Thursday morning was rainy and cold. It was the most rain for what felt like weeks. Rebecca decided to walk her bike beside Tim so they could walk the four miles together into their adoptive home state, Illinois.
The sidewalks were narrow and the road had many puddles near the curb. Two blocks into the day we were both splashed by a passing pick-up truck. Not only was it raining, we were soaked head to toe. It was hard to keep a positive outlook on the day.
Once we made our way onto the big bridge to cross into Rock Island, Illinois, we were overcome with emotion. We finally made it back to the state where it all started; where we met almost five years ago, and where we got the idea to walk across the country two and a half years ago.
At breakfast we finally had wifi to research our route for the next few days. Chicago was still about a week away, and we didn’t have any plans or leads for places to camp between the Quad Cities and The Windy City. Eric, the host from the previous night, had suggested in the morning to travel along the Hennepin Canal Trail. The trail was about 15 miles from his place, and was dotted with campgrounds.
Tim left the restaurant before Rebecca, to get a head start toward the trail, still more than 10 miles away. Three hours later, after stopping at Subway for lunch, Tim found the Hennepin Canal Trail. Not more than ten minutes passed before Rebecca found Tim on the trail!
The trail was a nice break from the loud highway shoulders and narrow country roads. However, with all of the rain the past few days the path was mostly flooded.
We ended the 30-mile day at a campground just off the trail in Geneseo. They had a mini convenience store with some tables where they allowed us to eat our dinner and watch some bad cable tv. In the morning we had ice cream for breakfast, next to a wall of buttons dating back to the 70’s.
The second day we knew we’d need to cover over 32 miles on the Hennepin Canal Trail again. Tim didn’t see any cars (or towns) the entire day, but Rebecca was able to stop into town to pick up lunch and dinner. The day started without a hitch…
…but then the hitch showed up in the form of a fallen tree blocking the entire path, and an underpass completely flooded from the previous day’s storm!
Rebecca texted Tim throughout the day to check on conditions of the trail. There were many sections of the path, some for miles, of impassable trail due to unfavorable conditions such as sand/dirt or overgrowth. As Tim was writing a message in the sand for Rebecca, to indicate he was going to walk around the flooded underpass, she caught up to him. Together, we carried our gear through thick bushes, and over the road and back down to get to the other side.
Time was not on Tim’s side, as the sun was setting and he still had six miles to go. Rebecca had found a quiet, empty (and free!) campground along the canal trail and already had set up the tent. It was worth it though, as Tim captured a perfect sunset.
There was an approaching lightning storm that worried us a bit, but the bugs were the bigger nuisance on our mind. The mosquitos around our tent along the canal were probably the worst ever. We had to squash around 20 that were trapped in our tent to feel comfortable enough to sleep. In the morning, we awoke to this sight:
The third day we wanted to avoid the bug-ridden canal trail, so we each planned an alternate route. Tim took dusty county roads, and Rebecca took the highway. We planned to meet in Princeton for lunch.
On the way into town, Tim noticed an uptick in cyclists. Instead of the normal zero, he saw 2, then 4, then hundreds of cyclists on the last few miles into town. Saturday morning happened to be Princeton’s annual bicycle fundraiser, the Z-Ride.
Rebecca got into town early and stopped into a cafe to catch up on the blog. When she looked for a place to park her bike, she met a man who was intrigued with all of her gear. After Rebecca explained her mission, he went into the cafe. The owner spoke with Rebecca about her journey, and the man ended up buying Rebecca’s meal. He turned out to be the owner of the two Subways in town, and offered her a free sandwich to refuel for her trip (Thanks, Loren)!
There were no campgrounds 25-30 miles on our route, so we decided to stay at a cheap hole-in-the-wall motel, the Sandman Motel, just outside of Peru. Rebecca biked to the store for our famous chicken-ceasar-salad-in-a-bag dinner, and we got to relax in a tiny room. After three straight 30 mile-plus days, we were ready for a good night’s sleep on a mattress!
Today(s) we walked through:
Tim: 62,533, 66,260, and 68,854 steps
Rebecca: 30, 32 and 34 miles
2,221 miles finished