We drove to Collinsville, IL, just across the river and enjoyed a wonderful day of cycling in the country. We biked to Edwardsville and back, with a little extra backtracking to retrieve a lost water bottle. Bonus miles! The field of yellow flowers that Anne is standing before is rapeseed and is grown for its canola oil. We rode in Madison County that has literally hundreds of miles of rails-to-trails bike paths. I had to invoke Google maps to navigate their labyrinth around Edwardsville and when we exited the paths in downtown Edwardsville, Google dumped us on a brick paved street, pavé. One nice feature of these trails are their numerous tunnels that cross under busy thoroughfares and facilitate car free cycling. There is no need to dodge traffic. We counted eleven on our route. They are usually very dark, especially while wearing sunglasses on such a brilliant day so that diving into one is almost like taking a leap of faith into a black hole. We lunched at Foundry Public House. Anne had a flatbread dish, while I had a burger and Greek fries, which are cooked with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, parsley, and grated Mizithra cheese. Yummy!
Saturday night, we made it to the botanical gardens for the second iteration of the Chinese lantern festival. I liked these dandelion sculptures when I first saw them during the day, but they are positively glowing at night. We both took plenty of photographs at the festival, so expect to see more of them.
Today was another big bike riding day, with Trailnet’s Bridge Birthday Bash, held at the old Chain of Rocks Bridge. We did the long route for 53 miles. I am finally beginning to believe that we will be able to do our big Michigan bicycle ride this summer, without dying. The Mississippi River is in full flood, but we crossed it, twice. A number of the trails along the river were flooded, but we were able to detour around them. It rained and we got wet, but we persevered. At ten minutes to three, we were the last two riders to finish, but we finished and Anne is happy, so I’m happy too. It’s just that my butt isn’t very happy right now, but it will get over it.
Big bicycle day today, 50 miles and still feeling fine and hoping to do it again tomorrow. We rode the bicycle trails of Madison County today, which include many bike bridges, but also many bike tunnels too. We put-in at the Collinsville trailhead and then rode through Glen Carbon, Marine, Hamel and Edwardsville and then back again to the car. We had lunch at Weezy’s Route 66, which is a bar in Hamel. I took a photo of their menu, for the picture with this post. The building on the right is where Weezy’s is now. It shows an electric trolley passing through town. This trolley must have hauled tourist from Saint Louis out into the country, for a little fresh air. There are the remains of this elevated trolley line that started in the near north side of downtown Saint Louis and crossed the Mississippi on the McKinley Bridge. Part of it has already been converted to an elevated bike trail and there are plans to do the rest of the line and make it into something like NYC’s High Line someday. We also saw Kaldi’s team members Bob and Evelyn, who were also out on their bikes in Madison County. The weather was so beautifully cool today and dry too for a change. Anne called it cabin weather.
OMG and I don’t mean the usual, “Oh My God” use for this acronym, but instead are referring to Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. Those OMGs had a bit of a dustup down in Waco a little while back. Where more than a few cyclists were lost at the Twin Peaks that day. I guess that’s why our little gang’s enforcer, Strife, launched our death march ride today. Maybe she had a tribute ride in mind? Maybe she was just getting all fury road? I don’t know. When Strife says ride, I don’t ask where to, but instead just throw my leg over the cycle, get my motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure, in whatever way it comes, with her. We were born to be wild! But then we got old. Our little ride today, turned into a real three-hour tour. We’re too small a gang to have a cool name like the Diablos or the Cossacks, after all it’s just Strife and me, but when we ride we’re always ready to rumble. Our little OMG is not so much a motorcycle gang as it is a MCT-cycle gang. The MCT stands for Madison County Trails, where there are hundreds of miles of rails-to-trails bike routes. Still, you don’t want to find yourself down some dark Madison County bike path, trapped between a bollard and us. I’m just saying.
