Greg Shaw

Illinois Wesleyan Professor Nears Half-Way Point In Cross-Country Bicycle Ride

May 18, 2005

Greg Shaw, associate professor of political science at Illinois Wesleyan, is riding his bicycle across America to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of McLean County.

Shaw, who is faculty adviser for the campus Habitat for Humanity chapter, departed San Diego on May 2 and plans to arrive in New York City on June 8. He will average nearly 90 miles a day over 35 days of riding, totaling almost 3,100 miles through desert, mountains and plains.

The following is an update received from Shaw via cell phone on Wednesday, May 18:

May 18:
I had a lowpoint: Days 2, 3, and 4, I started building up this chest congestion. In Flagstaff I went to see a doctor, and took antibiotic for a few days, which cleared that up. I backed off for a couple days, going 80-90 miles as opposed to more than 100. I got healthy and I'm feeling strong.

I did 850 miles with no flats, then I got on the shoulder of I-40 in New Mexico, east of Albuquerque, which is about half-way across the state. When truck tires shred, those little pieces of wire, too small to see, are deadly. In the span of two days I had four flats - three in one day. After I got off I-40 I've not had a single problem with flats. I had to change the hub on a wheel. I got a $4 part and got that fixed up.

I'm realizing that my body wants a day off slightly more frequently than I'm giving it. Between headwinds and being generally tired, it was tough coming into Oklahoma. I got to catch up in western Oklahoma. I went through Weatherford, where I went to college. I spent the night with the guy who was my adviser; I got a nice meal, slept in a real bed and got cleaned up, which gets important when you're on the road. I got to catch up on some friends; I did a local radio program on Monday morning, talking about Habitat. There's good news on that front: We have over $4,000 raised. Also each Monday morning, I'm checking in with WJBC-Bloomington.

I spent yesterday with my in-laws in Choctaw, Okla. Now I'm on my last stretch of Route 66 - about 10 miles worth today. The forecast is for some thunderstorms today; I'm going to see if maybe, with a strong tailwind, maybe I can outrun it.

I'm exactly one day ahead of schedule. I had some good tailwinds in New Mexico, and had a couple of days with 125 miles, one day with 147 - my longest on this trip. Between a gentle tailwind all day and a drop in elevation through New Mexico - you enter the state at about 7,000 feet and leave at about 4,000; through the state, it's too gradual to perceive.

I will hit the half-way point tomorrow, near Independence, Kan. Then I'll ride on an old converted railroad bed, the KATY trail. I'll have a former college professor join me for one day.

Jim Simeone [IWU associate professor of political science] will meet me in Alton, Ill., as soon as I cross the Mississippi, and he'll ride with me for four days. It'll be great to have the company.

It's going very well; people have been very hospitable. Drivers have not been too terribly rude, although there's some of that. I had a couple of close calls with RVs - those drivers aren't trained to handle a large vehicle the way professional truck drivers are - but I'm OK. I'm still wearing my bright orange T-shirt so everyone can see me.

I was sleeted on one day in Arizona, west of Flagstaff. The blessing there is, it bounces off before it gets you wet, because it's frozen. But the cold weather I'd anticipated didn't materialize. It's warming up and more humid now. I've crossed into the Midwest. We'll see how many times I get rained on from here on out.

Every dollar donated will be used to support construction of the Habitat for Humanity house by IWU and ISU students, their 10th house in 10 years of the universities' partnership. Pledges marked “Collegiate House” can be sent to Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, Attn: Bruce Williams, assistant director, 410 N. Prairie St., Bloomington IL 61701.

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