Chicago (mainly), July 2011



Travelogue: Chicago (mainly),
July 2011

By Roger W. Reini

By date:

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This is the story of a trip that started out as one thing and ended up being something completely different.  It started as an attempt to visit South Dakota, the only state of the lower 48 that I have not yet visited.  Given my short time off of work (one week), I would not have been able to visit the sites in the southwestern part of the state, the sites I would really want to see: Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Deadwood, Wall Drug, etc.  Those were too far to reach by driving in a week; most of my time would have been on the road. I would only have been able to visit Sioux Falls.  Then I decided that I didn’t really want to go to Sioux Falls, and so the trip became one to Minneapolis.  I’d made reservations on the SS Badger, the car ferry from Michigan to Wisconsin, and had made hotel reservations for various points in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  But then I decided I didn’t want to put that much mileage on my vehicle, given my previous trip to Texas in March and a forthcoming trip later in the year, and so I cancelled the trip.

Part of me still wanted to ride across Lake Michigan in a ferry, though.  Then it hit me: why not try the other ferry, the Lake Express, from Muskegon to Milwaukee?  And then after that, go down to Chicago, spend a few days there, then return to Michigan for a baseball game in Lansing (mini-season ticket plan) before heading home?  That seemed more enjoyable to me.  Also, I knew my aunt would be taking the Lake Express to Milwaukee to visit her brother, my uncle, after his upcoming surgery; I could scout out the Lake Express and tell her what to expect. And so, I cancelled the original plans and made new ones.

Thursday, June 30

During the day, I worked.  In the evening, I mounted my bike rack to my Mariner and put some bike supplies (pump, helmet, water bottle, bike bag) in the rear seat area.  I packed a suitcase and put a few items into a carry-on bag.  I made sure to retrieve the ticket for the Lansing Lugnuts game next Friday (one of a 6-game season ticket package), for I did not anticipate returning home before then.


Friday July 1

As I got ready for work, I made sure to put my medicine containers in my toiletries bag.  I didn’t want to forget those!  I remembered the difficulties I had last year when I forgot one medicine in Key West.  The bags remained inside, for I still had to go to work today, and I would be returning home prior to taking off for Grand Rapids. 

Yes, my destination this evening would be Grand Rapids, some 45 miles from Muskegon and the ferry.  Muskegon could be reached from Detroit in about three hours, but I would have had to get up very early in the morning to do so with a cushion of time in case I encountered any delays on the way up.  It seemed less risky to go up after work.  Now I suppose I could have gone all the way to Muskegon, for there was plenty of time to do so.  However, the hotel rates were much higher there.  It turned out that I was able to use Priority Club points for a free night at a Holiday Inn near the Grand Rapids airport; I suspect I would have needed many more points to do so for the Holiday Inn in Muskegon, if I could have done so at all.  Another benefit to Grand Rapids: I could see the West Michigan Whitecaps play minor league baseball.  They would be at home Friday night.  But would I arrive in time for the first pitch? And would I feel like going to a game?

The manager of my department at work regularly allows his engineers to leave early the day before a big holiday, once their work for the day is done (and for that, I thank him).  That was the case today, and once I finished my last meeting for the day at 2 and backed up my PC’s files, I was out of the office around 2:20.  The parking lot was already looking much emptier than it would at 2:20 on a typical workday.  I headed home via one of my normal routes (Michigan Avenue to Venoy to Ford Road), listening to that day’s Harry Nile episode on SiriusXM’s Book Radio (the successor to XM’s Sonic Theater).  I made it home around 3, retrieved my mail, and started to load the car.

There wasn’t much to load, really: one suitcase, one carry-on, one backpack (for carrying onto the ferry), one computer bag, the atlas, some cookies for the week, some peanuts to snack on, and the bike.  I saved the bike for last, and that was when I got a rude surprise: a spoke on the rear wheel had broken.  I didn’t have a spare, and I didn’t know how long a repair would take on the road.  I pondered my options for a few minutes, and then I decided I would not take the BikeE, the one with the broken spoke. No, I would take my Sun recumbent trike instead.  I had to change racks on the car, which wasn’t hard to do.  But I became concerned that the ferry operators might not allow me to board the ferry with the trike, which protruded some three feet from the back of the Mariner.  I wouldn’t know until I tried.

And so, at 3:30, I set off for Grand Rapids.  The construction on the overpass on Ford Road had ended, so there was no backup there.  I couldn’t say the same for northbound I-275.  Traffic was heavy near the intersection with I-96 and M-14, and it got heavy again north of 8 Mile and into the intersection with I-696.  It took a half-hour to get up to Novi.  Things eased up once past Novi.  I bounced around the radio dial, listening to various things.  At 5 o’clock, I turned on CBC Radio 1 on Sirius and listened to a special edition of The World At Six (it was 6 PM Atlantic time), special because it was Canada Day today.  I missed out on a few minutes of the program (or should that be programme?) while I got gas at the Speedway at I-96 and M-99 in southwest Lansing.  M-99 was Martin Luther King Blvd., but when I went to MSU, it was Logan Street, and that’s how I still think of it.  The CBC program was an interesting one, providing that different perspective on how and why Canadians were proud to be Canadians, including some refugees from the Congo who eventually became Canadian citizens.  At 5:30, I flipped over to Fox News to see what was airing in place of the just-ended Glenn Beck show.  It was a special featuring John Stossel and Dinesh D’Souza on what’s right about America, interesting in its own right.

As I drove westward, the skies got cloudier, and there were occasional rain showers.  That meant my trike seat was getting soaked.  Soon, I saw the exit for 28th Street, the exit I needed to take for the hotel.  As I turned onto the roadway, I kept an eye out for possible locations for supper.  Macaroni Grill?  Brann’s? Longhorn Steakhouse?  I wasn’t going to do anything until I pulled into the hotel.  Now I couldn’t remember exactly where it was, but I knew that it was near 29th Street.  I turned onto the road that would take me to 29th Street, and I kept on the lookout for the hotel.  It wasn’t too long before I found it and checked in.

My room was #368, on the third floor (naturally), about as far away as you can get from the lobby.  I hooked up my MacBook Pro; there was no wireless connection, so I had to use the wired connection.  My view from the window was of the parking lot; I could see my vehicle and trike with no difficulty.  I sent a note to my sister, aunt and uncle letting them know I’d arrived.  Then came my decision: what to do about dinner? I thought about going to a nearby mall.  I had already decided that I didn’t feel like going to the ballgame.  When I got downstairs, I saw that it was raining. I didn’t have an umbrella with me; it was back in the room.  The hotel had a restaurant, though, so that’s where I decided to eat.  It wasn’t crowded at all; I was the only one eating, as it turned out.  Others were coming in for drinks; I think they were attending events in the hotel, either a family reunion or a wedding rehearsal dinner.  The dinner was good; I had a steak, baked potato, mixed vegetables and a garden salad, along with some water.

Back to the room I went, for I was feeling somewhat tired.  It had been a long day.  I turned on the baseball game (Tigers vs. Giants) and worked on the travelogue.  When I had to use the bathroom, I discovered something unusual: one door served two functions in the bathroom.  In one position, it closed off the toilet room, leaving the sink accessible, and in the other, it closed off the whole bathroom. It wasn’t that useful for me, but I saw how it could be useful when two or more were in the room.  Eventually, I lay down to do some reading, while keeping the ballgame on.  Soon, though, I started to fall asleep.  In fact, I did fall asleep, for when I woke up, some skateboarding program was on.  I turned off the TV and the lights and went to bed for good.


Saturday July 2

My sleep during the night wasn’t the best; I recalled waking up a number of times.  Once, I thought I could hear a lot of people outside.  I didn’t get up to look.  I did get up for good around 5:30, checking the e-mail and other things.  My ferry ride was not until 10:15, with check-in by 9:30.  I had some time this morning before I had to leave.

