[Ken Kifer's Bike Pages]
ARTICLE: Journey to Colorado, Part III
My bicycle camping trip back to Alabama, including misadventures in Denver, across Nebraska and Iowa, down through Illinois to Cave-in-the-Rock, back to the Land Between the Lakes, and south to Alabama.
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Journey to Colorado, Part III

Journey to Colorado, Part II

Day forty-four: After leaving my campsite, I dropped down to Echo Lake where I dried my tent, cooked another big meal, and fooled around until noon time.  Then, I crossed Squaw Pass and rode down to Denver once again, stopped to eat in Bergan along the way.

This time, I stopped by to stay with Earl, the 75 year-old biker I had met in Illinois.  Earl immediately wanted to go for a bike ride, but I pointed out that it was late in the afternoon and I was tired from traveling.  Earl showed me a series of underground rooms that he had constructed underneath his house.  No mention was made of dinner, but Earl thought it was important to show me anti-smoking movies until I was nodding.  He told me that I would need to sleep in the basement, which I did not object to, but then he locked me in!

Echo Lake - Lakewood, 41 miles, 15.2 mph, July 10. 

Rest (?) day:  The next day, there seemed to be no interest in breakfast, but Earl was impatient to begin riding.  We began a long ride on bike trails and sidewalks heading down towards Denver proper.  When we passed a supermarket, I asked to stop, and I went in and bought some rolls for breakfast.  When I came out, Earl was hungry too, so he helped me eat.

While eating,  we met a 67 year-old Harry, cycling from Minnesota, who stopped for groceries.  Earl agreed to show him the bike trail south, so we cycled a good distance south with him. Then Earl led me north across Denver on the South Platte bike trail, along the exact route I had followed earlier.  He insisted on eating in McDonald's downtown, where all I could get was a poor and expensive (for me) fish sandwich.

As we traveled northwards, it was obvious that a major storm was brewing behind us.  I had kept telling Earl that I wanted to call my cousin to see when I could visit with him and his parents (who were both ill), and Earl had been asking me to wait until later.  But, with the rain threatening, Earl now began urging me to call him at every opportunity and to ask him to pick us up.  Finally, after we left the bikeway, the rain began.  Earl found shelter, and he sent me through the pouring rain to find a telephone.  Of course, my cousin could not pick us up, but we agreed for me to visit his folks the next day.  When I got back to where Earl had been, he was gone.  Someone told me that he had accepted a ride almost immediately.

Actually, the rain was already ending.  We had escaped the worse of it.  As I re-crossed Denver, I saw a swollen stream, piles of hail stones looking like snow on the ground, smashed windows, dented car tops, and torn down tree limbs.  My cousin later told me that hailstones the size of softballs had torn up the golf course.  I was smart enough to get something to eat on the way back because Earl never mentioned food after I returned.

Lakewood - Lakewood, 67 miles, 10.4 mph, July 11. 

Rest day:  In the morning, I needed to eat again, so we made a trip to a supermarket, where Earl once again demonstrated that he was hungry too.   I then left for the day to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousin (a different aunt and uncle from the ones I had visited earlier).  On the way to their home in Arvada, I tried to follow the bike trails, using a map.  It was a very slow and difficult trip because cycling on the trails was slow and because the trails were hard to find.

We had a longer visit than intended because my cousin was delayed with an investigation he was completing.  However, he brought a Chinese take-home meal with him, and we had fun eating and talking.  Then I started back, later than I had intended.  When I got back to Earl's, he had gone to bed early and locked up my gear, so I had to sleep under old carpets that I found.  I say "had to" because temperatures get very low at night in Denver.

Lakewood - Lakewood, 22 miles, 11.7 mph, July 12. 

Day forty-five:  This morning, I was treated a little differently, and even offered some cereal and fruit for breakfast.  No mention was made of my sleeping under the carpets.   It was implied that the whole problem had been my wanting to see my cousin and that I would now receive better treatment.

However, I had a different view of things, and I politely and briefly made it clear that I was ready to depart.  Even though I did not have enough sleep the previous night, I had a tremendous desire to leave Denver far behind me.  I crossed Denver and Aurora, using roads when possible and bike paths otherwise.

On a street in Aurora, an old van with two men in it passed me and then pulled over to the curb.  Just as I was passing, the driver flung the door open, but I had kept my distance, and so I was not hit.  However, I glanced back to see that the men were upset that they had not hit me.

