A Bike Overnight with Charlie

Adventure is our business, and business is good, especially with a bike-traveling two-year-old.

When: September 28 – 29, 2015.

Bicycle Adventurers: Chuck Walters and Charlie Walters, two years old.

Accommodations: Illiniwek Forest Preserve campground near Hampton, IL.

Distance: Our first day we rode twenty-six miles, but on day two, we were washed out by rain and called for a ride home rather than catching pneumonia. I imagine it's not very pleasant to sit in a kid trailer behind a bicycle while riding in the pouring rain.

Bonus tip for this adventure: You will find genuinely awesome mountain bike and hiking trails across the highway from this campground.

Day One:

My two-year-old son and I packed up the night before with our backpacking gear, including new goodies like a water bladder and a nice set of camping dinnerware just to add to the excitement. 

And excitedly, we started out at 11:00 a.m. Charlie has been pulled in a trailer since he was less than a year old, and he is wonderful to ride with. Throw a few books, snacks, and a toy in his bike trailer with him and he's good for as many miles as I care to pull him. 

Our planned destination at Illiniwek Forest Preserve isn't far away, only about fourteen miles. However, where I live, there isn't a direct route to the bike path downtown without taking busy residential streets. Since I will not pull my son in a bike trailer in traffic, we rode well out of our way in order to stay on the bike path the whole ride. 

After riding twelve miles or so, we decided to stop for a coffee for me, milk for him, and a muffin for both of us at the coffee shop. While stopped, I got a welcome call from my father-in-law who wanted to escort us out to the campground. At sixty-nine years old and with two knee replacements, he rides about 8000 miles a year. My son has some good bicycle role models!

After coffee, three generations rode the rest of the way to our campground near Hampton, IL, enjoying fantastic weather.

At our campground, we set up our tent and gear. With Illiniwek's campsites only about twenty feet from the Mississippi River, we expected a wonderful night's sleep full of soothing river sounds. 

After an attempt at a nap and some lunch, we went hiking in the forest preserve across the street from the campground. The trails meandered wonderfully and included some nice climbs. Charlie hiked about a mile by himself and rode on my shoulders for the rest. A mile is a long way when you're only two feet tall... 

We came upon some mountain bike trails and discovered some awesome 180 degree planked berms. I was so impressed, I made a vow to troll sales websites to track down an inexpensive mountain bike this winter. 

At dusk, we walked back to camp to make dinner and start a campfire. My wife and I had been experimenting with freeze-dried backpacking foods prior to this trip, so our dinners were a trial run on these new recipes. After adding boiling water and waiting ten minutes, we had a feast. Charlie loved the chicken curry and my fiesta chicken was tasty as well. 

The most impractical thing I packed on this trip was a campfire popcorn popper. It's large and nearly impossible to pack efficiently. However, we love to watch the stars come out over the river and sit by a fire while munching some popcorn. This is more than enough reward for some awkward packing. 

Exhausted, we turned in at about ten p.m. I have a very small two-person backpacking tent, but for a two year old and myself, it's extremely comfy.

Day Two:

We awoke to thirty m.p.h. winds and spitting rain. I had expected this from the forecast, but decided to try the ride anyway, seeing as this would be our last opportunity in 2015, given that Charlie's sister would be born two weeks later. 

So, we read books, ate breakfast in the tent, and tried to wait for a break in the weather. After about four hours, I made a difficult decision for a stubborn guy like me and called for a ride home. I reasoned that it definitely wouldn't be fun for Charlie to sit in a trailer showered by rainwater, bike path crud, and goose poo, just so dad could keep his pride intact ... no sense in turning my son off from future bike adventures either. 

Home and dry after a lot of fun, I already have a three-day trip planned for spring 2016. Charlie still asks for more bike rides and more camping, so I don't think he'll object.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

4 responses so far ↓

Megan - Nov 6, 2015 at 1:01 PM

What a great father/son trip! This was a pleasure to read. I hope you two make some more trips together soon.

Leslie - Dec 10, 2015 at 8:06 AM

Thank you for sharing this adventure! It sound like such a great weekend, despite having to get a ride back - which I would've done too.

Hopefully your daughter will be joining in the future!

ed - Mar 24, 2016 at 10:06 AM

for a crazy trip, hop on the channel cat. not like you are in the saddle too long, but it is fun to take a boat across the river. the arsenal bridge always made me a bit nervous for some reason.

any safe roads to loud thunder?

Chuck Walters - Jun 3, 2016 at 1:46 PM

I've never done the Channel Cat, and I have no idea why not. That is definitely on the list for this summer, Charlie would absolutely love it.

As for Loud Thunder, I wish I knew of a route I was comfortable pulling a trailer on. We drive out there and hike and fish often, but no bike rides to there as of yet. Let me know if you get a safe route figured out.

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