Chicago to Keokuk, 381 miles, two bicycles.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

nicholas: a beginning

While riding our beat bicycles through the streets of Chicago, Emily and i dubbed this ride "Summer Grandma Tour" or something like that. I knew someday i would to ride across the Midwest to Keokuk, Iowa to visit my grandmother. This day has finally come.

We will begin our voyage on Friday, July 9th at 6:00 am. Keep posted to this web site for updates!

Friday, July 09, 2004

emily: now it begins

a small delay

woke up at 5 a.m. no alarm
now it begins

nicholas: can't find a good restaurant in Joliet

we made it to Joliet by 7pm. i exploded three innertubes this morning trying to install my new tires. we departed whipple street at 10am.

some rain, some big hills, lots of suburban vehicles.

the best part was waving back to a fisherman. he had a beard like a mountain man. i hope i get to wave at more bearded fishermen.

emily: steepest of hills

so we finally started
even after many difficulties

a few months before this trip things seemed to be going to so good
some of our problems::
stupid cars + bikes = bent frames
new bike + stupidity = stolen bike
2 new bikes - panniers = not ready

plus a pinched nerve scare for emily and bad back/shoulder for nic

but we have gotten through those problems
and landed ourselves in joliet tonight

we crossed over many many hills
that i thought were impossible
we made it over the steepest of hills to find cows welcoming us on the downhill

i used to be afraid of hills
now i look at them
more as a challenge

(( i used to think the hills on milwaukee ave. were hard))

now we eat.

Monday, July 12, 2004

nicholas: Annawan, Illinois

four miles of asphalt after ninety miles of gravel. we found a grocery store after running out of fruit & hunky-monkey vegan energy bars. we are hungry and ready for showers.

we should mention the amazing people and places we have confronted in our travels thus far...

+ NUTRALICIOUS BAKING COMPANY!!! they gave us vegan donuts for our trip. (they were the flame!)

+ Joey, the proprietor of an Italian restaurant in Joliet who fed is the most amazing pasta. he wouldn't let us pay! and he gave us a bag of bread and biscotti.

+ the man relaxing in his backyard with a beer in a beer cozy. we took a break from the I&M trail to eat lunch (leftover pasta) and he came up to chat with us. his daughter brought us orange juice.

+ George, a man in Utica, Illinois with hundreds of wood carvings in a little shack off of the trail. he waved to us and we ended up spending half an hour with him. a photo on the way...

we must be off. thirty more miles till Moline.
-nic & emily.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

emily: moline, illinois

just outside moline

the small town my grandparents grew up

i finally get to ride past the pharmacy my great-grandpa worked at, and wrote down all his prescriptions in that little book that my grandma had shown me.

i get to see the homes were my grandparents lived as kids.
the town where they were high school sweethearts.

i'm finally putting an image to their memories and stories.

nicholas: We are Scavengers

Hot tar and a leaky tire are what i remember best from yesterday. and itchy mosquito bites. We folded up our tent, packed our bags, and headed into town yesterday morning for breakfast in Wyanet (see map). The only thing on the menu was biscuits & gravy. Off we rode, mostly on the Hennapin Canal trail, but then took a country road detour to Mineral and then Annawan for groceries. The country roads were smooth rolling for a while until we came upon one section of road with too much tar. The temperature was pushing ninety degrees and our tires began to stick to the road in sections, slowing us down and wearing us out. We took the next road back to the gravel canal path.

When we arrived in Colona, some kids on a teeter-totter yelled out to us, "Are you scavengers?!"
I replied, "Yes. What do you have for us?!"
"A bracelet!"
"OK!" i agreed to accept their offering and the three kids jumped on their bikes and rode over to us. A twelve-year old girl handed me a pink plastic bracelet. Emily and i chatted with the kids for a while. It was a perfect ending to an exhausting day.

Last night, we stopped by Hy-Vee (the local grocery store) and feasted on organic garlic bread, eggplant hummous, tomatoes and...AVOCADOS! I ate four sandwiches. yum.

I think our bodies are regaining energy. Yesterday we ran low on food and had to stop by a highway diner called Olympic Flame. Emily ate a salad and i had oatmeal and french fries. Not exactly a complete, nutritious meal. If only we had more Nutrilicious Bakery donuts...

Two more days till Keokuk.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

emily: hottest day

yesterday was the hottest it has been
the guys at the moline bike store said summer is finally beginning
and decided defrost their fridge.

the sun beat down on us all day

as the sun began to set we
found a small house with the sign
"pickles, sweet corn, peaches, tomatoes. . ."

they closed at 7
we arrived at 6:58

and we bought some fruits

i think we had found the best peaches in illinois. they couldn't be more perfect!
especially after the hottest day.

we slept under the stars
until the ranger made us put up a tent
half asleep we quickly put up the tent
that reminded
me of the tent my sister and i would make with chairs and the pink blanket.
raccoons woke us up every few minutes
opening the bags to reach for our food.

today is much cooler
so we should start riding again.

nicholas: Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River

When we crossed the Mississippi River today, i felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I felt satisfied that we had pushed our bodies to carry us across the state of Illinois--over hills and under bridges and through grass and gravel and sticky asphalt. We have both fallen and cursed and laughed. At times, we have both been equally scared and frustrated and tired and famished. We have both slept on the same hard ground each night, under the same rickety tent. We eat the same food and drink the same water. I'm more than grateful for my travel companion. This has been a long 200 miles. I'm ready for hundreds more.

But first, a nap!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

nicholas: KEOKUK!

Thursday, 6:23pm
We crossed Mississippi River into Keokuk, tired but elated. 80 miles today and over 300 miles for the entire trip. We took a moment to celebrate at the border of Iowa:

yo! View more photographs from our voyage! 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

nicholas: A Distance Traveled

52 mi :: Friday - Chicago to Joliet
44 mi :: Saturday - Joliet to Marsalis (I&M Canal)
40 mi :: Sunday - Marsalis to Lock 17, near Wyanet (Hennapin Canal)
58 mi :: Monday - Lock 17 to East Moline
45 mi :: Tuesday - Moline to Loud Thunder Forest Preserve
63 mi :: Wednesday - Loud Thunder to Keithsburg
80 mi :: Thursday - Keithsburg to Keokuk, Iowa

We rode 381 miles. One flat tire.
We tried sleeping in a greenhouse one night, but it got too spooky.
Racoons stole a cookie out of nic's pannier another night.
We have a combined total of 873 mosquito bites.
BUT. . .
We receieved one free pasta dinner, one free bicycle tube, one free saddle for emily, a whistle, a bracelet, vegan donuts, not-so-vegan danishes, O.J., and a green pepper from a trucker, and we sipped water on a porch with strangers.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

nicholas: NEXT: Yellow Springs, Ohio

We made it home on an Amtrak train--Macomb, Illinois to Chicago in a three hour blur. I always enjoyed the train, but compared to bicycling, there's not much of a view.

Our decision to take the train home and not to ride our bicycles was primarily to save time. We wanted to return to Chicago to see our friends and say goodbye to a couple leaving for Europe and a friend leaving for Palestine. We will be leaving as well: Monday is our scheduled departure for Indianapolis. We found six dollar train tickets to the racecar capital of the world, and from there we will pedal our bicycles about 150 miles to Yellow Springs, Ohio. Yellow Springs is host to the SEAC Activist Training Camp (, where emily and i will attend until the fifth. I go east and emily heads back to chicago, and our duo cycling adventures for this summer will conclude.

Until then, we will keep this site updated with our stories and photos on the road. Thanks for being a part of it.