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Today we had a brewery stop in Murphysboro, IL, about 40 miles from Chester. The place was called Big Muddy Brewing Company as it was located near a local river called the Big Muddy (sometimes, it’s that simple!). It was quite a contrast from the brewery stops in St. Louis as it was located in a rural area off of a country road. In fact, there was a large crop of corn growing just outside of the brewery.

The owner *and* brewmaster of Big Muddy is Chuck Stuhrenberg, an S.I.U. (Southern Illinois University) graduate from nearby Carbondale, IL. Chuck was a homebrewer and created some pretty good beer, starting back in his college days. He always wondered when someone in Murphysboro would open a Craft brewery, but no one ever did. Finally after a few years, Chuck decided he would be the one to open a craft brewery, and in 2009, he opened Big Muddy. You gotta like a guy who just goes for it! The beer is outstanding and it is well-loved all the way to New Jersey (pretty impressive!). We were lucky to have timed our stop at Big Muddy today (Sunday), as the Tasting Room is open on weekends. We met up with local patrons as well as those traveling from out of town. The ambiance is open and carefree in the Tasting Room — it’s truly a place to just chill and meet people. Today there was a Brewery Tour, really good for folks who want to learn about the Craft Brewing process! Big Muddy has some incredible beers, and my favorite was the Vanilla Stout, a traditional Milk Stout infused with pure Madagascar vanilla. It had a slightly sweet, yet smooth finish. Good stuff! Definitely stop by Big Muddy Brewery when you’re around Murphysboro!

Terry and I got some good footage with Chuck and at about 5pm, we took off as we had another 40 miles to make it to Tunnel Hill, IL where we were being hosted by a couple–Ann and Alan–via Warm Showers (the cyclist network). If I pedaled fast enough, I could be there by 9pm (somewhat late, but they were ok with it). The rural roads in Southern Illinois can be tricky….some street signs aren’t posted, while others which are posted, might be posted in two areas (which one do I take?). Additionally, the cell phone reception…well, it sucks. So I was booking down the country roads, hitting the outskirts of Carbondale, then flew through more country roads — which have really nice rolling hills, and quite a few farms (alot of corn!). I was still about 15 miles from Tunnel Hill, when BAM!… someone turned out the freaking lights at 8:15pm. I didn’t want to continue biking in the dark (even though I had good lights on my bike), and decided to call Terry for a ride. That’s when things went really nutty. So I was on a rural road called Grassy, and I told Terry (somehow I got reception for a few minutes) to just follow the road he was on until he arrived at Grassy, where I was waiting near the road. I waited and waited. Then I called Terry, but no reception. Then the time went beyond 9pm and I got a call from Ann (Warm Showers), wondering if everything was ok. As I was explaining the situation, we lost our connection.

I decided to walk my bike along the road in the dark to the next intersection, to see if Terry might be rolling through. At that point a car slowed down and a nice lady asked me if I needed help. I said, “Yeah, can you go find Terry for me?” No, not really, but she did help. She told me Grassy Rd was also about a quarter mile away —  parallel to the Grassy Rd that on which I was currently standing. What the hell? So the woman — Mary — escorted me to the other Grassy Rd where I called Terry, but no reception. Mary said that perhaps if I walked 20 feet in another direction, I’d get reception. Ha ha!… you’re kidding me! So I did just that, and voila!… I got connected to Terry!  I told him about the other Grassy Rd and after awhile he finally found us. Phew!! We both thanked Mary, who before leaving, gave us fresh peaches for the road. Thanks Mary! Then we high-tailed it to Ann and Alan’s…arriving at 10:15pm. They told us they were night owls, so everything was fine. Their home was a log cabin, built by Alan himself over a few years, and it had all the amenities and comforts of any big-city home, but was located up on a hill in the country (very nice). Ann had kept some dinner warm for us…so generous. We seriously chowed down, then took showers, and hit the sack. What a day!