Four miles north of La Salle, we found an open bicycle shop and purchased an additional inner tube. A Holiday Inn Express was a mile further down the road and opted for another night of decent rest. Of course, as we left the hotel in the morning, I noted that once again my back tire was flat. Pat pumped up my tire and we dashed back to the bicycle shop. It was Saturday and the shop didn’t open until 10 a.m. When the owner arrived, he eventually diagnosed the problem. Using a magnifying glass, he found a tiny thorn. Because we had over 60 miles on another canal path, this time the Hennepin Canal and we understood that the first ten miles had chunky new gravel, I opted to purchase a more durable tire. (note to self – on the next bicycle trip, we should carry a magnifying glass).
After 15 miles of cycling on back roads, we arrived in the small town of Bureau Junction, shared a Dr. Pepper under a picnic shelter and entered the Hennepin Canal Trail. Our goal was Lock 22 which offered a primitive camping site. This canal was filled with water but the cycling was grueling. Unlike the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail, there was no posted information about this canal and no mileage markers. The only signage we did find had been weathered to the point where it was no longer readable. The only people we saw on the path were fishing near some of the locks. When we arrived at the visitor center, we discovered it had been shuttered for lack of staff. At around 5 p.m. we had five more miles
to our designated campsite. I was beginning to wonder if that particular campsite was a good idea. That’s when we spotted a sign for the HickoryGrove Campground, the only commercial enterprise on the canal. It looked appealing but we weren’t sure they would take us in because most of the campground was filled with RVs. Joan, one of the two owners, found us a tent spot. “Do not camp under any tree limbs,” she said; “One fell right next to a camper a while back.” Then she changed her persona. “But why are you doing this?” she asked. Wouldn’t you rather take a trip to Hawaii or take up sailing?”We shook our heads. “And whose idea was this trip?” Pat pointed at me. That’s when she loaded him up with a huge bag of popcorn and two popsicles.
We found our spot in the campground and began to set up the tent. It had been two years and we wondered whether we would easily remember how to do so. And then, two men in a golf cart pulled up and invited us to have dinner with them and their wives. “We barbecued chicken and there’s plenty,” they said
It didn’t take more than a minute for us to agree to dine with them. We had been planning a dinner of cold baked beans and yogurt. And that’s how the thorn in the morning turned into a rose. Jerry, Bob, Connie and Deb spend several months at the campground and then in the winter they move west to Arizona. After dinner, we moved on to Bob’s bonfire and Joan and Dave, the campground owners and their adult children, Grace and Angie, joined us for stories late into the night. At one point we looked up in the sky and got excited when we saw Elon Musk’s 15 satellites all in a contiguous line.
On Sunday morning, we packed up and put our wheels back on the Hennepin Canal for 30 more miles. It was a never ending sight of water, trees, lily pads over and over again. When we arrived at the canal’s end we celebrated our good fortune – no more flat tires, with more Dr. Pepper. It was a treat to once again cycle in neighborhoods and on paved roads. In East Moline, we jumped on the Great River Trail next to the Mississippi River We stopped to admire the mighty river, cycled a few more miles and crossed over it on an expansive bridge that carries vehicles and pedestrians. Our destination for the night was Davenport, Iowa. Dustin Collison, our Warm Shower’s host, greeted us and helped us get settled in our overnight accommodations and found us an open place for a meal. As usual, every day brings a new adventure.
Shevonne and Pat