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We bought our train tickets!

We bought our train tickets!

The trail magic has begun 9 months before we even begin!  Shortly after I posted my previous article about our Chicago Loop Tour plans on my Crazy Guy On A Bike website account, a helpful Larry M. sent me a friendly email to let me know that the AMTRAK train to Chicago DOES allow roll on bikes and to ask if I might be interested in some suggestions for our route.  Larry and his wife live in Chicago Heights about two blocks away from our planned route through that area and they are very familiar with the Grand Illinois Trail.  In fact, they are bicycle tourists themselves and have toured sections of the GIT and even our beloved Katy Trail in the past. I was so excited to receive his email and responded immediately with an emphatic YES!  I’m very interested in any and all suggestions for our trip… especially from local Chicogoan bicycle tourists who will undoubtedly proffer much more valuable advice than I would ever be able to glean from Google maps.  Since then Larry and I have exchanged several emails and a telephone discussion about our upcoming trip plans.

It turns out that Larry was correct about AMTRAK.  Their website is very confusing but by golly, upon further investigation I discovered that the Lincoln line from St. Louis to Chicago does indeed allow us to purchase bike tickets and roll our bikes onto the train (as we did on the River Runner line for our two Katy Trail tours).   HOT DOG!  This saves us a buncha bucks.  We had been planning to purchase folding bikes to use on this tour since they can ride on all AMTRAK lines as carryon baggage.  But no need to do that now (although we’ll probably get them eventually for future tours).  So with this new encouraging development in mind, I went ahead and purchased our train tickets… two passengers and two bikes from St. Louis to Chicago on Saturday, September 13, 2014 and return to St. Louis on Saturday, September 20.  $148 TOTAL.  Not a bad price at all.  WE ARE COMMITTED NOW!

Larry also had a wealth of advice about our route and I’ve altered it in several places based on his suggestions.  He proposed  that I might want to clarify my earlier description of the GIT.  It’s not actually one trail but a collection of bike trails connected by on-road sections.  The League of Illinois Bicyclists website describes it this way:

The Grand Illinois Trail (GIT) is a 535-mile loop trail in northern Illinois. It goes from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi along the northern border of Illinois and then loops back across the state along the Illinois River and the Hennepin Canal. 200 miles of the route is on paved township and county roads while the rest is on limestone trails or paths.

Larry also invited us to stay with him and his wife in Chicago Heights on our second night.  SWEET!  We are looking forward to meeting them and sharing our bicycle touring stories.  If he has time, he’ll even ride out to meet us and cycle with us to his house.  So Larry, if you are reading this (and I bet you are)… THANK YOU!  Can’t wait to meet you and your wife!

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Here’s the new map with our five day plan, new hotel locations and potential Warm Showers hosts marked. Check it out HERE

Another change in our tour plans is that we’ve decided to do the 206 mile loop in five days rather than six which works out to about 41 miles a day.  Then we’ll enjoy a full day in Chicago when we finish the loop for sight seeing and fun.  So I’ve reworked my Google map and found potential hotels and Warm Showers hosts in the new locations where we plan to spend each of our four nights on the road.  Plans may change again before September but we’ll see what happens.

My next step will be to contact our potential Warm Showers hosts some time in February.  Hopefully we’ll be able to spend several nights with Warm Showers hosts.  And we’ll stay in hotels if the Warm Showers hosts don’t pan out.  Stay tuned!


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