May 2 - 5: Illinois

5/3 - Giant City State Park (83 miles 1101 total)
i know....giant city state park doesn't look like any place on our itinerary. i'll get around to that at the end of this report.
what a spectacular evening we had at cave in rock state park last night. it was hard to get to sleep; we kept jumping up to our windows & decks to watch the barges go by with all their lights on. then a huge paddlewheeler steamed by....lit up like a christmas tree. it was downright exciting....lots of oooohs & ahhhhs.
speaking of last evening, i have to mention last night's supper: patty fixed chicken & water chestnuts in peanut sauce (also some tempeh in peanut sauce) served over rice, & the most wonderful fresh tomato/vidalia onion/cucumber salad with fresh herbs in its light dressing. patty kidded us that she could feed us anything with peanuts in it & we'd eat it. she buys peanut butter in huge containers. most of us make peanut butter sandwiches for our lunches. in my peanut butter sandwich i put raisins & dry-roasted peanuts; joan adds m&m's to her sandwiches. & of course we make ourselves little baggies of gorp most mornings...peanuts, m&m's, & raisins. if the FDA suddenly discovers a lethal toxin in peanuts, most of us won't make it to the west coast.
this morning as we had breakfast & packed lunches we were treated to a sunrise over the river...a little hazy, but nonetheless pretty. since we had a long day (76 mi was on the route sheets--it ended up being more) we had breakfast at 6:30 & most riders left by 7 or shortly thereafter.
as we rode down the steep hill out of the park, sari suggested that i stop & see the cave in rock; she had visited it yesterday & thot it worthwhile. i hadn't realized that it's a huge hole in the rock along the river's edge where pirates used to hole up, waiting for settlers to come up the river. when the settlers sought shelter in the cave, the pirates would kill them & take all their provisions. sari said i should go back into the innards of this huge hole in the rock to get a feeling for those pirate stories. so i ventured back into the hole. i didn't much like the eerie sounds coming from the black depths, but sari said they were pigeons. i'm sure if she'd told me the truth--that those are the groans of a tyrannosaurus--that i never would have set foot inside the entrance. really, it WAS fascinating.
you'll see in the photo the view back out to the river; that's sari standing guard at the entrance.
by the time we left town, sari & i were again at the end of the pack, but we kept pedalling along & after about 12 miles came to elizabethtown, where the cafe crowde was just leaving a local diner after breakfast. by this time the challenges of the day were becoming obvious. no, not the winds; those were neglible all day. but those HILLS! yikes. marcia reports 4500 ft of climbing today; that's a new record. judith has dubbed our new state HILLinois!
the picture of several of us stopped for an impromptu picnic out along route 147 gives you some idea of the terrain....tho without a steep hill visible, it's really not representative of today's ride. notice also how lush the greenery is. just last week we were riding in areas where the trees were just starting to leaf out. now the grass & trees & every other bit of flora are bursting.
anyway, in the photo are, from left, darleene, lee, sue, lin, & me (that's how i smile when my mouth is full of peanut-butter sandwich).
it got quite warm this afternoon....& humid. by mid-afternoon the western sky was getting darker. fortunately we were just nearing the little town of goreville. we'd heard about a cute little restaurant there where you could get free dessert with any meal. as we pedalled up to the place we noticed quite a few bikes already out front. once inside we ordered & it wasn't long 'til the rains started falling. how lucky we were to find such a great place to wait out the storm. after we'd ordered a bowl of soup here, a piece of pie there, a couple of the pie eaters decided to order a second piece of pie. those 2nd pieces were on the house! we even got to join in singing happy birthday for a party being held at a table nearby.
you'll see us enjoying our rainy respite in the goreville cafe named 'late blooomers.'
from left are rose, lee, judy, sari, sue (she always wears lot of white sunscreen on her face), & lin. standing behind judy are sharon & shirley.
shirley opened 'late bloomers' almost 3 years ago, but oh how she wanted to go with us today on the rest of our trip. she even went out front when we left & tried out sarah's bike, riding it up & down the sidewalk. she kidded a local fellow who walked by that he'll have to fend for himself next year, because her cafe will be closed & she'll be biking across country. if you're in goreville before shirley closes up shop & starts biking, do stop at 'late bloomers' for some great food & hospitality.
by the time we left the cafe, the showers had lessened to a sprinkle. even those didn't last long. actually, just before we left, sue (this afternoon's subaru driver) had stopped by to tell us that the plan for staying overnight at camp carew, a presbyterian camp, had fallen thru, so we'd need to bike a few more miles to another place. knowing that meant even more hills, we were pretty thrilled.
so off we went again, more hills & more hills. we ended up spending the last few miles in the area of devils kitchen lake & crab orchard national preserve (i think that was the name). my it was gorgeous.
you'll see in the photo the lovely road we had to ourselves & the lush forest on all sides.
there were lots of wildflowers poking up thru the beautiful reddish/brown carpet of pine needles on the forest floor.
tonight we're at some adorable cabins in giant city state park. comfy beds, great showers....that's pretty much all that matters. since many of us were late getting in, patty delayed supper. but oh was it marvy once we got around to it: a stirfry with lots of fresh mushrooms, chinese pea pods, chunks of cooked fresh salmon, & tofu cubes, served over a garlic parsley fetuccini. there were also a tasty cole slaw & a big salad of dark greens. i had 2 platefuls of everything. i was sooooo hungry after a very rigorous day's ride.
this cabin not only has a dandy shower & comfy bed, but it has a phone jack. you know by now how i feel about finding a working phone jack! the excitement at having a phone jack almost takes my mind off my aching legs. hopefully the legs & all other parts will recover with a good night's sleep for all of us tonight; tomorrow it's 65 mi into chester, part of that on levee roads along the mississippi river. if the weather holds (& the hills are gone), it'll be a beautiful ride.
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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