Sunday, June 27, 2010

random & beauty

A few shots from the Wisconsin trip:

Trestle over the Omaha Trail.

Classic Wisconsin barn.

Gold-leafed pagoda at Olbrich Gardens, in Madison.

In the rose garden.

Front-yard rock garden vuvuzela player.

And a few from Anchorage:

Solstice ride on the Coastal Trail...

... and the sun came out.
Casting long shadows
on the longest day of the year.

Hiking under the Seward Highway...

along the Campbell Creek, where the trail doesn't yet connect.

The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive is almost ready for traffic.
We'll stick to the trail until it's done...

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Take me to your cheese!
part 4
We delay the inevitable, slow our pace as we grow near what we don't want to face. Each visit, I wonder if it will be the last with both my parents greeting me. I prepare mentally for that which we can never be completely prepared. I'm going there to help; to get an idea of what they need; to assuage my guilt at not being there for the day-to-day. Deep down I know I can handle lots of things, but I have a tough time handling their situation. When it comes to people's problems, I'm more of a triage sort-of gal. Even better, comic relief, because when we stop laughing, all that's left is the seriousness...

June 5
Let's see, where did I leave off? Right. I had drifted off to sleep in a quiet motel room in Reedsburg after attempting to put a few words on paper... I woke from a sound night's sleep, packed, snacked and was out of the motel before 8 a.m., even before the free coffee was ready to be served, coasting toward the trail before the tourists or anyone else at the motel had apparently stirred. Saturday morning and I was almost the first one to the trail. The first to get there were a group of Boy Scouts from Baraboo, working on their camping and biking badges.

I headed off, leaving Reedsburg and Friday's hilly roads behind, pedaling easily along the 400 Trail's crushed-limestone path, surrounded by bird songs and sky. Much of the way, the trail would follow the Baraboo River as it meandered under bridge after bridge for the next 22 miles to Elroy. Three of the older scouts began riding near me, well ahead of the group. When I stopped to take a picture of a sandhill crane, they kept going. I guess it's a lot like seeing moose in Anchorage; after a while they are part of the scenery and rarely worth stopping to photograph. Or, maybe it's just that they were teenage boys.

The scouts were going only as far as LaValle. I chatted with them when they stopped to wait for the rest of the group. How much does that weigh? I don't know. You can lift it. The guess was 80 pounds. That sounds a little high to me but I never took the time to weigh it. Better that way, I think. I passed through LaValle, continuing toward Wonewoc where I saw two more cranes next to the trail.

I slowed to a stop, hoping my brakes wouldn't squawk as they had earlier in the trip. One adult left the trail while the other remained. Then a chick (I hear they're also called colts) stepped from the tall grass and joined its parent on the trail. They walked to an intersection with a driveway, then stood quietly in the grass as I rolled by.
Cranes on a morning stroll.

A couple weeks earlier I'd seen a pair of cranes near a trail in a park in Anchorage. It was the first time I'd been so close to them. My friends and I watched quietly as the pair of birds ate in a bog. These cranes, thousands of miles away were almost as oblivious of my presence as they made their way down the trail. I felt lucky to see and hear the cranes, to join them on their early morning browsing. I don't remember them being around when I was a kid growing up in the area, but their population has been rebounding with the increase in habitat where they can thrive.

I continued toward Wonewoc, and along the way met another fully-loaded cyclist. He had biked from north-central Illinois and had turned back toward home after spending the night camping in Wonewoc. He filled me in on how raccoons dug up the turtle eggs that were buried in the trail bed and on the local stories about cougars. How could I not joke about being in my 40s, as were, he said, the women in the bar the night before who were telling him about the recent sightings and livestock attacks? That'll make a guy nervous about going back to his tent! We each rode away in our respective directions and soon I was rolling into Wonewoc where Pam (yes, the Pam who was in Madison earlier) greeted me from her front yard.
With the talented Britta in Mike & Pam's back yard - look at those veggies!
(A little out of sequence - this was just before I packed the bike for the plane.)

