Saturday, June 26, 2010


I've been averaging about two bicycle commutes per week. It's about a 25-mile round trip. The route goes through suburban backstreets and into the Greene Valley Forest Preserve on the tree-lined 79th Street. The first half of the ride goes over a ridge between the two branches of the DuPage River. This is the view uphill going north (toward home) on 79th.

The route cuts through the forest preserve for about a half-mile on a limestone trail. The spring has been wet and warm -- the wildflowers have been loving it. Every week seems to bring a new mix of flowers along the trail.

Yes, there's a 150-foot hill. It's actually a huge pile of trash covered with dirt and grass.
I'm really enjoying the bicycle commute. Just wish it would stop raining so I could do it more often.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Loveland Trail, slight reprise

Hit the Loveland Trail again during a recent visit to the Cincinnati area. It's as excellent as I remember [See my previous post]. Went east from the Train Stop Inn, a mile or two from the King's Island Theme Park (excellent roller coasters, I'm told by those in the know). My son accompanied me for the ride on a real sauna of a day: about 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity.
The trail is a delight to ride. Smooth, level asphalt. Peeks at the Little Miami River, small creeks tumbling down the hillside.
Lots of wildlife. Not five seconds after Steven wondered aloud if we'd see any deer — there they were alongside the trail: two does and a spike buck. We also saw muskrats and a woodchuck, along with dozens of cardinals, goldfinches and other birds we couldn't identify.
We rode as far as the town of Morrow, where we stopped for ice cream at Miranda's, a nice little shoppe in what used to be a bank; you can peer into the small vault in the side room. I usually dislike air conditioning in any form, but it was welcome as we cooled down with butter pecan (Steven) and chocolate soft-serve in a cup (me).

 The ride back was uneventful and very pleasant. At the finish, we cooled off with a beer at the Train Stop Inn. It's great to be able to knock one back with your son. Total was about 20 very humid miles.
The next day, hit the trail again solo for a quick 10 miles going the other way. There was a fun little festival in the town of Loveland, where a band shouted its way through "Land of 10,000 Dances." The driving beat echoed along the hillsides and soon I was keeping time with the crank. Fun stuff.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Great Western Trail

Sunday, May 30, promised to be a warm, humid day with a strong south breeze. Luckily my plans were to ride the western section of the Great Western Trail from Leroy Oaks Park, St. Charles, to Sycamore and back -- all east-west, so the wind wouldn't be a factor.

The path is mostly the familiar rails-to-trails limestone. About five miles is asphalt-paved, starting from the town of Wasco. (You wascolly wabbit! Sorry.)

Most of the path is in such great condition it might as well be paved: very well tramped down and smooth. There was lots of bike and jogger traffic until past the paved bit, when it suddenly got very rural and isolated. Myriads of flowers along both sides: purple, white, red. Trail is fanatically straight and level: you can see the white limestone ahead of you for what seems like miles, all the way to the vanishing point.

The trail parallels Route 64 (North Avenue), so it can be a bit noisy, especially on a Memorial Day weekend when it seemed like every motorcycle in the state was heading west.

Between the "town" of Virgil (epicenter of the great Illinois quake of '10, magnitude 3.8) and Sycamore, the trail turns into an ATV track for a mile or two. Not an impediment, but you can tell you're not in suburbia anymore. A couple of short quarter-mile stretches of could be better-maintained.

Arrived in Sycamore very thirsty and hungry. After a stop at a gas station for a couple of bottles of water, I had lunch at the Dairy Dogs. Make sure you specify no ketchup on your "Chicago style" hot dog.  (The stand was operated by a couple of 16-year-old girls who didn't know any better. Otherwise I'd have thrown a shit-fit. Ketchup on a hot dog. Jebus.) Otherwise, the Dave Berg dog was just OK, nothing to write home about.

I must be getting good at this: I covered 37 miles in 3 hours and 8 minutes, arriving at the car a sweaty and ready for a rest, but otherwise OK. This after a 20-mile ride the previous day!

Wish I had some pix but somehow I deleted them off the camera. Just imagine the Prairie Path, only straighter and flatter, with farmland on either side carpeted with three-inch emergent corn sprouts.

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Benedictine University and Green Trails

About a 20-mile ride through the neighborhood this morning. Went to visit my grandmother at Villa St. Benedict, then stopped for breakfast at the Big Apple Pancake House: A Sun-Times, two eggs scrambled to death – dry! – wheat toast and bacon. After my five or 10 thousand years in purgatory, I’ll ascend to heaven where it will be a bright, sunny spring morning much like today's, and that will be my breakfast order.

The weather is just … perfect … one day each year. I think today was that day. Brilliant sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, light east wind (unusual direction), about 85 degrees F. I was in full Mr. Pither mode coming home from Villa St. Benedict: bicycling in a state of oblivious happiness.

Decided to explore the grounds of nearby Benedictine University. I’d passed by the campus a hundred times, and have attended a bunch of DuPage Dragons baseball games at the stadium, but I’d never actually poked around on the campus.
Notable discoveries:
  • There is a pretty little 10- or 15-acre lake. Panfish scattered away from the shoreline as I approached. Oh, yes, I'll be back with a fishing rod.
  • A beautiful shrine to the Virgin Mary, and a short mulched trail with the stations of the cross.
  • A well-kept cemetery on the western section of the campus includes the final resting place of Abbot Procopius Neuzil, whose most excellent name I could just say over and over. Procopius Neuzil. Procopius Neuzil.

    As I admired the cemetery, I kept hearing a strange, stacatto series of musical notes. I followed the sound to its source: the Rosemont Cavaliers marching band xylophone players were practicing nearby, working on the timing of a particular short riff.

    Heading south from Benedictine toward home, I decided to explore the Green Trails network of asphalt bicycle/walking trails. What a gem! Twenty-five miles of smooth asphalt trails wind through residential neighborhoods, along backyards and around small lakes, parks, grassy open areas and small wooded sections.

    This is not a good speed-training track, though. Lots of kids on tricycles, joggers, mommies with strollers and blind corners. Take your time and enjoy the intense suburban-ness of it all.