TRIP 2010

Update #32 - November 24th
Savanna, Illinois
8,559.68 miles (13,695.49 KM)

The trip that I've been on since March 15th is finally over. I had planned to be someplace South for the rest of the year but now I'm in the Upper Mid-west. My time at the Common Grounds Relief Center in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana was short. To me, the time that I was going to spend in New Orleans was not going to be that productive so I jumped on another opportunity that came up that was something that was in more of my line of work. There is a small church called Church On A Hill of about 40 people between Mt Carroll and Savanna, Illinois that needs some help. Savanna is in Northwest Illinois along the Mississippi River.

I have connections with the church since 2005. The church helped me get my second recumbent (the Easy Racer/ sun EZ-Speedster-SX). I was here this Summer in late June for a couple of weeks. The last thing that I did at the church was to help the congregation get their sanctuary back in order after new carpeting was installed.

In mid-July, the church founder and pastor, Rev Wayne Carvell, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Whenever I'm in the area, I stayed with Wayne and his wife Karen for a week or two. I will not be coming in as the minister of the church since Karen who is also a licensed minister has stepped in to keep her husband's dream alive but they need somebody to help out with the social ministries that they have in Savanna. COAH (Church On A Hill) is part of ecumenical social ministry called GRO (Great River Outreach). Along with helping out with the ministries, I'll be helping to take care of the house that was the pastor's house.

This offer came up Thursday, November 18th. To get me up to Savanna, the church offered to get me a ticket on the Amtrak train to Chicago. I was really happy that this new opportunity had arisen because I was getting really unhappy staying in New Orleans. It was not a good fit between me and the Common Ground Relief Center. I didn't fit in quite well since I was almost twice the age of the rest of the volunteers there. I was having a hard time sleeping at the center (a tiny bedroom shared with three other people), coed bedrooms, no privacy, and the living conditions were not very clean that caused me to come down with the flu for three days. I was only able to work maybe two and a half days on houses. My goal to come to New Orleans was to possibly do some case management with the center and work on mostly the business side of the center like designing a better website and do some fund raising.

I finally made it to Savanna, Illinois about 7:45 PM Tuesday, November 23rd. It was a long trip that had started about 6:00 AM Monday, November 22nd. After having breakfast at the Center, I finished packing and started the task of taking Alice apart and packing her in the box that I had gotten from Amtrak Friday afternoon. The box was big enough that I just had to take the seat off, flatten it down, take the steering column off, remove the pedals, and then slide everything into the box with the wheels on. About 10 AM, one of the guys at the Center took me down to the train station in New Orleans. I was one of the first ones there so I was able to get the bike box and my camping gear checked in (I was carrying my laptop and both sets of panniers as carry-on luggage).

I had about a two hour wait before the train started to board around 1:15 PM. I was one of the first ones out the station doors to the train. I got on the third car from the rear (the second of the four coach cars). I got a window seat on the right hand side. It was going to be something looking out at everything about 30 feet off the train. The coach cars were double-deckers with the seats upstairs and restrooms and baggage compartment below.

The Amtrak train headed out from the New Orleans Station around 1:45 PM. The trip is supposed to be about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) long and take 19 hours having us in Chicago at 9:00 AM the next morning. There are supposed to be 30 stops along the way.

Along with the four coach cars at the rear of the train, there was an observation car (with a snack counter), a dining car, and two sleeper cars behind the engine. There were 70 seats in each of the coach cars and 30 compartments in each of the sleeper cars. Over half of the seats were filled when we left New Orleans. Almost 9/10 of the seats were filled by the time we left Memphis, Tennessee. Between New Orleans and Memphis, there were stops in Hammond, Louisiana; McComb, Brookhaven, Hazelhurst, Jackson, Yazoo City, and Greenwood, Mississippi.

Somewhere between Newburn, Tennessee and Fulton, Kentucky, there was a major snag in the schedule. Amtrak shares the same rail-lines as freight trains. A south bound freight train had broken down and we had to wait for it to be repaired and also for it to pass us. We must have sat in the middle of no-where for over an hour. This really blew our scheduled arrival in Chicago at 9 AM the next morning. For those of us who were still awake, we got entertained by a thunderstorm with some really intense and bright lightning.

We were supposed to have stopped in Carbondale, Illinois around 3:11 AM but we didn't get there till around 5:30 AM. 6:10 AM was supposed to have been our departure time from Champaign-Urbanna but we didn't leave there till around 8:20 AM. We didn't debark from the train at Union Station in Chicago till around 11:30 AM or two hour and a half hours late.

To get my bicycle, I was sent up a level to the baggage claim area but I had to make my way down to the basement level. I had about a fifteen minute wait for the luggage to be taken off the train and moved into the station. They allowed me to but the recumbent back together and I loaded up all of my gear back onto it. This was going to be the last time that I was going to load up the recumbent for the year. I had the recumbent back together and loaded up in about an hour.

There was an elevator to use and I rode it back to the same level as the baggage claim area was since that is where the ticket counters were both for Amtrak and Metra. I had to get on Metra to take the Milwaukee Line to Elgin about 40 miles (64 km) north-west of Chicago where I was going to be picked up to be taken to Savanna. I had about a 20 minute wait before the train started to fill up. I was basically the last person on the train since they had to use a handicap lift to get the recumbent up the three steps into the train. It was a little over an hour's ride on Metra to Elgin. I didn't arrive at the train station in downtown Elgin till around 3 PM.

I had maybe a couple of minutes wait before my ride showed up to Savanna. It was a big temperature shock for me because when I left New Orleans it was in the seventies and in Elgin it was in the high-thirties with a still wind. Before leaving the Elgin area, we stopped for a late lunch/ early supper. The van ride between Elgin and Savanna should have been around 130 miles (210 km) but it was almost 230 miles (370 km). In the dark near Rockford, Illinois, my ride accidentally started going north on I-90 and we didn't figure out our mistake till we got to the Beloit, Wisconsin area. We had to backtrack nearly 50 miles (80 km) back to the Rockford area to get on the right highway. Because of the mistake, it was almost 8 PM when I finally arrived at the house in Savanna where I'll be staying through the Winter and early Spring.

The house sits on some cleared land a little over halfway up a hill. Cook Street is an unpaved dirt and stone road with a lot of potholes. Hopefully, the city is going to snow-plow it. From the end of the concrete driveway down to Diagonal Street is about a quarter mile. The road is quite steep at about 6 %. Even with the road being paved, I wouldn't attempt the coast down on Alice. There is another path down some woods that is not as steep. Hopefully, I'll not have to find a pair of snow shoes.

The house has a great view towards the west. Now that there are no leaves in the trees, I can look down on the town and see the Mississippi River with Iowa on the other side. From the house into the downtown area is about a mile and a quarter. Most of the residential area of Savanna is on some ridges and in a couple of valleys east of the downtown area.

Savanna is located along the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Plum River. Going from north to south, the second automobile bridge between Illinois and Iowa is located just north of Savanna, and is part of the East - West U.S. Highway 52 route. The bridge leads to Sabula, Iowa, which is across the river from Savanna. Savanna is about halfway between Clinton and Dubuque, Iowa on IL State Route 84 and west of Rockford, Illinois. The town has a population of around 3,200 people and is the county seat of Carroll County. Downtown Savanna is 600 ft (183 m) above sea level. I'm about 800 feet (250 m) above sea level. North of Savanna is Mississippi Palisades State Park.

This is going to be a real change in my environment. I haven't had to really experience cold weather and snow since 1993. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay healthy up here and I'll probably stay put in one place till at least Early April.

I'll try and add a new update every two weeks along the way so the next one will be around December 17th.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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