Consider this a residual of the “Toronto Effect.” My cycling experiments on Toronto’s streets taught me two things: urban
cycling is pretty interesting (even exciting/scary at times) and...I suck at
My cycling skills have improved significantly over the past
two years. This is a good thing because,
frankly, when I started I was a menace to both myself and anyone/anything in
general proximity. I’m far less
dangerous today as I pedal along mostly deserted country roads. Me on city streets? A different story.
I know I sorely lack a few critical skills. The Chicago Lakefront Trail will either be my
salvation or demise. Time will tell.
A century ago, Chicago’s
civic-minded embraced a plan developed by a certain Daniel Burnham. His plan for the city was revolutionary in
many respects, but the plan was never implemented in its entirety. Here’s where the elders were brilliant - they
adopted a central tenet of Burnham’s plan: “The Lakefront by right belongs to
the people," wrote Burnham. "Not a foot of its shores should be
appropriated to the exclusion of the people.”
And so, yesterday, I pedaled the entire length of the
Chicago Lakefront Trail. It’s roughly 36
miles roundtrip. A three-hour adventure.
I was delighted, impressed, amazed, tense, freaked-out and
utterly charmed. I hope to “do the
Trail” one day per week for the rest of this season. It’s quite an adventure.
The trail begins well south of the city center. There never was much development there and
the beaches, back in the segregated 60’s, were the province of the “coloreds.” The area remains undeveloped, sparsely
traversed. I found that stretch
soothing. Rolling farther north, there’s
been construction/reconstruction. Chicago once had an
airstrip along the lake called Meigs Field.
It was bulldozed several years ago and the land returned to natural
habitat for migratory birds. I rather
like municipalities that serve up such treats for the general populace. Birders wander about. It’s peaceful. A beautiful dune ecology on
The Trail serves many.
There were quite a few cyclists and runners. They can easily be grouped according to
proficiency. I saw quite a few
impressive athletes and quite a few struggling aspirants. Nice to view hopes, aspirations and (every
now and then) delusions on grand display.
I was passed by an absolutely gorgeous young man who rolled
past on a “beach-cruiser.” Shirtless, deeply bronzed, flip-flopped, lean,
muscular and sporting an impressive ponytail, this honest-to-god Adonis had a
small boy riding in a child’s seat. I
watched as they sped away and, all the while, the young man was gesticulating
and pointing out features of interest to his rapt protégé. Watching them made me happy.
As one approaches the central city area, the Trail gets
crowded. Turns out a whole lotta folks
like to come to the lakefront: roller-bladers, skate-boarders, chaotic families,
oblivious lovers, daredevils, derelicts, people of every age, race and
disposition. Ah, yes, the urban experience! I had deprived myself too long.
I could go on...and on.
From the city center, the trail heads north through well-to-do ‘hoods
and upscale beach environments. The
denizens were well-manicured. The vistas
The entire Trail is a gift, a joy, a blessing and, at times,
a nerve-wracking adventure. I’m hooked.
As I was nearing the end of my ride, I noticed a rather
comely lass pedaling towards me. I’d
guess she was in her forties. I smiled
and nodded as we drew closer. She, in
turn, blew me a kiss as she rolled by.
I was utterly, squishily charmed.
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