Early Morning Breakfast
Normally the Starbucks near our home opens at 4:30 AM. Not today it was 5:00 AM. We grabbed OJ and oatmeal and made a dash for the highway to try and beat the Bike The Drive traffic that was sure to be there. In fact there were some 20,000 of us who flooded the downtown area near Buckingham Fountain and began a journey that could take you south to the Museum of Science and Industry or north to Bryn Mawr. Or you could do what we did and visit both rest stops.
We’ve done this ride for more years than I can count. In fact it used to be part of the Boulevard Lakefront Tour and finally developed into a ride in its own right. We parked in the Grant Park underground lot and pulled the Easy Racers Ti-Rush bikes from the van.
Tires were the first order of business, followed by filling up the seat bags with energy bars, rainwear, extra gloves and assorted other items we might need during the ride. Then it was finding the exit and riding up the steep driveway to reach street level on Michigan Avenue.
By now hordes of riders were making their way over to Columbus and Jackson Drives. Lines of porta-potties awaited the nervous riders. A food line was set up down the middle of the street and you could grab a couple of bananas before the ride even started.
Heading South to the Museum Campus
Since the early days we have always taken the ride south first. This usually means that if there is a tailwind we get it early. Today it was a quiet wind if any and what was most evident was a fine mist in the downtown area that left your glasses sopping wet and your helmet dripping. Overall visibility was down to hundreds of yards or less. It was rather eerie.
The photographers had a really strange set of conditions. Heavy fog and mist and riders that were more intent on finding their way in the pea soup than “smiling for the birdie”. But the ride south was fun. Always at the outset folks are getting comfortable riding in a herd.
Sometimes they forget to mind the folks behind them. You get the feeling that these are the folks who when riding an escalator exit at the top and then stand staring at the ceiling and their surroundings unaware that hundreds of folks are behind them trying to exit the same escalator! Argh!
The Southern Turnaround
When you enter the Museum Campus you can turn around on the street or go through the drive in front of the building. We stopped and got some bananas and then made a pit stop. Lots of folks were getting reacquainted after not seeing one another for a year. Groups were getting memorial snapshots. I saw a few recumbents and at least one homemade trike ridden a a young lad.
I made a short video clip before heading back out onto the Lake Shore Drive route. By now it was evident that there was a slight wind but very mild. I was chilled a bit having waited at the rest stop before moving on. But we got into a rhythm quickly and began working our way among the riders trying to avoid collisions all while enjoying the experience.
Lots of fathers could be seen riding with their offspring who despite their enthusiasm had single speed bikes (some with training wheels) and almost no momentum. But the fathers waited patiently as their children (many of them girls) struggled with the inclines and the necessary skill of balancing oneself.
More Wet Cold Mist
Approaching Soldier Field it began to get cold again and the mist returned. My glasses were almost opaque with moisture drops. But it was not longer before the effect of moving dried them off a bit. Now it was up the include near the Lake Point Towers and then down the far side in a mad rush! Whee!
At Bryn Mawr we exited the Drive and made our way to the food and porta-potties at this final rest stop. Lots of riders clogging the driveway entrance that would be our escape route once we were done. Saw a couple visiting from Missouri (?) He was riding an Easy Racers Gold Rush Replica and she a Tour Easy. Another couple was riding a RANS Screamer tandem outfitted with S & S couplers. The liked the bike and while never having taken it apart for travel were happy that they had the option.
A fellow on a CruzBike came over and chatted a bit. He rides in addition a RANS V3 and a Volae. Says that the V3 is the best climber of them all. Like me he uses a Garmin GPS unit. I turned him on to the Garmin Connect site and tried to sell him on the neat features it provides.
By now my knees were getting a bit stiff as we exited the rest stop area. So at Lawrence we exited the Drive and took the flatter Lakefront Trail all the way back to the start. It turned out to be a smart choice. The lake was a bit more readily visible from this closer vantage point. And the flatter terrain really helped with my arthritic knees.
Done For Another Year!
Back at the start it was time for one last pit stop and then to return to the van and load up the bikes for the trip in search of some luncheon. We headed to Hyde Park for luncheon at the Mediterranean Kitchens but they would not open for another hour.
So we decided to head home and find something to eat in the suburbs. But on the way we made a change in plans. We drove to New Lenox to have a burrito at El Burrito Loco. I was dying to try their vegetarian burrito with potatoes. Yummy! Washed it down with a Lemon-Lime Jarrito. Then we hopped on the Veterans Expressway home!
Back in Wheaton there was plenty of flooding on the roadways entering town. Luckily we had a dry basement. Another great ride, in the books!