I have been riding a county highway known locally as Baseline Road since I began riding bicycles with my daughter about four years ago. It wasn’t in the newness of the first couple rides, but soon after, I began to notice many things I would love to share with my good friend Chuck. Chuck was a farmer at heart with a deep appreciation for the new and the different.
The ride starts on highway 77 near Kelly School and turns onto 506 which eventually becomes C. It is also known as Baseline Road, but I don’t know why. About a mile up that road is a farm where my daughter and I saw a young goat with its head stuck in the fence. The grass may have been greener on the other side, but once he forced his horns through the opening, there was no way to get his head out. I would have loved a picture, but it would have been cruel to take a picture without helping the poor guy free himself. Plus this farmer has a dog that likes to chase bicycles!
A couple miles further west there’s a sign spray painted on the pavement. It reads ‘Buffaloes’ with an arrow. Now I don’t know a buffalo from a bison, but these animals are big, hairy and appear rather strong. Most often they are at the back of their acreage enjoying the shade or the pond. I see them each ride but it usually from a distance.
Not far from the buffaloes is a potato farming operation. It’s interesting to watch this crop in its different stages. Harvest is the most intriguing to me due to the scale and mechanization. My experience prior to moving here was digging them up with a pitch fork and shaking the dirt off. I guess we can’t feed America working at that pace.
The potato farm borders Interstate 55, so we cross it on an overpass and continue west. Several miles of traditional row crops lead to the town of Morley. This is the halfway point of the 20 mile ride. However, at the edge town is the first of several signs prohibiting U-turns in the city limits. So we normally ride across town to legally turn around and head back home.
There are some interesting sights in small town of Morley which lays claim to being the home of a Champion Black Oak tree and NBA star Otto Porter Jr. I don’t recall seeing the tree, but I have played basketball with Otto’s dad.
Within the city limits of Morley I have seen two separate trees in the middle of different roads. There may be more as I haven’t traveled all the streets yet. I’m sure there’s a good reason or story behind these large oaks with pavement on either side. This may be why the city is so concerned with U-Turns. They wouldn’t want someone to hit a tree while trying to change directions in the road.
After legally turning around outside Morley and missing the trees in the road, we head back east. Passing through acres of corn and beans, it is hard to miss the pivot irrigation so common in this area. The sandy soil doesn’t hold moisture well, but the water table is fairly close to the surface. The water delivered by these pivots help the row crops to thrive in the heat of summer.
No rural ride would be complete without a brief turn down memory lane. Tractors and implements of years past are parked as roadside attractions or homage to a simpler time. Here they’ll sit until a collector with a wad of cash makes the farmer a deal that helps him overcome his sense of nostalgia.
Driving too fast it is easy to miss the Hickory Grove Cemetery sign in the grove of trees. The cemetery was established by the French in the 1700’s, and a quick walk among the stones reveals husbands and their wives, military heroes and children much too young to be here.
Riding out and back on the same road allows me to see the same things from a different perspective. It’s one of life’s true gifts that I don’t enjoy often enough. So much of what I see is through the lens of my own bias and experience. Seeing life from another perspective helps the experience to be more real, more complete.
Which brings me back to Chuck. We shared many good and some very deep conversations. I started recording the sights along this route to share with my friend. He always had a fresh perspective and plenty of questions. Unfortunately, Chuck’s disease took him before I could share this with him. It was totally my fault for not sharing sooner what I had seen. Perhaps something in here has brought you some joy in his place.