Bicycling 4,174 Miles Across the United States

Archive for July, 2012

July 29th and 30th: Monticello to Wabash, IN and Rest Day in Wabash

Prichard Family Get-Together in Wabash:  Left to right – Steve; Brother Tom and wife Judy; Jonny (in front), son of Wendy; Brother Paul; Brian (in back) friend of Wendy; Keith, son of Paul; and Wendy, daughter of Paul.

July 28th Statistics – Monticello to Wabash, IN:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 62.4 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 15.7 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 4.0 hours
  • Today Ascent – 1,068 feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 37
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,858.7 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.3 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 79,152 feet

Today’s ride had its challenges and rewards for me.  About mile 35, I missed a turn and didn’t realize it.  After some miles, the road I was on suddenly turned into a very rough gravel road.  As Nancy knows, I always resist going backwards, so I continued on the gravel road thinking it was the right road and that I had just encountered a short gravel area – wrong.  After three miles of very difficult riding I intersected a paved road and turned in the direction of the planned route.  Somehow, I again missed the intersection with the planned route  (so much for being bright and having a GPS).  I continued south until I intersected Route 16 which I knew would take me back to the planned route.  However, Route 16 had a barrier saying “Closed”.  Now the reward – I ignored the sign and began riding on Route 16.  It turned out that Route 16 had just been repaved and the only remaining task was to paint the lines.  I had 13 miles of Route 16 to myself and made great time on a perfect road surface.  When I eventually arrived in Wabash, I found that my route for the day was 5 miles shorter than the route taken by everybody else (dumb luck).  Along the way today I biked through Sitka, Denver, Chili, Metea, and Twelve Mile, Indiana, cities I don’t remember from my Indiana growing up days.

Upon arriving in Wabash, the Charley Creek Inn (see photos) was everything Dale and Diane had described – clearly the best lodging of the entire tour so far, maybe the entire trip.  I have not been in Wabash for probably 50 years, so I didn’t remember or recognize it.  The town is trying to remake itself as are so many similar small midwestern towns (like Anderson) which have lost their way over the years.  While I was very impressed with the effort in Wabash (the Honeywell Center, Charley Creek Inn, Wabash River Walking Path, cleanliness, and museums (closed both days I was there), it was still hard to ignore the fact that few people were around.

However, the highlight of Wabash was a visit from family.  My brother Tom and his wife Judy drove several hours from Nashville, Indiana to visit.  My brother Paul flew up from Saint Petersburg, Florida and combined a visit with his children who live in central Indiana with a family reunion in Wabash.  Joining Paul in Wabash was his son Keith (who is a junior at Ball State University studying social work), his daughter Wendy (who graduated from Ball State in medical technology several years ago, has been extremely successful in her career, and and is starting her MBA at Ball State this fall), Wendy’s son Jonny and Wendy’s friend Brian.  We ended the day with an outstanding dinner at the Charley Creek Inn restaurant, Twenty, and desert at their ice cream/candy parlor.  It was great to see everyone and start the planning for a complete Prichard family reunion next year, all brothers and spouses, children and spouses, and grandchildren.  It just occurred to me that I need to preference the term spouses with the word current.

Tom and Judy brought a special item – boxes of family photos, photo albums, movies, and negatives they found at our father’s home when they were cleaning it out after he died.  The boxes included special items from our grandparent’s photo studio, i.e. antique glass and regular negatives (from the late 1800’s) and numerous photos of our ancestors (many not identified yet) and Anderson, Indiana from the late 1800s to the 1980s.  We decided to split the items up and assign each brother a task of converting different items to an electronic version that can be shared by all.   I look forward to seeing them all again soon when I return to Anderson for my 45th high school reunion at the end of September.

Mile 0:  Best Western Plus, lodging in Monticello, IN – Great facilities.

Mile 12:  Unexpected hill encountered outside Buffalo, IN.  Turns out it is a landfill with several new hills being built.  Very clean, well planted, and no smell.

