Follow WNIJ Down the Rock River Trail

Credit Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Contributing reporter Dan Libman and WNIJ's Carl Nelson are the first to ride their bicycles along the entire Rock River Trail -- 320 miles from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, to the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois.

Others have motorbiked the trail, and paddled it, but nobody received the Rock River Trail Initiative's 320-Mile Award for pedaling it... until now.

Libman and Nelson shared the experience through five multi-media reports which you can find below in our archive. You also can explore WNIJ's other coverage of Rock River news.

Enjoy -- And make it your goal to ride the entire trail this summer!

Rock River Ride Day 5: The Mighty Mississippi

Jun 15, 2018

I woke up in P-town and found radio’s Carl Nelson in my tent. Apparently his new hammock had not been up to snuff and he was unable to get into a horizontal position. He had earlier told me things would work out and I should not worry, and he was right. He had found a tent to sleep in after all.

Rock River Ride Day 4: Oregon To Prophetstown

Jun 14, 2018
Carl Nelson

A strange night for me last night: camped at home with my own warm shower (I’d give me a positive review), but also still on the ride with Carl, who slept in our basement and ate fresh eggs from our chickens and tortillas from a grocery store.

Rock River Ride Day 3: Rockford

Jun 13, 2018
Carl Nelson

The day started in high style: woke up from a relaxing sleep in my tent to find Carl Nelson already up and walking around the Finks' lawn. We listened with much delight to that day's Rock River Ride, which aired that morning on WNIJ.

Soon our group assembled for breakfast: Professor Fink and his wife and young daughter, Carl and me, and this morning we were joined by bicyclist and Rock River frequenter and enjoyer, Dom Cozzi. We biked into Beloit, the six of us, on a bracing and hilly route into Beloit, which Carl and I found somewhat challenging before breakfast.

Rock River Ride Day 2: Watertown to Beloit

Jun 12, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

We started the day in Watertown, where Carl Nelson and I were pleased to discover the weather had improved considerably.  Instead of cold, it was pleasant and, instead of rain, it was no rain. We had breakfast at a cafe and were met by Chris Fink, Professor of Literature and Wisconsin Awesomeness at Beloit College.

 Carl Nelson and I have spent our first day riding the Rock River Trail. We started in Theresa, Wisconsin— which is not locally pronounced “Ter-ree-sah,” like the saint, but “the Riza,” like the Wu-Tang Clan fellow. Though it was raining hard, Carl and I headed out in good spirits. 

We met up with Greg Farnham, who coordinated the Rock River Initiative, and George Marsh, the president of the Village of Theresa. They gave us good advice about the ride, and Greg even chaperoned us several miles in his car.

Guy Stephens / Black Hawk, Blackhawk, Lorado Taft

An Oregon group supporting restoration of the statue known as Black Hawk wants to establish a dedicated fund to keep it maintained. 

The statue was uncovered recently after being wrapped up for the past few years. Observers noticed some further damage to the statue, and the restoration work isn’t complete.  

The recently passed state budget allocates another $350,000 to the project, but members of Oregon Together, a nonprofit supporting the statue’s restoration, want to go further. 

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

A golf course owner is offering a large sum of money toward restoration of an iconic statue in one northern Illinois park in exchange for a long-term lease of land at another.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The monumental statue known as “Black Hawk” will once again gaze over the Rock River near Oregon, Illinois – at least for the summer. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources swaddled the crumbling statue in heavy black plastic in 2016 to protect it from the elements. That replaced scaffolding and green mesh covering it the two years before that.

Ed Cross of the IDNR said the department now plans to uncover Lorado Taft’s creation to highlight a local campaign raising funds to restore it.

Nicole Shenberger

Cornball. Solar Reef. SoyPod. These are just a few of the names of the sculptures around Oregon, Illinois.

An arts group in the city has been behind an effort to produce ten sculptures in ten years. The final piece is ready.

The next jewel in the crown of the Community Art Legacy sculpture trail features John Phelps, the founder of Oregon. 

I'm Definitely Not Tired of Flats

May 15, 2015

The only thing I love as much as speeding along on my Cannondale road bike is getting a flat tire. I certainly don’t set out hoping to go flat, but I’m very happy if I do. Why?

When I got a flat tire on my first bike, A Trek hybrid, I would leave it for weeks before working up the courage to drive it to my local bike shop to sheepishly ask one of the children who work there to fix it for me. I would bring the whole bike, too afraid to even mess with the quick release skewer.

Credit Chelsey Fulbright / WNIJ

Six months ago this week, residents in Prophetstown woke up to find part of their downtown destroyed by fire.  In July, broken glass and rubble replaced familiar businesses. Eight buildings in all were destroyed. Authorities say the fire was set in a recycling bin behind a restaurant. Two half-brothers are charged with arson. The will have another hearing next week in Whiteside County.

Mayor Steve Swanson says things are moving along smoothly.

"I think by the first of May we will see some nails being pounded here," Swanson said.

Chelsey Fulbright/pixlr

The fire destroyed the city's historical society. The second floor held vintage clothing, which could not be salvaged. Firefighters were able to rescue some items: papers, pictures and paintings. They arrived in various levels of disrepair at a nearby factory for "historical triage."  Two boys are charged with starting the July 15 blaze.

Charlene Hanson now spends her days organizing black-and-white photos from Prophetstown's past at the nearby Penberthy factory. Box fans are set on full blast to dry out the hundreds of pictures in neat piles around her.