Pam made me an iced coffee and we hung around in the back yard watching turkey vultures flying in loops overhead while Mike worked on getting a car to start so he could sell it. Britta jumped over her agility hurdle while I checked e-mail, called my parents and called Jon in Anchorage. I bided my time.
Soon, it was time for lunch: I shared my crackers & cheese, while Mike added bread, more cheese, apples & salami to the plate. We moved to the shade of the front porch and I listened to their updates on Mom & Dad; some of the challenges Mike had dealt with. Because he lives relatively close to them and is self-employed as a carpenter (tough, with the economy) and a writer, he is often the one called when they need help. Taking a job renovating the house where we'd stayed in Madison had given him an excuse to take a breather from the stress. Yet, Pam advised, "You're not here to solve anything; you're here to visit." Good advice that I would listen to most of the time.

Pam decided to bike to Elroy with me and I was happy to have company for the rest of the ride. Again, following the river, past fields and wetlands, through the tiny cross-roads town of Union Center. We just barely reached Elroy when we left the trail and crossed the river again to enter an old trail that long ago was a road and still had a few bricks angling up through the tall grass. Onto the highway and to the front door. I could have been there sooner, but admit I wanted to ease my re-entry.

And what did they say when I told them I'd biked from Chicago? Dad, was characteristically silent. Mom was excited to see me and especially surprised that I'd biked. But she swore that had I told her I'd be cycling from Chicago she would not have worried one bit because she knows that I know what I'm doing. She was so practical in her statement, but I knew she would have been worried sick.

Not even a half-hour after Pam & I arrived, the skies began to pour rain. Huge drops bounced off the deck as we sat inside.

I had a week for my visit. A week of rain showers and visits with relatives; high school graduations and get-togethers with school friends & teachers; strawberry picking and cheese shopping. Observing Mom & Dad in their habitat and offering little suggestions and help; riding my bike into town and with my niece & nephew; catching up on the local news.

I didn't solve anything. Dad's refusal to move into an assisted-living apartment that would be so much better for both him and Mom might eventually lead to a catastrophe. That won't be my fault or anyone else's fault in my family. His mind is sound and he pointed out that it would take a lawyer to force him to move. Maybe at this stage he's just being stubborn to be stubborn. But it's not helping him and it's not helping Mom...

As Mike told the parents earlier this year: If you don't let us help you, people will think you have lousy kids. We're not lousy kids; we're just at loggerheads. And when I watched Dad's face as we talked about it, he seemed to be enjoying the battle. Damn it! Maybe he's just toying with us to prove that nine adult children are still no match for an old WWII veteran.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


September, 2009. East Fork Eklutna River.
A divergence:
I took the photo shown at the top of this site last September while on a weekend trip with my friends at Eklutna Lake. We'd biked the 12 miles to Serenity Cabin on Friday, then spent Saturday hiking. We enjoyed lunch next to the small pond, soaking up the sun before returning to the cabin. We could have stayed there all day...

A few days before I left on my trip, the weekend of Memorial Day, a fire started near the East Fork of the Eklutna River. Friends who were there said their son spotted smoke in the distance just as they were about to make camp. Instead of pitching their tents, the teenager pedaled back to the trailhead to report the small fire while the parents made a slower return trip, warning other campers and trail users as they evacuated.
What will remain?

I was thinking about the fire during my trip. After a few days, there were no updates to online reports that said over 1,300 acres had burned. The latest I'd heard, the cabin where we stay each year was still okay, spared by a shift in wind direction. I'm not sure whether the trees in the photo are still living or if they have gone up in flames. It will be sad to see this little corner of the park charred to a crisp. I still haven't heard what caused the fire, which, according to the most recent data, burned about 1,850 acres. This map shows what was burned as of June 4.

