Jeffrey spent so long talking to people, we would have arrived in Litchfield (85 miles from Lincoln) after dark. Nancy came through once again, finding us a room 10 miles closer.
At breakfast, Jeffrey had a long talk with Tejas, an India-born graduate student who works part-time at the motel. Tejas lives in Springfield and feels accepted there. He is sensitive to the plight of refugees and will follow our trip to New Mexico.
Fellow motel guests Doug and Mary Ann, academics who used to live in Plattsburgh, NY, were disappointed but not surprised to hear that the U.S. government does not provide lawyers for indigent asylum seekers. Dane was noncommittal.
We hit the road. For much of the day we were serenaded by redwing blackbirds that remind Jeffrey of his native region.
We passed through tiny towns dominated by the infrastructure of agriculture.
A quiet farm road climbed a rare steep Illinois hill. The Sprint 26’s new low gear range is outstanding; our speed dropped to 3 mph, but we didn’t have to stop. This photo doesn’t quite convey our considerable height.
Lincoln country! To the left is I-55. To the right is Historic Route 66, crumbling but lightly traveled.
We reached Springfield and the Illinois State Fair Grounds. No goats in sight.
The Illinois State Capitol, built when state governments had money. Today, the State of Illinois is broke. Lawn signs proclaim support for state workers who are not being paid.
We couldn’t pass through Springfield without visiting Abraham Lincoln’s neighborhood. Amber and Tracy directed us, and explained the state budget crisis. Both believe in a fair shake for refugees.
The Lincoln Home National Historical Site. It was Jeffrey’s third visit. He hopes to return this summer, by car, with Nancy. When Jeffrey and Nancy are together, I am a fifth wheel, de trop, puppet non grata. Too bad Jeffrey didn’t let me out of the bag today, my one visit to Springfield. The plate on the door says, “A. Lincoln”.
Jeffrey asked this Texas family to take his photo in front of the Lincoln house. Turns out that our new friends support the International Rescue Committee—comrades in helping the persecuted.
Buoyed by this encounter, Jeffrey decided to treat himself to an organic sort of sandwich. He shared the eatery’s front porch with Emily, a professional hair stylist, and Carissa, who is earning credentials to become a music and art teacher.
More new friends. They don’t know what to make of this year’s presidential campaigns. But they do know that immigrants and refugees deserve respect and acceptance. As more cosmopolitan Illinois cities like Springfield grow and engulf the homogeneous rural communities in which they grew up, they think attitudes may change for the better.
It was getting late! We rode to the Interurban Trail, another of the excellent local bike routes that follows old rail lines.
Kate read our sign, overtook us and asked about our mission.
She said she was glad that I referred to “refugees” and not “immigrants”. Kate recently returned from a tree-planting trip to Central America. She uses the skills she developed while raising 6 children, to help on medical projects abroad. She called us “fellow travelers in the best sense” and wished us well. Jeffrey admires her work and wished her the same.
Soon after, Bill overtook us and rode with us for several miles. He’s a retired architect, retired corn and soybean farmer, and a cycling enthusiast who has several times done the one-day 160 mile Ride Across Indiana (note his shirt!). He volunteers with the Midwest Mission, which restores and donates bicycles. He takes seriously the commandment to love his neighbor.
Bill offered us shelter (alas, accepting would have made for too short a day), route advice, and encouragement. He said if we need help in the next couple of days, to call on him. He’s a guy one can count on. He even took Jeffrey’s used soda cup for disposal!
It was 86F (30C). Away from the shady bike path, road tar melted, making a popping sound as our tires rolled over chipseal. Bad roads and strong headwinds slowed us a lot.
Four miles of bike route were unpaved, through huge cultivated fields where we encountered no one.
Back on old Route 66, we hit “rough roads” (that’s what the tiny yellow sign at left says). They weren’t kidding. Cracks, crumbles, stones, deep holes, globs of tar . . . And the wind!
Today showed one of the dilemmas of the Rides. We are here to talk to people. But when the next motel is far away, and we don’t want to sleep in a field, we can’t talk long. Yet we hate to interrupt, and we hate to miss the chance to promote kindness to strangers and the work of Human Rights First.
We are very lucky to have Nancy looking out for us.