The bike trails were poor for traveling; my speed on them was low, they wound around terribly, and I had to stop and walk across at intersections frequently.  I was very glad when the last of them was behind me.  I probably should have taken the South Platte route again.  From Aurora, I took a road north that took me to the interstate.  Then I followed the service road alongside the interstate.  At one point, I saw a grove of trees between the road and the railroad, just big enough to get out of sight, so I camped there.

Lakewood - Roggen, 88 miles, 11.2 mph, July 13.

Day forty-six:  Today, I was wanting to go as far and as fast as possible, and a had a bit of a tail wind, not enough to give me a high average speed, but enough to take the pain out of the ride.  Also, a major help was encountering another cyclist, who rode with me for many miles.

I made good time in the morning partially because there was nothing to look at.  Also, I had been told that two Maryland cyclists were on the road just ahead of me, and I hoped to catch up.  My speed was above 15 mph during the early part of the day, but gradually declined, although I struggled to keep it high.  I stopped in Merino, where the road crosses the South Platte River, for a two-hour break after traveling 68 miles with just short stops.  When I started again, I saw no immediate improvement in my speed, but after Sterling, I started traveling faster, a clear indication that I was getting help from a breeze.

I will always remember Crook because the people were so friendly there when I checked about camping in their town park.

Roggen - Crook, 110 miles, 14.2 mph, July 14. 

Farm in Nebraska.Day forty-seven:  I had a pleasant night's sleep but slept in late.  I seemed to be fighting headwinds, but I couldn't detect them after I stopped to rest at Sedgwick.

At Big Springs not far beyond the Nebraska line, I joined the old stage coach/pony express route reported on by Mark Twain.  This route was also part of the Oregon and Mormon Trails.  Big Springs is also the location of a great train robbery in 1887.  Sam Bass and his gang got $60,000 in gold, but Sam was killed a year later on his 27th birthday.  The town park included two chainsaw carvings made from a tree in the park; the tall stump had been shaped into the robber, and part of the remaining trunk had a carving of the train.

That evening, I spent the night in Ogallala City Park, where the sprinklers came on late at night, surprising me and raining on the tent.

Crook - Ogallala, Nebraska, 66 miles, 11.4 mph, July 15. 

Day forty-eight:  This was an uneventful day, as were most of my days crossing Nebraska on this trip.  I had no noteworthy difficulties, my conversations with people were casual and short, and the terrain was very much the same, day after day.  Since I was riding in the Platte River Valley, I didn't have much of a view either.  Each night, I checked about camping in the town park, which was always agreeable.

About the only difference was the wind, while shows up in my average speed for the day.  I had been expected good speed on the return trip, but the winds were not helpful.  On this day the wind was at first unfavorable in the morning, became favorable, and then got gradually worse towards evening.  For the best 12 miles of the day, my average speed was 15.3 and for the worst 14 miles, it was 10.6 mph.

I crossed the North Platte River (at North Platte, of course), and it was full of water there. When I crossed the combined North and South Platte Rivers just 150 miles downstream, very little water was left, due to irrigation.

Maxwell was the one town where I did not ask permission to camp; the town was very small, and there was no one in sight.  It was a pleasant little park to camp in.

Ogallala - Maxwell, 69 miles, 12.6 mph, July 16.

Day forty-nine:   I started at 7:20 and stopped to eat my breakfast of donuts at Brady, nine miles farther on.  Before reaching Gothenburg, I ran into construction on the road.

The railroad along this route must be one of the busiest in the US.  There was constant train traffic in both directions, and the railway was double tracked as a result.

That night, I camped at Elm Creek, a larger park, the events of the day and the scenery unremarkable.

Maxwell - Elm Creek, 71 miles, 10.4 mph, July 17. 

Day fifty:  I met an extremely interesting cyclist today.   Probably in his 60's and dressed in blue jeans, polyester shirt, and golf cap, he was traveling westward, and he told me that when he reached the West Coast, he would turn around and cross the US again.  His bike was an old single speed child's bike from the 50's, stripped of the fake gas tank.  He had built his carriers of lawn furniture tubing.  On them, he had an assortment of cardboard boxes and plastic bags plus an old styrofoam chest.

