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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


Day Four

Colona to Savanna

By about 7:42 I had breakfast, was packed, and ready to leave my "baseball camp." It looks like eight miles to the Mississippi River trailhead, then 55 miles to Palisades park. If I can make it this day, I am feeling like I can make the whole thing.

I thought I was well hidden last night. No telling how the cop saw me unless he was tipped off. No matter. The cop was nice, asked my name, and said have a nice night. If I could change one thing about the GIT it would be to set up small free simple accessible campgrounds all along the route. I made some preliminary plans to address this. Do you want to get involved?


The Mississippi river and it’s feeder rivers and canals cover one third of the United States. This river “made” the heartland with very low cost shipping of heavy duty items like bulldozers, iron, coal,  grain, and the like.



I made a water stop at the East Moline trailhead. The water was good, but there was no spigot. I had to use a drinking fountain to fill my MSR bladder, and could only fill it half-way. I will need to fill water again. Note to city planners: include spigots in your park plans. There were a few parks where it was hard to find one. Then again, perhaps this inconvenience was by design.

Some guy was walking out of a church near the trail, and he said something to the effect that he had a bike, "but he only had to move his wrist to make it go faster." I stopped peddling. “...What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I thought.

"Sounds physically demanding." I called back.


An anti-scenic part of the Great Mississippi River Trail and the GIT. It reminded me of the Netherlands functional bike paths. This could just as easily have been a picture taken by a Dutch bicycle rider there, where the bicycle paths routinely follow the highway.



20 miles up this trail are bicycle roads with cities and towns the whole way. I passed one paid camp area, and another spot across from a dragstrip on a Nuclear power plant property. –Figured If I stayed there, with my deep tan and three day beard, I might end up at camp X-ray. I pushed on.

I was getting desperate for a place to stay. I stopped at two places to try to pay-camp but there was no one attending, and I did not want to wake up in the morning only to have someone demanding an inflated price. Finally I dropped the bike on the middle of a paved trail. I was determined to camp there. I cooked and ate my MRE, but there was just too much pedestrian traffic. Because of this, I decided this might not be the best place to stop. I got on my bike and rode on. It was a good thing. This campsite would have been located on a short three mile nature walk near the South skirts of Savanna.

I rode through the center of Savanna. Nice little downtown area. You get the feeling that people actually walk and entertain in the downtown Savanna streets -a place the residents enjoy.


Wait, wasn’t I just talking about Amsterdam? Maybe this is a fore-flash? This is another landmark featured on the GITride t-shirt.



It was starting to get dark. Really dark. Past twilight dark. My blood pressure starts to rise. I don’t have a light on my bike, and though I am a little tense, I am back to feeling like I just might finish this thing. “Hell I made it this far,” I said to myself as I peddled through town. “But right now, I’ve got to find a place under the stars –and quick.”

I get through town and it is now “full on” dark. On the northern outskirts there is a fairly tough hill and it’s located on a busy road. This not only isn’t fun, it isn’t safe.

I couldn’t believe my luck… Just before I had to get on this hill I spotted a small gravel road with three months of overgrowth. “Bingo!” I thought, “no matter where this leads, this is home for the night.” -Major celebration! -Pulled a rabbit out of the hat! Or so I thought.

As I rode down the overgrown path I found myself next to one of those electricity substations. A natural gas substation would have me with second thoughts. They must leak something -Really… Electricity doesn’t scare me too much though. A little while back, I was working with the folks at London Electricity. Every day I was meeting with the men who maintained the high voltage equipment for the London distributed power network at substations just like this one. Most of these British guys been on the job over 30 years, and not one of them had an elbow growing out of their heads. –I figured I was safe. (No offense to people who have elbows growing out of their heads.)

Living out of a sleeping bag has one distinct advantage. Once you have acclimated yourself to the outdoors, and physically drained yourself, sleep comes very easy. If you bring the right gear, It’s one of the most pleasurable parts of the trip. How many people do you know that get 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep? My economic and social calendar affords me no more than six or seven hours a night. When things get really hectic? Five hours tops. In this trip, I have found physical nirvana. -and then the trains came.

The downside of camping at an electricity substation is the abundance of light. You throw a part of your pillow/pullover across your eyes, and that light problem is fixed. The hum of the lights is like one of those “sharper image” white noise sleep aids.

But there is another light, and yes it really *is* a freight train! I must have been near an intersection too, because I could handle the headlight, it was the very loud… the “I need a set of earplugs” loud horn that announced its arrival in what seemed like every twenty minutes! Like a nightmare from an Abu Ghraib cell, “Your night is toast.”

In the morning I looked around a little more and found that this camping spot was right next to an intersection and a set of train tracks. It must be worse in the middle of the day, but that really didn’t matter. It was bad enough to completely screw my night. Surprisingly, probably because I had been getting good sleep on the other nights, the deprivation didn’t seem to effect me too much. The Debacles continue on day five.

END DAY 4: Colona to Savanna
Route: GIT Clockwise
Stayed At: Savannah, just south of the Palisades entrance (2-3 miles)
Total Miles 66.5
Total Time 8:55:55
Average Speed 7.4
Maximum Speed 33.3



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