On the Road Again

Des Plaines River Trail

In January I switched jobs. I left a senior technical position with a defense contractor to return to training and consulting full time. I spent over a decade as a road warrior spending a bout 100 nights a year on the road. While there are a number of pros and cons to the road warrior lifestyle, one of the challenges is to find opportunities to ride my bike. The airline I fly charges $150 each way to transport a bike. In the past I have shipped my bike to a destination by FedEx Ground it’s cheaper but it is still $65 each way.

So when I had an opportunity to spend a week with a client in the Chicago suburbs, I chose to drive the 4 1/2 hours and take my bike. My client was in the North Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire. I was pretty busy all week but I did manage to get out one evening and ride on the Des Plaines River Trail. I stayed at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort and a portion of the trail ran right through the hotel property. I got off work a little early on evening and rushed back to my hotel to get on the bike and ride.

The late afternoon temperature was in the low 50’s and the wind about 17-20mph. Cool and brisk but I was itching to ride. My first surprise was the trail surface. For some reason I thought the trail was asphalt. I had driven by it each day on the way to and from work and it looked like asphalt with a light dirt covering perhaps left by heavy equipment. It turns out I was wrong the trail is packed dirt. Since it was dry it really wasn’t too bad to ride on even with my road bike. The majority of bikes I saw were mountain bikes but it really wasn’t necessary. My bike is outfitted with pretty wide tires anyway. (I ride Continetal Ultra Gatorskins in 700x28c, If I had the clearance I would ride 700x32c like my fixed gear) The surface did not present any real problems there were few ruts but I did have to watch closely in some high speed S-turns.

The only challenge was some loose gravel on a short steep climb to a bridge. When I saw it in the distance, I planned on simply getting out of the saddle for the short climb. As I got closer and saw the loose gravel I decided that I should probably stay seated and keep the rear wheel weighted. I slammed a shift onto my small chanring and spun to the top.

There was a warning sign about a trail closure under the Highway 60 bridge. A couple of years ago, I took a fall on a concrete trail in Kansas City that had been flooded and still had a thin layer of silt and mud so I decided to be cautious and walk. It turned out to be wet but no mud so on the return leg I rode right through.

Since I got a late start I only rode about 12 miles. The trail itself roughly follows the Des Plaines River. The section I rode was evenly divided between forest and prairie and while we were always close to a major road and shopping or housing development the trail managed to retain a wild feel. There were more runners than bikers and I did come across one horse and rider. The equestrienne was on her cell phone!

The trail has a number of strategically placed benches and passes though a park with restroom facilities and a small pond. There were a number of places to view the river or small pond. The trail was very scenic with many opportunities to view wildlife along the way. I will be visiting this client again in June when my kids are out of school. I hop we can all make the trip and enjoy the trail as a family.

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