Mile 20:  Two fellow cross-country travelers (east to west tour) we met on a quiet country road in Indiana.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the piece of paper I had with their names, but I can tell you that he is from Germany on a vacation biking across the United States.  She is from Boston and is relocating to Seattle to start graduate school.  They did not know each other until they met on the road.  Yesterday, we met another traveler riding, Dick, who appeared to be similar in age to our group.  Dick was riding from Bar Harbor, ME to his home in Des Moines, IA.  Last year he road from Seattle to his home, so this summer he was completing the other half of the tour.  Several years ago he completed a different transamerica ride from the southeast US to the northeast US.  I estimate that we have met several dozen bikers riding cross country since we began out tour.

Mile 24: At the intersection of County Road 900N (our route) and Indiana State Road 35, we unexpectedly crossed the “Panhandle Pathway”, a 21mile hiking/biking trail in central/north Indiana.

Mile 50: Interesting descriptive street sign in Chili, IN.

Charley Creek Inn: The Charley Creek Inn is without a doubt the best lodging of the entire trip so far. It is a completely restored hotel with an art galley, fine wine store, ice cream and candy parlor, and gourmet restaurant off the lobby.

Charley Creek Inn: Bathroom of my room – beautiful and high quality.

Wabash, Indiana – Mural

Wabash, Indiana – Paradise Spring Historical Park, Officer Cabin from the 1820s.

Brother Tom and spouse, Judy on the Wabash River Walking Path

Wabash, Indiana: Historical Marker – Modoc the Elephant.

Wabash, Indiana:  Historical Marker – First Electrically Lighted City in the World, 1880.


July 28th: Watseka, IL to Monticello, IN

 

Mile 25: First view of Indiana – glorious day.

July 28th Statistics – Watseka, IL to Monticello, IN:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 76.7 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 14.5 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 5.3 hours
  • Today Ascent – 576 feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 36
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,796.3 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.3 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 78,084 feet

Rather than retracing our ride back to the main route (our hotel in Watseka was 6 miles off route), we individually choose country roads for the first 15 miles to Iroquois, IL to rejoin the main route.  It was a beautiful day for riding.  On the route I picked, I happened upon a ranch of Clydesdale horses.  Unfortunately, the lack of sunlight and distance of the dozen or so Clydesdales did not allow of a photo.

Leaving Illinois was a sorrow.   Our biking in Illinois was clearly the most in any state on rural and little traveled roads which provided a unique private experience.  Additionally, the roads overall were the best for biking of any state on our tour.  The miles and miles and miles of farms and ranches were particularly beautiful when the sun came out.

It was with nostalgia that I biked into Indiana, my home state for the first 23 years of my life.  Mile after mile of biking the country roads brought back memories of rural Madison County.  The small towns I passed through reminded me of places like Lapel, Elwood, and Middletown near my home in Anderson.  Biking through Buffalo, IN was surprising as I didn’t remember that Indiana had a city named Buffalo.  At the end of the day (with an 11 mile off route bike ride due to the lack of lodging on the main route) we reached the Best Western in Monticello (one of the nicest hotels on our tour so far).  I remember visiting Monticello as a child on vacations and to visit relatives (which relatives I don’t remember).  We passed many vacations homes on lakes and rivers in the area in Lake Freeman and the Tippecanoe River where my family used to vacation.

Mile 1: Last view of Illinois at the Morris Cemetery on the Indiana border. Only our map indicated that this was the state line between Illinois and Indiana (no welcoming or departing signs).

Mile 29: Our first SAG rest stop was at a community park in Brook, IN. I don’t think I have ever seen a water fountain inside the mouth of a lion.

Mile 39: Crossing Interstate 65 near Rensselaer, IN.

Mile 39: Robert crossing Interstate 65 near Rensselaer, IN.

