We originally planned to see the Sister of Liberty in Oregon, Ill., on the last day of a previous summer vacation but had to cut it from our itinerary at the last minute due to weather. With a long Memorial Day weekend ahead, we decided not only to go see the Sister but also the Black Hawk Statue in Lowden State Park.
Our first destination was Black Hawk, which is way in the back of the park, so imagine how surprised we were to ride all the way through to discover the statue was covered in black plastic, apparently the result of recent repairs. WHY couldn’t they post a sign or something about the situation near the park entrance? While we were there, at least 10 other bikes made the trek through the busy campground for no reason.
Undeterred, we headed for the local boy scout camp and its Sister. We hesitantly turned into the camp’s gravel entrance and took it real slow, hoping to see her soon. Our hopes were dashed when we came upon a super steep hill that we couldn’t see the bottom of. Loose gravel, recent rains and a motorcycle — disappointed, we slowly turned the bike around and returned to the safety of pavement. Next up was the boyhood home of fellow Eureka College graduate Ronald Reagan in Dixon.
We looked around the property but opted to skip the house tour in favor of a late lunch and made for the river and the Alley Loop Saloon and Deli.
At its most basic, Alley Loop is a full-service bar with a little deli kitchen in the corner. Between all the tempting sandwich options — Brisket, Rueben, Pork, etc. — we each quickly found a favorite. For him, the Cuban. For me, French Dip.
Served between slices of hearty bread that’s toasted in a grill press, both sandwiches were piled high with juicy, flavorful meat. The beef and Swiss on my dip were complemented well by the side of au jus that just had to be homemade — a refreshing change from the usual insta-mix.
As good as my sandwich was, one bite of his perfect Cuban instantly made me jealous. You know, that deep, dark jealousy you only can feel over food. Yep, I coveted his Cuban!
The sides were simple but perfect — a large handful of ripple potato chips and a pickle spear. I was full but not uncomfortable, the right state for the hour-plus ride home. And, I thought about that Cuban the whole way!
Note: Alley Loop Saloon and Deli, located at 80 S. Hennepin Avenue in Dixon, opens at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 11 a.m. on Sunday.