#AdlerGalaxyRide Road Journal, Day Seven

This is the seventh in a series of travel journals for the #AdlerGalaxyRide, a biking science roadshow over the 300+ miles between Chicago and St Louis. You can follow our ride by checking the website, following @AdlerPlanet on Twitter and Instagram, or searching for the #AdlerGalaxyRide hashtag.

“I mean, even if it does clear up ahead, what if we get a mile in and have to ford a river or something?” Colleen and I both looked down at her racing slicks, and then back at what was supposedly the entrance to a bike trail– at least according to the GPS. By eye, we were very clearly standing in a yard waste dump, nestled between a pile of leafy ex-landscaping elements strewn with discarded produce (the pile of green over my shoulder in the picture below), and something quixotically labeled a “sewage lagoon”:


We decided to reroute and return to the frontage road we’d already been on for miles– a hot, shadeless, unforgiving stretch monotonous in both sight and sound (the drone of trucks on the highway). Given that we’d just noticed an upcoming 10 mile stretch on said frontage road on the cue sheet, I have to say I’d been looking forward to the Farmerville-Waggoner trail, but it was not to be. After our detour we found it again, looking far more rideable (for one thing, we could actually see the trail) but still labeled with honesty:


In my book, “ride at your own risk” when discovered before the fact translates as “I dare you”, but when discovered after the fact, it definitely translates as “you made the right decision”.

We met up with Taryn, David and Leila aboard the Galaxy Ride van in Waggoner, where we rehydrated and snacked in the shade. I’ve yet to give Taryn a proper introduction in these journals yet– Taryn Mason is Head of Special Projects at the Adler, and with Christina’s departure has taken the throne as van-mom-in-chief. She might be the most organized person on Earth, and if she isn’t, she’s at least the most organized person on Galaxy Ride. Here’s Taryn smiling and stretching on the left, in the wonderful article Steve Johnson wrote about Galaxy Ride for the Chicago Tribune today:

Taryn Mason, Queen of the Road

Taryn Mason, Queen of the Road

Our next long haul on the frontage road was just as tiring as we’d expected– if slightly less monotonous on account of being covered with potholes, cracks and rough road. We arrived in Litchfield sweaty and salty, but found ourselves on the shaded green lawn outside the Litchfield Carnegie Public Library. The Litchfield Library is home to one (supposed) attack cat, a pretty black cat named Stacks. The librarian on duty told me that Stacks was named one of the top 40 library cats in Cat Fancy magazine, which is not an accolade I knew existed but which seemed plausible. The librarians say Stacks has been an insufferable diva ever since the award was given.



Before long, we were flooded with visitors– apparently, the local science teachers told their students that they could get extra credit for coming to our event, which was great! We had our largest crowd yet– just shy of 200 people, in a town of roughly 7,000. It was also by far our most rambunctious group: several kids got so excited they tried to put their mouths on the eyepiece of the telescope, which is a new thing for us (and also why we regularly clean the telescope!). Just wait until the Smell-o-scope from Futurama finally gets invented…

Like this, but fortunately not like this at all

Like this, but fortunately not like this at all

At Litchfield on our cosmic distance scale, we’ve reached the black hole in the center of the Milky Way, so it was fitting that I also got to speak with a young woman who was designing her own course in high school around space (and in particular black holes). I asked her what she’d learned about black holes so far, and she proceeded to tell me essentially everything I know about black holes, which was awesome. A bit closer to home, I spent a lot of time letting people play with our meteorites and helping them figure out what each is made of based on weight and appearance. I like that activity in particular, because it goes to show what you can learn by holding an otherwise ordinary rock in your hand and examining it closely.

We’ve come to our final leg of the journey– we’ll be in the St. Louis Science Center Planetarium Friday night from 5-7pm! If you are looking for me, I will be the person in biking gear doing this:

I told you I have a lot in common with Chris Traeger

See you in space!

Lucianne Walkowicz