WinnebaGO! Have it all in north central Illinois.
We toured Winnebago County in north central Illinois. This trip has it all: campgrounds, hills, countryside, rivers, beautiful parks, and a dash of urban scenery, all ninety miles west of Chicago. This three-night bike overnight with two full days of riding made a perfect shakedown tour before our tour around Lake Michigan.
Bicycle Adventurers: Sarah and Tom.
Where: Winnebago County, IL, ninety miles west of Chicago.
When: Summer 2015.
Accommodations: Three different campgrounds in the Winnebago County Forest Preserve Campgrounds.
Distance: We rode ninety miles in three days. However, this area offers great flexibility.
Bonus tip for this adventure: Ride through the town of Seward and stop by Eickman's Processing Co. for fresh brats to grill on your way to camp at the Pecatonica River Forest Preserve.
We packed up the gear and bikes and drove out to Hononegah Forest Preserve. We camped here our first night and the campground host recommended a church in town to stash our car for the rest of the tour.
Our morning pedal began southward, toward the metropolis of Rockford, IL, and, when possible, along the Rock River Trail. Then, we traveled east toward Seward to pick up some fresh brats at Eickman's Processing Co. From there, we pointed ourselves north to Pecatonica River Forest Preserve where we camped for the night. It's a quiet campground on a hillside with large trees. Camping is primitive with water and no electricity.
We packed up, knowing we could make the day as long or short as we liked. None of the campgrounds are too far away, so we felt free to noodle around the back roads.
Since our map had a road named Pleasant View, we pointed in that direction to see if it was as advertised. On a healthy climb, hard to find living in Chicago, we experienced what it felt like to be loaded down on a hill.
At some point, it began to rain and we headed to a day-use area for lunch in a shelter at Laona Heights. It felt like a hideaway. The shelter was a small stone structure with picnic tables and a large grill surrounded by large mature trees. Once the storm passed, we continued to our destination: Sugar River. This campground here has a variety of campsites, including some primitive sites on the river. There is also a shower house, making it a great final stop on the tour.
We woke up at Sugar River and headed back east to the town of Rockton where we had stashed our vehicle. With the aid of a monster tail wind, we pedaled the final twelve miles in a flash and headed back to Chicago with some real confidence to tackle our Lake Michigan Circle Tour.
Your favorite local bike shop: Johnny Sprockets-Lakeview, 3001 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657 http://johnnysprockets.com/
Bike overnight tips and tricks: We forgot a fuel canister for our MSR Pocket Rocket light-weight stove. The canister is popular in outdoor stores, but hardware stores don't carry it and surprisingly, many campground shops don't either. We finally found them at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, big box stores are always located on roads we try to avoid.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!