Av – 8.9 mph
Dis – 51.8 miles
Tm – 05:50 hrs.
Maybe I should have taken the fact that I had to shovel snow to get my bike out of the back yard as a bad omen. But I was pleasant and plump with a good breakfast in my stomach and didn’t think that much into it. It only took a few minutes before my bike was on the driveway and I was poised to peddle away in single digit weather.
The street in front of me was clean – as clean as you could ask for on a four lane road, and I was pleased I wouldn’t have to worry about the accumulated snow as I worked my way out of the city.
I pedaled off like an everyday happy asshole, realizing seconds later that godDAMN is was cold. My breath immediately began fogging up my goggles (a piece of gear I literally threw in at the last minute). Traffic was picking up and the first road I turned on narrowed considerably. I was slowly realizing I was in for a fight.
Time passed without notice. My GPS screen was showing my route so miles per hour and moving time was beyond my view. I felt good, despite the ice, snow, and traffic, but history shows that I always feel good early on in a tour.
As I made my way closer to a bridge that separated St. Louis and East St. Louis (the MO/IL border), I saw my water bottles had frozen almost solid. A couple of blocks later I pulled into a McDonald’s and began the thaw out process.
I had been sweating pretty profusely – when I pulled my water/windproof shell off, water poured out of the sleeves. It wasn’t breathing like I thought it would. I started pulling layers off and rotating them under the bathroom air dryer, knowing full well I couldn’t go back outside in those temps with wet clothes.
Since I was fresh, my legs weren’t jello when I got back on the bike almost an hour later and pedaled away – first the wrong direction, then the right one, then smack into construction, then around the construction the wrong way, and finally down far enough to see bright detour signs to follow.
I was a couple blocks from the border bridge and crossed without issues, even though I had to take the road because the bicycle path was snowed over. The St Louis arch was just off my starboard side. It would’ve made a nice picture but I was already entirely too miserable to fish out my camera and play tourist.
In minutes I was across the Mississippi River and into East St Louis. My sources had implied that East St Louis was where crack conventions were held, muggers were mugged by muggers, and cannibalism was rampant. None of the above appeared true, of course, but it could have been the single digits that kept the monsters at bay. In total, I saw less than ten people walking around. East St Louis was my bitch.
As soon as I cleared the city I stopped at the first gas station I came across to thaw out my water bottles and reconfigure my gear. It was 14 degrees by then and the sun was shining. I stripped off my waterproof shell and pushed down the road.
Hours later, after the phone call to Mike and subsequent, shameful pick up, we grabbed Chinese buffet and retired for the evening. The house was blessedly warm – I was chilled to the bone. I took as hot a shower as my skin would allow and plopped on the couch. There wasn’t a lot of activity after that. I threw my damp clothes in the dryer and fell asleep sitting straight up.
It was most wondrous.