I wonder about the long-term effects the fire will have on the popular recreation area and on the creatures that live in the forest. I wonder about our drinking water: Eklutna Lake, fed by ever-receding Eklutna Glacier and other streams, is the water source for much of the Municipality of Anchorage.

I wonder what our annual fall trip to the Serenity Cabin will look like this September. I do know that there will be rebirth; there will be new growth. These things just take a long time.
At the pond.

Friday, June 18, 2010

songs fill my head

part 3
Songs and thoughts fill my head. I think about cars and oil spills. There's a photo op I missed in Chicago. I think about my parents and I think about biking with Jon. I hear the Talking Heads on hill climbs and Amy Correia's Life is Beautiful on ridges and smooth trails. I try to sing but don't have the breath or remember all the words. Once out of the city, the countryside fills me with both peace and energy. I'm just one person.

June 4

It was a slow start on the third morning. During the night I listened as trains blew their whistles and thunder rolled over the sound of rain on the roof and the back porch. I pulled the sleeping bag over me. The dog, Britta, visited me once in the night; just checking, I guess. Helping Mike & Pam finish that pitcher of beer maybe wasn't the best way to rehydrate. When I got up, it was still raining and I was pretty hungry so we went to Lazy Jane's where the smell of bacon hit me as we opened the door. Bacon & eggs, it had to be! And some excellent coffee. Despite my appetite, I couldn't finish my meal. (This was an odd phenomenon of the trip: I had a hard time eating enough at meals, relying on energy gels and regular snacking as I went along. It continued even at my parents' house.) We checked out a bike shop for the elusive maps. I didn't really need them; I was just curious to see them. Still nothing.

Back at the apartment, the rain had stopped and I packed my panniers. We hauled bike and bags down the precarious stairway where a faded "No Diving" sign was posted. Mike would escort me through Madison so I wouldn't have to figure the route through trails and city streets on my own. First, I wanted a photo - one I had envisioned two days earlier in Chicago - and I needed someone to take it. Onlookers smiled as I posed, nodding approval. I wanted the picture mostly for my friend Tim to post on his site, but it's also how I was feeling. Is this why I'm cycling instead of driving? Maybe a little bit. Still...
I don't think I'm alone.

We rode trails through the backs of neighborhoods, headed to the Capitol Square where my finger aimed itself at a Hummer limo. (I don't get how these things are even legal!) Once we turned onto State Street - a street that's only open to pedestrians, bikes, buses and service vehicles - heading for the UW campus, I put the limo out of my mind as we coasted down the middle of the street. We made our way past the Memorial Union, where I enjoyed many-a-beer and avoided studying during my first year of college, onto the bike paths that skirt above the shore of Lake Mendota. I could live here, I thought to myself. But finding a job in a place graduates refuse to leave makes for a tough market, according to Pam. Besides, at this stage in my life, this wasn't home; this was a journey.

The day was windy as storms left the area. We arrived at Highway 12, which has a path running alongside it for about 10 miles or so. Was it then that I checked my watch and saw it read 12:30? A very late start, indeed. I didn't see many other people on the trail, but one road biker did pass me. The wind switched directions, from tail wind to side wind. I noticed I was leaning my bike into it, if only slightly. Yes, to the left. I saw a sign for fresh strawberries. I contemplated them, knowing they'd be hard to carry, then saw up ahead that the roadie had stopped. You're thinking about those strawberries, I said as I eased to a stop. Yes I am. You should get some. I had plans to stop at the cheese store in Sauk City for lunch. I don't know if he stopped for berries, but he should have. I should have. I would think of sweet, fresh-picked strawberries throughout the day.

I crossed the Wisconsin River into Sauk City and remembered years ago, the year before I moved to Alaska; a canoe trip. It was a weekend trip with friends: Karen, Janet & Brian. We canoed that day, then stayed in a campground along the river. That evening, I lay on the bank of the river watching a meteor shower, wondering where my life was heading. I'd skipped my 10-year class reunion for this camping trip. I didn't want to see people I'd grown up with; my life was a mess. In the middle of the night, storms rolled in, tents collapsed into puddles and we all climbed into Brian's VW bus to wait it out. The tension between Janet & Brian as she stressed over his friendship with Karen sucked the air out of the van. I was already a thousand miles away. I knew I was leaving...

