Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 115, 8/31/10 - Peru to Markle, IN

Just the Basics: 51 miles, with some REALLY big hills, but all and all a good riding day, by and large on quiet paved roads. We are at the Super 8 in Markle.

Our route today took us along the Wabash River and through the Salamonie State Forest and over the dam at Salamonie Lake.

Today's Photos: (1) Morning glories beside a corn field on the Paw Paw Pike near County Road 300E; and (2) Scene on the road through Salamonie State Forest.

Tomorrow: We bike about 35 miles to Monroeville, IN - which will be our last town in Indiana and the last of this Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route Map - the next map takes us through Ohio, a corner of Pennsylvania, and part way across Western New York State.

For Those Who Want More:
Peru Encounter: As we cycled along 3rd Street through Peru another cyclist came alongside - Aaron on his way to work. He told us about a new rail trail in the area which sounded great - although it wouldn't work for us. It is so exciting to see all the new trails that are cropping up, even during this difficult economic time. He also told us about a coffee house in town that sounded great - fair trade coffee and lots of locally-sourced food, some of which is obtained through barter. We were sorry we'd already had breakfast and that it was enough out of our way that we didn't feel we had time just to go for coffee!

Martini Report: Nope. We had pizza in the room tonight so we could watch the president's speech. The pizza place didn't even have beer. They told Riley the town has only 3 places with a liquor license - 2 bars and a liquor store. Riley rode into town for wine to go with the pizza and got an interesting bottle of red (not many choices) . . . . the search will continue!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 114, 8/30/10 - Logansport to Peru, IN

Just the Basics: Only 13.5 miles today! We had a lot of errands and such to do this a.m. - we needed to map out the next few days, which will be mostly off-route, and both of us needed watches, toothbrushes, combs and shoelaces, etc. In addition, based on the location of places to stay and eat for the next few days, a short trip to Peru seemed the best choice.

Photos: None today.

Tomorrow: We ride about 45 miles to Markle, IN (pop 1100)

For Those Who Want More:
Watches: Riley has gone through FOUR watches on this trip - all the same kind and all broken in the same way: One end of one of the receptacles for the little rods through the strap at wrist breaks off. The 1st time we figured the watch had just aged-out. Because Riley basically liked the watch, he bought another just like it, then another, then another - every one broke in the same way! He's switched brands . . . .

Becky always has problems with watches - she likes the contemporary electronic type but it's hard to find one that fits her extra-small wrist. We typically cut off much of the strap or it would almost wrap around twice. A couple of days ago the cut-off strap broke off at the last hole. She has gone back to an old-fashioned women's Timex.

Google's Bike Route Mapping Feature: Because we are currently somewhat off the Adventure Cycling route and lack both personal local knowledge and a highly detailed IN map, Riley has been experimenting with Google's new bike route mapping feature. It worked pretty well today and we're using it again tomorrow - stay tuned!

The DQ Guy: We keep forgetting to tell this story: 3 days ago as we approached our motel in Rensselaer we were happy to see a Dairy Queen almost next door to the motel - a shared DQ banana split is one of our favorite biking snacks.

As we rolled up a family was standing outside laughing - the man was holding a GIANT cone - the ice cream looked 6 inches high. He said he'd asked for a large but had no idea HOW large that would be. One of the women in the family was taking his picture with a cell phone. They asked about our trip and he insisted on having her take his picture with us - we were as big a novelty as the giant cone!

Passing Driver: Today a woman drove by, stopped, and asked the usual questions and had the usual response - delight, congratulations, good wishes and a God Bless You.

Penney's: We like shopping at Penney's, and went there today to buy watches. Becky's family have been customers forever and when Riley was a kid he remembers that his mom liked Penney's because she understood that they treated their employees well. We like their merchandise, but, particularly, the typically warm, helpful staff. Same thing today.

We chatted about this with Jennifer, who sold us the watches. She reported that they DO treat their employees well - she said it was the best place she'd ever worked. We asked if they got special training in Customer Service - at that point she spoke to a woman near by and said "Are you hearing this?" Turned out she was the manager - she says they interview for friendly, highly service-oriented people, then treat them well to keep them there.

They were also really interested in our ride and, when told about our blog, asked for the URL so they could follow it!

The Great Martini Hunt: Ever since we hit Mile 3000 we've intended to have a celebratory martini - but that is easier said than done in this neck of the woods. In our experience, family restaurants in small towns in the Midwest typically don't serve any alcohol - and if a motel has restaurants nearby they are likely to be family restaurants. Motels are often surrounded by fast food, but most fast food joints are also alcohol-free - unless they sell pizza or Mexican food, in which case they'll have only beer or, occasionally, beer and wine. Bars have cocktails but (a) We are sick of bar food - often the only place to eat in town is a bar and most of the food will be fried; and (b) We haven't seen any bars lately, either. Mile 3000 was several days ago but we have yet to find that martini (Bombay Sapphire gin, very dry, olives, rocks). = ( = (

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 113, Rensselaer to Logansport, IN

Just the Basics: 6:48 a.m., CDT: Hot Off the Presses - An Update for the Day: We are headed for a motel in Logansport tonight (about 55 miles), instead of about 55 miles to camping in Fletcher. Riley got to looking at maps and possible routes and the locations of motels and figured out that we could go to Logansport today and then Wabash or Huntington tomorrow and then back onto the main route at that point. Part of today's route will be guided by Google's bike route mapping feature. See ya' tonight!

10 p.m., EDT, Logansport: Turns out it was a 61 MILE DAY - our longest to date for this trip, as we recall! The day began with 3.25 miles of loose gravel - very tough riding, even for Riley at times; at one point we had to walk for some distance. After that, either pavement or McAdam for the rest of the day. = ) = )

It was pretty hot today. The high was supposed to be 92 but we saw a thermometer in Royal Center at 5:15 p.m. and it was still 93, so it was considerably hotter than 92 at the peak of the day, you can be sure! Much of the day there was also about a 10 mph south wind so whenever we turned south (regularly) we had to fight some wind. Mercifully, it died down as we did the last 15 miles or so. We are now in the Eastern Time Zone!

See For Those Who Want More for a quick overview - not surprisingly, we're pretty much ready to call it a day!

Today's Photos: (1) Becky cycles on the brand new rail trail between Royal Center and Logansport; (2) A pile of discarded ties along the trail; and (3) Penny Bannon, Riley and Becky, on the outskirts of Logansport (see below).

Tomorrow: About 35 miles to a motel in Wabash, IN - and it's supposed to be a bit cooler tomorrow.

For Those Who Want More: Here's the day in brief:

  • 15 miles: A mid-morning roadside break - we split a small cantaloupe purchased yesterday at the Farmer's Market in Lafayette and had little Svenhardt sweet rolls which, with coffee, were the motel "breakfast." (We saved the rolls for the ride and had a nice breakfast at the Mexican restaurant next door.)
  • 30 miles to Buffalo, the 1st town of the day - the ice cream shop and restaurant were closed (the latter is for sale) so we bought sandwiches, V-8s, an OJ, a brownie and a Butterfinger ice cream bar at the grocery store (also for sale & about to close for the day).
  • Put on the next round of sunscreen in the park outside the Buffalo Volunteer Fire Dept. There must have been an alarm because all of a sudden guys started pulling up and running inside, one guy came running on foot, one was dropped off, and in an instant 3 trucks were out the door! Later we saw 2 of them returning as we cycled along.
  • Reached Royal Center around mile 45 (?) and stopped at a convenience store for icy bottles of Starbucks coffee drinks and a shared bear claw.
  • Just as we rolled into town we had spotted what looked suspiciously like a brand new rail trail. We asked about it in the store and heard that it would eventually run from Winamac to Logansport and that the Logansport end wasn't done - but they didn't know how far it went. Luckily for us, while we were getting ready to leave a guy in a pick-up with 2 bikes in the back drove up to the gas pumps. We wish we had his name and photo because he talked to us for a long time and drew us a map and therefore made it possible for us to take the trail for several miles, which was lovely.
  • When we got to Loagansport we stopped at a corner to check directions and went over to ask the only person we could see. Her name is Penny Bannon and she and her grandson were coming outside together - we didn't get his name but he was about 2 and cute as a button. Turns out she also bikes and she got us nicely routed through town and sat us down in her yard and served us tall glasses of ice water. Turns out she taught English for 32 years and now works as a national consultant - as you can imagine, we had lots to talk about!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 112 , 8/28/10 - West Lafayette, IN

