By Ben |

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on September 29, 2004]

Hi, folks! I'm writing from the shore of the Mississippi River, having just crossed back to the west side at Burlington, Iowa. It's noticably wider than it was in Minneapolis seven weeks ago! I'm looking forward to my next crossing in Louisiana... and to my ride down the River Road this coming week.

When I last wrote you I had accepted the invitation of a man named Mark to camp in his girlfriend's back yard in Peoria. Mark and Sheila were both raised in Peoria, went to college elsewhere, returned to be close to their families, and met each other a few years ago. Sheila bought a house that turned out to be full of termites and had to be completely gutted, so now it has no heat and no completed rooms, but she and Mark sleep there to deter vandals. She hopes to get it insulated by this winter. Mark attended an ecovillage class at The Farm a few years back and bought some land on the island of Hawaii that he hopes to turn into an ecovillage called Vegan Volcanoes, but his search for fellow villagers is on hold while he takes care of his great aunt. Anyhow, I had a good chat with the two of them and played the autoharp and sang some songs, and in the morning they gave me my first taste of pawpaws, which grow wild nearby and which taste like a cross between a papaya and a banana. I also accepted some rice & beans from Mark which were so tasty that I forgot I'm allergic.

Mark escorted me to the bike shop, where I got my front wheel trued (finally) and bought a replacement rear tire. That's the first tire I've worn out on this trip; I just put it on a few days before leaving Minneapolis. (The rear tire gets a lot more wear than the other three, since it's the drive wheel.)

I rode out of town and picked up the Rock Island Trail for about half a mile. I believe this may be the actual Rock Island Line of legend, that went "down to Noorleans" (song at right). She's a mighty good road, but if you want to ride it, got to ride it like you're flyin', and I was feeling ill from the beans. Besides, the trail goes farther north than I wanted to go.

I was feeling really rotten by the time I got to Jubilee College State Park, northwest of Peoria, in the early afternoon, so I got a campsite and took a nap. I felt better by evening and was able to cut my hair, do laundry, and install the new bike tire. I sat at a picnic table reading e-mail while the sun set and the full moon came up. When the moon rose above the treetops, the coyotes in the forest let out an unearthly chorus of celebration that lasted for about five minutes! Wow!

I got up in the middle of the night and found the moon completely dominating the scene; it cast such a good light I was tempted to get back on my bike and ride! By dawn a front had moved in, bringing overcast and gusty wind but also such dry air that my tent could be packed immediately. I rode all the way into Monmouth, birthplace of Wyatt Earp and home of Monmouth College, which I think may have tried to recruit me years ago. From there it was an easy morning's ride into Burlington, Iowa.

I got a little behind on my observations of state quirks...

Favorite Ohio quirk: A lot of rural homes in Ohio have swimming ponds instead of pools, with a sandy beach on one end and cobblestones the rest of the way around. A diving board, pontoon platform, and/or small boat are optional furnishings.

Favorite Indiana quirk: Just east of Indianapolis, and noplace else I've seen, the farmers plant morning glories along the edge of their cornfields. The vines climb the cornstalks and flower and look pretty. Then the following year the field is planted in soybeans, and the vines have nowhere to climb (soybean bushes only grow to about a foot high), so they sprawl out into the field about 10 or 20 feet and flower there. I assume they probably get killed by the broadleaf herbicide that's applied before corn is planted again, but still it's a nice touch. I got a photo. [I later learned the morning glories were unwanted weeds that had a permanent foothold in the road ditches. This was before Roundup-ready soybeans dominated the market.]

Favorite Illinois quirk: practically all the county roads are numbered on a strict Cartesian coordinate system. This means that if you're looking for the address 815 2300 N Rd, you can be sure to find it precisely 23 miles north of the county line, and precisely .15 miles east of 800 E Rd, if there is one. The down side is that if 2300 N Rd veers a quarter mile south at some point along its route, it will be called 2275 N Rd there, and your map may not reflect the change! Diagonal roads are named for the towns they connect, as all the county roads are in Indiana. (That can get confusing, since some of the towns apparently no longer exist.)

My next Internet access will be at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri, so I'll write from there! I hope to also update the photos on the Web site; sorry it's been so long, but I haven't had the technology at hand. --Ben