June 14, 1999 - Princeton to DOWNERS GROVE (our fair town), Illinois (our fair state)
95.4 miles - 15.7 mph average - 2551 total miles - 29.3 maximum speed
Please excuse the one-day lapse in journaling. July 15 was our 5th wedding anniversary.
This is my daughter, Alyce. She was waiting at Oswego High School, along with Lois and about twenty other students, friends and faculty to ride the last 27 miles back to Downers Grove. More later.
Well, What a day!!! I gave credit to some people yesterday for the events of today, but I really had NO idea of the breadth of what was planned. So before I tell you about the events of the day, I'd like to again thank those of you involved in planning this day:
Lois Graham (Social Studies, wife)
Tom Redig (Science)
Chris Tomek (Physical Education/Health)
Lynn Colaluca (Special Services)
Pam Cox (English)
Mary Biniewicz (Associate Principal)
Mike Wayne (Associate Principal)
And a special 'Thank You' to Mayor Brian Krajewski and the Village of Downers Grove for making a Naperville resident feel absolutely "at home" in Downers Grove.
Well, the alarm went off at 6:30. I felt lousy, having been up too late working on the journal of the day before. My innards just felt fuzzy. I knew we had another big mileage day in front of us and needed to feel strong. Did I have one more big day in me? I sure hoped so.
Lon and I began the day with a very mediocre breakfast in Princeton (how do you screw up french toast??) at the Big Apple Restaurant next to our motel, which was right next to Interstate 80. First rule of choosing a culinary establishment: the closer you are to an interstate, the worse the food.
Because my map was so lousy, it really was hard for us to figure out how many miles we had to go to reach Oswego. We were supposed to be in the high school parking lot there by 1:00 to meet the riders who were going to ride in to Downers Grove with us.
It was either around 70 miles, meaning we'd make it by the skin of our teeth, or 80, which meant we'd be pretty late. Nothing to do but get going.
This is a classic old railcar diner in Sandwich, Illinois. You don't see too many of these anymore.
We had marvelous biking for the second day in a row. Good tailwinds, gently rolling hills that made for great variety in cycling. No boredom whatsoever. Illinois appears to be the best cycling state either of has seen in our travels.
The cycling was so wonderful that at one point I joked to Lon, "You realize we were actually run over by a truck yesterday and we just don't realize we're in heaven yet."
After traveling about 65 miles and realizing we were going to make it to Oswego at least close to on time, we saw this home a few miles west of the town. The oak grove, the classic lines of the home, the American flag; it just seemed such a homecoming picture. Is this THE classic American home?
And then a right turn across the Fox River and through Oswego, and there we are at the high school. Waiting for us, Lois, my daughter Alyce!!!!! and the "diehards", a group of almost twenty students and relatives of students, who were waiting to ride in the final 27 miles to Downers Grove, to participate more directly in Route 99 and/or just have a good time.
Three school vans and one rented truck did the job of getting them and their bikes out to Oswego.
After hugs (Hey, Rus, did I actually get you off the ground? I don't think so.) and some safety instructions, we hit the road at about 1:50. We had beautiful tailwinds and reasonably mild temperatures. Trusewych and his group headed out ahead of us all, not to be seen again until Downers Grove. The rest of us muddled along with help from the sag wagon vans driven by Tomek, Colaluca and Cox. Lois drove the truck straight back to Downers Grove. I was a little disappointed that she didn't ride along, but I had no idea then how much she had to do.
Alyce made the ride and I had a great time riding along with her and all the others.
Meet Rachael Schroeder, one of DGN's most talented ceramic artists (1st prize, Illinois State Student Art Fair) and most competetive soccer players (2 year varsity defender/goalkeeper and captain). Rachael took an opponent's cleat full in the face while sliding out to make a save in May. Her nose was broken in about a thousand places (ok, ok, a hundred, but it felt like a thousand). The plastic surgeon did a great job, didn't he? She's the greatest.
About 4:00 we arrived in Downers Grove and headed north from 63rd on Belmont. With an escort from the Downers Grove Police Department. Very cool. Our group had the right lane, bracketed front and back by police cars. They took us right through the red lights right up toward Puffer School. At 55th St., one of the students behind me said, "Hey, Mr. Graham, wave to the camera!"
Lois had told me that Chicago's CBS affiliate, WBBM-TV, was going to cover the story, but gave me no details. So I looked around for one of the remote vans, but didn't see one. Then the student pointed up. Sure enough. WBBM had their helicopter hovering overhead. They were filming the whole thing from above.
Mayor Krajewski, Lois, Bob and the Downers Grove 'Arc de Triomphe'
Up we all went the last half mile to Puffer School. The police sirens were going now. And there it was ahead of me - the actual Arc de Triomphe, imported from Paris!!! Well, ok, it was a big arc of colored balloons, but I got to ride through it, just like those guys in Le Tour.
I haven't heard yet who came up with that idea, but I loved it! Right down my alley.
That's my wife, Lois, on my left. She did a ton of work to make this day happen.
Trying on the hat
Then Downers Grove's Mayor, Mr. Brian Krajewski, presented me with a hat to keep the sun off my head and a water bottle for the remainder of the journey.
And then my old friend, Bill Pehrson, stepped up with the sign of the day.
From left to right, Mayor Krajewski, Bill, me, Alyce. And a bunch of DGN kids having a good time.
Thanks to the Village for their reception. It was very sweet.
Arriving at DGN
But now we had to hurry the last mile over to Downers Grove North High. Lois told me that Channel 2 was going to do a live interview at 4.35.
And so, off we all went, with police escort again.
Meet Matt Marengo
If you've been following this web site, you already know Matt. Matt has done ALL the design work and html for www.route99.org, from its inception in January. He has done an extraordinary job. This is our first in person meeting since I left for the trip, after communicating with each other daily since June 6.
Matt, you've done an incredible job of making this project happen. (See 'About this Site' in the index of the home page to get some idea of what he has accomplished.) How can I thank you enough for turning my dream into a reality?
Many of you have wondered why there have been no pictures of the smarter half of the Route 99 duo prior to this. Now you know. Matt's not only smarter, he's taller!
The live interview
The CBS cameraman miked me for the interview and the field representive asked a couple of questions so that the anchorpersons would know what to ask me from studio. I had a really hard time hearing through that little earpiece, so when Anchorman Lester Holt asked the first question, all I heard was something about "internet" and "students". I have yet to see a tape of the interview; I wonder if my answer was even close.
Meet the Press
Again, we turned the tables on the press. Here are the reporters/photographers/cameramen from the Chicago Tribune, WBBM Channel 2, Downers Grove Suburban Life and Downers Grove Reporter-Progress.
After finishing the interviews, saying goodbye to all the friends and supporters who came out, and taking one last picture with those cyclists who were still there, we called it a day.
And I will now be taking a four-day rest at my home. Route 99 will resume on Monday, July 19 (Monday's journal to be posted on Tuesday, as usual).
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