Anyway, here’s the next Sunday in our series: July 8, 2007
Metra was blacked out again, so I opted for the 8am Amtrak to Joliet, planning on exploring more of Midewin, the confluence of the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers and, time permitting, the area south of the Illinois, which varies from state recreational areas to strip mines.
I was half way to Union Station when I realized I had forgotten my pump; I didn’t even stop to check—I just knew. I pack by wandering around the house grabbing things at random and adding them to the pile on my living room floor, until it feels done. Ironically, I have a checklist taped to my front door for my far simpler daily routine.
A lesser man might have thought this an unfortunate event, a stroke of bad luck. But I know differently. Better to make such a realization now, than to discover the mistake attempting to fix a puncture. 22 miles from nowhere. Without any water.
I returned home and sat on the stoop with a happy dog, looking at the CBF map. No westerly route looked appealing and I realized they would have only appeared less so on the way home. I decided to venture into the Southland yet again, checking out a few places I had been forced to skip over on the last ride. I would ride south to the Old Plank Road Trail and complete it end to end. I set out south on Kedize. It was 7am.
I made a quick detour to roll through
Otherwise I was all business, having learned my lesson about dawdling on the last ride. By 8am I was crossing 83rd and by 9:30 I had done 36 miles at a cruising average of 13.8 (not too shabby) to be at the eastern end of the Old Plank Road Trail. The OPRT offered some relief from the southwest wind and is an A-1 trail as they go. I stopped for some farmer’s market kettle corn in
I had ridden the trails 20 miles (I only counted 18) by 11am and immediately headed on to
First up was the Joliet Ironworks, along side a short paved segment of the
From the ruins I spied my next destination: Joliet Prison. Did you know it was designed by William W. Boyington who did the Water Tower on
For some odd reason I skipped over several fine taquerias and ended up at a lousy Dairy Queen on the outskirts of town. I sat at a picnic table, slowly broiling my brain in the sun as I choked down a Grade-D hot dog, my appetite suppressed by the extreme heat.
I picked up the Wauponsee Glacial Trail (PDF) and headed south to Midewin. The limestone trail was dry and gritty, covering my bike and legs with a fine white dust. The white reflected the heat and an almost blinding light. Will County’s
Pushing on, I passed Route 66 speedway and the Manhattan Metra station and exiting the trail at
Finally arriving at the park, I found my dream spot on Turtle Pond where I collapsed and dozed off with a cup of coffee in my hand. When I awoke, a Kingfisher was sitting in the tree in front of me.
I put on 10 tough miles wandering around the park, riding further and further down the increasingly ridiculous-bad trails, until I came to a locked gate blocking the rail crossing over Route 53. I turned back on another trail, using a weighted, self closing gate to enter and exit a cattle grazing area. Perched a top a bunker, baking in the sun, I surveyed my Serengeti like surroundings and realized how cool this place it.
The old munitions buildings, the bunkers, the roads returning to nature, the empty vastness, but more than anything the car-freeness. By bike is the only way to really see this place. Two trips in two consecutive weeks and I could think only of my next visit.
The song remains the same. Screw around too long and race for the train. Oh, T.C., will you never learn?
On my last trip I had noted that Route 53 wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered from my marathon
I veered into the first gas station and lost control of the front end, bouncing hard off my hands but landing on my feet. My front tire was way soft. I walked right into the locked doors and had to complete my dazed transaction for Gatorjuice through the ghetto style glass turnstile. I didn’t even wait for my change. I pounded it, producing an almost immediate stomach cramp, then put some air in my tire and jumped back on the death-route.
For all my drama in getting there, the train was late. I should have called. We sat on the platform listening to the folks at Silver Cross Field drinking beer and cheering. When the train arrived we crabby passengers were informed we would be utilizing the
When I returned home I had only 113 miles for the day, weighed 7 lbs less and was slurring my speech.