The forecast for today looked good -- warm/hot but free of precipitation.  I didn’t fancy learning how the ferry did during storms.  As I checked, though, I could hear some noises from my MacBook’s hard drive, noises I hadn’t noticed before.  Were these normal noises that I just hadn’t noticed, or were they the sounds of something about to go wrong with the drive?  I couldn’t know.  I knew that my backup at home was current through Wednesday.  It was something I would watch.  Critical files would get backed up elsewhere. [UPDATE: I didn’t hear the noises the rest of the trip, so I’m presuming they were normal drive noises that I was able to hear]

By 7:30, I had checked out of the hotel.  I had prepared a backpack with three items: my camera, my iPad, and my Kindle reader.  This bag would accompany me on the ferry.  I set out on the road, stopping at a McDonald’s on 28th Street near I-96 for a sausage burrito meal.  With stomach full, I drove northwestward on I-96 towards Muskegon.  Bouncing around the radio dial, I found the broadcast of Sweden versus North Korea in Women’s World Cup action, and so I tuned that in.  I stopped at a rest area to use the restroom, and then it was on to Muskegon.  And by arriving in Muskegon, I could say that I had driven the entire length of I-96, from the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit to its end in Muskegon.  I didn’t do it all at once, of course, but I almost did.

It wasn’t too difficult to find the Lake Express terminal in Muskegon.  There was a security screening outside the main gate, where I had to open the hood of my Mariner, and where the guard swept underneath the SUV with a mirror on a rod.  Finding nothing suspicious, he told me to proceed.  No mention was made of the trike on the rack.  At the ticket booth, no mention was made of it, either.  It looked like I’d be getting to ride after all!  I was directed to pull up into a staging lane, making sure to pull real close to the car ahead of me.  That was it, and I could go inside and wait for the ferry.  I sat for a bit and walked around for a bit, taking a few pictures.  It was a somewhat hazy day, not the best for taking pictures.

Around 9:45, I saw the ferry arriving from Milwaukee.  I got quite a few pictures of it as it pulled into the dock and disgorged its passengers and vehicles.  Soon, we received word to get into our vehicles for driving onto the ferry.  I was in the fourth row to board, and when I pulled onto the vessel, I ended up in the middle of the vehicle area.  I set my parking brake, “rolled” up the windows (these were power windows, so no real rolling was required), took my backpack, and headed for the passenger deck.  Many of the seats were already taken by those who had boarded without vehicles, but I found a seat.

At 10:15, we got under way.  I made my way to the sundeck, where I and a lot of other passengers could see what we could of our departure from Muskegon.  I was quite busy with my camera, but that stopped when I saw the low battery light flashing.  My spare battery was in the car, inaccessible until Milwaukee.  I’d have to be very judicious in taking pictures from here on out.  We passed by several campsites and the location of the USS Silversides submarine.  By the time the boat cleared the Muskegon channel and picked up its speed, I was back inside the cabin.  Most of the time, I read from the Kindle, although I did get up a few times to take some pictures from the rear deck.  There was a constant line at the galley for food and drink, although I didn’t have anything.  I got rather chilly at times, for I was underneath an air conditioning vent.  I made a note to myself to tell my aunt to bring a sweater or windbreaker.  There was a bit of a roll to the boat for the first half of the trip; the captain said there were 1 to 3 foot waves.  It took a while to develop my sea legs (or should that have been lake legs?).

Most of the time, it was foggy outside, and you couldn’t see much.  Not that there would have been much to see in the middle of the lake, and anything you could see would probably be something you didn’t want to see, such as another vessel in your path. Then the clouds and fog started to lift, and the sun started to appear.  By this time, we were nearing Milwaukee, and this made for a great picture-taking opportunity.  Even with my battery running low, I took a number of pictures.  They may not have been the best, thanks to the high wind, the long zoom, and the movement of the boat on the water.  When I checked later on, though, some of them turned out pretty well.  And 2 1/2 hours after leaving Muskegon, we were in Milwaukee.

It turned out that I was one of the first ones off of the boat.  I made my way out of the Milwaukee terminal, which looked to be much nicer than the one in Muskegon, and I followed the road signs to I-43 and I-94.  I listened to the US versus Colombia in soccer, a game the US would win 3-0.  Now my ultimate destination for today was Chicago; Skokie, to be precise. For Chicago, I’d turn south at the freeway.  But I didn’t want to go to Chicago immediately; I had another destination in mind.  So I turned north onto I-43 and headed through downtown Milwaukee and north toward Green Bay.  Along the way, I saw a shopping center that featured a number of good restaurants, including BD’s Mongolian Barbecue.  I was very familiar with that Detroit-based chain, and I made a note to myself to come back here when I had finished my business at the other destination.

And what was that other destination? Amateur Electronic Supply, or AES, on Good Hope Road.  This was a major dealer in amateur radio equipment.  I’d visited their stores in Cleveland and Orlando before.  I didn’t have anything in particular on the shopping list, but I figured I’d look to see what they had.  Out front, they had some real elaborate antenna setups, including one that had to have been for EME, or Earth-Moon-Earth, communications.  Yes, it’s possible to talk to someone on Earth by bouncing signals off of the Moon!  Maybe it was for regular satellite communication.  Anyway, I went inside and walked up and down the aisles, seeing if anything struck me as urgent enough to buy.  First pass, nothing.  I made my way to the restroom, but then I saw the Wouxun transceivers.  I visited those after my trip to the restroom and talked with one of the clerks.  Their main selling point was their very low price, compared to most of the HT’s on the market.  They had been very hot sellers at Dayton Hamvention the last two years.  Now I had misplaced my spare HT at home, and I thought I should get another one.  At $113 or so, that was a compelling price for a spare.  And so I bought one for myself, one good for 2 meters and 220 MHz.

I made my way back to the Bayshore Center, which is where the BD’s was located.  I parked in one of the parking garages and made my way to the restaurant, taking my iPad with me.  This BD’s was like the other BD’s I’d been to, so I knew what to expect.  For starters, I had a salad and some clam chowder.  For my meal, I used fajita-marinated chicken, three pieces of sausage and three pieces of shrimp, along with a number of vegetables (onions, green onions, bean sprouts, pea pods, mushrooms, pineapple - not a vegetable, I know, but I did have some) and spices.  The fajita-marinated chicken must have really made a difference, for the meal was excellent.  I topped it off with a mini-dessert of cookies ‘n’ cream.  Yum!

Now it was time to walk off the meal and check out some of the other stores.  Barnes & Noble?  Nothing there, not today.  Orvis?  Erewhon Outfitters?  Nope.  Even the Apple Store? Plenty of things I would have liked, but I didn’t have the money for them or was holding out for future updates.  And so, I went back to the car and hit the road for Skokie.

As I drove back through downtown and down I-94, I listened to the 60’s on 6 and their countdown of the top 40 songs of the ‘60s from the July 4 period.  The top song? “Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis.  By this time, I was in Illinois, driving down US 41 to avoid the Tri-State Tollway.  It became a freeway again, and I found myself on the Edens Expressway.  Now during the drive, I was inspired to visit the Bahá’í House of Worship, which I hadn’t visited for several years.  Indeed, I didn’t think I’d been since before going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land some 3 1/2 years ago.  I was overdue.  And so, I exited the freeway and made my way over to the House of Worship.  I hadn’t forgotten the way, but with all the renovations taking place, would I be able to find a place to park?  Yes, I would and did.  The standard parking lot was reduced in size, for there was construction nearby.  It was a tight squeeze, finding a place to park in there, but I managed.  Had I not been able to, I could have gone to the overflow lot across Sheridan Road.  But now I could see many of the renovations for myself: the removal of the buildings on the southwest corner of the grounds; a new stone entrance plaza for the House; new railings and walkways; upgraded fountains; and more.  I walked around the House, first using the outer walkway until that was blocked by construction, and then on the upper walkway.  I walked up the 18 steps to the entrance (18 in honor of the 18 Letters of the Living, the first 18 to believe in the Báb) and entered.

