Sep 26: Peoria

Sep 26: Peoria

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on September 26, 2004]

Hi, folks! I'm writing from Peoria, which is to say midway across Illinois. The fact that I was in the middle of Indiana just four days ago kind of boggles my mind!

I left Indianapolis in no hurry on Wednesday morning but still managed to get all the way to Crawfordsville with time to spare. Similarly, on Thursday I got to Attica, IN -- my evening stop, close to the Illinois border -- around 1 PM and had plenty of time to reach a campground north of there. Both days the sun seemed to just hang in the sky, which I appreciated because I can tell the days are getting shorter!

In the little town of Attica I couldn't resist stopping at a candy store I'd seen hyped in a state-published travel brochure. It was less pretentious than the chocolatiers in downtown Ann Arbor, but still a far cry from my beloved, unassuming Candyland in Minneapolis. When I get home I may have to go to Candyland and order one of everything, just to make up for lost time!

So Friday I started cutting a burning trail across Illinois, headed straight west across some of the flattest terrain I've seen this side of North Dakota. I chose this route for that reason: I had so much trouble with the hills in Cincinnati that I didn't want to take any chances. But the trouble with going straight across a plain is that there's no escaping the wind or the sun... yesterday I got a bad sunburn on my south-facing thigh. The plains are getting flatter all the time; we've had more than a week without rain, so practically every field has a combine at work harvesting the seed corn and soybeans, and the roads are full of tractors and trucks pulling hoppers full of seed to the various grain elevators. It's kind of fun to watch, but I'll miss the scenery; stumps just aren't the same.

Friday morning I had a revelation: my search for ecovillages has been much too narrow. The country is full of thousands of intentional communities where long-term homeowners share space with short-termers and guests (as at Dreamtime Village), where people make an effort to live alongside nature, where the homes are full of energy-saving gadgets and are designed to work both on- and off-grid, where per-capita ecological footprints are much smaller than the American average, and where a balance is struck between private and public space (as in cohousing). I've been staying in these places practically every night for six months: they're private campgrounds. I know that permanent campground residents (April through November anyway; after that the water's shut off) are not typically the idealistic lot one associates with ecovillages, but that just makes it more exciting that they're living the way they are. I think there's a lot of potential... all it would take is a little push to turn America's campgrounds into ecovillages.

I was all excited about this idea until I arrived at my stop for Friday night: a truly wretched place literally 20 feet from the Interstate. Saturday's stop (near Eureka) was quite nice, and one of the "permanents" told me that he pays only $600 a year for his site, which comes to $2.50 per habitable night compared to the $17 a night I'm paying. At that rate an RV would pay for itself in just a few years.

Anyhow, when I made a library stop on Saturday morning I casually checked to see what the sermon topic would be at the Peoria UU church, just in case I could make it there in time. Their intern minister, a student at Meadville-Lombard Seminary in Chicago, was to speak about our relationship with the natural world. I called up a friend who's a student at the same seminary and asked if she knew the guy; not only is he a friend of hers, but she said he's lived at a couple of ecovillages, so she gave me his number and suggested I take him out for lunch!

So I got as close as I could to Peoria on Saturday night, which turned out to be about 25 miles from the church. Then I got up an hour before dawn and rode into town as quickly as I could and got there five minutes late, looking rather sweaty and unkempt. One of the parishoners kept scrutinizing me, and I thought she disapproved of my church attire, but it turned out she was the intern's wife, noticing the helmet-strap tanline on my neck and wondering if I was the mysterious biker who'd invited himself to lunch. The two of them wound up taking me for lunch, after a terrific sermon. The congregation was very friendly, and I was mobbed with questions during coffee hour. Roger and Lisa have lived in two ecovillages: Dancing Rabbit, which I'll visit in a few days, and one in South Carolina (I think) whose name I forget. They didn't get disillusioned per se, but they did decide to buy a private home instead of continuing ecovillage life.

In the afternoon I went in search of a library and a bike shop. The only library that was open was far north, and no bike shops were open, so I was a little disappointed, but in the library parking lot I was approached by a man who asked a lot of questions about my bike and trailer and eventually invited me to camp in his back yard. Come to find out he bought some land in Hawaii a few years ago with the intention of starting an ecovillage there -- he told me this without my having mentioned I was touring ecovillages -- and he likes autoharp music, so it should be a nice evening, and I can go to a bike shop in the morning, so it's really a good fit. It's amazing how these things work out.

Q: How do you power your cell phone? Do you just charge it whenever you stay somewhere long?
A: Yep. It only needs about an hour a week, so if I take it with me to the shower house in a campground every few days, that's usually enough.

