We had paddled 38 miles into the dark to get to Grafton, Illinois. We made dinner in the cool, dewey night down by the river. Looking highly suspicious, we turned off our headlamps when the cops drove by, wanting to avoid trouble. After devouring a particularly delicious (aka – we were particularly hungry) meal of thai peanut sauce and vermicelli noodles, we headed up to the lights of the town.
We found two bars, and we could hear the whoops from one of them all the way down by the river. We pushed open the door, and plowed into a raucous crowd of people. We hit one with the door. We couldn’t get the door closed before they spotted our maps and were buying us a drink. It took probably ten minutes for us to even make it to a seat, so many questions they had for us.
Within five minutes of talking to us, he offers us his spare bedroom in the condo he lives in up on the bluffs. We’re total strangers, and he’s willing to drive us up there and take us in for the night.
But this plan doesn’t last for long, when Jimmy comes over and announces “I’ve got a surprise for you two!” Jimmy tells us about how he’s taken his own boat all over the world. Our surprise arrives a few minute later. Her name is Alison. She introduces herself to us, shakes our hands and then says something along the lines of “I’ve got a bed and breakfast and cabins up on the hill. I’d be happy to put you up in a cabin all to yourself tonight, on me!” She goes on to describe the jacuzzi, the sunrise view, and the fireplace.
One by one others come talk to us “She usually charges $300-$500 per night – these are luxury cabins” and “it was voted one of the ten best bed and breakfasts in the US” and “you’re staying in the most prestigious place in Grafton tonight!”
We chat more with Bob – he suggests different jobs we could get if we move to Grafton, with Sam and Bill – Bill can’t believe we’ve actually paddled 1100 miles so far, and to Melanie – who is a bit tipsy and breaks off conversation quite often to holler “llaaaasssssttt caaaaaalll.” We leave with Alison at 9:30.
She drives us down to the canoe to get our things, and tells us how her late parents started the bed and breakfast. “If you’d asked me before if I ever wanted to live in a small town like this, I’d have said never, but now I love it” she says.
After stopping in the main building to take in the view of the river down below and for her to put together a breakfast basket for us, she drives us to the cabin she describes as her favourite. It’s got a cozy lodge decor, with a huge king size bed, a jacuzzi, a fireplace, two tvs, complimentary popcorn and soda, and an incredible view. There’s a Christmas tree in the corner of the living room, and stockings hang over the fireplace.
Now this morning I am sitting by the fire with my feet up, in a plush Tara Point Inn robe, eating grapes and drinking coffee – with a bird’s eye view of the river.
We are, quite literally, living the high life.