Leg 17 – Cross Winds to the Illinois River

5/22

(

posted late)
Ended up making 90 mostly crosswind miles, from Kempton Illinois to the Illinois River in Henry.

  
The Greenhouse B&B hostess made breakfast for me at 630, as I requested for an early start. Gia and her husband run an organic farm, apiary, and conference center. The omelette included fresh asparagus from her garden.

  
I was on the road a little after seven. It was a long day of pedaling crosswind across endless, treeless farm fields, as imposing as the open sea. This land was desolate – the fields were mostly stubble from last year, a few fields plowed and bare, even fewer planted and sprouting neat rows of corn seedlings. There were no people and few dwellings, few birds, and little animal life. Towns named on the map were little more than a few houses and trees, and an extra large collection of fertilizer tanks, and a church, but no food or retail business of any kind, no parks, not even a shaded bench where a traveler might rest his weary legs.

  
I flew when the route jogged north, and I struggled when it jogged south, but mostly I pedaled crosswind toward the distant horizon that ever moved further away. It was sunny all day for the first time this whole trip, so there was enough solar power to my phone to listen to tunes as a pedaled down the road. Towards the end of the ride, I knew the route would jog north (downwind) and drop into the Illinois River valley, so I began hoping that each rise in the road was the height of land before the valley, but each time the road just stretched on straight across the agricultural desert.
I would have liked to get half way to the Mississippi River today. It was 192 miles to Muscatine, Iowa. But there were no lodging options around the half way point at Bradford, so I settled on Henry, at the Illinois River, where you could reputedly camp at the city riverfront park. I stopped briefly for a picnic lunch where the road crossed the Vermillion River, but it was not an attractive spot, and I had no cell signal to call ahead to confirm I could camp in Henry. So I plugged away for another ten miles to Wenona, where there was a surprising pondfront park next to the interstate – and a bathroom. The Henry police department told me that the riverfront park was flooded, but I could camp in the Stoner Veterans Park if I wanted it to. The desk clerk said that the park would look real nice with all the flags up for Memorial Day.
I reached Henry at about 4, and shopped for dinner at the first real grocery store I had seen since Ohio – with fresh vegetables. I went to the park, phoned the police to let them know I was there and asked if I could get the key to the men’s room. Apparently not.
So I sat around resting for a little amid the families enjoying the first warm sunny day in weeks. I started researching tomorrow’s route to Muscatine, since I was worried that I was planning too many miles tomorrow against the forecast wind- 120 miles to a hotel in Muscatine. I saw that Google would send me on a completely different route than Adventure Cycling – via the Hennepin Canal Towpath. This seemed intriguing. Then I realized that I could shave twenty miles off my trip by crossing the Mississippi at Davenport, rather than Muscatine, and that there was a campground eight miles north – and downwind – along the way to the Hennepin Canal. There was no particular reason to cross at Muscatine, it was just the end of one stretch of the Adventure Cycling Route.

  
So I hopped on my bike and made an easy extra eight miles for the day. Condits Ranch campground made me feel welcome – Amanda the owner insisted that I camp in the barn because severe thunderstorms were in the forecast, and Sue the caretaker brought me over an extra mattress for the concrete floor. Not only that, but Amanda conjured up a cold beer from one of the RV tenants (no singles were sold at the Henry market). All for $10.
Sue liked to talk, wanted to hear about my trip, and told me she had been to New York State once to visit her son’s girlfriend, but not New York City,. I have not gone out of m6 way to start climate conversations (I am not very confrontational), but when I told Sue my wife was traveling to the Far East in her role as president of the American Geophysical Union, Sue immediately brought up climate. She said climate was changing, but there have been ice ages in the past, and that it was not Trump’s fault. I said that the scary thing is that the climate is changing faster than it ever has before, and that scientists have known that carbon dioxide retains heat since the middle of the 19th century. And that it may not be Trump’s fault, but that Trump is stopping us from doing anything about it. I told her I was really happy to see the wind turbines, Sue said that she and her friends would drive to the wind farm to listen to the whooshing sound.

  
Sue told me that there was a tornado watch for the night, and if the tornado warning went off, I should either go to the concrete block bathroom building, the ravine behind the barn, or knock on her door to stay in the cellar.
My legs and feet feel fine at the end of another long day of pedaling but my left hand is really weak from leaning on it all day – I can barely type, and I can’t play guitar. It is like trying to learn chords all over again, I have to look at my hand and will my fingers to the right place, but the fingers still won’t curl right, and I can’t fret the chords naturally. Back on the C&O Canal, when my fingers went numb on a rainy 40 degree day, I stopped being able to work the “fingertip” brake lever gear shift with my left hand. I attributed it to the cold, then, but today the temperature was in the 80s and I still couldn’t work the shift.

  

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