He told me that he had been married and working in a factory, freezing in the winter and sweating through the summer, and getting no pleasure out of life.  Then he discovered that his wife was unfaithful to him, and that she and the kids were laughing at him, so he just walked out and never went back.  He had been living since on the road, just picking up enough money to live on and never trying to own anything.  He had traveled most of the US (and had passed through my area of Alabama).

If he needed a place to sleep, he just looked for a bridge to sleep under; he was not about to sleep in a park, where the police might harass him.  He paid no attention to "no trespassing" signs.  He cared nothing about possessions.  If a bike was stolen or damaged, he just got another one out of a trash dump.  On one occasion, he had been hit by a car and taken to a hospital.  As soon as he awoke, he snuck out of the hospital, leaving everything behind.  Henry Thoreau, who said, "a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone" would have loved to have talked with him.

When I reached Kerney, I met another cyclist, this one 75 years old and riding an Easy Rider recumbent, completely faired with cloth.  He told me that his doctor had warned him about his heart, and he was now averaging over 250 miles a week.

In the afternoon, I crossed the Platte River, now pretty dry, which I had first met in the Rockies, and left the Platte River Valley.  The first cyclist had told me that he camped near the river here, but I found that there were "no trespassing signs" and no trees, so I went on.

In Aurora, I visited with Jeff, a young cyclist who was interested in bicycle camping trips, before traveling to the town park well after dark.

Elm Creek - Aurora, 80 miles, 11.1 mph, July 18. 

Day fifty-one:  The next morning, the rain began to fall before I entered the supermarket for my breakfast.  I left in front of a storm, hoping to outrun it, but this time there was a crosswind instead of a tailwind, so the storm caught me.

I ended up riding in rain all day long, seven inches worth in a state that averages ten inches a year.  When I reached York, thoroughly drenched, I headed to the library and spend the worst part of the day hiding there.

The town park at Seward.While in the library, I met a man who told me that he resented having to be careful with cyclists on the road.  After I left, three different motorists honked loudly at me, even though I was on the shoulder, six feet from the road.  Back on the highway, the wind blew my hat off (it had been damaged from exposure to the sun, and the elastic was getting weak).  I turned around and rode back to get it, but before I got there, a truck swerved part way into the other lane and hit it square, evidently a deliberate act.  This behavior today, the reckless passing below Berthoud Pass, and being yelled at a few times were the only problems that I had with motorists on this trip.

The park that night in Seward was flooded, but I camped on the highest knoll and was OK.

Aurora - Seward, 57 miles, 11.7 mph, July 19. 

Day fifty-two:  Hills were more frequent and steeper today but never steep enough to require the use of my smallest chainring.   I started a little late in the morning and passed one store, hoping for a better one.  As a result, I ended up riding all the way to Lincoln with only one carrot to eat.

The park at Unadilla.In Lincoln, I visited the Bike Peddlers, where I received a friendly greeting and a bike map of Lincoln.  I followed another bike trail through town as a result.

That evening, as I cycled past Unadilla, I noticed that there was a roof over some picnic tables in  park near the highway, so I decided to pitch my tent underneath, a wise decision considering the weather (it rained during the night).

Seward - Unadilla, 58 miles, 11.8 mph, July 20.

Day fifty-three:  I left my campsite at 8:20 but then spent over an hour talking to some folks at a gas station.  It started raining before I reached Nebraska City, pedaling over some small hills.  I stopped in a Schwinn bike shop to get directions to the library, where I once again hid from rain until four, but the rain never amounted to much.

When I crossed into Iowa, I found some marijuana growing by the side of the road.  My first impulse was to carry a few leaves with me, but before I did any such fool thing, I realized that I could go to jail for doing so.  So, I took a picture instead.  Could they put me in jail for a picture?

After I reached Iowa, I traveled on some very back roads for a ways before joining up with highway 2.  There was a rest stop marked on the road map, but I discovered that it had been turned into a county RV park, completely unsuitable for cyclists.

I traveled on to Clarinda, a little large for camping, as it had a population of over 5,000.  Before I was allowed to camp in the park, the police had to ID me, the only time this had happened.

Unadilla - Clarinda, Iowa, 78 miles, 10.8 mph, July 21. 

