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Day 17 - South Beloit, Illinois to Kankakee, Illinois
161 miles
1150' climbing

After our successful ride coming into South Beloit, Lon had asked if John and I would like to use the bike again the next day, going south into a headwind in really flat Illinois. It sounded great to me. Unfortunately for John and myself, Lon had forgotten that he had promised the tandem to Mike Bishop, our mechanic. Mike's family came out to meet him on the route and planned to ride with him some. He rode the first 30 miles with his brother and the next 30 with his mom, so I was back on my own bike..

It was a really tough windy day, and a tandem would have been nice. I tried to stay on Ann and Dan's wheel, but I was still a little weak from the cold and tired from riding so hard the day before. I rode with a small group for a while, but a pit stop left me alone for a while. Then Greg, a triathlete, who had decided not to do any drafting on the trip came along and pulled me 20 miles to lunch. I felt guilty not pulling, but he wouldn't let anyone pull. He was preparing for the Canadian Ironman after our little tour, and I hope he did well.

Just before lunch I saw one of the vans drive by with Lon's tandem on top. So when I saw Mike, I asked if he had lost his stoker and wanted a new one. He said he was a little tired, but would like to ride again, so we took the bike back down and headed out.

While at lunch, I got the chance to meet Jon and Mark Royer, who were joining us for a couple of days, to give Pete someone to climb with. Jim was leaving that night to go back to work, and few of the other riders could hold a candle to Pete's climbing.

Storm clouds were rolling in and I should have gotten my rain jacket out of the van, but I foolishly figured my wind shell would be okay. The clouds got darker. The wind got louder and stronger, and soon the rains came, light at first and then heavier. Then the wind switched directions for a while. Either that, or adrenaline and fear made us go 30 mph. Lightning and thunder crackled around us and we started to talk about taking cover. I told Mike that since it was his home turf to make the decision. Just as the lighting was getting really close, we pulled off the road and into an detached open garage, where we took cover for about half an hour. Fortunately I had my leg warmers with me, so I pulled them on, along with my jacket. I really started regretting not having my real rain jacket. I also felt very bad for making Mike ride in the rain. One of the great benefits of being a crew member is that you don't have to ride if the weather is unpleasant!

We watched as several groups of riders went by. I was quite happy to be under cover. I'm spoked by lightening, and I didn't want to be out there. After a while, the storm moved on and the rain let up a little. We got back on the bike and headed out. I then noticed that there were people in the house. Well, no one came after us with a shot gun, so maybe they are used to cyclists ducking for cover. I wondered if any of the others had taken shelter. When we reached the final snack stop, manned by Roberta, we discovered that quite a few had, but many others rode right through. Roberta let me trade my soaked wind shell for her dry rain jacket and I was a much happier person.

While at the snack stop. I discovered that this was to be Mike's longest ride ever at 140 miles, but assured him that we would do fine. Youth and strong racing legs were on his side! Robert, Ray and Bill joined us for the final 30 miles, with Robert teasing the heck out of my 20 year old captain about what we really did in the garage, while waiting out the rain. The laughter helped cover the fatigue of the long day, and made the miles go by a little faster. We finally reached Kankakee and as usual had to climb a hill to get to the motel. We stopped at McDonald's where Robert ordered one of everything on the menu and the rest of us had milkshakes.

Mary, Phil's wife brought cookies brownies and an extra set of skilled hands to make the line for massage much shorter. I asked Phil to put Mike's massage on my tab, since he had been so brave to ride with me and do his longest ride ever.