Just the Basics: Last night our dear friends Janie and Ephraim Fischbach drove some 40 miles to Rensselaer to take us out to dinner - we had the best restaurant meal we've had since Portland! We had already taken a motel here in Rensselaer for Friday and Saturday but we left most of our stuff and the bikes in the motel and went home to spend the night at their lovely big house in West Lafayette and spent Saturday together there. Riley and Ephraim talked lots of physics and visited Ephraim's lab; we had a great breakfast in a local restaurant; went to the Farmer's Market; did some necessary shopping; and pretty much talked non-stop about politics, family, world problems, mutual friends, our work, retirement, their recent vacation in Oregon and, of course, our bike trip! We have met lots of interesting people on this trip and had some great conversations and learned lots of things - but there is nothing like spending time with compatible long-time friends.

Today's Photos: (1) Becky and Janie at the kitchen table in the Fischbach's lovely home; (2) Janie, Becky and Ephraim; (3) Janie, Riley and Ephraim;

Tomorrow: 55 miles to a campsite in a city park in Fletcher, IN - if we're lucky there will be a pit toilet and water. During this time we will go through only 1 other town, which is supposed to have groceries, a place to eat, and a post office. The next morning we will have to go another 20 miles to get to a town! Since we'll be camping, we may not be in a spot where we can blog - if not, we'll catch up later.

For Those Who Want More: That's it for today.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 111, Watseka, IL to Rensselaer, IN

Just the Basics: Note on Saturday, 8/28: We have finished catching up on this post!

40 miles, virtually all on great, lightly-traveled roads, in sunny but temperate weather - a wonderful day all around.

We are waiting to go out to dinner with our friends Janie and Ephraim Fischbach, who will pick us up at our motel shortly, so we may not complete today's post until sometime later, but look for the following stories in For Those Who Want More:

  • Visiting the Miller Farm in Newton Township, Jasper County, IN;
  • Encounters Along the Way; and
  • Nature Notes.

Today's Photos: (1) Roadside Scene, Road 1080, Jasper County, IN (We hope we have that right!); (2) John Miller with an ear of his corn; (3) John & Margaret Miller & Their Combine; (4) The Amazing Combine!

Tomorrow: Layover Day in Rensselaer!

For Those Who Want More:

Visiting the Miller Farm in Newton Township, Jasper County, IN: As we rode along Road 1000 W shortly before turning onto State Highway 114 Becky thought she might have gotten a bee inside her partially zipped safety vest. We paused in a farm driveway for her to check. Just as we were about to set out again a truck turned into the driveway and stopped - it was the farmer, John Miller, and he thought perhaps we'd stopped because we had a flat or something and might need some help - later in the conversation we learned that he had once driven another cyclist who did have a flat back to the last campground!

Riley had noticed what looked like some sort of drain in the ditch by the driveway and asked John about it. He got out of his truck to show it to us and explain how the fields are drained, generally - perforated plastic tubing under the ground - somewhat like the drain from our backyard out to the street back home. He seemed not to mind our questions and so one thing led to another, and we were eventually invited to come see the combine and how it works. Here are a few tidbits we remember - we wish we could recall all the details. Any errors are ours, not John's!

  • He grows both corn and soybeans, alternating the two crops in each field, as is typical.
  • A bushel of soybeans will put a pound of nitrogen back into the soil (we think!).
  • You can tell corn has stopped growing when it "blacklines" - you pluck an ear and pop out a kernel or two and look for a black line at the bottom; the one he showed us reminded Becky of a baby tooth that had come out!
  • Corn makes sugar all day and grows at night, using that sugar - farmers say you can hear it growing.
  • If it's too hot at night corn grows too much, using up sugar you'd like to have it store! It's been too hot at night lately and he will have less corn this year than last. One thing that makes this "The Corn Belt" is that summer nights are typically cool. Hot nights are the reason corn doesn't produce as well in the South.
  • Where corn is concerned heat is measured in "heat units." We probably have this a bit confused, but we think that when it is over 50 degrees at night the heat units are determined by subtracting 50 from whatever the maximum temperature was at night - so, 70 degrees would, for example, yield 20 heat units. We also think he said that once the temperature reaches 80 you stop even thinking about heat units, but we're not sure. You get the idea - it's complicated!
  • We'd heard before that purchasers want feed corn that has been dried to 15% moisture. John has his own instrument for checking moisture - he says his is small and costs about $500 - the elevators (and other big purchasers) might have one that costs as much as $10,000!

  • If the corn is over 15% moisture the farmer will be docked on the price - even as little as 1/4% matters.
  • The Millers have a huge granary on the farm which has a heater and three augers that is used for drying corn - the augers stir it up continually and there is a heater and fan on the outside.
  • The same combine - with different blades and settings, is used to harvest both soybeans and corn - the corn being grown is for stock feed.
  • The Millers have a 6-row combine that looks huge - but some are much bigger. One like theirs costs something like $180,000 new, plus $60,000 each for the corn-harvesting and soybean harvesting attachments in the front.
  • John's combine harvests 6 rows at a time. It can do 8 more slowly but that also means the bin fills before he can get to the end of the field to dump it into the waiting hopper.
Encounters Along the Way: Lots of nice mini-encounters today:

  • A driver slows while passing us and yells out to Becky, asking the usual where are you going/where did you start questions. He says "You're living my dream," and pulls away.
  • We have a second breakfast in a bar in Brook. A group of elderly ladies is having a coffee klatch. As they leave, they want to know about our trip. Shortly the only other customers, a couple having breakfast, emerges as we are getting ready to go and has the same questions - and also volunteer that the ladies have coffee there every morning - and that there are usually more of them!
  • We pull into Iroquois and stand at a corner, wondering about lunch. A car stops and a man calls out that if we want a great meal we should go to Earl's, about 1/2 a block back. We do. The waitress and 4 different couples having lunch there ply us with questions about our ride - lunch was good, too!
  • We arrive at our motel - the manager on duty is Lori, with whom Becky had talked when making the reservation. She says "You're our cyclists! Now, you're the . . . don't tell me!" She looks at the reservation list and says, triumphantly "The Newmans!" We acknowledge that we are.

Nature Notes:

(1) Morning Glories: We have been seeing morning glories climbing up cornstalks from time to time, and were charmed. John Miller told us that this is quite a problem for farmers - most use RoundUp to kill weeds, and plant corn and soybeans that are bred to be RoundUp-resistant - but morning glories are also naturally RoundUp resistant. A more toxic pesticide can be used but for ecological reasons can't be used in sufficient amounts. He understands that a new morning glory-specific weed killer is under development.

(2) Milkweed Report: The lovely, warty milkweed pots are swelling - soon we expect to see the gossamer parachutes that carry their seeds floating from the burst pods.

(3) "Butterflowers": For days we have been biking by lines of tall purple clover filled with little yellow butterflies, perched like a new kind of blossom on the clover - viewed from a car speeding by they might easily appear to be yellow flowers - we call them "butterflowers."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 110, 8/26/10 - Greenhouse B & B to Watseka, IL

Just the Basics: 36 miles during which we did some experimenting with back country roads to improve our route - in one case avoiding several miles of gravel in favor of better surfaces and in another avoiding some miles on a fairly busy "highway" with no shoulders. = ) = )

The weather was good, the skies were mostly clear, the scenery mainly farmland - soybeans and corn, a few cows, and once, some horses.

