Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
Traveling through Illinois was short and sweet, in total just three days. When I first started after having suffered through hills of southern Indiana, my original plan was to bum rush through the state in two days, which would’ve been about 180 miles. I convinced myself I’d do 80 miles from Sullivan-Green State Park to Effingham in one day, no matter what. I made it, but I had gotten such a late start and got dogged down by headwinds that I was burning myself out to make sure I got into town before nightfall. I got in at about 8:45, just before sunset. As it turns out, Effingham is kind of a shit hole trucker/train hub.
As I planned out my route the next morning, I came to realize that 80 miles x 2 does not = 180 miles and I’d have to do a century to finish in 2 days. That was not happening. So I rode 60 that day and ended up at some sort of RV park. Well not really an RV park, but like an RV summer home. People had built decks attached to their RV trailers and were mowing the grass and shit. It was really weird. They didn’t even let me have a regular tent camping spot, I just set up in front of the main office. I was definitely out of place.
On the third day, I sent out an e-mail to a guy on www.warmshowers.com on a whim to see if I could score some free lodging before heading over the border to Missouri. I was answered within a few hours and altered my route to end up at Alton, MO. I was picked up by Bill at the local fire station and taken to his home. Bill and his wife, Mary, were incredibly hospitable; they set me up in one of their son’s bedrooms with my own bathroom and even took me out for dinner that night. Of all the methods of finding lodging on this trip, I’d say Warmshowers is probably one of the best. Not only do you get to sleep on an actual mattress, often for free, but you get to meet interesting people who are sympathetic to cyclotouring.