Day 60 - Ashkum (Ill) to Rensselaer (IN) Writing my blog at Ashkum Village Park yesterday evening sure had its price: I collected about 200 mosquito bites around my ankles - somehow I didn't really notice them ... until they started itching so badly I couldn't dream of sleeping although I generously applied anti itch cream! So I again got up at dawn and left very early but without hurry. I had a warmshowers host arranged for Rensselaer, my first town in Indiana. Since it was only 56 miles or 90 kms I knew I would not have to hurry. I came across an interesting cemetry near Iroquois (pronounced "írokoy") with a sign saying that a Mr. Fry, whose gravestone indeed confirmed this possibility, had faught in the War of Independance! After buying more anti itch cream at Walmart's in Rensselaer I went to a MacD's ... Jodi and Chris turned out to be most wonderful hosts! Both are very nice, gentle people with a lot of stories to tell and have only recently decided to open their 5 bedroom house to cyclists like me. They seem to be looking forward to the variety of people this brings into their home. We spent a very enjoyable evening in a newly opened Mexican restaurant. The owners, a whole family it seems, still have to refine their routines and do something about the terrible “classroom accoustics” in their restaurant but the food was excellent. Small town life was one of our topics and it turned out that one of the professors at the college in town has the habit of publishing current news and developments in Rensselaer in such detail that some people have come to rely on his blog even more than on the local paper. 🙂 The Kosari’s Labrador has proven my previously expressed theory that owning a dog seems to be a prerequisite to becoming a Warmshowers host, the only exception to this rule in my experience so far being Jason and Graham in Vancouver! No map,see next day (Day 61)
Day 59 - Wenona to Ashkum
Today was a day with fairly strong headwinds and I'm tired! At lunch I found a nice little restaurant and had an interesting conversation with a local farmer.
He has a farm of 700 acres, slighty below the local average, he tells me and he grows corn and soy. He does not grow wheat as an option in increasing the soil quality in the course of crop rotation, as he himself admits, because the price for wheat is too low at the moment. I learn that corn can be stored in the "elevator" as the huge containers are called for several years provided it is kept dry and free of "bugs". "So, everyone talks about bushels, " I ask him. "How much is a bushel of corn?" I learn that the huge trucks which pass me all the time officially carry around 900 bushels, most, however, load about 1000. So that gives me an idea!
"What is the best time for you to sell your corn?", I want to know. "Well, basically it depends on the market price. But the worst months for selling are October and February! Just after harvest the price is lowest, everybody is selling. And in March bills are due, mortgages, energy, seed and so on, so again in February everybody sells."
"So what's your opinion on the windpark that they have put p around here?" "I didn't enter any of my fields in the program, but it's definitely better than allowing more families in!" "Why that?" "Oh, more people just cause more problems! The county had decided that either we open up for housing or the windpark. Less people, less kids at school, less cost for busing, infrastructure ... We're better off with the windpark."
.... says a solitary farmer who works on 700 acres of land only for himself and by himself!
In Odell my route coincided with the historical Route 66, that famous "Mother Road" from the twenties, thirties and forties. At a sign I stopped and found out that here had once been an underground crossing under this busy road. No more. In the seventies the road was "decommissioned" - and today there are only few stretches of this icon of moblity still visible.
Tomorrow I will cross the state line to Indiana.
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Day 58 - Cambridge, Ill - Wenona, Ill, 08.09.2015 Sept 9
Just for the sake of honesty: After going north instead of south on Hway 18 after the town called Henry, I was a bit frustrated because of a detour but I was too stubborn to turn back and figured out a way to keep the "damage" small - after all, it was only 6 miles or about 10 km more ...
Michelle spotted me first. I was walking around the washrooms at the City Park a bit undecided because nobody had answered my phone call to the town hall and I wasn't sure whether to camp in the sheltered park. But she came up to me full of smiles and said:"You don't know about our showers, do you? You're walking the wrong way!" It turned out that her boyfriend, a retired teacher, had installed a bathroom with a shower just for cyclists in the building at the ball park/City Park in Wenona some years ago. She gave me the number code for the doorlock and I got to use a fantastic "cyclists only" bathroom!! What a service.
Michelle mentioned that she had thought that noone would be coming to stay here anymore for the year (yes, I am late in the season ....) and she told me stories about some of the more memorable "guests" they had met over the years. We had a laugh about the unhappy teenagers who were travelling with their parents on tandems all summer. What a "treat" for teens to see the back of their parents' heads for weeks during their summer vacation!
