Day 9: Champaign-Urbana to Kickapoo State Park, Danville, IL

23 Aug

Tonight is my first night camping alone. I’m in Kickapoo State Park, just west of Danville, IL, after a day of over 35 miles and about 4 ½ lovely hours.

I started the day in Champaign, meeting Tony (of the Urbana BIke Project) in front of the fancy new library for the ride out of town. At least, that was the plan, but I sounded like a one-woman band creaking and squeaking and grinding the half-mile down the road…and it turned out a broken spoke was mostly to blame. That, and a little thirst for grease elsewhere. Unfortunately, Tony had to work, so this put a serious damper on his plans for a morning ride. Fortunately, he’s an understanding and generous guy, so he opened up the co-op for a little early morning wrenching. Carl stopped by – he runs the Bike Project on campus – and got to rub in his warnings of Sunday evening that I should be carrying spare spokes and a freewheel tool, and we were on the road for real at 7:30.

Tony pointed me to Homer Lake, a perfect mid-way stop for my second breakfast – a tradition I could eagerly continue once this expedition is over. I was there by 9, and only after I left did the early-morning mists finally fade away.

I then barely caught myself in a lesson learned riding through rural Illinois – when I realized I was nearly out of cash and headed to a campground for dinner and bed, I looked at the map and was immediately suspicious whether any of the handful of towns I was going to pass through would have any businesses at all, let alone one with an ATM.

A thankfully short detour and another dozen miles later, I rolled into Kickapoo State Park. I set up camp, got one of the greatest phone calls of my life, from Liberia (thank god for wireless technology!), and headed over to the concessions building for some lunch, phone calls, and a hike.

Illinois is no North Carolina, and the Lincoln Trail has absolutely NOTHING on the Blue Ridge Parkway – except for its being an easier bike ride. Kickapoo is a nice place to camp, but I’m holding out for Knox County in September for nice scenery.

I met some great people having a book club meeting as I ordered my ham sandwich for dinner, and a couple of other great fellow campers, but I must say, as darkness begins to fall, that my favorite new friends today are the six deer who seem to favor my campsite and the other “primitive” ones down the road.

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