Chicago to Michigan City: 70 Miles on a Bicycle

Originally Published August 27, 2013

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little weary of how I would handle a ride of this length.  I commute almost every day by bike - shorter distances averaging from 9 to 12 miles a day - but my longest ride until now was only around 40 miles. 70 miles seemed intense, but no questions asked, when my friend asked if I wanted to do it, I was on board.

The Plan
The original plan was for 3 of us to bike from Chicago to the Michigan City Campground on Saturday, camp out for the night, then drive back to the city on Sunday (we had friends meeting us there who took a car for us to drive home).  Unfortunately one of my friends had to make a last minute trip home for a family emergency, but the remaining two of us, Maggie and myself, decided to proceed with the journey.  Maggie has done some longer distance rides in the area and volunteered to navigate.  After some research and talking to some locals who have done the same ride, we decided on a route to take.

The Route
To my surprise, the majority of our route consisted of smooth, paved cycling trails with very little traffic (other than Chicago’s Lake Shore Trail, which is always busy).  I would say we rode 80% on trails and 20% on roads…. it was really nice to be away from cars for most of the ride. Our first trail was riding the Lake Shore Trail south to 76th.  From there we connected to a series of other trails, road through small towns, more trails, and eventually some country roads.  You can see our route in detail below:

The Experience
Overall the ride was a great experience.  We left the Wicker Park neighborhood at 7:15 am and made it to the Michigan City Campground by 3:00 pm.  The morning ride was beautiful, calm winds and around 70 degrees.  Once we escaped the traffic of the Lake Shore Trail, the paths really opened up.
We stopped around mile 40 to jump in Robinson Lake, cool off and give our legs a rest.  

We met an older couple at the lake riding the trails and they were really interested in our journey from Chicago - we chatted with them for a while. They gave us a printed map which came in handy later in the trip.  Until then we were navigating with Maggie’s cell phone, which was mounted on her bike providing cues, but battery power was limited.  

After our relaxing break, we continued on the trail and ended up meeting a cyclist named Joe.  Joe was from Indiana, we road about 20 miles with him and enjoyed his company.  Shortly after that, we completed the trail section of the route and got on to some country roads leading to the campground.  

Seventy miles later we had accomplished our goal.  We immediately cracked a beer to celebrate the ride and found our friends at the campground.  After cooking some food, I located the perfect set of trees to hang my hammock from.

We made our way to the beach of Lake Michigan to watch the sunset and arrived just in time to catch the amazing views.  Across the lake was a tiny silhouette of the Chicago skyline.  It was really nice to be away from the city energy and sit on the lake with good company.  

I would recommend this ride to anyone interested in biking long distances. It’s pretty simple, mostly flat, and the trails are in great condition.  If I could do one thing differently, I would pack less in my backpack or avoid it all together. Next time I ride distance, I will get a rack on my bike and carry a bag that way.  But all in all, we were fairly prepared for the ride and everything really went as planned.  I’d definitely do it again!