Ride 34: Goodbye Norma Jean

  Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides  

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Oquawka, IL           July 23, 2005

I was nervous about naming this ride " Goodbye Norma Jean," but my editor assured me Elton John wouldn't sue.

I don't recall where I first read the story of the unlucky elephant struck by lightning in Oquawka, but it appears in several  books of Illinois lore. I chose this admittedly remote area because of that story, but I  found some other attractions  along the way, too.  There is  also a covered bridge south of Oquawka, but I didn't fit that into this ride.

I don't know if the Riverbed Inn  is such a good name for a motel. I don't want to sleep in the riverbed, especially since it makes me think of  " swimming with the fishes." Having Crazy Mary nearby is no comfort, either.


Schuyler Street, Oquawka's  main street, runs straight down into the Mississippi River.

A park near the river includes a totem pole, a mural, and a pair  of carvings.


The ride begins at the southwest corner of the park.

The Oquawka tourism bureau would probably rather you didn't see this photo of a barge full of junk.

The Alexis Phelps House is visible from the river, but these pictures were taken from the Second Street side.


Delabar State Park, which is mostly campgrounds and boat launches, sits just north of town.

The orderly rows of trees make this one of my favorite roads in the whole book.

The real forest is much more random.

With two " no trespassing" signs, Owl's Nest doesn't look like a very  friendly community.

The route goes in and out of Big River State Forest.

This is the wooden car I mentioned in the book that looks like a Flintstones car or the world's largest Pinewood Derby car.

I visited a printing press museum in Keithsburg many years ago (circa 1990), but I haven't seen any mention of it recently so it's probably closed (incidentally, I found myself in Keithsburg that day after I got mad at my younger brother, Keith, and took off on an impromptu roadtrip).

Here's the Keithsburg riverfront.


Something bad happened to the railroad bridge!

In December 2004, the Mississippi was not so welcoming to jet skiers, but the bridge was already damaged.


Here's a better welcome sign for Keithsburg.

I'm not sure why the following  sign is posted on the north side of  Keithsburg since the Yellowbanks Territory  begins upstream at New Boston and ends downstream at Oquawka (Keithsburg was once known as Middle Yellowbanks). By the way, you can buy  a lot in a new subdivision in Keithsburg for only $1500, complete with underground utilities.


St. Mary's Catholic Church was founded just after the Civil War.



It was a very dry summer.

You can ride a Clydesdale at Pine View Cabins. Of course, that's not a Clydesdale on the left.

A ton of asparagus would last me a very, very long time. Actually, so would a pound!

Finally, pay a visit to Norma Jean's grave in Oquawka.



Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.