Day 23: A Warm Welcome of Friends and Family

Start/End: Chicago/McHenry, IL
Mileage: 69+/-
Weather: very wet and rainy at the beginning, then hot and humid later

Today was kind of a challenging day for many riders. We spent time visiting friends, family and loved ones alike, many of whom we would not see in person until after the journey. But it was exciting. Many of us were so surprised about how much we missed our fellow riders. We reunited at UIC, where some of the riders had stayed in Chicago, and then made our way towards Buckingham Fountain. At the fountain we met up with alumni riders as well as guest who would join us for the first part of the ride.

Today’s ride was dedicated to a gentleman that we had done a portrait of while we were on the trip. He seemed to do a lot for his community, and it was great because in his time of need, his community was really very supportive of his fight against cancer.

We got on our bikes to start riding and that is about when the rain started. We took the Lake Shore Path north for several miles and light sprinkles turned into heavy downpour. The sidewalks had some especially large puddles to dodge. I really give the guest and alumni riders serious kudos for staying so upbeat throughout the ride despite the adverse weather. We biked on the Greenway Trail and perhaps another, but I can’t remember, but before we got to mile 27 where lunch was at, the sun was shining and we had dried off just enough to hug some of our awesome supporters who welcomed us into the picnic area.

The picnic. You have just no idea. I have seen how much food 28 cyclists can demolish at dinner time, but goodness. We had so much amazing food brought in by past riders, parents and supporters that we hardly made a dent in it. There were grilled burgers, brats, hotdogs and veggie burgers, pasta salads, potato salad, fruits, vegetable trays, deviled eggs, dessert of all different kinds…..it was incredible! Our riders must have looked hungry. It am pretty sure that I had not eaten more at any other meal than this one (and I would still need to bike 40+ miles). We met alumni who had done the ride in the past and even enjoyed done time with one of the founders of Illini 4000.

After lunch, we still had quite a trek to make and it had warmed up rather substantially. We navigated through the northwest suburbs on bike trails and roads making our way to McHenry. After a snack, filled water bottles, sunscreen and a few flat tires,new made it!

Tonight has just been amazing. We have had amazing hosts at the Tree of Life, who not only generously hosted us in their facilities, but also provided a very filling, delicious dinner which had pulled pork sandwiches, vegetarian lasagna, different types of salad and then amazing dessert of homemade ice cream and cake. We could not be more thrilled. After dinner, because some of our riders actually have bottomless pits for stomachs, many went to a bonfire at a rider’s friend’s house where there was some serious s’more making activities.

It truly has been an amazing day filled with old and new friends alike. Illinois has been a great place to visit and we are thrilled to have been able to meet so many amazing folks. Tomorrow we head to Wisconsin, where one of our riders, Lizzie, attends UW-Madison. We are excited to see more of her home turf and excited to cross yet another state line on this trip (and hopefully there is a sign).

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