Denver to Chicago
Denis Kertz, ©2006
There was no breakfast place in town so I bought milk and cereal at the grocery store for breakfast and a banana.† Todayís route gave me three options with 3 towns spaced about 30 miles apart.
I started for Brownfield 32 miles away.† For the day I saw mostly cotton fields and some milo fields.† With the flat terrain it was not exciting scenery.† All day it seemed I must have been on a slight grade since I seemed to be 1-2 mph slower than I would have expected.
When I entered Brownfield, 9,500, I found the library for Internet access.† After that I stopped for a burrito and cold drink.† It was about 1:00 when I left town for Tahoke, 28 miles away.† It was pretty warm when I left so I was in shorts and a light, long sleeve jersey.† It would have been really warm but there was a crosswind that helped keep me cool.
With no change in scenery I just cranked out the miles on the road with a good, wide shoulder and little traffic.† I made Tahoka, 2,900, just before 3:30 and stopped for another cold drink.† The only thing that bothered me about the heat was the warm water in my water bottles.
With plenty of daylight I set off for Post, another 26 miles and just cranked out the miles.† Finally, with about 5 miles to go there was a change in scenery.† There was an honest-to-god descent into a sea of green.
In this town of 3,700 I found a Subway and ate there.† I checked a motel that looked inexpensive but they wanted $45.† I rode back to the Subway and washed up in the restroom.† A couple there told me about the town park just south of town and I went there.† It was by a small lake with many birds carrying on simultaneous conversations.† I set up hurriedly because the mosquitoes were voracious.† Then I walked to a nearby drive-in to write my notes.
It was a very warm night and not great for camping.† I never zipped up my sleeping bag and sometimes I slept outside the sleeping bag.
The birds at the lake woke me in the morning with their raucous noise.† I rode the short distance back to town for a breakfast of pancakes and ham which was okay.† I augmented that with a cereal breakfast from the grocery store.† I finally left at 9:15 which seemed a late but it was more like 8:15 to me with the time zone change from mountain to central.
The scene change yesterday from cotton fields to brush continued as I rode through brush country most of the day.† It was 80 miles to Aspermont, my likely destination, with another 30 miles to Haskell, a more desirable stop but less likely.† Because of the country there were few towns early on with 43 miles to Clairemont with an estimated population of 100.† It was easier riding today through rolling brush country.† Unfortunately, the wide shoulder was pretty rough for a good part of the way.† The chip seal in a number of places was mixed and I finally resorted to riding just inside the white line, where vehicles had compacted and smoothed the chip seal, when I could.
It was another warm day with temps in the high 80s, low 90s and I started the ride in shorts.† Riding wasnít so bad because it created a breeze but drinking warm water wasnít fun.† So I hoped for a cold drink at Clairemont but it was just a trailer and a couple of abandoned buildings.† I continued on to Jayton where after 54 miles I got my cold drink.
It was another 23 miles to Aspermont, a town of 1,000.† When I got there just after 4:00 I saw it had
a motel and my plan was a motel for the night.†
I stopped at a food mart for a cold drink and then some ice cream when I
saw ice cream in
So I took off feeling good.† At this point much of the brush country was left behind and replaced by farmland.† Along the way I got flagged down by a guy in a pickup, and trucks were the predominant vehicles in this part of the country, along side the road.† He just had to know what kind of trip I was doing and I told him.
Ten miles from Haskell I passed through Rule where I was surprised to find a motel.† It looked run down so I thought it might be a real bargain.† This was reinforced when I pressed the office door bell and the button fell off.† However, I passed when I found the bargain was $38.† So I finished the 10 miles to Haskell, 3,100, arriving at 7:30, about 10 minutes after the sun had disappeared.
I found the motel on the east side, the only one in town I was told by the guy who flagged me down.† It cost $50 but I took it.† It was actually a very nice room for the price with Internet access and a continental breakfast but I was disappointed it didnít have laundry facilities.
I had my heart set on pizza and was given directions to a place inside a grocery store.† It was too far to walk so I took my bike with my lights in the darkness and got there just after 8:00, when the pizza/deli had just closed.† So I backtracked to a Subway along the way.† Then I checked out the Laundromat and learned it was open all night.† I rode back to the motel, showered, and grabbed my dirty clothes and rode back to the Laundromat.
After that I took advantage of the Internet access at the motel and then wrote my notes, not getting to bed until after midnight.
The continental breakfast was a disappointment.† It was only cereal and some pastries.† I prefer my own cereal so all I got was milk and a pastry.† That wasnít enough so I had to hunt up a restaurant.† After asking I found a place going south through town.† I also found another motel and it undoubtedly would have been at least a little less expensive.
