Week 5 (Salem, Illinois to Springfield, Missouri)

Day 29 – Bike Ride to Salem, Illinois

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Today I rode with Julie an we saw nothing. I guess this is a taste of what the West will be like. There weren’t any buildings or even that many gas stations to stop at. All we saw was corn field after corn field until we found this cool chicken made out of old metal pieces.

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About a mile away from our host site we were informed through our group messaging app that there was a swimming pool letting us all in or free.
After a day of riding in the heat this sounded absolutely amazing. The swimming pool also had two diving boards and a giant slide.
There is no better end to a day than zooming down a giant slide into refreshing water.

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Day 30 – Bike Ride to St. Louis, Missouri

Today we rode to St. Louis which is the home of the rapper, Nelly. So, today we chose to ride for him and his rap career that is no more.

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For the most part of the day it was very flat, very straight, and very humid. Along with minimal scenery and temperatures in the 90s.
I rode with Matt today and about 30 miles in we came across a small town by the name of Breese and went in the hunt of a restaurant to DM. We found a small diner that welcomed us with a couple sandwiches to help us along our way.

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During our lunch we realized that St. Louis was only about an hour drive away from us but it would take us all day to get there by bike. We joked about how insane we are for doing such a trip and tried to figure out reasons as why the hell we are on such an adventure.

Then, after a day of pedaling, we arrived in St. Louis. But getting there was a bit scary. You know you are starting to get into a bad part of town when you begin seeing metal bars over windows and doors as half of those windows broken out. I was struck with a tad of fear but knew I could out ride anyone that would try to come near me. Luckily where we are staying tonight is a past the rougher areas.

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Our host for the night is the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Unfortunately try did not provide us with dinner so we took to the streets to find our own food. I set out with Matt and Ellie. Matt knew of an awesome pizza place downtown called Pi that served incredible deep dish pizza.

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Luckily the pizza place was right next to the arch, the entry to the west!

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Little did I know, it was possible to take a ride up into the arch. I just had to do it. To get to the too you sit in one of eight small carts that kind of feel like crawling into a tiny space ship.

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The old machine trucked us up to the too where we had remarkable views of the Mississippi River as well as the city itself.

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For the rest of the night we just strolled around downtown to see what we could find.

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St. Louis is such a beautiful city, I can’t wait to do some more exploring tomorrow after our build day.

 

Day 31 – Build Day – St. Louis, Missouri

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Today was a build day and for the first time in what felt like a long time we were able to do some productive building. We administered two wall raises of of two different homes. It felt great to actually see progress happen rather than digging a trench like other places. I was elected safety manager along with Chris. Our job was to walk around and make sure everyone was being safe and drinking plenty of water. So basically all we did was pass out water all day because with 40+ volunteers in 90+ degree heat you go through a lot of water.

After a day of building we went back to our host site for dinner that was provided by an alumni.
Her name was Anne and she did the central route back in 2008. Many times throughout the trip alumni will meet up with us for dinner or ride along with us in the morning.

After dinner Matt, Ellie and I hit the streets for more exploring.
Out first stop was Fitz’s Soda, a local soda bottling coming located in the loop of St. Louis.
I got a Dreamboat, which was orange soda with ice cream.

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After Fitz’s we went across the street to Blueberry Hill which is another local hotspot in the city.

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We met up with the alumni here and exchanged Bike & Build stories. She told us all about her trip and the highs and lows.
It was pretty neat to hang out with someone who has shared our same amazing experience.

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Day 32 – Bike Ride to Owensville, Missouri (Belle, Missouri)

Today was hotter than hot. Temperatures reached the mid 90s with humidity through the roof. All day we were sweating buckets and drinking water. I must of filled up my camelbak a dozen times, not to mention chugging multiple Gatorades. Today was also a century ride which made the day feel like it would never end. We were out in the heat for 11 hours!

About a quarter mile before we hit lunch we stopped into a local deli and produce store for a bite to eat. Before I left I was talking with the store owner about where we were headed next. She told me “it’s all downhill from here.” Now I don’t know if this woman had ever biked before or had even driven to the town were headed but I knew before even heading out that it most definitely was not all downhill. It didn’t take long for us to learn that locals know nothing about the terrain no matter how many times they have driven it. They go over so many hills without even noticing it. But when biking, we notice every hill. We once had a local tell us that it was all downhill from Ohio to Arizona, he was clearly insane.

Once the ride finally ended the town that we were staying in jut so happened to have a fair going on. With a population of a mere 1500 there wasn’t a whole lot to do. But we did manage to enjoy a funnel cake and tractor pull.