Yesterday, Anne was off from school, so she had arranged a visit with Sharon, a friend from her Corps of Engineers days. They went to Kimmswick, a boutique Mississippi River town, south of Saint Louis. Anyway, it got her out of the city for the first time in a while and she liked it, she really liked it. Today, after Dave left to hang with his buddies and it was time for us to go bicycling, Anne announced that she wanted to get out-of-town again. We loaded up the bikes and headed across the river to Illinois.
We put-in at Collinsville, rode up to Edwardsville, circled round to Horseshoe Lake and then back to Collinsville. We saw fellow Team Kaldis members, Bob and Evelyn on the trails. They were doing the same loop as we were, only in reverse. Horseshoe was overrun with coots. When we got back to the car, there was a vintage car show getting underway at the neighboring Culver’s, a fast-food place. After we ate, we toured the cars. This show will make for a great warm-up for tomorrow’s annual Easter car show in Forest Park.
We rode the middle route of Trailnet’s Route 66 bicycle ride today. This ride was a lot easier than the Great Pizza ride of two weeks ago. There were almost no hills and the wind was hardly noticeable. We drove to Edwardsville, IL, which was holding its annual Route 66 festival. From there we looped north, riding on parts of historic Route 66 and also some Madison County bike trails.
The Pink Elephant Antique Mall was certainly the highlight of this ride for us. This antique mall adjoins I-55 in Livingston, IL. I-55 has usurped the Mother Road’s preeminence is this part of Illinois. We’ve driven by the Pink Elephant countless times on runs to Chicago and beyond, but we’ve never bothered to stop at it, while we were whizzing down the interstate in our automobile. The slower mode of locomotion that bicycling affords lends itself to the kinds of attractions that were the regular fare, when Route 66 was in its prime.
The Pink Elephant may have been the highlight of this ride, but it certainly wasn’t its only attraction. The farmers are slowly, but steadily getting the corn crop in the ground this year. With all of the rain that we’ve received, it has been difficult for them to find enough dry time, to plow and plant. While most of the corn is only ankle high, a few fields are more than knee-high. I give those fields the best chance to be as high as a pink elephant’s eye, by the Fourth of July. But considering the wizardry that is occurring at Monsanto these days, I wouldn’t count out any of the planted fields that we saw today, in their race for the height of an elephant’s eye. While almost everything is quite green, there were some fields of weeds that were grey and desiccated. I figured that they had been sprayed with Round-Up and were now ready for tilling and planting.
We saw a lot of storm damage from last weekend’s storms. One farm had all of its trees ripped to shreds and a large multi-story corrugated storage bin lay crumpled and twisted on its side. The farmer was busy burning the downed limbs in a huge bonfire in the back, while his children ran about playing in the driveway. That must have been one scary night for them. When we got back to Edwardsville, we came in on a bicycle trail. It was completely cleared, but you could see all of the scuffing and scrapes that the workmen and their heavy equipment did to the trail’s asphalt pavement. Most of this work was needed on sections of trail that ran along the raised bed of the old railroad line. On either side of this earthen trestle countless trees lay fallen, either snapped like twigs or hacked into submission by chain saws. Last weekend we encountered some storm damage on the bicycle trails on Edwardsville’s southeast side. Today’s storm signs were on the northwest side and they were way worse.
To end on a happier note, we did see a couple of other oddities and they were almost adjoining each other. One was like a Noah’s Ark farm. It had miniature ponies, llamas, emus, donkeys, goats, sheep, ducks, geese and who knows what else. Just down the road a bit was a house, whose yard was filled with handmade lawn art, punctuated with political and religious signs. One sign said, “Make Chicago a State”. Downstate Illinoisans don’t appreciate the fact that greater Chicago’s much greater population rules politics in the state. The lawn art also had a Noah’s Ark feel. Most of the sculptures were of animals that might have been on the Ark. That is except for one pair, a pair of dinosaurs. One of this pair lay stricken on the ground, while the other hovered over it. I guess that is one explanation of how and when the dinosaurs went extinct.