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May 12, 2013

Chicago River Day

River Cleanup Day

The weather was cool but sunny for yesterday's annual Chicago River Day. We met up with friends at Horner Park this year to pick up trash along the river bank. Horner Park has always been a bit of a disappointing park for me because a long chain link fence separates the main part of the park from the river. The park has nice ball fields but the river bank is steeply eroded and crowded with weed trees. We didn't find as much trash as I expected, if you don't count the glass shards, pottery and bricks emerging from the banks that betray that this park was once a landfill. And our clean-up team leader told us not to bother picking the invasive garlic mustard and buckthorn (always so satisfying to pull them!) so our impact on the cleanup seemed rather small.

The exciting news, however, is that Horner Park will be undergoing a massive restoration this year. The steep banks and the garlic mustard and buckthorn and that rusty fence are going to be removed by the Army Corps of Engineers, as outlined in a report created for the Horner Park Advisory Council.

The Army Corps will regrade the banks at a shallower angle and build several vernal pool wetlands to help improve drainage of the site and provide habitat for native vegetation and amphibians. In the river, the shallower banks will create improved underwater habitat for fish. The steep manmade banks of the river provide few shallow places for plants or cover for fish to hide or feed.

River Cleanup Day

Horner Park is a perfect place to do a habitat restoration like this. Directly across the river we could see lots of volunteers working on the Riverbank Neighbors Trail, a beautiful restoration project by neighborhood volunteers who replanted the riverside with native flowers. The project is wonderful, but the steep bank between river and houses is so narrow in places that the houses may be in danger of falling in, unless the bank is reinforced with another layer of concrete riprap. Here in Horner Park there is plenty of room to grade the bank back at a shallower angle and create a beautiful park with walking paths along the water.


There were many other events all over town for Chicago River Day, such as the season opening of the Bridgehouse Museum with an "adopt a fish" program to release baby bluegills.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is also highlighting the river in a series of performances of music inspired by rivers and nature. On Chicago River Day the Civic Orchestra played an impromptu concert planned for Pioneer Square near the river, although rain drove them indoors to a nearby shopping mall, until they were forced to leave by security guards. We just missed seeing them!

May 23, 2013

Mississippi River Bike Trip - Day 1: Connect the Dots

Amtrak to Mattoon

For Memorial Day we are taking a bike trip along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Quincy, Illinois. But first, to connect the line on the map from last year's bike tour to Bloomington, Indiana, we are taking the train south to Mattoon.

Meeting Andrew

Andrew had started biking south several days earlier and met us at the same coffee shop where we started last year.

U.S. Grant Motel

Site of the Village of Richmond

Leaving Mattoon we follow a bit of the old National Road, passing the site of a ghost town from lost America. Nothing is left from the town of Richmond but the grass in a farmhouse lawn.

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Dark Skies Ahead

The Illinois bike map shows many small farm-to-market back roads, but its not easy to tell which ones are paved the whole way or turn to gravel halfway to the next town. On the first day of a bike tour, every mile seems to take forever. Or maybe they really were taking forever, because it took longer than expected to zig and zag our way to Shelbyville.

Dog that ran alongside for several miles

Lots of farm dogs came out to bark at us. This one was friendly, and ran alongside me for several miles. We passed several busy roads and still he did not tire or turn back. I clocked him at 18 miles an hour on a long straightaway.

Invention of the Dishwasher

In Shelbyville we stopped to pay homage to an historical marker. Here in 1886, Josephine Cochrane built the first mechanical dishwasher. Dirty dishes were held in wire baskets placed in a container inside a copper boiler which turned and squirted soapy water over them. The company she founded later became part of KitchenAid.

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Leaving Shelbyville, we over-inflated Andrew's rear tire, which ruined the tire. By this time it was so late in the day that no bike shops were open. We were forced to make a shameful trip to the Walmart at the edge of town to buy a new tire, and the repairs left us farther behind as the sun sank lower. Not knowing if we'd make it to our planned campsite, we headed back out on the road.

Grumbly Hateful

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Continuing southwest around the town of Herrick, the landscape became hillier and the downhills never seemed to make up for the slow progress uphill. The sun sank lower and we knew that it was unlikely we'd make it to the reserved campsite at Ramsey State Park but still we rode on without much of a plan.

Now in the dusk, we turned on our bike lights and continued on, but the road grew worse, with patches of gravel on the downhill slopes that were especially treacherous in the dark. At the crest of a steep and twisting grade going down into darkness, we spotted a farmhouse with a light on.

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Our plan was to ask to camp in the yard, but the kindly couple offered to load us all into their pickup and drive us the last few miles to the campground. It wasn't too far, but riding in comfort of the big truck, it was obvious that it would have taken us hours up and down those steep gravel roads in the dark. On our flat maps we hadn't realized how difficult it was to bike this pocket of hilly terrain in the middle of Illinois.

May 24, 2013

Mississippi River Bike Trip - Day 2: Dogs

Ramsey Lake State Park

Pony Shoe Breakfast

Ramsey Is Under A Boil Order

Wheat Fields

Fillmore Frozen Foods

Twisted Trail

After the crash

Old Route 66

Union Miners Cemetery

Grave of Mother Jones

Soulsby's Service

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Henry's Rabbit Ranch

Our Hosts

May 25, 2013

Mississippi River Bike Trip - Day 3: Trails into Town

Quercus Grove Trail

Houses encroaching on the wheat fields

Madison County Trail Network

Horseshoe Lake

Tony C Rib Tips

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City Museum

City Museum

City Museum

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Compton Hill Water Tower

May 26, 2013

Mississippi River Bike Trip - Day 4: Great River Road

City Camping

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Under the Arch

Lewis & Clark swimming

Route 66 Rest Area

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Canal

Replica of Camp Dubois

Confluence Tower

St. Louis Skyline

Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi

Confluence Tower

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The Piasa Bird

The Piasa Bird

Village of Chautauqua

Great River Road

Riverside Break

Brussels Ferry

Red & White Grocery

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Buffalo Fish

May 27, 2013

Mississippi River Bike Trip - Day 5: Attack of the Buffalo Gnats

Leaving the quaint Hardin Hotel in Hardin, Illinois.

Hardin Hotel

A photo at the top of the ridge dividing the Illinois and Mississippi River valleys.

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Into the Valley of the Mississippi

Don't stop, or thousands of buffalo gnats will swarm you.

Attack of the Buffalo Gnats

After the flood on main street

Turtle Rescue

Louisiana Bridge

Round House

Death Biker

Downtown Louisiana

MRT Trail


Highway 79

Mississippi Overlook

Downtown Hannibal

Downtown Hannibal

Dinner on the floor

About May 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Down Chicago’s Drain in May 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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