RA65: Finally Cooler

Wenona IL to Ashkum IL – 75.8 miles

Jack slept outside his tent all night, right out under the stars.  He says he’s done this since he was a kid, when conditions permitted.  I stayed inside, with the ocean breeze from the tent fan swirling around. 🙂

Packing up from Wenona city park

I was up early and took my turn in the shower, even managing to wash my bed mattress, which was getting pretty bad since I’d been sleeping on it with only a pillow.  Jack and I returned to  Boardwalk Place for breakfast because they were open early and had a decent looking menu and not because of the rancid taco shells.  My pancake and eggs were very good, and the place really does have a large collection of excellent sports memorabilia, signed photographs of Mickey Mantle and Joe Dimaggio and Pete Rose for example.

Winds changed completely overnight, now coming from the north.  I could swear there was a tiny westerly component too, which helped us motor east, but Jack scoffed at this idea.  As x approaches zero, sin x = x.  Right.  Regardless, we made good ground through the endless fields of corn.  Illinois is Jules’ former home state, and she told me of how the corn helps to shield a cyclist from the winds.  Then you pass into a field of soybeans and you get hit with it.  Plant more corn, please.

This buckeye butterfly landed on my shoe

Through Cornell IL for a Gatorade, then into the town of Odell IL.  The folks at Broadway Place in Wenona had suggested Rentz’s Tap in Odell for twice baked potatoes, which really got Jack’s interest, so we stopped there for lunch.  It turns out that the potatoes are only available for weekend dinners, but it also turns out they served a VERY tasty ½ lb mushroom-Swiss burger, with a great beef taste shining through.    I mean – really good – Alan would want to try one of these.

Rentz's Tap in Odell IL

From Odell IL, we passed through the “towns” of Loretto, Emington, and Kempton.  These were only collections of a few houses with no businesses, but at least Kempton had a Pepsi machine outside one building, so we stopped there to hydrate.  Despite the lack of any services along here, I really enjoyed passing through miles of wind energy farms.  The windmills were close enough to the road that you could hear the wind turbulence off the blade edges as each blade passed around – kinda cool.

Wind energy farm
Scottish cyclist (no kilt)

We encountered another touring cyclist headed west.  He was from Scotland and had a great brogue and rhythm to his speech.  He’d started in Washington DC and was headed to California.  Surprisingly, he said we were only the second touring cyclists he’d encountered since departing.

From Kempton IL it was another 24 miles or so to Ashkum IL, our destination for the evening.  Adventure Cycling took us on some very thin county roads along the way.  Jack and I called the final one the “yellow brick road” because it led us “home” and was a mere one lane wide and wound along drainage ditches through the corn.

We met up with Frank and Gary on the final stretch into town, and we all rolled in to a Subway.  The employees there told us that Ashkum itself had no restaurants (which turned out untrue) so we all ordered dinner, studied maps, and heavily worked over the soda machine.   We then found Roger and Bill at the city park, having already talked with the mayor and having received permission to stay here.

Regrouping with the gang
Lovely city park at Ashkum IL

The park is very pretty with big trees (and great restrooms too).  A fellow touring cyclist named Tom, whom we met last night, has joined us in camp.  He’s headed on a similar route to ours but is leaning heavier on the motels as he goes.

Long ride today, 76 miles, but with MUCH better riding conditions.  High temps were in the 80s – when I got to camp my jersey actually had some dry-ish places on it.   Winds steady from the north, giving us comparitive relief from the headwinds, and even some help on the southbound segments.  Still, northeast winds started at the end of the day – I’m hoping that does not portend for tomorrow.