Q: What is your budget for this entire trip?
A: Originally I had hoped to get down to $15 a day -- I figured $10 for camping fees and $5 for food -- or just over $5,000 for the year. But it looks like it's going to be more like $30 a day or $11,000 total, which I think you'll agree is still very reasonable for a year's expenses! That's including my health insurance and cell phone bill, by the way.

Thanks for the questions! I'll be in Iowa in a few days, at the rate I'm going... --Ben

Ben Sun, 09/26/2004 - 08:38

to Crawfordsville, IN

to Crawfordsville, IN

For some reason time seemed to pass more slowly today than usual.  I took my time leaving Ken & Kathy's place in order to say goodbye to everyone properly, and then I kept seeing interesting stores on the way out of town.

Once I was past the Indianapolis suburbs (heading due west), traffic quieted down and I was able to cover a lot of distance in comfort.  I didn't go quite as far today as on Sunday, but Indianapolis to Crawfordsville is still quite a ways.

I'm glad I decided to give the local KOA a chance, because it turns out the owner gives a hefty discount to bicyclists.  I saw a sign for another campground in town -- county park? -- but didn't investigate.

I arrived early enough in camp (4:00) that I was able to ride back into town and shop for clothes at a thrift store.  I bought a pair of sweatpants and a pair of black slacks, both of which should be very practical.

Total distance: 45.7 mi

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Ben Wed, 09/22/2004 - 00:00

to Pine Village, IN

to Pine Village, IN

I was really tired starting out this morning but didn't feel like riding back into town for coffee, so I just headed northwest on quiet roads.  It was one of those days (like yesterday) when time seems to pass more slowly than usual, so although it felt like about 4:00 when I got to Attica, it was only about 1:00.

I spent over an hour at the library looking for additional campgrounds and churches along my route to Peoria, and I found a few.  Then I went to a candy shop I'd read about in a travel brochure.  It wasn't quite as pretentious as the chocolatiers in downtown Ann Arbor, but it was pricier than I had hoped... I miss Candyland!  When I get back to Minneapolis I'll be tempted to go to Candyland and buy one of everything, just to make up for lost time.

My campground for the night is officially in Attica but actually much farther north, closer to Pine Village.  It's much more remote than any campground I've stayed at recently: there's zero traffic noise, only a combine that I hope will stop for the night.  I staked out a spot with good eastern exposure to hasten drying in the morning.

Total distance: 36.72 mi

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Ben Thu, 09/23/2004 - 00:00

to Onarga, IL

to Onarga, IL

The remarkable thing about today was that I rode literally all day long.  I was on the road by 9 (after waiting for my tent to dry) and didn't get to my campsite until after sunset.  And what a sunset!  Wow!

The campground is right next to the interstate.  The owners wanted me to camp about 20 feet from the highway, but I snagged a site on the far side of the lake instead, which still puts me closer than the truck stop did last week.

total distance: 61.1 mi

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Ben Fri, 09/24/2004 - 00:00

to Secor, IL

to Secor, IL

I didn't get quite as far as I had hoped today due to a headwind... the land I crossed is totally flat and getting flatter as the crops are harvested, so there's nothing to stop the wind.  But even so I covered most of three pages of the map, headed due west.  I plan to get up early tomorrow morning to ride the rest of the way into Peoria for church -- turns out the guy giving the service is one of Leela's cohort, and he's studied ecovillages, and I offered to take him to lunch to talk about them.

total distance: 60.46 mi

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Ben Sat, 09/25/2004 - 00:00

to Peoria

to Peoria

I got up this morning an hour before dawn and hit the road before the sun had risen, with four hours to travel 25 miles to church.  I just barely made it in time, but the service was worth the trouble.  Leela's classmate Roger Mohr gave an excellent service integrating science and spirituality.  The congregation was as impressed as I was.  They were very welcoming to me and made me think Peoria must be a very friendly place -- dunno if that's true!

Roger and his wife Lisa took me to lunch, and we talked about ecovillages and such.  We went to a cafe called One World with excellent food and coffee.

Afterward I tried to find a library and a bike shop that were open, without much success, but outside a library I met a man named Mark who invited me to camp in his yard.  Turned out to be the yard of his girlfriend's house-in-progress, which has no heat or hot water and no finished rooms, but it beats camping informally; at least I have access to water and a toilet.  I played them some songs on the autoharp, and they offered me a taste of pawpaws with breakfast.  They're both vegans, and Mark dreams of starting a vegan community on some land he owns in Hawaii, but he has no strategy to make it happen.  He's been to an ecovillage training session at The Farm.

total distance: 40.08 mi

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Ben Sun, 09/26/2004 - 00:00