Well the day arrived to leave on our vacation to Rend Lake. I worked for a couple of hours that morning and on the way home I hitched up the trailer and picked up Glenda at the house. We had packed our things the night before in anticipation of us leaving after I got off work. I checked the tire pressures and then we set off out of town. We took I-55 South and then picked up I-74 East until we got to Champaign, IL. There we exited onto I-57 South all the way to Benton, IL and exit 71. I actually could have taken exit 77 further north and saved about 10 miles but I wasn't familiar with the road to our campground from that direction. Oh well, I know better next time. We stopped at the gate house to the South Sandusky COE campground and checked in. Our site was #138 in the Dogwood loop. We had full hook ups and with my National Parks Senior Pass it was $12/night.
It was about 4:30pm and we got set up quickly so we could take a little bike ride on the Rend Lake Bike Trail that ran past the entrance to our campground.
We rode past the dam at the south end of the lake and through a couple of the other campground areas.
We decided to go into Benton and have some dinner at Subway since we had not done our grocery shopping yet. That would wait until the next day. After we ate we headed back to the campsite and set out our loungers and the fan we brought. The weather forecast while we were there was for 90 degree days and humidity. The breeze from the fan made it very comfortable to sit out under the awning. Once the sun went down and the mosquitoes started to swarm we headed in inside to watch some TV before bed.
Saturday June 22nd
We got up late and had our usual oatmeal and orange juice breakfast then I had my coffee. Once we got our selves ready we headed to the South Sandusky Beach just about a mile down the road . The sun was out in full force and a light breeze. The water wasn't too cold and actually was very pleasant once you got used to it.
We only stayed about an hour or so since we hadn't been out in the sun too much so far this year. We went back to the camper to freshen up and then headed back into Benton to do our grocery shopping. We planned some meals for the next few days and picked up some chicken breast, marinade, turkey burgers, condiments, snacks and fruit. We found a nice watermelon and some grapes.
After we got the "chores" done we headed back and got everything put away. With that done we sat out under the waning and enjoyed a nice breeze and relaxed in our loungers.
Glenda isn't big on having her picture taken so I only took one of her. :-) We had a nice afternoon. Around 6 pm I got the grill out and cooked up the turkey burgers. We grill up enough for a couple of meals so it is easier to just heat up the next time. The dinner was great and very filling.
After our dinner settled we went for an evening bike ride. We found that around 7-8 pm is a good time to see some wildlife around the bike trail. The ride was not too productive that evening but we had more evenings to come. Once we got back we again headed in for some TV, reading and early bedtime. However before going to bed I did notice that there was going to be a Super moon the next night but it was supposed to be cloudy so I took a photo of an almost Super moon.
Sunday June 23rd
We again got up a little late and had our breakfast of oatmeal, juice and I had my coffee. After talking about what we might do that day we decided that this would be a good day to drive further south toward the Shawnee National Forest region and ride our bikes on the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail. We traveled down I-57 South and then took I-24 East toward Vienna(VIE-N-NA). We exited onto Route 45 and went north a few miles and then left on the Tunnel Hill Rd. Just a mile down the road we came to the trailhead for the Tunnel Hill. After parking there happened to be a gentleman from the area and he told us that the trail from there to Vienna was the most scenic part of the trail. (Good to hear that). So we hopped on our bikes and headed down the trail. Just about a 1/2 mile up the trail we came to the "TUNNEL". The literature we had said that the tunnel was about 500 feet long and you have to walk your bike through the middle portion because it gets pretty dark in there.
This is coming up to the tunnel and it does look like it would be pretty dark in there.
This gives you a better perspective of the length of the tunnel. We were able to ride all the way through on the way to Vienna.
There are several trestles that you have to cross and you can see that they vary in length and construction.
The landscape was very scenic and we stopped on a couple of the trestles to get some photos.
The trail then lead us into Vienna and a little park before it continues on. The full length of the trail is 45 miles however we only did the 9.3 miles from the tunnel to Vienna and back again. (Round trip approx. 20 miles if you include the part from the trailhead to the tunnel)
Ok, here is the not so good part of our ride. The gentleman we spoke to didn't mention that the tunnel was the highest point on the trail and if you go from the tunnel to Vienna you would be going down a gradual 2% grade which means we had a uphill 2% grade coming back. No wonder it was sooooo easy going to Vienna. We were not prepared for this. As I said we haven't been out on our bikes much if any this summer before now. So back we headed. Slower of course. We took several breaks and that helped a lot. Good excuse to take some photos.
