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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


Day Five

Savanna to Schlapville


There was another reason I didn’t want to stray too far from Savanna. When I pulled off into the campsite last night, I figured I could “sleep in” and backtrack a mile to the bike shop to have the rear wheel fixed. I am coming into the hardest part of the trip with the rolling hills of JoDavies County. It would be nice if I could use my downward hill speed to glide up the traverse. The way the wheel is rubbing now, and three or four spokes gone, it would be nice to get it repaired, even though this went against one of “the rules” (External influence rule #4)

I approached the rules with flexibility. It is one thing to set goals, it’s quite another if goal attainment causes too much hardship. When that happens, the rules need to be judged for the situation that exists at the point of infraction. Benjamin Franklin put it best when he cheekily stated (paraphrased) “We humans are so lucky to be such reasonable creatures; because we have the ability to reason a justification for any occasion!”

I spend an extra hour and a half getting ready to ride since I figured the shop wouldn’t be open until nine or ten in the morning anyway. I got to the shop, and hung out for ten or fifteen minutes in front before I ever went up to the door. I could tell I was early because all the lights were still off. Then I got closer and saw that their hours did not include Monday. It was Monday. They were open all weekend, but they take their weekend on a day that most people would be getting back to work. Smart move -but I was screwed again. Not only did I lose any opportunity to get the bike fixed without too much hassle, but because I took so long getting up this morning, I robbed myself of 15 miles of road plus the cumulative two I backtracked. I could have been 17 miles away when I found out there was no way the bike was getting repaired today.

There was a note on the door. “For emergencies call this number.” “Na” I thought, “emergencies are $100 to start, and this little inconvenience just kept me from using my bent “Franklinian” logic to break the rules.” It was a sign or something. Looks like I will be pushing through to the next place. Pray the bike holds out.


This is a great picture of a c.1960’s Mississippi bridge. The Mississippi is a huge river. It is really hard to take a picture of it to demonstrate its immensity. This picture captures some of it,. It defines “America.” –and it defines the Grand Illinois Trail. This is also a featured landmark on the GITride t-shirt. When you cross this bridge into Iowa, you are surrounded by water for about two miles (3.2 km)

Taking Blackjack road outside of Palisades State Park on the way to Galena is my introduction to the real hills of Illinois. It’s a tough ride. It seems like it is all uphill and level ground. No downhill; or at least none I could glide with my exercise bike set to “friction level seven.”

 Downtown Galena! It is a nice place to visit. It’s a small Illinois town and was the home of Ulysses S. Grant when Lincoln called him to help in the Civil War. He had a leather store here, but never met wit the success of his military/political career.  Galena’s downtown is one of those small cities that are alive. People seem to really enjoy living and working there. It’s not overly “corporate-ized,” -even though there is a Wal-Mart around the corner. It’s nice to see there are still places like this in the U.S.A.  Ronald Reagan was born only about 60 miles away. Those are the three US presidents that considered Illinois “home.”



Galena appears to be about half way on my map. My odometer reads about 300 miles. I’ve used four and a half days. Keeping this pace puts me home at nine days. -Exactly the amount of time for which I have provisioned, funny how that works out.


Hey maybe this was Grant’s home! Not...


Yesterday was my best day, and I felt that I was truly “slipping into the groove.” I rode more miles than ever. But then today came the hills. This day became the worst single mileage day of the whole trip; about 40 miles. The hills kill when your bike doesn’t glide. The first 10 miles actually proved rather flat then everything changed. Big steep hills. You’re able to rack up high speeds downhill; but now you're moving as fast as a car, and there is another little disadvantage to this fifty dollar garage sale bike… Even with the newly installed brake pads, stopping power is bad. Fortunately it never became an issue.

How the hell did guys finish this whole thing in five days? I climbed a hill today Greg LeMond would have had to walk. Newer bikes have a "granny gear" With my 110 pound bike (50 kilos) I would have killed for one of those today.

I spent a fair bit of time on Stagecoach road out heading East to Chicago. With a name like that, you'd expect the road would be easy enough for a horse pulling something. Nope. It was still hard. Most of today's riding was on paved country backroad. There was still enough car traffic that I had to be alert. I would not get to listen to my Russian language lessons on MP3 today.

At night, the first time I stayed up after dark: I turned on my headlight to write some notes and figure my stops for rest of the trip. I had to get as close to Chicago as possible to camp, so that I could push through to another good night spot. Every night has a new stop. This keeps the trip adventurous.

I shut off the light and rolled over to a  crisp clear sky. It is mostly prairies and corn fields here. There doesn't seem to be very much city light pollution, so that when you look up,  you can see the heavens. This was a bonus. How long has it been since you looked up at the night sky and saw smears of light? They were everywhere. And you could see a very distinct large band of stars!

I’ve been in some of the most desolate areas of the world: the Australian Outback, the Dessert Southwest. I even remember that in my hometown as a child, we could see so much more. The view tonight was as mind boggling as it was amazing.  Go to your backyard and look up. Do you see bands of light?

Probably not.
You're missing something.

Drive into the middle of our Grain Belt somewhere, and look up.

 -and bring your binoculars.


END DAY 5: Savanna to Schlapville
Route: GIT Clockwise
Stayed At: Near Elizabeth Scales Mound Road intersection on the GIT
Total Miles 42.4
Total Time 6:44:19
Average Speed 7.4
Maximum Speed 44.5


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