Kind of a "just the basics" day. We rode, we are at a Super 8, we had dinner at a small family restaurant and lunch at another - that's about it except for our breakfast at the Greenhouse B & B, which was magnificent: Omelets with cheese, onions and golden tomatoes; sweet potatoes; bacon; crepes; fruit cups of pineapple, strawberries and melon; juice; and coffee.

As we were getting ready to leave we saw the Hoffman's Guinea Hens walk by - they roam the place during the day and roost with the hens at night. We also visited their chickens, which are penned up as long as the garden is producing (they like fresh veggies), but otherwise roam freely, eating bugs and fertilizing the yard and garden. Apparently the Guinea Hens aren't interested in the garden but are particularly fond of ticks and fleas - the Hoffman's have 3 Corgis and are glad to have the Guinea Hens help out with flea and tick control!

Today's Photos: Didn't take any today - we wish we'd photographed the Guinea Hens and chickens!

Tomorrow: We go about 42 miles to Rensselaer, IN, where we will have dinner with our good friends Ephraim and Janie, who live about 45 minutes from there but are driving up to meet us.

For Those Who Want More: No more today.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 109, 8/25/10 - Streater to Past Kempton, IL

Just the Basics: 55 miles, mostly on very quiet rural roads. Some highway miles, some miles on gravel, some miles on macadam (crushed tightly-packed gravel), some on asphalt - pretty much all fine for riding.

Today we passed our 3000th mile and have now come about 2/3 of the way to Bar Harbor!!!!! = ) = )

Tonight we are staying in a B & B out in the country, surrounded by corn fields, and in an absolutely lovely setting - See Greenhouse B & B, below.

Tomorrow: About 35 miles to the Super 8 motel in Watseka, IL.

Today's Photos: (1) Riley celebrates Mile 3000! (2) Historic Route 66 Gas Station, Odell, IL; (3) Dinner at the Greenhouse B & B - YUM!! (See below for more on photos 2 and 3.)

For Those Who Want More:

Greenhouse B & B, 3606 N. 1700 E. Road, Kempton, IL 60946; 815-253=9020; http://www.greenhousebed.com/ Owners: Guia and Mark Hoffman. The Hoffmans bought this big old farm house back in the 80s and raised four children here, turning it into a B & B after the kids were grown and gone. Their focus is sustainable living - Mark is a certified permaculturalist - they have planted 60 trees, garden extensively (and organically), raise chickens and bees, can and freeze, buy locally what they don't grow themselves to the extent possible, and are active in the sustainability movement. Meals here feature the fruits of their labors and the labor of their neighbors - and are incredible; Guia is a graduate of a culinary institute in Joliet, IL. There is a beautiful Koi pond, and benches and a gazebo are tucked here and there around the gardens and yard - it is an idyllic retreat!

After we arrived we went to get what we needed from our bikes and then parked them in the Hoffman's garage. When we returned to the house Guia had refreshments waiting: A lovely chilled fruit juice and slices of French bread topped with a sort of salsa of golden tomatoes, garlic and basil, all from her garden, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese - lovely!

Dinner: When Riley originally made the reservation, they asked if there was anything we'd really like to eat and Riley told them corn on the cob, explaining that we'd envisioned feasting on it all the way across the Midwest, only to find the season ending as we arrived. Due to the 1 day delay caused by Riley's broken bike chain, we had to call back and change the date of our arrival - Mark told Riley that "the cook" (Guia) was working on the corn but had a fallback - their own, already stored in the freezer. However, she really wanted to serve us fresh corn and there it was on the table tonight; she found a friend who still had some! In addition to corn on the cob, we had:
  • Free-range turkey, raised by a neighbor;
  • Eggplant topped with lovely tomato sauce, all from their garden;
  • Mashed potatoes with turkey gravy - featuring their home-grown potatoes;
  • Croissants;
  • Garden Salad - Homegrown tomatoes, peppers, onions, sunflower seeds, and so on, plus chunks of their own apples and some very light fresh cheese - with a pesto dressing made by neighbors who raise organic Tilapia and recycle the water for their greenhouse; and

  • Almond tart (almond flour, egg white, sugar, etc.) topped with fresh mango, whipped cream and toasted coconut.

We really hope we're hungry again by morning!

The Historic Route 66 Gas Station in Odell: The station was built in the early 1930s, and once had a restaurant next door, too. At some point the restaurant was converted to a house and eventually burned down; the station itself fell into disrepair and the city planned to raze it. Somehow (wish we had the details!) they didn't - instead, the city restored it and operates it today as a sort of little museum and gift shop - pretty cool!

Food Today: Given the gourmet ending of our day, we thought you might find the day's eating record interesting:

  • Motel breakfast in Streater of coffee in the room made by Riley, then cold cereal, juice, coffee, and uninspired English muffins - the motel's "free" breakfast;
    Homemade peach pie and coffee at a brand new little restaurant where we'd stopped yesterday on our way to Streater - the town's about 6 miles off-route so we had to retrace some steps today;

  • Donuts & milk at a Casey's in Wenona, along with a couple of fresh tomatoes one of the staff had brought in. Casey's is an ubiquitous convenience store/gas station in this area. They have a pretty fair selection of groceries, good donuts, and, often, fresh fruit as well as fast food stuff.

  • Lunch at The Wishing Well in Odell - tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad, cottage cheese, chips & saltines, and iced tea (the last of the tea went into our water bottles).
  • Our last of the 2 mini-loaves of the homemade date nut bread presented to us by Michele and Glen Schwarm as we left Aunt Daisy's B & B, with some of our leftover iced tea; and

  • 1 1/2 pecan sandies along with the last of the iced tea left from lunch, about 4 miles before we got to the Greenhouse B & B.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 108, 8/24/20 - Washington to near Henry to Streator, IL

Just the Basics: 38 miles of mostly quiet rolling rural roads with some long flat stretches. Lots of corn and soybeans. Our day began in Washington, IL. At 8 a.m., Fred, of Central Illinois Taxi Company in East Peoria (309-839-2189) picked us up in a taxi van at our motel and drove us exactly back to where we had left off the day before when Riley's chain broke. We parked in Bob Schlosser's driveway, loaded up our bikes, and took up where we left off!

On the way we had a great time visiting with Fred. As a former Army Ranger he appreciates physical effort and so identified with what we're doing. He also spent 20 years living in Wales and that was neat to hear something about. As it so often has on this trip, our conversation ranged far and wide from current events to experiences in other parts of the world to matters of work and family. Much of the trip was along the mighty Illinois River, which made for great scenery. Fred told us that this area has been under cultivation for 300 years!

For lunch we picnicked in the very nice city park of the little town of Wenona (pop 1056), followed by a nap on the grass, and then went to their nice library to use the restrooms, get advice on the route, and sit and read magazines for a while.

Tomorrow: We go about 53 miles to The Greenhouse B & B near Kempton, IL, which specializes in meals prepared with home-grown organic foods. It is not near any restaurants, so we'll also be having Wed. dinner there - we are really looking forward to it.

Today's Photos: (1) Crossing the Vermillion River just before entering Streator Illinois. (2) Becky proceeding along a "cornidor"

For Those Who Want More: That's about it for today. 'Night!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 107, 8/23/19 - Henry to Washington, IL

Just the Basics: Only about 6 miles of cycling! Today Riley's chain broke about 5 miles out of Henry, IL, where we spent last night.

Amazingly, we broke down right by the house of an incredibly kind person - Bob Schlosser (see Hero of the Day, below). He loaned us tools and even cannibalized a bike to see if Riley could use its chain, and ultimately drove us 40 some miles (!) to the nearest bike store - Russell's Cycling and Fitness in Washington, IL, where we are now getting tune-ups, a new chain and gears for Riley, new brakes for Becky, and a chain tool (see Russell's below). YIKES!!

We will spend the night here and as Becky types Riley is making a cab reservation for early tomorrow morning with a company in near-by Preoria, IL (no cabs here in Washington) to get us back to where we left off so we can continue the journey.