Mile 39: View of Indiana farmlands from Interstate 65 overpass.

 


July 27th: Streator to Watseka, IL

Mile 16: Early morning scene biking on County Road 900E near Cornell, IL. The clouds this morning were striking.

July 27th Statistics – Streator to Watseka, IL:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 85.3 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 17.8 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 4.8 hours
  • Today Ascent – 634 feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 35
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,719.6 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.7 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 77,508 feet

A relatively long ride today (85 miles) so we started out about 7:30 am.  The riding, similar to yesterday, was primarily on very rural county roads lined by corn and soybean fields (many showing severe signs of drought).  While the sun was in and out of the clouds during the day, the temperatures remained comfortable for most of the day.  We benefited from a great tailwind that enable fast riding so we all arrived in Watseka about 1:30 pm (even after stopping for lunch at the Subway in Ashkum, IL).  A highlight for me was riding alone miles and miles at 22-24 mph along a remote county road without traffic and surrounded by fields of green crops and blue and white wildflowers (see photo below for an example) on the roadside.

Mile 35: I was surprised to bike through a third large area (dozens of square miles) of windmills (to many to count) in Illinois just outside Odell.

Mile 37: Another view of windmills outside Odell, IL.

 

Mile 50: A mural outside a bar and grill in Kempton, IL.

Mile 65: This may have been the most beautiful road (County Road 2700N near Ashkum, IL) on today’s ride – a single lane smooth paved road bordered closely on both sides by corn and soybean fields. I didn’t see an auto while biking on it.

Mile 75: A view of the Iroquois River on County Road 2400N showing vacation docks and boats.


July 26th: Kewanee to Streator, IL

Mile 15: View of typical farm house outside Kewanee, IL showing storms clouds in the distance (fortunately, which stay away from our route most of today).

July 26th Statistics – Kewanee to Streator, IL:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 79.8 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 17.8 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 4.5 hours
  • Today Ascent – 1,280 feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 34
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,634.3 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.5 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 76,874 feet

Dinner the prior evening at Cerno’s Bar & Grill in Kewanee was a celebration.  After being seated at Cerno’s, a woman I didn’t know walked in and sat at our table – Doug immediately went into shock with a big smile on his face.  It was Doug’s wife, Lisa, who flew from Maryland to Peoria and then drove to Kewanee just for the evening to celebrate Doug’s and Lisa’s 25th wedding anniversary that day.  She left the next morning to return to Maryland, but will be rejoining us for sightseeing the last week of the tour.

Cerno’s decor was unique and beautiful. The bar was imported from Belgium for Pabst Blue Ribbon in 1898 and displayed at a World’s Fair.  The Mahogany mirrored bar spans fifty feet, with hand carved figurines at each end.  Cerno’s also had detailed carved lion heads throughout the building, wall buzzers topped with tiny eagles that were used to summon a waiter to the customers, an embossed tin ceiling, stained-glass and leaded windows, brass footed pedestal tables and a teller cage where men would cash their paychecks and then come in for a drink.   I particularly enjoyed the fried dill pickles.

Roads on today’s ride from beginning to end were the best of the trip so far.  They were smooth and almost completely rural with little or no traffic.  While the scenery was not the most diverse we have seen, nevertheless, it was beautiful and pristine.  While we had some light sprinkles and showers, they were welcomed due to the heat.

For the last 20 miles, Doug, Robert, Jim and I rode together at a good clip (18-22 mph) thanks to a tailwind and smooth roads.  When we reached Streator, IL (by going 5.5 miles off route to get to our lodging), our first stop was the Dairy Queen located five blocks passed our hotel.  Doug graciously treated all of us to ice cream.

Mile 25: First of two photos of a windmill area near Bradford, IL.  Like the one yesterday, this windmill area covered many square miles.

Mile 26: Another view of the Bradford area windmills.

Mile 37: View of bucolic cemetery surrounded by acres of corn and soybeans near Henry, IL.