I found a seat, took out my prayer book, and offered several prayers, including at least one for the progression of the souls of my late mother and father.  The atmosphere was still conducive to worship, with no change from previous visits.  Well, I hadn’t noticed the orange tree growing inside before, one grown with seeds from trees at the House of the Báb.  I’d seen its cousins on pilgrimage in Haifa. The oranges were very small, very green, and very unripe and immature.  Eventually, though, those oranges would become beautiful and tasty.  Later, after my prayers, I made my way down to the visitor center, which seemed little changed from prior visits.  One major change I noticed was the abolition of the old Cornerstone Room; the room was now part of the main room in the center.  I went inside Foundation Hall briefly, saw the exhibit of Bahá’ís martyred for their faith in Iran in the last 30 years, and was saddened once again by man’s inhumanity to his fellow man because of differences in belief.  I visited the bookstore and picked up a few new items.  I went back to the car, dropped off the books and got out my camera, then went back to document some of the changes.  I took a picture of the new sign out front, made of stone.  I took a picture of one of the improved gardens.  As I walked around, a red-winged blackbird made a menacing pass; I told it to shoo.  I then thought of the incident in the Garden of Ridvan where Abu-Qassim, the garden, pleaded to Bahá’u’lláh to send away the locusts who were eating the leaves from the trees.  I wished that I had the power to send those blackbirds to places where they could nest and not feel threatened by anyone, even if they weren’t looking to harm the nests.

Then it was time to head for the hotel and check in.  I knew the way, although I had to make a few detours due to construction and some No Left Turns.  But soon enough, I had reached Gross Point Road and Skokie Blvd.  But where was the hotel?  It wasn’t where I thought it was; the hotel there was a Comfort Inn (and 17 years earlier, it had been a Howard Johnson’s, and I’d stayed there during a special visit program to the House of Worship).  No, it was up Skokie Blvd. a little ways, on the grounds of the North Shore Theater.  It was also a busy hotel this evening, for two major events were taking place here: a wedding reception and a 20-year high school reunion.  Everyone I saw was really dressed up, probably for the reception, which kicked off before the reunion.  I checked in, got my room (404) and unloaded the car.

I didn’t know what to do for supper.  To be honest, lunch was so filling that I really didn’t feel like supper.  What’s more, the parking lot was so full, I feared not having a place to park if I drove anywhere.  I walked across to the Panera Bread, but I wasn’t hungry enough for a chicken Cobb salad.  I ended up getting a bottle of pop and a bag of potato chips from the hotel convenience store.  I could have gotten these from a grocery store at a lower price, but there again, I’d have lost my parking spot had I done so.  The bottle of pop was good.  Later on, I felt hungrier.  Guess my lunch had finally been digested.  I still wasn’t going to go anywhere, but I didn’t have to; the hotel had room service.  So I ordered a hamburger for delivery to the room, and there I was, at 9 PM (10 by my watch) having a burger and watching the start of the Kitschko-Haye title fight.  The burger was quite good; so was the fight, with Klitschko winning by unanimous decision.  Then it was time for a bit of reading of what I’d bought and/or brought, and after that came bed.


Sunday July 3

I was still operating on Eastern time, for I found myself awake at 5:30 or thereabouts.  But it was really 4:30 here.  The sky was starting to get light at that time, too, which didn’t help.  I didn’t fight it all that hard; in fact, I wanted to be up somewhat early to get a jump on today’s ride.  I didn’t go out immediately; no, I checked e-mail and websites and did a bit more reading.

For a while, I had considered going down to the Chicago Lakeshore Trail and doing some riding there.  But I put that off until later in favor of riding the Green Bay Trail.  Now given where the hotel was located, I wasn’t certain that riding all the way from the hotel to the start of the trail was wise.  In retrospect, I probably could have done it, especially on a Sunday morning.  As it was, though, driving there put me in good position to go to the store afterwards, something that would have been difficult were I on the trike.  And so I drove the three or four miles from the hotel to the start of the trail in downtown Wilmette.  Based on a writeup in the Rail-Trails Midwest book, I expected to see a parking lot near the trailhead (not counting the parking for the commuter rail station nearby).  I did not see one, and so I used one of the metered parking places near the station.  Fortunately, the meters were not in operation on the weekend.  I parked, unloaded the trike, put on sunscreen, then figured out how to mount my trike’s bag without any bungee cords.  I used a Velcro strap that was on the back of the bag; it worked, but the bag hung upside down the whole way.  But I’d zipped it up, so nothing would be coming out.

Around 8:30 by my reckoning, I set out for the trail.  I rode down to Central Avenue, then turned around and picked up the start of the trail for real.  The first part was asphalt, somewhat narrow, in places completely covered by tree growth overhead (nice for keeping cool).  The trail broke, but I found the detour on city streets.  However, the detour had its own detour that I didn’t know how to use, not being familiar with the area.  But I found a way to get back on the trail.  Then came a long stretch of paralleling the Metra line and passing several train stations.  Around 40% of the way through, the trail went from being paved with asphalt to being covered with gravel.  Road bikes might have had some difficulty here, but the trike didn’t.  At times, I was wondering if I had lost the trail whenever it transitioned onto sidewalks or through train station parking lots, but I found my way back to it.

When I saw the intersection with Lake Cook Road, I knew that I had pedaled up to the Lake County line.  Beyond lay Ravinia, perhaps to classical music in Chicago what Pine Knob is to rock music in Detroit.  I pedaled past the entrance to the festival grounds; they were closed at this time of the morning.  As I pedaled northward, I began to look more and more urgently for a park with a restroom.  The temptation of pulling off into the bushes grew, but I resisted.  Finally came the Highland Park Metra station, with two porta-potties in the parking lot!  Salvation for my bladder.  Then I rested for a bit, noticing several packs of bikes riding past on the roadway.  There were signs for a bike trail continuing onward, but I thought I was near the northern end of the trail, anyway, and so I turned around and repeated the trip in the other direction.  This time, the wind, such as it was, was behind me, and I think the trail was going downhill, for the most part.  Not by much, but a little bit. 

About an hour later, I was back in Wilmette.  I stopped at my car to eat some peanuts.  I had just shy of 19 miles on the odometer for the day, and so I decided to add to my total by riding to the House of Worship.  It wasn’t too difficult to do so on a Sunday morning, and soon I found myself at the corner of Sheridan and Linden, gazing at the white domed building.  I didn’t venture on the grounds; I felt I was inappropriately dressed for a place of worship.  If I had had a lightweight robe, I could have worn that, but I didn’t.  So I recited some prayers in sight of the House, and then I pedaled back.  As I went back, I passed a restaurant called J. P. McCarthy’s Pizza and Grill, advertised as “Now Open.”  I had to laugh when I saw the name, for my immediate first impression was of J. P. McCarthy, the late Detroit radio personality, operating the place.  No, I was sure he hadn’t returned from the grave to operate a restaurant.

When I returned to my car, I had 22.1 miles for the day.  That was a good ride, I thought.  It was after 11 (10), still early.  After loading the trike back onto the car, I drove off in search of a gas station.  It didn’t take long to find one, although the prices were some 30 cents a gallon higher than in Michigan.  Here, they were still over $4 a gallon.  I listened to the last hour of Breakfast with the Beatles as I drove to the Jewel store just south of the hotel and bought some caffeine free diet cola and some strawberry carbonated water, along with some snack items.  I went back to my room to load the refrigerator, which I did, and to pick up gift cards that I had brought with me.  I didn’t stay long, for the room had not yet been cleaned; my room service tray from last night was still there.

Then I set off for an REI store I had found was nearby.  It was a few miles north and west of my location, and so I drove up to Lake Avenue and turned left.  The Borders in the shopping center on the northwest corner was one that had closed; I couldn’t tell when I’d passed by there yesterday.  As I drove west, I noticed an area where I could turn off and park for the North Shore Trail; perhaps I’d visit there soon.  But I continued onward until I found the turnoff for Waukegan Road.  There was a Boston Market on that corner I remembered visiting many years ago, before they’d become very widespread.  I turned north on Waukegan and started looking for the REI.  At Willow Road, I found it, and I made my way there.  Was I looking for anything in particular? Well, bungee cords and spokes, neither of which I found.  But I did find a good bike lock and a book on Illinois rail trails, which had more information than the book I had brought with me.  Thanks to one of my birthday presents, a $25 REI gift card, the cost of the book was covered, and the price of the lock was substantially reduced.

