The Missionary Position

Henry to Kewanee: (68kms)

We decamped the waterfront park, but not after having to dry our tent out again from the morning’s dew. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long and we were making our way through the shady streets of Henry to a Casey’s gas station on the outskirts of town for breakfast.

Out past the showgrounds, we were back in the cornfields again, crisscrossing our way to the town of Bradford for lunch. As we rode into the town I realised it was Sunday. The first church car park was full and some mightily well-dressed kids were sitting on the fence out the front looking suitably bored, probably with a leave pass to avoid any embarrassment to their parents inside while the service was in progress.

The town’s main street was flanked by large, well-kept lawns and neat and tidy houses, which only extend for a block on either side. We had to ride to the other end of town before finding any shops. Sure enough, we found another Casey’s gas station and parked our bikes in the shade, it was pretty hot now.

As we sat outside in what little shade the building provided us, the front of the gas station filled up with Harley Davidson motorbikes. Bradford was obviously a popular day ride and, as it was Sunday, all the bikers were out shattering the peace of the countryside. All these guys with their girlfriends on the back get out every weekend and cruise around with their friends of similar tastes. We have groups of 30 or 40 sometimes going past us, but none of them are gangs, just folk who love leather, bandanas and American flags. Some of them even wave to us. It’s not the usual wave, but a rather inconspicuous but cool tilt of the hand at waist level, a “respect” for fellow bikers. We discovered this when riding across Australia when motorbike gangs crossing the Nullabour would do it to us. So, we do it back now, but not everyone responds, especially these weekend wonders who think they’re too good to acknowledge cyclists!

Kewanee, Illinois
On the backroads to Kewanee

Having had a good rest and rehydrated, we filled our bottles with ice again and headed off towards Kewanee where we had booked another Warmshowers (WS) place. Passing through the tiny town of Osceola, we eventually entered Kewanee via McClure Street, hot and sweaty and looking for a cold drink.

We consorted with Google Maps again and decided to head for an Italian restaurant just down the road. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell beers and suggested we try the Broken Chimney Bar and Grill further down the road, which was nice of them. So, after a cooked lunch and some craft beer, we headed over to our WS house just around the corner.

Our host wouldn’t be home tonight but was totally OK with us staying there and pitching our tent on the grass at the back of his house. He had left his basement open which had a rather rustic shower and a  toilet, but good enough for us. We got cleaned up and wandered back over to the Broken Chimney and sat at the bar with Ryan, the barman, who told us about himself and how he worked two jobs to support his young family. He was a really nice guy, well-spoken and extremely polite. We’d hire this guy to work for us in a minute! We really hope things work out for him.

Kewanee Illinois
Ryan, the barman at the Broken Chimney in Kewanee. Great guy!

Kewanee to Preemption: (72kms)

We got away early, heading north we picked up the 81 and rode west to Cambridge, another pretty town, where we stopped at the BP and got something to eat while we worked out where we’d be staying tonight.

The next place with anywhere to camp was Muscatine, across the Mississippi in Iowa and a bit too far for us to ride today. With some careful study of Google Maps, we discovered the tiny crossroads town of Preemption had a United Methodist Church, and, a might big grassed area out the back. So, it was time to ask a favour. We called Chris, our WS host back in Rensselaer and asked him if we could get permission to camp there, and also, to have the toilets available overnight.

Being the champion he is, he got us to wait 10 minutes while he inquired for us. He talked to the local pastor, explained the situation and gave us his number. Unfortunately, the local pastor was a bit perplexed with the seemingly odd request and completely misunderstood. He wasn’t keen on us staying at the church, but he did offer to drive us to Moline, some distance north of there and put us up in a hotel for the night at their expense!

Not wanting to take an unfair advantage, and not wanting to have to cycle a long way back to our route and lose a day, we politely declined and reassured him that we only wanted to camp on their back lawn, as simple as that, hassle-free! He thought about it for a moment, then said he’d call us back.

A little while later, the pastor rang back and said he’d spoken with the caretaker and arranged it with him for us to stay there. We were delighted as we really had no other options. Stealth camping is almost impossible due to all the fences and fields with no cover from trees, and around here the corn grows right up to the side of the road.

So, happy now, we headed out of Cambridge, buoyed by the prospect of a place to sleep tonight and a nice tailwind for a change, we made our way west through the small towns of Andover and Lynn Center.

Making good time because of the tailwind, we stopped at another BP on the outskirts of Sherrard which had a 7-Eleven attached. We ate lunch and had a couple of drinks while we sat outside on a picnic table and watch everyone coming and going. When it was time, we rang the caretaker, Dan and confirmed a time to meet us at the church. We bought some beers at the 7-Eleven as it wasn’t very far to carry them to Preemption from there.

We arrived about 10 minutes before Dan, who pulled up in front of us with a huge, black pickup truck. A change of plans ensued. We weren’t to stay behind the church, he’d take us and our bikes to his place, about 5 miles down the road, and we’d stay with him for the night in his spare bedroom. Even better!!

So, we loaded up and Dan drove us down to his place where we met his wife Donna. Dan didn’t look or speak much like a churchman, but Donna had her Bible group T-Shirt on and, beaming, told us how happy she was to have a couple of Missionaries staying in her house! Bewildered, Shazz and I looked at each other with eyes wide, and, very awkwardly explained that we were in no way missionaries. It seemed our old mate, the local pastor, really was confused! He must have figured that because we live in Vietnam and had been introduced by Chris, a fellow pastor, that we must work for the church, oh dear!

Preemption, Illinois
Champions! Dan and Donna kindly gave us a bed for the night and a wonderful dinner

I could see in her eyes she was just a little disappointed, but she quickly regathered herself and once again got into some cheerful banter. Dan had worked for John Deere all his life, building and repairing combines for the farms and Donna ran a local bible group for the church. Fortunately for us, the conversation steered well clear of religion all night. Donna had cooked dinner and both of them enjoyed a glass of wine or two.

Don’t Stop Now – We Won’t!!!

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