Mile 42: This was the view in every direction at one rural intersection approaching Henry, IL.

Mile 48: This was a military monument in center city park in Henry, IL honoring submariners, in general, and a particular submarine captain born in Henry who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (see next photo).

Mile 48: Memorial to Captain John Philip Cromwell from Henry, IL who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Mile 65: View on very rural Country Road 800N that we biked for 20+ miles – almost no traffic.


July 25th: Muscatine, IA to Kewanee, IL

Mile 2: Crossing the Mississippi River for the last time at Muscatine, IA. As you can see from my tan lines I am also wearing for the first time my sleeveless bike jersey for the 100 degree temperatures today.

July 25th Statistics – Muscatine, IA to Kewanee, IL:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 77.9 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 15.4 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 5.1 hours
  • Today Ascent – 2,111feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 33
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,554.5 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.4 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 75,594 feet

Today was forecasted as the hottest day of our entire tour – high of 105 degrees in Kewanee, Ill.  The entire group started biking at 7 am to try to get to Kewanee as soon as possible.

While the roads in Illinois were very smooth for the first 10 miles, they deteriorated.  At one point we had to bike on what I would describe as 3 miles of rumble strips – I could barely focus due to the constant jarring and vibration.  And then we had the bad luck to face just before Reynolds, IL a 6 mile stretch on which our side of the road had been stripped of pavement yesterday and was being prepared for repaving.  While not legal or necessarily the safest action to take, I (and others in the group I was told) biked in the on-coming lane which had just been paved several days ago and was as smooth as can be.  Fortunately, traffic was very light and when I saw traffic ahead I darted back to the bad side of road or pulled over to the shoulder until the traffic passed.

A great experience for the day was my continued ability to maintain a higher biking speed (even in the high temperatures) – I kept up with Robert and Doug for much of the day.  By the end of the day, my eyes were burning from the sweat I could no longer keep out of my eyes.  When I arrived in Kewanee at 1 pm, I treated myself with a pint of peppermint stick ice cream for lunch and a two hour nap.

MIle 3: Entering Illinois (don’t know why the photo came out the way it did).

Mile 8: One of my first views of Illinois as I bike 322nd Street in Rock Island County, IL.

Mile 34: A striking mural on the Sherrard, Illinois Library.

Mile 36: A typical road border we biked today in Illinois.

Mile 67: While we passed two windmill farms in Montana and North Dakota, this one near Cambridge, IL was huge in comparison to the other two. It appeared to have hundreds of windmills spread over dozens of square miles. While at first we were surprised how many windmills were not working, it became clear as we biked it was because they were being constructed. As we continued east on Route 570N we began to see the the original windmills in operation.


July 24th: Dyersville to Muscatine, IA

Mile 25: One of the most beautiful views along Route 136 today.

July 24th Statistics – Dyersville to Muscatine, IA:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 88.8 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 15.2 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 5.8 hours
  • Today Ascent – 2,818 feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 32
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,476.5 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.4 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 73,483 feet

Started biking at 6:30 am to avoid the high temperatures forecasted for the late afternoon in Iowa. It was a long ride (89 miles) even though we cut out 9 miles from the normal route by taking an alternative route.   Even though it was hot and long, today I felt particularly energetic (and for the first time started regularly using my cleats to pull up on the pedals which gave me a real boost) and after keeping up with a couple of the other riders, I actually passed them at one point and stayed ahead for many miles.

An interesting note – It has been clear for many days that Iowa is a battleground state for the presidential election.  The number of political TV ads (most of which are negative) has been overwhelming as we reached the broadcast area for Iowa (including TV stations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois that border Iowa).

Mile 2: Driveway decoration at a farm just outside Dyersville.

Mile 15: Cascade, IA (population 1,598) – Home of Red Faber (for those who follow baseball). I stopped at a convenience store and began a conversation with the friendly shop owner. As I was leaving, she came out and gave me a home grown tomato. The group shared it later in the day – it was delicious.

