Thursday, November 12, 2015

DuPage River extension

A new bridge has opened up several miles of previously inaccessible (to me) bike trail along the south bank of the DuPage River in Bolingbrook. The bridge is seen here from the Bolingbrook Historic Trout Farm (seriously).

The river meanders through DuPage River
Park, just east of Washington Street.

East of the new bridge, the trail winds through the
woods and over some small hills.

A placid scene about halfway 'twixt the park
and Royce Road. 

Near the end of the trail is the thriving metropolis of Barber’s Corners, where I stopped for a coke at Portillo’s. Actually, Barber’s Corners was never an incorporated municipality, just a hamlet at the intersection of Rt. 53 and Boughton Road in what is now Bolingbrook. It was named after an otherwise uninteresting settler named John Barber, according to a plaque at nearby.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shwarma run

We’ve had a string of unusually mild days in November, so I’ve taken advantage by bringing my trail bike to work for a lunchtime spin. There’s a new restaurant, Damascus Falafel, a couple of miles down the road, which makes a tempting target.

91st Street was recently repaved. Too bad they couldn’t afford a couple of bike lanes along this picturesque roadway. Luckily it’s not too busy.

Lunch is served: chicken shwarma bowl with lots of greens and a modest squirt of garlic sauce. I highly recommend this place.

On the way back, I decided to take the scenic route through Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. First I had to stop and read this signpost version of "War and Peace."

 Waterfall Glen is a wonderful ride pretty much any time of year. Well, I guess I can’t speak to winter. I haven’t tried it in the snow.

Stowing the bike in the car, and back to reality. Sigh.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rise 'n' ride

A pretty sunrise this morning on my way to work. This is the path through Greene Valley Forest Preserve, just east of Greene Road. This was my first bicycle commute in a couple of weeks, so I wasn't pushing myself very hard -- and managed a 55:59 anyway. It all depends on the lights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

North Shore Century ride 2015

My son Steven joined me for this year's North Shore Century Ride. I'm a happy dad. I decided to show a little mercy on the kid and keep it to the Metric Century, 62 miles (100 metric kilocentimegaters), this year. I'll keep working on him over the next year or so and talk him into the full 100 miles in 2016.

Anyway, 7:30 a.m. in the lakefront park in Evanston, Illinois, found us registering, picking up our T-shirts, and heading west into the high-value 'burbs on the annual ride.

Gosh, we both look so serious about this. In actuality, we were both having a pretty good time. Later, those of us with less long-distance bicycle experience began to feel a bit of discomfort.

This is Sunrise Park, in Lake Bluff. The most picturesque bit of the entire ride, which is why there is this picture.

At about the 30-mile mark, my shifting started going to hell. I couldn't shift any higher than about fifth gear (out of 9). I compensated with the front chainring, but it was far from ideal, since I've become a complete bike snob. When we got to the second rest stop, I headed over to the Trek tent. I was thinking there was an obvious problem that would easy to spot if they put the bike up on the rack. A length of fishing line caught in the derailleur, for example, which had happened to me before after a ride around Whalon Lake.

John from Highland Park Trek was happy to set my bike Shadowfax up on the stand and take a look. His first thought was that the original lubrication around the shifter had congealed. He sprayed some Gunk into the mechanism and let it work while Steven and I rested. After about 15 minutes, John ran the Shimano 105 through its paces: still not working right.

While I was distracted by some ancient Northwesternite — who had noticed my NU jersey and insisted on telling me the entire history of the Northwestern University Chick Evans scholarship at great length — John found that the shift cable was badly frayed and commenced to replace the entire right-hand cable system on my bike. While I watched, astonished, he restored it to better-than-factory readiness in about five minutes. Seriously, holy cow. I was so stunned all I could offer was a handshake. Now I realize a $20 bill (or two, or three) would have been appropriate. At any rate: thanks, John with the chainring tattoo on your elbow. Reply to me personally and I'll treat you to lunch.

