If you start in Naperville Illinois at the crack of dawn and head toward the Fox River bike path, you’ll catch the mist rising above the ponds. Then Northward bound along the mighty Fox river the daffodils burst into sight and the frog princes croak their song of undying love to all the frog maidens as you silently pedal by.
Up near the Wisconsin border in Richmond after sixty miles or so along the path you’ll find a small fast-food joint still attended to by pretty teens who’ll take your order and bring you a hot-dog or a rootbeer and a smile. It was a long day riding, about 73 miles total and I hadn’t seen a Dog N Suds since the 1970’s. We pulled our weary seats in and enjoyed a root-beer as celebration of a day well done.
It was 1973 she was sixteen, I was seventeen and her first real job was car-hop and the local Dog N Suds. That year root-beer was the taste and flavor of youthful romance. She brought the root-beer out in a frosted mug ( just like the old days ) and it was lightly carbonated, slightly sweet with just a hint of licorice, just as good as I remembered. I told the story to our server, did we look so young at sixteen too, and she smiled and told me there were only a handful of franchises left in the whole country, a place of distant memories and tastes.
Iowa was so friendly, and the Wabash Trace so nice that it needs a second post. In Shenandoah at the restaurant called the Depot – you can get a locally crafted root-beer. Rich and smooth with just a hint of anise it was a treat.
We stopped at several other nice restaurants, but I couldn’t find one that sourced local Iowa beef, maybe that’s something to find in nearby Omaha which is a larger city, but when I asked the waitress what they recommended everyone said “Onion Rings” and “Chicken Livers”.
I have to admit that all my life I’ve never tried a chicken liver, though my mother a farm girl loved them. So to honor Mom’s memory we tried the chicken livers and they were very tasty.
Maybe this is Iowa foie gras? It was pretty good but very rich.
So, if we’re going to enjoy the table – we’d better do some extra along the trail…
Well, we can’t let youth have all the fun….
Safe riding everyone!
The Old Plank Road Trail in Illinois is 21 very straight miles between Joliet and Chicago Heights. The easy ride will take you past many suburbs and you’ll see everything from Saturday French Farmer’s Markets, McMansions to 1950 style box houses, woods and wetland and malls and Costco. This trail was first a Native American game trail, and then a toll road where immigrants who couldn’t afford the barge fee on the canals paid a penny to walk along the wood-lined planked road instead of the rutted knee deep mud of the paths. It later became a railway and then finally a paved recreation path and a bit of a window into the settling of the Midwest.
It’s an easy cruising now, nicely paved past a variety of sights. There’s a great suspension bridge over the highway that must have won a prize somewhere, and halfway down the trail in Frankfort, where the tail passes right through town, you can stop at Build a Bun and get a custom hotdog and a root-beer. We found this new one from Missouri with the Route-66 brand.
A new path, hot-dogs, sunshine and autumn air and a new root-beer makes for a great riding day.