Jeannie finished her 600 plus mile bicycle ride at 2:30 Friday afternoon and stuck her toes in the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at the southern tip of Illinois in Cairo. Then they loaded the bike on the back of the van, and she crawled into the van with her coach to drive to nearby Metropolis. There her coach (husband Rick) took her photo in front of the huge Superman statue. Her goal and plans had been completed. They next arrived at our house, and we had thawed leftovers from their daughter Lesley’s wedding for our supper. (It may take me awhile to empty the freezer of those.)
Actually we celebrated Jeannie’s achievement the night before. Gerald and I drove to Murphysboro and then up and down the steep hills there over to the Big River—the Mighty Miss. We met up with Jeannie and Rick at Grand Tower, where they were taking a break in the mid afternoon. They were running late after a late start because of some camping problems the night before. They also explained it had been rough riding because not only was the wind against Jeannie, but part of the Mississippi River Bike Trail had been on a graveled levy road. When it started lightning and they were traveling under electrical lines, Rick was ready for her to leave the levy and get back on Route 3.
We enjoyed driving through Grand Tower and seeing the Devil’s Backbone Park there by the river. We had a little circling to do before we found each other in this little town because our cell phones suddenly did not have service in one part of the town. But finally we got a connection, and they told us they were parked by the First Baptist Church there.
That was easy for Gerald to find because he knew exactly where it was. When he was eleven, his family had brought him there from their little country church, which met in a tiny country school building, to be baptized in the baptistry there. Their family friends, Johnny and Suzie Dickson, belonged there, and so it was a familiar building to Gerald’s family. We were there a few years ago for Suzie’s funeral. So we took photos of Jeannie and us in front of the outside sign and finally went back to Route 3 heading to Gerald’s brother Garry and wife Ginger’s farm. We were delighted to see rain puddles beside the road in Wolf Lake before we turned off on the road to the forest preserve. Garry and his son Kerry have had considerable more rain this year than we have, and their crops were looking good.
The Mississippi River Bike Trail actually goes through the Trail of Tears Forest Preserve near Gerald’s home place, where Garry and Ginger live now. They said they knew they frequently saw bicycle riders going on that road, and now they understood why. For some reason, the bike trail leaves Route 3 and goes into Jonesboro and heads down Route 127 for the final lap to Cairo.
While we waited for Jeannie and Rick, we called Gerald’s brother Keith and wife Barbara and Garry and Ginger’s daughter Vicki, who was in Carbondale when we reached her, and we let them know that Jeannie was finally in the area for supper rather than lunch as we had thought might be the case. We all met and celebrated and took more photos at a restaurant in Anna before Jeannie and Rick rode back home with Garry and Ginger and spent the night with them. This brought back a lot of childhood memories for Jeannie from the days when she visited grandparents there.
After Jeannie and Rick arrived to sleep their final night at our house, she rose early the next morning to ride her bike here, but it was raining. This was the first time they had been stopped by rain the entire trip. (I thought maybe nature was telling Jeannie she had ridden enough!) We got a nice rain, but unfortunately just a few miles up the road on the farm with our crops, we only got a wee shower. Nevertheless, we had a wonderfully lazy relaxing breakfast with the Eilers before they took off to meet their kids—Elijah and Cecelie--coming down from Freeport to Bloomington.
There Rick went on towards home, and Jeannie took the kids back down to the south Springfield area to Brian and Mary Ellen’s house. Later that night the two Eiler grandkids and the Taylor grandkids--Trent and Brianna--all arrived at Woodsong for the week. Of course, they stopped in town at Sam’s house to bring him out too. These teens have gone from coming to our house to attend Vacation Bible School to coming to help with it. They love being together. I did not think Elijah would be able to come since he was working, but come to find out, he had taken the job with permission to take off this week.
This morning Sam’s dad picked him up to go to his church in town, but the other four went to Sunday School and worship with us, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all four sitting up in the choir. (We have a very informal village church, and anyone is welcome to sing in the choir.) Behind us, our friends Don and Pat Boyd had sitting with them their youngest son Rod and wife Theresa and three of their four kids who had flown in from Florida. It was good to see this collection of so many grandkids sitting in the pews where it seems only yesterday their parents were sitting.
After lunch, the kids collected Sam again, and soon they were at the dining room table playing one of their favorite games that someone brings to the farm. We all went over the church house tonight to join others there decorating and setting up for tomorrow morning. Back home after a quick help-yourself supper, the house is now filled with giggles and voices as the cousins work on a skit they plan to do. Somewhere in the house Sam’s ukulele is sounding. This is all good and worth celebrating. Certainly we have problems and more than one grief going on in our lives also, but this part is good and we are glad.
By the way, Jeannie wrote on Facebook that it was a beautiful day for a bike ride up in Freeport.
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