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 m idwest,
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
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
We rode on and continued loving the scenery. We traveled under several canopies of trees and down one steep hill into
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. Henry, IL
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
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!