Mile 18: One of the many dirt roads on Route 136 in Iowa that lead off to farms.

 

Mile 20: View along Route 136 today with Doug in the distance.

Mile 27: View on Route 136 with Doug just after our SAG rest stop.

 

Mile 30: Entering Wyoming (IA), “The Christmas City” (population 626).  Interesting that the town found it necessary to post that “CEMENT TRUCKS ARE PROHIBITED FROM ENTERING CEMETERY”. I wonder why? The other interesting (but sad) feature of Wyoming was the golf course. It was the most colorful golf course I have seen – The greens were brilliant green and all the fairways were covered in dead brown/yellow grass and lined with dead bushes.

Mile 31: Robert (in very colorful attire) passing through Wyoming, IA.

 


July 22nd: McGregor to Dyersville, IA

Group Photo at our first SAG rest stop in Guttenberg, IA.  Left to right – Jim, Steve, Robert, Dale, Doug, Diane.

July 22nd Statistics – McGregor to Dyersville, IA:

  • Today’s Biking Distance – 52.9 miles
  • Today’s Average Speed – 11.5 mph
  • Today’s Time In Saddle – 4.6 hours
  • Today Ascent – 2.474 feet
  • Total Trip Biking Days – 31
  • Total Trip Biking Distance – 2,387.8 miles
  • Total Trip Average Biking Distance/Day – 77.0 miles
  • Total Trip Ascent – 70,665 feet

Due to bad weather (it was raining when we started biking) and bad roads, we designed our own route today with the advice of Jim, who knows the area well (he lives about 50 miles from Dyersville).  While shorter than the original route, our alternate route required three steep climbs (7% to 11% grades and 2,500 feet total elevation gain) up and down the Mississippi River bluffs in Iowa.  I started biking in my rain attire, but soon decided that the rain was a benefit when climbing in the heat, so I removed it.

When I arrived in Dyersville, it was laundry time followed by complete cleaning and maintenance of my bike.  After visiting the “Field of Dreams” filming location (see photos) and the National Farm Toy Museum (see photos) spent the afternoon of the rest day in Dyersville catching up on two days of blogs.

Mile 23:  View of the Mississippi while descending the bluff above Guttenberg, IA.

Mile 28:  Mississippi waterfront park in Guttenberg, IA (note brown ground cover everywhere).

Mile 38: Typical view traveling along a Mississippi River bluff.

Mile 39:  I thought this was interesting as it was the only group of brown colored cows I have seen on the tour.

Mile 41:  Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, shown here, was the first consecrated Catholic church in Iowa.  I could see it from miles away as it dominated a hilltop in the small town of Petersburg, IA (population 5,403)

“Field of Dreams” – This farm 4 miles outside Dyersville, Iowa, was the filming location for “Field of Dreams”.  While the original owners still live at and farm it, the site is also a free tourist attraction funded by the sale of souvenirs at a small gift shop (red building near parking lot).

“Field of Dreams” – Information posting at farm used to film “Field of Dreams”

“Field of Dreams” – Aerial photo of farm used to film “Field of Dreams”

“Field of Dreams” – Close up photo of the home pictured in the film “Field of Dreams”.  The original owners still live here.

“Field of Dreams” – I thought that it was touching to see several parents who brought their children to the “Field of Dreams” to throw/hit a baseball.  The site was perfectly maintained.

The National Farm Toy Museum – In addition to the “Field of Dreams” film location, the National Farm Toy Museum was a Dyersville, IA attraction.  This museum was one of the most attractive and informational specialized museum I have ever visited.  It was spotless, all exhibits well documented and explained, educational, and easy to navigate.

The National Farm Toy Museum – Another view inside the museum.  Dyersville, IA is also the home to 5 farm toy stores, 3 farm toy companies, and 2 national farm toy shows.