A difficult and memorable bike journey round Chicago’s precise metropolis limits | On Transportation
Some folks in all probability consider me because the Perimeter King of Chicago. Together with many different journeys involving biking the outer fringe of locations—Illinois, Lake Michigan, three-quarters of the continental U.S.—for the higher a part of a decade I led the annual Chicago Perimeter Ride. That occasion sometimes drew about 100 folks for a leisurely all-day-and-evening pedal across the metropolis.
However I’ve suffered from imposter syndrome. Whereas the Perimeter Trip was all the time a blast, it was truly a really streamlined route that got here nowhere near tracing the precise complicated, zigzagging metropolis limits.
So for years I have been which means to make issues proper by biking the precise border of Chicago, or as shut as doable with out risking being flattened by a semi driver. The COVID quarantine, when leisure choices are restricted, appeared like an excellent time to do it. I deliberate to unfold out the journey over two days, spending an evening away from dwelling, so I might principally be taking a trip solely inside the metropolis limits.
I dominated out pedaling round O’Hare, since that will contain miles on a nightmarish seven-lane stretch of Touhy. I additionally determined to not hassle tracing the outlines of Norridge and Harwood Heights, these suburbs which might be oddly embedded inside Chicago’s northwest facet for long-forgotten political reasons. And the place the border is a busy primary avenue, and there is a chill, leafy residential road parallel to it close by, I might take that as a substitute, to make sure my journey was extra joyride than hellride, because the late Wesley Willis would say.
Round midday on a 91-degree August Saturday, I begin my 116-mile journey on the Lakefront Path at Montrose, with a counterclockwise route deliberate for optimum shoreline views. Pedaling east towards the park path that hugs crescent-shaped Montrose Seashore, I am irritated to see that, though the native seashore bar is open and bustling, lifeguards are nonetheless shooing beachgoers off the sand as a part of Mayor Lightfoot’s doubtful pandemic shoreline security technique. The next Saturday someone will nearly drown whereas swimming off the unsupervised rocky revetment simply north of the seashore.
After tagging the Evanston border in Rogers Park, the northeast nook of the town, I pedal west down Howard into West Ridge, stopping to select up a fried clam lunch on the old-school Fish Keg storefront. Rolling south on Kedzie, I am passing by the middle of Chicago’s Orthodox Jewish group. A preteen woman and boy stroll down the road, the latter in swimsuit, fedora, and sidelocks.
Persevering with west on busy Devon, I go Novelty Golf & Video games on the Lincolnwood facet. The course features a big rooster, a miniature Hancock Tower, and an ersatz Easter Island moai.
Simply west of the Edens, I comply with the borderline on Ionia into pleasantly sedate Edgebrook. As I spherical a northerly knob of the town, the suburb-in-the-city really feel is hammered dwelling by the sight of an older gentleman watering the yard of his ranch home whereas sitting within the driveway on a striped garden chair that mirrors the house’s American flag.
Rolling west on Touhy, I go the Leaning Tower of Niles, a half-size reproduction of the Pisa landmark. Throughout the road is the Edgebrook Motel, with an appealingly garish crimson and seafoam inexperienced signal, the primary of a number of examples of retro-futurist “Googie” architecture I will encounter on this trek.
A mile on the North Department Path takes me to certainly one of Chicagoland’s best-known examples of Googie, Superdawg Drive-In. Its midcentury design options blue and white diamond panels, crimson neon, and winking anthropomorphic wieners on the roof.
Quickly I am tracing the define of Edison Park, Chicago’s northwestern-most neighborhood. Eighty-seven % white, it is widespread with Chicago metropolis employees, a lot of whom may choose to dwell within the suburbs, however want to fulfill the town’s residency requirement. Ebinger Elementary shows a “We Help Our First Responders” banner with photographs of a firefighter and a cop.
After rolling southwest, I get pleasure from a number of miles of serene driving on the wooded Des Plaines River Path. Exiting the trail at Belmont, I resist the temptation to detour to River Grove to go to Gene & Jude’s, well-known for its minimalist “melancholy canines” (onion, relish, mustard, and sport peppers solely), and Hala Kahiki, the historic multiroom tiki complicated subsequent door.
Heading east I am in Dunning, the place I go Truc Lam Temple, a Vietnamese home of worship that lately relocated from Uptown. A plump, grinning Buddha statue reclines in entrance.
Pedaling into Austin, I go Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue, in a ravishing previous terra-cotta storefront. Persevering with south on Mason and Mayfield because the solar descends, I spot many “Black Lives Matter” indicators and tricolor Black Liberation flags on show. Children are taking part in on the sidewalk with toy automobiles and scooters, or leaping on a trampoline subsequent to a group backyard. Folks promote sno-balls with vividly coloured syrups from card tables. 5 swan-shaped planters stand cheerfully on a brick stoop. As I cross Madison, I look left towards Loop skyscrapers tinted pink by the sundown, about seven miles east, however seemingly a world away.
After crossing Columbus Park and rolling southeast via an industrial zone, I am at twenty sixth in Little Village, Chicago’s second-busiest retail strip, the place it is undoubtedly meal time. At Taqueria Los Gallos, I choose up a bath of their specialty, carne en su jugo: beef, bacon, and beans in broth, garnished with radishes, avocado, and lime. I feast at close by Manuel Perez Jr. Plaza. Throughout the road, a raucous band that includes tumbling timbale rhythms and a outstanding tuba blares from at a yard celebration. Somebody units off fireworks and the bottom shakes.
