Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Heart Madison County Bike Trails

View from Horseshoe Lake into Downtown STL, the Arch in the distance
Horseshoe Lake is along the Schoolhouse Trail in Madison County, IL

View of the river, from Pere Marquette State Park
Vadalebene Bike Trail, Madison County, IL

Inspired by my drive up the Great River Road last week, I set out on Sunday afternoon for a little bike ride. (The operative word there was little.) For the last couple of weeks, I've had my head in books about the 19th century working on an essay. Once freed from Civil War life, I realized I was woefully in need of some exercise. Sunday was gorgeous and we set off only to be plagued by a bad tire on my bike (which was also in desperate need of a good tune-up and lube). My bike squeaked so loudly for hours that eventually I was told it sounded like crickets or crazy birds. I hadn't ridden in a few weeks, and so our initial thought of 15 or 20 miles sounded great. But as that ride stretched on and on into 35 miles, I was killing myself in the worst way. I have the stamina, but my hip was just angry, and eventually I think people might have been able to walk faster than I rode. There were other debacles along the way, and yet in the end, it was a great ride.

I usually hit trails in Missouri, so it was awesome to go five minutes across the river and have a huge network of trails available. Pretty much everything in Madison County connects. There are maps along the way, restrooms, water, and some gorgeous scenery (as well as some more bland parts that include the backs of houses). We parked at the south end of Horseshoe Lake and rode to the sound of gunshots, which we later connected to men in camouflage getting ready to take their boat out for the day. There were little black snakes, praying Mantis, and huge grasshoppers along the way. We passed the lake and cornfields, rode through some woods, and by parks. We took the Schoolhouse Trail, which is 16 miles one way, and connects to a bunch of other trails in Madison to form a big loop. But there again, everything connects.

Next up, when it's not a weekend, I am hitting the Vadalabene Bike Trail from Alton to Pere Marquette, or the North end of the Riverfront Trail over the Chain of Rocks. But next time, I'll make sure I'm in slightly better shape and my bike is happy.

Check out all the trails at Madison County Trail/Transit
There are links with distances, parking info., and maps with loops.

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