Driving around the entire border of Illinois

If you ever wanted to drive AROUND the state of Illinois, here is a map that literally goes around the outline of Illinois. 22 hours 12 minutes.

I made this map, because I was inspired by a group of people on Strava that decided to ride a route that is the shape of Illinois. The route is much smaller in scale, and done entirely in in the near west side of Chicago. Their map is a lot of fun and goes through many backroads in Chicago. Seeing the Illinois outline made me want to go around the actual outline of Illinois.

What if there was a car route where someone drives along the entire border of Illinois?

Google Maps makes it pretty easy to create a route like this. However, there are some challenges.

The borders of Illinois themselves are often not a road. (nor do I imagine any state having their exact border as a road). Should the roads on this route be inside Illinois’ border or outside the border? The phrase driving AROUND Illinois made it funnier to be literally driving AROUND Illinois, so I chose all the roads just outside the Illinois border.

In a lot of cases, Google prefers taking the major highways, but those don’t conform to the outline of the state. I had to modify parts of the course to force it to take the smaller roads closer to the border.

My map is a compromise between major highways and smaller roads. It would be fun to find the absolute closest roads to the border and take just those.

I modified the southeast part of Illinois. I cheated a little, because some of those roads go into Illinois. In Google Maps, you are allowed only so many destinations, so I can’t make it perfect.

Of course, you can’t drive on Lake Michigan in the part of Illinois that borders it, so that route is actually on Illinois land.

Overall, this would be a fun route to take around Illinois. It would be fun to do the actual route, stop, and take photos. Enjoy all the parts around Illinois we don’t normally see. Although, come to think of it, all these photos would not be in Illinois; they would be in the neighboring states.

The Illinois route on all Illinois land

Maybe a journey all inside Illinois would be better because the entire journey would be unified by the edges of Illinois. “Here’s this edge of Illinois; look at this, um, river or something.”

If I were to do all the roads inside Illinois, this project would be called “Driving on the Edge of Illinois.”

For this map, I turned ON “avoid highways” so I might get more sideroads that hug the state line. It also makes the trip longer, 26 hours. You’d think driving inside the state would be a quicker route than the outside route. Of course, not driving on highways will slow you down, but it also gives you more opportunities to stop and take scenic photos.

Entrance and exit points of Illinois

How about all those state crossing points? Whenever you cross the state border, it’s always an exciting time. The transition from state to state. Everyone in the car cheers.

How many of those entrance points to Illinois are there? It would be fun to document all those. I imagine many of them are just non-distinct roads. These every day roads most likely do not have some declarative sign “Welcome to Illinois.” Right?

On the Illinois-Wisconsin border, there are about 140 roads that enter Illinois. Here’s a map of all 140 roads that enter Illinois. I generally only marked the roads that extend well into Illinois. There are lots of little roads that look like they only go just a tiny bit into Illinois, and those little ones aren’t in the map.

Of the 140 entry roads, 18 are highways or interstate roads (the roads that are typically yellow on Google Maps). From West to East: 35, 84, 78, 73, 26, 2, 51, I-90, 75, 76, 14, 47, 12, 83, 45, I-94, 131, 137.

For these 18 major roads, I imagine there would be some welcome signs for Illinois. And on the other side of the border, there would be a welcome sign for Wisconsin.

Most likely, the western border of Illinois along Iowa and Missouri has fewer entry points. Even though the border is much longer, it also runs along the Mississippi River.

By the way, by looking closer at this Illinois-Wisconsin border, I realized that there is a border road called “State Line Road.” Going from West to East, there are 15 names for the Illinois-Wisconsin border road: Rte 5 W, Line Ln, Sinsinawa Rd, Beebe Rd, W Veta Grande Rd, E Charles Mound Rd, Wisconsin Ln, Illinois Ln, E State Line Rd, W State Line Rd, Wuetrich Rd, Stateline Rd, Pann Rd, Shirland Ave, and Russell Rd.

Thoughts about these projects

Exploring the borders of Illinois, whether from the inside or just outside its edges, transforms a simple mapping idea into an exciting journey full of discoveries. Each road and border crossing is a door to new experiences, blending changes in landscapes, cultures, and atmospheres that shape the identity of a place. This adventure around Illinois isn’t just a geographical exploration; it’s a quest to uncover the diverse stories that line its borders.

Imagine setting off on this trip, where every turn offers a new scene, every state crossing unveils a piece of history. From lively towns at the Wisconsin frontier to peaceful routes along the Mississippi River, this expedition promises a collection of varied experiences. Taking photos at these transitions, where Illinois meets its neighbors, could evolve into a fascinating project, capturing the contrasts and connections between states.

This journey is more than an exploration; it’s a celebration of the Midwest’s diversity and beauty from a unique viewpoint. It encourages us to venture beyond our regular paths, to find the extraordinary in the peripheries, and to collect stories at the edges of our state.

Ultimately, the choice to navigate around Illinois, stick close to its border, or trace the state lines from within, leads to more than a list of places visited. It offers a chance to forge deeper ties with the region and its communities, to appreciate unnoticed beauty, and to gather unique memories. As we ponder embarking on such an adventure, let’s focus on the experiences we’ll have, the stories we’ll hear, and the new views we’ll enjoy of the well-known landscapes of Illinois.

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