Oakland to Chicago Ė Florissant, MO to Naperville, IL


Denis Kertz, ©2001




Day 48: 10/18/2001, Thursday - Florissant, MO to Havana, IL (pop 3,610) [124.0]

I got up a little later than usual and everyone was already gone except for Jill.I ate breakfast with Jill and then Jill left for work.I packed up and left just before 9:00.I headed north on Howdershell that turned into Shackelford, stopping at a grocery store along the way.I took New Halls Ferry to 67, meeting some good headwind heading southeast.The shoulder was wide but crappy so I rode in the car lane.67 took me northeast to 367 and 367 took me over bridges to cross the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers into Alton.After 17 miles I crossed into Illinois.

I jogged west a short ways in Alton to catch 67 north, passing a riverboat casino that seemed to be busy in the late morning hours.67 had a good shoulder for a while and then it had no shoulder but it was four lanes and the modest traffic gave me plenty of room.When 67 split with 267, it had a good shoulder with modest traffic.As I traveled I couldnít help notice that I was pedaling easy and traveling in the 17-19 mph range.I had a good tailwind that would keep in the 17-20 mph range most of the day.How sweet it was.

When I reached Medora I had a decision to make.I could take 111 northeast towards Springfield or continue north on 67 to Jacksonville.I chose to stay on 67 because I could ride north all day and take advantage of the tailwind whereas it was unclear how to proceed after 111 terminated in Waverly, near Springfield.This route also simplified the way home.I decided I would just head north until I came to the Illinois River and follow it as it headed northeast.Then when the Illinois River took a bend to the east I would just make a beeline for home.

I couldnít believe how I was just flying.When I reached Jacksonville after 80 miles, it was only 3:30.I didnít want to stop and waste the tailwind but I didnít know where I could stay if I continued.I had an Illinois map but it didnít show population, which is important to know to assess service possibilities in small towns.I had to stop at several service stations before finally finding a map with population statistics.

My map showed Virginia with a population of 1,800 in another 15 miles but I was told it had no motels.After that it was Havana with a population of 3,610 but quite a bit further.I continued to Virginia.I stopped a guy on the sidewalk and inquired if there was a city park where I could camp.We walked across the street to a service station where he discussed the situation with his brother but there wasnít anything they knew about until Havana.

I actually wanted to continue to Havana as it was only 4:30 and I had almost two hours of riding time left.However, Havana was another 27 miles and the tailwind seemed to be diminishing.I was also told the next 8 miles were up and down.Nevertheless, I pushed on knowing I would make it but would be racing darkness.

The next 8 miles of up and down werenít that bad and then it was flat and a race against darkness.9 miles before Havana I passed through Bath, a town of 400.It had a city park and a tavern right across the street.It looked good for camping but I was pushing darkness so closely I felt I didnít have time to check if camping there would be OK so I continued.

As I expected, darkness was rapidly closing in as I pulled into Havana.I inquired of a local where to find a motel and settled in a room for $38, a bit expensive but I had no other option.I ate at a restaurant just a short walk from the motel.

The strong tailwind made this a great day.I spent all afternoon in my big chainring, just zipping along.I expected to take 4 days to make it home but knew I could make it in 3 if I had a big day.At 124 miles, this was the longest mileage day ever for me on a bicycle, touring or otherwise.

Day 49: 10/19/2001, Friday - Havana, IL to Peru, IL (pop 9,302) [111.8]

I headed downtown for breakfast.The cafť was easy to locate since it had all the cars in front.It was off the main drag so it appeared to have only locals.There were three big tables where the locals congregated.When someone came in they just surveyed the room and sat at one of the three tables.I was the only one by myself.I had pancakes, bacon, oatmeal, and coffee for less than $5 but the pancakes were just OK.

I picked up a few things at the grocery store and headed north out of town.I took a route through the Chautaugua Wildlife Area near the Illinois River.It was surprisingly scenic.I bet if someone were blindfolded and dropped in this area they would have a hard time guessing they were in west central Illinois.

The route came out at Manito and I headed north.I stopped along the way to watch some soybean harvesting.Yesterday corn seemed to be the predominant crop but today it was soybeans.In contrast to the corn that was mostly harvested, there were still a lot of soybeans waiting for harvesting.

When I reached Pekin the route passed through the Peoria metropolitan area.I stopped at a Subway for lunch and then it took me a good hour to make my way through the area, not very pleasant riding.North of the area I took 26 north along the river.At first there was a fair amount of traffic on a road with no shoulder but then it settled down to intermittent traffic and it was OK.

After 786 miles I reached Lacon that would have been a possible stop except it was only 3:30 and I had 2.5 hours of daylight left.I didnít have a tailwind like yesterday but I was making good progress and every mile today was one less for tomorrow when I would reach home.It was also fairly scenic with glimpses of the river on my left and a tree-lined ridge on my right.This was the best fall foliage so far in Illinois.

When I reached McNabb Road, I took it east to McNabb, leaving the river and climbing modestly.In McNabb I took 89 north.I could tell I would be pushing darkness some but I figured not as much as yesterday.I crossed the Illinois River on a narrow bridge with a car trailing behind me, refusing to pass even though it was safe, probably because there was a no-pass stripe.

In Spring Valley there was no motel so I got advice to head 3-4 miles toward Peru where there was one.It was now about the same time as yesterday when I pulled into Havana.Just outside Peru there was a motel but it wasnít well located with respect to restaurants so I cruised through town.There was nothing else so I retraced my way back in near darkness.

The motel cost $25 but I had to pay cash since they didnít take credit cards.I only had $23 in bills but had just enough in change to make the $25.I cleaned up and walked a ways to an Italian restaurant that I made sure would take my credit card.I ordered a deep-dish pizza but wasnít sure whether to get a small or medium so I used good judgment and ordered the larger size to make sure I had enough.It was very good, maybe the best pizza of the trip.I took one-piece home for desert.

Day 50: 10/20/2001, Saturday - Peru, IL to Naperville, IL (pop 128,358) [72.6]

I rode into town and stopped at an ATM machine to get cash.I rode through town looking for breakfast but didnít find anything so I rode on to La Salle, which is practically connected to Peru.I found a restaurant and had oatmeal and pancakes.

I left about 9:30 heading east on US 6.As soon as I got out of the La Salle-Peru area it had a nice shoulder and traffic was relatively light on a Saturday morning.It was 13 miles to Ottawa and just outside Ottawa I took 71 northeast to Oswego.For the first 10 miles or so 71 had a good shoulder and the moderate traffic was no issue.Then the shoulder degenerated to a 6-9Ē shoulder that was almost useless because there were cracks in the white line and I typically needed to ride to the left of the white line.Eventually the white line improved and I could use more of the shoulder.

I stopped at a Subway in Newark for a sandwich and an ice cream cookie sandwich.I figured this was my last opportunity for ice cream since tomorrow I would have to go back to a normal diet.As I neared Oswego I was in familiar territory but chose to stay on 71 as the fastest way home.I had a pretty good tailwind and was making good time.Near Oswego I met another cyclist who doubled back to talk to me but we had to ride single file so conversation was limited.

At Plainfield Road I turned right and he continued on.I took a familiar route to Naperville using side roads.As I turned on to my street my next-door neighbor drove by in his car and welcomed me home.




Copyright Denis Kertz, 2001. All rights reserved.