Day 9, June 17, Mt. Olive to Springfield, IL
Arise from pew at 4:20 in Mt Olive church (overslept!). Sherri already has coffee made and brings me cup.. We now have our routine down flat! Very little talking as we scurry around, each concentrating on her own system. I always write a thank you note and Marie leaves a hot pad she made. I ate my left-over Mexican food from last night for breakfast, as good as it was last night!
We out the door at 6:05 ready to go when sprinkles start! Screetch… change of plan as we descend on the van and pull out our rain gear (Sherri, Giovanna, and me). As bicycling through streets, see sign about Mother Jones Monument and I recalled in 2006 when Marie and I stayed with pastor and wife here, they took us to the cemetery to show us this statute. She was a firebrand woman who took up the cause of the coal miners here when they went on strike for higher wages, better safety conditions. There was a riot and some miners killed. She became a union organizer, called “the most dangerous woman in the world” by some, so when she died years later, she is buried beside them.
We enjoy the sprinkles for a couple hours as it is cool, in the 70s. It never did pour as the last 2 days as expected! Cloud cover, perfect weather for riding. We are bicycling R66 frontage road beside I-55 through beautiful farm land. Fields and fields of corn and soybeans all day, as yesterday. Every farm has the round silver metal grain storage bins. Soil here is black! As for the noise of the interstate, after a while you don’t notice it. R66 road is flat!, however, rough with patches. Very little traffic, so Marie drives ahead, pulls over and waits until all riders pass by. We ride spread out, each at our own speed–Sherri, me, then Giovanna.
One hour later, 7:30, we stop in Litchfield (pop 6939) at the IGA store for bananas, Giovanna searching for cough med as she picked up hacking cough she says when she flew from NY, and Walgreen across street not open yet. Marie and I change riding and driving through Waggoner (pop 296) and Farmersville (pop 724), all frontage road (pretty boring after yesterday’s adventures, but we are liking it).
At noon we stop at Divernon for lunch. Sherri and Giovanni into the 1 restaurant (Patty’s)in town, tiny, packed with customers with only 1 waitress and 1 cook. Marie and I eat from cooler and we are in the park across the street which even has comfortable chairs built around a tree, pleasant, cool. We spend hour there as Patty’s slow, but huge sandwiches.
Well, our boring day turned into a challenge here at Divernon (pop 1172) — no more R 66 frontage road. We are now on country road, at time 1-lane and have to squeeze by rare vehicle, sometimes pulling off side and waiting as one goes by. When I am driving, these are directions–2 M and left turn on unsigned road (no sign, later Burstine). Go about 1 mile and turn right on Gordon Drive. Go about 4.5 miles and turn left on Walnut, go about 1 mile into Chatham (11,580). We spend a lot of time pouring over the Adventure Cycling map and R66 Handbook to find names of roads, etc.
In Chatham, we now must study maps to see how to go into Springfield (pop 117,000) and get to church. We standing in shade in residential area when lady comes out of house, brings out maps, tells us where bicycle path is, where ends as she has ridden it. Wow, what a big help, we are grateful. It is now 2:30 and very hot. Bicyclists know their route, I am to drive to church, counting on google maps to get me there. Try maps and voice address of church a couple times, but it will not give me a route. Oh, no, if google does not work, I can never find it on my own — this is big city driving. Finally realize I am asking google to find me the address in MO instead of Ilinois!!!! When I give the address in Springfield IL, goggle immediately begins giving me voice directions, probably thinking I am not too bright!
I make it to church fine, but alway stressful, big relief to call Matt (Youth Pastor) to tell him I am here. This is a huge church! He shows me room with couches, kitchen, bathroom, shower, etc., and I bring in some luggage. The bicyclists finally arrive completely exhausted as it was longer than expected, and terrific traffic the last few miles. We went to the church service at 5:30 with contemporary music, heard message of the mustard seed. Church has group in Haiti now building, support a school in Haiti, grow garden here on grounds and give produce to shelters. Sherri and Giovanna to grocery store and we all settled in, grateful for another day of safety and hospitality of this church. People here all day building and decorating, preparing for VBS starting Monday- expecting over 300 kids!
Day 10, June 18, Springfield to Bloomington, IL
Hoping all you great dads out there had a wonderful day of appreciation for being great dads; we all need great dads. My son, Greg, is one of those.
Marie, Sherri and I all awaken at 4 a.m. at the same time as we “cozy” last night sleeping on couches very close to each other in the same room. Giovanna likes to sleep by herself, so we are never sure where she is in the churches, but she alway appears the next morning ready for coffee.
There was a thunderstorm in the middle of the night with thunder, lightening and rain, and looking out this morning, the streets are wet. Praying that is over for the day, but to be prepared we put on our rain gear, as when we leave at 6:15 it is overcast but nice and cool.
