Illinois Beach State Park Weekend

As I mentioned in last week’s wrap-up post, last weekend, a group of friends went camping at Illinois Beach State Park. We have wanted to do a group bike ride for the past year or so…originally we wanted to ride from Chicago to Milwaukee (~90 miles). The problem with this was we knew we wouldn’t be able to ride both ways, and it would take so much time that people who didn’t want to bike wouldn’t really be involved in the weekend. In the end, we decided to ride to Illinois Beach State Park, which is a campground near the Illinois-Wisconsin border. This allowed several of us to ride, but the rest of the group to meet us there to hang out for the evening/following morning.

The route for our ride

The plan was to leave from our friend’s house at 8 am on Saturday morning. This meant we had to wake up super early, drive our dog to my parents’ house, and then head to the city. We got there around 7:20, which was perfect because we still had to pack up the SUV that was going to be driven by a friend with all our stuff in it. Around 8:10, we were ready to push off.

Our bike gang of misfits πŸ™‚

The route started by going through the city. This part of the ride was exciting because there were so many people around, and the energy was really high. The pace was on the slower side because of all the stoplights, but we were having lots of fun. πŸ™‚

Waiting at a stoplight

When we got up to Northwestern (which, omg! That campus is amazingly gorgeous. I am dumb and didn’t take any pictures, but it was awesome), we hit our first issue…a flat tire! Dustin still rides an old Schwinn, which has softer tires than new road bikes. Luckily, we were all prepared in the case of a flat, and we got it changed pretty quickly. We set off again, and about two miles later…..another flat! UGH! We talked about whether we should try to find a bike shop, but D said he’d change it one more time and search the tire wall for any sharp things that could be causing the issue. While D was checking out the tube, Ben searched the tire and found a tiny piece of glass wedged into the tire wall! We were glad to find it, and hoped for no more issues along the way.

Fixing the 2nd flat of the day
The rest of the ride went by with no problems. πŸ™‚ We hopped onto a trail, which has advantages and disadvantages. You don’t have to worry about vehicle traffic, so the trip is safer, but you also have to go slower (there were lots of other people around: pedestrians, joggers, other bikers, etc), and usually trails aren’t the most direct route. We stopped briefly at mile 20 for a snack, and then again at 30, but other than that, we kept moving. Overall, the trip ended up being about 45 miles, and took us almost 4 hours. This is a rather slow pace, but it makes sense when you think about how often we had to slow down/speed up as we were passing intersections, and our slower pace on the trail.
Probably the longest workout I’ve ever logged
When we got to the campground, I was surprised that my legs felt pretty good. I guess all of that running has been preparing me for this. πŸ™‚ However, I either didn’t drink or eat enough (I ate a Clif bar and a small granola ball on the route and drank 2 bottles of water…I think I needed more calories, but Clif bars didn’t sound good and that was all I had. I will plan better in the future), because all of a sudden I felt really weird. I immediately made a giant sandwich and drank a beer (ahh, camping), and began to feel better. Once we all had eaten, we caught up with the people who had met us at the campground. We hung around talking for awhile, while also putting our tents together and getting things ready for the evening. We decided to walk to the lake (it was only about a quarter mile from our campsite). I was uncharacteristically adventurous, and was the first to jump into the cold lake. It was very cold, but felt sooo good on my tired muscles. πŸ™‚ Only 4 of us ended up getting in, but we all hung out by the lake and even got a good selfie with the whole group.
Dustin and I look naked, but really we were just cold hahaΒ 
Unfortunately, the skies were getting dark, and we had to rush back to the campground. It almost immediately started pouring, so we all scattered to our tents (thank goodness we had set them up right when we got there!). We decided (via text…what did people do before cellphones?) to make a dash for the cars, and go to a pizza place for dinner. We had some cheap beer and delicious pizza while hanging out for awhile. We watched the radar and thought there might be a break without rain for about an hour, so we headed back to the campground and bought some firewood. BUT, mother nature had different plans for us because it did not stop raining all night. 😐 We all crowded in the largest tent and played games for awhile, but eventually gave up and went to sleep around 9 pm. Boo!

When we woke up in the morning, it had finally stopped raining, so we started building our campfire. We ate brats and hot dogs for breakfast since we had planned to eat them the night before, and we refused to miss out on any camping fun. πŸ™‚ One of the people who had ridden to the campground with us decided to put his bike on the rack and drive back to Chicago. The 4 of us left to ride decided we wanted to save time, so we planned to take a train for the majority of the trip home.Β 
Moving a little faster than when on bikes
This resulted in us biking about 7 miles to the station, riding the train for 30 miles, then biking the short distance back to our friend’s apartment.
Two shorts rides compared to the monster ride the day before
We still had to drive all the way back to Indiana, and pick up our dog on the way, but it was a very fun weekend! πŸ™‚ I definitely recommend doing a long bike ride with a group of friends. I think having a one-way route was more fun than a big loop or out-and-back, because it gave us something to look forward to while we were riding. The only thing I would change if I was doing it again would be to camp for two nights instead of one…the way it was just made for a very short trip!
Do you like camping?
Have you ever done a group biking trip?
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