Tomorrow: We take a cab back to where we left off and start again for Streator, IL.

Today's Photos: (1) Bob Schlosser, our Hero of the Day; (2) John, of Russell's Cycling and Fitness, Washington, IL, working on Riley's bike.

For Those Who Want More:

Bob Schlosser, our Hero of the Day: Bob's home is located at the top of a steep hill not far from Henry, IL. Riley's chain broke just as we were passing his yard. We got off the bikes and Riley started work to see what might be done. We had not chosen to carry a spare chain and Riley had been so dissatisfied with the chain tool he had that he had discarded it - although the chain was pretty much beyond repair anyway, as it happens.

Bob soon appeared with an offer of help. First he loaned Riley some tools - and suggested that Becky move into the shade in his yard to continue writing the postcards she was working on. Then he began helping Riley. He even cannibalized an old bike he had to see if its chain could be made to work on Riley's bike. When all else failed he helped us locate the closest bike shop - Russell's in Washington, with which he had some familiarity - and drove us some 40 miles there and insisted on giving us 2 bottles of very welcome cold Gatorade. He refused payment - we promised to pass the favor on!

On our way to Washington we talked about farming and the economy and the loss of retail businesses in small towns. Bob's family recently sold the family farm but he and his wife have 15 acres of the farmstead and he has devoted a lot of time this summer to working on it - among other things, building fences; they may decide to build a house and live there and he wants to be able to keep some stock. He told us that small farmers seldom have stock anymore - to the extent that there are small farmers - that it used to be that if your stock got out they'd likely just end up at the next farm over, but with today's huge farms with thousands of unfenced acres of corn or soybeans your stock could run for many miles - so he's building strong fences!

Russell's Cycling and Fitness Center: Russell's is located at 10 Valley Forge Avenue, Washington, IL 61571, 309-444-2098, http://www.russellsfitness.com/ If you ever need a bike shop in North Central IL, Russell's is your place.

Riley had called ahead to ask if they would have the needed parts - they did. We no sooner arrived at the door than Buyer/Fit Specialist Bernie Camp was at the door, holding it open for our bikes and welcoming us with some comment such as "Well - you made it!" Soon Janice, another staffer, came up to Becky saying "You're the cyclists we've heard about!" Soon she was offering to take us to Preoria when she got off her shift, if that would help!

When their tech John was working on Riley's bike he found a problem he wanted to bring to our attention - and came to the coffee house next door to find us. And so it went - great people, great work. Our bikes now have clean chains (new in Riley's case), with freshly inflated and balanced tires. Riley's handlebar light was replaced. They noticed that Becky's hand grips had been slipping off - now they aren't. Becky has a brand new complimentary water bottle - and so it goes. WOW!

So - How Much Weight Are You Carrying? We get this question from time to time, and until recently have answered that we didn't know. However, a couple of days ago our hosts at Aunt Daisy's B & B in Kewanee, IL loaned us a bathroom scale and we finally weighed our stuff. Riley: About 70 pounds; Becky: About 45 pounds. Yikes!

So, this morning while we were still in Henry, IL, we made some changes!
1. We ate our can of peaches as part of our breakfast.

2. We left 3 cans (chili, bean with bacon soup & green beans) with the motel folks who said they'd find a home for them.

3. We discarded about 8 oz of saline solution which we'd already discovered was no good, and threw away a couple of pairs of pretty worn out winter gloves; and

4. We shipped about 13 1/2 pounds of stuff to our friend Barb in Richland!

(a) One box contains things we're finished with - maps we've used, a couple of wildflower books, some clothes we decided we can do with out, etc.

(b) The other box contains cold weather gear which we will probably need - at some point Barb will send it back to us via general delivery to a post office which we'll pick when the time comes (Thank you Barb!). We kept some warm stuff to use between the time it starts getting cooler and the time we'd get the other stuff back. WHEW!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 106, 8/22/10 - Kewanee to Henry, IL

Just the Basics:

Note, 8/23/10: We have just added a photo to this post.

42 rolling miles from Kewanee to Henry, IL. We are having trouble with our Internet connection so will make this very brief!

We had a wonderful breakfast at Aunt Daisy's B & B in Kewanee and hosts Michele and Glen Schwarm sent us off with two little loaves of wonderful date nut bread and 2 bananas for the road! We had pancakes at Rookies' in Bradley for lunch (they only do breakfast on Sundays) and had a good day riding on smooth country roads with very little traffic and generally great conditions.

Tonight we're at the Henry Harbor Inn in Henry, right on the banks of the Illinois River. We have a huge clean room with a king sized bed, a couch, TV/fridge/microwave, and a table with 2 chairs - all for $65!

Today's Photo: Michele and Greg Schwarm, our wonderful Hosts at Aunt Daisy's B & Bin Kewanee.

Tomorrow: We cross the Illinois River right outside our motel and ride about 35 miles to Streator, IL.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Days 103-105, 8/19-21/10 - Orion to Kewanee, IL

Just the Basics:

Notes: Main Post on Friday, 8/20/10, follows brief comments on 8/19 and 21, below!

Thursday, 8/19/10: We had a good day and will be back tomorrow to tell you about it - we're in Kewanee at The Victorian Suite at Aunt Daisy's B & B, and will be staying here tomorrow for a layover day! 'Night!

Saturday, 8/21/10: Yikes! We couldn't find lodging for Saturday night in Henry, our next destination, so will stay here at Aunt Daisy's B & B in Kewanee, IL for one more day. The thought of another night camping in a hot, humid city park so soon was more than we were ready for! We love being here, so it's not hard to do - but it will be good to get underway again tomorrow. As we approach Mile 3000 (a goal we expect to reach this week) it begins to really seem possible that we'll make it to Bar Harbor unless winter sets in early, so we're anxious to start stacking up some miles! Note: We've added one more story to this entry - about Glen and Michele Schwarm, our hosts at Aunt Daisy's; see More on 34, at the end of For Those Who Want More!

8/20/10: We can't yet give you yesterday's mileage - our bikes are stored in the B & B's garage and we may not have a mileage update until we sit down to blog tomorrow night.

Today we are happily ensconced in our room at Aunt Daisy's listening to a thunderstorm and watching it pour outside (as predicted, that's one reason we are laying over today). We are in a very Victorian suite with it's own little sitting room and got back from doing some grocery shopping for dinner just as the rain got under way. We decided to dine in to avoid the possibility of having to go out in heavy rain. For our Friday night date we'll have crackers, cheese, wine from CA, apples, a tomato and chocolates. = ) = )

Today's Photos: (1) Our Room at Aunt Daisy's; (2) Aunt Daisy's

Should you ever be in this area, this is a wonderful place to stay! We actually sat at the breakfast table for 3 1/2 hours our first morning eating a lovely breakfast and chatting with Michele and Greg - we'll tell a couple of stories we heard from them below. If your travels require a short day in Chicago, this locale would work - the morning train to Chicago arrives there at 10 or so and there's an evening train back. Check out: Aunt Daisy's B & B at http://www.auntdaisys.net/, 223 W Central Blvd., Kewanee, IL 61443; 309-853-3300.

Tomorrow: Note on 8/21/10: "Tomorrow" is now Sunday, 8/22/10! Assuming that weather permits, we expect to bike 39 miles tomorrow, to Henry, IL.

For Those Who Want More - Stories from Aunt Daisy's and Kewanee:

Midwestern Friendliness: We walked to the drugstore and the supermarket earlier this afternoon. By the standards of our bike route, Kewanee, with a population of about 12,500, is a big town, and we needed a bunch of harder-to-find items, such as special sunscreen for facial use. Recently Becky has found that typical sunscreens burn when she applies them to her face - perhaps some combination of salt from sweating and our constant use of sunscreen. We wish we'd been counting how many containers of sunscreen we have gone through - we're pretty sure it's surpassed the peanut butter count - of which we've lost track!

