Monday, September 23, 2013

Brief: Starved Rock S24O (actually more like 26 but who's counting...)

This past weekend Agatha and I ticked off a ride I've wanted to do for a while now; an overnighter down to Starved Rock.  Saturday we woke up late and were moving at a snails pace due to the previous evenings activities.  The revitalizing properties of black coffee and hot miso soup helped us get going, but still we did not manage to get on the road until a little before 2PM!  I wasn't worried one bit.  Our experiences touring together have taught me not to worry and just enjoy the ride.  I knew we would be able to cover the sixty miles to Utica in adequate time despite our late start.  Our ride south was nice.  Once into LaSalle county, you enter what I like to call "The Grid".  Roads are organized by number and laid out in a grid format in many central and southern Illinois county, making it impossible to get lost.  You just point your bike the direction you want to go and if you miss a turn, you just take the next one (there are exceptions to this generalization of course, but you brought a map right?).  I find this type of riding to be unique in the way it relaxes the mind.  Agatha commented on how riding "straight shot" roads like these channel your thoughts to ideas of forward momentum and the future.  Conversation flows easy and the miles cruise by.  Differences in terrain result in different cycling experiences, both physically and mentally.  These were the things rolling through my head as we rolled towards our destination.

Our night at Starved Rock was uneventful.  We had a big one-pot dinner of quinoa, diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and tuna fish, all paired with bottle of malbec.  I would advise if you ever decide to camp at Starved Rock that you reserve a campsite in advance, as some are much nicer than others (you most likely don't want to end up on a concrete pad surrounded by RVs).  If I do this trip again, I think I will do a little more research and just find a secluded spot along the I&M Trail to camp for the night.  We woke up early with the sun and packed up after tea and oatmeal.  Before leaving, we stopped to hike around one of the sandstone canyons in the park, enjoying the sights and morning sunshine.  Having delved in to some Edward Abbey books again as of late, I was left thinking a lot about what good our parks really do when we just pour asphalt all over them to accommodate hordes of RVers.  How much nicer would the places we are trying to "preserve" be if they were a little harder to get to?  Maybe St. Louis Canyon wouldn't be scarred with so much ugly graffiti if you couldn't drive your car right up to it.  Maybe I wouldn't have had to pick up a bag full of glass bottles, cigarette butts, and other assorted trash if there weren't paved roads for automobiles, electrical hookups, and resort lodges in every corner of these beautiful places.  Who knows? Not the state and national park system, that's for sure.

Not to cyclists.

How much more midwest could I cram into this photo?  Maybe a barn?

Thankfully we avoided drowning in all those deadly vortexes.

Stealing apples! Good thing no cops read this blog.

New dog friend we met while chilling in a shady ditch.  Airedale Terrier?  Really nice.

The ride home brought more gravel and bit of a headwind, and we made it back to DeKalb right around 4PM.  If and when logistics allow, spontaneous trips like this are a lot of fun. Get your bike camping system dialed, and you can do them off the cuff like we did here. Go ultralight, go for the Surly "maximalist" approach (in hindsight, it would have been fun to tow the Burley), use what ever style you like.  I probably cannot say anything new about the sub-24 hour-overnight trip.  However, I can say it is a great way to get away with minimal planning/preparation, and a great way to practice the cycling and camping skills I love to use.  Here's to pulling off a few more before winter arrives.