Tour de Southland
The 2017 Tour de France has begun. 22 teams of nine riders set off on July 1 to cover approximately 2,200 miles of Germany, Belgium, and France by bicycle. While GSU can't quite bring you there (although you never know what study abroad opportunities will arise through the Office of International Services) , we can offer the 22 mile Old Plank Road Trail, a biking and hiking path that connects with the nearby Thorn Creek Trail and runs from Chicago Heights—the eastern edge of the Southland—to Joliet, the western border.
Not only does the trail provide an opportunity for pastoral peace while exercising, it also lets riders (and hikers!) check out local hangouts and havens.
Downtown Park Forest – Welcome to arts central. Hop off the trail and spend some time walking through the Tall Grass Art Association gallery, visit the home of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and grab a bite to eat before you get back on your bike. Park Forest is a key arts district in the Southland, with roots reaching back into the sixties.
Matteson Metra – For the eco-conscious traveler, the trail allows you to bike or hike to the Matteson Metra station where you can go green on public transportation and ride the rails all the way into downtown Chicago. The Metra Electric route brings travelers to places like Hyde Park/University of Chicago, McCormick Place, the Museum Campus, and Millennium Park. All aboard!
Historic Frankfort – Go a little further, and you can visit historic downtown Frankfort, a community founded in 1855. Some original structures and many new ones that preserve the village's historic feel are accessible from the trail. Visit the historical society, try some barbecue, or—on Sundays from May to October—visit the Downtown Farmers Market on Breidert Green.
Arrowhead Bridge – This award-winning, nearly quarter-mile suspension bridge lifts the trail over the traffic on Route 45 and gives riders an inspiring view. To the north, a Southland shopping district waits; the southern vista reveals open sky and fields, a look into the Southland's farming past.
New Lenox Town Center – Stop by the town center in New Lenox and see what's happening. The village hosts movie nights, live music, and food trucks throughout the year.
Joliet – The Old Plank Road Trail ends at Washington Street in Joliet. From there, ambitious cyclists can connect with the I&M Canal Trail system and other Will County trails. Or, take a rest by the river before you cycle back home.
And if nature isn't your thing, but you still want to stay in shape, you can always visit the Recreation and Fitness Center at GSU.