Category Archives: Travel

Badlands and Black Hills trip

We drove through  South Dakota after my brothers wedding in Colorado this year. It had been awhile since I had been to South Dakota and it was really cool to see something that I remembered as a child.

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

Nashbar Cargo Trailer for Bicycles

I make a lot of trips to the grocery store on my bicycle and can only fit so much in my messenger bag or a backpack.  I wanted to be able to carry more groceries without having all the weight on my back. Also, I wanted to start getting into doing more multi-day rides and haul my own camping gear, supplies and food. So last summer I decided I’d get a trailer. You can spend anywhere between $1,000 to $100 for a trailer. If  you have the right equipment you can even weld one yourself. I didn’t want to go the homemade route but I wanted something as cheap as possible.  I found one at Nashbar for just over $100.  It is made out of chromoly steel and looks pretty sturdy.

trailer02

The assembly of the Trailer was fairly simple. There wasn’t too much to it. All I really had to do was put the wheel, fender, and reflectors on. There’s also a flag that comes up. At first I didn’t think the flag was necessary but After I took it out on the street and realized how much length was added onto my bike with the trailer attached, I figured the flag would probably help cars see me. I also added a blinky to the back of the fender just as a precaution. Most cars aren’t used to seeing a bicycle pulling a trailer so anything you can do do be seen will help.

After several rides with the trailer you’ll notice a few things that differ from regular riding.

  1. It’s harder to make sharp turns. You need to account for the extra 5 feet or so in length that the trailer adds
  2. It requires more braking power to stop. You have the momentum of the trailer from behind pushing at you when you hit the brakes.
  3. When you are stopped and off the bike, standing the bike up against something can be difficult.

The trailer has a 50 pound weight limit and of course I had to push the weight limit to the max on my first trip to the grocery store. If you throw a storage bin in the back of the trailer you can carry quite a bit of groceries in the back. Essentially I was able to pull the size of approximately 4 standard grocery paper bags. The only issue was that the 4 bags I loaded up were a bit on the heavy side if not over the 5 pound max. Probably not a good idea to stock up on pop, canned foods and liquids. Save the heavier stuff for lighter trips. I think I had too much because the bike felt really unstable like my rear axle was going to snap or like if I leaned too far to one side the bike would topple over. I noticed it is also quite difficult to accelerate with a full load.

Last summer I took the trailer on a short bikepacking trip to test it out for carrying camping gear. I was able to pack a sleeping bag and pad, medium sized tent, tools, a small stove, food and water, and extra clothes and raingear no problem. Pulling the trailer for 30 miles didn’t even seem to be a problem. There’s a 80 miles one-way trail that I am going to try and tackle next.

trailer01

Illinois State Parks Stand a Chance.

Now with Rod Blagojevich out of office, Our state parks which were closed stand a chance of being re-opened. Newly appointed governor Pat Quinn who led petitions to keep the parks open will look at the possibility of reopening these parks. Now Quinn will have the opportunity to prove whether his concern for the parks was genuine or simply a means to gain public approval. Blagojevich said the closures were due to budgetary issues but local officials claimed it was for political reasons. From the looks of Blagojevich’s time in office and the way he handled money, I wonder what he actually meant by “budgetary issues”?

…Read More at WQAD.com, quad cities news channel 8.

Apex Park – Golden Colorado

This was the first Trail I hit on my September trip to Colorado. Finished Driving in from an overnight in Nebraska and headed straight to the trail after checking in to the Hotel in Golden which happened to be less than 5 miles from Apex Park, Red Rocks, Dakota Ridge, Falcon Mountain, and Green Mountain Trails. I could have spent a week in that area exploring the Front Range Trails and Denver Mountain Parks. Unfortunatly I only had 2 days so I decided there was no time to waste.

After about a half mile of the climb on the Apex Trail, I was winded. The elevation hit me. I got off my bike and felt like I was going to vomit. I was discouraged and wondered how long it was going to take for my body to get used to the elevation again. I got back on my bike, jumped into granny gear and slowly paced myself up the trail stopping every half a mile to catch my breath. After a few stops and reminding myself to take it slow on the climbs, I was feeling much better.