I had a good 2+2+2 with real bacon.† As I left 2 guys asked me where I was
headed.† I get a kick out of peopleís
reaction when I say
Finally, after 25 miles the road became rolling and I reverted to normal speeds.† I could only conjecture I was gradually climbing on what I thought was a flat road.† With an improved disposition I made it to Throckmorton, a town of 900, shortly before 1:00 and stopped for a cold drink.† Earlier I had started wondering if I might need to stop for the day in this town.
I set out again about 1:15 to
The section to
Determined to make up for last nightís aborted pizza run, I got some cash from an ATM and walked to a Pizza Hut.† I ate an entire medium pan pizza.
Last night at Pizza Hut I asked about breakfast and was surprised there apparently wasnít a real breakfast place in a town of 8,700.† So my choice was either Dairy Queen or McDonalds.† I chose the latter and had 2 Egg McMuffins plus a house newspaper.† Then I stopped at the grocery store for milk and a cereal breakfast.
It was 2 miles back to the junction to pick up 380 at the
other end of town.† My destination was
The scenery was similar to yesterday except the brush had grown up into full fledged trees but it was still rather unexciting country riding.
I passed up a stop at
About halfway between Jacksboro and Decatur I passed by
There was noticeably more traffic for the day but it really
picked up the last 10 miles to
When I asked I learned all the motels were along 287.† That told me I wasnít going to find anything inexpensive so I also asked about the town park.† It wasnít far away but the guy was doubtful the police would allow camping.† When I checked it out I found a recreation area rather than a typical town park with a couple of ball diamonds and a skate board and there really wasnít a picnic/camping area.
Earlier I had asked directions to the motels from 2 guys.† The first guy got flustered trying to give precise directions that I was glad I didnít try.† The second guy gave me a simple, direct route to 287 from where I could see the area and figure out how to make my way around.
This area was just a typical strip mall area with fast food places and motels.† I found the library but there was only 20 minutes left to closing so I didnít bother.† Along 287 I could see a Ramada, a Comfort Inn, a Days Inn, and a Super 8.† I figured the Super 8 was probably the cheapest and I was right next to it.† I got a room for $51 with my AARP discount.† I can remember when Super 8 was a competitor of Motel 6 for budget accommodations but has since become much more upscale.† My room was really nice.
After settling in I walked close to a mile to a Dairy Queen that was having an all-you-can eat Friday night catfish dinner for $9.† I had that but opted for water for drink.† I had just about ODíd on soda fountain drinks during this heat wave and water was looking better all the time.
The continental breakfast was no better than the other day with just cereal and pastries.† There was an IHOP on the other side of the freeway so I managed to get there with some creative riding and had their multigrain and nuts pancakes.† From there I was able to make my way back through the town square and back to 380.
380 started as a 4-lane rolling highway with not quite as
much traffic as yesterday but still much more than I like.† My destination was
When I got to
When I reached
The second bike shop carried Topeak pumps but was out of my particular type, which looks like a frame pump but unfolds into a floor pump style.† The bike guy showed me the location of some motels on Google Maps but they were all along the interstate.
I rode north through the town square and found the library for Internet access.† I researched some motels along 380 and found some near McKinsey which I didnít realize at the time was about 30 miles away.† Then I headed back to 380 and east on 380 to find a motel.
I lucked out and in a couple of miles there was a lone motel
on the east edge of
I watched some college football and had a small pizza at the Italian restaurant.† Back at the motel I discovered the MU-Texas Tech gave was on and watched MU win 38-21.
I wouldnít have been able to get breakfast except the Mexican restaurant had it on weekends.† I had scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes with refried beans and tortilla chips.† It was filling but not my idea of breakfast.† Back at the motel I had my cereal breakfast.
I left at 9:00 destined for at least
The other standout of the day was the continuous real estate
billboard bombardment.† Every other
billboard seemed to be touting some housing development in this rural area on
the northeastern outskirts of the
The morning was cool and comfortable, fine for my tights and
long sleeve jersey.† There were also
plenty of food marts for a cold drink but I didnít stop until
There was a lot of traffic on 380 that started as a 6-lane
and was a 4-lane most of the way.† Just
before Farmersville it became a 2-lane and traffic eased off somewhat.† About 4 miles from
On the outskirts of
This was better cycling, a little easier and a little less traffic and better scenery.† I was feeling fine so I passed through Lone Oak.† A few miles outside Point there was a motel that I thought was closed but a sign advertised $25 rooms.† I wasnít planning to stop but that rate enticed me.† However, the owner said he wouldnít have a room for a couple days.† I couldnít wait that long so I continued on.
