Saturday, May 21, 2011

From Indy to Chicago...and Florida?

Hi friends! Last time we posted we were just getting to Indianapolis! Now we're writing from Chicago, where we're staying with Rachael's long time friend, Yuri, and his girlfriend, Randi. But back to Indy--we had a great time there staying with Ed and Ellen Smith. Ed is an amazing retiree who I met through my job at Friends of the World Food Program. It was great catching up and they treated us like royalty with amazing breakfasts and dinners that are making my mouth water as I write this. They definitely made Indy feel like a cozy place to lay our heads. Ed was also so kind to take us to the airport so we could get to Florida for my Brother's wedding.

Ed & Ellen

The wedding was great! Quality time with family and a much needed rest--especially after our emotionally and physically exhausting trip from Bloomington to Indy (in case you forgot, that was the day Rach got bit by a dog and I got two flat tires). We soaked up the sun on the Gulf Coast and rented cruisers to ride around Anna Maria Island (couldn't get enough of the bikes!).

Our weapon of choice in Florida to keep our legs fresh

When we got back from Florida we felt well rested and ready to get back on our bikes. It was going to be a 2 day trek from Indy to my dad's hometown of Hoopeston, IL.

Oddly enough West Lafayette, IN was right in between and I had an old family friend, A.J. Metcalf, who is living there doing his grad work at Purdue University. Perfect! The campus was beautiful and we took a day to rest, perusing around the college town and sipping coffee in cafes, after a 60+ mile day.

No welcome to Illinois sign on dirt road so we made one


On May 13th we got back on our bikes to finally cross over into Illinois--Hoopeston, to be exact, where my Aunt Susie, Uncle Neil and cousins live. This is where my Dad grew up and I visited every year to see my Grandma and Grandpa. My Grandpa moved to Florida and the last time I was there was about 10 years ago for my Grandma's funeral. It was really nice to be back and reflect on childhood memories. Hoopeston is a small town with a population of 6,000 and unfortunately, the story is the same as many small towns with boarded up building and a beautiful main street that is hardly in use anymore. It was really great catching up with family, though. I got to meet Colin, the most recent addition to the family (my cousin's son) and just shot the shit for the weekend.

Uncle Neil & Aunt Susie

The last night we were in Hoopeston we went to see Thor at the movie theater in town and because of high energy prices the theater said that they have to sell at least 10 tickets to show the movie on Monday through Thursday. Four of us were there waiting to see if more people would come, and just when we were about to leave, heartbroken over the whole situation, 6 people showed up and the show went on! The theater was beautiful with a grand balcony and plush seats. But it was so sad to see how it has come to the point where they need 10 people to show a movie.

On Tuesday we headed off towards Chicago--the Windy City. Naturally, we had 12-20mph winds in our face the entire day. That, plus 10 mile stretches of rock roads made it a less-than-relaxing ride. We both hit a wall at 50 miles and decided to camp by a lake in St. Anne, IL. It was great falling asleep to the sounds of cars, trains and geese. Truly one of the most beautiful, relaxing spots we've camped so far.

Sunset peek

On Wednesday we rode about 12 miles then stopped at the adorable Family Restaurant in Momence, IL. The place was filled with older men sipping coffee, talking gas prices, and examining us and our bikes as if we had come from Mars. We had an amazing breakfast and Rach went ahead and left cash for the next four customer's coffees, just to spread some good cheer. It was a really energizing morning!

The Mexican Skillet... Yummmm

The day was a lot less windy and we were able to get to the 95th/Dan Ryan "L" stop in Chicago at 4:30pm. Yes--we decided not to bike all the way into the heart of the city and just take the train. Unfortunately, you can't get on with your bikes from 4-6pm since it's rush hour. But while we were waiting, a Chicago cop was chatting it up with us about our trip, and jaw dropped with disbelief/respect, decided to pay for our train fair into the city. It was quite the experience riding the packed L with our packed bikes.

Loaded on the L

We're having a great time in Chicago so far, seeing old friends and whizzing through the city on our bikes. (Bikers are mighty aggressive in this speedy city). Off to Milwaukee next! More soon. The adventure continues... many updates about health, gear, relationships, a wandering to come.

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