Great trip, no serious crashes or devastating injuries or mechanical problems that couldn’t easily be fixed! Fox River Trail to Prairie Trail to the shoulder of County Highway 8 is a simple, map-free route. 48 miles each way, South Elgin, Illinois to Big Foot Beach State Park, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Lots of hindsight though. Here’s some:
1. The panniers get heavy. Really heavy, really fast. Even with expensive ultra-light REI style 4lb tent, zero pound cookware and astronaut organic food etc. The bikes were so heavy they couldn’t be lifted. Not more than 1 inch for more than 1 second. Any weight-saving that can be accomplished through planning = a good idea. For example, don’t carry too much extra water. Stop and refill instead.
2. Leave earlier and maybe make it a two-overnight. We left South Elgin at around noon. Four hours in, at a bike shop in Crystal Lake, we were dismayed to learn that we were only half way. We arrived just as the sun was saying its finally night-nights. Next time, start at 9am, pace better, and be comfortable that in a stiff wind under heavy load 6mph is acceptable. Also, it would have been cool to actually hang out in Lake Geneva proper. We didn’t have the energy to really get out of the campground and check out the lake itself. A recovery day in the town would make sense next time. And would allow for increased consumption of fine New Glarus products.
3. The gearing, even on the World Voyageur, isn’t up to the steep climbs on some parts of the trail. In particular, the dreadful Sterne’s Woods. I’m looking into smaller front chainring.
4. When you have to get off and walk your bike for the steepest ascents, note that the mosquitoes in Sterne’s Woods don’t really give a crap about your ‘natural’ bug repellent from REI. Go ahead and bring the good stuff. No deet-guilt in Sterne’s Woods.
5. The stem-bags are annoying and unstable, and kind of interfere with ones knees. Not really necessary.
6. Carbo-load the day before. And make sure the day-to-day diet in the preceding weeks supports joint health. The knees are tasked with a lot of revolutions. Many, many revolutions.
7. Bring a really good camera. Following the Northwest Line railway, biking through the prairie toward Genoa Wisconsin, with the wild grapey things lining the barbed wire, the golden hawks, the skittish deer, tractors, the falling sun and the windsound, Chicago feels a long way away. And indeed it is.