We flew into Chicago on Friday for the wedding of our friends Brad and Linda’s daughter. Brad and Linda are the folks we did a Chicago bike ride with in June, and then met for a week of biking and other stuff in August. We were glad to be there, both because we think they’re great friends, and because we have a high regard for their daughter, Stefanie. We also figured there would be some down time in the wedding weekend to sneak in a bike ride.
There was. The wedding was wrapped up by noon Saturday, but the reception wasn’t scheduled until 5 p.m. Brad and Linda were obviously going to be tied up, but Pat and I headed out to a nearby “bike station” to rent a pair of bikes and hit the Lakefront Trail.
In June, Brad had warned against taking the trail north from downtown. Too congested, he said. So we went south then. But this time, we had to mix it up. We headed north. Brad was right.
The Lakefront Trail at Belmont Ave. Bikers share the trail with joggers, walkers, roller bladers, etc. This is one of the less crowded stretches of the trail we hit.
The Lakefront Trail is an asphalt path, divided down the middle with a yellow stripe so both northbound and southbound bikers can use it. But at several points, it can get jammed. Joggers, who do a pretty good job of sticking to the crushed stone at the side of the trail, suddenly veer in front of bikers. Most bikers are ordinary folks, who have little knowledge of the rules of the road, or merge onto the path without watching for other traffic. Some bikers in full kit get aero, and blast through everyone with little margin for error. And the walkers are the worst. They’re a hazard to bikers, because they will occupy the center of the path, and won’t move out of the way — so bikers have to change speed and direction quickly. When we reached Belmont Harbor, we decided to stop and turn around, since we’d have just an hour to get back to the bike station, return the rentals, walk back to the hotel, and get ready for the wedding reception.
The rental bikes rest at the turnaround point. They were Specialized hybrids. Kind of slow, but the conditions on the trail ruled out fast riding anyway.
When not dodging traffic on the trail, there’s plenty to see. This may have been the last nice summer weekend in Chicago this year (that’s what the natives told us), and people came out to Lake Michigan in droves.
North Avenue Beach has dozens of beach volleyball courts, loaded with aspiring Misty May-Treanors and Kerri Walshes.
The beautiful Caribbean. Blue water, sparkling sand, waving palms…no, wait! This is Chicago’s own Oak Street Beach. And yes, the palms (and there are lots of them) are real.
We got the bikes back to the rental station, after a particularly difficult time crossing the bridge over the Chicago River. So crowded with bikes, walkers and joggers that we had to get off and walk the bikes across — it was just too dangerous otherwise. One of the rental staff commiserated with us about the trail’s north route. She was more upset with the rudeness and lack of caution on the trail than with the crowded conditions. In any case, the next time we’re back here, we’ll head south, just as we did in June. This 12-mile and change ride required us to concentrate hard for the entire ride. But Pat and I agreed that it probably made us more skillful bikers.