Monday, July 6

Happy Belated Fourth and Four Easy Stamps, yeah right!

A long four day holiday found me working mostly--at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Consequently, I missed amassing another huge chunk of miles. I had planned a weekend ride that would have added 1200 miles to the odo. As they say, "this too shall pass." I am attempting to finish up overdue work so that when I leave for the BMW MOA International Rally in TN, the work will not be among my luggage.

Still, I could not NOT ride (forgive the bad grammar). So, I decided to compromise and hunt for local stamps. For those who don't know, the National Park Service, to encourage visits to national parks, battlefields, historic sites, National Memorials, National Parks, Wild Rivers, National Seashores--and a host of other historically important places, sells a "Passport To Your National Parks" booklet that allows you to collect stamps and amass ink stamp (imprints) to mark your visits. The Iron Butt Association, those obsessive-compulsive long distance riders (I'm a wannabe) has a National Parks ride that requires a visit to 25 different states and proof of those visits with 50 stamps. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, even when you're out hunting for local stamps, stuff happens that adds a degree of challenge to acquiring the stamps. My ride on July 3 is a perfect example.

Because of work I decided to get up early make four stops and pick up four Illinois stamps. The whole thing should have taken a couple of hours if I took a direct route--I did not. Still, I had things fairly well planned. I would hit Willow Springs to pick up the stamp at the Little Red School House Nature Center. Then on to Lockport, IL, where the Gaylord Building stands at Lincoln Landing. Zip on over to Joliet, IL where a stamp awaited at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Last stop, a nice ride to Morris, IL for a stop at Gebhard Woods State Park that would allow me to follow a bit of Rt. 66 too. A quick lunch and home to get back to work. This entire ride is familiar to me as each stop travels through part of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, which I've done before. It is never boring with its parks and canals, dams and nature preserves along the way.'s the deal. The Little Red School house was closed.

I had asked if they were open but what I didn't ask is whether the Visitors Center was open. The trails were open but not the office! So, no stamp! I did enjoy the message printed on the red sign about loud noises, like that coming from a radio, annoy both people and animals.

On to Lockport. The Gaylord Building stood proudly in the distance as I motored along Lockort's main drag.

The GPS led me to a street that I couldn't turn into but a quick ride over the bridge and a turn around in a swanky country club put me back on track. The Gaylord Building, which is not in its original location is a beautiful old place made of "cream-colored dolomite limestone." If you've seen Chicago's Water Tower, you'll see the same bumpy stone popular of that era (1800s).

I spent a lot of time in the building, viewing a video, touring the exhibits where there was also a special exhibit on Lincoln.

On the first floor of the building is a nice looking, upscale restaurant, The Landing, that I definitely want to check out in the future. The women at this center were amazingly helpful and cheery. First successful stamp capture of the day! At their suggestion, I made a quick stop at the Will County Historical Society across the street but they didn't have any stamps so I moved
on to Joliet.

Joliet Area Historical Museum (JAHM) is an excellent stop.

Incredibly helpful folks. There is the kind of reception that always makes me want to tour a place, watch the video(s) and leave a donation! I had a grand time there--gave my brain lots of new information. I;m very familiar with this geographical area but I never appreciated the role that Joliet played in the industrial period. I enjoyed the exhibits here immensely.

I will return to do it more justice as Joliet has some amazing architecture that I didn't have time to capture. In hindsight, I should have at least taken a photo of the Rialto Square Theatre, called "The Jewel of Joliet."

When I ask for the cancellation stamp, the woman is eager and excited. She pulls out the ink pad and her stamp. She looks curiously at the stamp. She searches and searches and says, "I guess the '09 hasn't come in yet. I called them back in May and I guess they haven't sent it yet--oh darn." Had she not be such a sweet, helpful woman I would have been a bit upset. So I had her sign and date my Passport. I don't think it will count, but she and I both felt good about walking away with something. I shall return to the Old Joliet Prison--it is an interesting place. And here's something I just learned: The prison may be turned into a tourist center to
capitalize on the Rt. 66 mania.

It would make for an interesting site if they don't over commercialize it and teach the history of the place and the prison system in this area. I plan to return to the site to exploit the photo opportunities. The place is now dilapidated and desolate, which should make for some dramatic early morning or near nightfall pictures.

The helpful folks at the JAHM told me to take Rt. 6 to Morris. It added to the length of the trip but it was worth it. The ride took me through the hugely industrial areas and backyards of Joliet. I passed but did not stop at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, built in 1923 and opened to barge traffic in 1933.

So far, three stops and only one legitimate stamp.

Gebhard Woods State Park is a lovely and inviting place where fishing, hiking, biking along the canal, or just hanging out is an excellent way to spent some time.

I called the park from the JAHM because the clerk thought the office might not be open given that it was July 3rd? I called and the automated voice said they were open, the the trails were open and to "come on over." As I pulled in, I noticed that the sign in the park window said, "Open." Good.

After parking the bike and watching some families fishing, I walk to the window. The large "Open" is the only bright thing in the window. The place is dark and obviously closed. Now, I am ticked. Adjacent to the building is a garage and I see a man without a shirt and low hanging pants walk in the garage. I watch him. He is talking loudly to someone on the inside. They are talking about cars. I wait. And wait. And wait. When the shirtless man goes back to fishing, I walk toward the garage. I ask if the office is open as the sign indicates. The young man looks puzzled and hesitantly says it is. I tell him why I am there and he continues looking befuddled but tells me to follow him. The garage is big and dark in its deepest interior. I hesitate about following him. "Do you mean literally follow you?" He says, "Yes." We walk through a very black hallway that leads into the closed office.

He searches for the stamp and ink pad and find them quickly. He rotates the stamp. He keeps rotating it. Then he searches more. Then he says, "I don't have a stamp with 2009 on it. We just have the one that goes up to 2008." I am incredulous. I gently plead for him to search again. He does. His stamp goes up to 2008. For the second time I ask someone to stamp with a '08 stamp. After stamping with the old stamp, I ask for him to legitimate it. He apologetically complies. He initials the book and writes in the current date.

Four stops and only one legitimate stamp to show for it.

Oh well, the ride and roads were great; the weather could not have been more perfect. Lots of motorcycle sightings. And the privilege of riding a motorcycle that I love more and more with each passing mile. Just priceless.

Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, hope your weekend was a great and safe one!

Stamp total = 1 & 2 that probably won't count.