Sunday, August 26, 2012

Four-Star Bike Tour

Enjoying the great boulevards of Chicago.
Drove into the city early this morning to put on a number and join a few thousand of my fellow cyclists for the Four-Star Bike Tour, which benefits the Active Transportation Alliance.

The imposing edifice of the Cook County
Criminal Courts Building -- "26th and Cal."
A really well-run ride, with lots of volunteers and plentiful refreshments at the rest stops. Too bad the weather threatened -- and later produced -- the first significant rainfall in more than a month.
Pilsen had dozens of huge murals like this one. Very cool.
The route started off south from the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, through the Little Village Italian enclave, the Hispanic neighborhood of Pilsen, then west through Berwyn, Riverside and then north into Oak Park.

The first rest stop, in Riverside, 
The return leg passed through the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, where I grew up, Garfield Park and back to UIC. A pretty representative slice of Chicago's diversity. I make noises about wanting to live in Idaho or Tennessee or somewhere geographically interesting -- but I'd last about a month before the whitebread sameness would drive me nuts.

Frank Lloyd Wright's studio in Oak Park.
The Garfield Park "fieldhouse" near the second rest stop.
I'd originally planned to ride the full 62 miles, which would have taken me out to Hinsdale (almost back home!). But between the forecast and the lowering cloud deck, I chickened out where the 62- and 35-mile routes diverged at the Riverside rest stop. I rode in the rain during last year's North Shore Century, and it was unpleasant. Taking the shorter route was a good decision; the rain started just as I was pulling into the start/finish area.

East on Taylor Street, nearing the end of the ride.
Had a delicious falafel sandwich courtesy of Goose Island brewery (it was only 10:30 a.m., so although the beer looked inviting, I didn't want to end up sleeping all afternoon).

I feel pretty good for having ridden 35 miles. I would describe the pace as "stately" (It is billed as a "tour") and there was a generous helping of red-light stops. Or maybe I'm just getting back in bicycling trim.

Here's the route, minus a mile or so after the second
rest stop, when I forgot to turn the Cyclemeter app
back on.

dsj 120826

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Rotary Ride half-century

Finally got off my tuchis and onto the road for some (relatively) long-distance riding. Signed up at the last minute for the “Rotary Ride,” an annual charity event sponsored by the Naperville Rotary Club. This year, proceeds will go to the Turning Pointe Autism Foundation in Naperville.
Despite having signed up at the last minute, I got a nice quality T-shirt.

The Web site had only mentioned 21, 41 and 62-mile routes. Forty-one didn’t seem like enough, and 62 seemed like too much; I was happy to learn there was a 50-mile route as well. The weather was just about perfect for me: overcast (but no chance of rain), a bit cool and a negligible west wind.

The route was well marked with colorful arrows, and led from Commissioner’s Park in far southwest Naperville west through Plainfield and Oswego down some interesting — and delightfully car-free — back roads. I thought I’d scoured pretty much every last inch of the area on my motorcycle over the past few years, but apparently I’d missed some extremely picturesque pavement back there, with names like Reservation Road, Minkler and Ashley (I’d seen Ashley Road before, off Rt. 126 coming into Yorkville, but had assumed from the name it led into a subdivision of McMansions. All the good roads are named after farmers, not land developer’s nieces.)

Here's the 50-mile route, as mapped by my Cyclemeter app. 

It’s also hillier than you’d think, especially as I neared the half-way point at Silver Springs State Park, just west of Plano. I groaned as I freewheeled down a long, half-mile downhill, knowing I’d have to chug my way back up.

Support was excellent, by the way. SAG vehicles seemed to pass me by every 15 minutes or so (one of them was a big, brightly decorated pickup truck from a local car dealer that was a co-sponsor of the ride — hard to miss). The rest stops were well-stocked with water, Gatorade, trail mix, bagels and bananas.

I’m still nowhere near where I was last year, physically. I passed exactly two fellow bicyclists. For the most part, riders passed me in a steady stream. Kind of disheartening. This knee thing has been a real setback.

I started running out of gas at about the 40-mile mark, which of course coincided with a hilly stretch. I got into grim-determination mode and toughed it out. Three hours and 53 minutes after starting, I arrived back at Commissioner’s Park. Total distance was 52.92 miles (as measured by my trusty Cyclemeter iPhone app).  I averaged a so-so 13.63 mph. I’d been hoping to keep it above 14 mph, but those hills on the return trip did me in.

A local restaurant, DolcĂ© Amore, catered a “gourmet brunch” in the park pavilion: salad and mostaccioli. Lots of leftover donuts and bagels, as well. I had some salad and chatted with a couple of Rotary Club members who were interested in how I heard about the ride (Naperville Twitter feed) and my ride experience (excellent).

I signed up for the Four-Star Bike Tour in Chicago Aug. 26. I’d been a little worried about being able to keep up; the Rotary Ride was a great tune-up and I think I’ll be OK.

Then, of course, it’s the North Shore Century Sept. 23. Don’t know if I’ll be ready for the full 100 miles, though. Not without a lot of riding ‘twixt now and then.

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