In Point, I saw a turnoff for a state park Ė perfect I thought.† At the turnoff there was nothing in sight and no mileage signs so I asked at the food mart at the turnoff.† At first I was told 4 miles but then it sounded longer.† With at most 1 hour of daylight I wasnít prepared to risk it so I continued on to Emory, another 8 miles.
I rode through Emory looking for a town park and motels.† I saw the park but didnít see the motel until my return pass.† It wasnít cheap looking so I settled in the town park.† After setting up I walked across the street to a Dairy Queen, which was very popular on a Sunday night.† I had a blizzard, wrote my notes, and cleaned up.
When I got up I discovered my rear tire, that I had fixed yesterday, was flat again.† Not the way to start the day but at least I didnít have to unpack the bike.† There was a water canal along the park so I used that to find the leak.† It was a slow one that I wouldnít have found without water.† Even after locating it I wasnít sure exactly where it was so I patched and hoped I covered the hole.† My balky pump inflated the tire to a reasonable pressure.
Since the pumped worked well enough I decided to find the
slow leak in the front tire.† I found and
fixed it.† It was good that I did because
in the time it took I discovered my rear tire was already going soft.† So I removed it again and found the
leak.† It was right next to the new
patch, suggesting I missed patching it.† However,
this leak was more noticeable and I could feel the leaking air against my face
whereas I couldnít the first time I patched the tire.† I also couldnít find anything in the tire
itself.† So I fixed it again using a
patch from the kit I bought just the other day in
Finally after almost an hour I loaded my bike and rode just north to a cafť I saw coming into town that looked like a breakfast place.† It was.† Their waitress didnít describe their pancakes in great terms so I opted for their daily special which was fine.
While I was eating I reviewed my maps and the dayís route
down 69 and east on 80.† I noticed that
154 went all the way to
On my way out of town I stopped at a grocery store and had my usual cereal breakfast.† So I didnít actually leave until close to 10:00, largely due to my flat tire fiasco.
I rode 6 miles south to Alba where I took 182 east to connect with 154.† 182 was a great country road.† It was narrow without a shoulder but it didnít need to be wide with little traffic.† It ran 12 miles before it joined 154 just outside Quitman.† I stopped in Quitman for a cold drink on what was already a fairly warm day.
At this point 154 didnít have a shoulder but it was wider
than 182 and that accommodated the increase in traffic.† 154 in combination with 182 would turn out to
be easily the most scenic section of my ride across
12 miles outside Gilmer the road improved to a smoother road
surface.† I stopped in Gilmer for a cold
drink and got to talking with another guy there.† He stated that 154 was much hillier the rest
of the way and suggested heading down to
So I took off on 154 looking for 1650 that was supposed to
cutover to 259 to
Based on this localís input, I decided to continue on
154.† The only problem was it was 4:30
and I had 28 miles to
Of course, daylight was fading rapidly as I approached
In a couple blocks I spotted the Budget Inn where I got a room for $40, more expensive because I had to pay for a double.† I was famished so I ate at a Chinese buffet I had spotted on my ride into town.
It was overcast in the morning with the threat of afternoon thunderstorms.† I rode south a bit looking for breakfast but gave up and turned around and rode to the junction with 80.† I got some milk for a cereal breakfast and then stopped at a McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin.
After 2 long days and with the threat of rain looming I
figured the 40 miles to
It sprinkled a few drops along the way.† After 25 miles I stopped at a large truck stop for a break.
I didnít know any great way into and through
I spent a good hour at the library and when I walked out it was
raining lightly.† My first thought was to
kill some more time at the library but I wanted to get settled in a motel
before the evening rush.† So I put on my
rain gear and set off.† In a couple
blocks I crossed the Red River into
The motel was okay, a little small but it wasnít the greatest location.† However, there was a nearby mall with a food court and it had a Subway where I ate.† On my way back I picked up a few things at a grocery store and settled in for the night.
I ate breakfast in my room using the milk I had stashed in
my small refrigerator.† My front tire was
very soft so I found a slow leak and fixed it.†
Now I only had 2 small patches left from the patch kit I bought in
I already knew where I was eating breakfast.† My research in the library showed a Waffle House east on 80 so I saddled up and rode out.† I found the Waffle House about 4 miles later at the intersection of I20/I220.† I had my usual double pecan waffle.
My plan was to ride to
About 5 miles from
I stopped in Gibsland which claimed to have an authentic
The next stop was
When I set out I discovered I was no longer on 80 and had to decide whether to turn north or south at a stop.† Fortunately, 2 guys came along and pointed out I20 was north so I knew I had to head that way and rejoined 80.
