Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to My Walking Ways (Day 26-28)

After playing hide and seek in the dark with the Parks Department security car for an hour, I found a patch of trees in the Algonquin Woods Preserve to camp in... hidden from the eyes of any park dwellers and fairly unadorned of poison ivy. The next morning, I got up and hiked to the town of Niles, home of the Leaning Tower of Niles -- a replica of the famous Italian tower in Pisa. The structure stands at 94 feet, roughly half the size of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it felt like the real thing to me. And besides, once you calculate the savings in overseas airfare to Italy, you'll be more than satisfied with this Chicago suburb's rendition.

From there, I walked to the next-door Target to buy some snacks and a new pair of shorts. I took my old, dirty, torn-up, poison-ivy-infected shorts and carefully placed them in the nearest trash receptacle, in hopes that science has found a way to destroy such a monstrosity in apparel. I then tightened my backpack straps and continued walking north-west.

By 4pm, I was in the next town of Des Plaines, where I rushed to the library to use their bathroom and use their computer lab. (I took a crap in one of them... try to guess which one.) Around 5 o'clock, I was ready for an early dinner, so I headed over to the Choo-Choo Diner, where I heard they serve your food from a moving, electrified, miniature train. I was very excited with the prospect of being served by a child's toy, but when I arrived... the place was closed. At first, I was afraid that some out-of-control urban renewal program was forcing the diner to be shut-down and destroyed, but then I realized... the diner simply closes at 3pm on Sundays. (Oops!)

To add to my woes of the closed Choo-Choo, I discovered that my newly-bought video camera was no longer working. I think I dropped the 800-dollar electronic item one time too many. The whole point of this trip was to film the people and places of my 2001 walk for my WALKING FOOL documentary... and now I was stuck in the tiny town of Des Plaines with no bike and no video camera. The closest electronic store was a Best Buy in the town of Crystal Lake, which was another 20 miles away, so I wasn't able to reach it until the next day. Thankfully, nothing hugely interesting happened in-between.

Once in Crystal Lake and armed with a (cheaper) video camera, it was back to walking. I headed north on Route 14 to the town of Harvard, and from there, it was seven short miles to the Wisconsin border, which I reached sometime around 10pm. After chewing on some leftover dough from my Chicago-style pizza slice I bought the day before, I walked another few miles to the next town of Walworth, WI, where I set up my tent in the field behind the Subway.

The next morning, I woke up to a few light rain showers, packed up my tent, and walked along 14 to the next town of Darien. I then stopped off at a gas station/convenience store to load up with some food and drink for my next leg of the walk. I wanted to be sure that I had enough stuff to last me to the next town of Janesville, which was over 20 miles away. (In the peak of my 2008 walk, 20 miles between towns would be a cakewalk, but since I'm out of practice, such a long gap got me a bit nervous.)

I grabbed a couple sandwiches, some beef jerky, a bag of chips and several bottles/cans of various liquids, and loaded them into my pack... adding an extra 8-9 pounds to my cargo. However, to my surprise, the one thing I didn't leave the convenience store with was napkins... that's because they didn't have any. Who ever heard of a gas station convenience store without napkins? They had a full deli, hot pizza, and a huge array of other snacks and treats... but nothing to wipe your face with. When I pointed out this depletion to the Asian man behind the counter (who spoke cliché broken-English), all he could do was offer me a few sheets of Kleenex from his private stock. He nodded with expected gratitude as he handed me these flimsy tissues, which practically fell apart as soon as they left his hand.

A few hours later, I found myself on a desolate farm road in southern Wisconsin. I wanted to get off of Route 14 (and the heavy traffic associated with it), so I decided to take some back roads for the next 12 miles or so. By 10pm, I reached a railroad bed and found a nice full tree to set my tent under.

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