We crawled out of bed, slowly bracing ourselves for another day. The motel might have been a little sketchy, but at least it wasn’t humid and hot all night. We packed up everything we’d layed out to dry and were out by 930. Rebecca headed south to a Starbucks to get some blogging in and Tim walked toward Earlville, where we found a campground called Maple Leaf Park that we planned to stay in for the night. Almost right away in walking Tim saw a strange sight, a blimp! Do they even make blimps any more?
Apparently they do!
There were many small road options to get to Earlville, so Tim opted for some of the smaller, quieter streets for the day.
Rebecca can’t take gravel roads with her bike so she headed out in the early afternoon following the slightly longer, but all paved, route into town. Pausing only for a quick lunch break outside of a rock distribution place, she texted Tim information about the towns she went through and relaxed for a couple minutes before going in search of the campground.
Tim stopped to visit the statue commemorating the birth place of Wild Bill Hickock and took breaks in shady parks along the way.
Rebecca made her way to the campground, met the owner and some of his workers hired to help clean the place up for the season, and got a tour of the area. She set up the tent and realized she didn’t discuss paying the guy for the spot. After a couple minutes of looking for him, she gave up and figured she’d find him later.
Tim walked along gravel roads until almost the end of the day where he got onto the paved street for the last mile.
It was an eerily quiet sort of day and he was glad to see Rebecca walking toward him on the road. She grabbed his backpack and we walked the last half mile into the campground together before heading across the street to get a Subway sandwich and some air conditioning. It wasn’t too humid, but the heat was still exhausting by the end of the day.
We woke up prepared to have a short 22 mile day to Plano, where there was a campground just south of town. On the way out we tried to find the owner again with no luck, so we unexpectedly got a free campsite for the night. Rebecca biked into Sandwich, where she settled into a seat in the back of McDonald’s with some oatmeal to write at least one blog post before setting up for the evening. Tim took side roads and some highway to get to the next town as quickly as possible. As we get into more populated areas it is fun to see the towns we go through. Each one breaks up the day just a little. As he walked he started to wonder if the movie Birds was about to come true.
When Rebecca finished a post she biked south a bit (almost to the Farnsworth house) to find the campground. The sign at the entrance said that the campground was only for youth groups with reservations. She checked the area and thought we could probably stealth there, but with a Google search knew there was a campground 5 miles farther away where we could camp legally. After texting a discussion with Tim, we decided to head for the legal campground. Tim eventually made it into Sandwich where he joyously laughed his way through town at all of the signs.
While he marveled at the jokes in town he noticed something flying overhead. There was a man paragliding (maybe?).
So he braced himself for the extra 5 miles of walking and continued on his way. Once he turned off the major road he started seeing familiar sights. We did a “survival training” just south of Plano last summer, so we’d been here before. Tim remembered visiting the Farnsworth house when we trained, and remembered how scary that road had seemed then. After the many roads we’ve walked on, almost nothing feels that scary any more.
A grass shoulder isn’t as unusual as we hoped when we were planning for the trip.
Rebecca made it to the campsite, set up, biked to the grocery store for dinner supplies and started collecting firewood from empty campsites so we could have a partially bug free evening. Tim made new friends on the road and finally got to the campsite.
Tomorrow we’d head to Naperville, our last stop before Chicago.
We woke up a little early. Rebecca planned to bike all the way into Chicago so she could drop her bike off and walk into Chicago from Naperville. She could catch a Metra train out to meet Tim as he arrived into town. Tim was able to take bike paths with tiny stop signs for a lot of the day.
Rebecca biked along a few busy highways, finally had a bad interaction with the police, and made it into Chicago sweaty and tired. (The police interaction wasn’t that bad, but now she wants to go give Illinois State Troopers a lesson on bicycle safety. One officer stopped to tell her she would get hit by a car if she biked in the lane. The shoulder along the roadway was narrow, had a rumble strip, and was full of broken glass. After biking many miles on highways and studying transportation, we know that it is safer to bike in the lane and be as visible as possible).
Tim made it to his friend Aaron’s place, and they drove out to pick Rebecca up before we all ate an amazing dinner, caught up with each other, and relaxed before we would walk into Chicago. It almost feels surreal that we’ve made it this far.
We woke up to eggs and sausage and packed up to rush out the door to our day into Chicago (though unofficially because we were staying far out by Midway airport). We walked about 2 blocks on the grassy shoulder and were greeted by sidewalks!
At about 10am we had our first glimpse of the Sears (Willis) Tower, and celebrated by tweeting about it.
And at 1030 we spotted a Culvers and decided to stop for ice cream. We were ready for a break from the humidity and something cold and sweet to eat. While we were sitting waiting for our ice cream the workers surprised one of their co-workers with a birthday song, a giant card, and an ice cream cake. She was turning 75 and had to work that day. The best quote from the birthday party came from the birthday girl as she held back tears: “well, I’m not that nice”.
Once we finished our ice cream we had an adventure of route changes to avoid dangerous overpasses around McCook, narrow, overgrown shoulders, and unexpected statues.
But we paused to recognize Rebecca’s Grandmama with a road sign (hi Grandmama!) and only argued a little about crossing a dangerous roadway.
Once we made it into the city and to our friend Carlos’s place we were done for the night and ready to officially enter Chicago the next day. Rebecca’s coworker, Jen, planned to meet us at the Pulaski Orange Line station in the morning, and we ate amazing quesadillas and nestled onto air mattresses for an excellent sleep before our grand entrance in the morning.
Today(s) we walked through:
Indian Head Park
Tim: 51,041, 63,860, 50,164, & 52,123 steps
Rebecca: 25, 36, & 52 miles and 55,716 steps
2,325 miles finished