My First Attempt At Being A Food Critic - America's Most Naive Bike Tourist Rides From MN to MA - CycleBlaze

June 11, 2014

My First Attempt At Being A Food Critic

Kankakee River State Park, Illinois

I waited until 9:30 and then set out into the mist and fog of a new day.  First up was a crossing of the Illinois River followed by 8 miles of Highway 23 South, which was just like all the other highways I've ridden in Illinois.

At Grand Ridge, things got much better.  I turned east onto a super-straight, super-flat county road with minimal traffic.  After about 10 miles of blissful riding, I started to see 10, 20, 30, well, uncountable numbers of missiles rising from the cornfields to the sky.  I wondered if it could be a secret military installation and if those missiles were programmed to fly straight to Moscow.  It would serve those Russians right for giving me that score of "7" on my bicycle-crash-recovery performance last week.

A couple of missiles (And several more in the distance)
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Another missile closer to the road
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As I got closer, I was finally able to see the huge rotors that were hidden by the thick fog.  It was a wind turbine farm.

A few minutes later came the ultimate irony.  Right across the road from the windmills was a nuclear power plant, complete with security towers and razor wire enforced fences.  Wind power working side by side with nuclear power.  It was a beautiful partnership.  I bet both sides of the highway were owned by the same energy company.

The nuclear power plant obscured either by fog or nuclear fallout.
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Those of you familiar with the ACA Northern Tier route can see that I have strayed significantly from it since Lansing, Iowa.  I am enjoying grinding out my own path.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it ALWAYS seems a bit more adventurous.

And I like talking to people who are not used to seeing us freaks with loaded down bikes.  The four people I talked to in Wilmington--three at the grocery store and one at the library--asked the usual questions but were absolutely dumbfounded at my answers.  In fact, outside the grocery store, I don't think they even BELIEVED me.  When I was talking to one member of the threesome, (while stuffing food into my panniers) I got the sense that the other two were shaking their heads, rolling their eyes, and making circular motions around their temples with their index fingers.  I have to admit, anybody COULD load up his bike, ride it five miles to the local supermarket, and start making wild claims of being a cross-country rider.  I guess I can't blame them for their skepticism.

Here comes the much-anticipated food review I promised in the title of this page.  Obviously I am not a paid reviewer, but I think being a restaurant critic would be one of the greatest jobs in the world, along with being professional travel writer.  Ah, I am such a dreamer. 

This evening I had the best meal of the trip so far.  Chef G. gathered enough sticks and branches from the woods surrounding the Kankakee State Park campground to get a small fire going.  When they had burned down to coals, he threw a locally-purchased chicken breast on the grate.  He salted the heck out of it and let it roast.  While it sizzled, Chef G. prepared a 50-cent package of Ramen Noodles with chicken flavoring and brought that to a boil.

When the chicken breast was perfectly grilled, he tore it up into small chunks and tossed them into the savory broth, skin and all.

The presentation was impeccable.  It was served right in the very pan in which it was cooked.  Everything was excellent, from the saltiness of the meat to the texture of the noodles to the flavor of the broth.  The service was also outstanding.  I was served by the chef personally.  It's as if he knew exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it prepared.  I would highly recommend this campsite grill as long as it is in the capable hands of Chef G.

Yes, simple pleasures can be so awesome out here on the road.

Today's ride: 56 miles (90 km)
Total: 531 miles (855 km)

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