In any event, although we'd been given directions twice for getting from the drugstore to the market, we began to think we might have gone astray and asked a passerby for help. She showed us that we were on track after all - and then offered to drive us there, even though it was only a couple of blocks, but the rain was starting! We assured her that we were fine, but how thoughtful can you get? We should note that when we left the B & B our host Greg had strongly urged us to take his truck in case it rained!

Aunt Daisy's: The house was built by a brother and sister in the 1890s, and is a very well maintained huge Victorian. Neither of the two ever married nor had descendants, and the house was left to the Catholic Church and used as a rectory for the priests for many years. It had gone through a couple of short-term owners when the Schwarms bought it 13 years or so ago. They made extensive renovations and upgrades, but were able to retain lots of lovely original details. Since it was a rectory, many weddings were performed here over the years and the house has pictures of many of the couples married here, as well as a few marriage licenses from weddings performed here. Michele says that many people they know were married here.

The B & B is named for one of Michele's great aunts, who was a wonderful and much-beloved hostess. Michele says they didn't want to call it "Grandma's B &B," although that's the sort of atmosphere they hoped to evoke - because "You can never replace Grandma." However, the thought of visiting and being pampered by a great aunt sounded just right!

Kewanee's Colorful History: Kewanee was essentially a railroad town, although it also grew into a center of commerce for the whole county - at one time the town boasted Sears, Penney's, Montgomery Ward, 9 dress shops and four men's stores, et cetera. In the railroading heyday the area around the station was known as Whiskey Row (?) and boasted a bank where railroaders cashed their checks and a brothel around the corner and numerous saloons where they could then spend their money! The tellers' cage from that bank is now a part of a local pizza place. A local pub contains a huge bar built by the Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery for the Chicago World Fair.
Local Farming:

Corn: Greg and Michele were able to answer some of the questions we've been accumulating about corn farming; here's a summary of what we remember:
  • The corn, which is obviously ripe now, and starting to look dried up, will not actually be harvested until September. It needs to be thoroughly dry to store well; if farmers harvested now they would, in fact, be charged a penalty by the buyers, determined by the moisture content of the truckload - a sample from each truck is tested by the purchasers before consummating a deal.
  • The corn is cut by gigantic harvesting machines which have sort of got teeth that "comb" the ears into the hopper and discard the stalks, which become the source of silage for stock feed.
  • Two of the reasons we don't observe much activity in the fields right now: (1) Farmers spend lots of time right now being sure their equipment is in tip-top shape - no time for breakdowns during harvest; and (2) Many framers have a 2nd job - for example, their electrician is also a farmer, so this is a good time to have electrical work done; soon he'll be too busy!

Pigs: In case you didn't know - pig farms tend to smell like you might imagine. We have cycled by lots of them - recently Becky has been thinking that maybe she should give up bacon in the interests of the folks who have to work in such a bad-smelling environment! However, we recently noticed a couple of places where the pigs seem to live in big fields and each one has its own little shed - almost like the 3 Little Pigs - and these farms don't smell bad as we ride by! Per Greg, these are organic pig farms - presumably the pigs have to have a healthy environment as the farmers cannot rely on constant doses of antibiotics to keep the pigs from getting sick! Think about that when you buy pork.

More on 34: Glen Schwarm, our host, is the founder of an amazing local event - More On 34; this was its 5th year. The concept is simple and very clever: U.S. Highway 34 is a small, older U.S. highway running across much of Northern Illinois. On one weekend a year, a gigantic "garage sale" occurs in little towns and cities all along the road. This year's event was on Fathers' Day weekend and ran 140 miles, from Galesburg to Yorkville! In addition to showcasing traditional garage-sale items, More on 34 provides a wonderful outlet for local artists and crafts people, and an opportunity for churches, civic groups and non-profits to fundraise. Michele told us that the little town of Wyanet (? we think) sells burgers throughout the event and booth organizers told her this year that they raise enough money to pay for the town's annual civic festival. Michele said she had realized the event benefited many shoppers and sellers but the thought that it was also supporting the stuff of which memories are made - like a town's annual celebration - really moved her - as it did us!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 102, 8/18/10 - Muscatine to Orion, IL

Just the Basics: 51 rolling miles through Illinois farmland on a variety of country roads, little traffic and mostly good roads and riding conditions. Tonight we are camping at the Hillcrest Resort outside Orion. Becky told Riley we spent the day rolling down "cornidors"!

It's late and we've just gotten our tent up and our campsite squared away and now we're at the campground restaurant waiting for our dinner, so this will be brief. Note: Dinner came as we were blogging so we ate and then finished the blog. Nice crisp salads and delicious catfish (Riley) and chicken (Becky) with excellent fries.

Tomorrow: Only 33 miles, to Aunt Daisy's B & B in Kewanee, IL- which sounds wonderful. We will take a layover day there and are really looking forward to that.

Today's Photos: (1) A last view of the Mississippi from the bridge; (2) Speaks for itself. (3) the Miller-Fisher Family in Orion - see For Those Who Want More.

For Those Who Want More:

Goodbye, Mississippi River! Today we walked across the bridge over the Mississippi from Muscatine, IA to Illinois, almost exactly as we walked across the river itself at its source at Lake Ataska in Northern Minnesota more than 4 weeks ago - we have spent much of a month along this mighty river which is a part of the heart of this country.

Lunch in Buffalo Prairie: Our bike map says there are no services in Buffalo Prairie, which we reached around Mile 19 today. Boy were we glad to arrive and find the Prairie Creek Market and Deli at 20807 183rd Avenue, Buffalo Prairie, IL 61237, 309-537-9122! We had great buffalo burgers and delicious potato salad and ice cold lemonade - YUM! They've been open about a year and also sell frozen meats, deli meats and cheeses, bread - and lovely looking pies; we could hardly bear not trying them, but with 32 miles still to ride we resolutely pressed on.

Good Samaritans in Orion: We stopped a couple of times in Orion to ask directions to the campground and got some very helpful information. The 2nd place we asked the family we met was sitting outside together and not only provided directions, but gave us bottles of ice cold water, which we drained on the spot. Many thanks to Jeffy and Yvonne Miller, and their daughter and grandson Megan and Aiden Fisher - and Chopper, their puppy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 101, 8/17/10 - Lowden to Muscatine, IA

Just the Basics: 38 hilly miles. Light rain fell much of the day; we and the panniers arrived pretty wet and our room at the Super 8 in Muscatine has quite a bit of stuff spread around, some of it drying out, some of it simply removed from panniers so that they can dry out - Becky's panniers, particularly, get pretty wet when it rains.

The last stretch into Muscatine was on an off-road trail which was pretty wet and rough and it turned out to also be too off-road - when we needed to get off the trail we couldn't! However, Riley did some reconnoitering and figured out we could just bushwhack up a slope and end up beside U.S. 61, near where our motel was located - so we did, with Riley charging up the hill with his bike and then leaving his bike by the road and coming back to push Becky's from behind while she walked beside it and steered.

We had mostly light traffic today and cool rain beats the hot humid days we faced last week!

Tomorrow: We go about 44 miles to the Hillcrest Campground in Orion, IL. It is actually a big golf course and an RV Golfing Park - they advertise that dad can golf, mom can sit by the pool, and the kids can enjoy swimming and hiking . . . but they also have tent sites, laundry facilities and a restaurant and they are located where we need a place to stay!

Today's Photos: Our innkeeper at the Lincoln Hotel, as we left this morning.

For Those Who Want More: That's pretty much it; it was a "just keep making little circles" (with your feet) sort of day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 100, 8/16/10 - Cascade to Lowdon, IA

Just the Basics: Note on 8/20/10: We are finally finishing this post!

37 hilly miles - such a surprise! Another day with more reasonable temperatures and a mix of riding conditions. On the advice of Annette, our hostess at the wonderful Riverview Ridge Campground just south of Cascade, we headed out towards IA 136 on a couple of miles of rolling gravel road with a very rideable surface, thereby saving ourselves a more strenuous climb the way we had planned to go. Roads varied in the amount of traffic and the types of surface - really good, really bad, and scarified in preparation for resurfacing. Not a decent shoulder in the lot of them, but as always, we biked defensively and had an enjoyable day.

