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Grand Illinois Tail Bicycle Ride Key Equipment


Sleep Plan

Simple. You climb mountains in the more desolate parts of the Rockies, you get tired, you find a relatively level piece of ground set up your tent and make dinner. You climb a rad 9.8 multi-pitch desert tower in Utah. What the hell… you hauled a sleeping bag, why not use it on top? Abseil in the morning. How do you do it on the Grand Illinois Trail? Not so easy. Can’t set up a tent on Lake Shore Drive (as if you would want to) or near any larger city without drawing either the police, citizenry who feel encroached upon, or undesirables who want your stuff.

Find a place that no individual landowner is going to get into a tuss about, and stay away from the public lands that are easily accessible to automobiles. Planning the campsites on the GIT isn’t as easy as it looks. You’ve got to plan mileage that will put you between large cities and on or near desolate or semi desolate trails with good cover to lay out a campsite for the night. If you end up in one of those less desirable places, try to hide well so that you don’t get unwanted visits.

Plan the sunset and sunrise. Know the times each day of your ride start looking for fertile ground one hour before you must stop and take any place you find that meets the criteria described above. I was counting sheep at dusk and up at first light. There are probably some towns where you could sleep on the village square and no one would know with those kind of hours. Take whatever you can get on the Eastern part of the trail and plan to get up early to ride long and hard before you will find a place to sleep. If there is any place where a hotel is the only option, it will be the Eastern leg. If you are stubborn (some might say “driven”... still others might say “insane”) you will sleep under ripstop nylon every night.

On some parts of the trail there are paid campsites, but the ones I tried weren’t attended and I’ll be damned if I was going to wake up and have someone demanding $35 from me for sleeping on 18 square feet of dirt. If you’re a couple or traveling in a group that’s one thing, but one guy on a bicycle?

I chose a time of the year that would be most desirable based upon a few variables, but high on the list was the avoidance of mosquitoes. Maybe it was sensationalized, but I saw a news program report up to 18% of the mosquitoes tested in Northern Illinois had West Nile Virus. Late September or early October could be one of the better times to plan a thrubike. The weather is just starting to turn a little cooler, so the mosquito population has withered. Also sleeping in a warm sleeping bag with cool weather feels better than sweating on a hot summer night. Spring might be good if the chance of rainfall is no different than fall. Winter has snow and ice.



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