Friday, June 26th, 2009
Quincy, IL to Nauvoo, IL (50 mi / 80 km)
Last night as I was walking back to our tent from my shower, the crescent moon, the fireflies, and the soft glow of Amy’s headlamp filtering through the tent combined to make quite a picturesque image. This was contrasted by the ensuing dialogue at our neighbors’ tent.
Apparently, one of the guys was on the phone with his wife, and they were arguing about money. Bad timing for this guy, who had been working outside all day in the heat and hadn’t had a shower or dinner yet (it was about 10:30 at this point in time). This was the same f-bomb guy who had kept us up a bit the previous night, and boy did he drop them fast and hard in this conversation. As he reached a fever pitch, Amy predicted that he was going to throw his cell phone. A few minutes later… thwack!
Things quieted down not too long after that and we got to sleep.
We wake up early with the alarm, pack up, and get going, retracing out steps from yesterday for the first 8 miles. No more broken spokes so far! I often get a look from Amy if I say something like that on the road, but I usually reply that I’m not superstitious 🙂
The roads are getting a bit more hilly as we continue up the Illinois side of the Mississippi river bottoms. At one point we see a few deer bounding along the edge of a cornfield. A very cool sight, familiar to all who live here, but fresh to me; they always look like they’re having a good time, seeing who can jump higher.
As the road leads us back to the edge of the river, we enter Warsaw, wondering if there really is a Main St ahead, as the road is narrowing and degrades in quality. I ask some ladies out for a morning walk, and they say keep on going, you can’t miss it.
Indeed, they are correct, as the road basically dead ends into a factory of some kind by the river. We turn the corner and behold a huge hill, way too steep to pedal up. So, we walk our bikes up the hill… Not an easy task either.
Warsaw looks like a ghost town, although a postman on foot directs us toward the Gingerbread House Bakery for breakfast. In no way does this look like a bakery, although there are a few crusty old donuts, cookies, and sparse gingerbread decorations. It’s a bakery only in name, but they serve breakfast and we eat there with a bunch of motorcyclists and a few locals. I order a tall stack of peach pancakes, and though there are only four, they are huge, served up on a styrofoam plate, and I can only get through half of them, and even that leaves me feeling like I overate. We wrap up the rest for later, refill our water, and head on out.
As we near Nauvoo, the road gets hillier. This part of the river doesn’t have any bottoms, due to dams I think, so the road is up on the bluffs. It’s a tiring but fun ride (for me at least), up and down, sandwiched between scenic overlooks on the left and steep bluffs on the right.
We make it to a sign for Camp Nauvoo, one potential location for spending the night, and after checking out the prices on the iPhone – $3 per person, wifi and showers included! – we walk our bikes up the steep hill that leads to the camp. At the top of the first hill, another hill, and no camp in sight yet. I bike the next hill as Amy walks it, and then she waits as I bike a third hill to finally make it to the entrance. Devastating! The entire camp has been reserved for a family reunion! Grumble grumble and back down the three hills I had just spent so much energy climbing.
The iphone lets us know that there’s a state park not too much further ahead, so we take off again, a few more hills and then we’re there. More hills to climb to get up to the camping area. Amy stops at the historical society building for a break and I go looking for someone to register with.
No one’s at the booth, but they have instructions for leaving your money. Ten dollars for class B, no problem with that. Now I’m really in the deficit and head back down to Amy, taking a few minutes to wolf down most of the rest of the pancakes from breakfast.
I join Amy and the historical society lady, who is avidly showing her around. They have a lot of nineteenth century tools related to making wine, and they still produce some wine in Nauvoo. The lady is speaking a mile a minute, pausing only to apologize for being so enthusiastic. We enjoy our time with her in the cool of the wine cellar, and eventually leave to go pick a campsite and rest. We read and nap until 5, then I wake Amy up so we can go check out the farmer’s market and winery that we were told about earlier.
It takes us some time, energy, and stopping to ask a couple with a bottle of wine to finally get to the farmer’s market, which is one lady with a meager spread – she explains that there is usually another gentleman with a full table. We buy some cookies from her, then head into the winery, where we sample some local vintage, pick a bottle, and supplement it with cheese, crackers, and beef sticks. I say that we don’t have anything to open the wine with, and the girl in the store implies that it’s a screw top.
We take our spread back to an empty picnic table by our site, take off the foil, and… there’s a cork! Without any bottle opener, we brainstorm for a minute. Amy suggests inviting our neighbors to join us, hoping they have one. They look pretty well equipped and approachable, so I walk up to their site and invite them to join us. They accept, bringing their corkscrew and supplementing our fare with triscuits and cheese from Wisconsin, where they live.
Hugh, a recently retired teacher, and his wife Carol, an RN, are great fun to hang out with, and we chat it up for an hour or so. Amy jokes about how she’s responsible for the destruction of the world, based on certain voting choices she’s made in past and present. We talk about politics, public schools, and the Midwest, and eventually they head back to their site.
While Amy takes a shower and I work on her bike trying to improve the operation of her friction shifters and derailleurs, Hugh comes back down and invites us to join them for dinner. Yes! We gladly accept and enjoy a fresh meal of spinach, tortellini, feta, and tomatoes with a nice Cabernet, swapping stories into dusk.
Among the discussions is the legacy of Brett Favre, and Hugh shows off a funny tshirt with a map of Wisconsin, Brett’s face superimposed, and the text, “We’ll never forget you, Brent.” Yes, Brent 🙂 All Amy can do is smile and say, “I hope he goes to the Vikings.”