Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cue sheet and view from the starting line.
The "Four Star Bike and Chow" on Aug. 25 was a great time. I love exploring the back streets of the city. And bonus! Mary tagged along for the 22-mile route this year on a wonderfully warm, sunny day.

The ride is the longest running organized bike ride in Chicagoland and benefits the Active Transportation Alliance. There was a new twist this year: appetizers from local restaurants served at the rest stops. There were pierogies from the Red Apple Buffet, a landmark for Polish home cooking on Chicago's Northwest Side; and pulled pork sliders from The Smoke Daddy, an award-winning home for Chicago style barbeque. We didn't get to try to the samosas from Arya Bhavan, an Indian restaurant on Devon Avenue; they were served at the rest stops for the 35- and 62-mile routes.

As I found out on my first Four-Star Tour last year, this is
Pierogis were the local dish
at the Wrigley Field stop.
an extremely well-run event, with mobs of enthusiastic volunteers. In addition to staffing the registration and rest stops, many of those volunteers were stationed along the route to point riders in the right direction.

The first stop, about 10 miles in, found us munching pierogis at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield, in the shadow of the famous hand-operated Wrigley Field scoreboard. They were just OK. The pulled pork sliders at Seward Park, about 17 miles on, were better. The Star of Siam appetizer at the finish line was the standout: pad thai and a small crispy spring roll. These were just tastings, not meals, but that was OK. Ninety-degree heat is a pretty good appetite suppressant.

As I found out last year, the city is the star of this show. After the start at the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, our 22-mile route wandered through interesting back streets, more or less paralleling Halsted up to Wrigley and back.

I want to go back and investigate all the little shops and restaurants along Taylor Street just west of the campus. And if I ever move into the city, I want a house on a tiny one-lane, one-block-long street called Alta Vista.

A highlight of the finish-line festival was a troupe of young women dancing with BMX bicycles to a Lady Gaga song. It was really well done.