Chicago Ride – November, 2007


This is a short journal entry that I am writing after the fact to mark a bicycle trip that I have wanted to do for several years, ride from home to Chicago.


Cheryl and I were invited to join Vicki and Clay to see the Iowa Hawkeyes play at Northwestern in Evanston on November 3. Since the weather looked good with sunshine and westerly winds I decided this was a good time to try riding from Iowa City to the shores of Lake Michigan.


Originally I had planned a three day ride, Wednesday thru Friday, but as the time approached I decided to make it a four day ride and leave on Tuesday, October 30. I hadn’t been riding much in the month ahead of the ride and the days were getting cold and short so I thought doing 80 miles each day would be enough and I could still have time to visit Bob and Marlys in Hoffman Estates.


On Tuesday I left home at about 10:30 A.M. with a SSW wind of 20-30 mph. My goal was Maquoketa, IA where I had a reservation at the Super 8. It was a fine sunny day. Temperatures ranged from the mid 40’s up to 60 degrees. The roads were familiar and quiet. I had lunch in Lowden at my usual café and rolled into the Super 8 feeling strong and happy sometime around 3:00 P.M. It was exactly 70 miles.


Wednesday was a more interesting ride because I was on some unfamiliar roads after leaving Savanna, Illinois. I was up fairly early and decided to leave Maquoketa about 9:00 A.M. It was about 48 degrees and there was a mild westerly wind. I ate the typical Super 8 breakfast planning a stop in Savanna at the McDonalds for better food after riding the first 35 miles. It was a cool but pleasant ride on Highway 64 through Preston, Miles and Sabula and then across the Mississippi River at Savanna. I did have a nice break at the Savanna McDonalds and then continued east on Highway 64 towards Mt. Carroll.


There was a 10 mile construction zone all the way from Savanna through Mt. Carroll with several one lane portions so I had to be vigilant. Of course there was no shoulder on the road. I was careful to move aside for trucks and to never hold up traffic. Though I had several alternate routes mapped out I decided as I rode east that 64 was a decent road for me and I stayed with it all the way to Oregon, Illinois, 86 miles in total for the day. From Mt. Carroll to Mt. Morris traffic was light and the road was quite good. The last 8 miles were harder because of increased traffic and no shoulder.


The temperature seemed to stay in the mid 50’s for most of the day and the sun was often blocked out by clouds but the wind was always westerly about 10-15 mph so it was easy riding. Still, I was pretty tired when I got to Oregon and decided that going further was not a good idea. I made it into town around 2:30 P.M.


Oregon is a town on the Rock River with about 4,000 residents. There are no chain motels and the only two motels are about 1.5 miles north of town on the river. I had no reservation but I had some idea of what to expect. The Paddlewheel Inn was a larger, more modern motel with about 60 rooms. It appeared to be about 25 years old and was adjacent to a river view restaurant and paddlewheel river boat. I elected to stay there for $80 because they had wireless Internet and it was a good choice. I expect it was only about 25% occupied on this Halloween night.


Rather than eat at the restaurant I rode back into town and got a Subway sandwich for supper. It was a foot long so I could have half for supper and half for bedtime snack. I watched TV and surfed the Internet while planning the next day’s trip to Hoffman Estates.


Thursday’s ride from Oregon to Hoffman Estates was a bit more adventurous. I was up early and left at 9:00 A.M. in crisp 40 degree but sunny weather with another mild tailwind. I backtracked to downtown Oregon and then headed east across the Rock River on Highway 64. It was 35 miles to the town of Sycamore just NE of Dekalb. For the most part the 35 miles was uncomfortable because there was no paved shoulder and traffic was heavier with quite a few semi trucks. I stuck with the route and just pedaled hard making it into Sycamore before 11:00 A.M.


In downtown Sycamore I found a nice bicycle shop where I bought a bike lock and a cycle computer battery. For a couple days I had been worrying about entering the Chicago area with no bike lock. How would I feel safe leaving the bike unattended while getting food or just using a toilet? I felt relieved to get the lock even though I never used it.


