I had my eye on a truckstop near Champaign Illinois. Perhaps an overly ambitious day, certainly a long ways from where I started out in the morning, but there would be a cold front coming down from the north and the hourly forecast on my Weatherbug app said by midnight it would be tolerably cool up around the Champaign/Urbana area, cool enough to do without AC and the required hookups.
But I got distracted along the way.
There I was, minding my own business, sticking to the plan, cranking off the miles on the big road, when off to the left Rend Lake in southern Illinois caught my eye. Faster than a hog can snuff down shelled corn (Sorry, seemed appropriate. . .) I found myself on an off-ramp, plans flittering away in the winds of change as I tucked myself into a corner of a handy parking lot to study my map and pull up Rend Lake on my smartphone.
It was already well into the afternoon but look there! Bike trails!
I admit I'm no longer the serious bike rider I used to be, but if you remember, I missed out on some riding the day before when Atlanta SP on Wright Patman Lake turned out to be closed due to flooding.
|A rather gentrified bike trail! (And a pretty crappy photo! That's what I get shooting one-handed while on the move.)|
Since I was near the southern end of the lake I picked a trail down at that end that wound below the dam then meandered a little ways up the western shore. It was sunny and pretty warm so I took it slow. (Paradoxically, the faster I went the more cooling breeze I could generate, but at the same time, the faster I went the hotter I got. . .) The bike path was more narrow road than trail, but given the conditions, (temperature wise) I didn't mind. I was just glad for a chance to shake off some of those two days worth of butt-numbing miles behind the wheel. (By numbing my butt on a bike seat? Go figure. . .)
As I rounded the corner at the west end of the dam and headed north I passed a rather elaborate looking Corp visitor center with a pretty fancy flashing sign out front. As I went by, something flashed up on the sign that caught my eye but it didn't register until I was on up the trail a little, and then I couldn't be sure I saw what I thought I saw.
On the way back I made sure to pay more attention.
|(Stock Corp photo since I was too excited to think about the camera at that moment!)|
What's the big deal you ask?? (OK, maybe you didn't ask but I'm going to tell you anyway.)
Well the big deal is that a few months ago I passed one of life's major milestones and was now eligible for a coveted Geezer Pass!!! No longer do I have to pay $80 each and every year for a National Parks Pass! (Or shell out more than that in entry fees during a typical year.) Instead, for the princely sum of $10, I can now buy a lifetime pass!
Essentially free entry to virtually all Federal Recreation sites and lands and half off many campsites and tours! (Some locations are managed by independent vendors that may or may not honor the pass.)
I mean, who wouldn't want one of these??!!!
The only reason I didn't already have mine is that it costs an additional $10 processing to buy it on-line or through the mail and $10 processing seems a little steep to be paying for a $10 pass.
So I hung a sharp, tire squawking right, leapt off my bike before it stopped rolling, and ran, not walked, through the doors to nirvana. OK, well maybe nirvana is getting a little carried away, but I didn't care, by the time I hit the counter I already had my drivers license and cash in hand and through the whole process, (Which was actually pretty dang quick considering how momentous this occasion was!) no mater how hard I tried to be cool and suave about it, I was bouncing on my toes like a kid with his nose pressed to a glass fronted candy-counter.
|Mine! All mine!|
By the time I got the bike re-racked this whole Rend Lake diversion had sucked up nearly all the daylight and I wasn't up to spending another three hours on the road just to get back onto my original schedule. Which left me on the wrong side of that cold front for comfortable AC-less sleeping, so off I went to find a campsite with electric so I could run that danged AC; but it was worth it.
OK, I admit that that evening there might have been just a touch of Gollum-like worship (My precious! We wants it! We needs it!) over my new card, but in my defense, it didn't last all that long. I mean, I had to go to sleep at some point didn't I?