Day 12: Bourbonnais, Illinois
No one knew what today would bring. We spent in a sort of limbo, not knowing whether the Tour Loaf would be repaired in time for us to leave Bourbonnais in the early evening, or if we would need to spend one more night in the area.
I breakfasted with Magoon and Molhy. The kind staff of the Comfort Inn have noticed our prolonged presence. We have spoken to a few and given them FlecHaus stickers and our social media handles so that they may follow our journey, and they greet us kindly in passing. It seems that not many guests linger here in Bourbonnais for more than a day on their way in or out of Chicago. I remained in the continental breakfast dining area for the morning and continued catching up on the documentation of the last few days. Meanwhile, we received a few updates from the mechanics at the Chevy Dealership. A few exterior lights needed replacing, and the roof needed to be sealed. These were quickly resolved. Another major discovery was the poor state of both front and rear brakes: the rear brake boots were basically melted, and looked charred. The front brakes were not much better off. The mechanics ordered new brakes for us, which were set to arrive in the early afternoon. The timing of the parts truck arrival would determine whether they could finish the work by the end of today, or tomorrow morning. While we were not thrilled with the prospect of delaying another day, the brakes seemed very important. I was shocked that at the previous two repair shops that looked over the machine, no mechanic mentioned this potentially fatal problem. We unanimously decided to stay and not get ourselves killed on a mountainside with no brakes.
"Auntie made me promise I wouldn't get you guys killed." - The Captain, on the decision to stay and replace both sets of brakes. We made plans to cross-train each crew member to check the oil on the road at all stops, and to pick up some hand sanitizer so that we could both use the facilities and prepare sandwiches while on the road.
The weather was beautiful and not too hot (compared to Texas), so we reconvened in the hotel room and headed to the Kankakee River State Park around 1300 hours. The Captain had learned about the park on our first day here, in his research on potential activities if we found ourselves stranded longer than expected. At Park Headquarters, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that free admission is the policy at all Illinois State Parks! The staff recommended Rock Creek Trail, a 2.5 mile loop, for the shade it offered and for the cliffside views of Rock Creek. They provided us a curious hand-drawn map that indicated it began across the main road (Route 102), and included a cave and a waterfall view. After admiring the Kankakee River near Headquarters for a short while, we drove back across Route 102 to the designated Rock Creek Trail parking circle, and walked into the woods behind the large map for Rock Creek and Chief Shaw trail.
The Ugly Bear pranced and pulled at her leash, fascinated by her exciting surroundings. We crossed a leaning wooden bridge, and eventually emerged into an open paved path. Walking toward the highway and into an offshoot near the cliffs, we stood at the overlook to Horsethief Cave and contemplated those who had used it for shelter in the past.
Rather than climbing down the ridge, we opted to continue on the trail away from the road toward the waterfall. It was not much of one, in fact - just a bit of rapids framed in an opening of trees, at the second main curve in the loop. To stay nearer to the river, we retraced our steps back to one of the many openings in the trees leading down to the creek. We carefully made our way down the side trail, following a path that was steep in grade but had clearly been traveled many times before us.
At the base of the path, we reached our sanctuary: a magical area by the moderately flowing Rock Creek that rejuvenated our tired bodies and minds from the week's ordeal. We stayed there in admiration of the water and foliage and its healing, calming energy for nearly an hour.
We returned to the hotel refreshed in the late afternoon. We heard back from the repair shop that they would not be able to finish work until the following morning. Still, we were relieved and glad at the near roadworthiness of our vessel!
Magoon, the Captain and I walked to the shopping mall to purchase some performance attire in which the Captain had interest. I had an ulterior motive for joining: I had heard tales of a Meowbird from Molhy and Magoon's previous walks around the shopping mall area. It was said to produce sounds identical to a housecat, from its perch within a large bush near the food court. To my amazement, as we approached the bush, I heard a distinct catlike sound. We stood nearby, delighting in the astounding sonic resemblance, for several minutes. The meowing had of clear annoyance in its tone, so we moved on to greet the shopkeep of the clothing store. The shopkeep, Jimmy Holmes of Jimmy Holmes Clothing, assisted us in outfitting the Captain with two hats, two ties, and a black vest. The Captain looked pleased and confident in his semi-formal wear. Jimmy was talkative and friendly. He played us a tune on his guitar and joined us to hear the Meowbird on the way out of the mall. We purchased a pizza and some salads at the one remaining shop in the food court, while Jimmy chatted with his fellow shopkeep. The sky opened up in a deluge precisely as we headed back to the hotel. The Captain, Magoon and I were soaked on our short walk back, but it put little damper on the hot meal had retrieved. We found Molhy snacking on fresh fruits in the hotel room, and added our provisions to the feast.
The Captain and I settled in for an episode of Wynonna Earp while Molhy and Magoon relaxed in the hot tub to close the night.