Refueled, I proceed south on the Pulaski Bridge over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into Brighton Park, then take residential streets west via Garfield Ridge, a part of the southwest facet bungalow belt. There are lots of yard gatherings right here, together with a full-blown home music dance celebration in somebody’s storage.
I am sleeping on the iconic Rainbow Motel, identified for its waterbed-and-Jacuzzi rooms, together with ones with Las Vegas, Hawaiian, outer area, and, oddly, sandwich themes. Whereas I really feel a little bit foolish staying at a love resort solo, I spent a night there with a girlfriend years in the past, so I do know it is a moderately sanitary, non-scary place. It is also the most cost effective possibility within the space, save for the close by Skylark Motel which, ominously, would not supply in a single day stays till after midnight. Granted, my bare-bones single room is nothing to write down dwelling about, and once I ask the desk clerk if it comes with a complimentary bottle of spumante like final time, he simply laughs at me.
Within the morning, after grabbing a Danish and doughnut throughout the road at busy Weber’s Bakery, I pedal east on sixty fourth within the Clearing neighborhood. I am as soon as once more in cop-and-fireman land, as evidenced by the numerous variations on Blue Lives Matter flags flying, together with one that features a crimson stripe for firefighters and a inexperienced one for border patrol brokers.
Rolling southeast into Ashburn, I try Vito & Nick’s, a contender for one of the best skinny crust in Chicago, then head to Lawndale and Columbus to go to the shrine and mural honoring Issac Martinez, 13. An allegedly intoxicated hit-and-run driver killed Martinez on his bike final June. A white-painted “ghost bike” was additionally put in on the crash web site with an indication studying “Secure Bike Lanes!”
Pedaling east into Beverly, I seize a snack of chili cheese fries at Janson’s Drive-In, which has one other superior Googie signal, serenaded by Buddy Holly and Chubby Checker. From there, annoyingly, the town boundaries veer west once more, taking me farther from my end line.
Crossing Sacramento, I am in Mount Greenwood, on the southwest nook of the town. It is one other overwhelmingly white metropolis employee neighborhood, with a history of racial tension. After rounding Saint Xavier College, I go a home with a “Do not Tread on Me” flag, a reminder that I am in the only part of Chicago that went for Trump in 2016.
I journey three sides of Saint Casimir Catholic Cemetery on hectic multilane roads, passing one more cool Googie signal, at Fox House Middle in Alsip. Returning east to Morgan Park, I discover St. Walter Catholic Church has an outside show of small sculptures of Jesus strolling the Stations of the Cross. Sadly, somebody has pried one of many steel crucifixes from his palms.
I think about veering a mile north to House of the Hoagy to pattern a sweet steak, the legendary south side-only cheesesteak variant, however determine I would like to remain targeted on my process.
Persevering with southeast into West Pullman, the 12700 block of South Morgan has a block membership signal prohibiting actions starting from ball taking part in to drug dealing. This nook of the neighborhood appears neat and orderly. Tidy properties on 129th again as much as the Calumet River.
On the opposite facet of the river within the tiny Riverdale enclave, the one Chicago neighborhood south of the Calumet, it is a completely different story. Many homes are falling aside, seemingly awaiting demolition. Area people advocate Fatima Al-Nurridin will later inform me she’s unsure why that is the case, however there’s curiosity in enhancing the realm.
After I head northeast into the Altgeld Gardens housing venture, two younger boys on a gas-powered grime bike attempt to discuss me into racing them for a $5 wager to allow them to purchase Cokes. “Sorry guys, I’ve acquired to maintain shifting,” I mumble via my masks. If I used to be faster on my toes, I might ask in the event that they know Deloris Lucas, known as “The Bike Lady” as a result of she runs the biking and wellness group We Keep You Rollin’ out of the Golden Gate neighborhood, subsequent door to Altgeld.
Subsequent I make the harrowing however principally unavoidable journey east on high-speed one hundred and thirtieth to get to Hegewisch, on the southeast nook of the town. The neighborhood looks like a sleepy small city in Indiana, which lies simply east. I seize a plump chicken-filled masa pocket at Gorditas Adrian’s, then roll east to tag the Hoosier border, passing Harbor Level Estates, Chicago’s solely trailer park.
Lastly it is time to return north. After rolling by Membership 81 Too, a longtime nook bar identified for its Friday fish fries, I skirt Wolf Lake, which straddles the Illinois-Indiana border and was dwelling to an lively Nike missile silo in the course of the Chilly Struggle. Then I choose up the Burnham Greenway and journey via lakeside Calumet Park, full of individuals grilling.
Pedaling west on ninety fifth, I cease at Calumet Fisheries for a stunning hunk of garlic-pepper smoked salmon. The seafood shack stands subsequent to the river bridge Jake and Elwood famously jumped within the Bluesmobile.
Quickly I am on the Lakefront Path once more. I’ve acquired 16 miles of what must be clean crusing on acquainted turf with a candy tailwind to finish my circuit.
However abruptly the sky darkens, and the wind does a 180. By the point I attain Promontory Level, I am combating a headwind and downpour, rolling into the jaws of a thunderstorm. Weirdly, the setting solar stays seen to my left, after which a rainbow materializes over Lake Michigan.
Fortunately, the storm quickly dissipates, and my spin again to Montrose is uneventful. However I can not think about a extra becoming grand finale to my epic circuit round Chicago than that bizarro sunset-thunder-rainbow. v
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