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Hennepin Canal Parkway — cycle touring Illinois

It was still the morning of the 7th of June, 2020, and I had been peddling for a short while, when my phone app alerted me that I had arrived in Bureau Junction, Illinois.

There was a sort of park with an adjacent parking lot.

There were signs telling me about the condition of the trail and to proceed at my own risk. I needed to take this path. It was called the Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail.

There is quite a bit of history that goes along with the pathway. One can follow the history as I had done from the Illinois River to the Missippi River, which was the whole point, for me and for those in History. It cuts off some 450 miles of travel by other means.

I was destined to follow this path because of Google maps and Google Maps alone.

Google was indeed guiding me all the way across the continent. For my searches for a route, I had specified to Google that I was traveling by bicycle and Google took that to mean various things. Such as anything designated as a bike path was a priority for me. Many of these roads or paths were unpaved dirt. Another bicycle besides mine would find many of these routs un-passable. However, my bike is engineered for both road racing and racing in the dirt. I had made my own modifications to adapt the frame for touring. I have yet to actually name my bike, yet it is a Cannondale, designation CAADX, for Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design Cyclocross(X).

Cannondale bikes are not cheap, however, mine is the cheapest. The cheapness comes about because any self-respecting cyclocross racer is expected to upgrade all of the components, Which of course I had done.

I use Vittorio Randenure road tires from Italy possessing a width of 35 millimeters. The idea behind these tires is trifold. 1rst, They make use of Kevlar bulletproof technology to block against getting flats from chards of glass which are hiding all over every road. The very fastest lightest tire will pop in an hour of riding. On this trip, I had made it quite far before having to replace an inner tube. Another aspect of the Vittorio Rondeneur is that the treads don’t wear out for thousands of miles, they sport a road profile that works in the rain if need be. Another reason I use this tire is because the suppleness of the ride provided is much better than a 28 mill or a 30 mill. I actually use 40-millimeter versions of the same tire while commuting in Fairfield County, but that version is just a tad too heavy for the purposes here, and the 35 is the perfect balance of performance to weight. So all in all, I am able to ride in the dirt for thousands of miles without any issue stemming from the tires. At 30 dollars per, on sale, it blows away the competition which could be considered a Schwalbe tire from Germany which is lighter but costs twice as much. I don’t mind that little bit of weight, it serves for momentum when rolling down hillsides.

Anyway, this trail, the Hennepin Canal Parkway was dirt and I was going to do about 50 miles of it. I felt great, strong, coffee’d, and quite optimistic. Right away, I came across washouts that proved difficult to pass with my rig. I got through it. The sun was out in force

I found a great place for an afternoon nap. I was under a tree at lock number 6. This was a bit of heaven. However, soon a family arrive by car to the spot and spoke in an unfamiliar language, which I found grating to the nerves and disruptive to my sleep. I packed up the tent and moved on. The sun was still out. I was getting zapped out there. There was shade here and there. I made it to a town. Behind the one gas station, the town library had a sun-shaded portico, sporting an electrical outlet. I napped there, trying to get my energy back.

The sun needs only to offer too much by just a little bit, and one’s energy gets zapped. I survived. I was becoming desperate to make time. I could almost smell Iowa.

I came across another area where the canal actually goes over a river. This is called an aqueduct, but encountering these places along my journey always sparked my imagination. I wondered what the engineers at the turn of the last century could have been thinking. They were probably thinking that they needed to make the canal go uphill and over rivers. It was like MC Escher to me, see the canal go over a river. It sparked a cognitive dissonance…

Finally in the late afternoon, I came upon another camping spot that was just too good to pass up. The bugs were out in force, so I just zipped up inside my bugproof tent and fell asleep. I was about a mile from the Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail State Park. At about 8 in the evening, I was visited by a ranger who explained that the fee was 8 bucks for the night. I explained that I had no cash. He explained that it was not an issue and that since I had peddled from Connecticut I could just sleep in my tent.

He was a real nice guy.  We talked about politics. He explained that the riots in Chicago were no big deal. Of course, if one looks at things like it is just protesting, one likes to minimize the fact that the protests had evolved into riots and people were getting killed. I was learning to put any personal political views had aside, for now. But that doesn’t mean that I cant ponder upon the views of others…

Anyway, I had a great sleep along the water’s edge.

I woke up and packed up my shit. I was on my way. It was now the 8th. Much of Illinois for me, was along very low land, there weren’t many hills. It was a thick brush and abandon canals.

Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail on June 7th, 2020 — Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X

Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail on June 7th, 2020 — Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X

Hennepin Canal Parkway Trail on June 7th, 2020 — Photo: Todd Tracy For Odyssey X