Thirty years after she rode her bicycle from Downers Grove to Springfield "for no reason," Shannon Burns is marking the anniversary by doing a two-day bike tour of DuPage County.
Burns, who is a forest preserve commissioner, says she hopes her latest "adventure" will raise awareness about the county's extensive trail system, which covers about 145 miles in forest preserves alone.
"I'd love for other people in DuPage to rethink their idea of adventure," Burns said. "We have so much right here at home."
Burns, 60, started her journey on Friday morning outside her home in West Chicago. The first part of the trip took her to Addison. She was planning to visit several other towns before resting overnight at the family campground in Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville. The bike ride will conclude Saturday evening.
Of course, the solo trip won't take Burns as far as she went in June 1984, when she rode to Springfield.
"I had a beautiful new bike and I had to burn up some vacation time," Burns recalled. "I thought, 'I'll just ride to Springfield.'"
Burns packed everything she needed on the bike, including a tent and sleeping bag.
During the four-day trip south, she ate MREs (meals ready to eat) and slept in cornfields. After reaching Springfield, she got on a plane and flew back to the Chicago.
That one trip fueled Burns' love of cycling for more than two decades. She ended up doing regular touring bike rides, including several to Rockford.
But in 2007, Burns caught a serious virus that made it impossible for her to ride a bike. Despite suffering from the virus for about two years, Burns said she knew she eventually would recover.
"I kept saying, 'This is not going to define who I am,'" she said.
When she started getting better, Burns became determined to ride her bike again -- and to mark the 30th anniversary of her Springfield trip.
"So this is kind of a mission," she said.
Burns said she initially considered riding to a location outside DuPage. Then she thought about the county's "amazing network" of trails.
"I would like to raise awareness of the trails we have here," she said.
Burns was planning to travel about 150 miles within DuPage before returning home on Saturday night.
She said the experience will give her an opportunity to see things she has never seen before.
"I'm expecting to fall in love with DuPage in a different way," she said, "because when you're on the bike, you see it differently than zooming by in a car."