Tuesday, July 15

July 13, 2008--Princeton, IL--A Bridge and Owen Lovejoy, Abolitionist

I left early Sunday morning in hopes of getting to my destination, the Owen Lovejoy Homestead in Princeton, IL, well before lunch. If I could get there early, I'd make a a side trip to one of the nearby state parks. As usual, I always end up taking the long route rather than the shorter, more direct route.  If time is on my side, the one with the greatest saddle time, tends to be the best way to go. 

My route would allow me to travel sections of Rt.66, which begins in Chicago at the corner of Jackson Blvd. and Lake Shore Drive. I leave downtown Chicago and make my way to Ogden Avenue, where I would ride many miles through diverse city neighborhoods of varying economic makeup and continue through some vastly contrasting and fairly affluent suburbs. Lots of traffic lights along this route, but I don't mind much. At8:15 a.m. on this Sunday morning few people are out and about.

As part of my interest in the Underground Railroad stations, I am heading to see the home of Owen Lovejoy and his family and uncover more about the contributions they made to eradicting the United States of that "peculiar" institution called slavery.  The Lovejoys paid the ultimate price for their abolition activities: the oldest brother, Elijah Lovejoy, jounalist, newspaper owner and minister was murdered by an angry white mob in Alton, IL for his anti-slavery views and activities.

The weather was perfect--clear sky, hardly a breeze. The  wind would pick up later and a couple of times I felt Jesse wiggle a bit in the rear at a couple of robust gusts that caught me a bit off guard. 

My unhurried route was perfectly suited to what I needed. I've been stressed by work demands and needed an escape. One of my favorite sections of this day trip was traveling along IL 71--those 15 or so miles were varied, scenic (both in a urban and non-urban way) and lightly traveled.  Jesse leans easily and I am mindful (now) to be careful of too much of a good thing.

A little after 11:00 I arrived at the well-marked Lovejoy Homestead, located off Main Street on Peru Street, where IL-26 and St/US-6 meet.   I wanted to take exterior pics of the home and skidaddle. I knew that the tour started at 1pm but I planned to be long gone by then. Afterward, I wanted to venture to the Red Covered Bridge and snap a few pics and get home in plenty of time to put in a few hours of work before the day ended.

After I pulled into the Lovejoy lot, I got off the bike, removed my helmet and prepared to retrieve my camera. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw a small red car across the street. It had been sitting waiting to turn onto Peru Street, or so I thought.  But there were no cars preventing it from turning. It just sat. Then it happened.

The  car drove straight across the street into the Lovejoy lot. I've said this before. I have a tendency to enter these small, homogeneous towns and soon thereafter someone usually summons the police--or they just happen to show up. When I remove my helmet, "Outsider" is written all over me.

The car drives up to me and the person inside, an ancient little lady with snow white hair, says, "Can I help you?" I tell her "No," that I'm there to take some pictures of the homestead and that I  plan to leave afterwards.  She asks me where I'm from. I tell her. She tells me that the tours begin at 1pm. I tell her I will only take some photos. She says,  "that's too bad" and asks me if I want her to call the tour leader and have her open the place early for me. I tell her that is not necessary. She seems disappointed. I then mention that I might come back. I am lying. Once I leave, there is no coming back.

She tells me that "We want you to see it." She emphasizes the "you" like it is critical for me to know this history.  She is adamant in a nice way. I begin to soften and ask her where the Red Covered Bridge is located. I tell her that I might return after I visit the bridge and have lunch. Before driving off, she reminds of the tour time. 

After picture taking, I head over to the Red Covered Bridge. I am impressed. I especially love the sign above it. I don't know much about single lane bridge etiquette. I parked off the path to the bridge but when cars drove up, they queued up behind me even though I was not on the bike and was simply standing along the road. I wished I had taken a picture of the bike nearer the opening of the bridge. I could have as not many cars came by. But in small towns I obey each and every rule as I have morbid thoughts of being jailed in one of these places for any number of reasons.  I admit to a degree of paranoia. 

I passed over the bridge a couple of times and eventually found a nice gravely spot to park. On foot, I explored the Red Covered Bridge Park, hoping to find a great spot from which to capture some creative photos. I went pretty far on the park's path and when I returned I saw someone on a motorcycle drive off. By the time I reached the bike, this individual had returned. He was riding a really nice black, red, and white Suzuki GSX 650. He gave me a hearty, friendly greeting. 

We both did ventured off to do the photo thing and eventually met up at the 'cycles at the same time. He was out enjoying his new bike and the good weather. We talked motorcycles for a bit and before departing, he gave me the address to a sport-touring website with a familiar looking address. I would later learn that I had once registered at that very sight. The other 'cyclist, "Hickey" is his moniker, is from Peoria, IL.  It  is always nice running into another passionate motorcyclist.

I missed lunch but munched on some gorp and had a milk shake, which hit the spot. By then it was  about 15 minutes until tour time.  I headed in toward the homestead and waited in the parking lot. At exactly 1pm, a woman on foot strolled on the Lovejoy grounds and asked if I was there for the tour.  I registered, paid the $3 fee and chatted with the guide. Another woman was in the house too and when a Grandma and her three grandchildren came for the tour, they were led by the other woman. My private tour allowed me to ask many questions about Owen Lovejoy, his brothers, and his family. 

The story of Owen Lovejoy deserves a post on its own. That's the second installment as I have a bit more research to do before I post something about these amazing anti-slavery brothers.

The return trip was delightful. I hopped on I-80 East and enjoyed superslabbing it to I-55, which leads into Rt. 41 North (aka Lake Shore Drive). Doing so, I shaved more than an hour off the trip and arrived in plenty of time to get some work done. 

Observation: I need handle bar risers! My elbows are too straight and there is a bit more of a lean toward the tank than I am WANT.  It's one thing to lean when you want to and another to be fored into that position. After 200 miles I begin to feel the force. While not a sport bike in the truest sense, Jesse is also not a standard, like my beloved Suzuki SV650. It's in that in-between zone, where it's like a sport bike "wannabe" with more \ respect for the lower back. The problem for me is the reach. A reach that locks your elbows is not good. It's like standing with your knees locked, rather than a more relaxed unlocked, more efficient stance. 

I ended this trip as I did my Canada trip, that is, with more ache in my arms and pressure on my wrists than I care to repeat. Twisted Throttle tells me the handlebar risers and pull backs will be here on Friday! Jesse  has more toys than Mattel!

Until next time, ride safe.

Day trip: 265 miles