Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 19, 2011: Muscatine Iowa to Geneseo, Illinois (60 Miles)

The dreary misty weather continued overnight.  Since we were in the home of friends we spent a leisurely morning eating a delicious breakfast of pancakes.  Besides spending more time visiting we were also hoping the weather would clear.  Cal did begin riding in the slightest of mist, but within the hour the sun was shining and the rest of the day was beautiful.

Muscatine is known as the Pearl Button capital of the world.  Years ago it was discovered a certain type of mussel grew in the waters of the Mississippi River near Muscatine and their shells had the look of pearl.  The mussels were harvested from the river, loaded into flat bottom boats, taken ashore where the meat discarded, round buttons were cut from the shell, holes were punched for buttons and the buttons were attached to a card. At one point every family in Muscatine had at least one family member somehow involved in the Button Industry. Today on the River Front Park there is a sculpture commemorating those by-gone years.   

More recently Muscatine is knows as the Melon city, as lots of muskmelons and watermelons are grown on the sandy soil of the Mississippi flood plain. Each summer you wait for the Muscatine melons to arrive in the stores!  

After crossing the Mississippi River we were in the State of Illinois.  We meandered our way on back county roads to the Hennepin Canal which begins on the eastern side of the Rock River near Colona, Illinois. (near the Quad Cities) Cal rode along the canal from Colona to Geneseo, Illinois.  I am not allowed to drive a vehicle along the canal, so I am going ahead to places where roads cross the canal.  This will be completely different than on our first leg of the journey.   

Soybeans - Golden color of fall

Ribbon of Highway - Western Illinois is not completely flat

Flowers of Fall

More Fall Flowers

History: The Hennepin Canal was built between the 1890’s and 1907.  It was built to provide a waterway between the Illinois River and the Mississippi River, thus reducing the distance from Chicago to the Mississippi River by 419 miles.  It played an important role in US commerce and industry. The idea of such a canal/waterway began in 1834, and by the 1870’s there was enough pressure for a transportation shortcut which was cheaper than rail, that Congress authorized a survey. The Hennepin has a sister canal, I & M canal (Illinois & Michigan).  It tied the Illinois River, Des Plaines River and the Mississippi River together.  With the completion of these two canals a transportation network connected Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico, by way of the Mississippi river.  Along the canal is a tow path (used by animals to tow boats).  This is now a lovely level bike path.   

Cal will be riding along both of these canals across Illinois.  For those who are interested, Cal went to Google maps, clicked on ‘bike routes’ and they showed him the route across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio using canals and bike paths.    

With the sun shining today the golden fall colors of the crops were beautiful. Also the fall flowers growing in the road ditches are beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. How cool for him to be able to bike such long stretches without worrying about cars! Scenery that the rest of us will never see!