Friday, October 2, 2009

Day One of Lake Michigan Circle Tour

September 22, morning

The train was pulling into Naperville and I was a block away from the platform. I made it. The time is 10:30 in the morning and I’m on my way to Chicago with my bike, camping gear, food, and a change of clothes.


Legs itch, arms are sore from lifting weights yesterday—first time in months. The day before a 900 mile bicycle trip was a bad time to start lifting weights.


Spacing out regularly. Thinking about everything.

Spacing out. Regularly thinking about everything.

I think that Ani Difranco song The Atom takes a stance against nuclear energy and weapons. There is a guy on the train who has a gravely voice and was talking on his phone for at least 20 minutes earlier. He’s stopped talking on his phone. Now he’s listening to music loud enough for me to feel as if I have the headphones in too, but I’m really sitting two rows back and across the aisle from him.

Oh yeah, today, I’m taking the train to Chicago and heading north into Wisconsin from Union Station. I figure this is better than riding through 30 plus miles of the same suburbia I always see just to get to Lake Michigan. I will be circling that lake on my bike over the next 10 to 12 days.

This guy has horrible taste in music. First he was listening to that song I put your picture away… I can’t look at you when I’m lying next to him/her. I think its by Kid Rock and Faith Hill. Now, he just finished jamming to what I think was You’ve got it bad by Usher, but it could have been one of many other R&B love ballads. Baby tell me what I can do to please you, baby anything you say I’ll do, ‘cause I only wanna make you happy, from the bottom of my heart, it’s true. Yeah, that song. Poetry, it’s poetry. Now he’s got some other country song projecting for the entire train car to hear.


I’m going to try to find a library somewhere along this ride so I can put all my entries about this cycle tour on the internet for friends and strangers to read. I know my mom would read it religiously. I bet others will as well.

I didn’t find a library. Well, I did, but I didn’t want to stop there long enough to type this up. In fact, typing all this up is going to be quite the task. I’ve got about 30-40 pages of a journal full, with certain areas that I will no doubt feel the need to elaborate on as I type this.

September 22, night

I made it through the first day. Everything went well. I have no qualms with today except I kind of wish I rode farther. I covered just over 50 miles today, every one of them after noon, pretty good I guess. There is much more riding in store for me, though. I shouldn’t worry.

From when I left Union Station to here, when I am now, Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois, I probably spent at least 20 miles riding on bike trails. I started on the Lakeshore Trail in Chicago. Then I was on roads for some mileage. After a prolonged stint on Sheridon road through the very nice (read: rich) north Chicago suburbs, I got on some trail that goes all the way to Kenosha, Wisconsin. The first section I rode on was paved, but after a little the trail transitioned to a crushed limestone surface.

(This new, compact journal I’ve started using for this trip is lined on the front side of each page and unlined on the back. This is a nice compromise for me, because I have been using unlined notebooks lately. But then again, this will likely be the most prose writing I will have done in months.)

While on the McKinley Trail (this is the name of the trail going all the way to Kenosha), and getting close to this place where I am now, my campsite, I was approached by another trail user. He was on a hybrid bike with a large and probably very bright headlight and taillight set up:

“Where ya headed?”
“uhhh, Wisconsin, around Lake Michigan.”
“Yeah, okay, but where are you going today?
“Oh, umm, well I’m deciding right now if I should go to Illinois Beach State Park or keep going further north”

Randy was his name, he told me what he knew about this prospective campsite.

“Yeah, there’s pretty much only one way to get in there. I know other ways with back roads and such, but they’re confusing.”

I rode with Randy along the trail for a while. He told me about the 15 mile commute he makes five days per week and the tours he has done with friends, and I listened. This is when I first realized random interactions with other “Randys” are going to be the only times I will have face to face interactions with human beings. I can call my friends and family, but it’s pretty much just me alone out here.

I’m not going far, so it won’t be too bad.

At the time I didn’t think it was far: just around Lake Michigan. Just around Lake Michigan.

After leaving Randy I had a quick ride to the campground. It’s a fucking shame I biked all the way here because there are bike trails everywhere. Oh well. I walked on them, collecting fire wood and taking some pictures.

When I got to the park entrance the nice man at the booth had an awesome beard—long, grey, and with hair to match.

“Lemme guess, you need a campsite?” He asked in a friendly and sarcastic manner.

“Oh, yeah, where else am I gonna go with all this?” I nod to the sleeping pad and two fully stuffed panniers strapped to the rear of my bike.

He was a cool guy. Still is probably. He gave me great instructions on where to find the ATM I needed to find. Cash only.

After I paid him, and he was almost done filling out the necessary paperwork, he said, “You know, my son is on a bike odyssey of his own right now, too.”

Wow! I should be riding with him.
“He’s not traveling as light as you are, though.”
“Does he have a front rack with mounted panniers, too?”
“No. He’s got a trailer.”

