By Dave Coulter
Last Friday I’d had just about of enough of this non-winter winter, and I decided to get my bicycle ready to roll. The mid-February forecast promised a benign, balmy and dry couple of days. Perfect weather to shake the dust off my Motobecane and myself.
Now, E lives about 30 miles away, and I’d often considered the possibility of cycling out for a visit. The distance isn’t the problem, it’s the traffic . So I buckled down with the Google bike route feature to seek out a route, and after about fifteen minutes I had found a path that wouldn’t expose me to too much road rage. I called E and announced to her my intent to “ride out.” If she thought I was crazy she hid it well, and agreed to keep near a phone should I need air-sea rescue.
So I loaded up my backpack and off I went. If you ever want to feel like a freak, try being a middle aged man riding a bike on a Friday afternoon. For starters, I don’t wear colorful bike clothes. I do wear a helmet, but otherwise I tend to wear layers of clothing that might be better suited for raking leaves in October. I wonder sometimes if I look a little vagabond-y for a bicycle. I guess my self-conciousness got tweaked when - lo and behold - the first fellow cyclist I encountered was an older gentleman who looked like he’d lost his Cutty Sark, if you follow my meaning. We didn’t look so different, he and I.
Brothers of the road!
Anyway, my route took me west-by-north-west. I have to say that the travel was largely pleasant and uneventful. Sure, there were some harrowing moments. Sharing the 25th Avenue bridge with semis had me questioning my sanity. But one’s senses are heightened on a bike particularly as I pedaled along the Franklin Street industrial rail corridor. While staying scrupulously near the shoulder I whiffed the corrosive odor of a metal finishing concern followed up quickly by a smoked meat purveyor.
But soon enough industry gave way to suburban tranquility for a few miles of carefree and carfree cycling. Eventually I found myself crossing the Salt Creek Greenway. I have to tell you, after bouncing along the rail yards I was quite happy to follow a well marked bike route. Who cared that it wound through an industrial park that likely saw little traffic and probably fewer bikes?
Time to give credit where it’s due. A sincere tip of the bike helmet to the burgs of Elk Grove Village and Schaumburg - as well as the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Both of the villages have extensive bike paths that mesh with the Forest Preserve’s network of trails. Sure, some of them wind past the malls, but at least they’re there. As such, the last ten miles or so were pretty easy going - if you didn’t ask my knees, anyway.
So I rode it out, all the way - well over thirty miles. Not bad for an AARP member in rough layers on a Friday at rush hour - in February. Common sense prevailed on the return trip, where I hired the Metra train to convey self and cycle most of the way back. There’s nothing so liberating as riding a bike. It felt good to know that I can still put twenty pounds on my back and ride off , somewhere. One of these days when gas hits $5 a gallon you just might be out there with me.
But I’ll be in front.