I made my way to the Carr Valley Cheese store and suggested they should make sandwiches. They looked at me as though the thought had never occurred to them. Maybe it hadn't. One woman showed me where they teach cooking classes and said if she'd had any bread she would have made me a sandwich. And I believed her. I tasted some cheese then selected a small wedge of Casa Bolo Mellage and a box of crackers. The second woman removed the rind and sliced the cheese, placing it in a ziploc. Now I'd have snacks in my handlebar bag to get me through the afternoon, though I did wish for the strawberries and a big chunk of bread.

The next leg after I left town would be all back-roads through the hilly country between Sauk City and Reedsburg, where the next section of rail-trail would begin. Winding roads, turning left here, right here, sometimes a missing road sign. Had I checked the topo map, I would not have been surprised at the hill on Denzer Road that kept climbing and climbing. As I slowly made my way up the hill, worms appeared on the pavement in front of me. I turned my front wheel quickly to miss them. I heard strange noises in the forest, clicking, dripping. I stopped to rest and snack, then noticed worms descending on threads from the trees to the road. Were they aiming for me? I couldn't tell, but it was a creepy feeling of being invaded by some kind of prehistoric two-inch-long worms. Of course, I was the one trekking into their territory.

At the top of the hill, I arrived at an intersection with no sign. The road to the left was gravel and based on my map, it was the place to turn. Road name: Ruff Road. Very fitting. It was the correct route, but two intersections later, I made a premature left turn, for lack of seeing a sign (and not stopping soon enough to verify). When I learned my mistake, I'd gone almost two miles on what felt like very steep hills, though they were less steep on the return trip. Once back on what I thought was the correct route, I was about to pass a house where a man was driving his riding lawn mower. I signaled to him that I had a question and asked if I was heading the right direction to hit Highway W and Rock Elm Road. Yes, I was heading the right way, turn left just ahead.

It's beautiful country back here, I commented. Where are you headed? Reedsburg, but eventually Elroy to visit my family. I graduated from Elroy*. Really? Who are you and what year?
Eric Lease, 82. Rose Austin 83. You graduated with my brother, Chris. I don't remember, I said. It's been a long time. We didn't really know each other but Eric was in the class after my brother John. They were in choir together and he remembered some wild times. He recalled that John had died - that was during my first semester of college. It is a wonder any of us survived, I said, to which he nodded in agreement. After I pedaled off, I was glad that Eric had mentioned my brother, because if nothing else, don't we all wish to be remembered and to know that someone we were close to is remembered fondly by friends, even 27 years later? As I thought of this, the Amy Correia song entered my head yet again. La la la! Yes, life is beautiful.

My route was easy to follow, along miles of ridges, along fields and pastures, forests and farms. There was little traffic and I felt free on the quiet roads. Near sunset, I still had no view of a water tower to signal that I was near the town. Then, I turned onto S. Dewey Avenue and just like that, was heading into town. Another absent sign caused me to miss the turn toward the trail. Although I wasn't getting on the 400 Trail that evening, I figured I'd find the starting point for the morning. That's when a man pedaling a late 1960s Schwinn Continental, riding the opposite direction waved and I waved then asked if I had just passed Railroad Street.

And so an out-of-work architect (things are still rough in the small towns) named Stefan whose sideburns and hairstyle were reminiscent of the style worn by men on high wheels in the early days of cycling showed me around a small part of Reedsburg and talked about years-ago camping trips he took with his high school buddies, riding the same Continental he was riding that evening. I thanked him and wished him well, then headed off to find a hotel room and some dinner before the evening got much darker.

