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Weekend Bike Trip to Elsah IL – Day 1

Weekend Bike Trip to Elsah IL – Day 1


Time for another Weekend Bike Trip!  This past weekend we cycled out to Elsah Illinois and stayed in the Maple Leaf Cottage Inn B&B and then cycled back the next day.

Craig made this awesome little video of highlights from our most recent weekend bike trip.  Enjoy!

Our plan was to cycle a big 90 mile loop (as we like to do; we prefer loops to out-and-back routes) to Elsah and back.  Here’s our route out on the first day, 43 miles:

View Elsah Loop in a larger map

We’ve done this route before and we love it.  Highlights of the route include the new Great Rivers Greenway Boschert Trail, crossing the  Mississippi River on the Golden Eagle Ferry into Illinois, and then again on the Brussels Ferry after cycling across Calhoun County.  Then we cycle the Sam Vadalabene Trail through Grafton to Elsah.

We left our house around 7am, attempting to beat the worst of the predicted 100 degree heat that Saturday.   We’ve cycled the first section of this route (from our house out to the Katy Trail) so many times that we could nearly do it blindfolded.  It is a fun ride although there are some monstrous hills.

Just got off the Golden Eagle Ferry and taking a break in the shade of a HUGE tree.

Just got off the Golden Eagle Ferry and taking a break in the shade.  You can see the ferry behind me.

My favorite section is the Airport buyout area along Fee Fee and Gist Roads.  About a decade ago, Lambert Airport forced residents of several neighborhoods to move out so that they could build a new section of runways.  The houses were all bulldozed and covered over with dirt and grass seed.  Of course this was a big local stink and I’m not in favor of the airport’s actions.  But the result is a huge tract of uninhabited lightly wooded land with paved roads and absolutely no traffic.  The airport must maintain all of the land because the grass is always mown.  Flowers still bloom every year in many of the former yards.  It looks like a big beautiful park and nobody knows about it.  It’s a joy to cycle through.  This section of our route is several miles from our house and it is here that all of the tension from my “normal life” always begins to disperse from my soul as I pedal onward.  I’m never even aware of it until it starts to leave.  This is my therapy.  So much better than paying for a doctor!!

We sailed down the end of Gist Road and across the often flooded Ferguson.  Ferguson Road is flooded so often that they just leave the “ROAD FLOODED” sign up all the time.  When it is flooded we have to take a boring two mile detour but the past two bone dry weeks have dried up all the flood water and we happily cycled through.

Craig's new cycling cap.  How we love to "Get Lost" on our bicycles.

Craig’s new cycling cap. How we love to “Get Lost” on our bicycles.

Next is the only part of this route that I dread… crossing the 370 Bridge.  The first time we crossed this bridge several years ago, the wide shoulder was a marked (although not marked very well) designated bike lane with a paved bike trail entrance and exit before and after the bridge.  I was terrified during that first crossing, white knuckling my handlebars as cars and trucks whizzed by at 65 mph a mere feet from me on one side and on the other a precipitous drop over the low railing down to the river far below.

We’ve crossed it many times since and I actually had begun to conquer my fear of this bridge.  But then two years ago they officially closed the bike lane and narrowed the shoulder to create an additional lane for traffic during the construction on the I70 bridge several miles away.  Okay the problem with that is that there’s not any other way for us to get across except swimming.  So we’ve crossed it several times since it’s been “closed” (shhhhhhh).  The shoulder is only about a foot narrower than it was before but that precious foot of pavement makes a lot of difference.  I’m again very fearful of crossing this bridge.

Wouldn’t you know it, we had our closest call on the bridge this time.  But it wasn’t from a car.  A motorcyclist roared past us on OUR SIDE of the white line.  Terribly scary.  I was so mad and shocked and scared that I just kept screaming at him as he zoomed away as if he could hear me.  We are giving him the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t intentional.  Maybe he was swerving to avoid road debris and didn’t see us until too late.  Thank goodness we didn’t get hit.  It would have killed all three of us.

It is lovely but HOT in Calhoun County today!

It is lovely but HOT in Calhoun County today!

The 370 Bridge bike lane will supposedly be reopening again some time in the future.  GRG has just completed a new parking area and repaved some of the entrance to the bike lane so it appears that they will indeed be reopening the bike lane which makes me very happy.  I was worried that once they closed the lane, we would never get it back.  Perhaps they will improve the lane with traffic barriers.  Oh I hope I hope!!!

Bridge crossing safely completed, we cycled through St. Charles onto the new Boschert Trail.  GRG has done such a nice job on this trail with plantings, signage and shelters.  So nice.  It chaperones us all through St. Charles and deposits us right outside of New Town where we ride the arrow straight flat farm roads out to the Golden Eagle Ferry to cross over to Calhoun County Island.

Calhoun County is fun to ride through but HILLY and it was getting HOT.  We took a break on the covered porch of a closed restaurant and enjoyed some ice cold sodas from a vending machine at a feed store across the street.  I usually hate soft drinks and never drink them but wow that cherry coke was magical.

Encountering our favorite sign along the Sam Vadalabene Trail.

Encountering our favorite sign along the Sam Vadalabene Trail.

Over the Brussels Ferry to the well maintained Sam Vadalabene Trail and into Grafton where we stopped at a winery along the river for a wonderful lunch and a couple of tasty micro brew beers.  YUM!  As we sat under the restaurant porch enjoying a breeze from the river, we didn’t realize that the temperature was creeping up to a heat index of 107.

I was regretting those two beers as I climbed back onto my bike and swam through the humidity four more shadeless miles to our B&B in Elsah.  The beer-heat combination made me woozy and lightheaded.  Passing out now would not be wise.  The trail here is alongside the road where the cars are speeding by at 55+ mph.  “Don’t close your eyes or you’ll pass out.  Don’t close your eyes or you’ll pass out.” I kept telling myself.  Elsah appeared just as I felt that I could not continue any longer.  HALLELUJAH I MADE IT!!!

The Maple Leaf Cottage was cute and most importantly AIR CONDITIONED!!!  Craig and I took baths in our comfy clawfoot tub and passed out on the bed until my brother and his wife arrived to join us at the B&B for the evening.  Our return trip to Grafton for dinner that night was in the speedy comfort of their car 🙂


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