Apex Park Mountain Biking

Apex Park is pretty rocky and technical. Although this is only a 6 mile trail, it definitely wore me out. There were plenty of sections I had to walk my bike through. It would have been nice to have a little more travel on my bike to blast through some of the rough sections but I managed. Here’s some photos. I didn’t manage to get any photos through the “Enchanted Forest”, a forested fast singletrack that traverses the side of a ridge across from the Apex Trail not to miss.

You need to update your Flash Player to view this gallery.

Click here to update.

Red Rocks // Dakota Ridge Mountain Biking

On the second day of my September Trip to Colorado I was more adjusted to the altitude and I had a ride in the mountains under my belt so I was feeling more confident. Unfortunatly it was cold and rainy and didn’t look like it was going to get nice. By around 2:00 I figured I’d head out to the Red Rocks & Dakota Ridge Trails. I’d seen photos of these trails and they looked pretty sweet. I’d planned on riding these trails last year but never got around to it. I was pretty excited.

The weather managed to stay pretty tame. Although it was pretty cloudy it stopped raining and the trails were pretty tacky and not too slick. I started out from the Mathew Winters Parking lot and headed south on the trail towards Red Rocks Park. I took a short Detour on a trail that heads to higher elevation off the Red Rocks trail. After a little while I met up with two locals who I rode with and showed me around the area.

The next day we headed out to the actual Red Rocks amphitheater which was impressive as well.

You need to update your Flash Player to view this gallery.
Click here to update.

Illinois State Park and Landmark Closures

As some of you know, our governor has made a $14 million dollar cut to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources funding. This funding cut has caused the DNR to layoff 39 employees and close 11 state parks and 14 historical landmarks(4 of which are national landmarks). The parks and landmarks are scheduled to close on November 1st.

Many communities have spoken out against this and shown their disapproval of the governor’s decision. The disapproval caused an emergency meeting of The Illinois House of Representatives resulting in a vote to restore DNR funding.

In order for the funding to be restored, both the House and Senate must agree. The Senate will not be in session until after November 1st and after the park closures have been made. If enough people speak out it may cause the Senate to have an emergency meeting on this issue as the House of Representatives did. I’d imagine that some of you may know more about law that I do but there are several ways we can help keep these parks open.

If you agree with the governor’s cuts than God bless. If you disagree and are interested in helping keep these parks open, you can go to the following website and sign the petition against closing these parks:

http://www.gopetition.com/online/21603.html

It should only take a minute of your time.

If people don’t express their opinion then our state government wont think that state parks, history, and culture are important to the people of Illinois and will be more likely to close more parks. Possibly some of the parks most of us frequent. If you really want to help, feel free to forward this message to family and friends that respect and support the use of these parks and landmarks.

Here’s a listing of the state parks and landmarks that are currently scheduled to close due to the cut.

  • Castle Rock State Park, Oregon
  • Lowden State Park, Oregon
  • Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, Sheffield
  • Illini State Park, Marseilles
  • Channahon Parkway State Park, Channahon
  • Gebhard Woods State Park, Morris
  • Hidden Springs State Forrest, Strasburg
  • Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood
  • Moraine View State Park, Leroy
  • Weldon Springs State Park, Clinton
  • Wolf Creek State Park, Windsor
  • Dana-Thomas House, in Springfield
  • David Davis Mansion, in Bloomington, Illinois
  • Fort de Chartres, in Randolph County
  • Pierre Menard Home, in Randolph County
  • Apple River Fort, in Elizabeth
  • Bishop Hill, Henry County
  • Bryant Cottage, in Bement
  • Fort Kaskaskia, Randolph County
  • Hauberg Indian Museum at Blackhawk State Historic Site in Rock Island
  • Jubilee College, in Peoria County
  • Lincoln Log Cabin, in Charleston.
  • Old Cahokia Courthouse, in Cahokia
  • Carl Sandburg State Historic Site, in Galesburg
  • Vandalia Statehouse, in Vandalia

Kettle Moraine South Mountain Biking


This weekend I took a trip up north to La Grange Wisconsin. The southern unit of Kettle Morine consists of two groups of trails: the John Muir Trails and the Emma Carlin Trails. Along with these two sets of trails, there’s a 5 mile connector trail which joins the two sets. One great feature of these trails is that each trail is designated one way so you don’t have to worry about any oncoming traffic, even on the connector trail (which is actually 2 one way trails). Since this is a state forest, you will need to pay for a trail pass and parking in the lot. The way I see it is that this is a great trail system and If I have to spend a little to keep it protected and in great shape, it’s not that bad.