Tucked away from the main road under shady trees, the Motel Reedsburg may have had a worn-out feel (okay, and the tub wasn't spotless), but the cinder-block construction made my room nearly soundproof. The Mexican restaurant across the street made a delicious chili verde with enough leftovers to wrap into the tortillas for breakfast. Though the day was shorter in distance, at 64.8 miles including detours, the hills and wind made it a more challenging ride. Not much farther to go, with the rest of the route on the rail trail. Next up: re-entry.

*For the record, the school is called Royall HS and brought together students from three towns. My graduating class had 100 students, including foreign exchange students.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

what I know about myself

part 2

The goal: to make it to Madison, Wisconsin, on my second day of bicycling from Chicago to my hometown of Elroy. My brother and sister-in-law would host me at their East-side apartment. I didn't want to think about the total miles, but subconsciously broke down the day into units that measured the distance from one small town to the next. It turned into more than 91 miles, detours included.

June 3
Though I'd been very hungry the night before, the pasta entree was enormous and I managed to eat only about a third of the meal, so in the morning I had enough leftovers to sustain me with carbs and protein for my ride that day. Once again, I missed my watch alarm (maybe it doesn't work) and the hotel alarm clock must not have gone off either. I watched the weather channel for the forecast, then got a bagel near the front desk, finally rolling out at around 9 a.m., a tad behind my imagined check-out time.

In search of the elusive Wisconsin bike routes maps, I stopped at the village hall in Genoa City where a group of elders was enjoying coffee and coffee cake. They directed me to the clerk who didn't have the maps but assured me that county highway H was the way to go. "H it is!" I proclaimed to the Council of Elders. Where are you going? Elroy. By yourself? Yes. She may be good lookin' but she doesn't seem too bright! Hahaha! (Thanks for the compli... wait a second!) And off I went. This is why I didn't tell my parents I was biking: Mom would have run out of Hail Marys before I'd left Cook County.

Highway H is the back road to the resort town, Lake Geneva. I stopped for a wedge of cheese, then headed to the visitor center, where they had no bike route maps and I wondered who would stock these maps I'd read about online. I made my way from the lake shore out of the busy town, continuing on H to Elkhorn where the distinctive hiss of leaking air brought me to a stop. In a grassy strip next to a sidewalk, I detached the panniers and removed the rear wheel, replacing the tube, all the while being watched from across the street by someone in a house who appeared to be painting around a window. I waved and they kept painting. Continuing down the street, I stopped seeing Hwy H signs and pulled in at a local business where a young man brought up Google maps and showed me where I'd missed my turn, on Church Street. Must have been looking at the church instead of the signs. Oops.

By then, I was getting hungry thinking about the sausage & pasta slowly warming in my pannier. At a crossroads in the unincorporated town of Tibbets, I leaned my bike against a stone wall of a cemetery and took a seat on the grass to eat my meal. (I would have ate at the picnic table across the street but it was in the sun and I would have enough sun that day.) Cars passed, a farmer mowed a field nearby. I tried not to think about ticks. About five miles up the road, in La Grange, I came across my favorite bike shop of the trip. It was also a cafe and from the aroma coming from the kitchen, I wished I had been hungry! One of the owners, Mike, gave me a tip on an easy-to-miss turn in the next town and I managed to buy a few things - including another tube - before heading out again.

Now, I was pedaling north through the rolling, wooded hills of the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest, an area popular with skiers, hikers and cyclists. In almost no time I was in the town of Sullivan, where I would ride the Glacial-Drumlin rail trail for the next 33 miles to just a few miles outside of Madison. After buying my state trail pass at a small market, I was heading west on a path made of finely-crushed gravel, in the shade of trees that lined the trail.

A fawn stepped out of the brush and onto the trail in front of me. It paused, looked at me as I slowed almost to a stop telling it to go back to its mother. It began running down the trail, back legs kicking awkwardly up with little control before it jumped back into the woods. Dark-colored butterflies resting on the trail flew up just before my wheel rolled by. Some would fly alongside or in front of me, leading me down the trail. Red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, meadowlarks; their songs and others surrounded me as they perched on cattails in wetlands or fence posts next to fields; flew about over the trail. Chipmunks snacking alongside the trail scurried back into the brush before I rolled past.