I also had a nice lunch at Wendy’s and then headed out of town to the east, still on Highway 64. Just east of town I picked up a bike trail known as the Great Western Trail and followed it about 20 miles to the east towards St. Charles. It was packed limestone and rode fairly well with my 700 by 35 tires but for about 5 miles I had to get on the highway because of a trail closure related to replacing a bridge.


On the edge of St. Charles I turned north on a different, paved trail that ultimately led me to the Fox River trail that continued north to Elgin. I was the only bicycle on the trails so it seemed a bit lonely. Making the correct turns was a challenge but with my map, compass and GPS working I was able to make the right choice every time.


In Elgin I had to leave the trail system and work my way east on city streets to Hoffman Estates. I didn’t have much trouble but it was slow going with all the map reading that I needed to do and a few wrong turns. As it turned out, I got into Hoffman Estates La Quinta about 4:00 P.M. after 80 miles of riding feeling pretty good and quite successful. It had been a fine sunny day.


At the La Quinta I was immediately adjacent to Interstate 90 and about 26 miles from Lake Michigan but I no longer had any bike trails or bike lanes to use for the balance of the trip east. I spent much of the evening studying my route alternatives for the next day.


On Friday morning I was up about 6:00 A.M. and had a fine La Quinta breakfast. BTW, the room there was excellent and cost just $75. I called Marlys about 9:00 A.M. and she invited me over for coffee and a visit as I passed through this Chicago suburb. She had just recovered from two very bad days of migraine headaches. I called Mom just to let her know how I was doing.


Cheryl and I had stayed at this intersection earlier in the year when visiting Bob and Marlys so I knew the three mile route to their house. I also knew that niece, Sarah, and her husband, Brian, lived in an apartment along the route so I mapped it out and rode by it on the way to see Marlys. Sarah’s apartment was a nice looking townhouse unit with single car garage in a nice neighborhood.


It was good to see Marlys. We visited alone for about a half hour and then were joined by Granny and Bob. I spent another hour with them and often felt that I was talking too much but they seemed to be quite interested in my life. With Bob’s Parkinson’s and Marlys’ bad headaches etc. they are pretty limited in activities and life has to be real, real hard for them. There is not much to be done about that so we just ignored the negative and talked in a positive casual fashion. Sometimes life can be so unfair.


About 11:45 A.M. I left Bob, Marlys and Granny to head east to Skokie and Evanston. I had a street route planned that would get me to the Woodfield Mall area safely and then I could find a short bike path to the east. After that I was stuck with riding the sidewalks along Golf Road or the road itself when no sidewalk existed. It was brutal for about 15 miles. I took a half hour break at a Subway for lunch while studying maps and considering my options.


There are no good choices in this suburban area. There are several places where I just had to get out on the road and pedal like hell while trying to avoid heavy traffic. After getting about three fourths of the way east I was finally able to leave Golf Road for some quiet side roads in residential areas and with a fair amount of zigzag riding I got to the Extended Stay America Hotel in Skokie where we had reservations. It took an hour longer than expected and was a 30 mile trip from Hoffman Estates.


I was able to check in at the hotel and after a brief rest I headed back out on my bike to ride an additional 12 miles to go east to Lake Michigan in Evanston and then to go by Ryan Stadium where the game would be the next day. The stadium was 3.5 miles from the hotel. I got back to the hotel at 4:00 P.M. just about a half hour before Cheryl, Vicki and Clay arrived.


We had a fine evening with dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. Saturday morning we had breakfast at a local Panera’s and then enjoyed a two mile walk to the game. It was and enjoyable, sunny day for football and Iowa looked horrible during most of the first half but then regrouped and won the game easily. We had a pleasant drive home with dinner near Aurora and a visit with Ray for his 88th birthday in Bettendorf and we also picked up the sewing machine for Heather.


It was a full and satisfying five days.