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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


Day One

Joliet to Ottawa


I got up around six and went through the final packing routine on the bike. I already did some of this the night before, but left the finishing touches for the morning. I wanted to make sure I was not going to leave anything behind. Food? check. Spare tube? check… etc…


This is the garage sale bike as I bought it. There was a small emblem on the frame near the chain that read “speed master” This was an oxymoron, since the bike was obviously a mountain bike with big fat knobby tires -not a speed bike.



This is not an endorsement for transit-Pro bags, but they were the largest I could find for the back rack. The two bags together had a capacity of about 2000 cubic inches. This was just enough room to pack my food, stove and pans, and sleeping mattress. They also had nice loops that you can see in the lower part of the picture. I used these loops with a bungee web that I had from the motorcycle days. These bags attach to the bike very easy.  The front bags used elastic instead of a strap. This is a great design feature. The elastic holds the bags in place. It also allows quick bag detachment. The bags weighed 60 pounds loaded; I was not going to detach them, but there is good flexibility that comes with detachable bags for shorter trips.


The stuff sack did a good job of cinching down my oversize zero degree mummy bag. Also pictured here is a little cordalette… once a climber always a climber. It is nice to have a small rope in case you have to improvise something. Note the offset rear wheel. A harbinger of things to come.


This is a shot of the control panel. I turned the front reflector up. Utilizing an office clip; I mounted the directions in front of me, so that I could reference them while riding. I used laminated maps. They looked “cool” but in a 4"x6" format, they were very hard to read. Also pictured on each side of the front wheel are the totally rubberized and waterproof front bags. The olive bag holds the tent in a stuff sack wrapped in plastic canvas to keep it dry in case of rain. The plastic canvas (not seen) doubled as a ground cloth.


The “dressed GITride trail vehicle.” Complete with tire pump, ceremonial carabiner, and a black bandana. The bag bungeed inside the frame is the rain suit top.




I left Joliet by 9:40 am. I am beginning about a mile off the start of the I&M Canal in Joliet. I enter it at a local bike path that connects to the I&M on Larkin Avenue in Joliet.  All the planning complete, we enter implementation. With every implementation, mental preparation meets fear of the unknown. And I feel it. To reduce anxiety, I start going through the checklist in my head.

By 9:50 I was backpedaling in fear. Before I left home, two sets of maps were good enough.  I got a copy of a book at the Joliet public library and xerox'ed the map pages.  I had the www.openlands.org maps, on which I spent a lot of time laminating.  The third set of maps left on the kitchen table turned me around. Maybe it was fear? The excitement of getting started? Whatever it was, the maps I retrieved were the best maps to use.

Had I relied on the set of maps that I laminated, navigation would have been a disaster. I carried three sets of information and ended up using one. The www.Bikelib.org maps were the best maps for me.


About an hour or so into the trip. This is the lock tenders house in Channahon. The trail is mostly chipped limestone. Paved trail is the easiest to ride, but this is pretty good.




The I&M Canal at Morris. You are looking West.  Just north of these fountains is the Morris city center, and to the South is the Illinois River.




This bridge near Seneca is another architecturally pleasing example. It feels good to see that Illinois places priority on making their bridges unique; Especially in places where tourists are likely to pass by on their bicycles.



1st stop 1st day: Wow. This is much harder than I anticipated. I really cannot get any speed up and have found myself dying in the first three hours! Other than the immediate feelings of weakness in the knees and a dull pain in my neck/upper back, everything seems to be ok! (That's a joke.) It is lunchtime but I am not really hungry, however food, and at its prescribed time, is probably a good idea, and a key part of this Chautauqua. This trip is about healthy living. I figure I've covered at my first 23 of 450 miles which is less than 10%. In order to be within my plan, I will need to complete 18% each day or about 80 miles each day.

Oh yeah. and just noticed my ass already hurts too!

The grain Elevator at Seneca is a familiar landmark on the I&M Canal. It is probably a museum or something now. 




Marseilles is a water recreation hot spot on the Illinois River. I am heading to the point where the I&M Canal trail ends. I had to do some calculating so that my days endpoint would have me camping in more of a wilderness area.





The readjustment of the timetable came quick. 80 miles a day? No way. Much depends on how I recover tomorrow, and the day after that. I ache in my legs, my ass, my back, and my feet. I really thought 10 miles per hour would be the slowest. I routinely do a 14-16 mph average on my 25-40 mile runs, so even fully packed, I would never have believed this would be so difficult. Boy, was I wrong. Now I am figuring that If I go 6mi/hr for 10 hours, and the route is truly 450 miles, I will be able to finish the trip in about seven or eight days. It is a good thing I over-planned my food-days. I may have just enough provision to cover this.

Today I covered about 54 miles. I am beat, dead tired, but it is a good feeling of total healthy exhaustion.


END DAY 1: Joliet to Ottawa
Route: GIT Clockwise
Stayed At: Ottawa near lock #12 in a tent under a tree with a little rain
Total Miles 58.7
Total Time 7:02:55
Average Speed 8.3
Maximum Speed 18.9



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