Who needs .GPX files as long as you have a cue sheet, a handlebar clip, and sexy knees? Here we are on the home stretch. Nasty-ass pavement on Sheridan Road. You'd think the roadway along some of the most expensive real estate in the nation would be smooth as the proverbial baby's tuchis, but no. I kept having to swerve out into middle of the street to avoid crevasses and potholes on the roadway's perimeters. For shame, Kenilworth! For shame!

The Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette is always a welcome sight. Yes, it's one of the most beautiful buildings on the immediate planet, but it also means that we're almost to the end of the North Shore Century Ride. Total was 63.5 miles in 4 hours, 21 minutes of ride time (about six hours total, including a long stop where John rebuilt my bike).

I insisted on a post-ride beer at Tommy Nevin's pub in Evanston. I studied for (and somehow actually received!) a master's degree at Northwestern, and my classmates and I spent quite a few evenings decompressing at Nevin's after a day of classes. While we sipped a libation and munched a late lunch, a group of musicians ambled in and began to play Celtic music. Serendipity!

Also, there's video.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sept. 13 German-American fest and lakefront ride

Sister-in-Law Susan was visiting the weekend, so rather than watch the Bears and Cubs LOSE LIKE A BUNCH OF SICK NUNS not that we're emotionally invested in either team WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE we decided to head into Chicago and check out the German-American fest and maybe take a short ride along the lakefront.


The German-American fest was underwhelming in terms of extent and strudel content (none - Mary checked). But the music was thigh-slapping, the thuringer was drowned in good mustard and wimpy sauerkraut and beer was had by me. I bought a T-shirt.
Underexposed sisters and skyline.
After Dave had enough of mingling with his people, we headed east to the lakefront path. Susan had never experienced the LFP. We headed south from Lawrence and soon came to a photogenic bit.
More sisters and Chicago skyline.
Eastbound on Lawrence, heading back to the car.

Rather than head straight home, we detoured to Arlington Heights and ordered some decent Malaysian food — OK the only Malaysian food in the Chicago area — from the Penang restaurant

Got home, downloaded the pix, wrote a blog post, sucked down some prawn mee, got sleeeeeepy. Night, all.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Cal-Sag Trail with Steven

Daisies, I think.
Steven and I took a spin on the Cal-Sag Trail today, and aside from the wilting heat, it was a great time and we'll be back.

We caught the trail, newly opened as of June 6, at Route 83 just south of Archer Ave., at the Sag Quarry trailhead. It's a brand-new asphalt surface, smooth as the proverbial newborn powdered tuchis. Even the few road crossings are smooth, for now. There are some mild hills and enough squiggles in the pavement to keep things interesting.
The shade was most welcome.
Heading east-southeast on the trail, the Des Plaines River is on your left, with a hilly glacial moraine beyond. There are forested sections (much cooler on the 85+ F, humid day) that remind me of the nearby Archer Avenue "tree tunnels."

A highlight of the ride: a bald eagle soaring on the thermals over the moraine. When I see one of these magnificent birds, I always feel like I should salute.
Not daisies, but these yellow flowers
grew alongside the trail by the billions.
At Lake Katherine, we got punk'd by some ambiguous signs and ended up on the plain old Cook County Forest Preserve trails, which are themselves excellent and well worth the ride. At the 12.5-mile mark, we turned around and headed back.
A park in Palos had these exercise stations,
and of course Steven had to try them out.
25 miles was more than enough on a sweltering Labor Day. I can't wait to try that trail on a cool sunny morning in October, when the leaves are changing. It's going to be amazing.
Boss! Des Plaines! Des Plaines!
OK, you had to be there.
And thanks to my friend Eleanor, who recommended the trail!


