Illinois 2010 – Day 5

Forest Glen Preserve to Weldon Springs State Park: Landfill or glacial moraine?

Monday May 10, 2010, 88 miles (142 km) – Total so far: 194 miles (312 km)

I get away early – early enough I have to use the combination the ranger gave me last night to open the front gate locks to get out of the park. Breakfast is at McDonald’s where the local farmer contingent is sitting around a table solving the world’s problems and giving me a curious stare. Eventually they ask how far I’m riding and just shake their heads and laugh (at me, not with me) when I tell them Monticello (about 50 miles away). One ornery old guy with a John Deere ball cap says, ‘watch out for the truck drivers, they’ll want to run you down’. Is he one of them? I politely thank him for the tip. The older lady who serves me is distinctly unfriendly. So I get out of there with my orange juice and sausage biscuit as fast as I can. This is definitely not ‘trail magic’!

I’ve got a nice southeasterly quartering tailwind again as I head west. I torture Verne with a few miles on a gravel road. This one follows some high-tension powerlines and is in quite good shape. I’ve got the road to myself so I can ride wherever the sweetest line happens to be.

Heading west on a good gravel road – no cars, but sun, slight quartering tailwind, life is good.

As I ride, I notice this big ‘hill’ to the south. As I get closer, I’m trying to figure out what the heck it is. It is sort of a long oval shape a couple hundred feet tall, covered in grass. I start to feel sorry for the locals – that their county has accepted the offer to be a landfill for some urban area. But as I get closer still, I realise it’s not a landfill at all. There are several similar hills around. I then realize that these must be some lateral moraines from the last glaciation. How cool!! I’m a nerd, so I spend the next hour or so thinking about the landscape – the depth of the thick soils, what the landscape would have looked like as the glaciers retreated, and the different time scales that we live within.

Glacial moraines = good corn growing soils nearby!

I note that the county roads are in better shape here than in Indiana. By the time I’ve made it to Tolono, the wind has strengthened and is giving me a decent quartering push. I’m averaging 14 miles per hour. I could not go this speed without some assistance. There’s a crew of about eight guys repairing the railroad crossing in Tolono as I ride by. They look at me as though I’m the strangest thing they’ve seen in weeks, so I give a wave and a smile, what else do you do? One smiles and waves back, the rest just stare on. Luckily, I cross the gaps in the tracks without wiping out and embarrassing myself. I then make a guess that I need the next left and luckily this is correct, and this leads me to another road that leads up and over the interstate (I-57).

By this point, I need to pee and I’m on the lookout for a bush or something to hide behind. There’s not much traffic out on these farm roads, but Murphy’s Law dictates that the second I squat in the open is when a car will turn down that road. I do think this may be one of the distinct disadvantages of being a female cycling tourist. I cannot as easily pee anywhere at anytime like a male. It would not be as bad later in the year when the corn is up and you can disappear down the row, but right now most of the fields are still empty or just sprouting two-inch tall corn, so you can see half-naked folks from a long distance away.

There’s a distinct lack of women’s restrooms (i.e. bushes or corn rows) available at this time of year along the road in Illinois and Indiana.

I’ve put in 50 miles by 11 and get to Monticello around noon. It’s a nice old, railroad town with an intact downtown. The visitor centre is in the old railroad station. My first visit is the restroom (ahhh .). I then have a look through the brochures, trying to figure out if there are any must-see’s in town and whether I should camp at the park north of town. The brochures are in the main waiting room, but there’s a woman sitting behind a desk in an old office with a glass door. She watches me looking at the brochures, but never comes out to see if she can help me. This unfriendliness aids my decision to keep going. I also take into consideration that I’ve got a good quartering tailwind, I can’t see anything that looks like a must-do in town, and it’s only noon. I think I should ride the tail-wind as far as I can.

Train Depot in Monticello, IL Unfriendly lady at the tourist info centre waits within.

So I stop at Subway, where the two sandwich artist guys in their 20s tease me that I should just DRIVE to Colorado. They don’t ‘get it’ but they are good-humoured and wish me well. I eat half the sandwich in the little linear park along the old rail line and listen to the weather radio. Yep, storms forecast tonight and headwinds tomorrow.

The wind pushes me along to Weldon Springs State Park. I get into the campground and there are a few other campers, but it’s pretty dead. The camphosts have their radio blaring which I take to mean they aren’t around. I check out the toilets and look for a site close by (in case I need to run for shelter in the night) before realising they have some cheaper walk-in sites. These sites are well-protected and somewhat private as each little site is surrounded by bushes. I set up my tent, have a shower, eat the rest of my sandwich and attempt to pay my site fee in the designated camphost hours, but the group of people sitting at the table out the front of the camper don’t offer to help me, so I just head back to my tent. Never mind, I’ll pay in the morning before I go or they can come chase me up for it. The rain starts soon after.

Walk-in tent sites are available at Weldon Springs State Park, IL

There are wild storms through the night and I’m grateful for the shelter of the bushes to break the squalling winds I can hear in the tree tops above. I don’t sleep well as the lightning and thunder comes and goes all night long. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a fear of thunderstorms. Riding across the Plains in May will either cure me of the fear or further ingrain it.

Ave speed: 14mph

Max speed 26.2

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