This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I can get here from there!

So what exactly should one do with a beautiful weekend in September?  
Take a train ride and bike trip.  I hadn't ridden Amtrak with a regular bike, but they added the option on one of the Michigan trains this year.
  I had a mission to pursue in Chicago which made for an excellent excuse.
It was a simple exercise, the conductor opened up the cafe car for me and I simply rolled the bike up the steep steps, the vestibule between cars is very narrow so I stood the bike on the rear wheel, vertically to turn it around and head it into the car. 
 Even the ridiculously wide Bosco Bars fit through the doorways and down the hall.
The 4 racks in the cafe replaced a couple of tables and are a really simple and accessible arrangement.  An extra 10 bucks, no problems,
 I see some  opportunities for future trips.
My mission in Chicago was finding a mythical route between Michigan and downtown Chicago,
one that avoids the nightmare of Gary, Indiana.
I know it's a shrine of sorts because Michael Jackson was raised there.  For those unfamiliar 
what you see here is the nice part of town. 
 It is the home of  heavy industry. 
 It all makes perfect economic and geographic sense. 
 The lake provides international access for ships with iron ore in and milled steel out.  
Chicago is the transportation capital of North America and 
rails bring in minerals, coal and coke for the process.  
 Then consider all the roads torn up by the heavy equipment needed to service all these plants 
and the wonderful social and residential opportunities that develop around such industrial parks. 
 It ain't a nice place to ride a bike.
Surprisingly, downtown Chicago is.  
After de-training and rolling my bike through Union Station while grabbing a genuine Chicago Dog for the road, I hit the Lakeshore Trail to head south .
The trip was surprisingly easy.  Google Maps, despite their bike route program being weak, provides the exact route I would have selected.  The 66 mile trip was really pleasant with about 90 percent provided by a series of disconnected, but accessible trails through suburban neighborhoods. 
 The most difficult part was the stretch from South Chicago to Calumet City which was city streets.  Even the streets were well provided with marked bike routes, bike lanes and shared lanes.
The rest of the ride was provided by paved linear parks which wind their way through the suburbs,

offering some interesting safety features like this chicane to slow cyclists before a rail crossing.
So, I sacrificed a few miles to avoid the residential challenges of Gary, Ind.

for miles of parkways with blooming wildflowers.
I took my time, checking the route frequently on my phone and stopping for snacks I reached Michigan City as darkness was arriving.
  I found the Calumet Trail at the Indiana Dunes to be the weakest part of the trail system.  
As trails go, it's kind of a joke.  It appears to be a neglected sandy, two track through shoulder high dune grass.  I assume it's an abandoned service road the power company once used to service their equipment.  It takes you nowhere near the dunes or lake shore,
between the forest and the railroad right of way. 
 It was full of puddles, I mean big puddles of water, some 100 yards long and was not a pleasant experience even on 32mm tires.  I rode through it and would recommend the road for that part of the trip.  The Dunes Highway is not that busy and has a negotiable paved shoulder with very good visibility.  The Calumet Trail might be a reasonable journey in the daytime if it is dry, 
but I experienced neither.
After a night in a motel, I felt refreshed and ready for the road.  It really was the road this time.  Technically it is the lower part of USBR35 and"Red Arrow" Highway at that point.  Riding out of Michigan City north, I made the trip through New Buffalo, experiencing the comfort of a tailwind, as well as a nice wide shoulder on the highway.  I noticed a 6mm bolt had come loose from the Pletscher Rack.   I was hoping for a hardware store when a Bike Shop appeared.  
Terry's place is just what you see there, 
 a big ole barn full of bikes.
Most are salvaged or traded department store bikes,
but there are some cute, mid priced vintage rides mixed in. 
He was kind enough to let me rummage through the parts to find an acceptable bolt.  
I gave him a buck, we exchanged cards, parted friends. 
The remainder of the ride was uneventful, except that it was as perfect as a mid western day can be.
Mid 60's, somehow the humidity gathered and conspired into cotton candy clouds,
county roads filled with silence
and fragrance of the harvest.
Ripening in the mid west is a sense of life.
I finished the day watching myself spread across the fields against the failing light.  
A better way to spend a weekend will be hard to find.

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