Biologist on a Bike

Summer Shakedown #2: Illinois Beach State Park

My first shakedown ride was a solo one. For shakedown number two I had company. This ride was planned with several stages.

Stage 1:

Pack up and ride up the lakefront with Bernard – who would complete the entire ride with me – to pick up the rest of our party. We didn’t get on the road until early afternoon, but it was a lovely day. And I was looking forward to testing out my new solar-powered lantern (attached to the rear pannier) and sleeping pad.


Stage 2:

Once we picked up the rest of our group, we headed north on roads to the Robert McClory Bike Path, aiming for Chief’s Pub in Lake Forest. The path was traffic-free, and some parts were paved but it was primarily composed crushed limestone. It had also rained recently, leaving some treacherous muddy patches. Still, it was a low-stress ride, not having to worry about overly-aggressive drivers. And there was some bike-themed artwork to admire.

Stage 3: Chief’s Pub

This was the primary rest stop, and was exceedingly well-timed. We parked the bikes next to the building in a nice sheltered spot. While we sat inside waiting for our meal the skies opened, treating us to a display of Mother Nature’s potential that we were happy to be away from. Bernard had dinner, and I had a snack, planning to cook something more substantial at the campsite that evening.


Stage 4: To the Park

Bernard and I left the rest of our group behind at this point, continuing on towards our campsite. Not long after this point we ditched the gravel trail for roads that ran roughly parallel, not regretting the choice one bit.

The stack of gear on Bernard’s back rack was slipping precariously, and at one stop a car passed us, the driver saying something undecipherable out the window. I would have shrugged it off had he not pulled over about 20 yards down the road. It was likely a coincidence, but it still got my senses on overdrive, and I turned my bike so that I could fully face Bernard and the car while waiting.

On my first shakedown ride I was thoroughly chilled in the evening and had wished for something hot and non-caffeinated to drink before bed. It wasn’t until we were well along the trail that I realized I had forgotten to pack anything from my stash of herbal tea. Just before entering the park, Bernard watched my bike as I ducked into a Walgreens and bought a variety box containing four types of herbal tea.

It was still light when we reached the park, but would not be so for very long, so after the obligatory pose with the sign, we lost no time in setting up camp.

It was too cold to even consider swimming, but that didn’t stop us from going to the shore and wading just because.









Plus, the sunset lit the sky with beautiful colors.

Although, considering we both live within 2 miles of Lake Michigan, albeit 50 miles south of the park, we were maybe a little bit too excited to see the same lake we see nearly every day.

Dinner included a dehydrated meal I made the week before, half a bagel with peanut butter, and some hot herbal tea.

Then, since it was well after dark, it was time for bed. New sleeping pad was awesome. The solar lantern was also good, but half a day left it insufficiently charged.


Stage 5: Breakfast

I woke up ridiculously early and sat at the picnic table in the campsite appreciating the sounds of birdsong unimpeded by the sounds of humanity. In 45 minutes, I saw maybe 5 other people out and about.

After Bernard woke up, we made short work of packing up our gear and headed to a nearby diner for breakfast. Omelet, hash browns, pancakes, and lots of coffee. Can’t go wrong with a meal like that.

Then it was back on the Robert McClory bike path, now even dirtier thanks to yesterday’s rain, for an uneventful ride home.


I think the hardest part of this ride will be cleaning up the mess that path made of Erebus. Fenders can only do so much to protect from the grit.

All told, another successful ride. I’m really starting to think I can do this thing.


Adventure on, friends.

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