The official user's manual for sunshine

Bike, Swim, Run: A Triathlete Weathers the Warmth

Bicycling, User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

freddy bike

Fredricka Holloway, forty, is a youth worker and a triathlete. She lives in South Shore. She ran her first triathlon in 2007 and has run forty more races since then. 

It’s 5:04am and the glimmer of new light grazes the horizon and crawls across the calm waters of Lake Michigan as I stand and stretch at 63rd Street Beach. This is the only time of year that the sun rises early enough for my morning run to coincide with it and with the growing warmth and occasional breeze that smells of manure and fresh-cut grass. This moment, plus a calendar full of triathlete races for me to conquer, is when I recognize that summer is officially here.
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Beer, Bikes and Brats: Up the Mississippi and across the Badger State without a car

Bicycling, Parks & the Great Outdoors, Road Trips No Comments »

By John Greenfield

If you’re a car-free Chicagoan, you don’t have to hit up Hertz to take a kick-ass road trip this summer. Here in the nation’s railroad hub, bicycle plus train is a powerful combo, not just for getting around the metro area but the entire Midwest.

Case in point is the beer-soaked bike camping trip my buddies and I took earlier this month along the Mississippi River, across Wisconsin and back using Amtrak and Metra. It was our annual Men’s Trip, a chance for the married guys to take a break from family obligations, and since most of the guys are serious beer snobs we planned our itinerary around brewpub visits. Late spring wind and rain made this tour a bit of a death march for us, but if you’d like to try the route (tinyurl.com/brewpubride) it’d be a blast to ride in July sunshine.

On a Wednesday evening we loaded our touring bikes with tents and sleeping bags and hauled them aboard Amtrak’s Carl Sandburg line to Kewanee, Illinois, near the shoulder of the state. Soon we’re flying west across the prairie past dozens of white modern windmills tinted pink by the setting sun.

When we pull into Kewanee, a sign says we’re in the “Hog Capital of the World,” so down the street at the Pioneer Club I tackle a breaded pork tenderloin horseshoe sandwich. The horseshoe is a downstate Illinois specialty often called “a heart attack on a plate”—white bread, fries and a protein, drowned in cheese sauce.

We camp up the road at a park donated to the city by Fred Francis, an oddball inventor, artist, poet and nudist. In the morning I tour Woodland Palace, the futuristic dream home Francis built on the site in 1890, featuring wind-powered heating and cooling systems, automatic doors and many other clever gadgets. I’m most excited to see his bicycle, with a seat installed over the front wheel so he could carry his wife Jeanne to church. Read the rest of this entry »

Wheels and Grills: Keeping track of the all-you-can-eat pancakes at Bike the Drive

Bicycling No Comments »

It’s another lazy Sunday downtown. The sun is low above the lake; stores are closed, and the trains are sparsely populated. Then 20,000 bicycles hit Lake Shore Drive. Their peddlers are welcoming summer and biking the Drive. Some are not yet old enough to drive, and others bike a drive, a street or avenue every day. Some ride pricey bikes built for speed, and others drive rented tandems at a slow pace. The idle thirteen gallons of syrup under a tent in Butler Field, however, will please the rolling multitudes indiscriminately.

“How are they tasting?” yells out Tim Lane, the man in charge of feeding thousands of hungry hotcake hunters. A member of his team is testing the first of countless pancakes to be flipped and served at Bike the Drive. The surrounding tents are peddling energy bars and energy drinks to the morning peddlers, but Tim and his team from Goose Island, under a black tent, are making good on a promise to feed those biking the drive their fill of pancakes and syrup. Read the rest of this entry »

Mellow Michigan Meanderings: To Harbor Country and back by train, boat, bus and bicycle

Bicycling, Memoirs & Miscellany, Parks & the Great Outdoors, Road Trips, User's Guide to Summer 1 Comment »

michigan1By John Greenfield

On a hot August morning, I load my bicycle with camping gear and catch Metra up to Kenosha, Wisconsin. As usual I’ve stayed up late packing and haven’t slept much, so I snooze during most of the hour-and-a-half train ride.

Taking a combo of Route 32 and bike paths I ride thirty-five miles to a dock on the south side of Milwaukee for the high-speed ferry to Muskegon, Michigan. The main function of the ferry is a shortcut for drivers who want to avoid Chicago congestion, and the lower deck of the boat is packed with cars, RVs and motorcycles—mine’s the only pedal bike. Read the rest of this entry »

Hail centurions: Pedaling the Midwest’s home for hundred-milers

Bicycling, Road Trips No Comments »

By Mary Wilds

The bicycle museum and former railroad depot in Three Oaks, Michigan, has the dubious distinction of having been built, in part, to honor the third American president to be assassinated while in office. Michigan Central Railroad built the depot in 1898 for the then-princely sum of $4,200, lavishing some extra care onto its brick walls, stone trimming, beveled lead glass windows, tin ceiling and slate roof because the president was said to be coming to town. Ironically, President William McKinley did not come to town to see the depot, but rather to dedicate a cannon slated to be placed in a Three Oaks park. Even more ironic was the fact that the cannon didn’t arrive in time for McKinley’s visit. The president had to dedicate the mound of earth where the cannon would sit. McKinley would die in Buffalo of an assassin’s bullet three years later.

Today, the cannon still sits on the mound of earth McKinley dedicated, across the railroad tracks from one of the more intriguing little tourist attractions in southwest Michigan. Today, the Three Oaks Bicycle Museum celebrates railroad, bicycling and local history in a fully restored train depot, but the place has changed hands more often than a water bucket at a fire. Michigan Central operated the depot through the late 1950s. Since then, it has opened and re-opened in various incarnations, including a used bookstore, a grandfather-clock-and-picture-frame store, an antique shop and a Secretary of State’s office. A Chicago SEC broker, John Keeley, bought and restored the building in the mid-1980s. Read the rest of this entry »