Tonight we are at a great place to stay - the Historic Lincoln Hotel B & B, Elizabeth Norton, Innkeeper (http://www.lincolnhoteliowa.com/), 408 Main, Lowden, IA 563-941-7563. We have cooking privileges in the B & B kitchen and, thankfully, were able to shop for the makings of an appropriate dinner to celebrate our 100th day on the road! We got into town right at 6 p.m. and in our experience, that's when many small town groceries close - but J & J Grocery (Lowdon's only grocery store) closes at 8 p.m. Whew! We had to go to the gas station to buy wine, but here's what we had:
  • Pork Chops, cooked in a tiny bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder;
  • New Orleans Style Red Beans and Rice from a Zatarain's mix;

  • Frozen Brussels sprouts which Becky prepared by browning cumin seeds and curry powder in a little olive oil, then adding a small amount of water to steam them and at the last minute stirring in some of the mixed nut/dried fruit trail mix we'd snacked on before dinner;
  • Applesauce;
  • Cranberry Wine made in Iowa
  • Yum!!

In case you are wondering, we carry a little bottle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and the following spices: Cumin seeds, curry powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper flakes.

Now it's after 10 and we have another long day tomorrow, so we're going to sign off and will write up the rest of the day when we have a bit more time - you can check out the topics under For Those Who Want More.

Note on 8/20/10
: We ate the leftover rice and beans and applesauce for breakfast and meant to eat the leftover Brussels sprouts as part of lunch but accidentally left them at the B & B.

Tomorrow: We go about 37 miles to Muscatine, IA, where we'll stay at a Super 8. Wednesday morning we'll cross the Mississippi River a final time for this trip and head into Illinois and our next Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Map, which will take us about 400 miles across Illinois and Indiana.

Today's Photos: (1) Riley pretends horror when confronted by a "We mean it!" road closure sign; (2) Jerilyn with one of her famous pies; (3) Becky being interviewed by Shirley Jones, Publisher of The Midland Times; and (4) The Historic Lincoln Hotel B and B, Lowdon, IA. See below for more details on all 4 photos!

For Those Who Want More:

Camping at the Riverview Ridge Campground in Cascade (Sunday night/Monday morning): The campground is located on a family farm where Annette (owners: Annette and John) grew up. They were living in town and pursuing careers when time came to sell the farm. Annette had farmer brothers but no one was in a position to buy and it was about to be sold outside the family when, as Annette tells it, her mom asked "one more time" if they didn't want to buy it - and, suddenly, they realized they did!

They sold their home, got the financing, and bought it from her mom. They rent the bulk of the land to another farmer, who raises corn and (we think) runs some stock there. John and Annette have always loved outdoor activities, always camped with their kids, and so on. So - over time they have developed part of the farm as a wonderful recreational area. John is in construction, so has done the building and can handle most of the maintenance; Annette is the day-to-day manager. They offer tubing and rafting on the Maquoketa River (no, we don't know how to pronounce it!); have RV and tent sites; and continue to develop hiking trails - the latest is for mountain bikes. Check it out at http://www.riverviewcampgrounds.com/

Annette's sister and her family were in the RV site next to where we camped. Before we turned in for the night Riley went over to ask her if animals getting into food were a problem and told her about our experience with raccoons and skunks getting into our food at Father Hennepin State Park. She told him they'd not heard of any problems (not much of an issue for RVers, anyway) - but in a few minutes brought over a big Rubbermaid-type tub with a tight lid, saying she wasn't using it at the moment and that we could put our food in it if we wanted to! We did, with many thanks!

The TRULY Closed Road: We have occasionally encountered closed road signs where we could actually get through, but as you can see from the picture, this sign looked like it meant business. While we hesitated, a truck came up and prepared to turn onto the detour and we succeeded in flagging it down. The truck driver assured us that, although cars could not get through, we could - and so it turned out. A dam in the area failed a couple of weeks ago and the flood that resulted really damaged the bridge and a road; it was mostly a matter of damaged road bed which would have been unsafe for cars but not a problem for us.

Riley was able to learn a bit more about this from a couple whose property the road came through . . . unfortunately, he had taken his helmet off as we waited at the blockade, trying to decide what to do - and neither of us noticed that he didn't have it until a mile or more later - at the top of a big hill, of course! So, we unloaded his bike and he wore Becky's helmet to bike back and look for it while Becky stayed with our stuff. In the course of the trip he encountered the couple looking at a section of the road which had been torn up by the river.

Jerilyn's Pie at the Bear Creek Cafe in Wyoming: As regular readers know, we are always on the lookout for pie - in Riley's case, particularly, especially for rhubarb pie. As a child, Riley once grew some rhubarb, and when he learned that you can propagate it by dividing and replanting the clumps - presumably forever - he had visions of becoming the Rhubarb King of America - even then he loved rhubarb pie! So, we stopped at the Bear Creek Cafe and had homemade pie - peach for Becky and rhubarb for Riley; he reports it was one of the two best he'd ever eaten - 10 on a scale of 1-10! The cafe is operated by sisters; Jerilyn (pictured) is the pie maker.

We Are Interviewed by the Midland Times (Shirley Jones: Publisher, Editor & Reporter): The Midland Times serves Jones County, the Midland School District, and the Cities of Wyoming, Oxford Junction, Olin and Onslow. While we were at the Bear Creek Cafe, Becky got to talking to the other of the two sisters who own the cafe; she was very interested in our trip. Later she came by the table and said she'd called her friend who published the local weekly - would we mind being interviewed? We agreed and Shirley Jones, the publisher/editor/reporter, soon showed up, camera and tape recorder in hand, to hear about our trip. Pretty interesting!

The Historic Lincoln Hotel B & B in Lowden, IA: The hotel was originally built to service the earliest cross-country auto travelers. As is so often the case, it ultimately fell into disrepair and the city eventually sought to raze it and use the site for a parking lot! It was rescued by Innkeeper Liz Norton and her attorney husband Tom. With the help of an architect friend who specializes in historic sites, and a ton of elbow grease, they have done an amazing restoration job and now operate a beautiful B & B in the hotel.

The Lincoln Highway: The hotel was built in the very early days of cross-country automobile travel. As we arrived in town we paused at roadside to consult our maps and written directions and a local man stopped his car to see if we needed help. He told us that we were, in fact, standing across from the B & B and to call Innkeeper Liz Norton and she'd come let us in! He also told us it was "the last still-operating old hotel on the Lincoln Highway." We had never heard of that highway, but then noticed there were Lincoln Highway banners along the road through town. Later we read an article about the hotel in the B & B's binder of information for guests.

Apparently, in 1912 a group of folks across the country formed a committee to advocate for creation of the first transcontinental highway (partially cobbled together from already extant routes), in time for the Pan-American Exhibition, to be held in San Francisco in 1915. At this time virtually all roads were local projects, unpaved, and rarely graded or even graveled. The route was completed on time, and runs from New York to San Francisco.

James Lin, who maintains a great Lincoln Highway website, writes that the Highway and the Association "played an important role in the Good Roads movement in the United States, paving the way for the development of a nationwide highway network that is now unsurpassed ." (http://lincolnhighway.jameslin.name/)

Also see the website of the Lincoln Highway Association at: http://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/ The Association presently focuses on maintaining the Highway in good condition and encouraging tourism on this wonderful historic route.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 99, 8/15/10 - Dyersville to Cascade, IA

Just the Basics: 31 miles - turns out they were hillier miles than expected - part of the route had been left out when we made our previous calculation of the climbing we'd do - but the weather was so much better it was OK. Actually, we might once have thought it hot - it was still in the 80s after 3 - but the humidity was much decreased so all was well. We did quite a bit of traveling on gravel today and had to do a detour due to road construction, but we had a fine day.

