If you ever thought about doing a camping and cycling trip, this is your chance. The cool thing about this trip is that it is very local, almost no traveling, and there is either Metra or suburban taxi backup on the whole route. Its a good chance to try out and shake out a bicycle touring trip before doing something more adventurous. The other cool thing is that it is almost entirely on bike paths so traffic considerations are minimal. A large portion of this suburban route travels through forest preserves and undeveloped areas. It is surprisingly scenic and secluded.
The plan is to take the Illinois Prairie Path to the Great Western Trail to the Fox River Trail to Chain O'Lakes State Park near the Wisconsin border. I plan to start at the eastern trailhead of the Prairie Path at the Forest Park Blue Line stop at 8 AM. It is 68 miles from this point to the destination. That is not a terrible distance. It took me about 7 hours of saddle time to do this last time going slow. However, to cut the mileage down for those who would prefer less miles, you can join us at a point of your choice along the way. The plan then is to stay at Chain O' Lakes State Park. I have four camp sites reseved and it should be pretty tame as school will not be out yet. However only 4 adults are allowed per campsite. So at this time the trip is limited to 16. Then we will get up the next day to ride back.
I will post a more blown up version of the map in the file section. Everyone should print and take this. You are free to pick your own starting point for those who want to go less than the full distance. I think 40 miles is a good distance to get the full flavor. Figure 8 to 10 miles per hour. The caveat will be the over night parking for vehicles. You are on your own to figure that out but I would recommend contacting the local police or sheriff for a recommendation. I will pass on any good spots that I hear of. In general I will cover about 10 miles per hour so you can figure at 10 AM, I will be at the 20 mile mark, etc. We will try and stay in contact on the trail via text message and cell phone
This is an unsupported trip. There is no support van. You need to supply your own bike, camping gear, food, and a means to carry it. If you have touring panniers and equipment, awesome. If not, almost any reliable bike can be attached to a bike trailer such as a Burley child trailer. Almost likely these can be rented and I will look around for a place to do that. I should point out, I don't think trailers are allowed on Metra but in worst case you can always lock up and come back later to get it (bring a lock). Also to save yourself some trouble its not a bad idea to get your bike checked out by a mechanic before you start. Bike fit is also important, especially for long distance riding. The bike should not be too large or too small for you. Although a day hiking size back pack is fine, I strongly discourage trying to ride your bike with a full size back pack. This is not safe as you will be top heavy and unstable. It is ergonomically terrible and you are very likely to get hurt doing this any amount of distance. Finally, I strongly recommend carrying a spare tube and patches for your tires. Flats happen.
All attendees need to understand that while I and others in the group will look out for your well being, YOU are ultimately responsible for your own safety on my trips. Although much of this trip is off road, there will still be some instances of street riding and plenty of street crossings. Because this could be somewhat experimental for some, I also strongly encourage everyone to have a backup plan, i.e. being able to call a friend or family member to pick you up, a taxi service number in your cell phone (www.americantaxi.com), check the Metra website. This route is very accommodating for this. Alcohol is not allowed in Chain O'Lakes State Park. The camping fee is $30 per site, which we will split.
Here are a couple of good resources if you are interested in knowing more about touring.
Important Update and Details
There is going to be three common starting points so that people can meet up if they want. Each starting point has different distance and travel time. However, you are welcome to start whereever you want.
Forest Park Blue Line Station 7 hours, 70 miles. Will leave at 8 AM at the latest. Let me know if you plan to start from here so I don't leave without you.
Elgin. The casino parking lot 4 hours, 40 miles.The Forest Park group should arrive and meet up with anyone else and leave 11:30 AMish.
Downtown Algonquin where the trail intersects Main St. 3 hours, 30 miles.Some of us may stop and rest here. Probably leave by 1:30 PM.
Let me know if you plan to park a car here as we will need to make arrangements for that.
The Elgin Police have told me that we can park overnight in the casino parking lot.
The Algonquin Police have told me that overnight parking on public streets within the village is allowed. Avoid parking in front of a private residence. That is one reason we are meeting downtown. Check local signage.
The route maps are in the file section. You may want to take a look, especially from McHenry to Chain O Lakes State Park, which is road riding.
The Illinois Prairie Path starts at the western edge of the over flow parking lot west of the Forest Park CTA station. It then goes through the cemetery and across the Des Plaines River. The trail head is not marked well. I will then take the Prairie Path to Elmhurst where the Great Western Trail Branches off. Then the Great Western Trail until it merges with the Elgin Branch of the Prairie Path north of Wheaton. Then the Prairie Path north to where it connects with the Fox River Trail just south of Elgin. Then the Fox River trail north which becomes the Prairie Trail at Algonquin. Then the Prairie Trail to Ringwood Road in McHenery. From here it is road riding. Take Ringwood Rd east to Solon Rd to Miller Rd to Wilmont Rd to Chain O Lake State Park Entrance.
I will email everyone through the Meetup Website my cell phone number if you need to text me on the trail and the camp sites that I have reservations for.
Otherwsie I am looking forward to it and am looking forward to seeing you all out on the trail.