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.
After a hasty packin’ up, I had a few moments to reflect on what the river has meant to me, lo these many days—how it changed me, and how my feelings for the river have altered—and came up with something that seemed sort of interesting. I looked around for Carl so that I could glibly say it into a microphone.
Once the perfunctory record’n was completed, Carl and I headed to Casey’s for coffee and donuts, and then we biked over to Erie’s Pink Pony, where we had an fantastic breakfast, which was reasonably priced.
But then the exciting stuff started to happen. We met three riders on the road who told us Bareback was on his way. And soon, he and his friend Ray met us. Bareback had food and water and escorted us carefully for the final 25 miles, where Rock River meets the Mississippi -- and where saltwater met tear ducts.
Carl and I fist-bumped and held hands, Thelma and Louise style, as we crossed the finish line, tying each other to be the first ever bipeds to ride the length of the Rock River on bicycles. It was beautiful: there was even a freaking barge going across the Mississippi. A barge!
I had to step away from the scrum of teeming media to collect my thoughts. I stood at the edge of the confluence of the Mississippi with my back to the river whose length I had just ridden, lost in thought. I believe it made for a good photo for the Quad City reporters; we’ll see tomorrow.
We hope that, in sharing our adventures, others will be inspired to ride the trail as well. Our trip was fun, beautiful, challenging -- and we learned a lot.
Carl and I felt grateful toward Greg Farnham for setting us off on our journey and escorting us almost as far as the Horicon Marsh. We were grateful to Augie Tietz and George Marsh and Joshua Mueller for hospitality and intel on both ends of our first day.
Special shout-out to Professor Chris Fink for showing us things about Wisconsin we never knew before, and especially for introducing us to poet Lorine Niedecker, whose collected works I would already have ordered if one of my kids hadn’t changed the Amazon password. Also thanks to the Fink family for lawn-camping hospitality and for loaning Chris out for this project.
Thanks to Dom Cozzi for riding with us out Oregon-way, and for Theresa Oldenburg for showing us around the amazing Nature at the Confluence center in South Beloit. Thank you Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford, for making time to speak to us and for nudging me out of the way of a speeding tricycle, but mostly for accepting my Facebook friend request while not accepting Carl’s.
Thank you to Andy Dettman for showing us around Oregon’s Eagle’s Nest art gallery, and to Bike Ogle’s Terry Schuster for talking to us, and to Scott Stephens for providing great Ogle photo-ops and great photography. (Scott, NPR will now show up in your Google searches. No good deed, eh?)
Thanks to Aaron and Christy Sitze for letting us take a canoe trip with White Pelican. Eternal thanks to both Bob bartenders, in Dixon and P-town, for offering free booze and food which we couldn’t, and mostly didn’t, accept.
Special thanks to Ray Morrison for riding out to meet us, and especially to Dean “Bareback” Mathias, for organizing, arranging, and inspiring me and a generation of cyclists to ride better, be nicer, and to always talk to new people.
Last during this gratitude frenzy: Thanks to Carl Nelson for putting up with me for a week, who produced radio in noisy bars while his partner whined about needing to go to sleep, to Danny K and the staff of WNIJ for including me on this wild, bottom-chaffing ride.
Most of all, thank you to Molly McNett, for marrying me and then driving to both ends of the trail, once to pick us up and once drop us off. In essence you did the Rock River Trail twice this week, but no one interviewed you or gave you a badge. I therefore give you my 320 Badge as a show of love and appreciation. Can you please sew it on my messenger bag?
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