Leaving the TransAm Trail in Kansas and making it through St. Louis and into Illinois left me a bit unsure about how to best proceed from here. I knew that I wanted to make it to Evansville, Indiana, to visit Stephen, my former English docent at the University of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg, and take him up on his kind offer to stay with him.
The problem that started to creep up on me was not a physical one, my body had adapted pretty well to the daily grind, it was more of a mental challenge at this point. Illinois not known to be the most bike friendly state, I had to contend with plenty of traffic, narrow shoulders and, frankly, a scenery that I had already seen enough of in previous weeks.
It highly depends on any individual’s character and personality, of course, but for myself I noticed that this repetition had made myself numb, to a certain degree, to my environment, well knowing that there was not anything new around the next corner, in contrast to what I had experienced further west. It felt as if I had already seen this before, a constant repeat of the same movie, stretching on seemingly forever. I longed for a change in scenery, but what I found was more farmland with crops of corn and soy. Part of the “problem”, if it can be called that, is the vastness of the United States of America. Unlike in Europe, where one can ride across a smaller country in a matter of a few days and possibly experience a totally different culture, language and scenery, encountering that sort of variety in the US is harder to come by.
Not really in the mood for spending too much time in Illinois, I crossed through it’s southern part in three days with the help of two 90 milers, the last one taking me from Wayne City, across the Wabash River and south to Evansville in Indiana. There I spent two days, during which Stephen spoiled me with his hospitality and introduced me to the history and architecture of this part of the State.
On the second day we took a trip to New Harmony, a historic town about 25 miles northwest of Evansville. Rich in history, New Harmony was, in fact, the starting point for many developments in education and scientific research. Examples include opening the first free library and a public school system open to both men and women.