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Cubs by bike

And so it came to pass that Mary joined her women friends and went to Lake Summerset for the weekend. And lo, rather than pine away in a darkened room, Dave got himself a Cubs ticket and headed east into the city for the day. Metra allows bicycles on off-peak trains, including those on brilliant mid-August Saturdays, so rather than fight the traffic and stress over parking at an inner-city ball park with no parking, I rode my bike. Well, not all the way -- I took the train from downtown Naperville to downtown Chicago. There was much Cubbie blue on the Metra platform. Apparently I wasn’t the only Napervillian heading for the game that morning.
All aboard the Cubs bandwagon. Er, train.
There was a bit of fumbling getting on board. I was not aware, nor is it obvious from the Metra website, that bicycles are only allowed on the ADA / handicapped equipped cars. However, a conductor whistled me over and got me squared away. I was ready with a bungie cord to tie Wyvern down. (Wyvern is the name of my Trek Crossrip bicycle -- it’s the commuter, 32 mm Gatorskin cut-resistant tires, aluminum frame, rack for pannier bags or, in this case, a trunk bag. It’s green.) An hour later, I was headed north along the Chicago River.
The river gets even greener on St. Patty's Day.

Seriously, world, how hard would it be for all streets to be like this stretch of LaSalle? Cars and bicycles sharing the road, the lion laying down with the lamb, cats and dogs living together, kumbaya my lord can’t we all just get alo-- hey, asshole, get off your freakin’ phone and pay attention there’s humans on bicycles over here and don’t you honk at me you jerkface douchebag!
Please note that I came to a complete
stop for the red light. 
I am a good
bicycle ambassador.
Heh, I kid because I love. Actually, riding a bicycle in Chicago is pretty easy and fairly safe. There are lots of bike lanes, or at least "sharrows" as in the picture above to remind motorists that there may be bikes about. It’s an eight-mile, 45-minute ramble from Union Station to Wrigley Field. The Cubs have a free, secured and guarded bike check right across the street, tucked in behind the T-shirt store.

Soon I was in my seat, very close to the infamous Bartman seat, I think: right where the foul line meets the brick wall in left field. Wind was blowing right-to-left and out-ish. A hot dog, a glass of wine, some friendly seatmates to my left and right, a warm sunny day in Wrigley in a rare winning season -- well. I was one happy guy. I got even happier when the Cubs’ home runs started landing in the basket. Cubs won over the Braves, 9-7. Great game.

On the way out, right under the big sign at Clark and Addison:
She said yes. But only because the Cubs won.
Feeling very Cubbie Blue on the way home, I decided to stop at Harry Caray’s restaurant for an expensive but always excellent dinner. I ordered the succulent 8 oz. filet at the bar while I watched the first quarter of a Bears preseason game.

Speaking of the unfortunate Mr. Bartman:
The most famous baseball shreds in Chicago history.
I headed back on Wacker Drive. It was pretty cool zipping along the almost-deserted downtown streets at night.

Strapped Wyvern into the handicapped spot on the train car, like the old pro that I am.
Mine's the one with the flag. 
And managed to stay awake all the way out and not miss my stop. It was a long four-mile ride home from the train station, but all in all, it was easier and more fun than driving.
♬ Catch the last train to N-ville and I'll meet you at the station ...

dsj 9/7/2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 Rotary Ride / Metric Century

Video: 2015 Rotary Ride. Yes, the helmet mount was on an angle and looks a bit weird. Sorry.

I really enjoy organized rides, whether I do the whole 100 miles or some fraction thereof. In past years, I've been riding solo: Whatever conversation and company occurs is happenstance, the spontaneous camaraderie that happens along the way.

But starting with last year's North Shore Century, in which my cousin Mark joined me, I've started to think having some company is a good thing. When Mary volunteered her workout friend Judy to join me on my annual Naperville Rotary Club Ride, I was initially put off. I like my classical music and internal conversation ("Ya damn woosie, stand up on those pedals and attack that hill!").

Turns out, conversation with an actual human is not only fun, it makes the miles fly by. I noticed that phenomenon with Mark last year, and with my new biking buddy Judy this year. I hope Judy had a good time: she's great company and I hope she'll join me again.

We did a metric century (62 miles / 100 kilometers). I arrived at Commissioner's Park fairly perky. Seriously, I could have done another 20 miles (4,345 centipedes) that day. It overcast and humid, but for August, relatively cool (77 degrees Fahrenheit / 2,987 pricklewads per centripoid). 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

606 Trail in Chicago

This is the best new extremely short trail in the Chicago area. All 2.7 miles and 30 minutes of it. I can prove it, here's the video.

