Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spooky Ride

Last Sunday I joined a group from my bicycling club on a ride to Hickory, Illinois for the Pumpkin Festival. The ride took us along a portion of The Great Western Trail, a rails-to-trails bike path, which is a path converted from an old rail bed. They make great paths because they're already graded and packed, and tend to be nice and straight. Think Roman Roads for bicycles.

We met at the parking lot of the Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve in Kane County and rode a 20-mile route to the town. The weather was that clear, sunny, just-chilly-enough-but-warm-in-the-sun kind of Fall day. It was gorgeous. The trail took us through farmland, turned soil, dry corn stalks being harvested by big red combines, blue, blue sky, and lovely trees and prairie grasses along the trail. Through fields, over bridges; it was wonderful.

I chatted with various bikers for a bit, and then rode alone for about the last half of the way. I got to Hickory, and the downtown was full.

Hickory is the County Seat of DeKalb County, and it's adorable. Very Small Town America. I arrived and made a beeline for the Boy Scout stand, where they were selling baked potatoes with your choice of topping; just the thing after a 20-mile ride. I followed that up with some homemade cookies from the Women's Auxiliary (2 cookies for a quarter. I'm not kidding.)

I'd forgotten my bike lock so I walked my bike carefully along the crowded sidewalks. People had already lined up along the street for the parade. A loudspeaker announced that flags were being given out in support of some charity whose goal was "the prevention of drug abuse, child abuse, and the promotion of patriotism." I cringed at the last part, and then realized how sad it its that the word "patriotism" has become so distorted. And then I looked at all the little kids happily waiving their little American flags, and it didn't seem creepy or unhealthy at all; it seemed sweet and fun and innocent, and had hope for the redemption of a once noble concept.

I walked up and down Main Street (again, not kidding), and headed over to the courthouse to stroll through the grounds in front and take in the displays of pumpkins that had been entered in the pumpkin-decorating contests. There were categories by type and age, and many, many pumpkins were arranged behind the temporary fencing on the lawn.

Three shallow steps led to the doors of the courthouse, and the area was sunny, so I plopped down on the top step against the wall to rest and take in the sun. An older woman walking by said, "that looks nice and warm,"

"It's not crowded, either," I smiled back, sprawled against the wall and half-dozing.

I basked like a lizard while the parade ran its entire 5-block course down main Street. It began with various ethnic associations driving by with their countries' flags, and ended with a high-school marching band doing a pretty slick job with the Austin Powers theme song.

I overcame my inertia and headed back. I saw nobody from my group, but that was fine; I loved the solitude on the path. I even saw two huge falcons flap up from the bushes.

I still hadn't gotten camera batteries (I know I know; they are charging even now), so the photos here are lifted from the site. In the group photo taken at the beginning I'm in the bright-blue fleece and white helmet.

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