Spent quite a bit of time last night and again this morning figuring out how to get out of Springfield from the church. We have the Adventure Cycling maps, but when we go to a church or family, we veer off those, and we are in the middle of Springfield, the state capital, pop 116,000.
Marie has it figured out by the maps, Sherri copies it in her phone, and we are off.
We are feeling fortunate to be here this Sunday morning because we have found in the past that the very best time to bicycle in a big city is early Sunday morning! Springfield is the largest city besides Chicago of this trip. There is little traffic and we bicycle for 10 miles through business, residential, black areas, and see the capitol dome to the left as we bicycle into downtown. At many red lights we bicycle through as there is no traffic in any direction, speeding our trip up, and here is street sign that says “Chicago 193 miles.!
As we leave the city, we are beginning to see R66 signs so we have made our way to the right road. As we traveled those 10 miles (1 hour), a train kept blowing its whistle the whole hour, and we surmised there are so many cross streets across the city, engineer has to blow whistle constantly. The train caught up with us and went over an overpass just as we were going under the overpass, with a deafening blast. Okay, okay, we hear you! We are not sorry to tell you goodby!
At 12 miles when we arrive in Sherman at 7:45, Marie and I exchange, and I am now driving–left on Suddath, right on West Outer Road, right on SR 123 which becomes Main Street of Williamsville. At every corner, I wait for Giovanna as Sherri and Marie ahead, stop at every mile or so for her to catch up as she does not know the turns. Stop at Casey’s (now 10 a.m.) and decide Giovanna should load and ride as we need to catch up with the other two–turn left on Elm, right on Oak Street and that puts us on the frontage road (R66) parallel to Hwy 55, so now full speed straight ahead through Elkhorn and grain elevator, round storage bins (pop 405), and catch up with Marie. We also load her bike and catch up to Sherri just before Lincoln (pop 14,500) so there are several turns and we lead her through Lincoln, stopping at turns.
Giovanna and I ready to ride again at 11a.m. We go a little way and she yells for me to stop–her shoestring has caught in the peddle and she cannot peddle, and it is very tight so she cannot get shoe off. In the struggle, her bike falls over and of course she falls with it and has to turn and twist several ways to get to shoe to loosen lace enough to slip out of shoe and untangle from pedal. Whew, neither Giovanna or her bicycle (Mia) had any injuries, and she reties laces to side and stuffs ends into shoes, and on we go.
At 11:45 arrive in Atlanta (pop 1692), time for lunch. Here is a special R66 park on the corner of a street, especially for R66 travelers, flowers, picnic table, water fountain, big tree, different monuments of event of the town. Big mural on wall says Atlanta halfway between St. Louis and Chicago! Good news! Also there is a giant Paul Bunyan 10 feet or so (several along R66).
As we travel today we keep passing and being passed by a couple from England carrying their gear on their bicycles. They started in Chicago several days ago, have turned around and are now bicycling back to Chicago. They are also using the Adventure Cycling maps, so we feel more confident now that we can use those maps and bicycle into Chicago since they did.
At 2 p.m. we stop at Funks Grove, a farm which makes maple sirup from native trees for more than 185 years! Marie and I stopped here in 2006, and happy to see Glaida owner still here, altho now using walker and not in involved as previous. Sirup is spelled with an i because in the 1800s that was the preferred spelling in Webster’s, so the family has kept it that way as tradition.
I am now driving and gals on bike path that is parallel to R66. Sherri and Giovanna ahead and out of sight, so I follow Marie from road stopping every couple miles for her to catch up. We catch up with gals at end of bike trail waiting, as now have to figure out how to get to church. Call pastor, and he says about 5 miles and downtown. This is totally on streets so Marie drives van and I do goggle maps who gives vocal directions, stop at corners as Giovanna and Sherri bicycle up and down hills, steet to street and arrive at door of large modern Methodist church at 4 p.m. Pastor Vaughn arrives (avid bicyclist) so we talk bicycling for a while. We are very comfortable with youth room with 3 couches, shower in bathroom, kitchen. I immediately make a cup of coffee as is my usual top priority– my relaxant. I carry coffee with me and my 1-cup drip. (Giovanni and Sherri walk 2 blocks to restaurant and have Asian dining. Marie and I PB sandwiches as we have journal to write. However, we write for ourselves also.
By the way, a beautiful day with gorgeous blue sky and fluffy white clouds, a breeze to keep us cool. Never got too hot–83 or so. Thanking God for keeping us safe and on the right roads.
Day 11, June 19, Bloomington to Pontiac, IL
At 4:30 a.m. tablet says 63 degrees, high 80 and showers here in Bloomington. Streets outside wet indicating rain last night, so we put on our rain gear. Out the door 5 minutes early. A new record now that the ride is nearly over! AND the sun is shining!
