Anne and I did the Bicycle Fun Club’s Lewis and Clark Departure Days Ride today. We drove over to Alton Illinois and parked downtown by the marina. The ride took us south along the Mississippi. We rode the bicycle path on top of the levee. We started off with a big tailwind, knowing that we would have to crawl back through it on the way back.
Throughout the day, we saw and heard numerous forms of wildlife. We saw a pair of wild turkeys, pictured above. They are a little blurry, because they were quick footing it away from us at the time. We heard many Spring Peepers, except when we stopped to photograph a Great Blue Heron. When it was around the Peepers were strangely quiet. Swallows were out in numbers, wheeling and diving about the sky. On our return trip we saw pelicans and more Blue Herons, including the one pictured below with a Red Winged Blackbird and a gull, at the 400 foot mark of the Mel Price lock and dam.
We cruised down the levee, with occasional dismounts that were required to circumvent annoying bicycle gates that had been raised at some of the vehicle intersections. We came upon the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower in Hartford, IL. This is an observation tower that overlooks the actual departure point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition:
“The mouth of the River Dubois is to be considered as the point of departure.” Captain Lewis, May 14, 1804
Lewis and Clark left Saint Louis to great fanfare; they traveled twenty miles up river to the River Dubois, now in present day Hartford. There they wintered for several months before beginning their journey in earnest.
The Confluence Tower is still under construction, the grounds and the out-buildings have not been finished. It is being privately constructed, with the hope that once completed the State of Illinois will operate it. It won’t be officially opened until this fall, but today and tomorrow (between ten and two) it is open to the public. We took its elevator to its highest observation platform, 150 feet up. The view from there included the Mel Price Lock and Dam and the Alton Bridge to the north. To the south we could see the Chain of Rocks Bridge and because today’s sky was so clear, downtown Saint Louis and the Arch.
We continued south to the Lewis and Clark Celebration. The celebration was being held at the Illinois State Historic Site. This was the turn around point for the short ride which we elected. There were all sorts of historical re-enactors, including one Anne use to work with at the Corps. He was reenacting an American Army surgeon. His description of his pharmacy was quite enlightening. I also enjoyed the blacksmith who was also channeling being a pirate.
The Science Center was there with Segways to rent, five dollars for five minutes. Always the techno-nerd I had to try one. You control forward motion and reverse by leaning, but for me it seemed that it was all in the feet. Stand on your toes to go forward and stand on your heels to go back. There is also a left hand control that turns. After five minutes my feet were getting sore. I guess Segways, like ballet, requires a standing on your toes stamina.
On our return trip we stopped at the Mel Price Lock and Dam Museum. In case you are wondering Mel Price was the Illinois congressmen in whose district this lock and dam was built and more importantly paid for. We got twenty miles today.
This evening we had a Bar-B-Q to go to. I got to use all of this blog material for party conversation! Our hosts were a young couple that both work with me. On display was the husband’s new Lotus sports car. It looked mighty fine. I joked about where you would put the bike rack, until Anne reminded me that when we returned from today’s ride there was a Jaguar convertible with a bike rack on it, parked next to our car.
I like the heron and the blackbird. They are very cute, and out of place.
There were actually several herons hanging out at the lock. I’m guessing that the lock and dam made for some good fishing. All the human fisherman lined up along the banks must have thought so too.