Labor Day Ride 2013 : North Branch Trail to Chicago Botanic Gardens


The kind of weather we had today was in sharp contrast to the storms last night. But the clouds and bright sun made for a very nice day. The crowds along the North Branch Trail were large and everyone seemed to either be enjoying themselves or making an attempt to seem happy. The small parking lot on Devon was packed so we drove around to the entrance to Caldwell Woods and parked there. After a brief pitstop we were underway.

Dogs, walkers, joggers, bikers (among the most belligerent by far) all making their way along the path. I saw many children on very small bikes, some on scooters and yet others riding in seats atop bikes. One family came riding by on a tandem with a child perched on the top tube in front of his father facing backwards. Neat!

The trail is fairly well kept. But various of the washrooms along the way, not so much…

Bike Parking Always Looks ‘Messy’

Bike parking can be visually unappealing.  Chicago Botanic Garden

Bike parking can be visually unappealing.
Chicago Botanic Garden

By the time we reached the Botanic Gardens it was nice to have access to some very clean and well maintained bathroom facilities. We stood outside listening to a group of male cyclists from various European countries who appeared to be riding as a group speak to one another in at least three separate languages.

We took off shortly to reach the parking facilities in front of the main building that houses the eatery at the Gardens.

I’m sorry but come the Revolution that last thing I ever want to see is a bicycle parking area. Messy and chaotic is all that I can think to say regarding the experience. Because bikes come in varied sizes, shapes and configuration the technology to ‘park‘ them is pathetic. No wonder the Japanese park theirs underground using a very sophisticated technology.

Would that our country could get started on something like that here. Fortunately the folks at the Chicago Botanic Gardens decided to situate their parking lot inside a warren of hedges. Blissfully ignorant of the mayhem just beyond those hedges you can convince yourself that bike parking is a wonderful thing. It is not. Every time I see a bike parking area I think teenagers bedroom on its worst day of organization. Yuck!

Good Food Find at Botanic Gardens

Connie scored some black bean veggie burgers and I was in heaven. They were expensive but it beat riding through town to hunt down a place to chow. As a vegan I get tired suddenly when hunger sets in. It was nice to find some very high quality food and be able to sit in the sun and people watch while eating a very tasty repast.

ChainLinkers Invade the Gardens

You can tell them a mile off. Tattooed and loud! A group no doubt a contingent of the tinyfixbikegang showed up just as we were leaving. Glad we were able to evacuate the place prior to their arrival. Kinda reminds me of kids from the West Side of Chicago who having had to compete a home and school with other loud kids have only one volume setting when they speak. LOUD!

Kinda makes you wonder why folks from the ChainLink who always have nothing good to say about the suburbs, flock to them on holidays and weekends? I suppose even the hardcore types that these ladies seemed to be must get tired of the perpetual frenzy of violence and mayhem that permeate city life. Sad but true.

Skaters And Exhaustion

On the way back I encountered a rollerblader who was able to maintain a steady 13.5 MPH. It meant that I could have someone pace me and that made all the difference. We rode about 3 feet apart for miles. He of course could not be bothered to wait at intersections to cross safely but catching him was easy. I just settled in behind him and drafted.

North Branch Trail Needs Better Crossings

There are several spots along the trail that are quite dangerous. One in particular (Touhy Avenue) is at an intersection where the traffic heading north cannot ride along the bridge way with the traffic heading south. Yikes! This was evidently a spot built back in the 70s when only a bike here and there was using the darned trail on any given day.

Come the Revolution there is going to be a pressing need for infrastructure that can handle high traffic volume. But more important is the fact that cyclists who think they are truly supporters of the Urban Cycling Movement are in for a very terribly rude awakening. With greater numbers of riders come varied skills and speeds and manners. If you cannot abide a holiday along the Chicago Lakefront Trail then you had better tell Gabe Klein to kiss your fanny. He is predicting somewhere close to a five-fold increase in ridership in less than a decade.

That amount of traffic is what you see on trails during major holidays. ChainLinkers hate these places in such conditions. What the heck are these dilettantes going to do when the ridership reaches these levels year round and every day? Yikes! Suddenly the rewards of all those photo ops that ChainLinkers love to turn up for is going to be nullified.

Cyclometer Info

Distance: 30.6 miles
Time: 3h 16m 04s