Winner of the Tour d'Sexy.
Mary and I hit the new 606 trail this morning. This is a real marvel of urban bicycle / running / baby-jogger-stroller planning and is a MUST for anyone living in the six-county area.

We exited the Kennedy at Armitage, fumbled around a bit on the back streets, and found a place to park near the 606's east end. It's an old elevated train right-of-way running through the mid-north side of the city, basically yuppie central. Bicycles have a nice two-lane divided highway down the middle. Runners have a rubberized strip on either side to minimize the impact on their plantar fascias, or fibular cerebellums, or whatever. Dog owners have a three-mile linear excretion zone.

There are little pull-offs with benches or picnic tables. Beautiful (and we hope dog-proof) gardens.

My goodness, what a great people-watching opportunity. My favorite today: the guy in the FULL Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling outfit, and his kid wearing the Superman cape.

All too soon, we returned to our starting point. Mary was ready to continue our ride, so I suggested we head to the lake front path, about two miles east. About 1.5 miles east on Armitage, we hit Lincoln Park Zoo. Surprised that we could just wander on in — admission is free! — we locked up the bikes (two cable locks and a U-lock) and wandered on in.

OK, I'd eaten all the Kahlua pork and
macaroni salad by this point.
We checked out the flamingos (pink, how cliché) then saw a zebra and white-lipped deer, both of which appeared to be suicidal, and perhaps only delaying their exit until they could obtain heavy weaponry, starting with grenade launchers, and take a few hundred humans with them. Mary and I both agreed that zoos were depressing, and decided to leave post haste.

A short ride up Clark Street brought us to the little storefront "Aloha Eats," one
of our favorite places in the city. They serve up delicacies we've only had in the islands, starting with spam masubi: a soap-bar-sized slab of sticky rice topped with a slice of fried spam (yes, actual spam, wonderful spam) and wrapped in a sheet of seaweed. It's a carby rice, salt/umami-savory/fishy combination that's unlike anything else. Yum.

Personally, I'd like to live in Chicago.  But that's just me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Little Miami Trail Video

Lil Miami Deer
Here's the video from the Little Miami Scenic Trail earlier this month. Took me a while to get the video downloaded and spliced.

Check out the little spike buck (deer) at 1:15 -- I could have reached out and touched the thing.

No video of the signpost crash, sorry. I'm never rolling when I do something stupid.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


So my wife kidnapped me on my birthday and forced me to attend a Cubs game and eat barbecue ribs and drink cheap wine. 
You see how angry I am at being kidnapped.
I have the best life companion anyone could ever hope for. She had to plan this stuff months in advance.
How did she know it was my birthday!?
Here's how it went down:

She says we're going to a great barbecue place in Chicago. She (not intentionally) drives right by Wrigley Field. I'm inwardly groaning because I know there's a game at 3:05 — I can hear the organ playing.

We pull up in front of the Majestic Hotel a few blocks away. I'm really confused because I'm looking for a BBQ joint.

"Oh, by the way we're staying here tonight," she said.

A little bit hopeful, I asked, "Are we going to the Cubs game, too?"  She just smiled at me. Duh.

At 2:30 p.m., we're at a chilly, misty Wrigley Field, gobbling down foot-long hot dogs and waiting for the game to begin.

Kris Bryant gets a hit.

Starlin Castro celebrates a homer.

The home team lost 5-4, but it was a fun game with two close plays at the plate. My Cubs are a scrappy team this year and a blast to watch in person. Mary got us great seats, of course. 

After the game, barbecue ribs and a nightcap at a funky bar nearby.

I love that girl. And I suspect she loves me.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

OK, OK, helmets = good. Lesson learned

I've never gotten a scratch riding a motorcycle, but the damned bicycle is going to kill me. Got tangled up on a sharp turn on the Little Miami Scenic Trail on Sunday and ran into a 4X4 sign post.

Came up and over a roadway and there was a right-angle bend at the bottom; I turned too sharply and the front wheel contacted my shoe — the dreaded "toe overlap" finally got me — and before I could even say a really bad word WHAM I hit the signpost and tumbled into the grass.

