Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Travels with Fred

Biked to work again today, accompanied by Fred, my friend and neighbor. Fred's a *real* bicyclist, and I hope I didn't hold him back too much.

He pushed me just a little bit — the way he attacks a hill is something to see, especially considering he's got 15 years on me. We covered the 12.5 miles to Argonne in 61 minutes. A little better than last week, but I'd like to trim that down to 50 minutes.

It was already in the low-70s and very humid when we left at 6:30 a.m. This afternoon's ride home should be a real pleasure for this warm-weather fan.

dsj 100525

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

11.9 miles to the bowl of oatmeal

Happy National Bike to Work Week!

Why yes, yes I did bike to work today, thanks for asking, prompted by the unofficial participation of my workplace in the League of American Bicyclists' "Bike to Work Week" event. I enjoyed the ride very much — enough that I'm probably going to be a fairly regular bike commuter this summer and fall.

Google Bike Maps (hereinafter GBM) did a bang-up job of creating a bike-friendly route from my home in Naperville to Argonne National Laboratory's West Gate. The map did need a tweak here and there — just a matter of clicking and dragging the route line to a more-direct street — but 90 percent of the route was perfect. (To access Google Bike Maps, pick "bicycling" when getting directions on Google Maps.)

Fuel for the commute: a bowl of oatmeal and two strips of microwave bacon. Channel 9 News said was 47 degrees when I left the house at 6:30 a.m., dressed in sweatpants, hoodie sweatshirt and a windbreaker. A helmet, of course. Printouts of the route were at the ready in my handlebar bag, as was a radio tuned to the local sports talker. My backpack held a change of clothes and necessaries for a shower.

Your commute looked like this ...

... and my commute looked like this.
Neener neener neener.

The route took me though leafy suburban backstreets, then down 79th Street to Greene Road. GBM provided a great shortcut through the Greene Valley Forest Preserve's pathways.

The delightful, partly paved mile and a half wound through prairie and forest alive with birds. Red-winged blackbirds perched on rushes near a small lake. Snowy egrets padded through the shallow water. A bluejay: brilliant blue and white with an incongruous, ugly squawk. Goldfinches with their sine-wave flight paths. I took one wrong turn on the maze of trails in the preserve, but all too soon, I was looking at Rt. 53 directly across from 83rd Street and staring at a steep uphill. That climb up the ridge presented the only serious bicycling challenge of the morning.

A smooth bike lane on Woodward Ave.,

Soon I was gliding east along 83rd Street, and then west on Woodward Avenue, both of which have wide, smooth asphalt bicycle paths separated from the roadway. I stopped for a Diet Coke at the BP station at Boughton Road, where I peeled off my windbreaker and gloves.

Up over I-55 — the inbound lanes already clogged at 7:15 a.m. — and then along Frontage Road. A quick squiggle through the subdivision brought me to the Westgate Road and the laboratory's western entrance.

Shower facilities at work, while not luxurious, were adequate to the task and the patient bicyclist is rewarded with hot water after only a few minutes' wait. I arrived at my desk at 7:50 a.m. The ride was 11.9 miles long, which I covered in 69 minutes, as measured by my cheapo GPS unit.

I wasn't particularly tired in the morning although I did notice I needed my mid-morning snack (a banana from the coffee shop) about an hour earlier than usual. Got pretty yawny in the afternoon; perhaps joining in the Running Club's 2-mile walk at lunch was pushing it.

The ride home was assisted by a very welcome 20-mph tailwind. It was 12.8 miles in 68 minutes. The day's total: 24.7 miles by bicycle, and a two-mile walk. Yah, I'm tired.

My Toyota Highlander hybrid gets about 25 mpg in the city, so by riding my bike today, I avoided burning about one gallon of gas and the attendant generation of 19.4 lbs. of carbon dioxide, per U.S. EPA estimates. To be sure, that total is offset by the pound or two of CO2 generated as I huffed and puffed my way up that hill on 83rd Street.

Gonna ride the Harley tomorrow, to give the legs a break, and try the bike commute again Thursday.

dsj 100518

Friday, May 7, 2010

DuPage River Trail / Whalon Lake

Tried the new DuPage River Trail on a temperate, breezy spring day. Parked in the DuPage River Sports Complex at Washington Street and Royce Road in southeast Naperville.

The brand new, paved trail is a short but scenic segment of what will eventually be a world-class ride: an off-street, paved route from downtown Naperville along the DuPage River to 188th Street. Currently, the trail runs from downtown Naperville to 87th Street; the segment from 87th to Royce Road is under construction (It's also blocked off at 75th Street due to a major intersection reconstruction project.) The route I took this day will be a spur off that main trail.

It's about two miles from Washington Street to Whalon Lake. The trail is mostly a gentle downhill grade as you ride eastward, paralleling Royce Road. The asphalt pavement is baby-butt smooth; silt fencing from the construction still lines the riverward side. The trail passes through open prairie and patches of woods. The DuPage River meanders through the park.

A small lake sits above the river next to the trail; it must be fed by a spring from the higher ground to the north. I stopped to watch a small largemouth bass patrol the weed edge.

All too soon, thanks to a tailwind and the grade, I arrived at the Whalon Lake complex. It's a two-year-old facility with a small lake -- a former limestone quarry -- as its centerpiece. It has excellent facilities: toilets, picnic tables, covered pavilions and a dog park (the dogs are having a blast running around inside the fenced enclosure, which is a joy to watch). The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and crappie -- Catch and Release only, yay.

The lake is limited to boats 16 feet long or less, and no gas engines are allowed; you can launch your dinghy at the disconcertingly large ramp and pier big enough to handle a cabin cruiser. The paved trail loops around the 266-acre lake. It's about 1.5 miles around.

I actually worked up a sweat on the return trip: the long, gentle uphill grade combined with the steady 20-mph headwind from the west to make a moderately challenging ride.

I'd highly recommend this trail for families with kids looking for a pleasant hour or so on a gentle path. The scenery is wonderful.

Once construction is complete on the segment from Royce Road to 87th Street -- sometime this summer or early fall -- this is going to be one of my favorite local rides. The DuPage River Trail will eventually connect to the Illinois Prairie Path to the north, and the Virgil Gilman Trail to the south.