Rolling hills near Leon.Day fifty-four:   Before leaving town in the morning, I nearly lost all my traveler's checks.  I went into a small store and bought fruit, fried potatoes, and donuts (I ate anything that was cheap).  I set my traveler's checks on the counter while receiving my change, and I forgot to pick them up when leaving.  Immediately after leaving, I turned back knowing that I didn't have them, but the shift had changed, and no one knew anything about traveler's checks.  Finally, the young woman who had helped me was summoned, and she reported that she had "put them in the manager's office."  So, she went into the office and returned with them.  I can't help thinking that she had tried to steal them, as she had not said a word to me after I had left the counter and while I was lingering outside, nor had she spoken to any of the other employees.  I recovered the checks only because I clearly remembered where I had left them and because I was stubborn enough to insist that I had left them there until someone fetched her.  What if I had left cash?  However, this behavior was exceptional; I have been overcharged at times, but no one else has ever tried to steal from me.  Of course, it is possible that she was just being thoughtless rather than being a thief.  In any event, she could not have cashed the checks, and I could have gotten replacements.

On down the highway, some truckers began playing games with me.  While I stay on the road when cars come up from the rear, I move off of the road if a truck may have trouble passing.  The truckers noticed this, and they began to take advantage of me.  When a vehicle was coming towards us, they would speed up or slow down to make sure they would pass me just at the same time as the other vehicle, forcing me off the road.  To make the situation more dangerous, some of the on-coming vehicles were Amish buggies.  After I got wise to what they were doing, I stayed on the road when one truck did this, ignoring the blasting air horn, the black smoke, the squealing brakes, and all.  It never happened again.  I'm sure the driver got on his CB and told the others to back off.

I stopped to rest at the pool at Mount Ayr and used the opportunity to eat, dry some road maps which were still wet, and to plan the rest of my trip.

After many more rolling hills, I reached Leon.  While in town, two girls were cycling by, and in watching me, the one fell down.  She was not seriously injured, but she was seriously embarrassed.  I stopped at a store, and the owner called the police for me.  They informed him that I couldn't camp in town due to an ordinance, but I must ride to a lake three miles north where I would pay to camp.  But, having seen one unsuitable county park, I did not feel like adding six miles to my trip to camp in another.  The people in the store had some suggestions: one suggested I go out to the fairgrounds and another that I camp under a bridge, and all advised me not to go on.  Nonetheless, I decided to go on anyway.  Less than two miles out of town, I found a nice hill out of sight on the state right of way where the road was going to be widened.  I was over half a mile from any house and had a tremendous view.  During the night, I heard coyotes howling.

Clarinda - Leon, 80 miles, 12.2 mph, July 22. 

Day fifty-five:  In the morning, I got going at 7:25.  My tent, sleeping bag, and everything were wet due to a mild rain and a heavy condensation (the second being a sign that I was finally back East).  After riding 20 miles to Corydon, I bought some food, and stopped in the town park to dry my sleeping bag and tent and to cook a good meal.  While there, an attractive married woman with three kids came by and talked to me.  She wanted me to go to her house for a shower, but I really didn't need the shower, and I was unsure of her motive.

I discovered that day, purely by accident, that I had not been receiving my 5¢ deposit back on my soft drink cans all the way across Iowa (I had thought it was a sales tax).  The discovery made me think of the song about Iowa people in the Music Man.  One line goes, "Oh, there's nothing half-way about the Iowa way to treat you, if we greet you, which we may not do at all."

During the day, I had a breeze behind me and lower hills, so my average speed was higher.   I knew better than to ask to camp at a town park, so I camped for the night under a bridge.  It was by no means a poor spot.

Leon - Fox River, 93 miles, 14.7 mph, July 23. 

Camping site at Fox River.Day fifty-six:  I stopped to take a picture of my crossing the bridge at Fox River, and then stopped in Farmington, where I talked to an Iowa conservation man and the store owner about my route.  I stopped at a rest stop just before I reached Keokuk, probably where I had also stopped to rest in 1966.  I crossed over the Mississippi at Keokuk, but I couldn't get a picture of the bridge, so I took a picture of the dam just about the bridge instead.

In Hamilton, Illinois, I stopped at Dadant, Inc., to talk to a grandson about the Dadant's and the bee industry for a few minutes, and then I rode by the old Dadant home.

From there, I traveled down a narrow and dangerous road to Lima, where I received permission from the major to camp in the town park.  Many kids were in the park for Bible school, but the people conducting the school treated me as a welcomed guest and offered me cookies after my spaghetti dinner ruined. This was a very pleasant change from Iowa.

Fox River - Lima, Illinois, 77 miles, 12.7 mph, July 24. 

