Phase II: A week on the road


Arrived in Rochelle, Il. late this evening after a long day of 100 miles and couple of unexpected detours. Going through the small town of Barstow the road I was on was flooded from recent rains so I was forced to change retrace my route and go on I-88. There was minimal traffic and a nice shoulder so I decided to take this route as it would be much faster. About 30 miles down the road a trooper pulled me over with a blip of his siren and informed me that cyclists cannot ride on the interstate in Illinois. After checking my name in the Illinois database, he sent me up the road to the nearest exit.

As evening approached I was at a crossroads on a small highway looking for my final turn to the north that would bring me to Rochelle when a woman stopped and offered me advice on where my turnoff would be. About that time I saw a young woman cyclist with panniers pull up to a restaurant and go inside to eat. I was tempted to go in and strike up a conversation with her about her trip, but with darkness pending and 20 miles ahead of me I decided to press on since I wanted to get off this particular highway that was well traveled by 18 wheelers.

As I approached my final turn, I was surprised to see a small taco trailer at the intersection. With the name taqueria Monterrey emblazoned on its side, I decided to stop for a quick taco and to see what I could learn from the proprietor. The young mexicano running it said he came from Chicago to start this business with the hopes of eventually opening a full-fledged restaurant. I told him I was from Texas and he told me that he’d lived in Houston off Telephone Road. I told him about my trip and he explained to me that there used to be a motel at this intersection but that it had been converted to a migrant camp, almost all of them were from “el valle.” He got busy with customers but another man heard a bit of our conversation and he told me he was a supplier for many small Latino businesses in the region. He lived in Naperville near Chicago. I told him I was headed towards Carpenterville and he said he did business there but that it was a place that was bad for Latinos.

They both advised me to take care because I was going down a road with no lights and it was already dark. They were right, it was extremely pitch black but sister moon was rising on the eastern horizon through a cloudy haze. A few miles up the road, I began to see a mushroom cloud of lights from Rochelle refracting off the clouds, and I knew I’d reach Rochelle withing the hour. I stopped a convenience store as soon as I pulled in for a cold drink. The two clerks saw my bike and began asking about my ride. they refused to take my money saying it was the least they could offer. After getting instructions on where to find motels, I thanked them and moved on.

From Iowa City to West Liberty to East Moline
by Louis Mendoza, A journey across our America
My horoscope today from a local paper: Not everybody wants to change the world, you know. So when you declare your own personal revolution, don’t be offended if all you get is foggy looks. They’ll understand later.

Yesterday Omar took the day off to show me around Iowa City and surrounding communities. I had a great meeting with Angel Gonzalez, a Program Coordinator with the University of Iowa’s labor center, which I will describe in a later update in more detail. We visited La Reyna, a store and restaurant in the area and spoke briefly with one of the co-owners and heard a little about how she started her business. Omar arranged a meeting with me today with Jose Elizondo, the first Latino city council person elected in the town of W. Liberty, which is about 20 miles east of Iowa City. This, too, was a fascinating meeting which I will elaborate on soon.

I enjoyed my time in Iowa City and am extremely grateful for the hospitality extended to me by Cathy and Omar–good good, a great bed, and excellent company! It was muggy and in the mid-90s today. I’m adjusting, somewhat painfully to being back on the road. I crossed the Mississippi and arrived into East Moline, Illinois this evening.

Tomorrow I head towards Chicago. I plan to go through Carpentersville, one of the small towns west of Chicago that has several anti-immigrant ordinances. I should make it to Chicago by mid-day Friday.

The pics of Latino businesses [in the original blog] are all from W. Liberty, a town of about 3,600 people. According to Jose Elizondo, about 49% are Latino. With the exception of El Torito, all of these are located within the 2 block downtown area. The concentration of Latino businesses contributing to the local economy was reminiscent of Postville, but unlike Postville, though W. Liberty has experienced growing pains over the years, it has not resorted to passing local anti-immigrant ordinances and there is lots of evidence indicating that the townsfolk and its leaders are embracing change.