Took the brunt of the impact on my left hand. A deep gash on the base of my index finger and assorted lacerations on the other fingers. Also sore on my knee and jaw.

Note dented helmet; I'll never make fun of the "magic hat" again. Thank you, Mary, for insisting that I wear the thing. The bike is fine, except for some scratches on the shift lever.

Video was taken, although the camera wasn't rolling when I wiped out, darn it. I'll post a YouTube link in a day or three.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Biking the Drive!

Crowds were getting sparse
as we headed south, close
to the end of the event.
Bike the Drive is pretty much a weather crapshoot every year. We’re about one-for-three: fog, rain, wind -- well, it’s early spring in Chicago and you pays your $45 and you takes your chances. Today it was drizzly, cool and overcast.

But still, it’s beyond cool to ride a bicycle on one of the most iconic roads on the immediate planet, Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. Once a year, the Active Transportation Alliance, in cooperation with the City of Chicago, closes this major highway to automobiles for a morning and opens it to bicycles only. Thousands of cyclists take advantage: it’s a hoot and a half.
Nothin' but bikes.
How cool is this?

Mary was called away to a niece graduation in Ohio, so it was Steven and me. We left at about 7 a.m. The plan was to have lunch at Eataly, a two-story Italian market/mall on the near-north side, so we parked across the street and rode our bikes to the Bike the Drive start point at Jackson & LSD.

It drizzled on and off most of the morning; just enough to keep the numbers down a bit, but not enough to make the ride a drag. There was a south wind, so I suggested we start off going north, turn around at the north end point at Bryn Mawr Ave., head all the way back south to the Museum of Science and Industry at 57th Street, then head back to downtown. That way we’d have the wind at our backs for the final leg.

What a treat. A four-lane highway populated only by bicycles -- from $5,000 carbon-fiber racers to olde-fashioned penny farthings. Polite “on your lefts” instead of horn honking. Five-year-olds wobbling along on cartoon-themed beginner bikes with the training wheels freshly removed. Grey-haired geezers wobbling along on recumbents.Differently abled cyclists scooting along on hand-powered cycles. It really is a community that lasts for just a few hours.
Shortly thereafter, Steven and I were at the day’s first customers at Osteria di Eataly, lunching on squid-ink pasta and agnolotti, and shopping for exotic pastas. A wonderful morning.

I made a video!

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Waterfall Glen run and ride

My son is training for a couple of runs in May. They're essentially half-marathons with obstacles thrown in, from huge mud puddles to throwing spears at hay bales. A couple of weekends ago, he said he wanted to run in Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve; I asked to tag along, since I'm in training to not be obese at some point in my life

Steven doesn't get up early, so I rode over to the Colonial Cafe for breakfast. Josie brought me my Diet Cokes and standard breakfast order. Juanita, who was my Colonial server for many years and had my standard order memorized -- she didn't even bother bringing me a menu -- retired Dec. 31. Josie's not quite there yet but coming along nicely.

We arrived at Waterfall Glen at about 10:30 a.m. We figured that I'd probably do the 10-mile loop twice while he was doing it once. It worked out perfectly; I'd brought my camera to try a little nature photography, which added just enough stopping to even out the timing.

I'm really proud of Steven and his determination and perseverance. Plus he's looking really pro out there.

It was just about the perfect early spring day. The trees were still bare, but wildflowers were just beginning to poke up through the leaf litter of last year.

Sawmill Creek runs through the preserve on its way to the Des Plaines River. 

Along the way it forms this little waterfall that the preserve is NOT named after. The forest preserve is named after Seymour "Bud" Waterfall, an early president of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. Really, no kidding.

It's a great trail, with lots of curves and some fairly intense hills. The scenery includes forest, prairie and wetlands, and you get a few glimpses of Argonne National Laboratory, where I work.

I used my Trek Crossrip for this ride. The limestone's in pretty good shape for the most part; there are some soft patches on the hills that made me glad for the wider 32mm tires on the Crossrip. The Gatorskin tires are holding up nicely so far.

After some post-run stretches, we headed out for lunch. A great day.