Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pirate Tales

Following the suggestion of my friend Greg I pulled into Marion, KY today to have lunch at Marion Bar-B-Q. I asked the first person I saw on the street how far the restaurant was from town. "Oh, that's pretty far," he told me. "But there's another barbecue restaurant, S & J, just about a mile out of town and it has really good food." One mile sounded better than an undetermined "far away," so I headed over to S & J. The waiter recommended the pulled pork. As I ate my meal, the man I met on the street walked in with his wife. Turns out they owned the joint. All conflicts aside, the recommendation was solid -- the barbecue was tasty.

A dozen miles from Marion, I caught a car ferry that took me across the Ohio River and into Illinois.

As I waited to board the ferry, the sky was darkening behind me and thunder was approaching. By the time the ferry dopped me off in Cave In Rock, IL, the downpour had begun. I ducked under the awning of an abandonned restaurant. A guy, taking cover on the other side of the street, crossed over. He had just moved back to town after living in Florida for years. He and his wife bought a building with retail downstairs and an apartment upstairs in the faltering downtown. He hoped to open a camping supplies store capitalizing on the state park and the regular motorcycle rallies held in the area.

Though I didn't get a chance to explore the town, the guy gave me a little history lesson while waiting for the rain to subside. Apparently, the cave in the town's name was a pirates' cove. Pirate gangs would stop flatboats coming down the Ohio and offer to help the crew negotiate the rapids. Once aboard, the pirates would dispatch of the crew and then sail the boats down to New Orleans to sell the cargo. In the early 1800s, the law attempted to tame the area by decapitating some of the pirates and putting their heads on spikes in front of the town courthouse. Supposedly, another gang hijacked wagons travelling West on a popular, nearby trail. "It's a wonder the West ever got settled," the man told me.

The setting for my last ten miles of the day was like a rain forest. The narrow road curved through thick woods. Rain dripped from the trees, steam rose from the ground, and a green-tinted light colored the air. With rain predicted throughout the night I booked a room at the Rose Hotel, located on the banks of the Ohio. Opened in 1812, the Rose is the oldest, operating hotel in Illinois. Elizabethtown is also home to a number of buildings picturesque in their disrepair.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back to Illinois for the time being. Hopefully the liquor laws are a little bit more relaxed in that part of the state.


Grace said...

Did you ever find out the actual location of Marion's BBQ? It would be hilarious if it turned out that it was just down the street the whole time.

Greg said...


Famous BBQ place in Murphysboro the original (with a location in Marion)




Greg T. said...

Leave it to the other, lesser Greg to know every barbecue establishment across the United States. Next, he'll be directing you to the nearest Clowny Cheese.

The Rider said...

I never did find out where Marion BBQ is. I heard about 17th Street on the route so I plan to stop. Greg S., whenever I asked Kentuckians about the "Hot Brown", they just stared at me blankly. When I explained that it was a sandwich from Louisville, they just told me that people from Louisville are crazy. Greg S. and Greg T., I think I rode by some graffiti about bacon today. Should have stopped to take a closer look.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you had reports of southern Illinois being rude to cycling tourists. I ride regularly on the Johnson County portion of the TransAm and have not had any bad experiences. I have met with many touring cyclists and they, like me, have reported that they have only observed examples of courtesy in this area. It just goes to show how one or two jerks, a little word of mouth and time can taint an area's reputation unjustifiably.