The John Muir Trails offer 5 loops. The longest of the John Muir loops is the 10 mile outer blue loop which has some pretty steep climbs, rocky descents, and really narrow switchbacks.

The Emma Carlin Trails are much shorter than the John Muir Trails, however, they seem more technical. The 4 mile green loop of the Emma Carlin section is probably the most technical of all trails I’ve ridden in southern Wisconsin. Although it’s only 4 miles, it’s some of the steepest, rootiest, and rockiest terrain of this area.

My favorite section of Kettle Moriane is the 5 mile Connector trail which leads from the John Muir Trails to the Emma Carlin Trails. On a weekend, the 2 sets of trails can get pretty crowded. Most of the crowds just stick to one trail group and never make it out to the connector trail so it’s not used as frequently as the 2 trail groups. I think the connector trail offers some of the most diverse terrain of the area. From open fields, to pine forests, to rocky ledges, and open straight aways.

Hit by another car.

This morning while riding my bike home from my girlfriend’s house I was hit by an automobile. I was riding along a bicycle path and crossing the street at a red light when a car making a right turn decided it was his time to make the turn. When I proceeded to cross the street he was stopped so I figured it was safe to go. Luckily most of me had cleared his car when he hit me. He knocked my rear wheel about 4 feet into oncoming traffic. I didn’t go down on the ground. I was able to get up and move out of the intersection. as I approached his car to tell him I would split the difference and accept $100.00 for replacing my rear, he drove off and was gone. (Probably didn’t help that I yelled “@$$ hole” at him. You tend to lose any credibility when you yell obscenities at anyone)

As I stood there in awe that he could just drive off after hitting me, a giant 4-miles-to-the-gallon, off-road pickup/nature destroyer that was behind him pulled up and the redneck driving leaned out of the rig and told me I should keep off the road. Keep off the road? I was merely crossing the street. I didn’t know that if you buy a bicycle you are limited to only riding it in any areas where you don’t have to cross the street. Let’s see, that would limit me to a 500foot loop of sidewalk surrounding my townhouse. Sounds like fun.

As gas prices rise more and more people are supposedly supporting the bicycle cause. I don’t see it. I am getting the same response from cars that I get when I was commuting by bike from work to school in the city of Chicago 8 years ago which is that the roads meant only for cars I have people say to me “You ride your bike everywhere. That’s good more people should do it, especially with gas prices and the environment”, but the drivers on the road seem to have another attitude.

When it comes down to what the law is versus what will keep me alive, I will go with the safer route. Maybe at some point cyclist/driver laws will be more common knowledge but until then I’d rather not rely on the laws for safety. Unfortunately rules of the road don’t mean anything if others don’t follow them. But for all intents and purposes, at the beginning of 2008, the state of Illinois passed a law requiring all motor vehicles to allow a minimum of 3 feet between them and a cyclist when passing. Although this law doesn’t really apply to my predicament, I only mention it because although Illinois has this law. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t a cyclist that’s heard of it.

Bike Messengers get a bad rap from everyone for having attitudes, especially towards automobiles and pedestrians. Anyone who commutes by bicycle can probably see why. I’m always getting frustrated by cars. I’ve spit on cars, purposely scratched them, screamed into car windows at drivers, among other things and the one thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t do either me or the other person any good. All it does is ruin the rest of my ride and I am more apt to be agitated and run red lights, block traffic and put myself in harms way just because I am pissed off. It’s not worth it. Some people are just idiots.

So what can we do? When I was hit today, I can only hope other cars saw it. The more the better. Maybe it will remind people that there are more and more cyclists on the road and cars need to allow room for them to. There are safe ways to ride. I am always skeptical about riding on bike paths vs. riding on the road because although roads have more car traffic, a car can usually see you better if you are directly in their line of vision. Since I was riding on the path it is my responsibility to make sure drivers see me vs who has the right of way. I probably could should have waited till he acknowledged that I was crossing the street. When it comes down to a well protected car vs and out in the open cyclist, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way. If there is a collision I am likely to be greatly injured and the driver of the automobile is likely to not be touched.