Next stop, lunch.  There was a Roti Mediterranean Grill close by.  I looked at the menu, though, and wasn’t impressed.  Down a ways, I thought I saw something saying “Zapata”.  It was in fact a Mexican restaurant called Zapatista.  That seemed more appealing, and so I went there, where I had enchiladas with beans and rice, along with an orange flan for dessert.  The fare was lighter than another recent Mexican place I had been to (not one of my regular haunts).

After lunch, I visited the Best Buy but didn’t find anything there.  I visited the Lowe’s across the way and, after walking up and down a lot of aisles, found bungee cords.  Now I could fasten the bag to the trike with confidence.  And at that point, I decided to return to the hotel by way of Old Orchard.  As I left, I saw a Sheraton hotel.  That got me thinking about the old Sheraton Houston hotel in downtown Houston (no, this hotel looked nothing like it), how I remembered its having changed its name to Sheraton Houston from Sheraton something else.  I learned a few years ago that it used to be the Sheraton Lincoln, but I kinda remembered it as the “Sheraton Hilton” (no, that combination could never happen).  I must have conflated “Sheraton Lincoln” and “Shamrock Hilton”.  But I’m off track here... some 15 to 20 minutes later, I was at the Old Orchard shopping center, getting ticked off because I couldn’t find a parking space close to the LL Bean store.  I had to park much farther down, on the upper level of one of the parking garages, and walk back up to LL Bean.  Once inside, I looked around, saw a few things of interest, and realized that REI had a lot of what LL Bean had, other than the name “LL Bean”.  I didn’t find anything there, and so I returned to the hotel to work on the travelogue, to read my trail book I’d bought today, and to rest.  I was tired!

Now for supper.  I had mentioned in an e-mail that I was considering going to Portillo’s Hotdogs for supper.  But remember that I had considered Middle Eastern food for lunch.  When I looked up Middle Eastern restaurants in Skokie, I found three.  One specialized in Israeli food; not very surprising in a town with a high Jewish population like Skokie.  The menu looked appealing; it was also rather expensive, more than I was willing to spend.  The other two restaurants were Lebanese; I chose one called Basha on Dempster.  It was a small storefront restaurant where you ordered right when you came in.  I ordered a small plate of hummus, a small tabouli, and a beef & chicken shwarma plate.  This turned out to be a very good meal.  The hummus and tabouli were decent-sized proportions, not ridicuously outsized.  It looked like a lot, but I must have been hungry, for I ate the vast majority of my meal, what I cared to eat.  It was good enough to consider paying a return visit, not this trip but on a future trip.  Then it was back to the hotel to rest up and figure out what I wanted to do tomorrow.

During the evening, I heard a lot of kids screaming and being rambunctious down the hall.  I hoped they would calm down before bedtime.  The hotel’s Internet connection was being flaky again; it got to the point where I used my Mi-Fi to provide my own connection for a while.  I certainly used the Mi-Fi when I decided to listen to SiriusXM’s streaming service; I listened to the start of the ‘60s Satellite Survey that had aired yesterday, the one featuring the top songs from the 4th of July period.  The service worked well enough, but I missed a lot of the songs because I was falling asleep.  Yes, I was worn out.  I shut down the broadcast, turned off the Mi-Fi and went to bed.


Monday July 4

I woke up in the middle of the night to find that the light was still on by the bed; I turned it off.  I could also hear more noises from down the hall.  If those kept up, I was tempted to go out and bug them to shut up.  Either they stopped the noise or I fell back asleep quickly, for I wasn’t bothered by them again.  I got up for good around 5:30 (6:30), went to the bathroom, and pondered what to do today.

The weather looked good outside: sunny, a few clouds.  This might be a good day to ride the Lakefront Trail in Chicago. I nibbled on some things I had in the room, and then I got ready for the day.  Yes, I would ride the Lakefront Trail.  I collected my camera, my iPad and a trail book, and then I set off.  It was simple to reach the parking lot for the trail; all I had to do was stay on South US 41.  Now that highway changed streets three times: first it was Skokie Blvd., then it became Lincoln Ave., and then lastly it became Foster Street.  I passed by another shuttered Borders on Lincoln Ave. in the town of Lincolnwood.

At last I reached Lake Shore Drive.  US 41 turned to get onto the Drive, but I continued straight for the parking lot.  And at 7:45 in the morning, the parking lot was well over half-full.  Many families had come out early for their July 4 picnicking plans.  Now even though this was a holiday, you had to pay to park there.  There were automated pay stations around the edge of the lot.  I had to wait several minutes for my turn, as there were several people ahead of me.  I paid for 7 hours worth of parking, or until 3 PM (4 PM by my watch).  That way, I could take my time, if necessary.  It took me a while to unload the bike from the car and prepare it for riding, as other people were parking next to me and getting in and out of their cars.  But I was soon ready to go.  I unzipped my pants legs and went with shorts again.  I applied sunscreen and put on my helmet.  I wore my camera bag around my chest so I could readily access it on the road.  Finally, I was ready -- but not quite.  I felt I needed to use the restroom before heading out.  Fortunately, there were toilets at the bath house for the Foster Street Beach.  I pedaled over there, locked the trike, did my business, unlocked the trike, and set off.

Shortly after getting under way, I saw a sign: 1.0 miles.  The other side said 17.0 miles, so the trail was 18 miles long altogether.  I hadn’t started at the absolute beginning of the trail, so I would need to pick that up on my return.  I continued south, adjusting my camera bag to a comfortable position that didn’t impede my pedaling.  Unfortunately, it did impede my view of the shift lever.  I wasn’t always sure what gear I’d be in.  It was a cool morning by the lakeshore, and it was going to be a sunny day.  That meant the trail would be crowded, too, and it was.  It got busier the closer and closer I got to downtown.  Many of the sights were familiar from Bike the Drive, although the perspective was a bit different seeing them from the trail as opposed to the roadway.  I stopped to take pictures along the way a number of times.

When I passed Fullerton, I was on a section of the trail I had ridden before.  Back in 2009, when my uncle and I biked the Drive, we turned off the northbound ride at Fullerton to take the trail back to downtown.  It was a busy section, and it was busy today.  A long stretch of trail going northwest-southeast was on a slant, making it tricky to ride, but I managed.  Soon, I neared Navy Pier.  It wasn’t completely clear which way the trail went at that point; there was an unofficial bypass to get to the bridge over the Chicago River, and I had taken that before, but today I wanted to ride the official trail.  I did, stopping for a restroom break along the way.  The trail made several turns to get past Navy Pier and onto the bridge, and then on the bridge you had to be very careful not to run into anyone (more so than in other places).

The trail continued southward past the Loop, past the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum, past Soldier Field, past McCormick Place and a park dedicated to fallen firefighters and paramedics.  Past there, the trail took a detour to avoid construction on Burnham Harbor, then continued southward.  The trail wasn’t as crowded down here as in the northern section, but there were definitely other trail users today, as well as those who were picnicking and partying in the park.  I stopped at 47th Street for a breather, then continued on down, past the turnoff for the Museum of Science and Industry.  Now I was going past where Bike the Drive ended.  I even went past where Lake Shore Drive ended.  Now I was getting hungry and fatigued, so I pulled over in a shaded area near La Rapida Children’s Hospital to eat a protein bar I had in my bag.  It had been in the bag for quite a while, but it was still edible, and it was still good.  I continued onward, all the way down to 71st Street and Mile Marker 18, the southern end of the trail.  I took pictures to document my accomplishment.  Now it was time to turn around and head back.

I took some more pictures on the way back and stopped a few more times to rest.  The seat was beginning to get a bit sore.  When I passed the Shedd Aquarium again, I caught sight of a hot dog vendor.  It was lunchtime, and I was hungry.  Time for a left turn, and time for my first Chicago-style hot dog.  Yummy!  I doubt it will be my last Chicago-style hot dog.  I sat on my trike and ate my meal; it was a nice place to eat, although I had no shade.  I pedaled onward, back over the river, past Navy Pier, and up the slanted section of the trail.  This time, though, my left pedal made contact on every round with the steering rod.  I wonder if something on the rod needed to be tightened up?  Once the slant ended, so did the contact.  This stretch of trail was much busier in the afternoon, and it was hard to keep up a good speed.  That didn’t keep some riders from really pedaling all out.

