We were within the City of Chicago when my bicycle completely caved in. Regardless of having had repairs at three different bicycle shops in Wisconsin, the chain refused to stay on and the whole bicycle was groaning. We were riding with Tom, our guide, Warm Shower’s host, bicycle mechanic and newfound friend. We met Tom and his wife, Cindy in early July back in Spearfish, South Dakota, when they too were camping.
Tom, who definitely knows his way around bicycles, diagnosed the problem as my needing to replace the free hub body – meaning a brand-new back wheel. Since we could go no farther together, we split up. Tom raced back to his home, riding 21 mph, to order and purchase a new wheel before the close of business while Pat and I tried to figure out where we might now stay in Chicago.
Spotting a police vehicle at the intersection, I wandered over. “I am looking for place now to spend the night because my bicycle is no longer working. Do you have some suggestions?” I asked. “Where are you from? he asked. “Vermont,” “Then you don’t want to spend the night around this area because all the hotels are too shady. Try looking around Lincoln Park,” he said.
But I need to back up a few days first. Our journey through the last section of Wisconsin and northern Illinois began last Sunday morning in Racine. Our plan was to meet Tom somewhere along the trail. He had caught a commuter train up to Kenosha, WI and was going to ride north while we were riding south. Tom is an avid cyclist, bicycle mechanic, and an astute trumpet player. Cindy is also an avid cyclist, musician, and works full time for All State from her home office.
After we met up, Tom took us through Kenosha, WI – (the scene of some horrific violence last summer) and then on multiple trails (some paved and some limestone covered). We stopped in Lake Bluff, first to admire the miniature outdoor railroad and then to admire the sailboats on Lake Michigan who were in the midst of a race. We cycled through the gorgeous homes and properties in Lake Forest, past the Great Lakes Naval Station and several residential streets, eventually arriving at Tom and Cindy’s home in Riverwoods situated at the end of a private road.
Cindy prepared a lovely dinner on which we feasted while reveling in the beauty of their property. Their home has a number of huge picture windows overlooking mature trees and grasslands. Tom has his own bicycle shop on the property where several bicycles hang from the rafters. Because of some noises our bicycles were making, he offered to see if he could resolve the issues.
On Tuesday morning, Tom, Pat and I headed toward Chicago, with Tom leading the way. We traveled though the city of North Brook and Pat took a spin on the Velodrome. As we neared the city streets, my bicycle’s noises increased, It was definitely time to find a bicycle repair shop, which we did after traveling through multiple one way streets in North Chicago. One hour later, the shop mechanic assured me that the problems were fixed. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it more than one block before the chain came off once again, forcing me to return to the shop. And though the shop mechanic recognized the issue, he didn’t really offer up a solution other than to pedal while coasting.
So, as Tom raced home, Pat and I made a reservation at the Lincoln boutique Hotel (that sounded cool)– five miles away via Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. While Pat enjoyed every minute of cycling those miles, I took the pedestrian path, pushing my damaged weight heavy bicycle.
Hundreds of people whizzed by on bicycles and rollerblades. We were smitten with everything the lakefront offered – sand volleyball, kickball, softball and plenty of space for swimming. To us, the Chicago lakefront is a young person’s utopia.
Tom arrived early the next morning, new wheel and bicycle tools in hand. Success at last, Pat and I were back on the Lakefront Trail cycling past parks, museums, and piers until after seven miles, my back tire went totally flat.
Because we now have changing tires down, before long we were cycling once again, this time past part of Chicago’s Southside (Hyde Park and Jackson Park). It was then that we found ourselves in a section of Chicago next to the lake where there were roads but no people, homes or industry. We have since learned that his is where the former US Steel plant once was once situated. All plans for redevelopment here have not taken hold because of the costs involved in cleaning up the industrial waste. Shortly afterward, we crossed into Indiana and entered the city of Hammond, known for producing 20 percent of the steel in our country.
And a few miles later, we finally made it back to the trails designated on the Great American Rail Trail on the Pennsy Greenway outside of Munster, Indiana. It was time to rest up and celebrate!
Shevonne and Pat
Follow us as we spin our wheels