On our way out of Dyersville we chose a route that would take us to the Lansing Family Farm which was the site of Field of Dreams, the wonderful 1989 baseball (and so much more) movie starring Kevin Costner and based on W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe (which we are reading).

Tomorrow: About 40 miles to Lowden, IA, mostly along IA 136, where we'll stay in a place where we'll have a kitchen and can do some cooking. The weather should again be comfortable. = ) = )

Today's Photos: (1) Field of Dreams - the House; (2) Field of Dreams - the Field; (3) Riley, happy as a clam, in front of an Iowa farm

For Those Who Want More:

Field of Dreams: The farm where Field of Dreams was shot has been owned by the Lansing family for more than 100 years, and the family has done a wonderful job of preserving the site for the thousands of folks who have visited it since the movie was made:

  • There is no admission charge!
  • They have not added a bunch of rides and other stuff - there's the house (which they live in and you therefore can't visit), the field with its two little bleachers, and a couple of portapotties - that's it. It's clean and well kept and surrounded by the corn they grow; it's still a working farm.
  • The gift shop is small and prices are reasonable.
  • You can play ball on the field - they warn that you are responsible for for your own safety and ask that you not hog the space, so that everyone has a chance - that's it! (We wished they rented equipment - we couldn't even play catch!)
  • Originally they tried renting it out for events but decided that made it unavailable for others to see and that it wasn't consistent with their mission - so they stopped doing it.
  • It was a great stop for us as we live out our own dream!
Evil Corn - Who Knew? We have been rolling by fields of corn ever since we started this trip. Much of it is field corn for stock feeding or corn destined for high fructose corn syrup or ethanol (Yikes!), but some has been sweet corn. Riley had dreamed that we would eat countless ears of fresh corn on the cob as we made our way east. Sadly, this has not happened - most of the places we eat don't seem to serve vegetables at all - or they are canned (!!); we've had corn twice when camping and Riley had it one other time. We kept thinking we'd get it in Iowa, anyway - but it turns out that the sweet corn season is over in Iowa - we couldn't even buy it for our camping meal tonight.

It gets worse! Furthermore, we read recently that the huge acreage of corn throughout the Midwest actively contributes to the excessive humidity we've been experiencing, because the plants give off so much water in the course of growing! Evil Corn!! It's become a game for us to point out fields of corn to each other, intoning "Evil corn!"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Days 97 and 98, 8/13 &14/10 - Dyersville, IA

Just the Basics:

Friday, 8/13/10: Yikes! It's Friday the 13th, but we've had a good day here in Dyersville, laying over to wait for the heat to break. That won't be until Sunday, so we'll stay here on Saturday, too. We'll be back tomorrow to let you know what we've been up to in Dyersville.

Saturday, 8/14/10: As you know, we're still in Dyersville; we don't really have a lot to report - see For Those Who Want More.

Tomorrow: The weather forecast is still for a much more pleasant climate starting tomorrow (Sunday, 8/15). We expect to cycle about 25 miles to a private campground just past Cascade, IA.

For Those Who Want More: Here's what we've been up to on these 2 days, in no particular order:

Stuff: We've been catching up on email, business, shopping and blogging.

Reading: Riley is about 1/3 of the way through Robert V. Remini's A Short History of the United States; Becky about the same in O.E. Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth. We've also started Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, in honor of being in Dyersville where Field of Dreams was filmed - we plan to visit the Field itself on our way out of town tomorrow. These 2 days have afforded some good reading time. = ) = )

Eating: Motel breakfasts each day; Lunches: local Chinese restaurant's lunch buffet on Friday, Peanut butter sandwiches plus in our room on Saturday. Dinners: Pizza and Minnesota's Grain Belt Premium beer at The English Pub on Friday - a place recommended by a cyclist we met Thursday in New Vienna; Saturday night we plan on beer or wine and Subway sandwiches in our motel room before catching a movie on the telly - walk-to options not great near the motel.

Routing and Related Stuff: Riley has spent a lot of time on the Internet looking at climbing in the days ahead - inconsequential tomorrow, about 800' on Monday and 400' plus on into Muscatine and the end of our current Adventure Cycling map on Tuesday.

He's also learned where there's appropriate lodging from here to the current map's end in Muscatine, IA (about 100 miles, which will translate into three days of riding) and made reservations for the next two days. On Sunday we'll be camping outside Cascade; on Monday we'll stay in a "B & B" near Lowden - but we're skipping the breakfast part - the breakfast option costs extra and is very fancy, but one of the "rooms" is a suite with a kitchen, so we're opting for that instead and will have fun cooking our own dinner and breakfast.

He then identified likely lodging options and daily goals all the way across Illinois and looked at where we are in the journey - over 2700 miles behind us, 1700 to go; still on target for a 10/13 arrival in Bar Harbor, ME.

Looking Ahead: Each of our Adventure Cycling maps typically covers about 400 miles (2 weeks) of riding. The next one takes us through North Central Illinois & Indiana. We enter IL across the Mississippi from Muscatine, IA and leave a few miles east of the tiny town of Iroquois, IL (pop 207). The first town we encounter in IN will be Brook (pop 1082). We exit IN about 8 miles northeast of Monroeville; our first town in Ohio will be Payne, about 5 miles later.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 96, 8/12/2010 - Gutenberg to Dyersville, IA

Just the Basics: 25 HOT HUMID HILLY miles - and if you think you're tired of reading that phrase, think of how we must feel! Some stats:

  • Up at 5:45 to load bikes and be at the restaurant when it opened at 6:30 a.m. for a beat-the-heat early start: (1) It was ALREADY hot and muggy; and (2) There was heavy fog - we couldn't safely leave until 9:30 a.m.

  • Heavy traffic and mostly no shoulders - or loose gravel shoulders which were usually not really useful for riding - so lots of walking the bikes - and again, hills we'd normally bike got walked due to heat and humidity - heat index up to at least 105 today.

  • It was still 96 at 5 p.m.

  • It was still in the 80s at 9 p.m.

  • For the first time, we used all the water we had on the bikes (about 5 1/2 liters). At our 3 p.m. lunch stop in Luxemburg (first available spot), we were down to about 1 1/2 liters. We refilled all the bottles and drank a ton of tea and water at lunch and still drank lots more as we finished the ride.
Nice Notes:

  • As we were chugging up yet another hill near Dyersville, a boy of perhaps 12 came running across a lawn with 2 water bottles. He asked if we needed water and it seemed polite to accept - so we did. He said "They're not cold or anything - we just bought them." We turned and waved our thanks to his mom and immediately opened them and drank heartily.
  • We stopped in New Vienna at around 5 to sit on a park swing in the shade and rest a bit - that's where we saw a sign indicating that it was still 96. First a guy who's a runner stopped in his car and offered us a place to stay for the night. Shortly, a local biker stopped by to see if we needed help finding anything - at that point we were looking at our map. = ) = )
  • Dyersville is 3 miles from the Field of Dreams ball bark from the movie - now an attraction which you can visit.
Today's Photos:
1) Lock 10 on the Mississippi, viewed in Gutenburg on our Wednesday layover day.
2) Fog that greeted us when we got up Thursday intending an early start.
3) The steeple in Luxemburg which burned when struck by lightening this week.
4) "Muskrat(?)" Creek

Tomorrow: The weather forecast is for more of the same, but it is supposed to start to cool off on the weekend - so, we will have a layover day again tomorrow - it seems unwise to keep beating our heads against this particular wall!

For Those Who Want More:

Mark Twain: As regular readers know, we like to read locally appropriate books as we go along. Don't know if we've mentioned it before, but when we were in the Big Woods in MN we downloaded a free book of Paul Bunyan stories to our Kindle, and read some aloud - especially at bedtimes. Now that we're spending time along the Mississippi, we've done the same with Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi - big fun!

Lightning Strikes a Steeple in Luxemburg: As we were FINALLY leaving the hotel this morning we chatted a bit with another guest. He told us that a church steeple in Luxemburg had been struck by lightning on Monday night and had burned. Turns out it was across from the place where we had lunch today so we not only saw it but got a play-by-play from the restaurant owner and a couple of patrons at the bar.