I pulled into
Afterwards I found an ATM machine to replenish my cash.† Then I ran into a Fed Ex guy at a food mart who drew a map to a Waffle House on my way out of town in the morning.
I walked to a food mart for milk and ate in my room.† Then I set off east on 80.† I had thought I was on the east side of town
but I was on the west side.† So I had a
fair ride through town, passing by the
I left at 8:30 on an overcast, cool, windy day.† The wind was northeast so it was a fair head
wind that made it a struggle to maintain a double digit speed even thought the
route was flat all day.† 80 ran along
side a railroad and I heard some loud train whistles.† I had a line of trees separating me from the
railroad on my right but the left side was frequently open and left me
vulnerable to the wind.† I saw my first
cotton fields since
80 was frequently in sad shape.† One section of concrete had sizeable asphalt repairs.† However, there was a 20 mile stretch between Rayville and Waverly that was in great condition.† Then 80 deteriorated again with frequent bad cracks for long stretches a couple feet from and parallel to the white line.† Fortunately, the light traffic made it easy to maneuver around the bad cracks.
With the cool weather there was no need to stop for cold
drinks.† So I rode all the way to
Tallulah, population 9,200, before stopping at 1:30.† Then I was faced with the decision whether to
continue the 25-30 miles to
When I stopped at the town library there were a few sprinkles and that cemented my decision to call it a day.† But the library was a bit of a disappointment because I couldnít print on the laser printer which needed toner.† Of course, when I left the library the sky was clearing but the wind still prevailed so calling it a day was probably a good idea.
I rode a little east on 80 and found a motel for $40 cash.† This marked the 5th consecutive motel I had stayed in that was run by an Indian person, who appear to have a lock on budget motels.
The motel was located between a pizza place and a grocery store and I took advantage of both.† However, it wasnít near any breakfast place and there really wasnít anything in town.† Most likely I would have to head south out of town towards I20 if I insisted on a real breakfast.
I ate my cereal and banana in my room and set off at 7:45 since there was no breakfast place within reason.† The road started out very nice but that only lasted 5 miles when it reverted to its rough and cracked surface.† Combined with some head wind it wasnít great cycling.
The way east was through
It was a little less than 20 miles to the
Instead I decided to finagle a solution.† The railroad track was immediately adjacent to 80 and they both shared the same bridge.† The railroad track had a narrow pathway on both sides of the track and I decided to use one.† I rolled my bike up on the pathway which was corrugated iron with teeth.† Then I saw a train coming the other way and I retreated until it passed.
I got back on the pathway, feeling less comfortable because there didnít appear to be that much room when the train passed by.† I also didnít feel comfortable riding my bike on the iron teeth grating.† Fortunately, there was only a low fence separating the tracks from 80.† So I unloaded my bike and dropped my panniers over the fence and lifted my bike across.
When I reloaded my bike I had a nice personal bridge and
took my time riding across with a nice view of the
After checking out the visitor center I saw a Waffle House on the other side of I20.† So I was compelled to ride to it on an overpass and have a late breakfast.† The cook was skeptical that I could handle a double pecan waffle but it was no problem, as it hadnít been the last 2 mornings.
I planned to spend the rest of the day in
That left my option as riding to
I spent the rest of the day checking out
Last I stopped at the
Finally, I rode just a little east of the park to a campground and got a tent site for $12 and ate at a Subway.
I hit the sack at 9:00 so I was up at 6:15 with the sun not
due until about 7:10 which is about when I left the campground.† I stopped at a food mart for a cereal
breakfast and then rode a little east on
As I left town there was a motel advertising $25 rooms.† I was satisfied with my tent site but if I had opted for a motel I likely would not have seen this one and it would have aggravated me no end to miss a good deal.
The plan for the day was the Amtrak station in
80 was a narrow 2-lane shoulderless road that cut a narrow
swath through the rolling countryside.†
Initially, there was more traffic than I liked but that died off as I
got away from the
The road was fine for a while and then it deteriorated
somewhat but not as bad as in
After a little over 10 miles of riding the defining moment of the day occurred.† As I was riding I saw something in my peripheral vision fly to my forehead.† I thought it might be a mosquito and I tried to swipe it away.† Apparently I didnít succeed because about 20 seconds later I got stung.† At first I thought it was a mosquito bite but it hurt way too much for that.
