At Port Byron on the mighty Mississippi

It took us a full day of driving to reach Port Byron, Illinois from Greenville, Tennessee.

While we explored Greenville my AFS sister, Pat, and her husband, Milo but known as Mike, were driving from Port Byron to drive us back there the following day. Where is Port Byron (PB), another little place in the US that we visited? It is part of what is known as The Quad Cities on the Mississippi River on the border of Illinois and Iowa. The 4 original Quad Cities were Davenport & Bettendorf in Iowa and Moline & Rock Island in Illinois. Over the years towns have grown up around them and PB is one of these.

PB map

Map showing location of the Quad Cities

We left Greenville at about 10:00 with a 9-10 hour drive ahead of us. The route was North through Indiana and then West across Illinois. I was quite excited as I was told that we would be going through the Great Smoky Mountains which border Tennessee and N. Carolina as I had imagined something so beautiful. It was quite let down to see how small they were. In fact, I did not realise that we had actually entered them until Pat told me so. Also, they were not smoky or misty as we went through the area late morning. No winding roads, sharp corners or steep ups and downs. So different from what we have here in SA. We will have to go and see the Rockies I’ve been given to understand. We stopped for a late lunch/early supper and arrived in PB at 20:00.

The next morning we explored PB and Davenport. PB is a small town with not much to see but they do have a cycle track which is linked to one in Sparta, Wisconsin about 400kms away. At PB on this track is a 30ft statue of a cyclist on a Penny-farthing and he is called “Will B Rolling”. There is a similar statue in Sparta called “Been Bikin’” and a former Mayor of PB, who paid the $60 000 for the statue, organised an annual cycle race between the 2 cities.

Cyclist MonumentTrevor & Vicky at the Bicycle Statue

Cyclist signSign at the statue

With PB being on the Mississippi we went on a short boat cruise on the river across to Davenport where we got off the boat for about an hour to walk around the riverbank on that side and then back across to another town where we stayed on board and back to PB. On the Davenport side we saw a very interesting playground for children which appeared to be made out of concrete but it was actually a special material made for its durability but is not harmful or likely to cause injury.

PlaygroundThe Playground

Further along the road we came to the Bridge to Nowhere, or the Skybridge. It starts from a high rise building over the road and almost to the river, ending with a fabulous viewing platform from where we could see a long way up and down the river. While there, a number of young people all dressed up arrived and had photos taken. Pat explained that they were clearly dressed for the school homecoming dance held at the beginning of each school year along with a homecoming football game and the election of a homecoming king and queen. It is seen as a welcome to new students and welcome back to returning students. Most of the girls were very dressed up while most of the young men were in open –necked shirts and trousers. Nothing like when I was in the US as a high school exchange student when the guys wore tuxedos and we wore long dresses!

Bridge to nowhere outsideThe Bridge to Nowhere with Mike, Vicky & Pat

Bridge to nowhere insideInside The Bridge to Nowhere

Davenport fountainDavenport Fountain where photos were being taken

While on the river we were able to get a good look at the new bridge which is in the process of being built over the river. It forms part of the I-80 which spans a large part of the US from East to West and the amount of traffic has become too heavy for the current bridge. We later crossed the existing bridge to Davenport where we had our lunch and walked around the town area and the only interesting thing noted was a small park area which included a box where one, child or adult, could leave or take a book to encourage reading.

 We returned across the river and went to Arsenal Island, a military island on the Mississippi with a cemetery. Both my American Field Service (AFS) parents are buried here as he was a WWII veteran. It was hoped that we would be able to visit their graves, especially as ‘Mom’ had died only a few months earlier. A very officious officer absolutely refused to let us in as we are not US residents even though we could not see anywhere he all the notices around that this was a reason for refusal. And no photos either.

We were in PB for just 3 days before the 4 of us began a trip west to the Grand Canyon. On one of those days we went back to the town of Rockford - 90 miles NW of Chicago and a 2 hour drive from PB - where I had lived with the family and attended school with Pat to see the home and school, Rockford East High . It was very sad to see the house had been sadly neglected. There was no one at home so we walked around the outside, some photos and then went to the school. It has been much extended and had some lovely new signage from 49 years ago.

1812 25th St VickyOur home in Rockford. Note: I did knock on the door first.

1812 25th St rearRear view of the house. The window on the right was my bedroom

Rockford East High main entThe school I attended with its new (to me) main entrance

It was good to do things together but also not be too rushed or do any exhausting excursions especially as we had a 3 day trip ahead of us to see the Canyon.

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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