  • There were fire trucks from 5 departments, as far away as Dubuque.

  • The church itself was undamaged - not even smoke or water damage below. It seems the steeple had a special floor - some said it was cement, others that it had 3 layers - anyway, it kept the damage sealed off.

  • The restaurant owner was awakened by safety personnel at 3 a.m. to come down and check for fire in their building - cinders were falling on the roof and they feared there might be internal fires - nope.
  • The whole town turned out to sweep up, pick up cinders, hose down sidewalks and buildings, etc. - the place was cleaned up by 9:30 a.m.!

Animals: We watched some little muskrat-sort of creature swimming up a narrow creek as we rested along our bike ride today. And just now in our motel room Becky spotted a very small frog! which we captured in a cup for Becky to take outside to release (after showing it to the desk clerk).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 95, 8/11/10 - Gutenberg, IA

Just the Basics: We are having a lay-over day in Gutenberg and your faithful scribe (Becky) has been catching up on the last 2 day's blogs and is getting a tad tired of blogging, so here's what we've got!
  • Got up late and had coffee and delicious sweet treats at The Buzz, a great little coffee house with couches, and a great atmosphere in a beautifullly refurbished old building (maybe > 150 years old!) which still has it's old tin ceiling!

  • Lunch at The Picket Fence - who should we meet going out but our waitress from The Riverfront last night - who recognized and greeted us. Learned a great new word game from the folks at the next table: I like coffee, but not tea. I like glue but not paste. I like horses but not Texas. I like rivers but not streams - got it??? Had great lunches and lovely pie. Learned that the cook is a cyclist who rides Ragbrai.

  • Becky got a haircut.

  • Caught up on blogging, postcards, and other paperwork and business.

  • Went to the grocery store and replenished our fruit and cookie supply but couldn't find the right kind of bread - it needs to be small and dense, like raisin bread, to fit in our quart Ziploc bread box and survive in our panniers.

  • Spent several hours in the library - Becky blogging, et cetera and Riley reading - a very nice modern building with more hours open than is typically the case, especially in small towns.

  • We plan an early dinner and a very early start tomorrow - still working on ways to beat the heat - YIKES!

  • The thunderstorms predicted for today have yet to materialize - but we've certainly enjoyed this day off and the heat is supposed to start declining day-after-tomorrow - we fervently hope so!
Today's Photos: (1) The Landing, our wonderful hotel - see yesterday's blog for more info on The Landing; (2) Our room at The Landing - we also have an easy chair and a small table and chair, a TV and a bathroom. Note the stone wall. Check out their website - you can find it by Googling The Landing, Gutenberg, IA.

Tomorrow: 23 (?) miles to Dyersville on U.S. Highway 52.

For Those Who Want More: That's all there is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 94, 8/10/10 - Marquette to Gutenberg, IA

Just the Basics: Note, 8/11/10: OK - updated - enjoy!

Only 21 miles today, but, once again: HOT, HILLY, & HUMID. It is SO hot and humid that we're needing to be very careful not to risk getting into heat-related health problems. So - we're reducing the number of miles traveled, drinking more water/tea/juice/etc. than we'd have believed possible, taking frequent "helmets off" breaks, and walking up steep hills - or portions thereof - which we'd normally ride up. Riley did a little mapping today and it looks like each of the past 3 days (including this one) have involved 1,000 feet or more of climbing and the heat index temperatures have been in the low 100s!!

Also once again - we had a great day anyway and look forward to telling you all about it - but not now! You can look forward to hearing about:
  • Blueberry pancakes at a cafe in Marquette;
  • Our new neck coolers from Todd and Sally at the Frontier motel;
  • Our visit to Pike's Peak State Park and conversations with Jim and another volunteer;
  • Our roadside fruit-salad-on-the-hoof lunch and our nice dinner at the Riverfront Cafe in Gutenberg;
  • Our pleasant stop at the Gutenberg Welcome Center;
  • Gutenberg's Mile Long River Front Park; and The Landing, a wonderful CHEAP hotel on the riverfront which was once a button factory.

Photos: (1) Riley in Pikes Peak State Park at the overlook above the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers; (2) The Mississippi from the overlook; (3) Becky bringing Riley's bike into The Landing, our hotel.

Tomorrow: Unless the weather forecast improves, there is a good chance we'll lay over here in Gutenberg on Wednesday - hopefully in our wonderful room here at The Landing; we can't find out until morning if they have a spot for us tomorrow night.

For Those Who Want More:
Neck Coolers: Lots of cyclists stay at the Frontier Motel in Marquette and owners Todd and Sally keep a supply of neck coolers to give them! We had never heard of neck coolers, but you can see Becky's around her neck in one of today's photos. They are filled with some kind of bead which expands into some sort of jell when soaked in water. The idea is to soak 'em in cold water then tie one around your neck to help keep you cool. When we checked out in the morning Todd had ours cooled and waiting for us! They are supposed to be reusable - we hope so!

Blueberry Pancakes: We had breakfast in a small cafe before leaving Marquette. They offered orders of one or two blueberry pancakes - the waitress explained that they were dinner-plate size and we should just order one each - so we did. They were delicious - just loaded with blueberries - and we were hungry - we ended up splitting a 3rd one - YUM! The waitress also REALLY encouraged us to visit Pikes Peak State Park on the way to Gutenberg - as had Todd at the motel. We left thinking we'd see how we felt when we got there, but due to the heat we didn't think we'd make any side trips!

Pikes Peak State Park: Long story short - the park was supposed to be a mile off the road, but in the end we went - and it actually wasn't really a mile away and it wasn't very hilly getting to and from - and they were right - it WAS too good to miss! The park itself was lovely and shady and there is an overlook from which one can look across to Wisconsin and also down at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. There were restrooms with flush toilets; we refilled our water bottles; we had bottles of cold iced tea; we loaned our tube of Afterbite to a young girl who'd gotten an itchy bite while visiting the park with her grandmas; and we had nice chats with two park volunteers, including Jim who had some route suggestions for us. A great side-trip!

Fruit Salad on the Hoof & Dinner in Gutenberg: There was no place to buy lunch but we found a place which had a pop machine and bought lemonade and sat on the grass and each ate a banana and an orange (fruit salad on the hoof) and some fig newtons and a package of those cheese crackers with a thin layer of cheese spread and were happy as clams.

The Gutenberg Welcome Center and the Mile Long Park: As we entered Gutenberg, an old river town founded by German immigrants, Becky spotted a Welcome Center and Riley suggested a stop. He was hoping to find a German restaurant - but, sadly, it turns out there aren't any. However, we did get advice for places to eat here, and for places to eat and stay in Dyersville (our next stop) and they told us a bit about the next section of our route and they gave us a bottle of cold water and we certainly felt welcomed!

A long park runs along the river side of town - grassy and shady and with many benches, picnic tables, and so on. It's built on a levee designed for flood control but it means the public gets long, uninterrupted access to the river, which is just delightful. There are also public restrooms and marinas and a good place to stand and watch river traffic come through the Lock - and there's an access ramp for soft-shelled turtles to come up when it's time to lay their eggs on a certain shady point!

The Landing Hotel: Our hotel is absolutely delightful! It is constructed inside an old button factory - button blanks for "pearl" buttons were stamped out of mussel shells and then sent downstream to Muscatine to be made into "pearl" buttons - Muscatine still makes such buttons today.

The building is a huge stone affair built in a German style. The owner is a carpenter who gutted the building and rebuilt it into a lovely hotel with a variety of rooms and suites, from our very nice but simple room in the basement next to the laundry room to two-story suites with balconies overlooking the river. It's been open for 10 years, so despite the modest price we paid ($59 + tax), they must be doing OK. The builder-owner's wife, meanwhile, runs the family farm - milking cows, the whole nine yards - 20 miles from town!