Marie leads us in van. We are in a downtown church (R66 ran right through the middle of towns), so 1 block to a R66 sign and follow the signs, easy this morning. It is 5 miles through town (pop 17,000), enjoy the old ornate buildings of downtown, residential big older ornate homes, new homes on outskirts, cool weather of 60s.
Today the 2-lane (1 lane each way) R66 road is frontage road of Hwy 55 all way to Pontiac (40 miles). We did not have to make any turns all day–just stayed on frontage road, so it was easy driving and easy bicycling–no one could get lost! and basically flat!
AND as soon as we got out of Bloomington, here is a bike path along R66, a great one, new blacktop, smooth, and we fly along. The best bicycling surface we have had, all the way to Towanda (7 miles) (pop 465). Marie and I switch here, so load bike and drive on frontage R66.
There was intermittent bike trail the whole 40 miles, near the towns, then gone in country and have to ride R66 with light traffic, 2 lane, no shoulder for a while or the old, old R66 which is officially closed, but possible to bicycle but very rough, no maintenance for years, Giovanni especially preferred to ride this very rough difficult road rather than the 2 lane no shoulder. I rode the road as easier with light traffic. RR track beside us all day also and Amtrack goes by 4 times.
Sherri and Marie bicycle ahead and I shuttle Giovanna along 1 mile at a time with van and then through streets of Pontiac (pop 11,879) to large 1/2 city block modern Methodist church where Marie and Sherri wait on bench. We are here at 11:30!
Pastor out of town, and secretary on vacation, but both said the church would be unlocked, which it was. And there is a sign on door that says there is an “open door” policy where church is open from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. We are very surprised, as this church is also downtown, but in we come with all our luggage and find library room downstairs with 2 couches, small kitchen, bathroom next door. Sherri makes us coffee and we are happy!. This seems like a busy church as there were people in and out all afternoon.
And Pastor Tom had made arrangements for us to have showers in the Methodist Retirement
Center right across the street. Mark director emailed me that they had an unoccupied room and we were welcome to take showers there, which we did one after another. They even laid out towels, soap, shampoo for us–a 4 story facility, beautifully decorated inside and grounds with flowers and shrubs outside.
Sherri and Giovanni took all our clothes to the laundromat, Marie and I catch up on emails, and I write notes to people involved for final days ahead — only Tues, Wed, Thurs. We discuss difficulties of Chicago and possible routes. Annie Ault of Chicago Cycling Club still trying to get someone to lead us. She has been trying for 2 months, so we appreciate her a lot.
At 3 p.m. Marie and I walk 2 blocks to the museum and were there 2 hours! An old fire station now filled from top to bottom.with a large room full of R66 memorbilia, a room of Bob Waldimire, famous artist of R66, filled with his drawings of R66, very detailed. Several rooms filled with photos of R66 landmarks from every state which Marie and especially enjoyed with memories of seeing most since we have bicycled all of R66 and pieces twice. Also a room about the “Walldogs”, group of artists who go from town-to-town painting R66 murals on buildings. They came to Pontiac in 2009 and painted many buildings, so everywhere you look, there is a mural of R66 on buildings, and they continue to paint murals somewhere today.
And there was a 1940s section with home furnishings, toys, paper dolls, everything that I remember growing up with, a room of music from the 40s, the big band sound playing. In the gift shop I find a small R66 decal for my Terry bicycle to put on top tube.
Also War museum with uniforms and info of local guys and gals who had been in the service.
A room of Civil War music. If ever in Pontiac, IL this is the place to visit!
Grateful for a short easy day today, sunshine, cool with breeze, wonderful accommodations again by a caring church. Pastor Tom just arrived, making hospital calls all over county today. We are blessed again and grateful.
Day 12, June 20, Pontiac to Joliet, IL
It is 60 this morning in Pontiac, high of 81 here; we are blessed with cool weather, especially when I see it was 101 today in Grand Junction! Special treat of cantalope this morning for breakfast was delicious. I bought it a couple days ago in Hamlin, IL at a veggie stand. We are out at 6 a.m., just as kids starting to arrive. They are going on St. Louis today to Six Flags amusement park and back home today also — about 220 miles each way the bus driver tells us.
We are off with Marie driving van and in 0.3 of a mile realize we are going wrong way – first turn was wrong – so back and start again===hmmm. We find Main Street and in 2 miles are out of town and on R66 with RR track on right, left is the old, old R66 and corn and soybean fields beyond those on both sides. Sherri and Giovanna chose to ride old, old R66 which is officially closed, but rideable with grass growing from every crack and very rough, but I choose to ride R66 because it is smooth pavement. However, there is no shoulder and traffic, but very light. At times old, old R66 ends for some reason and the gals have to come out onto R66. Marie drives the van on R66, At times R66 is the frontage road along Hwy 55, and where this happens, there is a 2-foot wide shoulder that is pretty good and rideable, so much of that today.