I passed by lots and lots of picnickers and beachgoers as I pedaled northward.  Soon, I was back at Foster Avenue, but I had 3/4 of a mile to go to reach the northern end of the trail.  When I did, I took a picture of that sign and made my way back to my car.  Only then could I say that I had ridden the entire trail in both directions.  I still had an hour and 15 minutes available on my parking pass, but I was tired.  I didn’t feel like doing anything else.  I loaded up the trike and set off for the hotel.  Boy, that air conditioning felt great!  The episode of Jack Benny that was on the Old Time Radio channel sounded great, too.  I made it to the hotel just as that show ended.

It turned out that I hadn’t applied the sunscreen as well as I should have today; that, or it had worn out in some places.  My face was a bit red, while the tops of my knees were quite red; so was my nose.  My right leg was rather sore.  Yes, I’d done a great ride today, but I wasn’t going to ride any more today, nor was I certain about tomorrow.  I was certain that I was going to rest in my room.  No, I didn’t nap.  But I did take a shower later on; that proved to be uncomfortable in certain places, such as my freshly sunburned knees.

Later on, I decided to eat in the hotel for dinner, going down to the hotel restaurant and enjoying some good French onion soup and another good hamburger.  On the TV’s in the bar area, I could see the White Sox game; they were losing for most of the game, but just as I left, a 2-run homer put them ahead in the 8th inning.  Then it was back to the room to work on the travelogue, to digest the food, and to contemplate what I would do tomorrow, especially if I would not be riding the bike.  I looked back over the travelogue and read of the hard drive noises.  I hadn’t heard any of those noises since checking into the DoubleTree.  Of course, the room was much noisier, because the fan on the air conditioner blew constantly.  The noises I’d heard were probably regular noises that I didn’t normally hear at home due to background noise.


Tuesday July 5

Today, I woke up around 5:30 Eastern or so, but I didn’t get up right away. No, I stayed in bed until 7 (6 local), and then I got up.  I think I went back to sleep once or twice.  I did my normal e-mail and web checks and pondered what I would do today.  When I checked Facebook, I received a chat message from one of my Bahá’í friends.  We didn’t chat very long, though, before the hotel Internet connection went flaky again and cut us off.

The weather outside was sunny, with not a cloud in the sky.  That looked like good riding weather.  And with my legs not being sore any more from yesterday’s rides, I felt I could do some riding today.  And so I decided to ride the North Branch Trail, named because it runs closely by the North Branch of the Chicago River.  There were several places I could park and pick it up; I chose the Linne Woods Forest Preserve off of Dempster.

I didn’t have much trouble finding the place, although the entrance seemed to sneak up on me, appearing out of nowhere in a busy suburban setting.  The park was empty, with few vehicles present.  I got out (interrupting a Shadow episode on the Old Time Radio channel), got the trike off the rack, applied sunscreen liberally, and set off on my ride.  I chose to start with the southbound part of the trail first, then head north as conditions permitted.  The trail took a sidewalk along Dempster passed the Metra tracks, then turned to cross the street.  I went across into a shaded area, but I noticed I couldn’t see my mirror.  When I went up to feel for my mirror, I discovered something else: I’d forgotten my helmet.  It was back in my car.  Although riding with a helmet was not legally required except for children, it has become my custom to do so, and so I turned around and went back to the car.  I noticed that the helmet helped to block some of the sun from my eyes, as it turned out.  And so, with helmet on top of head, I set back out on the trail.

The trail reminded me of trails at the Metroparks in Detroit, as well as the Busse Woods Trail in the northwest suburbs.  There was a bit of a climb up an overpass over Oakton and Caldwell Streets, but thanks to the gearing on the trike, I didn’t have too much trouble making it.  I continued southward, at times passing through shaded areas, at others passing through open and sunny areas.  I crossed Howard Street, pedaling quickly to avoid the semi that was coming down the street.  He wasn’t too close, unless I were to suffer a breakdown in the roadway.  Fortunately, I didn’t.  The next intersection was Touhy, which involved a kink in the trail.  Then there came an intersection -- which way to go? I went right.  This took me to Caldwell Woods in the city of Chicago, at Devon and Milwaukee.  I took a few pictures at that intersection, including the figures of hot dogs atop the Superdawg hot dog restaurant on Milwaukee.  Now that Caldwell Woods spur involved a short, steep climb at the end.  I’d downshifted in preparation for it, but I could not get up it.  I had to push the trike up it, which wasn’t easy.  How do you hold onto the handlebars of an underseat steering bike or trike? You can’t, not really.  And speaking of underseat steering, I saw an underseat steered two-wheeler on the trail, along with two or three other recumbents (no other trikes, though).

After I connected up with the main trail again, I took that to its end, also at Devon Avenue.  As I approached, I heard a tornado siren go off, very loudly.  That’s because it was right across the street.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and this wasn’t when I would have expected to hear a siren test, and so I wondered briefly if there was some other emergency situation.  I looked at my watch: the top of the hour.  That suggested that it was most likely a test.  Not being a Chicago resident, I’m not familiar with its testing schedule, which wouldn’t have to be the same as Westland’s testing schedule.  Later, when I checked the web, I found that it indeed was the regularly scheduled testing time.

I headed back north on the trail, stopping for a bathroom break at one point and rest breaks at a couple of others.  With all the riding I had done over the last few days, I might have been on the verge of overdoing it.  I didn’t want to do that.  Later, as I pedaled, I saw a deer getting ready to cross the trail in front of me.  I started to reach for my camera, but the deer had already crossed and gone back into the woods.  It was just as well, for just then, a bike came hurtling around the curve at high speed.  A few seconds earlier and poor reaction on the part of either cyclist or deer, and there could have been a collision.

A few minutes later, and I was back across Dempster and near my vehicle.  I checked the map next to the trail; it suggested that the cutoff between the north and south portions of the trail was Golf Road, the next major intersection to the north.  I was getting weary and more than a bit hungry, and so I figured I might go up to Lake Avenue and then turn around.  And so I pressed onward.  This stretch of the trail was rather shady and comfortable.  At times I thought I heard the sound of a marching band playing.  Shortly thereafter, I rode past what appeared to be a school, so I might have heard summer band practice.  Not too long after that, I saw a horse on the trail.  Actually, it was on a parallel trail.  The horse was well ahead of me, so I was never in danger of spooking it.  I continued onward and up to Golf Road, and then I crossed.  The next stretch of trail was out in the open, and that sun was getting warm.  I continued northward, past a picnic area and then up to the Old Orchard Road intersection.  Here, I decided to turn around, for I was running out of steam.  Some 15 minutes later, I was back at my car, loading the trike back on the rack.  18.29 miles for the day, not too bad, I thought.  And I was looking forward to eating at that McDonald’s across the street.

Unfortunately, the parking lot at that McDonald’s was full, so I couldn’t eat there.  I went eastward on Dempster, hoping to encounter another McDonald’s -- which I did, at the intersection with Niles Center Road.  Here, I had some Chicken Selects, a Sprite (followed by a glass of water) and an Oreo McFlurry.  I wouldn’t normally have such sugary things, but after the ride, I felt I needed an energy boost.  That food was good!  Now with lunch out of the way, I drove up to the Old Orchard to walk around a bit.  I spent some time at the Apple Store before visiting the Barnes and Noble.  Interestingly enough, they had another new book on bike riding in and around Chicago, different from the one I’d bought at REI Sunday (that one was for all of Illinois, by the way).  I picked up a copy, then walked around the rest of the store, seeing if there was anything else of interest.  There wasn’t, so I went to check out.  Now I didn’t see the price anywhere on the book, so I asked the clerk for a check.  $24.95, it was, and with my B&N membership, it would have been less.  And so, I used the $25 gift card I’d received for my birthday and bought the book, and got a little bit of change back in the process.  I’d have to read it this afternoon in the hotel room.

It turned out that my hotel room hadn’t been cleaned today, even though it was nearing 2 local time.  I wasn’t too thrilled by that, but neither did I want to stay in the lobby while it was being cleaned.  And so I hung out the Do Not Disturb sign and rested.  I drank some diet colas, quite a few in fact.  I might have to go and get some more.  I read the bike book; I checked e-mail; I worked on the travelogue.  At temperatures in the high 80’s with few clouds in the sky, I felt like staying in. 

