This post is part of 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.
Today, we bent spacetime, dodged frogs, and gave someone the moon as a wedding present!
The day dawned cloudy and confused– in the storm yesterday I’d lost a screw out of my (still soaking wet) bike shoes, and David’s seat was stuck in an uncomfortable perma-low-rider situation, so our morning was spent zipping around Joliet and its surrounds in search of repairs. On a tip from one of our guests the night before, we visited Sumbaum Cycles (around since 1894!) who fixed us up. We made a few other unplanned pit stops– most notably for a very science-y solution to our soaked clothes: a bag of “crystal” cat litter. Crystal cat litter is made from silica, also known as the stuff you find used as desiccant! Nothing says fun like filling a discounted leopard-print trouser sock with cat litter in a parking lot so that you can stuff it into your shoes, but nevermind.
Once we were on our way, the skies cleared and we made fast time along the Wauponsee trail. My fellow Galaxy Rider for the day was the Adler’s Kyle Sater, head of Special Programs and probably best known as the major domo of Adler After Dark. The gorgeous landscape rolled off in in golds and greens on either side, not counting the towering orange and blue seating of the Chicagoland Speedway. The rapid popcorn of a nearby shooting range echoed in the distance. Along the trail, we passed a superhero: a man running with a winch strap around his ribs, pulling his two sons in a plastic wagon behind him! He cheerfully let me take his picture.
Today was a lot of mellow highway riding– a blissful downhill yielded our top speed of the day, 22 mph! Teeny snakes squiggled away from us as we rode, faster and smarter than the ill-fated frog roadkill we passed. Kyle and I screamed like children through a stretch particularly thick with dead frogs– what had previously been small, sad frog corpses suddenly turned into gigantic, half-cat sized dead bullfrogs, directly in the foot-wide path out of traffic. At some point we decided that the highway must be like the river Styx for frogs– towards the end of their days they must go to the bank to wait for the boatman. Presumably, some cross the road intact, only to become legend.
We wound through lovely fields of corn and soy, and finally made it to the Prairie Creek Public Library in charming Dwight, IL! We had a great crowd of all ages, who gamely grabbed on to our “fabric of spacetime” (aka some stretchy cloth) for demos on gravity, checked out our plasma ball and spectral tubes to learn about stellar atmospheres, and talked about stellar evolution and the war between self-gravity and nuclear fusion in stars.
By wonderful coincidence, the library was adjacent to a wedding party, and we had the opportunity to invite the bride and groom to see the waxing crescent moon through a telescope for the first time. I absolutely love watching people make what my friend and fellow astronomer Kevin Hainline calls the “Saturn noise” (generally applicable to lots of space things, I think): the “Oooooooo!” people make when they look through a telescope and see something amazing.
We roll out tomorrow for our long-haul day, 75ish miles from Dwight to Normal. Tomorrow night we take our one-and-only no-events break, where I think the only “event” will probably be me passing out in bed at 8pm. Monday though, we’ll be at the Normal Public Library talking about our travels, the Kuiper Belt, and everything between and beyond.
See you in space!