At 10 miles and 7:30 we arrive at O’Dell, take pictures of old Standard Oil station of the 20s. Giovanna and I stopped at a coffee shop where she ordered a sandwich to go (she eats and drinks continually; she says it is part of her HD high energy). We missed the bike path coming in that Sherri took and G wants to go back and ride it around the town. With talking with Marie, I know van parked on R66 ahead. G insisted to find bike path, went back and after 15 minutes of talking with other bicylists and a man watering his yard, looking for it, she was finally convinced to go on R66 to the van, as the bike path was only 1 mile long. Marie and Sherri waiting at van.
Now I drive and Marie bicycles, 70 degrees at 8:40. Drive thru Dwight (pop 4260) following R66 signs and map (it is so much less stressful for me bicycling than driving!) Happily back to bicycling at 10 a.m. Sherri ahead and out of sight, Giovanna behind and out of sight. Man mowing grass along road stops for me to pass, then honks his horn, and I wave. You have a nice day too!
My favorite town today–Gardner (pop 1400) because R66 so clearly marked with the road sign for R66 freshly painted on the road and with big white arrows painted on the road pointing which way to go, so easy to find all turns. Also many R66 paintings on buildings, and took pictures of an old diner, the 2-man jail, a gas station, all reburnished.
We go across many rail tracks this trip and always have to be very careful to go across them straight, which means if the track is curved, you have to go across at an angle.
On to Braceville (pop 800) where Sherri waits for us at Casey’s. There was no sign here that we were to turn, but English bicylists gesured we were to come over RR tracks to left side of tracks now. It is 10:30 and we all eat and drink. Continue and here is a detour, which takes us back over to the other side of the tracks! where we continue. Marie and van parked at the entrance to a big nuclear power plant where we exchange; I am now driving. The Adventure Cycling map we are following is very detailed, sometimes difficult to follow and not always correct.
Drive to Braidwood on frontage road of Hwy 55, map directions to turn right on Main then left on SR 53, confused because SR 53 directly in front of me. Sherri and G motion to continue straight.Every time I have driven, something is different than the map directions. Marie calls me and I go back. Her tires are not right and she puts air in them — the front one only had 20 pounds, no wonder it felt wobbly. Here on Braidwood we are driving on Hwy 55 which is very busy, R66 seems to be gone.
We plan lunch in Wilmington, to find the Jolly Green Giant statue famous on 66 and lunch in area out of cooler. We find Jolly Green Giant but no spot there. Told by someone there was a park 1 mile out of town. G loads her bike in the van and she and I drive ahead — more than 1 mile, traffic very heavy, especially trucks. At intersection we turn off and wait for Marie and Sherri on bicycles — have gone more than 1 mile, decide to lunch here. Here is a giant Dow Chemical plant and grounds with trees and shade — we stop under a tree and eat; now 1 p.m.. This 4-way intersection filled with continual very noisy trucks!
My turn to bicycle. We plan to meet Marie at Mississippi Road which she misses so we go on to Manchester road, still riding Hwy 55 with lots of traffic but 2-foot area okay. It is now 2 p.m. and my turn to drive. Call pastor that we expect to be there in 2 hours–only 10 more miles. Wind helps keep us cool. Giovanni wants me to stop at 6 miles and load her because she does not want to bicycle in heavy traffic (Joliet 150,000). I stop at 5 miles because there is a good place here. She is glad I did, so load her and her bike and Marie and Sherri continue on a walking path under a viaduct. G and I try to goggle the church address in our phones, but no luck. We only go a little way when Sherri calls asking us to come back as they cannot cross highway with lots of traffic, so they will load. We go back, load all and it starts to rain, then pours as we went our way to the church. We all grateful they could not go on, so they did not get soaked! Rain came up very fast.
Pastor meets us at church and we are comfortably settled in the library with couch for Marie, Pew for me in sancturary, ordered in pizza, rain poured a long time, then sun came out. and we are set for tmro to bicycle into Chicago. I emailed Prez of the Joliet bicycle club for directions of how to get from church to Old Plank Road Trail tmro morning to start bicycling into Chicago and he immediately emailed me a map! so all set there. Also email from Anne of bicycle club in Chicago telling us about the 3 trails we will bicycle tmro. The bicycling easy with the trails we think, the van will be the issue! Looks like it will be on Hwy 30 paralleling the trail for a while. We will be praying for guidance all day. Grateful for another beautiful day of blue skies and cool temp, and safety, comfortable in church.