Now what would I do for supper this evening? Sweet Tomatoes, a salad buffet restaurant, sounded very appealing.  But was there one on this side of town, or was the one in Schaumburg the closest?  Looking on the Net gave me the answer: there was one in Glenview, not that far from the REI I visited on Sunday.  And there was a Target close by, as well.  I could visit that after supper for some goodies.  And so I drove out Golf Road, crossing the path I had pedaled some hours earlier, turned north on Waukegan, and headed to the restaurant.  I knew what to expect when I got there, and I got it: delicious salads (the ones you make yourself had better be delicious!), good bread, good soup, good pasta.  You won’t leave hungry.  I sure didn’t.  Afterwards, I went to Target to pick up some more pop for the refrigerator and some Clif bars for eating while on the trike.  Then it was back to the hotel.  I had to navigate through suitcases in the lobby to avoid flight crews who had just arrived from international flights.  It struck me as odd why the flight crews come to a hotel that’s not all that close to O’Hare.  It is a good hotel, but surely there are closer hotels that are just as good.  That got me to thinking about the hotels that are closest to the House of Worship.  This DoubleTree certainly qualifies as a candidate, although I suspect that hotels in Evanston would be closer.  I took it easy the rest of the evening.


Wednesday July 6

I think I woke up around 5 briefly, then tried going back to sleep.  I’m pretty sure I succeeded, for I woke up for good around 6:30 to 7.  I followed the same routine as I have been these last few days: checking the e-mail and the web, nibbling on some cookies for breakfast, etc.  This morning, I put on the Weather Channel but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary except for video of a dust storm in Phoenix.  Looked like the ones I’ve seen from Kuwait (seen by video and picture, that is).

Now yesterday I was wondering if I would be riding at all today.  Would I be too sore or too tired to ride?  It might have seemed like that yesterday, but today, I felt pretty good.  I would indeed go for another ride.  But where to ride? I consulted the Where To Bike guide for ideas.  My inclination was to go to the west side; that way, I’d be well positioned to visit Fry’s afterwards.  Then I saw a good ride: the Salt Creek Trail ride through Bemis Woods Forest Preserve (and a few others), including a possible visit to the Brookfield Zoo.  That was where I’d go today.  And so, I set off.  As rush hour was still on, I didn’t take any freeways or tollways to get there.  I made my way across town through several major roadways and several suburbs (Skokie to Gross Point to Howard to Prospect to Touhy to Mannheim to Ogden).  This took me through downtown Park Ridge (there’s an old theater there) and right past O’Hare Airport.  I didn’t have much trouble finding the parking for the forest preserve, and after arriving, I prepared for the ride.

My water bottle was nearly empty, and I was under the impression that water would be available here at the preserve.  But I didn’t see any right away, so I set off on the trail, thinking I’d encounter some en route.  When I got to the first crossover, though, I turned around.  I had to go to the bathroom, and I also felt I really should fill up with water before I rode.  I couldn’t fill the bottle in the bathroom; the sink wouldn’t let me put the bottle at the right angle.  I pedaled to another area in the preserve; if I didn’t find any water, I would call off the ride.  Just then, I noticed a hand-pumped well off to the right.  I could continue the ride!  Well, maybe I could; I pumped for a while, but no water was forthcoming.  Soon, though, water began to flow, and I filled the bottle.  It had a funny taste, which well water often does (I don’t recall the well at Busse Woods having a funny taste, though), but it was drinkable.  And so, with bladder empty but bottle full, I set off on the ride.

The trail was part of the Salt Creek Trail, which I want to call the Saltgrass Trail.  The main leg ran some 7 miles, crossed a number of busy highways, and ended just north of the Brookfield Zoo.  The trail was completely paved and was mostly shaded, though there were a few open areas.  The trail had a few ups and downs, nothing too major.  I did have problems crossing one highway where the traffic was spaced just so, making it too difficult for me to cross.  Eventually, I was able to get across.  I also took the trail to the west, where it went underneath the Tri-State Tollway and onto Canterberry Street, which had several gated homes.  I took the street to its end then turned around and headed back for my car.

Before the end of my ride, there were two girls pedaling in the opposite direction who suddenly slowed down and stopped, pointing to something in the distance.  I slowed down, too, to see what it was.  It was two deer down below, at creek level.  One was smaller than the other; I presume it was a mother deer and her young fawn, grazing and/or drinking.  I didn’t stop, but I pedaled very quietly.  This was a time when I regretted not bringing my camera with me on the ride.  It was back in the car because I did not want the bag hanging around my neck for the ride.

When I reached my car, I had 19.97 miles.  I knew that if I reached 22 miles, I would have 400 for the year, and so I rode for 2 1/2 more miles back on the trail and around the parking lot to get over 22.  That was a major milestone for me.  It turned out that I had missed out on another milestone, but I didn’t know that until after updating my ride log.  If I had just gone 0.05 miles more, I would learn later, I would have reached 100 miles for the week, 100 miles for the rides I’d made on this trip. 

After the ride, I packed up and set out westbound on Ogden, making my way toward Fry’s.  I listened to an episode of Philo Vance on the Old Time Radio channel on the way over, a decent episode, in my opinion.  As the episode reached its climax, I had reached Butterfield Road.  Now what to do about lunch?  I remembered a Fuddrucker’s on the way to Fry’s.  Yes, it was still there, and that’s where I ate.  As for Fry’s, well, I saw a number of things.  I always see a number of things when I go there, but today, there wasn’t anything that I was in desperate need of.  I left without getting anything except wet.  Yes, it was starting to rain as I left.  My bike seat was about to get soaked.  That cancelled any thoughts of driving up to Schaumburg to ride around Busse Woods today.  After a brief stop at a Best Buy up the street, I made my way back to the hotel.  The route was similar to the outbound trip, no freeways or tollways.  I knew I’d made a good decision when I saw the backup on the inbound Eisenhower Expressway as I drove over it.

Back at the hotel, I saw that the room had indeed been serviced today, a good thing. I spent some time resting, reading, and working on the travelogue.  And this was when I discovered that I was 0.05 miles short of 100 for the week.  How would I make up that differential?  The easy way would have been to ride around the parking lot, but I wanted to do more than that.  As I rested, the more I figured that I was up for another ride, but a short ride.  And there was one in the Where to Bike book that fit the bill: a ride along the shoreline in Evanston, a ride that also took in the Northwestern University campus.

I figured out how to get to the ride starting point and set off from the hotel.  The streets became narrower as I made my way into Evanston, and the neighborhoods flipped from suburban to a small downtown setting.  At one point, I passed a spot where there was a Jewel supermarket on the west side of the road and a Whole Foods Market on the east side.  A turn to the left to the end of the street, and there was the lakeside park.  There was parallel parking on the street; I got my space, unloaded my bike, and put up my rack to leave more space for those parking behind me.  Bag loaded, helmet on, I started up the trail, stopping at a water fountain to refill my bottle.  The trail was rather busy, paralleling the beach as it did.  The trail ended right at the Northwestern campus, at which point Northwestern’s own trails took over.  Part of the campus protruded out into the lake, and this was covered with trails.  This was a very popular hangout for students and the public, and it wasn’t hard to see why.  At the north end was the soccer stadium where a game or a practice was in progress.  Off in the distance past the south end, you could see downtown Chicago.  And out in the lake, you could see all sorts of sailboats.  I think I spent 45 minutes to an hour there riding around the various combinations of trails, putting 7.57 miles on the odometer.  There, I had my 100 miles and then some!

When I returned to my vehicle, I found that someone had parked so close to the back of my car that I could not lower the rack.  Fortunately, the spaces in front of me were empty, so I parked my bike and moved my car up a few feet for the loading.  Then I did a U-turn in the street to backtrack my path.  That’s when I saw a One Way sign at the end of the street that I didn’t see the first time, so I immediately did another U-turn and continued in the proper direction.  Good thing the cop who was there when I parked wasn’t there when I left!

