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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


Day Six

Schlapville to Ridott

On the road by about 8 a.m. The rear tire still rubs against the frame of the bike but I have learned to ride through it. I was afraid the wheel was going to fall off in Savanna, but after a full day of these hills, I’ve concluded my breakdown worries are slightly unfounded. The bike is pretty seriously impeded by the friction, but it is still very much ride-able. Even with the constant rubbing, it is still much easier to ride than to walk.


A perfect representation of the American family dairy farm.



 A large part of the Grand Illinois Trail is spent on trails like this. All through the Grand Illinois Trail, are former railroad track paths converted for recreational use. When you are inside these little “strip forests” it feels like you are in the middle of the wilderness. Turn perpendicular to the trail in either direction; and you are probably in a farm field, a neighborhood, a river, or a state highway.


Another nice thing about following old railroad lines, is that the grade is flattened somewhat.  This shows how the limestone was blasted or shoveled out to make a uniform grade. After 100 miles of big hills,  any flattening was a welcome sight.



It is difficult to say if 1.) I was now accustomed to the hills, or that 2.) I that I was riding the excitement in knowing I was going to be successful.

There was less trail riding today. It was more Illinois back-country paved farming roads. They were fairly abandoned. Riding them was actually kind of fun. It would have been nicer to always be on a trail as seen in the pictures from today, but riding on these roads has its advantages too. For one, you get a little better glide out of the bike on pavement.

I put in 60 miles, and it was getting late. I have to find a place to stay. I was about 20 minutes into my “last hour hunt.” I approached a modern, but little used bridge over a river. I looked up the road and it appeared as though I would have many more miles of country roads and I may not get an opportunity like this again so I stopped at the bridge and got off the bike.

At first, I stood at the bridge and waited for a few cars to pass. Waiting, writing some notes, looking at maps then… after about 2 minutes, I disappeared under the bridge. As a campsite, it was more than I could have hoped for. There was a flat part about 10 feet long before the concrete tapered off to go toward the river. It was quiet (anything was! that is, anything after the train station camp on day four) and fairly desolate.

The bank of the river was still about 30 feet farther from the top part of the bridge. I didn’t care to walk to the river bank or even camp there. Probably more mosquitoes. I have been quite fortunate with mosquitoes to this point in the trip, and didn’t want to push my luck.

One thing was sure. As soon as I sized up the place, I was going to start eating. It was a long day and I was ready for some “tucker.” It is fairly significant that to this point I have had very little contact with anyone. It's late September. The recreational trails seem abandoned. Maybe it was because it always looked like rain, or I the fact that it was not the weekend, or maybe that's just how it is in September. I was surprised how much I had the feeling while riding the Grand Illinois Trail, that I own it. I guess in the case of the bridge -as an American- that's somewhat true.

I was under that bridge for about three minutes before that feeling of serenity was dashed.

I could not believe it. In the middle of nowhere, no one around, I chose the bridge that two guys decided to use to relieve themselves. They came all the way under the bridge as I was breaking out my stove and MRE to explain that they were on the way home from a bar, and had to piss. They then walked down through the tall grass to the riverbank, and after a few minutes reemerged. I thought it was kind of strange, but really didn’t care what they were doing. I was eating, and when I was done I was sleeping.

I was more concerned with mosquitoes and biting insects, otherwise there would have been little need to set up the tent.  The camp under the bridge required a little engineering. How was I going to set up the tent on concrete slabs?



The older guy warned me against going down to the riverbank because of the “creepy crawlies” down in that tall grass. I laughed inside, since I had slept in woods among bears and bison, the only animal that worried me, walked on two legs.

I wondered if he really thought this would deter me. Whatever happened there, was of no consequence. I had no desire to go to the riverbank anyway. Sleep, wake up, eat breakfast, and finish the Grand Illinois Trail.


 I fastened the tent pole to a crack in the concrete. Then I fastened the head of the tent to it. I was worried that the slightest turn on this system would send the tent popping down around me.



Using my bunge net,  I balanced the bike at the other end of the tent. This gave me a perfectly taught bug screen for the night. The bunge net is probably one of my most used items outdoors. It will hold down gear across your motorcycle, bicycle, or backpack, and can be improvised since it is essentially an elastic rope with hooks.


My worries were unfounded. The tent held up fine.





You don’t get the great views of the stars sleeping under a bridge, but it's one of the few times you can set up the tent without a rainfly. Maybe this should be a thrubiker right of passage. 

Mr. A: "Slept under a bridge?"

Mr. B: Thrubiker nods affimative.

Mr. A: "Cool, you're in."


END DAY 6: Schlapville to Ridott
Route: GIT Clockwise
Stayed At: Under a bridge near River Road
Total Miles 61.7
Total Time 8:39:15
Average Speed 7.1
Maximum Speed 37.2


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