I awoke in Chester's city park. Chester, in case I didn't mention it before, is the home of Popeye the Sailor Man. I did not feel so buff. I did, however, sense a little storm a brewin', so I quickly packed up and headed straight for a diner in town. Good timing too, as I was a couple blocks away when the skies opened up and started to soak me.
Hiding out in the diner over a great breakfast, I looked ahead to my day. Destination: Eddyville, IL. There is a small campground there - the Hayes Campground - that caters to horse trail riders. Being allergic to horses, I wasn't too happy about it, but it was the only campsite that suited, so that would be that. Good thing I stocked up on antihistimines.
Though I left Chester late in the morning after the storm had passed, I managed to save 10 miles by slightly modifiying my route, cutting straight instead of following a bend in the Mississippi. The morning held a beautifully flat and sunny ride. Things were looking up!
I arrived in Goreville for a late lunch, and started to look ahead to the next, and final, 2 weeks (give or take) of my journey. I suppose I was looking too far into the future though, as I missed talk of a storm approaching. Oh, the woes of no WiFi access at small town Subway restaurants.
In the final push from Goreville to Eddyville (40kms? ish?) the skies began to darken. Then blacken. Then pitch-blacken. Then edge-of-the-abyss-blacken. Oh boy.
About 7km from my destination, a guy pulls up in his SUV, yells at me that there is a tornado warning in this region, and that I better get inside somewhere fast. He then peels off - apparently to get inside fast himself. There being nothing for it but to go forward, I started to push that little red button in my mind that says SPEED.
Droplets of rain. Few at first, but quickly more and more of them fell. A torrent descended upon me, soaking me helmet to cleat. Then the hail began. Sharp, stinging hail. Lightning now. BOOM! THUNDER! 4kms left. I start slamming that red button. The little Mr. Scot in my head starts complaining, and my inner Captain Kirk starts telling him to shut the hell up and figure out how to get more outta the ship. BOOM! Lightning, Thunder, Red Button.
I see a convenience store, and finally duck into cover. I'm drenched, but avoided all tornadoes/lightning bolts. After an hour of waiting for the rain to subside (which it did...slightly), I nip outside and head 1 mile out to the campground. They bunked me down in a common area with 2 other cyclists heading in the other direction. Everything being soaked, I laid my belongings out as best I could, and fell into a fitful sleep.
(My internet connection being what it is, pictures will have to wait. No, I didn't stop and take pics of the storm. A part of me wishes I did, but my rational part kicks that part in the pants and tells him off, Red Foreman style.)