This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It seemed like a good idea!

I had heard from several people on the Chainlink forum in Chicago that Illinois Beach is a good bikecamping destination.  It makes sense, it's about 50 miles north of The Loop and nearly all the trip can be made using dedicated bike paths.  I scheduled a ride on Amtrak to Union Station
which afforded a very shaky cell phone pic of the accommodations.  Boarding Amtrak with a bike these days is pretty easy.  The crew is helpful and polite and the space for the bikes is adequate, but that is all.  Negotiating the steps and narrow vestibule between cars is a challenge so I turned the handlebars sideways to make it easier.  Disembarking in Union Station requires a little patience.  It's always busy and I wait for the throngs of passengers to pass before getting off the train.  Going through the station I usually meet a few curious people for whom bike travel seems a novelty.  Hopefully, I inspired a few people to try it.  Managing the trip to the street is a real feat, it seems that escalators were not built with loaded touring bikes in mind.
On the street, things are different.  Chicago does seem to have bikes in mind.  There are bike routes and boulevards with speed humps throughout the downtown area now and the infamous Dearborn Avenue bike lane runs through the middle of the loop in it's semi-protected glory.
The trails going north reflect a lot of enthusiasm for the sport.

The Robert McCrory path stretches from somewhere around Evanston to Wisconsin and has been designated part of US Bike Route 37.  The state park at Illinois Beach is a well maintained facility and charges $25 a night for their spots which are large enough for a bus and have electrical hookups.
Hanging out in Zion Saturday I found an excellent coffee shop which serves as a caffeine layover for this group every Saturday.  They take a casual "no drop" ride down from Kenosha each Saturday.
The weather was a bit more than "iffy" because we were dealing with the tail end of a hurricane blowing itself out across the nation.  Thunderstorms delivered bucketloads of rain and wet pavement brings, you guessed it, flat tires. 
The beach itself is a nice shoreline.  I'm sure the threatening weather reduced the crowd but even then I had the impression that this was a recreation spot past it's prime.
The concession stands and restroom facilities were abandoned and neglected.  It gave me a feeling that I was strolling through a post- apocalyptic dream.
I did meet two other groups traveling the route, one from Minneapolis who were traveling together to different destinations around the lake.
 Another was a group from Chicago making a weekend of the beaches/
During the morning on Sunday, I got a late start. Another storm come through.  It was a long day.  I planned to ride to Hammond, In. beyond Chicago.  It promised to be a 80-90 mile day and the going was slow.  Some of the trails are packed limestone and they were soft and slow.  The asphalt areas were a relief and the fact that the entire route to Hammond is on dedicated bike infrastructure is one huge relief.  I discovered there that I had left my backup battery on charge at the campsite.  OH, well, no photos for this leg.  I reached Hammond late and stayed with a Warmshowers host Bob Hohman.  Himself an experienced tourist and cyclist, we sat up and exchanged stories for the evening.
Monday promised to be another wet one.  Rain was forecast for the afternoon and I left Bob's house with a plan to follow the Erie trail to Griffith where I would move to the Oak Savannah trail to Hobart.  I was planning to stop for lunch in Hobart and do laundry.  
I have found it's always a good plan to have lunch near a laundromat when I get to my last change of clothes.  This time, things worked out perfectly.  I had a flat as a turned into the laundry, a bonus convenience!  Have lunch, do laundry and fix a flat while another thunderstorm passed!  How lucky could I get?  It gets better.  The storm passed but more were predicted so I decided to make a short day of it and stay at the Indiana Dunes  campground.  I didn't make much distance that day but the campground is a treat.  At only $18 a night, it's a relative bargain but there is no electricity at the sights.  That is good and bad.  The good part is that it discourages the big bus campers and the place doesn't turn into a trailer park in the summer.  On the other hand, I was forced to use the restroom outlets to charge my phone.  Again sparse pics for this trip.  Another little advantage a neighboring camper pointed out is the Chicago South Shore Line has a commuter stop at nearby Beverly Shores.  This could be a nice weekend getaway providing a ride into Chicago for a day-trip.
It's something to think about for the future.  The decision to stay there proved to be a lucky one, I was finishing dinner and had a healthy fire going when the storm hit.  The rain came so hard that it immediately extinguished the fire, and drove me to bed.  Then the real luck began!
 One of the millions of trees chose to snap in the wind and fall directly on me.  It was a live red oak which had a full bush of healthy foliage at the top.  Between the weight of the water on the leaves and an unusual gust of wind, it snapped.  The foliage landed just beyond me and the trunk gently settled on my tent with me trapped beneath.  While I was calling 911, a neighboring camper came to my rescue, .  They helped me out and we removed the tree.
My tent popped  up like nothing had happened!
The final day and a half  was more like a bike ride should be.
Not only did I enjoy sights and smells of vineyards developing in the western Michigan countryside, the skies were clear and the wind was at my back.
I found a few unusual sights in some out of the way places.
I had seen people collect John Deere, railroad signs and fixtures in odd places around the county
but here, just east of Dowagiac a farmer had adorned his front yard with a collection of oil company equipment.  It was a memorable journey, through the storms and dealing with multiple flat tires.  I found that, including USBR 35 in Michigan, it's possible to ride all the way from Wisconsin, through Chicago, around the tip of Lake Michigan and up the western coast of Michigan on dedicated bike routes.  Another thought for the future.

1 comment:

  1. What a great adventure, even with the flats and rain. I love the cycling infrastructure you have up there. I'm going to have to make a trip up there just for that!