However, it turned out that all was not quite in order with Michelle. She is an active member of the HOPE organisation for a very sad reason: About twenty years ago, her seven-year-old son was abducted in front of their home on his way to church and then killed. She is wearing a steel ring engraved "For Ever Seven". She loves all her children but, she says, "had I known I would lose one in such a way I would not have wanted a single one!"
Michelle has raised four more children and at the age of 48 is a proud and happy grandmother of two. But that is not all. Her boyfriend - the one who built the cyclists' bathroom - just last Sunday lost his 26-year-old son in a car accident! This family has definitely had more than a fair part of suffering!
Setting up my tent, four teenagers came by and wanted to know about me. My answers to the obvious questions they didn't quite believe at first. "So you went through the glaciers in Canada - but you're only wearing a t-shirt ...!" So I showed them some of my equipment and they started to give me credit. After telling them a bit about my story and showing them how I cooked my meals they asked if I was famous. "Well, not really, but who knows," was my answer. They jumped at this and asked me if I would include them if I became famous. "Are you the first one to do this?", they asked. "Don't you see the many cyclists passing through here every summer?, " I asked back. "Well, in the summer we usually go away to see family". They were incredible.
I asked them to write down their names, age and one wish for their own lives or a comment and Kaily, 12, the youngest one in the group, asked me if I knew what a "Smore" was. When I said I didn't, she didn't believe me. "You travel in the US, you're what? Old? and you don't know what a "Smore" is???? So she wrote down the recipe: "Wish: For you to eat a smore. Ingrediants (sic) Grahm crackers, Marshmellows over a camp fire, Hershey chocolate." Okay, so I'll try that one in the near future! I was bold enough to ask them, "So, do you guys know what a "banana boat" is?" remembering the wonderful experience in Canada. They just laughed and yelled, "Of course! Who doesn't!!"
"But if you don't know a "Smore", what do you guys in Germany know? Do you know "Nike", "Converse", "Mac Donalds" ... Well, what was I to say? "Hey guys, of course! They're all international brands. It's just your food brands I don't know. And, by the way, don't tell me "Smore" is a brand. That's just a word you made up." "Noooooo!, everybody knows Smore.....". And so on ...
Kelsey, 14, is new at her school and is trying hard to get to know new friends. Nick, 15, tells her that everyone else is fake, they aren't really willing to become friends and she should stick with him, that's enough. And then he tells her the story of why he was suspended last year:
"All teachers are crap! Last year I was so fed up with Mrs. Smith, you know what I did? I caught a fly and squashed it just so much that I could stuff it into Mrs. Smith's Coke straw. And when she inhaled the fly it started to move and she spat the coke all over the place! That was great!"
Ethan, 15, dreams of becoming a Pro Car Driver or a mechanic (whatever comes first ....) and has his own set of problems. He has had several heart surgeries and has a pacemaker. His left ventricle is not completely developed. I asked him how he got along with it and it seems that he has found a good way to live with his disease. The pacemaker reduces his heart rate and he knows that when he gets his heart rate too high (over 86 - 90) he will suffer from exhaustion. He is open and very clear about his situation. A great boy. Although he is 15, too, he looks younger, surely due to a retarded physical development. I wish him all the best!
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Day 57 - Davenport to Cambridge, Ill 07.09.205, Sep 7th, 2015
Back on the road again! After a night in a motel near the airport of Moline, one of the "Quad Cities", I took a cab to Davenport and picked up my bike.
I crossed the Mississippi river for the last time and followed the river trail to Moline. I met four cyclists on a Labor Day tour, they had done parts of the RAGBRAI tour this year. I came thrugh a residential road in Moline with lots of chairs put out and a few scatttered people awaiting the Labor Day Parade rather early (it was still over an hour off!)
My route then led me along Green River and the Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail in an easterly direction for 20 miles until I went south through lots and lots of fields to the Timber Campground near Cambridge.
Today's ride was rather short, only 68 km but a nice quiet afternoon with a swim in a little lake was just right. Today, actually, was the last day the campground owners allowed swimming in their lake for whatever reason ... But this reminds me that we are slowly getting on into fall.
My calculation tells me that I will be in the Cleveland area around the 15th and hit Rocky River on the 18th or 19th of September.
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