Before arriving in each town, I would see the water tower looming above it, as I had the day before in Illinois. Along the rail-trail, towns still had their old depots, now converted to cater to cyclists with restrooms open after hours and decks with tables and chairs. A few snacks and water-bottle refills later and I was in Cottage Grove, where the trail ended and I had to pull out my map to figure my way into Madison. Would the road be busy? Would it have a shoulder? A path? I rode to the intersection. There was a bike lane in the street and very light traffic, so I steered into the left turn lane and made my turn into the west-bound bike lane. Soon that disappeared and with the dim evening light, I got onto a path (or was it a sidewalk). As I neared Madison and wondered at my need to go back and forth between bike lane and sidewalk, there appeared on the pavement the distinct white lines and lettering. This bike lane would take me into the city, Madison, one of the most bike- and pedestrian-friendly cities in the country.

A smile widened on my face as I coasted down a hill into the city. I saw a trail to the right but continued. Then, stopped by a red light, I watched a group of a dozen female road bikers cross the road in front of me. I thought for a moment, then turned to follow them. Does this trail go to Olbrich Park? Yes, that's where we're going. I'm going to follow you. Soon, I was at the park, but needed to be in a different part of the park, by the gardens to find the apartment, I would soon learn. I wandered up the street and onto a side street which led to the house and their upstairs apartment, overlooking the trail near the gardens. Britta, Pam & Mike's dog, announced my arrival.

I could have made it sooner, had I not had the flat, made the wrong turn or had the need to chat with people along the way. But that's the difference between driving the interstate and cycling the byways. This was exactly what I had in mind. "Here, I brought you cheese."

An IPA, a shower, a stroll to a pizza joint and a night on the Therm-a-rest after a long day. Somewhere in there was a recipe for a hangover.

other people's fears - the journey begins

part 1)

People didn't ask me why, though I may have answered with the question: "why not?" If they didn't get it, they would ask if I was afraid or nervous. Tell me there are weirdos out there. Maybe I'm the weirdo, though I didn't pose that option.

June 1:
I arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, collected my bike box from the oversized baggage claim and set up next to a window that looked out at the cars and people coming and going from the busy airport. A group of musicians was nearby, checking their emails, and, I would later learn, waiting for their flight back home. I went to work reattaching the front wheel, handlebar, pedals, front rack, handlebar bag. When I finished, I thew my hands up and yelled, "Done!" while one of them watched. I suppose it's unusual for a lone cyclist to unpack and assemble her bicycle in one of the nation's busiest airports.

We chatted and at first I couldn't make out what he was saying over the noise of the terminal and his accent. Oh, from Dublin! What kind of music do you play? Irish. Punk Irish or Traditional? Traditional. The other two joined in, told me of their tour in Wisconsin and Chicago. We're going to Alaska in September. They offered me a CD. Not sure if you want to carry more weight... I thanked them and took the CD, read their names. No way to listen to it for a few days, but I would. Then, they were gone. Heading through security, back to Dublin and other gigs. They wished me well and I already knew that the trip would be great, though there in baggage claim, I didn't know just how many people would ease my journey, provide advice or a laugh. How many would offer concern or kindness, how many I might possibly inspire to climb onto their bicycles and start a journey, even if it is merely to cross town.
Evening at O'Hare, behind the Hilton.

That first night, I planned to sleep in the airport bus terminal near the hotel. It was busy, well-lit and inhabited by a few small sparrows that perched in the rafters and drank from the water fountain, which, I was reminded, is called a "bubbler" by Wisconsinites. I napped on a sofa, facing an outdoor window. When I headed to the restroom, I wheeled the bike, intending to park it in the handicapped stall since nothing can be left anywhere. That's when I met the women on the night cleaning crew: Geneva and Sandra.

