My day started with a 4-hour rain/thunder/lightning delay, so I went in search of a dose of Popeye and what I found was a dose of moxie in Chester, Illinois.
Rain Delayed at the Popeye Museum
Yesterday I made fun of Chester IL for their 117-year pride in being the hometown of cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar, the inventor of Popeye. What I discovered at the Popeye Museum, however, had me regretting my quick-to-judge assessment.
33 years ago, Debbie Brooks and her husband Mike, zealous Popeye fans (they founded the Official Popeye Fan Club – who knew?!), decided to move to Chester when they discovered that the town was not celebrating its rich Popeye history. (Apparently, not only was the cartoonist born here but he modeled all of the comic strip characters after townspeople.) They opened the Spinach Can Collectibles and the Popeye Museum which ignited Popeye Pride in Chester IL. Today, the town has successfully leveraged its Popeye history (31st annual Popeye Picnic Sept 10-12) and put the sleepy town on the map. A little spinach, a lot of moxie.
As I was talking with Debbie, she shared that prior to opening the Popeye Museum, she was a chemist for Maybelline cosmetics for 18 years and just loved her job. I asked her why, and Debbie said she loved research and development. Without a college degree, Debbie got herself a job in the mailroom at Maybelline and spent the next few years vying for any job in the lab. When an entry-level job opened up, she jumped and launched her career formulating mascara, blushes, lotions, and potions. This woman’s got moxie!
After the rain stopped at 11:30am, I launched in Chester and rode 70 miles straight north towards the suburbs of St. Louis. This was the first day not using the Adventure Cycling maps, and let’s just say that it’s a good thing no one is paying me to create bicycling routes. I literally looked at the map, saw a straight line going north and said, let’s take this route. Turns out, so did about a million trucks. On top of which, the road had no shoulder whatsoever. Needless to say, I quickly re-routed to country roads with no cars and lots of corn. I then stair-cased my way north.
Denise, one of my college roommates, lives near St. Louis, not too far from tonight’s RV park. She made the trek to visit me tonight, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner catching up. In college, Denise and I studied together our entire senior year to sit for the CPA exam (which we both passed). Today, Denise is a mom of two boys (8 and 11) and serves as a part-time bookkeeper at a church. When I asked her what she loves about her job, she laughed and said, “That I get to use my brain!” Specifically, she loves that she gets to use her talents and her training in accounting to contribute to a small community.
- The amount of Popeye paraphernalia at the museum
- An historic covered bridge
- A gorgeous red-tailed hawk picking up a dead snake from the road and carrying it away (but not before I counted it as road kill!)
- 6 sheepdog puppies (and its mother barking furiously and running up and down the fence in front of me as I stopped to take a picture)
Day 44 Stats
Total mileage: 2,823.61 miles
Day 44 ascent: 1,576 ft of slower parts (I can’t say that anything about biking in the flatlands of Illinois is “slow,” just a few bumps caused a few slower parts)
Total interviews: 74
Road kill count: 915
(added 56 today, saved another turtle (pictured!) from becoming road kill, and my friend Gailene wondered whether I should count the 4 imprisoned governors of this state as road kill…)
Destination for Day 45: Vandalia, Illinois (just outside of Effingham – I’m almost at my brother’s house!)