On Lincoln's Trail: Danville woman provides memory lane for walks

Roberta Allen of Danville is extremely proud of her Moonwalk T-shirt. No, it has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.

Allen earned her shirt when her walking club accepted a challenge from a Peoria club to see who could walk the most miles between April and June in the evenings. Allen took first place for the Ridgewalkers Walking Club, a chapter of the American Volkssport Association.

"Maybe I am a bit of an overachiever, but it was an attractive T-shirt," Allen, 60, said of walking 544 miles and spending the $5 to get the shirt.

Allen is one of two "trailmeisters" for the area club that meets the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. (except January) at the Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton St., U.

The Danville Public Library director of reference and archives has put together a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) guided walk for New Year's Day in Danville. Walkers will meet and register between 11:30 a.m. and noon Jan. 1 at Lincoln Park, 1000 N. Logan Ave.

The club does two kinds of walks: guided and unguided. For unguided, people just show up at the starting point and usually have the option of a 3- or 6-mile loop that they can start at their own time. For guided walks, the walkers start and end together with someone acting as the guide to call attention to points of interest.

Allen took a couple of months on both research and actually walking from point to point to develop the walk and create a guide.

"It's like putting puzzle pieces together," she said. "Since it's the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth and we have so many interesting connections to him, I thought that would make a good trail."

She looked up where special plaques have been placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Vermilion County Museum, as well as the first of three "Looking for Lincoln" state-sponsored displays, and worked as many as she could into the walk. Walks often highlight various historical sites and interests such as railroads and churches.

"We're hoping for good weather," Allen said, although she has walked in just about every kind.

Allen used newspapers and other research materials to plot the walk.

"Lincoln has had a great impact on our community," she said. "I put together the trail doing what I do for a living: research. I think it will be a great way to start off the new year."

David Bradley, a draftsman with Henneman Engineering of Champaign and president of the Ridgewalkers, agrees.

"With the club, the walking is not only for health and fitness, but a social event and we learn a lot from the guided walks," he said. "People come from all over. They come here and we go to their walks. It's a great way to make new friends. We walk, talk and eat."

The Ridgewalkers hold events in conjunction with the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival and the Arcola Raggedy Ann Festival.

"We not only have a walk, but we bring people to the events that might not otherwise come and it gives people something else to do when they've come a long way to do the walk," Bradley said.

Allen has participated in the walks since 1992, but she waited a while before committing to being an actual club member.

"It used to be called the Rantoul Ridgewalkers, but there are no ridges in Rantoul," she said with a chuckle.

Allen said members do more walks in warmer months, but they don't let the cold deter them. Last weekend, she participated in a Downtown Indianapolis walk.

"We do urban and wooded walks. Some of the smaller towns might not have a lot of interest for some people, but then you get (the walkers) there to a town like Paxton, and it has some very interesting architecture. It's all about looking at history from eye level. So much gets overlooked in a community, walking it gives you time to appreciate the buildings and the scenery."

Since joining the Ridgewalkers, Allen has participated in 573 events. In November 2001, she did three in one day.

"I don't usually do that, but someone else was driving, so I did," she said. "Once in Terre Haute, we were going on a trail in a wooded area. Let's just say the directions weren't exactly clear, but as someone else said, 'It adds to the adventure.'"

Getting to know Roberta Allen

Occupation: Director of reference and archives at the Danville Public Library

What she's reading: "Devil's Novice: The 8th Chronicle of Brother Cadfael" by Ellis Peters – part of a series of books with a crime-solving monk as the main character

Favorite movie: "It's Christmas, so I'd have to say, 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Miracle on 34th Street.' The latter is because the house in the movie was in my hometown, Port Washington, N.Y."

Hobbies: "Besides walking, I like to bake bread and cook. I like to experiment with interesting ingredients when I'm cooking."

Challenge at work: "Finding infor- mation for an obituary. You'd be surprised sometimes how little children know about their parents. You search newspapers, vertical files, city directories and even wind up on your hands and knees dragging out old yearbooks to help. It's sad sometimes."

 

You're welcome

More about the Ridgewalkers Guided Tour of Lincoln-related sites:

Registration: 11:30 a.m. to noon Jan. 1

Cost: Free

Begins: Lincoln Park, Danville

Directions: Take Interstate 74 to Gilbert Street north exit, north to Fairchild Street, west to North Logan Avenue, north one block to Lincoln Park Avenue, east to parking lot. Look for banner and signs.

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