Houses on stilts on river.Day fifty-seven: In the morning, one of the men from the Bible school came by to say good-bye.   He suggested a route along a road closer to the river that avoided highway 96 for a ways.  Traveling through Quincy, I saw houses on stilts along the Mississippi.  This area with its pleasant people must have been later devastated by the floods along the river.

I had a pleasant day's ride, although the greatest excitement seems to have been watching a street being repaved while resting and eating in a gazebo at Payson.

At Pleasant Hill, I stopped at a store to see about camping, and the woman called the police station for me.  The police suggested that I stay at River Road Campground.  However, a policeman walked in, and he suggested that I stay at the town park, up on top of the hill, which was much more suitable for me.  I thought the name for this town perfectly matched my experience there.

Lima - Pleasant Hill, 72 miles, 11.1 mph, July 25. 

Day fifty-eight:  Before starting out, I changed a tire and washed up.  After traveling a dozen miles farther south, I turned eastward, crossing the Illinois on a ferry at Kampsville.  My son's girlfriend (now his wife) was working in the same town, although I didn't know it at the time.  Before crossing, I stopped at a store for food and also received some good information from the women there about my projected route around East St. Louis.

Following their advice, I headed east to Carlinville, where I intended to camp in the town  park. However, when I arrived in town in the early dusk, I saw immediately that I had a problem: it was a larger town than I thought, and it was a college town, with students on the streets everywhere.  I said to myself, "They aren't going to let you sleep in this town."   Nonetheless, I went by the police station, not knowing what else to do.  There I was asked to wait to see the police chief while the sky turned black outside.  When I was led to see the chief, I had to wait another long period while he finished some important work.  Then, when he finally looked up at me, his first words to me were, "You know, I can't let you camp in town."  I sat breathlessly (feeling like cussing a blue streak) until he went on, "But we have a good camp outside of town, if you can ride three miles farther."

So, following his directions, I pedaled out of town on a night as black as ink.  Soon, I was traveling rolling hills that had recently been re-graveled.  I passed suitable places for camping (I thought), but the chief had said he would come along to check on me, and I felt I would be in trouble with him if I did so.  Finally, I reached the indicated site to find a long row of RV's.  I pulled into the camp, feeling disgusted.  I felt trapped into camping here, and I fully expected to pay $15 for a nasty site, I supposed.   The manager came up to me fussing a little bit, "Why didn't you let me know you were here?  How can I be expected to hear a bicycle pull up?"  And he proceeded to tell me that normally he charged a good fee and made people camp crowded close together.  But then he added, "But we always let those who pedal here camp for free down next to the lake."

Pleasant Hill - Carlinville, 68 miles, 11.2 mph, July 26. 

Day fifty-nine:  Before leaving the campground, I pushed my bike up to the bathroom, and got ready to got take a shower.  A car pulled up, and the driver, seeing that I was about to go in, jumped out of the car and dashed in ahead of me.  It's bad enough having them act that way on the highway.

I stayed on highway 4 today, skirting East St. Louis.  All day long, I found myself being endangered by reckless and impatient drivers who did not want to loose a few seconds.  The worst part was between the interstates 70 and 64, where people were taking a short-cut without wanting to reduce their speed.  I stopped twice to read in libraries, once in Stauton and once in Lebanon.

When I reached Fayetteville, I checked to see if I could camp in the town park.  Everyone in the park was very friendly; the only problem was that they had some kind of event staged in the park for the evening, and they were afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep.   The town councilman thought of a solution, if it was OK with me, I could pitch my tent in his back yard across the street.  Before I did so, he invited me inside where he and his wife feed me a meal and asked me questions about my trip.

Carlinville - Fayetteville, 66 miles, 11.5 mph, July 27.

Day sixty:  In the morning, we had another visit, and a contractor who stopped by suggested my route for the day.  I traveled west for five miles, and then I turned south for three, and then I had a long ride eastward on a well paved, lightly traveled, county road that ran from Darmstadt through Lively Grove to Waltonville.

Along the way, I found a place to dry my tent and sleeping bag in Dubois (a single-wall tent collects a lot of condensation in the East when it is pitched out in the open), and I also used the opportunity to catch a nap.  At Waltonville, I stopped to talk to two old men, one of them telling me about his experiences during W.W.II as if they happened yesterday.  I enjoyed hearing his eye-witness accounts, and I remembered my talking about 1965 as if it was yesterday.