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It was interesting being at a fair in such a small town. It seemed like everyone knew each other. It was almost like being a completely different culture. After being in college for the past four years I have been away from certain diversities such as farm life. We were sitting in a sea of farmers and rednecks getting excited over tractors pulling mass amounts of weight. We quickly noticed that we stood out, especially since everyone else at the fair knew each other. A man sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was part of the group of bikers that rode in today. I think the fact that we were all rocking flip flops and gym shorts gave away the fact that we weren’t from their part of town. But they were all very friendly and excited to hear about our cause.

 

Day 33 – Bike Ride to Osage Beach, Missouri

Today was hot hot hot! Probably the hottest day yet. My body was drenched in sweat the entire day. I think I probably drank 3 gallons of water and about a gallon of Gatorade today. It was so humid that when I would try to breath it felt like someone was blowing a hair dryer in my face.

However the scenery was pretty. It was beginning to feel like we are starting to enter the south.

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Not to mention the town sizes kept getting smaller and smaller. I couldn’t imagine living in a place with less than 100 people.

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I shared my heat riding with Ella V. today. In the middle of nowhere we eventually managed to find a gas station to fill up our camelbaks with ice and cold water. After riding for a bit I was so hot that I began sucking the water from my camelbak into my mouth and squirting it in my arms and legs to cool off. It got to the point that I could actually feel my skin burning. The sun was so hot it felt like I was standing too close to a fire. Sunscreen or not, everyone fried today. I don’t think there’s enough SPF in the world to protect us from the scorching heat we endured today.

By the end of the day, completely drained, this is what we looked like.

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Day 34 – Bike Ride to Springfield, Missouri

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Today was another long one. About 95 miles total. I rode with Tessa for the majority of the day and we went fairly slow for the beginning, actually we went very very slow. About 20 miles in, one of our fellow riders, Phil, wasn’t feeling too well so we stopped for about a half hour to stay with him and waited for sweep to get there to take over.

Once we got going again we came across Julie, who was stranded on the side of the rode trying to get a piece of metal out of her tire.
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We stayed with her and picked at it for awhile. Then eventually I got so frustrated with it that I ripped it out with my teeth.
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We finally made it to first lunch around 2 in the afternoon.

After lunch we started riding with Abby and Melissa, two people who love taking lots of breaks and taking it slow.
I was enjoying myself for the majority of the ride until we hit about mile 60 and I realized it was 4:30 in the afternoon and we still had 40 miles to cover. Around mile 70 I broke of from the group and started booking it to second lunch which was at mile 75. About 3 miles out from from second lunch I realized my camelbak was dry. I chugged the rest of my warm Gatorade in my water bottle cage and kept going. My body was drenched as I was probably pretty dehydrated but for some reason I felt amazing. My body was working harder than ever, flying up and down the hills still managing to keep a 20mph pace even uphill.
Once I made it to second lunch I chugged a couple waters and Gatorades to rehydrate. I waited for the rest of the girls to get there and finished my ride of the day with Abby.
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And once again we traveled through miles and miles of farm land. I never realized how rural this country is until riding through it at 15 mph.

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Once we arrived at our host to find all of our mail. I felt so popular I received so many packages and letters. It was like Christmas morning once again.

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Day 35 – Build Day – Springfield, Missouri

Today was our most relaxed build day yet. We didn’t have to be at the build site until 9 which means we got to sleep in til 8! I never thought I would never say waking up at 8 is sleeping in but that’s Bike & Build life for ya.
We arrived at the build site to learn that we would be painting inside and if we got done early then we could go home early. Not only that, but the house was also air conditioned. We knocked out the entire house by 1 and got to go back to our host site. It was such a relaxing day it felt like a day off.
Once returning to the host site we learned that Relient K would be playing nearby tonight so Jake, Jeff, and I went to the theater to buy our tickets.

My group is on laundry crew this week which means we had the pleasure of hauling everyone’s sweaty chamois to the laundry mat and fill half the washers in the place. We got strange looks from the locals when we pulled up in our van and struggled pulling out a 50+ pound rolled up tarp with the clothing of 27 people.

Later that night we went to the show. The venue was was probably one of the better ones I’ve been to. It was old fashioned looking like something out of a classic movie. It seemed like the kind of place you would go to see an opera rather than a rock band.

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Relient K was awesome. They played more of their newer stuff that I was unfamiliar with but it was still great rocking out to them.

Standing in the crowd I began to notice how weird it was going to see a show so far away from home. I’m used to seeing shows in Pittsburgh where more often than not I would run into someone I know. But, here in Missouri, I will never see anyone I know not will I ever see these people again in the crowd. It was a weird feeling to have noticed.

Oh and also, I saw this today at a gas station.

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I guess we are getting more into the redneck south.

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