Friday, May 24, 2013

The Piasa Bird - Alton, Illinois

Day 17 Pleasant Hill, Illinois to Granite City, Illinois 84.5 miles

Today we found ourselves following the MRT route along a peninsula between the Illinois River and the Mississippi River.  It was an interesting ride full to ups and downs and twists and turns.  We had to be really careful, especially on the downhill stretches, as the roads were covered with debris.  We learned the area had received 5 inches of rain 2 days ago and flooding was rampant.  

Home with a river view - Mississippi River Trail
Much of the route took us through a wetland area in the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge (SNAKES) first we thought it had started to rain as we felt drops on our raincoats, but we quickly realized we were being pelted with bugs!

We were heading for the Brussels ferry and we were getting quite nervous, as we passed signage for 2 other ferries indicating they were closed because of high water.  If the Brussels ferry was closed we would be faced with an extra 70-80 miles.  With fingers crossed and heads down we cycled on and hoped for the best....we were rewarded with a fun ferry trip across the Illinois.

Brussels Ferry - Mississippi River Trail

Crossing the Illinois River on the Brussels Ferry - Mississippi River Trail
We treated ourselves to Catfish fritters in Grafton and then set out to pick up 18 miles of designated bike path....always something to look forward to.  We quickly had to find another route as the bike path was under water.  

Rerouting from the bike trail due to flooding - Grafton, Illinois
The MRT route from the Brussels ferry to Granite City was spectacular - miles of bike lane bordered by 300 foot limestone bluffs on one side and the mighty Mississippi on the other.  The last section of trail took us on top of the levee with fabulous views of the river.  We continue to be fascinated by the flood gates that are in place to protect the cities on the other side of the levees.  

Piasa Bird - Great River Road
Fantastic bluffs - Great River Road

Giggle of the day:

Rob has a new found fascination with the turkey vulture - and they are bountiful along the route.  They are massive birds....similar in size to the Bald Eagle.  Today we stopped to see the Piasa Bird, a reproduction of a Native American petroglyph painted on the bluff.  Legend has it that the Piasa Bird devours man!  Rob is convinced that the Piasa is actually the Turkey Vulture lying in wait for him to fall off his bike....... 

Turkey vultures lying in wait
Rob about to be devoured by the Piasa Bird

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