I turned south at Waltonville down to 154 and then turned east to cross Rend Lake.  When I reached the lake, I noticed how the steel guardrails seemed to deny most people the use of a section of the lakeside, so I lifted my bike over the rails and had a nice section of lake shore all to myself.  Then I had a good bath.  It seemed like a great place to camp for the night, so I went no farther, even though it was still a little early.

Fayetteville - Rend Lake, 62 miles, 11.5 mph, July 28. 

Cave in Rock.Day sixty-one:  Today, I traveled south to Benton and southwest to Harrisburg, then over the hills to Elizabethtown and Cave in the Rock.  The day became very hot, and I drank six soft drinks and ate ten pieces of fruit during the day, plus some yogurt.  In Benton, I stopped and talked to motorcyclists who were traveling to a get-together.  I discovered that they did not mind at all that Westerners were calling us cyclists "bikers," and I also learned that they had a high opinion of my form of two-wheel travel.

I saw some good camping areas as I traveled through the national forest on highway 34, but I felt I should have traveled over to El Dorado and down highway 1 instead, as I encountered heavy traffic on this route.

I was pleased to visit Cave in the Rock.  This cave was used by outlaws in the days of Davy Crockett to rob boats traveling along the Ohio River.  On the inside, the cave is less than impressive, but it served the purposes of the gangs that used it.  Above the cave, along the bluff, were the camping sites for the RV people.  These spots had formerly been used by tent campers.  Now the tent campers had been stuck with muddy sites back in the woods on steep hillsides.

Feeling pretty insulted by the despicable sites offer by the state park, I decided to take my chances elsewhere.  But I had no sooner pedaled down to the boat landing than the rain began to fall.  David, Debbie, Bruce and some others happened to be there, and they offered to let me camp on their place, so I followed their vehicles out a small trailer and a roofed deck on the edge of a high bluff over the river.  The ride out there ended up being a seven mile, hilly ride on dirt roads, with a very muddy climb at the end.  For the night, I slept out on the covered deck while David and Debbie slept inside.

Rend Lake - Cave in the Rock, 89 miles, 12.5 mph, July 29. 

Day sixty-two: In the morning, Debbie and I went for a walk along the river at the foot of the bluff.  Then David, Debbie, and I went back to Cave in the Rock (my bike in their truck), where they took me to a breakfast of pancakes and out on their boat on the river.

Then I crossed the Ohio on the ferry and rode through the hilly, wooded country to Marion.  On the way, I started seeing indications that some of the people were Amish.  First, I saw boys out playing in black hats.  Then I saw women in long, black dresses.  I was passed by a buggy driven by a teenage girl wearing a long, light green dress.  In Marion, I saw a woman and a boy in the store who were doing their shopping by buggy.

I traveled south from Marion and then west a little to the Land Between the Lakes again.  However, I arrived feeling quite sick and with the problem of diarrhea (I felt fine the next day).  I camped about two miles north of my LBL #2 camp site.  During the day I had seen three deer, one near the ferry and two in the LBL.

Cave in the Rock - LBL (#3), 54 miles, 11.8 mph, July 30. 

Day sixty-three:  Today I bought a map of the LBL, ironic since I didn't know when I would be back.  It is definitely a place worth visiting and would be great for a cycling-fishing trip.  I stopped by the picnic spot and pond near where I had camped on the way out, but it was crowded with people, so I couldn't eat there.  I tried to revisit my camp site, but I already couldn't remember exactly where it was.  Traveling farther, I came to a 1850 farmhouse, but did not visit due to the $8.50 entry fee.   Stopping for lunch, I talked with two 1st grade teachers from Cleveland.

After leaving the Trace, I turned left and rode through Dover.  While in a store in Dover, I once again forgot my traveler's checks, but this time the clerk brought them out to me.  I then traveled along Barclay Lake and up some hills through the state forest.  This was much better than the route on the way up.

I noticed a road going back into the forest, so I turned off.  I found a hidden spot and prepared my camp for the night.  Two deer came by the tent.  One watched me for a couple of minutes and then walked past.  The second one spooked soon after she saw me, and then they both ran off into the woods together, and I heard them snorting their warning sound for some time.

LBL (#3) - Steward Forest, 56 miles, 11.7 mph, July 31. 

