Day 4: Gilman to Fairbury, IL

18 Aug

Today was the flattest, straightest ride I’ve ever taken. It was a short one, 4 hours and 32 miles of flat, straight roads through the cornfields. Ending at Kilgus Farms in the early afternoon for some communing with cows.

I was happy to leave Gilman. My maps were mislabeled starting at mile 1, but the roads are so square and straight that it really didn’t matter.

It was also pretty cool to ride past and over and beside so many railroad tracks – even the ominous train wreck site outside of Chatsworth, IL.

The cornfields are nice, but it does get a little monotonous and I was eager to take a break when the occasion arose at 1200 East. Steven had sent me a message saying I was passing right by the location of one of the worst train wrecks in American history, just east of Chatsworth, IL. I called my Dad for some emergency research, to find the more exact location of the crash so I didn’t end up riding in loops around Chatsworth and Piper City.

The story takes place in 1887. (If you don’t care about trains, skip this section. It’s the most interesting that happened on today’s ride.) The weather was so dry on August 12 in 1887 that a bit of brush on the side of the tracks caught alight as the train passed, a passenger train taking tourists from Niagara Falls to Peoria. The flames spread quickly, causing the bridge over a culvert to collapse, and the train plunged into the “abyss.” While that term may be arguable, the devastation was not, as the press from the day was not hesitant to report in sensationalist detail. In a bizarre coincidence, another train wreck occurred at the same location, just over a week ago, on the exact anniversary of the 1887 tragedy.

I took a moment to reflect on the disaster, eating a second breakfast break of my leftover pizza from dinner and a nature break, before continuing on my way.

My only other pause was to photograph this beautiful barn that stood gracefully on a slight rise to the north of the road, covered in little purple flowers and standing majestically in the sunshine and amidst the endless cornfields.

I arrived at my destination for the day, Kilgus Farms, before 1:00 – just enough time to eat some amazing soft-serve ice cream before joining a tour of the farm with staff from Bistro Campagne, a Chicago restaurant, before heading into town to restock at the hardware store and grocery store.

The Fairbury Fair was in town this week, so I was lucky enough to get dinner next to the demolition derby! I was truly impressed by the spectacle of this fair in such a remote town, but I suppose with a name like Fairbury I suppose one must aim to exceed expectations.

I had intended to camp in Matt and Jenna’s yard, to keep an eye on my yogurt incubating overnight, but a big bank of clouds rolling in as the sunset approached made me tear down camp and take them up on their offer of a bed in their basement.

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