It was a welcome sight to see that tunnel again from the other side and the rock formations leading into the tunnel were spectacular.
Now remember I told you that we were able to ride through the tunnel on the way to Vienna but going back it was a little more dark around the entrance from this side compared to the trailhead side. Well Glenda didn't fair too well on the ride through and almost ended up running into the wall and had to stop about 2/3 of the way through and walk her bike the rest of the way. I was fortunate to go through first and was able to keep my eye on the exit or I too would have become very disoriented.
This will give you some idea of what it looked like riding through the tunnel.
Here are a couple of photos after I exited the tunnel coming back.
We made it back safely and got the bikes loaded up in the truck and headed to Vienna and found a nice little Mexican restaurant for a late lunch.
We had a nice drive back to the campsite and rested in our loungers for a while. We didn't do any more bike riding that day. :-) The rest of the day was relaxing, watching some TV and to bed. As predicted there were a couple of small storms that went through the area but never did get bad where we were. There was a nice storm during the night that made for a nice night with the rain on the roof lulling us to sleep.
Monday June 24th
Again we slept in that morning and then had our oatmeal, juice and I had to have my coffee. We then headed to the beach for some more sun and water. The temps were really getting hot and the water was very refreshing. We had a great time but limited our exposure to the sun. We again relaxed in our loungers in the afternoon and had a nice short bike ride on the trail around our campground and checked out some of the other campgrounds that are part of the Rend Lake COE group. We had the chicken breasts in a Teriyaki marinade all day and I grilled those up for dinner.
Tuesday June 25th
We have a routine now, sleep late, have breakfast, coffee and plan our day. Today however it was not to the beach. There were some chances of rain and it was a little more cloudy today so we decided to go to a movie in the afternoon. Just north about 15 miles from us is Mount Vernon, IL and they have a nice AMC movie theatre. We looked up what was playing and found out "Man of Steel" was on so we drove up and enjoyed the movie. First time in a long while I had some theatre popcorn and a soda. I also decided on Milk Duds too. (I splurged) Lots of action but a little too long for our taste. IT was worth the drive and expense. Well back at the campground we did get some rain and a little thunderstorm. Good thing we put the awning up and some things away while we were gone. Once the rain and storms passed we watched TV and read some before bed.
Wednesday June 26th
We were supposed to leave today but I was enjoying our time away so much I called my boss and asked her if it would be ok to take one more vacation day. She and her family have camped in the past and she was more than happy to give me the ok. So after we had breakfast we headed back to the beach for some sun and fun. We ended up having the last of the turkey burgers for lunch and snacked for supper. After dinner I wanted to go out for another bike ride since I hadn't gotten much in the way of wildlife shots. Again we headed out about 7:30 pm and started down the trail. We got around by the South Marcum Recreational Area that leads into the campground and then I saw it.
Can you see what I saw?
Yes, a beautiful doe deer right off the trail along the tree line. She just stood there as we rode by. I was so excited that I turned around to get a better look and she continued to stand there looking at US. I tried to zoom in some but with my excitement and my unsteadiness I was only able to get a somewhat blurry photo. I was disappointed after I looked at the photo later but I still got the picture I had wanted.
My trip was now complete. Then as we were riding back to our campground we were riding along an open field and Glenda pointed to something in the grass a way off just walking along.
I know it is a little hard to tell the species and I am glad it was a ways off from us and headed in the opposite direction. It was a SKUNK. Wow, a doe and a skunk on our last full day of vacation. Once back at the camper we enjoyed the landscape outside our trailer and then watched the sunset.
Thursday June 27th
We did our usual morning routine even though we were leaving for home today. After breakfast we decided to make a quick trip to the beach and then come back and pack up. Even though we only stayed about an hour it was worth the time. We had the bikes loaded up the night before and all we needed to do was strip the bed. gather the dirty clothes, secure things inside for the trip home, clean up and hitch up. We finally got going around 2 pm and had an uneventful trip home. Just a great sample of what is to come next year when we retire and go full time. If we get this excited about a week in Southern IL I can't imagine what we will do when we travel without commitments to work. Looking forward to retirement and it won't be long.