Pedal the prairie on Wright Ride

?Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature," and many saw nature's influence in his architectural designs

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By STEPHANIE THIES

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature," and many saw nature's influence in his architectural designs.

On Aug. 21, Chicago area bicyclists will have a chance to appreciate Wright's work and the natural beauty of the Western suburbs by taking part in the Wright Ride, the first annual architectural tour/organized bike ride through the western suburbs. The 10, 25, 50 and 62-mile routes will offer cyclists a choice?#34;and a chance to view a mix of architectural beauty and rural charm, said Brian Crawford of the Oak Park Cycle Club, which is partnering with the Oak Park Visitors and Conventions Bureau to put on the event.

The 10-mile route, which organizers believe the majority of riders will choose, will wind through Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright district, areas of River Forest with houses by Wright, William Drummond and other significant architects, and ending with Unity Temple and more Wright in Oak Park, said Gail Moran, Oak Park Cycle Club president. The 50- and 62-mile routes will take riders through a greater number of suburbs, past the bunglows of Berwyn, architecturally significant homes in Riverside, the Grossdale Depot in Brookfield and the water tower in Western Springs. Cyclists who choose the longer routes will get a chance to bike through the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, which, organizers boast, was "designed" by the Wisconsin glacier.

Crawford said the ride is available to all ages and all skill levels, and he expects nearly 500 people to participate in the event. The event's $20 fee will provide riders with a two-for-one coupon deal for a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, a cue sheet explaining the path of each route, various potholes and other obstacles to look out for on the ride, and a wristband allowing entry to rest stops stocked with food and water along the way.

To prepare for the event, Crawford and others have been constantly riding and re-riding the routes, making sure that every construction site, rough area and pothole are well documented.

"Creating a bike route is hard," said Rich Carollo, president of the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitor's bureau, explaining the challenge of mapping out routes for the first time. But the event's organizers plan to use the same routes for the Wright Ride every year, which will make next year's preparations a bit easier.

Carollo said there are lots of organized bike rides in the Chicago area, but the Wright Ride "is the only one of its kind in this area."

All bike routes begin at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Aug. 21. Registration will be from 6:30 a.m. until 10 a.m.

The Wright Ride is sponsored by the Oak Park Cycle Club, the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, the Berwyn Development Corporation, Dan's Bike Shop, Whole Foods Market, the Park District of Oak Park, West Suburban Medical Center, Metro Commuter, Peak Bar, Hammer Gels, Dominick's Finer Foods, Foley Rice Cadillac, the Riverside Brookfield Landmark, the Forest Park Review, and Wednesday Journal.

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