Well, obviously, I'm no expert on the Three Stooges universe. I know they were on television way back when I was just a little-bitty retired engineer. The family next door used to watch 'em. Myself, I was a fan of Saturday morning cartoons, but I have to admit that the Stooges left me pretty cold. They always seemed more unpleasant than funny, to me. But when it comes to humorously-themed bicycle events ... well, I'm not fussy. Tour de Stooges? Well, it's a really nice time of year to be out on the roads, it benefits something called the Ridge Prairie Trailhead Initiative, you get a T-shirt, you get goodies at the rest stops, they offer a "metric century" tour distance (63 miles, or 101 km) ... sure, count me in!
The TdS was based on the campus of McKendree University, in Lebanon, Illinois. That's a small city way down in the extreme southwest corner of the state that is effectively a suburb of St. Louis. (In fact, I slipped across the river to St. Louis the night before to have my dinner at a place called the Libertine, and it was quite the taste treat, I can tell you ... that night, I had a chef's special that was a pork shank on a bed of some sort of fettucine, and it was quite wonderful, with some pickled grilled Illinois white asparagus. Interesting flavor, and something I'd have never even imagined on my own. But I digress.
So, I mounted up and rode out of the campus at about 7:20 Saturday morning, under gorgeous conditions: clear sky, cool, and calm. This is very different terrain from the Kentucky venues where I've been riding the century events. Wide open, and relatively flat, with the only hills being of the gentle-roller kind. Between that and the shorter distance, the ride itself was not challenging. It seemed like a cooldown ride after last week's Redbud. Which was fine. I greatly enjoyed it.
The support of the ride was excellent. They provided wristbands with the SAG support phone number printed on them. (Other rides, take note; this seemed like an excellent idea to me, but it was the first time I'd ever seen it done.) The rest stops had plenty to eat and drink, and they were frequent: I think the longest interval between successive stops might have been 15 miles, and maybe less.
|Green grass, blue skies, and plenty to eat and drink. What more could heart desire?|
Southern Illinois is a land of big agriculture. Really big.
|Whaddaya think? Room for a few rows of corn here?|
In Kentucky, you see a lot of horses out to pasture. On the TdS, most of the livestock in evidence were cattle. However, such was not always the case.
|Someone was running a few head of goats here. They were surprisingly vocal, once they noticed me snapping their picture.|
Not all of the route went between the vast, wide-open fields. We had interesting interludes that wound through wooded places.
|Why do I enjoy cycling so much? Gee, I dunno. Could have something to do with stretches like this one.|
You see a few of those wildflowers in a roadside ditch, you think nothing of them. You see them thickly carpeting a vast field like this, you pause and drink it in.
|After admiring this scene, I somehow had this song recorded by Sting back in the 90s in my head. You know, "Fields of Gold." As far as the eye can see ...|
At a rest stop set up in a little park in the town of Summerfield, the Three Stooges graciously made themselves available for photos. And a fellow cyclist was kind enough to document me as a fourth Stooge. Seems no more than appropriate.
|Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!|
As it turned out, I milked the 63-mile metric century route for a total of almost 68 miles. How did I manage that? Well, although there were about 600 riders, total, in the TdS, not many did the long route. So, once I reached the outer parts of the long route that weren't shared by the shorter ones, I was often not within sight of any other cyclists. Without a pack to follow, I needed to pay attention to the route markers. And, what with it being such a pleasant ride and all, on two occasions I basically snoozed past markers that were urging me to make turns. Rode right through 'em. When you get a mile or so past such a failure, you begin to notice that you haven't seen a marker lately, and that's a good indication that you're off-route. No big deal ... you just have to about-face and go back until you find the one you missed. I figure I got extra value out of the ride that way.
A fun ride! I may well go back next year.