Day sixty-four:  The next morning, I entered Erin and got some groceries.  Rather than follow my route up, I pedaled south through the woods on highway 13.  This was an excellent route as it was wooded and scenic most of the distance between Erin and Alabama, the traffic was light, and people were friendly.  It also makes a good connector between the LBL and the Natchez Trace.

Unfortunately, when the time came to camp, I found myself near Linden, where there were fewer opportunities.  Just before I reached Linden, I saw a good spot to camp on a rock bluff, but before I could stop, a man drove his pickup in and parked.  Just after leaving Linden, while it was rapidly growing dark, I saw a patch of trees alongside the road.  There was no room to pitch a tent, but I decided to camp anyway, as there was no problem from insects.  However, I did get sprinkled with rain in the early morning.

Steward Forest - Linden, 71 miles, 12.4 mph, August 1. 

Day sixty-five:  The next morning, I started extra early, as I always do when sleeping without a tent.  In Flatwoods, a rustic town, I stopped to talk with a man for a little.  In Waynesboro, a much bigger town, I stopped for a much longer time and visited with an ex-hippie selling produce in the center of town.   He gave me a cantaloupe and a jug of cider to enjoy on my trip.

Near Collinsworth, I encountered the Natchez Trace, and I rode on it a short distance.   When I stopped in a grocery for some food, the woman insisted on giving me some orange juice and wanted to know if I was writing a book about my trip.

Camping site under bridge.After I reached Alabama, I started traveling eastward, using whatever roads I could find.  Finally, when near Lexington, I crossed over a high bridge above the stream.  I heard voices and pulled off to discover some boys swinging into the river.   After talking with them before they left, I decided that it would be OK to camp there if I just got away from the road.  So I walked downstream below the bridge and camped on the stony creek bed, close to the river.

Linden - Lexington, 77 miles, 11.5 mph, August 2. 

Day sixty-six:  When I folded my tent in the morning, I was determined to get home in one day, so I rode for 123 miles and nearly ten hours to my cabin.  My first stop was Lexington three miles up the road, then I turned south a few miles later and zigzagged down to Anderson.

From there I followed a hilly and winding road down to Athens.  In Athens, I asked for directions at the fire station for a road that would allow me to run parallel to the highway.  But the person I asked gave confusing directions, and I lost my sense of direction and ended up on highway 72 anyway.  Because I was determined to ride the rest of the way to my cabin in one day, I decided to stay on the main road, which I did all the way through Huntsville and across the mountain.

Once I crossed the mountain on Andrew Jackson, I turned onto the old highway, and up the road I turned onto the Maysville road, thus taking a longer and more scenic route to avoid the fast and sometimes hostile traffic for a few miles.

Then I had to rejoin the main road until shortly before Woodville, where I turned onto the old highway and then onto an even older highway.  I traveled on into Scottsboro, where I got something to eat, and then on up to the cabin well after dark.

Lexington - Scottsboro, 123 miles, 12.7 mph, August 3. 

Rest day:  I spent a day at the cabin and also made another trip into town.

Cabin - cabin, 32 miles, August 4.

Day sixty-seven:  Finally, I returned to my starting point in Gadsden, taking the shortest route.  On the way, I was hit by one final thundershower, which forced me to seek shelter at a church.  It had been a wet trip, but I had never had damp spirits.

Scottsboro - Gadsden, 69 miles, 12.2 mph, August 5. 

At one point on my trip, I tried to discuss Cheers and its characters: Sam the lover who can't love; Norm, the faithful husband, who lives at the bar and never sees his wife; Cliff, the expert on every subject, who can't take care of himself; Diane, the scatterbrained intellectual, who is more swayed by belief than reality; and Dr. Crane, the incompetent psychiatrist with no understanding of human nature.  They are all losers, yet few people see their weaknesses because we have become a nation of losers.  We tend to identify with their meaningless existence and are willing to accept posturing for reality.  In fact, a good way to become unpopular is to be frank or to do a task well.

I'm not saying that we all must ride a bike to Colorado to prove that we are real, but each person should live a life that doesn't depend on self-deceit.  Betsy was tickled by the people who drove to the top of passes and then had their pictures taken to prove their accomplishments, while I saw cyclists who had paid to be driven to the tops so they could coast down.  I also met bike riders crossing the US who accepted pickup rides whenever possible.  I don't think my riding the bike to Colorado was any harder than my teaching or going back to school; these tasks all require faith, commitment, hard work, and coping with stress.  The challenge is always to live an honest life with real results.

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