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Geneseo to Park Forest, IL

This chapter was written and sent on the Internet from the home and computer of Al Sturges, President of the Illinois Bike Federation. This chapter only covers three days, but we had good computer access tonight.

May 21, Thursday
Debbie, from the B&B, fixed us an enormous breakfast and when we couldn't eat it all she packed up a bunch of fruit and muffins for our trail lunch. This was an exceptionally nice B&B and worth every penny. They even offered their car to us last night, but we chose to walk the few blocks to dinner in downtown Geneseo.

Getting back on the Hennepin Canal Trail, we still had trouble with the grass and mud, especially after yesterday's rain. This grass, even though it had been mowed a week ago, made for slow and laborious travel. We took several bypasses on roads but always kept coming back to the trail to try another section. But, it was not to be! Every section we tried was tough and we could do no more than 5 mph and it was still very strenuous. We arrived at the Park Headquarters and met with Steve Moser, the superintendent.

Steve told us the same tale that almost every land manager in the United States tells. Whether it's the Park Service, Forest Service, State Parks, or County Conservation boards, there is never enough money to build and maintain trails. Steve said they plan to asphalt a section of the Hennepin this year but it could be years to allocate enough money to do the whole 76 miles. This is one reason the ADT legislation in congress is so important. Once the ADT is part of our National Trails System, states and localities will likely elevate the priority for trails that are part of the ADT.

We left the park and rode another mile or two along the canal. Then, we used gravel and paved roads to get to Wyanet, Princeton, Depue, and finally, Spring Valley. We had an excellent ride in perfect weather (except for the ever- present headwind).

In Princeton, we were taking a break at Casey's, the Midwestern convenience store chain that has a near monopoly in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and eastern Kansas and eastern Nebraska. The Schwann's truck had just made a delivery and the driver saw our bikes and stopped to talk with us. After a minute, he gave us each a free Popsicle off the truck — more trail magic!

We spent the night in our tent at a Sportsman Camp about 10 miles from Spring Valley. Harv Hisgen had arranged for Howard McLachlan to pick us up and take us to the campground.

68.1 miles, 10.8 mph average, 6 hours 16 minutes,
1444 miles total

May 22, Friday
Leaving Spring Valley, it started raining lightly just after breakfast. We rode paved roads until we reached the I&M Canal in LaSalle. Howard McLachlan joined us there to ride with us to the Fox River. The I&M Canal Trail is a limestone surfaced towpath that is level and easy to ride, passing through forests, many wetlands, and small towns. In places, the canal itself has been restored with water in the dredged out channel. This was one of our most enjoyable trails we've ridden — very scenic, well built, with nice towns. It reminded us of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath along the Potomac River from last year. We were delighted to be traveling on this trail with its feeling of remoteness even though we were in areas with busy traffic and more population. After an hour or so, the rain stopped and it was pleasant the rest of the day. We ate lunch in Marseilles and later had an excellent milkshake in Morris.

We continued on to the lock and aqueduct at Aux Sables where we met a couple on a tandem out for an overnight camping trip. They had the largest panniers and most gear we've ever seen loaded onto a bike. They were carrying 100 pounds of gear, which is much more than the two of us are carrying for a trip across the country.

We left the trail after a few more miles and parked our bikes in a barn per Harv's arrangements and instructions. Harv arrived to pick us up and we drove to his house in Downers Grove for the night. Harv and Bonnie held a small party that night which included Laurie's sister, Marj, and her husband, John from nearby Elk Grove Village. We ate more and stayed up later than we should have, but we had a fun time.

52.9 miles, 10.7 mph average, 4 hours 53 minutes,
1497 miles total

May 23, Saturday
Continuing another 10 miles on the I&M Canal, we were sheltered from the east headwinds. Harv and Al Sturges joined us today. Al is the executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists. As we exited the trail around a bulldozer which was parked after having done some trail construction, Laurie cut it too close and ended up falling in the weeks and poison ivy and tearing her jersey.

After linking some roads together we entered the Old Plank Road Trail, a rail trail, by riding the first mile on single track. This trail will be extended an additional two miles with asphalt paving later this year. The rest of the trail is a paved trail, another example of a popular greenway. We saw many bikers and rollerbladers out on this Memorial Day weekend. We stopped in Frankfort at a small bike shop and Laurie bought a new jersey for only five dollars. They had only a limited selection, as they were no longer going to offer clothes. Another deli sold excellent sandwiches on homemade rolls.

We spent the night at Al and Barbara Sturges's house, along with Harv. Barbara is the secretary of the League of American Bicyclists (so you see we were staying with a couple of big wheels). They have taken many biking vacations together to many foreign countries and they are both super advocates for bike trails, bike lanes, and safer riding conditions. Both of the trails we rode today were real treasures and the route through Illinois is scenic and direct.

45 miles, 11.3 mph average, 3 hours 57 minutes,
1542 total miles

© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1998, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet

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