Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Springbrook Prairie, Naperville

Seems to me I should take note of the trial I ride most often, the 9.5-mile wonder that meaders through Springbrook Prairie. I'm blessed to have a nearly 2,000-acre forest preserve with a world-class bike trail just a short ride from my house.

The trail itself is just a couple of years old. It's in outstanding condition and well-drained: it rained more than 1.5 inches in the last two days, but by this afternoon, the trail surface was dry and hard, without any ruts or mushy spots.

The wide trail mainly follows the perimeter of the property. Most of the preserve is low, rolling prairie. The trail also passes through a small wooded area -- I've spooked deer from the trail early in the morning.

On a humid, warm late-September afternoon, prairie plants were in a last-gasp bloom: acres of yellow (goldenrod?), with purple and orange flowers underneath. Milkweed pods bulged, ready to burst. Goldfinches played tag in the tall weeds lining the trail.

Along the eastern horizon, a line of towering cumulonimbus clouds had formed where the humid air was lifted by a cool onshore breeze from Lake Michigan, forming thundershowers. I could trace the line of small thunderheads from Gary to the Wisconsin border.

The trail itself is not much of a challenge, but I'd recommend Springbrook Prairie highly for a smooth, scenic ride.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chicago lakefront ride

Took a short ride on Chicago's beautiful lakefront path on Saturday, Sept. 19. Had to dodge numerous clots of rubbernecking tourists and scramble to avoid pelotons of Lycra-clad tour wannabes, but it was still a blast.

We parked in the Millennium garage, and took the lakefront path north to Belmont. There, we turned west about two miles there to find the Roscoe Village "Guinness and Oyster Fest" that I'd found in an online listing of Chicago neighborhood festivals.

Turns out the fest organizers had found an actual sponsor: LandShark Lager, a Jimmy Buffet WorldWide Amalgamated Corp. (registered trademark, all rights reserved, see dealer for details) brand. Also, the organizers apparently hadn't paid their bribe to the Chicago Health Dept., so they weren't allowed to serve any actual raw oysters.

But for a "Guinness and Oyster Fest" featuring neither Guinness nor raw oysters, it was a darned good time.

The band playing while we were there, a local, Skynyrdish group called Hello Dave, had the crowd tapping and nodding and provided a nice vibe for the setting. Mary found the Landshark Lager passable. The "oysters Italiano" were greasy but good, and the fried oysters offered by John's corner bar were small but crispy-tasty and nestled on a little bed of cool coleslaw. Well done.

A headwind slowed us down on the way home, but it was cool southeast breeze off the lake. In all ways a very pleasant 14-mile ride. Not a lot of places on the planet with a view like this.