Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 29 - August 1 - Needed - not just legs of steel but nerves of steel in suburban Chicago

Day 29 - August 1 -   Rockford, Il  to Evanston, Il-84.5 miles (136.0 kms); total so far -  2385.7 miles  (3703.5 kms)

Distance: 84.5 miles (136.0 kms)
Total time:10hrs 45 mins (including lunch,and  a lengthy detours in Arlington Heights to visit the graves) 
Average Moving Speed: 13.6mph (21.9 kph)
Maximum Speed: 28.1mph (45.2 kph) 
Calories burned: 3749
Elevation gained: 1539 ft (1274 meters)

Weather:  Sunny and  quite muggy in  east Rockford at 9:30am in the morning with temperatures about 75degF (22C) with northwest winds at 5-10 mph (10-16kph). The day warmed a bit and stayed quite muggy reached 84F (29C) later in the day.   The wind helped me throughout the day.

Powered by: (not enough)   Breakfast - 2 bowls of Raisin Bran,  small muffin, lots of orange juice; Lunch of a veggie sandwich, lots of water; and   1 liter of water on the way.  I was bonking later in the day.

The original plan was to ride to the western suburbs but the scale of the traffic in exurban and suburban Chicago, combined with the atrocious road conditions, made the offer of a pickup on the north side very attractive.  Starting on the east side of Rockford, I stopped off in Belvidere where I worked at a Jolly Green Giant plant in summer 1970, my first summer in the US.  Belvidere has grown a lot over the past 43 years but I'm not sure for the better.  Downtown looks quite empty and deserted and the usual sprawl on the outskirts.  I passed a theater where I think I attended some films in that summer.  I remember most the heat and humidity that was (at the time) very unfamiliar; my trip there this time was on a cool beautiful low humidity day.  The plant has become part of the General Mills food empire and I don't know if it still packs peas and corn.   My initial task was to report by radio back to the plant when a full truck left the fields but  I was quickly moved to the assembly line when it became apparent that the supervisors in the plant could not understand my accent. 

Apollo theater in Belvidere - seems closed to me

Still some signs that it was once a Jolly Green Giant plant

The General Mills plant is greatly expanded over its 1970 size

Leaving Belvidere for Chicago, about 90 miles to the southeast, I took route 20 which initially had a shoulder that soon disappeared.  The road was heavily traveled especially by trucks. I could not understand this since the tollway, a major highway, paralled the route a few miles away. Maybe the trucks and cars were avoiding the tolls but the towns on the route, especially Marengo, are clearly under severe pressure.  The road is two-lane, narrow with no shoulder, and is very dangerous for bicycling.  I got off it as soon as I could and zig-zagged my way on suburban streets to Arlington Heights, and the graves of my parents-in-law.  I don't understand how townships and counties can allow unrestrained retail and residential developments without upgrading the old country roads that service these developments, or even more, why planners don't insist on sidewalks and bike lanes for their approval of new projects.

Another exurban development planned in the cornfields - about 60 miles from Chicago's center

Busy suburban street at rush hour - terrible for bicycling but this one has a sidewalk alternative

Riding on the heavily-traveled streets with no shoulders requires nerves of steel and trust in drivers.  I had two episodes that convinced me that this was no place for bicycling.  The first was a car that came very close to me on a particularly narrow stretch and to avoid being brushed, I headed off into the soft, gravel-covered shoulder (margin).I did not know that the gravel covered about 5  inches of sand and as my front tire sank into it, I capsized and hit the dirt. I was not hurt except for a knee scrape and I lost a water bottle that I did not recognize till later.  The second occurred when I  hit a particularly big pothole in the gutter on which I was riding.  The left pannier popped off and was hit by the wheel of a truck following closely. The driver stopped immediately but not before the pannier was scraped along the ground by the truck tire. Luckily for me, there was nothing damaged inside except toothpaste and some other tubes of creams.  If it has been the other pannier, my computer would have been destroyed.

My pannier got 'runned over' by a truck

After the second episode, I picked streets with sidewalks to make my way to Evanston, and the meeting point with my friend, Nancy.  It was not until I reached Evanston that I saw the first bike lanes marked on the streets.  The cold beer and nuts that Nancy brought were very welcome.

I'll take tomorrow off to do some work on the bike, buy some supplies and try to catch up on some other work.  Weighing myself, I found that I've gained 2 lbs on the trip so far. (Or the scales may not be accurate).   It must be the double dinners that I've been eating on most nights but I feel more svelte than when I started.

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