Iíve been stung before and lived so I wasnít worried.† Then 10-15 minutes later I started itching, first around my scalp and then around my waist and wrists.† I couldnít imagine what could have caused that.† When my crotch started itching that was aggravated by the pedaling and I stopped to apply some ointment.† When I did I could feel big hives.† When I took a peek at my waist and groin they were all red splotches.† Finally, I realized I must be suffering an allergic reaction to the sting.
Around this time 80 appeared to end at Edwards, a small
town, and I picked up the I20 frontage road, which the folks at the campground
told me about and called old 80.† As the
itching increased after passing through Edwards I wondered if I should have
stopped for something.† Then things got
worse.† My legs started feeling very
lethargic and I could just barely pedal.†
Fortunately, the road was good and flat and I could manage about 10 mph
when I should have been doing 12-14 mph.†
At that point I started wondering whether I could make
And then I started having trouble swallowing.† Drinking a little water was an effort.† I wondered how much worse this was going to get.† Never having had any reaction to a sting other than some local pain and swelling I wondered if this could get really bad.† The only good news was the itching had faded.† I debated whether it would be better to stop and rest but there really wasnít any good stopping place.
Eventually, after an hour or so I started feeling
better.† I regained the energy in my legs
and had only a little difficulty swallowing.†
When I reached
I felt fairly decent although I still had a little difficulty drinking.† When I went in the restroom, the mirror revealed that I was puffy around my nose bridge and eyebrows.† When I checked my map, I saw I could pick up 80 just by going north over the I20 overpass.† I confirmed that with the proprietor and took off for about another 10 miles to get downtown.† 80 was a 4-lane road with a center turn lane and no shoulder so it was not a good cycling road.† After a few miles it developed a shoulder and was okay.
After 5-6 miles on 80 I turned left on
When I wheeled my bike into the station the Amtrak area did
not look promising.† There was only one
passenger and no sales agent in sight.†
However, I found an agent in back and told him I wanted to go to
He checked and they had a bike box, one that was large enough for the bike without any panniers and only required removing the pedals and turning the handlebar sideways.† So I got a ticket for $181, somewhat more expensive as a last minute purchase, and $10 for the bike, a far cry from the $50-80 charged by the airlines.
I had gotten to the station at 1:00 and took about an hour to pack my bike and the remaining gear into 3 checked bags, my duffel bag with sleeping bag and tent, my front panniers lashed together, and my rear panniers lashed together.† I used my nylon back pack for my carryon stuff.† All in all, a fairly pleasant packing experience compared to my standard airline packing.
After packing I went in to the restroom for a sponge bath and a change of clothes.† What I saw in the mirror was somewhat shocking.† My left eye was about half closed and my right eye about quarter closed.† It was a little surprising that the ticket agent hadnít comment on my appearance and I explained I was really much better looking than I looked.† I also noticed when I put on my wrist watch that my wrist was swollen enough that I had to use one more notch in the watch band than normal.
After checking everything it was 2:30 and boarding wasnít until 5:27.† So I had some time to kill and walked around downtown to see the capitol, the courthouse, and other sights.
Boarding was on schedule on our Superliner from
The train left promptly on time at 5:44.† And immediately the woman in front of me felt compelled to start a cell conversation, informing her listener that she was off and carrying on from there.† On cue the person in front of her started her conversation and chatted for about 30 minutes.† I would dearly have loved to have access to the intercom so I could have informed passengers that cell phone usage was not mandatory and sometimes just impolite.† Later, one woman insisted on jabbering on her cell phone for an hour up to 11 pm while others were trying to sleep.
With sunset about 6:30 I only had about an hour of viewing time.† With the train scheduled to arrive at 9 am that mean most of the ride would be in darkness.
I slept reasonably well under the circumstances.† Around 6:30 am the woman in front of me was unable to control herself and started up a cell conversation.† At 7:00 I headed to the lunge car and got a cup of coffee and cinnamon roll.† I enjoyed this while watching the passing landscape in the early morning sun in the lounge car without the intrusion of any cell conversations.
We pulled into Chicago Union Station slightly ahead of the 9:00 schedule.† I retrieved my regular checked bags promptly but the bike box was delivered in the basement.† To get to the basement I had to take an elevator but I couldnít do that until a security person waved a magic wand in the elevator.† That took about 15 minutes and then I had everything.
It was easy putting everything back together and I was on
the road just after 10:00.† A station
officer on a Sedgway warned me to put on shoes rather than sandals, claiming it
was a wind chill 27F with wind from the west but I didnít have a problem.† I used a section of the Grand Illinois Trail
to get me out of the
When I reached Glen Ellyn I detoured from the prairie path
and made my way home to
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2006. All rights reserved.