I guess right now his son in somewhere in Iowa, by himself, just riding, probably headed west. I wonder how many solo bike tourists are out there right now, sitting by fires of scavenged wood or in cheap motels. I wonder if I would prefer this trip with one of them, even if I don’t have that much in common with them. Ian should just have everything needed to come with me, including time. That would be perfect. But, this solo thing is going to be crazy, and fun, in a different sort of way. I’m still excited.

And I’m still kind of hungry, too! I just ate two whole wheat tortillas filled with textured vegetable protein (TVP, dehydrated soy protein) seasoned with a mix of paprika, curry powder, and lemon pepper I combined in a film canister before leaving. The seasoning is alright, probably should’ve tested it first. Whatever, this is better than plain TVP. On a plain wheat tortilla that would be bland. I’ll eat some trail mix while I read some Herman Melville in my tent (I brought Billy Budd and Other Tales as my only book. I haven’t read any “classic” literature lately and it’s small. Hopefully, if I finish this book I can find a used book store to trade for a different one).

Most people would hate touring with my vegan self. At any restaurant they’d probably be scarfing down hamburgers and I’d be complaining because there is nothing for me to eat besides a shit house salad with Italian dressing.

So far I’ve managed to eat only things I brought with: an Odwalla energy bar and those TVP wraps I just ate. I brought about 6 energy bars (Odwalla bars were on sale at Jewel for 79 cents each, so I have 4 of those and a couple Cliff bars in case the Odwalla bars aren’t palatable), eight packets of instant oatmeal, two large bags of trail mix (one with primarily raisins, almonds, and semi-sweet chocolate chips; and the other with assorted dried fruits: kiwi, pineapple, apricots, and papaya, along with nuts—the former mix is my afternoon and nighttime mix, the latter is my morning mix, especially for mixing into oatmeal), one jar of soynut butter (higher protein to far ratio than peanut butter, I’ll be eating a lot of nuts already so this lighter nut butter is a nice option), one baggy full of hemp protein powder (best when mixed with soy milk, but can be mixed with water as well), and the already mentioned TVP (one ziplock bag full) and wheat tortillas. Food makes easily half the weight of what I brought on this trip.

The other half of my supplies consists of a sleeping bag (good down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, supposedly), a backpacker tent, a sleeping mat (actually an exercise mat, but they’re pretty much the same, I think), one pair of jeans, two pairs of underwear, one pair of socks, two t-shirts, one long sleeve shirt, one windbreaker jacket, one north face fleece quarter-zip mock turtle neck, and one pair of Sanuk shoes (look these things up, they’re great). There are the toiletries, too: travel sized toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner, deodorant, and Dr. Bronner’s soap (for body, laundry, and bike). I brought enough contact lenses for 15 days, just in case this takes longer than I expected.

In my handlebar bag: I have three pairs of glasses (sunglasses, night riding glasses, and prescription glasses), a knife, mechanical pencil and pen, composition notebook, and maps (Wisconsin and Michigan state maps). Also on up there, I have various tools for fixing minor bike problems (adjustable wrench, bike multi-tool, zip-ties, hemp chord (3 feet approximately), and tire levers. I purchased a new mini-pump for this trip, too. This little guy has an extendable hose attached to the pump valve and a small fold out piece that allows it to be used like a floor pump.

I brought some other little things, too: cell phone, pad lock, 7 foot cable for lock and bike, digital recorder, “wallet” dry bag, compass, three 9 LED bulb flashlights, bike headlight, and bike taillight. But I’m tired of lists now. Really fucking tired of lists. I’ve been making so many lists lately I could almost say I can condense my life into a series of single words preceded by dashes, but that would be completely false, actually. I could make a list attempting to encapsulate my entire life within its first and last entries, but that last entry would impossible to reach.

K, well, I gotta pee and wash out this pot now!

peace and love

September 22, later at night

I was brushing my teeth outside my tent. I looked over and there stood a cute little SKUNK! sniffing around my tent. I didn’t really want to scare him, that would probably result in me smelling bad. So I stood, waited, and hoped he didn’t go in my open tent. He didn’t. He was just checking my stuff out, and eventually he left. I finished brushing my teeth, rinsed my mouth, and climbed inside my tent.

Annd some pictures from today:

On the Lake Shore Trail, Chicago. All packed and ready to go.

Tent, bike locked to a tree, Sham Wow! "towel," cycling shorts, jersey, and Smart Wool socks hanging out to dry.

Lake Michigan shoreline, 100 feet from my campsite.

My campsite is where those trees are. Taken from the beach.

I don't know what this building is/was, but it is now "closed." I really wanted to climb on top of it to that spiral staircase.

All the pictures I took on this trip can be seen in this facebook photo album

Note: I hope to get one day typed up every day for the next 8 days. So check back often if you want to.


  1. Hello Sam...You knew I'd be looking..Goodnight, love Jesus and Your mom

  2. I'm def. reading Billy Budd right now too. It puts me to bed. I'm also a cyclist. Your friend Carly told me about this. Keep the rubber side down!