BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Taking a train or driving a car—say a 1920 Hupmobile—would have been too easy for George H. McCaskey.
When the Bears chairman decided to symbolically recreate the trek from Decatur to Chicago that his grandfather, George Halas, took with his fledgling football team nearly 100 years ago, McCaskey chose to walk.
Yes, you read that right. From July 15-25, the chairman of the Chicago Bears walked from Decatur to Chicago, a 196-mile trek.
In 1920, Halas was hired by A.E. Staley, the owner of a food starch manufacturer in Decatur, to run his company football team. After one season as the Decatur Staleys, Halas moved the squad north to Chicago, keeping the Staleys name for one year before renaming it the Chicago Bears in 1922.
McCaskey began his walk at the intersection of 22nd and Eldorado Streets in Decatur, where the A.E. Staley manufacturing plant was located. He traveled to Champaign, where Halas starred at the University of Illinois, and then on to Bourbonnais, where the Bears have held training camp since 2002.
McCaskey continued walking to Midway Airport, and then through the city before finishing his journey at Soldier Field. He covered just under 20 miles a day in four pairs of shoes, mainly on surface roads such as Routes 48, 45, 52 and 50. As you’d imagine, he made several friends along the way.
“People were great,” McCaskey said. “Many people offered me a ride. This one couple was going in the opposite direction. They turned around and said, ‘We’ll go wherever you want to.’ A lot of truck drivers would catch up to me at the next gas station or convenience store.”
McCaskey insists that at no point along his long trip did he regret deciding to make the walk.
“Never,” he said. “I was pretty prepared. I work out six days a week and started training specifically for this on Jan. 1. I think the people around Halas Hall have seen me putting in a lot of miles in all sorts of weather and I had trained on all sorts of terrain. So I was ready. I had days in Champaign and days in Bourbonnais built in for rest, relaxation and recovery, and I didn’t really need them.”