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Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 1, The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail

Sam and Sarah at the start of the trail in Alton

The first plan was to meet Jeff and Escapade in the Florida Keys with bikes in December. Thanks to Canada’s pandemic travel advisory–essential travel only–that didn’t happen.

Our back up plan was Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes recreation area. But given the river levels Jeff decided to sprint north.

And so we ended up meeting here–on the Mississippi River, in Alton, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis.

Bikes on boat

It’s not much warmer than home but the roads are definitely clear of snow and all the trees are in flower. With highs predicted to be in the mid-teens, it looked like fine weather for riding.

Escapade, the boat

Now that the US border is as open as it ever is, we popped the bikes on the bike rack on the back of the Subaru and headed southwest. Guelph, Ontario to Alton, Illinois is about 11 hours of driving.

On our first day of riding we opted for the The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail. From the trail website, “The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail is completely paved and takes cyclists through the towns of Elsah and Grafton for a relaxing and beautiful National Scenic Byway ride.” It’s about half a separated bike path that runs parallel to the main road and half bike line with a rumble strip divider between cars and bikes. We saw no other bikes, just the occasional dog walker.

It was the perfect distance for a bike ride for lunch, 50 km out and back, with catfish fritters for lunch in the middle. The route followed the Mississippi out of Alton, past the historic town of Elsah, and ended in Grafton for lunch. Our favorite bit of the ride was the close up view of the of the riverside bluffs. See photos below!

Sarah and I have been riding indoors all winter on Zwift and while there are many differences between riding virtually and IRL the one that was most striking was wind. (Jeff? He just maintains a base level of fitness that allows him to not ride regularly and then hop back on the bike whenever he wants. Jealous!)

We had a tailwind heading out which can be a dangerous thing. You know when you’re pedaling easily and chatting and notice your speed is over 30 km/hr, that makes for a slog into the wind on the way home. Thanks Sarah for doing the bulk of the work!

It felt good to be riding outside again.

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