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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Change of plans

A few months ago, I announced that I was going to be on this year's RAGBRAI. Unfortunately, I was forced to change my plans, and I'm not up enjoying the bicycling, pie, pancakes, pork chops, etc. with thousands of fellow cyclists.

I had some unexpected bills that came up, and they needed to be paid. I had booked my trip through the Touring Cyclist bike shops in the St. Louis area, and fortunately for me, they had someone to take my place so I could get a full refund.

That doesn't mean I've been off my bike this week. The unseasonably cool weather we've had the past few days in the St. Louis area have been a bonus.

On Saturday, I did a 47-mile solo ride that started in Belleville and went though Mascoutah, the rural roads between Freeburg and New Athens, through Smithton and back to Belleville. I hadn't been on some of the roads south of Freeburg in years, and it was good to see them again.

I managed to get myself early Sunday morning to ride Trailnet's Bike St. Louis City Tour. I normally don't make it to Sunday morning group rides because I have to work Saturday nights at the Belleville News-Democrat. Getting up earlier than 9 or 10 a.m. on Sundays is not my cup of tea.

But I figured I'd give this one a try because I got to bed reasonably early Saturday night. Early in the ride, I played a Good Samaritan role. First, I helped two riders, Lisa and Marsha, fix a flat. A few moments later, a family in a SUV stopped me and asked for directions to the Arch.

Once I got rolling, the ride took us into North St. Louis to the velodrome at O'Fallon Park. I took a lap to say I've done a lap. North St. Louis isn't a destination for most cyclists because of its reputation for crime, but Trailnet did a good job of routing the ride through the safer parts of the area.

Frankly, I found the 28-mile medium route I did Sunday more strenuous than the 47-mile ride I did Saturday. Living on the Illinois side of the river means I do lots of miles on roads with relatively few stop signs, or at least long distances between them. The constant stops and starts wore me out ater a while. I can see why some cyclists favor laws that allow cyclists to yield at stop signs.

What I can't understand are cyclists who run stop lights at intersections where the signals are functioning properly. I have to admit that I've occassionally run a red light, but that's only at intersections where my bike won't trigger the signals and only after I'm sure the intersection is clear. But when the lights are functioning correctly, we should follow the rules of the road.

On Monday, I decided to check out the new sections of Madison County Transit's Quercus Grove Trail. I started in Collinsville on the Schoolhouse Trail, took the Goshen Trail into Edwardsville, then hopped on the Nickel Plate Trail for a short stretch to the Quercus Grove Trail and took it to Staunton, then rode back for a round trip of 60 miles. I'm going to write a separate post on that ride to fill you in things you need to know.

As for the rest of the week, I plan to ride tonight with the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society in O'Fallon, I may ride in the Brighton area Thursday unless I decide to spend lots of time with my family, do another Madison County trail ride Friday, ride the Gateway Council of Hostelling International's Tour de Flood Plain on Saturday in St. Charles, Mo., then do a ride around the Belleville area on Sunday.

I hope all of you on RAGBRAI are having a great ride! I wish I could be there with you, but at least I'm spending some quality time with my bike!

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