Where are you going with that bike? Wisconsin. They assumed I would take it on the bus, I suppose since I was hanging out in the bus station. You're riding to Wisconsin?! Yes, I was grinning. Are you married? Yes. Does your husband know what you're doing? I laughed and Geneva told me it wasn't funny, reminding me that the weirdos were out there. I hope I don't hear about you. I understood. Women aren't supposed to travel alone. We shouldn't talk to strangers and we shouldn't be out after dark or trust anyone. Damn! That's a lot of stuff I'm not supposed to do.

Later, Geneva brought me a pillow made of a trash bag filled with rags, covered with a couple clean rags. She pointed to a prime sleeping spot and handed me the pillow and a cardboard box. Get that spot before someone else does (someone else being one of her least-favorite panhandlers). A television blared newscasts which continued to cover details of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I slept and woke; slept and woke, eventually moving to a quieter, yet maybe "less safe" spot on the sofa where I slept through my alarm, assuming it went off at all.

Five a.m. Pouring rain initially made me regret not leaving O'Hare the previous evening. I returned the pillow, changed, ate a snack, pulled on my rain jacket and said goodbye, then took a train to the outermost parking lot, climbed on my bike and pedaled away. The first big splash from a truck was the only one that mattered and I figured I'd be wet all day.

A few wrong turns and a mile or so of pushing through unmowed grass on the side of a busy road later and I was on my way to a forest preserve where I could ride a meandering trail to get to the road I would follow to the first rail trail of the journey. Deer looked at me from the side of the trail, frozen in place, watching as I checked a map. I saw three over the course of just a few miles. At trail's end, I asked some locals, if you were to bike and had to choose between taking Algonquin or Higgins road, which would it be? Higgins was the unanimous answer. Even though I'd searched online maps and had a street map, I couldn't tell which route would be better until I was on it. Higgins turned out to have a full-sized break-down lane that was perfect and I made good time before stopping for a few provisions. The rain had ended and I needed sunblock, a big water bottle and some breakfast. By now, I was in South Barrington where the stores appeared to be somewhat fancy.

The people at the CVS didn't mind that I brought my bike into the store (since there was no bike rack). One of the clerks lived right next to the trail on which I'd be riding later in the day. My dad rides it all the time; it's great. Now that I was almost in rural Illinois, what I was doing didn't sound so strange to people. They knew where I was headed; it was as though the lack of mystery meant there was nothing for me to fear.
Northbound on the Prairie Trail.

Soon, I was in East Dundee, at the Des Plaines River Trail, stopping at the first bike shop of the trip: The Bicycle Garage. The owner gave me details of a section I would want to avoid: with all the rain, this part will be very slimy and it's curvy. I agreed that this wasn't a good combination, especially for the first day with a fully-loaded bicycle.

On the Des Plaines River Trail and the Prairie Trail (which begins in Algonquin and goes to the Wisconsin border), I rode through parks and woodlands, alongside marshes and industrial areas. Crossed residential streets in quiet neighborhoods in one small town after another. Sometimes the route was on street-side paths. Plus the street detour.

The sun was out and the dispersing rain clouds pushed across the sky. Birds sang in trees and brush all around. A turtle on the trail appeared to be protecting the eggs she had laid in the trail bed (I don't know why they lay eggs on the trails). By 5 p.m., I'd made it to Richmond where I began to feel the effects of the heat and maybe not enough food; maybe not enough hydration. In a liquor store/market, the owner, though initially annoyed that I insisted on bringing my bike inside, recommended a hotel down the road. I'd wanted to push through to the border, but had heard there weren't many hotels just up the road and didn't want to overdo it and end up with no place to stay. Sixty miles was enough, and I'd seen a restaurant I wanted to go to for dinner.

After a recovery drink, shower and a nap, I was ready for dinner. I decided to walk.