozark Mountains

We had heard differing accounts about Missouri. The state is home to the Ozark Mountains, a mini mountain range between the App’s and the Rockies.

Some bikers claim it is the hardest to bike, because of the intensely steep hills. I crossed the Mississippi (for the first time) and pretty soon found out what these people were talking about. The hills were steep, and just when we had finished one climb, another appeared right behind it.

Crossing the Mississippi
Crossing the Mississippi

That was the story of the Ozarks. At one point on our first day in Missouri, we passed a brewery, and had to stop for lunch.

Pizza and beer were not the best mid-day nutritional decisions, and our muscles didn’t want to move after. As we moved further into the mountains, the gas stations became more scarce. During one 27 mile stretch in full midday heat, battling intense hills, we both ran out of water.

We tried to push ahead to the next town, but with 3 miles to go, we needed to figure out another option. As we rounded a corner, we saw a newly constructed house, with a hose out back. Karey walked up and rang the doorbell. The couple that lived there invited us into their luxurious air conditioning and filled our water bottles (three times) as we gulped down the water and talked to them about our trip. Afterwards, we headed back out into the heat ready to face the hills again.

Entering the Ozarks
Entering the Ozarks

Later that day, when I was completely ready to be done with riding, but still had 18 hilly miles left, a wasp found its way into my shirt on a long, fast down hill. I felt the sharp stings but thought that gravel must be hitting my chest and getting embedded in my skin. When I looked down, I saw a large stinger and the dead wasp. We pulled over and I plucked the stinger out with tweezers and popped a Benadryl.

Somehow, I guess I figured it can’t get any worse from here, and I faced the rest of the ride with a better attitude, and barely noticed the 14% grades and endless hills. After three days in the Ozarks, the steep slopes eventually gave way and we found ourselves on gently rolling hills. We eagerly awaited the total flatness of Kansas and crossed our fingers that the winds would blow in our favor.

An appeal to readers from Justin:

To all reading this series, I hope it is fun to read and follow my progress across the country. The trip certainly hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve gotten to see some amazing places and meet some incredible people. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask for your help.

My goal for this trip is to raise money for the Food Bank of Delaware. This non-profit helps gather and distribute food to people in need throughout the State of Delaware and the surrounding region. They not only help make sure at-risk families have sufficient food, but they also work to ensure the food is high quality, and that the individuals receiving assistance have access to information about good nutritional decisions.

Throughout this ride, I have been able to see a much wider part of the country than I had seen before. While I have often been impressed by the regions I have gone through, I am very proud to be from Delaware, and I think Delaware has a lot to offer.

Organizations like the Food Bank help make Delaware the great place it is. It is an outstanding organization, and one Delawareans should be proud of. Please join me in helping eliminate hunger in Delaware by making a donation to the Food Bank. Feel free to donate whatever is possible for you. If a monetary donation is not possible, please help by spreading the work about the Food Bank and referring others to this page.

Twenty or thirty dollars may not seem like much, but it can help the Food Bank in a huge way. As a non-profit, the Food Bank depends on donations.

Please consider making a donation and enjoy the rest of the blog!

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Latest News

Fishing tournaments are roaring back across the First State

For some participants, it’s about comradery that comes with tournaments. For others, it's about winning.

DSU cancels $750,000 in debt for 200 graduating seniors

The Historically Black College and University will use federal COVID-19 money to pay for move.

4 quick takeaways on Tuesday’s school board votes

The most prominent newcomer after Tuesday’s elections is Kim Stock, the 2021 Delaware Teacher of the Year.
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