7/31/12 Freeport, IL to Madison, WI – 71 miles
Beautiful morning for a ride. Clear blue skies, cool temperatures, and no wind. Randy had researched several bike trails to ride in lieu of state highways. There are bike trails running all the way to Milwaukee. Bike trails are typically old railroad tracks that have been covered over and run sort of “behind the scenes” rather than along established roads and highways. They are usually flatter and no motorized traffic is allowed. The surfaces vary widely from dirt, crushed gravel, asphalt and even concrete. Conditions can also vary widely depending on how well maintained the trail is. So, in deciding whether to ride a particular trail or not, we often ask locals or other bikers for guidance.
We stopped by the local public library and I went in to inquire where/how to access the Jane Addams Trail that runs from Freeport to the Wisconsin state line, then becomes the Badger State Trail. I was directed to a gentleman named Tyger, who is an avid recumbent biker. He jumped up and enthusiastically offered to lead us to the trailhead, which was several miles away. At the intersection where we parted, we had an opportunity to visit a little, and Tyger told us about some of his own biking adventures. He rides a recumbent bike, and proudly showed us some pictures. Being led directly to the trailhead saved us a ton of time we probably would have spent weaving around town and trying to figure it out from maps. Another example of someone taking the time to help us out. I am continually amazed at the kindness people show us. I do think it has something to do with seeing us on the loaded bikes which sort of brings out their desire for adventure. A lot of people seem to vicariously live through us.
Riding the bike trails was a real treat. We cruised along in our own thoughts most of the day at approx. 10 mph. A little slower than usual, but worth it not to have to ride the highways. There were farms all along the way, and cute animals darting across the trail in front of you. Also, long stretches of tree covered lanes. The only downside was that because the trails were unpaved, I (and the bike) got pretty well coated in this sort of sticky bike dust.
We left the trail at Monroe to have lunch, then got back on. Shortly thereafter we crossed over into Wisconsin, the ninth state on the bike trip.
A highlight of the day was riding through an old railroad tunnel that was approximately 1200 ft long. As we were in the process of putting on our headlamps before entering the tunnel, we spotted lights coming towards us from inside the tunnel. This turned out to be 2 other bikers that were on a ride to Maine. We swapped notes with each other on where to go, stay, eat, etc. and impressions from our journeys. It was fun. Randy told them where to find some Illinois maps he had left at one of the guide stations on the trail, and they were thrilled. Maps are a pretty big deal whenever you enter a new state. The tunnel was a blast. It was very cool inside, and several times I was startled by birds that had been startled by me. My imagination had a field day – in a good way. I have always been a little afraid of the dark and this tunnel provided fertile ground for my imagination.
Eventually we made it Madison, WI. Although the trail took us clear to the center of the city, we had to stop several times to try and figure out how to best get to the east side of town where we planned to stop for the day. By now, it was going on 5 pm and we were pretty tired. But we soldiered on through town and traffic and eventually got to the destination. All I wanted was to shower off the grime and go to bed.
Tomorrow the plan is to pick up another bike trail that goes all the way to Milwaukee – approx. 70 miles.