Whenever I teach a class or workshop on touring, I always ask the participants to ask themselves, “What’s my tolerance for adversity?” My tolerance was tested today. Not an injury or an unrepairable mechanical failure, but more overcoming physical and mental fatigue.

Today, we were shooting for a big day – 70+, but about the time we got halfway through, neither of us was feeling it. Fatigue. Overworking. Pushing too far. Too little rest. While we had some of those on this trip, we didn’t feel any of those when we started out. We had a pretty good rest, felt good (well, minus our bottoms-sore, but manageable), and we were riding fine the first 35 miles of 70 or so, enjoying quiet back roads, watching the migrants fill their transport buses with watermelons.

Then we hit Sumner, IL. Ride with GPS has us on back roads but Google was directing us to US Route 50. We had ridden quite a way on Old US 50 and that was quite pleasant. Tolerable traffic and flat and straight for 10+ miles. The modernized newer US 50 was a bit better in that it at least had some rideable shoulders; but lots of truck traffic, so we opted for rwgps’s route. All was fine until we got a couple of miles past Sumner. The road turned to gravel, but not your regular 2b stone gravel road. No, this was what I know as river stone – smooth rounded pebbles that are used in PA for decorative purposes. Rwgps said it was a paved road. Nope.

Even though I have what is essentially a gravel bike with 2″+ tires, we weren’t able to ride more than a couple mph without a tire slipping out. Dana was worse off with 1.5″ tires. The loads didn’t help the situation. We were forced to turn around and walk the bikes. As we had only ridden a few hundred yards from the last intersection, we went there to consider our options. It was a four-five mile backtrack on the pavement or one mile to the new US 50 on a road with the same round stones. We found we could ride the shoulder better than in the roadway, so we did that vs. walking when we could. Bad choice in hindsight. At times the rideable patches switched sides and on one of those crossovers, I got a flat. I could hear the snake-like hissing every turn of the wheel.

I tried walking for a short bit but quickly realized that wasn’t a great choice with the load on the now flat tire. Dana soon caught up, and as I set up to change the tire, suggested that there was no reason for both of us to stand in the hot sun (no shade in sight) and that she should continue the last ¼ mile to US 50 and head into town to look for good place to get a beer, and scout overnight options.

It was easy to find the hole in the tube and I just patched it in situ. The sun cured the patch in a minute and I reassembled everything and started the walk to 50. In the meantime, Dana texted that there was a side road to 50 that was rideable gravel and paved. It was the old two lane 50, some of it crumbling concrete, but much of it chip sealed blacktop where there was a house or business to service. I was about 5 miles behind Dana, and by the time I got to Olney she had found a place to get a well needed beer.

Well, almost. She sent me to the Dance Wheel Bar where she thought she was headed, but had actually stopped at a restaurant bar about 100 meters before the Dance Wheel. The DW was a bit run down to say the least. I parked and walked into the bar and every head turned my way and no Dana in sight. I turned around and started to call her when the phone rang. Charlie Chaplin could have been the director of the next minute while I’m walking around the outside of the DW and Dana’s walking around the HV. “I don’t see you!” “I don’t see you!” Finally, she spotted me and I made my way to the HV for that beer.

Bonus! It was 100 meters from a Super 8. I whipped out my phone, logged into my Wyndham account and booked it. Neither of us was in the mood for camping again, or even riding the few miles to the campgrounds.

It was another Chinese dinner night, this time a buffet. We both have been in a calorie deficit, so we filled up, topped it off with some ice cream, and headed back to the nice fuss free bed.

Day 12 Will be another long one as it goal is to make it to our friend Eric’s place in Greenville. Very doable as long as we can avoid the gravel roads. At least this time we’ll be rested and able to get out earlier with a Super 8 breakfast in our bellies.