Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Hot Fox (River Trail)

A representative slice of the FRT.
Got up relatively early and fueled up at my local favorite breakfast place, Juicy-O on Washington Street in Naperville. I love being a regular: Mary, the waitress, had a Diet Coke on the table as soon as I sat down. Had my usual high-protein breakfast: one egg, scrambled dry, wheat toast no butter, bacon, fruit instead of the hash browns, dammit.

(I love hash browns. Someday, when my doctor shakes his head sadly and tells me to enjoy the time I have left, I will exist on nothing but biscuits and gravy, hash browns, Wild Turkey, Captain Black pipe tobacco and old Rush albums. Anyway:)

I parked the car a half-hour later just south of the casino that politicians and rich people promised would revive the city of Aurora but (surprise!) didn’t. The Fox River Trail runs on both sides of its namesake watercourse. I chose the west side in hopes of staying in the shade on a day that was already 80 degrees F at 8:30 a.m., with humidity in the mid-60s.

The FRT (The Chainlink hipsters call the Lake Front Path the LFP) is a smooth, well-maintained asphalt delight that runs right along the water. Despite the drought, the river seems to be doing OK, although there have been reports of fish kills -- mostly redhorse. 

Ekwabet ("Watching Over")  seems to be OK
with white people stealing his land and driving
his people to extinction, according to the
inscription written by a white guy,
as long as we "love this Valley as much as
we loved it." Sure thing, chief, now leave.

I chugged along with some difficulty in the first 10 miles or so. Legs were tired. I had ridden a quick 11 miles the previous day, so I suppose that had something to do with it, but I was surprised at my relatively slow 12-ish mph average, as measured by the (highly recommended)Cyclemeter app on my iPhone.

Somewhere around Batavia I found my second wind and picked up the pace. However, there were stretches of road construction and detours where I lost the trail -- both in Batavia and Geneva. I swallowed my frustration, because it was good to see the trail was not only being maintained, but improved.

The “Windmill Whirl 5K” brought a lot of runners onto the trail between Batavia and Geneva. Had to slow down, but from a people-watching standpoint, it was worth it. The runners with numbers on their shirts ranged from whippet-thin Kenyan wannabees to one wheezing old gentleman who I hope is still alive as I write this.

Because there is an actual windmill.

The trail got sort of random past the village of St. Charles. Sidewalk, street, trail, street again. Always cool to see Pottawatomie Park, where my grandmother used to take me when I was a wee lad.

Taking a break just north of St. Charles.

A little past St. Charles -- at the end of a looooooong downhill run, natch -- the trail turned to crushed limestone. I rode for a half-mile or so, hoping it would turn back into asphalt, but gave up.  I was 14.11 miles into the ride and the air was getting soupy. I turned around and and ground my way back up the damn hill toward my starting point.

(I found out later from a couple of reliable sources that the limestone portion was only “a couple of miles” of the remaining 15 or so on the trail.)
The return ride was unremarkable except for having to wait about 20 minutes in downtown St. Charles for the “Ride for Kids” to go past. An impressive array of motorcycles of all stripes and species -- not just Harleys! -- went by for a good 20 minutes. Several hundred, minimum, with motorcycle cops corking the side roads. A blast to watch.

At some point, I stopped to goof with the Cyclemeter app, and messed it up because it was under a salt-water shower. As soon as I stopped pedaling and the airflow ceased, sweat was flinging sideways from every pore on my head, puddling on my glasses and dripping onto the iPhone. Couldn’t see a damn thing nowhere anyhow. I realized I was in a no-kidding possibly dangerous heat-related situation, chugged the water bottle dry and refilled it at the first bubbler I came across, chugged it dry and filled it again.

A cool fox sculpture in St. Charles.
Eventually I came to my car and fired up the A/C, which I almost never do. A McDonald’s in Aurora supplied a strawberry-banana smoothie, which is rapidly becoming my traditional after-ride cooler. Slurries are very effective at cooling the human body.

Total for the day: 27:51 miles, in the neighborhood of 13.5 mph average. Combined with yesterday’s 11 miles, a pretty good weekend of riding.

Post-ride brew: "Hop Juice" double India pale ale, by Two Brothers Brewing Co., Warrenville, Ill. Recommended by the most excellent and knowledgeable owner of Fine Wines & Liquors in Lisle, Ill. (If you're not on the mailing list, you should be.)

There be elks here!

Waiting for Mary to arrive on an ORD-bound flight,
I took two spins around Busse Lake in the
 Busse Woods Forest Preserve (PDF). Turns out -- who knew! --
there are actual elk in Elk Grove Village. Here's one of 'em.