Thursday, August 07, 2008

Almost Urbana

Not a race or anything, but I thought I should mention here that a few days ago I did my first century ride, and almost rode from Chicago to Urbana. Almost because it was really hot, I was running out of water, and my route was too far from towns to get any without going way off course, so I decided to skip over to Paxton (where I have lots of family, and where I knew I could get water even if I couldn't find anyone at home); from there my aunt and grandma offered me a ride to Urbana, so I rode with them. Total distance was probably around 130 miles, plus whatever distance I wasted trying to avoid gravel roads in Will County (ILDOT has bike maps for every county in Illinois on the Internet; unfortunately the one for Will drastically overestimated how ridable its roads were, especially in thick fog after a night of rain).

The plan was something like this, the reality was pretty similar, changed only near the beginning to avoid the gravel roads.

- Did I say thick fog? I was riding through soup through the early morning, but I wanted to press through pretty hard to get clear of the suburbs before rush hour. Even so the fog was so bad I stopped for probably 45 minutes to let it clear before getting on US-45 (which gets plenty of truck traffic).
- Werner Bridge Road carried me a nice long way south, and was pretty scenic.
- Giant piles of... something... in Lehigh. Maybe salt or sand or something.
- When you're riding through nothing but huge fields for a hundred straight miles you notice every little thing. You wave at every person and even every car that passes. You notice the little plaque where a church used to sit. You notice that some farmers keep really nice groves of trees near their houses. You notice every tiny hill that you cross, and savor the chance to change up your cadence.
- When the miles really started to grow long, and the landscape particularly monotonous toward the end (Ford County did not offer much variation) I started singing to keep me going. An average song could carry me through a mile; sometimes it might be a whole album between turns. Route 9 into Paxton was a superhighway, and Paxton itself a great metropolis.
- Right, and then today I got a flat on the way home from work. And not on my front wheel, where I'm riding on an Armadillo tire that I got back in California probably 18 months ago that looks barely roadworthy (a couple of tears and cracks in the rubber, lots of wear), but on the back, which held a nine-month old tire that came highly recommended by some biking newsgroup. As far as I can tell the Armadillos really live up to their reputation (the only way I ruined one was by having poorly-aligned brakes rubbing against it). The bad side is they feel slippery and stiff on roads, and get almost no grip on steel-grated bridges. But, anyway, I'm pretty glad I blew it today and not on the ride. And that I almost got the tube patched before the next bus passed.

One of these days I'll do this thing right and make it all the way into town with enough water (this will probably mean refilling my bottles somewhere between Kankakee and Buckley, though I don't know quite where). Until then, at least I can check a century ride off my list of stuff to do before I get old.


Danielle in Iowa said...

I hope the backroads are a little hillier than I-57 as 130 miles of flat? Can't be fun. I made this discovery at RAGBRAI that while hills suck, it is nice to be able to get out of your saddle and change things up on a long ride.

Oh yeah and there is a counterpart website to mapmyrun called mapmyride. Obviously this doesn't matter if you are just mapping for yourself, but I use mapmyride to get routes to try, so you should share the joy of your route with cyclists, not runners.

Al Dimond said...

The backroads are not much hillier than 57, if they are at all. There were some very occasional rollers, and that was it.

Actually, mapmyrun and mapmyride are run by the same folk, and the route is visible on both (plus a few others I think). I just always type mapmyrun because it's in my history bar.

Danielle in Iowa said...

Are you sure they are visible on both? Because when I use mapmyride, I definitely don't get run routes.

Anonymous said...

You are brave to ride along Route 45 there is some serious traffic on that road.

Al Dimond said...

If you classify the route as a bike ride while creating it, even on, it will show up on the search on (or on mapmyrun if you search for bike rides). It's the exact same site, just with different graphics. So if you search mapmyride with ZIP 60608 and keyword "Urbana" my ride comes up.

Route 45 is a busy road with lots of truck traffic, but so are Roosevelt and Halsted in the city, and I ride those to and from work every day. I only took 45 because I was having trouble finding paved roads; 45 was being resurfaced, and had grooves cut in it, so it wasn't a very pleasant ride, but it was better than wet gravel. Eventually I had to turn off because there was fresh oil on the road ahead, and at that point I was totally winging it until the Kankakee County line. I'd guess the surface and construction bottlenecks pushed some traffic onto alternate routes and slowed down the traffic that was there.