Before leaving Evanston, I drove around for a short time.  Now many years ago, when I took the train to Chicago for an overnight stop, I had taken the El up to Evanston to visit the Chicago Main Newsstand, which said that it featured magazines and out of town newspapers.  Was the business still there today?  It was indeed, with a sign that hadn’t changed since who knows when.  Was it open? The sign said yes, but I didn’t go in.  I was a bit surprised that it was there, for I question the market for out of town newspapers in this day and age of the World Wide Web.  I looped around and then headed back toward Skokie, thinking about what I would do for supper.  Suddenly, inspiration hit me: there was a Bakers Square north of the Old Orchard mall.  Bakers Square had pulled out of Detroit several years ago, and this was the first one I’d seen in a long time.  I had to wait to find a parking spot, but I did get one, and I went inside.  The menu hadn’t changed much, although the prices had gone up, I thought.  I had the chicken tenders meal, a meal I’d had many times before at the Bakers Square in Westland (now a Chinese buffet).  There was a group of 6 or 7 high school or young college students at the next table over, talking about various things.  Then it was back to the hotel to the sounds of the Underground Garage on SiriusXM (“My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Raveonettes, and “Tell Me What You See” by the Beatles).


Thursday July 7

My sleep tonight wasn’t as sound as on previous nights; I do recall waking up a couple of times; in neither case was it for long.  I woke up around 6:30/5:30 for good, as it was starting to get light outside.  I did feel a little bit sore; not too much, but enough to be noticeable.  It may have been more fatigue than outright soreness.  But on this, my last full vacation day in Chicago this trip, I did not want to ride the trike this morning.  Maybe I would feel like it later in the day or in the evening.

I decided to drive over to Schaumburg today. Although the Busse Woods Forest Preserve and bike trail was over there, I didn’t think I would be inclined to ride it today.  First, though, I went to the Best Buy just across the street from the hotel.  Did they have anything I wanted?  Specifically, did they have a new version of Microsoft Streets and Trips?  No, they didn’t.  They didn’t have the old version.  And so I left without getting anything.  I tried to get onto Golf Road for the trip across town, but the backup was too long.  I ended up going north a bit and looping around the Old Orchard mall before getting back to Golf Road.  From here, it wasn’t difficult to get to Schaumburg at all: just stay on Golf Road.  I’d done it many times without trouble, and today was no different.

My first stop once I reached Schaumburg was the Borders store just north of Woodfield Mall.  It was one that had not closed, unlike ones closer to Skokie.  I went inside and looked around for a while, paying a bit more attention to the local interest section, but all I ended up getting was today’s Chicago Tribune.  The paper looked different than I remembered; it was now in a tabloid format.  Wikipedia said that back in 2009, newsstand and box sales changed to the tabloid format, while home delivery stayed with the traditional broadsheet format.  I did not know that.  I briefly visited the Land’s End Inlet store (what most would call an outlet store) but didn’t get anything there.

Now what would I do for lunch?  There was a Sweet Tomatoes close by, but having just been to one, I wasn’t in the mood for it.  The siren song of fast food did not affect me today.  But I recalled two restaurants over at the mall, PF Chang’s and Texas de Brasil, and both of those would make excellent lunch choices.  My preference was for Texas de Brazil and its churrascuria, which wasn’t convenient in Detroit (I’m referring specifically to Texas de Brazil, which had recently opened in downtown Detroit for dinner only; the Gaucho Steakhouse in Northville was open for lunch and dinner); as two PF Chang’s were located close to me back home, I could go to one anytime I wished.  As I parked the car and made my way through Sears and to the second level, I decided that I’d go to PF Chang’s only if Texas de Brazil was not open.  But it was open, and so I had the churrascuria lunch.

Now if you are not a vegetarian and want to eat a very filling meal, you could and should visit a Brazilian steakhouse.  The meal begins with a salad and vegetable bar buffet that also offers hot peppers, the occasional cold cut of meat, various cheeses, and a soup (today’s was cream of asparagus).  You could make a whole meal out of this section, perhaps even a vegetarian meal.  But the highlights have to be the various meats that the gauchos come around with to the tables and serve you right off of the spits.  I don’t remember how many different meats I had yesterday, perhaps some five or six.  There’s also mashed potatoes and banana to accompany the meal.  I had been to Texas de Brazil a few times in the past, enjoying it each time, and this time was no exception.  The only thing I didn’t care for was the bill; this is not an inexpensive meal. 

After lunch, I needed to walk around the mall to help with digestion, to help my stomach settle everything down.  I visited a store new to me called Marbles: The Brain Store, which focused on toys, puzzles, and training to help you think, to exercise the brain.  Suddenly, I got an urge to visit the restroom.  Nature was calling, loudly.  It’s a horrible feeling to have, but when one must, one must.  All other thoughts were pushed aside in the hunt for a restroom.  It took me a while, but I found one down by Nordstrom, and I did what I had to do.  Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, for I had to make repeated trips to a restroom over the next hour or so.  I suspected that something I had had at lunch today was disagreeing with me, and rather violently at that.  What to do?  Forget about visiting the nearby Best Buy and return to the hotel, that was what to do, and stop at a drugstore along the way if necessary.

When I got back to the car, I checked the tires on the trike.  The left rear one was rather flat last night, and so I’d pumped it up.  Now, though, it was completely flat.  Something had gone wrong with it, and it was in need of repair or replacement.  There was nothing I could do there in the parking lot; I would wait to look at it until returning to the motel.  The drive back to Skokie was uneventful in terms of driving; in terms of the news, the big story on the BBC World Service was the announcement that the News of the World newspaper was going out of business as of this coming Sunday, the result of an ongoing scandal and criminal investigation.  Fortunately, I did not feel any additional urges to visit the restroom and thus saw no need to visit a drugstore.

Back at the hotel, I tried to remove the wheel from the trike, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so.  The disc brake was the problem, and I didn’t know how to take that apart.  Fortunately, I didn’t need to take the wheel off in order to take the tire and inner tube off.  But I did have to remove the trike from the rack and flip it over on the pavement.  With the tire off, I examined it closely.  There was something suspicious in it, like something small and metallic had poked through.  I could see it on both sides of the tire, so that was something that had to come out, and it did.  There seemed to be a weak spot in the inner tube corresponding to that damage, although I couldn’t detect a leak from there when I put air back into the tire.  Still, I thought I should patch the weak spot, just in case.  Then the tire went back on, I pumped up the tube, and things seemed to be holding up.  I put the trike back on its rack and went back to the room to clean up and rest up.

Whatever had caused my problems in the afternoon had gone by the evening.  I was in the mood to repeat the Evanston bike ride of yesterday, but with a camera this time.  Whether I did or not depended on whether the tire had leaked or not.  When I checked, it seemed it hadn’t leaked, and so the ride was on.  I drove back over to Evanston, to the same place I’d parked yesterday, and got ready for the ride.  With the camera bag on my chest, I set off up the trail.  I didn’t pedal particularly hard today, for my interest was in the pictures, not so much the ride.  And the pictures were coming out pretty well.  On the trail, I got a good picture of a bunny rabbit that was looking around, as well as a good closeup of the rabbit, thanks to the zoom lens.  A picture of a different rabbit didn’t turn out as well, but pictures of the campus turned out all right.  Then there were the pictures of downtown Chicago and sailboats on the lake, which for the most part turned out just fine.  I had problems with the zoom lens tending to zoom out all the way, and I couldn’t zoom it back in except if I took my finger off of the shutter button.  After returning home and reading the instruction manual, I figured out that I was causing the problem by how I held the camera.  The position that felt natural for me had my thumb on top of a button that caused precisely the behavior I was seeing.  Either I’d have to change how I held the camera or find a way to disable that button.

As I returned from the ride, I wasn’t sure what to do about supper.  I figured I’d finally try the Portillo’s Hot Dogs, but when I got up to the counter, I couldn’t decide what I wanted.  I finally decided I didn’t want anything there, so I left.  In the car, I searched for a nearby Baja Fresh restaurant; unfortunately, the closest ones were back in Detroit. I ate at the hotel restaurant, having another crock of French onion soup but going with a spinach salad served with chicken, a good contrast to the lunch today.  Then after retrieving my camera from the car, it was up to the room for the night for photo downloading, identifying, mailing, etc.


