One of the great benefits a week on the road provides is the metabolic lift. Those of us who are...shall we say, more mature, can always use the acceleration to cleanse the aging machine. On the other hand, the battle after returning home is to not eat every damn thing in sight.
Grass, flowers, discarded cigar butts and rancid road kill all take on a different character when you are perpetually hungry. It takes constant concentration to fill yourself with enough protein and roughage to keep the appetite at bay. Don't even think of walking down the snack aisle at the store for a few weeks, not unless you want the indignity of paying for a few empty bags at the checkout counter.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was without my chosen reality when my new phone decided to screw up. The end result is that I have to rely on photos I have leached from the internet, but that means you might appreciate rather than laugh at them.
Overall the ride was interesting and somewhat adventurous. I took Amtrak to Union Station, then the Metra to Joliet. After a brief tour of downtown Joliet I began my trek across the Illinois Michigan Canal trail.Hennipen Canal somewhere around the Illinois River.
Overall, the IM canal is not a bad ride, some places need maintenance and some don't. It is primarily a crushed limestone trail along the old canal towepath. Overgrown now with vegetation, the trail provides pleasant shade and welcome windbreak although the path itself is a slow surface to ride. When I rode it out, the area between Morris and Ottawa had suffered some severe flood damage from the Illinois River. On the ride back I completely avoided this section of the trail by taking highway 6. There were three serious washouts and a lot of trees lying across the trail. One washout was so severe that I was fortunate to encounter two tourists coming from the opposite direction. We were able to help each other cross the chasm created by the floods and if either of them are reading this, I would be glad to post the photos of that interesting crossing if I hear from you. (hint, hint) My phone was on the blink so I don't have any photos.
After the ordeal on the IM canal I took to the road for a day to reach the class reunion. My classmates of 1970 were impressed, astounded and some even intimidated that I had ridden my bike, but they got over it quick and it was a great weekend of reminiscence.
The route back included more of the Hennepin canal trail which is a little different than the IM.
The greatest difference is geography. The canal cuts through some of the richest farmland in the world. It does not run adjacent to a river and consequently the route is a little dryer and faster.
On the downside there is less vegetation meaning little shade or windbreak.
Both trails provide many opportunities for camping, both at sporadic campsites and some excellent day use areas, although drinking water sources are in short supply. I had been warned of this and carried a 1.5 liter Camelbak on the trip. Even then, I had to be conscious of managing the supply and not miss any opportunity to refill. Small towns in the area are sparse and usually serviced by convenience stores generally several miles from the trail itself. The IM canal cuts through a more heavily populated area than the Hennepin so there are some easier opportunities there. One charming diversion was the town of Morris. There is just about any service you might need, and a downtown area revived with quaint shops, restaurants and taverns on each block. When I rode through I noticed an outside stereo system on the streets playing "Up on Cripple Creek" by The Band and then "Vincent" by Don McClean when I came back through. There are a couple of good places to camp nearby. It might be a nice night out for a diversion, looks like a party town.
It was a good ride for the 6.5 days I was on the road. I did a little more than 50 miles the days I rode the trails, and maybe 75 when I was on the street. Neither trail had the extensive interpretive information I had enjoyed on the GAP/CO trails. If the trails are in good shape, it is possible, at least in theory, to ride from Rock Island on the Mississipi river all the way across Illinois, past the south side of Chicago to the Indiana Dunes without spending more than 30-40 miles on the street. The trails, like most things in Illinois, have suffered from the political and economic conditions and could use a little work. One of the rangers on the Hennepin trail section said there were only 5 people to maintain the entire facility. So, I guess they do pretty well given what they have.