Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bike America Day 49: Dying Corn, Sandy's Creek, and a Pretty Park

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day's distance: 61.96 miles
Overall distance: 2,526 miles

On Tuesday morning, we drove back to McDonald’s to start riding where we’d finished the day before. I sat inside for a few minutes dinking tea and eating oatmeal and a parfait. Then my mom and I began our ride.

It was a cool morning and Illinois continued to prove us wrong in thinking it would be boring. The hills were few and small but even the flat terrain was interesting. Flat land in Wyoming and South Dakota meant endless roads, down which you could see for miles, and from which you rarely turned. It turned out that because of all the farms in the midwest, there is a serious abundance of small county roads. They are all set up on a grid so you turn fairly frequently and the cornfields and trees are plentiful enough that there remains a bit of mystery about where you’re going. The presence of cars was minimal on these back roads so we could ride two abreast and feel safe.

We arrived in Bradford around mile 20 and stopped in the gas station for a bathroom break. While my mom bought a diet coke, which has become her new daily refreshment, I spotted a pint of strawberry rhubarb pie ice cream in the freezer. I was very intrigued but didn’t think my mom would want to split it with me at 9 in the morning. There was certainly no way we could carry it anywhere on the back of our bikes so we left without a taste. A while later, I stopped to photograph a dying corn field that was brown as can be. This summer’s drought, which they say is the worst to hit the country in 56 years, has left many cornfields in poor condition. Some seemed to still be in decent shape but this one had definitely seen better days.

We rode on and continued loving the scenery. We traveled under several canopies of trees and down one steep hill into Henry, IL where we met my dad. We stocked up at their small grocery store and sat in the park across the street for lunch. I thought about what this town would feel like if filled with 10,000 Ragbrai riders. It would be quite different but I enjoyed the peace with just the three of us. We had a smorgasbord of refreshments including tomato/cheese sandwiches, celery in peanut butter, fruit, and bread slices with cheese, cucumber and dill.

Just outside of town, my dad and I crossed the Illinois River on a bridge that was even scarier than Sunday’s over the Mississippi. This was a tressle bridge with no shoulder. On the other side, we came upon a creek named after my dad. Sandy creek!

We noticed small popping noises under our tires as the afternoon progressed and speculated about what was making the sound. My dad thought it was tiny pieces of gravel shooting off our tires onto the road. I thought it was static electricity between our tires and the road. Neither seemed right. We eventually discovered that it was the sound of our tires popping little bits of tar that were melting and bubbling up in the heat of the afternoon. The sound resembled a bowl of rice crispy treats snapping, crackling, and popping just after you pour the milk in. It was a fun game to see how many bubbles you could pop, and not a hard one to be good at. Kind of like playing with bubble wrap.

We arrived in Wenona, a town of about 1,100 people, just after 4pm. My mom was in the city park talking to the high school’s athletic director when we pulled up. She had gotten approval from the police to camp in the park and one had just come by to unlock the showers for us. It was a very cute park with nice warm showers. We broke out the charcoal grill for the first time since mid-July and heated water over the coals. Ingrid had given me two camping meals for the trip to which we only had to add water so we tested them out. All we did was pour boiling water in the bags, shake them up, and let them sit for 12 minutes. Et voila! Leonardo de Fettucine pasta and Alpine Minestrone soup were served.

Dessert was ice cream from the local sweet shop. Their specialty was key-lime soft serve so I had a large swirl serving for only $1.50. A delicious end to another great day!

No comments:

Post a Comment