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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Route 66 Trail Ride

In a matter of days, cyclists will be taking off from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis and begin a the League of Illinois Bicyclists' Route 66 Trail Ride up to Chicago. The route generally will follow the Route 66 Trail developed by LIB and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, the ride will take off from the bridge and wind up in Carlinville, the county seat of Macoupin County. Macoupin County is the home of several old alignments of Route 66, the first going though Staunton, Benld, Gillespie, Carlinville, Girard and Virden. Today, most of that alignment is Illinois Route 4.

The ride is slated to end Sept. 3 near the Art Institute in downtown Chicago. The overnight towns are Carlinville, Springfield, Bloomington, Dwight and Joliet.

The cost of the six-day ride is reasonable -- free for LIB members, $25 for non-members -- but the Route 66 Trail Ride is a mostly self-supported ride, meaning cyclists are responsible for all meals, snacks and accommodations.

The big goal of the ride is to promote the Route 66 Trail. Representatives from LIB, DNR and the Route 66 Trail Executive Council will meet with the media and local officials in an effort to encourage route improvements including signage, paved shoulders, and off-road trails.

Not surprisingly, one of the stops is Staunton, the home of the Tour de Donut ride. I know it seems I'm fixated with Staunton, but that community knows that bicyclists can bring lots of money and attention to a small town. Staunton bicyclists, walkers and runners frequently use the recently completed MCT Quercus Grove Trail, which links Staunton with Edwardsville.

The Staunton Route 66 Trail Ride event is slated for noon Saturday at the South Water Tower Park. To coincide with the ride, the Illinois Traction System Trail Committee will be sponsoring a Bike Safety Clinic during the festivities from 10 a.m. to noon at the park. First- through eighth- graders and encouraged about riding safely on Illinois roads and how and why helmet wearing is important. Personnel from several community organizations will be on hand to talk to kids about safe bike riding and injury prevention.

Every participant will have the opportunity to have professionals from Rhe Cyclery in Edwardsville inspect their bikes for free. The first 100 youth completing the program will also receive a free bike helmet, water bottle and other goodies. The Staunton Chamber of Commerce will also be giving away one boys bicycle and one girls bicycle during the event.

You can see a schedule of events and communities at the LIB Web site.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis-based Gateway Council of Hostelling International is moving along with plans for its first-ever Cycle Route 66 ride. Cyclists will be bused Oct. 10 from Route 66 State Park in the St. Louis suburb of Eureka to the start of the ride in Miami, Okla. From Oct. 11 to Oct. 16, they will travel on sections of the Mother Road in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

The cost of Cycle Route 66 is $500 ($450 for HI members) for people sharing motel rooms with an extra fee charged for private rooms. The cost of the ride includes motels, breakfasts and dinners, and SAG support.

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