Friday July 8

Well, this was it, my last day of vacation, not counting the upcoming weekend.  I got up around 6:20/5:20 and did my usual web checking and e-mail checking.  I wasn’t yet in a hurry.  Later on, I took a shower, and once I had dried off from that, I started to pack in earnest.  I didn’t have that much to pack, although I would be leaving with more than what I brought.  In terms of things to load in the car, the food and drink would be the prime difference.  By 9:20 or so, I was all set to leave.  I had packed everything and reviewed the bill that had been slipped under the door.  When I checked out, I dropped off my key and let the desk clerk know that the Do Not Disturb sign for my room had disappeared.

By 9:30/8:30 I was on the road.  I thought I should take the Tri-State Tollway around town to hopefully avoid any traffic tie-ups, so I drove west on Dempster, stopping to fill up the tank along the way, until I reached the entrance for the tollway.  There, I headed south.  At the first Oasis I came to, I stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s.  When I left, it was just before 10:30.  I flipped over to CNN, which was covering the final space shuttle launch.  I listened to its coverage the whole time I was on the tollway and even when I had made it to Indiana.  By that time, the launch time was approaching.  But traffic slowed down when I neared I-65. I started to get concerned that I might be under an overpass when the launch took place.  That proved not to be the case, and I heard the shuttle go up.  The launch sounded flawless.  That is one thing I have never done, seen a rocket launch in person, manned or unmanned.  It’s always been via video.  Now I have seen shuttles in person when mounted on their 747 carrier; I can remember one doing a pass when I was in high school, and I saw the Challenger at Ellington Air Force Base in 1982 before it went into active service.

The drive through the rest of Indiana was uneventful.  Soon, I was at the Michigan border, stopping at the rest area and welcome center for a stretch, a restroom break, and a chance to pick up some literature.  The welcome center had literature for all parts of Michigan, as well as special racks for certain activities -- camping, fishing, boating, and bicycling.  On the bike rack (pun not necessarily intended), I saw flyers for some upcoming rides, including one in Jackson in August.  I took one, thinking I might want to participate.  Then it was back to I-94.

Now north of Benton Harbor, I had a decision to make.  I wasn’t going directly home; no, I was going to Lansing to watch the Lugnuts play the West Michigan Whitecaps in the evening. The shortest route to Lansing would have me take I-94 to I-69.  If I took I-196, I would add maybe 20 miles to the route, but I would pass through areas I hadn’t seen before.  Time was definitely not a consideration, and so I chose I-196.  This took me near South Haven, Saugatuck and Holland, although I didn’t really see any of those places from the freeway.  It did put me into Grand Rapids from the southwest, though.  I had lunch at the Steak & Shake restaurant on 44th Street, then continued onward, noting how I could see downtown Grand Rapids off in the distance.

To kill some time, I stopped at a Schuler’s Books north of town and at a Best Buy across the street.  I had passed by these places a month earlier on a bus trip to Sparta to visit a tape supplier’s facility; the Best Buy had been a restroom stop, and it served as one for me today.  Once again, they did not have the latest version of Streets and Trips.  It looked like I’d have to order it from somewhere.  As for the bookstore, I picked up the latest two issues of the UK Doctor Who magazine.  Then I applied the second lock to my trike.  I didn’t want anyone to mess with it while I was at the ballgame.

Now it was getting later, and I started on my way to Lansing by way of the old road.  In the Grand Rapids area, it was Cascade Road, but once it reached the Ionia County line, it became Grand River Avenue, the same Grand River Avenue in East Lansing and Detroit.  The roadway wasn’t very busy at all, as it would have been had I-96 not existed.  I listened to Old Time Radio and a number of other stations on the way over to Lansing, stopping for gas at a Pilot truck stop near Ionia and getting a drink and two cookies.  Once I reached Lansing, I hopped onto I-69 for the trip over to Eastwood Town Center, where I knew I could find a Dick’s Sporting Goods.  I was pretty sure they’d have an inner tube for the trike.  When I looked at first, though, the only tubes they had were too wide.  But in another section, I found a tube that would work with the tires I had.  It also had anti-flat sealant inside.  Afterwards, I went to the Schuler Book’s across the parking lot, but I didn’t get anything there.  Then it was off to Cooley Law School Stadium to see the Lugnuts play baseball.

I parked in my usual location at the Lansing Center across from the ball park, and then I applied sunscreen because I knew I’d be in the sun this evening.  It was Armed Forces Night at the park, and as I walked in I was handed a small flag to wave.  It was small enough that I could put the flagstick in my shirt pocket.  I walked around for a bit, and then I picked up my dinner for the evening: foot-long hot dog, chips, and a bottle of water.  It was warm eating it in my seat behind home plate, right next to the tunnel leading underneath the stands.

Tonight’s game wasn’t much different from other games I’d attended.  Sitting in front of me were employees of one of the two clubs, who were gathering information on the pitchers, recording the speeds and positions of the pitches they made and how the batters responded.  A local men’s chorus sang the National Anthem.  During one of the breaks, staff members tossed T-shirts into the stands.  On previous occasions, this was done by firing them from a gun into the stands, but I was present when one of those shots launched a T-shirt all the way up to the roof of the suites!  The next time I was present three weeks later, the shirt was still there.  I couldn’t see it tonight, though; it had either rolled back from the edge or been retrieved.  Later on came the hot dog gun and various other activities.  And of course, there was baseball.  The game was a tight one the whole way, with Lansing striking first, only to have West Michigan tie it an inning and a half later.  The next half-inning, though, Lansing recaptured the lead, and that was how it ended: Lansing won, 2-1.  Some 10 minutes after the ballgame ended, the fireworks started.

Once the fireworks had ended, I quickly made my way to my car and got under way.  Cedar Street was still blocked off to the north, but I was able to exit the lot and head south towards the freeway.  As I drove homeward, I listened to MLB Network Radio until I got within range of Detroit, at which time I turned on the Tiger game.  Shortly after 11, I was home.  But I couldn’t just go inside; I had to take the trike off of the rack, for I was unable to close the garage door with it still on the car.  Then I unpacked the car of the essentials, leaving the rest for tomorrow.  The house was a very warm 85 degrees, so on went the air conditioning, and on went the dehumidifier in the basement after I dumped the tank. Open went the windows upstairs to help cool off the place, and on went the fan in my bedroom.  I hooked up the laptop and plugged in my backup drive so that everything I’d done in the last week would be saved.


Saturday July 9

For some reason, I woke up around 3 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, and so I worked on the travelogue for a while.  An hour later, I tried to go back to sleep again, and I succeeded.  I didn’t get up until 8:30 or so.  Today, I would unpack, take the trike rack off of the car, and recover from the vacation.  I’d also catch up on TV recordings I had made during the week, such as the premiere of Torchwood: Miracle Day, The Big C, and the shuttle launch. Sunday, I would do laundry, post some pictures on Facebook, repair the bike tire.


Now that I think about it, I am sure that I enjoyed this trip more than I would have the trip to Minnesota and possibly South Dakota.  That might seem strange, given that I’m rather familiar with certain aspects of Chicago while I’ve never spent any real time in the Twin Cities or in South Dakota.  But the schedule I had set up for the original trip would have involved a lot of time behind the wheel and not a lot of time at any one destination.  I would have been always on the go, and not in a desirable way.  It’s one thing to be moving under your own power, such as my bike riding.  That’s not the same as a long drive, sitting behind the wheel for hours at a stretch.  That wasn’t what I needed, not at this time.  I’m glad I had the guts and foresight to change my plans.  As for scouting out the ferry for my aunt, that turned out to be unnecessary as my uncle’s surgery was postponed indefinitely unless or until it became necessary.  Good for him.

Now I would like to ride the SS Badger someday so I can compare it with the Lake Express.  The Badger is the classic ferry experience, and I want to learn what I’ve missed out on the last two times I’ve had to cancel.  Perhaps I could repeat this trip next year using the Badger instead of the Lake Express, or perhaps working it so that I took the ferry eastbound to Michigan rather than to Wisconsin. Or maybe I could make that desired trip to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.  But before then, I have other trips to make.




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©2011 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
Revised July 10, 2011