Centennial Trail Ride 6-24-2011

Prologue

When last we rode Lee’s bike was having some maintenance issues. It turns out that his bottom bracket was “bone dry” to use his terms. And his chain needed some cleaning to remove layers of dirt and grease. So when we parted last week he went on a mission to purchase the tools needed to open his bottom bracket. He ordered them online and set to work opening the BB and checking the bearings for pitting and other damage.

After seeing that the damage was minimal he cleaned the bearings and repacked the races with Phil Woods grease. Today the BB sounded “as quiet as a church mouse”. His chain was clean as well! He was ready for a tour of the Centennial Trail except for one thing which was bugging him, his rear wheel.

The spokes on the rear wheel were “all over the map” in terms of tensioning. I pulled out my spoke wrench and he flipped over the bike and began to adjust the spoke tensioning as best one can “in the field”. It was his first time attempting this so I talked him through the process and he did all the work.

What resulted was a rear wheel with less wobble and still in need of some close attention. I suspect that he will soon need to replace a few broken spokes (these wheels are probably 30 years old) and at that point he can decide to rebuild both wheels or purchase new ones. I would rebuild the wheels with new spokes provided the rims don’t show any cracking once the rim tape has been removed to allow closer inspection of the channel area where the spoke nipples rest.

The Beginning

The Isle A La Cache Museum is something of a hidden jewel in the western suburbs.

“Island of the Hiding Place” – this title is the translation of the French phrase “Isle a la Cache.” It refers to a time when the French voyageurs traveled down rivers deep into the wild unknowns; a time when the native Potawatomi lived off the land for food, shelter, clothing, and medicine; a time when it was stylish in Europe to wear hats from beaver fur found plentiful in the new land, the Illinois Country. The 18th century was a time of change and the creation of a “Middle Ground” between Europeans and Native Americans.  Learn all about this period in history at Isle a la Cache Museum.

Situated in the Des Plaines River, Isle a la Cache rests on historic land.  Legend tells of a French trader in the late 1600s who, when warned of possible danger down the river, buried or “cached” his goods nearby, using the island as a marker.

Inside the Museum, explore exhibits of the Great Lakes fur trade. Find out about a voyageur’s day on the river, examine a real birch bark canoe, and see the trade items of metal, beads, and cloth that changed the Native Americans’ lifestyle. Step inside a Native American wigwam where you can play native games or dress up in period clothing. Touch the soft, silky fur of a beaver and realize for yourself why Europeans desired this waterproof coat. All with no admission fee!Beaver Exhibit at Isle a la CacheSchool children experience Isle a la Cache as it was 250 years ago as they visit with characters from the past. How many beaver pelts would you give for a metal pot? Children take part in a “trade” to understand the value of items for different cultures.  They also experience Native American life while visiting an 18th-century replica longhouse.

Isle a la Cache Museum was completely renovated in 2007, with enlarged exhibit space and all new interpretive displays, many of which include interactive exhibits.

For most of the year, the island is a relatively quiet and peaceful setting, a good place to fish on the river or take a walk along the trail. In June, however, the scene is dramatically transformed: feasting, playing, and dancing at Island Rendezvous! A spirited celebration, a rendezvous was a gathering of trappers, traders, and travelers at the end of the trading season. As an annual event that has attracted thousands of people for over 20 years, Island Rendezvous includes musket shoots, canoe races, tomahawk throwing contests, and more! Visit with re-enactors, individuals who dress as the French voyageur and Native American people of the 1700s. Wander through their camps and watch demonstrations of their fascinating crafts and skills. Join the celebration and experience Island Rendezvous – as close to time travel as you can get!

Photographs Courtesy of Glenn P. Knoblock

Lee Gernes - Isle A La Cache Museum

You can park here and take the sidewalk trail over to the Centennial Trail that runs between the Museum and Columbia Woods. The total distance is about 12 miles (give or take) and you get several trail options during the second half of the distance. Sometimes you see deer or even wildcats on the trail. But more often than not birds, squirrels, turtles and the occasional snake are likely to cross the trail ahead.

There is a nice bridge near the Isle A La Cache Museum which actually pivots to allow boat traffic to pass. It is something of a rarity. We rode across it on our way east and the metal strips at either end clatter quite loudly as they always do. The air today was quite cool (55 degrees or so) and it was a severely overcast sky that presented itself overhead.

But any day on your bike beats a day at the office “so what’s not to like”?

As we rode along I noticed that there was now a concrete barrier on the southern side of the trail. Up ahead a young lady was riding her road bike and gesturing back behind her. She mentioned that there were trees down up ahead.

Wow! The first set of downed trees was passable. But the second set was not (at least for my recumbent bike). And she had mentioned and a middle-aged male rider had confirmed that there was a third set of downed trees so we decided to turn around rather than venture forward.

Checking Out The Western Trail Section

We rode back to the trail head and then crossed the overpass to reach the portion of the trail that continued underneath. The gate was open so we figured that this portion of the trail had been returned to usage (it was closed last season). But I did not have the bike that I reserved for gravel trails, so we decided to try to take a parallel street. But that was not to be. The roads nearby were not usable.

So we rode west along Romeo Road towards Route 53 and entered the subdivisions to the west. There we found a nice bike trail that ran under the high tension wires for several miles. We ended up on a street the formed the northern border of a rather impressive middle and elementary school complex. It was at first thought to be a massive middle school. But we later came to realize it was essentially two schools in one massive building!

This trail led west as far as Weber Road before it too petered out and we were left to double back. This time we took side streets parallel to the trail to get a bit of a different view. Before long we were along the northern edge of Romeoville High School and we took a trail back towards Route 53 before heading back along Romeo Road to the Museum parking lot.

It was chilly as we entered the lot. But it felt good to get up a bit of a sweat. We packed up our bikes and headed out in search of a Mexican Restaurant not far away.

Distance: 15.0 Miles
Time: 1h 50m 16s