Milwaukee to Chicago: Days 57 and 58
06/15 (Days 57)
I woke up abruptly to the sound of rain. I thought I had left my bag open on the deck and that it was getting soaking wet but then realized it was right next to the couch I was sleeping on in the living room. It was gloomy and cold morning but it could have been worse. I figured the rain would probably stop a lot of people from joining us for the ride and I was ok with that, as I desired a relaxing day with close friends. Mitch, Casey, Brent, and I got down to Bradford beach at 10:30, just 1:30 after we were supposed to get there to meet anyone that might be joining on the ride. The rain had let up and although it still wasn’t a warm day it was still pleasant. And one guy from Milwaukee named Bruno joined us!
So we were on our way around 11:00 and it was an absolute joy to be pedaling alongside some of my best friends. It made the pedaling extremely easy and I considered the fifty miles that we had to do today a joy and not a task at all. We took our time and made lots of little stops. Each mile was pleasurable as I talked with the guys. This had been a leg of the journey I was looking forward to since before it began. Mitch has been a best friend of mine since 2006 and Casey has been coming a better and better friend every time I see him. Bruno turned out to be a really cool dude too. For all three of them this 100 miles would be the longest trip they’d ever been on and the first time doing a multi-day bike trip and I was very excited about that.
The first fifteen miles or so were along Lake Michigan and I saw all sorts of new neighborhoods and sights even though I had lived here for over a half year in the past. The day gradually warmed, the rains held off, and I think the sun even shined a tiny bit. Casey was excited to see me find good food that was on it’s way to the landfill so part of the day was spent peaking into dumpsters, which turned into a fun game. I found a ton of boxed crackers and a whole fresh pizza and we all had trash lunch together. It was really fun to share this with friends. I’ve mentioned it before but the reason I am favorable to eating out of the trash has very little to do with money and a lot to do with the environment. First it is food that would have gone to waste and instead is getting put to good use. Second it diverted from the landfill meaning less for the garbage trucks to carry and less space being taken up in the landfill. Third it means that I don’t have to use other food that took time, energy, and money to create. Fourth I can recycle that packages that I found the food in rather than sending that to the landfill. On the environmental front it makes so much sense to take food from the dumpster.
Later in the day Brent was trying to switch gears as he multitasked and found himself on the ground in the middle of the road. Bruno was riding close behind him and wound up running over Brent and falling hard to the concrete. I looked back and they were both lying in the road. Bruno was holding his shoulder and seemed to be in excruciating pain. It was a rush for both of them but they both turned out fine. So on we pedaled through Racine and Kenosha sometimes along the lake and sometimes on the city roads. The guys stopped for ice cream in the afternoon and by then the sun was out and the skies were blue.
That night Casey and I went to an Aldis and scored 45 pounds of food that we brought back for dinner for everyone. We enjoyed a still frozen half-gallon of Moose Tracks ice cream before heading back though. We got strawberries, blueberries, grapes melons, apples, avocados, bananas, zucchini, grapefruits, and a load of donuts and muffins. Every body ate some of it for dinner and for breakfast the next day. The others had gotten to the campsite around 8:00 but Casey and I didn’t roll in to Illinois State Beach Park until closer to 9:00. My good friend Scot Stipetich was driving through to Ashland from New York and spent the night camping with us as well. We all sat around the picnic table together having a happy time just hanging out after a day of biking. The air was warm and the night was pleasant. Lightning was on the horizon and then suddenly it started to downpour. I threw all of my stuff into Stippy’s trunk and then we sat in the car catching up after not having seen each other for three years until I passed out in the passenger seat and him in the drivers seat for a good nights sleep.
06/16 (Days 58)
The sun was shining when I woke up in the car and it was a beautiful morning a world away from yesterday’s morning. I was excited to see the sun and feel its warmth on my skin. It was a relaxing morning playing with friends and eating loads of fruit and we left the campsite around 10:30. Before hitting the road we stopped at the beach for the most enjoyable swim of the trip. The water was cold and it took a bit of enticing but Casey and Mitch got into the lake to play and refresh too. Man was it fun to have them around. My normal routine for the last two months has been to do all of this on my own and having friends with completely changes the day. It’s a heck of a lot more fun. My body and mind were both so refreshed playing and cleaning up in the fresh cold water.
Then we were back on the road for an enjoyable day of riding in the sun. Today was much more biking oriented than yesterday, as we wanted to get to Millennium Park at a reasonable time. The first part of the trip took us mostly on surface roads through the cities, but the next 30 miles was mostly joyous riding on bike paths and smooth roads in upscale neighborhoods. I felt happy, healthy, and excited to be alive in the presence of good people. Riding on a bike path brings substantially more joy than a road with cars. Once in the city of Chicago we spent some time riding on some very busy roads. It’s a bit nerve wracking at times but I enjoy it quite a lot, racing the cars and cruising through red lights when they are stuck in traffic. It feels like a video game to me.
We caught the Lake Shore Path and found ourselves in bike heaven. Good looking chicks were all over the place, cyclists, rollerbladers, and runners were all as happy as we were to be out on this gorgeous day. It was the type of weather I had been dreaming of since I left San Diego. My heart belongs to the Midwest summer and the Chicago lakefront is one of my favorite places to spend a summer afternoon. The lake is cold and refreshing, the sand is pristine, the women are plentiful, and the great city of Chicago with its impressive skyline hangs over it all. Man can create beauty after all. I think we all were on high spirits at the accomplishment of arriving in this city wonderland.
We stopped to take in the skyline and then pedaled on until we had to get off the lake path to go Millennium Park. I took us off a half mile too early and wound up navigating us the wrong way down packed one way roads. It was a zoo of people and cars and we were a group of 5 dudes on bikes trying to make it the last half-mile. I lead us down sidewalks and at one point up a two-story flight of stairs to Michigan Avenue. That last half-mile took forty minutes but we finally arrived at The Bean where we were greeted after our 100 miles of riding by some of my family and friends. My aunt Louise and brother Joe were the first people who found us. Then my friend from college Roberto who I hadn’t seen in five years, along with his girlfriend Jane. Then Nick Roy and a buddy of his and Nick put on a magic show for us that blew my mind away.
I had to pedal 17 miles back north to get to my grandpas house in Skokie, so my intentions were to hang out for just a half hour so I could ride in the daylight. Instead I hung out there catching up and chatting with these guys until 8:00. Also all sorts of people had questions about the bamboo bike and solar panels and it made it impossible to get on the road. I rode for a short amount of time in the setting sun and felt strong emotions rushing through my body after a long day. I was alone on this beautiful bike path, tired yet excited but much in need of a bed. I made it home around 10:00 where my aunt Louise was waiting for me with a smile. This is where I will rest my head for a few days.
For more photos see the album on Facebook.