• Franklin Zhang

Day 26: Baking Brad

June 26, 2022

51 miles and 920 feet of elevation gain

Harrisburg IL to Murphysboro, IL

Heyyy it's Franklin. For the last 25 days, I rode in silence. Actually, there were always the sounds of traffic, cows, birds, and bike parts rattling. But while everyone else listened to music or podcasts, I just tuned into the sounds around me. I did enjoy biking without the extra auditory distractions as it allowed me to be alone with my thoughts. Over the last 25 days, our bike rides have averaged to be about 6 hours long every day and that meant I had a lot of time to just think. Often I found myself thinking about conversations I’ve had in the past or rehearsing some conversations for the future, about what to make for dinner on our next camping day, different commands I’d like to teach my future dog, how we were going to survive the heat when we get to Kansas and we lose trees, or why everyone in front of me (especially Simone) was biking so fast. I was pretty content with biking without music but my teammates found that the 6 hours of biking passed by much faster with music and a hype song when going uphills is even more effective than electrolytes!

Before the trip began, Maxwell lost his headphones so we went to REI to buy new ones. They were these fancy bone conduction headphones that allow you to listen to music without obstructing the ear canal as most other headphones do. Maxwell, Mariela, and Robert picked up a pair for themselves on the first day.

Yesterday (the 25th day), I drove from Kentucky to a different state (Indiana) just to visit a Best Buy to buy a pair for myself. As someone who just got a job at Bose after graduating, I felt a bit guilty for choosing this pair over the Bose ones right beside them. After that, I headed to Illinois (the third state in one day) to meet the rest of the crew for lunch.

Fast forward to today (Day 26), we were trying to shift our schedule earlier again. And once again we ended up leaving later rather than earlier! But we had a good excuse this time. The forecasts showed that there were going to be thunderstorms starting early in the morning (5 AM) and lasting potentially through the afternoon. We figured weather forecasts are usually wrong so we still woke up at 6 AM, ate some delicious pancakes made by our host Sherie, and prepared to leave whenever the storm cleared up. Since it was still raining, we decided we would play a quick game of a deck-building board game called DOMINION! Our previous hosts, Sharilyn and Tony had a copy of it so we learned to play and it turns out Sherie has a copy too! Simone and I both used the classic “Village-Smithy” strategy while Sophia opted for the “Gardens” route.

After the game, there was still thunder so we waited and waited. Some of us waited with our eyes closed while laying down on the bed, others played with the adorable cat named Drake, Sophia and Sherie went to church, and the rest prepared lunch.

Here is the picture of Drake, the adorable cat!

Oh sorry, wrong photo. This is the correct one.

Simone decided to bake an apple pie with the way-too-soft apples we got from Costco, with a crust using some of Sherie’s sourdough starter! The same sourdough starter that she used to make us the bread for yesterday’s dinner. I arrived early yesterday since I was the driver and I got to see some of that sourdough start in action. I got to see the really cool oven spring action as the dough puffed up over the top of the loaf pan, turning into a beautiful sourdough loaf bread (definitely the best bread we’ve had this trip).

I really enjoyed talking with Sherie about her adventures with her husband Brad. Brad was the one coordinating with us on WarmShowers but it turns out he wasn’t here, instead he was on a crazy outdoor adventure of his own. For those of you who don’t know, I also baked a lot of sourdough bread at some point in time (started because of COVID, just like everyone else) and I named my sourdough starter Brad because Brad turns into Bread. But at some point, I had to move out of my previous apartment so I had to give up on Brad. So today, my starter named Brad is no longer with us, like how our host Brad wasn’t able to be with us.

The apple pie that Simone made was delicious, as well as the red lentil soup that Mariela made! The 2x Spicy Instant ramen that I made was unfortunately not much of a crowd pleaser. I ended up eating most of it myself as everyone else took a single bite and decided they weren’t masochistic enough to enjoy it.

The storm was starting to clear up after lunch so we finally hit the road at around 2 PM (the latest we’ve left so far this trip). Sherie ended up tagging along with us on her own bike she used on her cross-country bike trip the previous year. I was super stoked to have one of our hosts join us on part of the ride! After a couple of miles of biking in the rain, Sherie turned around and headed back home. We waved goodbye and continued heading toward our destination.

It was a very nice day of riding. The overcast sky kept us cool and the temperature was as low as 84 degrees! I know, 84 doesn’t sound low, but it was much better than the being in the upper 90s. In the words of our previous host Roy, “The road is so flat, if you let go of your dog's leash, you could still see it running away even after a couple of months”.

During the ride, I finally tried on the headphones! It was the first time I listened to my own music on a ride. Previously I’ve tried sharing earbuds with Simone (once or twice) and that was an interesting experience. The two of us shared a wireless Bluetooth connection as we were riding, but we couldn’t be separated too far from each other or else we would lose the Bluetooth connection. It was especially difficult riding through the windy switch back roads in Virginia, where Simone would disappear into a turn, taking the music with her. Sometimes a pesky Sophia would ride between us and break our precious connection, forcing one of us to speed up to position ourselves in front of her. So today I was really glad I didn’t have to deal with pesky Sophias or speedy Simones turning off my music. I had a good time, listening to my “favourite songs” playlist on Spotify and singing along (mostly sounded like mumbling because I can’t really sing).

We arrived at Murphysboro, Illinois where we stayed with Terry and Linda (friends of Brad the host, not Brad the sourdough starter). We were greeted by an adorable cat, a wonderful spaghetti dinner, and a pool with a diving board! Terry turns out to be a huge Beatles fan and has entire rooms in the house decorated to be Beatles-themed. Robert and Terry had some nice conversations about music, which wasn’t too surprising. We got to know Terry and Linda over dinner and it turns out Terry even wrote a book about the Beatles!

We jumped into the pool (literally, using the diving board) after dinner, then showered after swimming and headed to bed. Turns out today was a pretty good day and a Brad day!

We wanted to get up at 6 AM again the next day so we had to hit the hay early again! Tune into the next blog to see if we were able to leave on time the next day!

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