Rewind to 10 days before Christmas (especially if you read my holiday post). It was Sunday, December 14, and it was 52 degrees outside. In Illinois! We both not only wanted to ride … we needed to ride. So, we geared up — me in no less than five layers — and headed out, much to the chagrin of our two dogs who were becoming a little too accustomed to our being home on Sundays.
Now, it was 52 degrees outside; however, you should know I tend to wear sweaters when it’s 70, so it was no small feat for Wally to get me out in the middle of December. One big advantage he had was that it was in the low 50s for much of our summer vacation around Lake Michigan in August (watch for many posts on that ride to come), which means I had learned to deal with it more than in the past.
Stepping outside, the sunshine felt exquisite. I threw my leg over the bike with a big grin on my face and gave Wally the all-ready signal. Not knowing how I’d really handle the cold, we agreed to stay closer to home, deciding to try a new place in Chillicothe called Lucky Dog’s Pub & Eatery. Since we wanted a bit of a ride, we improvised our route, using Wally’s “ladder” system.
The ladder is his way of exploring the area north of Peoria between IL 40 and IL 29. He picks a road and heads east, then another road to head back west and so on until he gets as far north as he’s wanting to go. On this particular Sunday, we wiggled back and forth for a while before ending up in Chilli.
Our route took us north on IL 40 for just a few miles, to W. Singing Woods Road. I really enjoy this road. It twists and turns, up and down toward the river valley. But, it’s rather short, dropping you at the bottom of the Cedar Hills Road hill by the big horse stable. Well, we didn’t stay on Cedar Hills long, as we took the first left we could, onto N. Ivy Lake Road.
It was about there that I commented how fun it would be to listen to some Christmas music since it was only a week or so away. Instead of waiting for our return trip, Wally surprised me by pulling over almost immediately and changing playlists. So, there we were, cruising down the backroads with the holly jolly sound of the season surrounding us. It was as perfect a moment as anyone could wish for. We were there, close together once again, finding that groove we share through our two-up world. To be honest, I was a bit cold, especially on my chin where my scarf didn’t cover (yep, I asked for a hood for Christmas). However, I didn’t really mind it at all. I was too happy being in that moment, lost to peace, love and joy.
As the glorious journey continued, a spontaneous slight right put us on E. Rome Road, which would take us all the way to the river. Preferring to ride along the water, we avoided IL 29 until I had a thought. I decided I wanted to take some video to prove we actually were riding on December 14. He complied, finding a bank with an automated sign that fit my needs. A couple minutes later, what I thought would be my only holiday video was saved…
And we were just blocks from Lucky Dog’s.
Located inside an old Pizza Hut at 701 N. 4th Street (IL 29), Lucky Dog’s layout retains that familiar feel with the addition of a rather large bar where the front counter would normally be (and where we opted to sit). Wally quickly noticed they have several of the Peoria Brewing Company‘s beers on tap. Since we both had acquired quite the taste for the local company’s product, we each ordered one: he an Erik the Red and me a Honey Do. With brews in hand, we began perusing the menu — pretty extensive for your typical bar.
One unique item I noticed right away was the salad bar. While there is an all-you-can eat option for $7.99, they also offered an alternative for those with a smaller appetite: $0.41 an ounce! That’s right, you fill your plate, they weigh it and add the total to your bill. Wally decided to give it a try. He seemed impressed by its options from traditional salad to cottage cheese and the like. I, on the other hand, started with a combo of fried mushrooms and cauliflower. Mmm … mmm … naughty.
When I saw the Sunday special was tacos, I was in for three. (I have a slight addiction.) Imagine my surprise when the $1.25 price bought me way more than your typical bar taco. The meat was flavorful, the toppings were crisp and fresh, and the shell — oh, the shell! From what I can tell, instead of using your typical fried thing, they take a fresh flour tortilla and bake it into the taco shape. It makes for a cleaner taste and heartier bite. Plus, as it cools down, it becomes almost pliable, like really thin pita bread.
Wally went another way with his meal, ordering the patty melt (one of his favorites). Piled with grilled onions and sliced Swiss, the burger was prepared just right, cooked through but still juicy. The bread, grilled rye, added a nice flavor and didn’t fall apart like many do with this sandwich.
After paying our bill, average for a Sunday afternoon, we hit the road. The sun was at its peak, shining down bright and warm as we made our way home. Of course, we jumped on River Beach Road for as long as we could, reveling in the sunshine bouncing off the water. You could almost believe it should have been warm out — almost. To say the somewhat cold ride was worth it would be an understatement. It was a mid-winter, and we were enjoying some well-deserved and much-needed wind therapy. Merry Christmas to us!