Best part of the day: Reaching the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park
Worst part of the day: The crazy Chicago streets at rush hour
Distance: 54 miles Riding Time: 5hrs 8min
Bed count: 38 Sleeping Bag count: 20
Chicago at last!!
Well, the day that seemed so far way had finally arrived! Our last Route 66 ride day!!
Being that we only had about 41 miles to our finish line, we took our time getting ready. Our Warm Showers host, Roberto, would be home in the afternoon around the 3pm-4pm time frame, so, that also allowed us to have a later start. Had a decent hotel-provided breakfast there at the Quality Inn.
Back in our room, started to repack our panniers in anticipation of Saturday’s train ride. What to put into the two panniers each that would be checked as baggage and what to take on the train as carry-on. We knew that we would need some packing tape to secure our dry sacks to one of our checked baggage panniers to make it as one bag.
Finally got underway around 9:30 riding back down to the bike path from which we had left to get to last night’s hotel. As with yesterday on this path, it was tree-lined from the get-go. Meandering on another bike path through Chicago Heights, surface streets and another bike path through Lansing (bringing us within about 1,000’ of the Indian state line!) and even another bike path taking us on the west side of Calumet City eventually got us to the lower southeast side of Chicago.
Now we were back on surface streets making our way to the Lakefront Trail which runs along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Along the way, another cyclist came up from behind and marveled at our bikes and panniers! He heaped all sorts of praise at what we were doing. A quick stop at a signal allowed for introductions. George was visiting his son who lived in Hyde Park and was out for a ride. He said that he and his son would be riding the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans in a few weeks. We asked if he knew where Grant Park was, and specifically, Buckingham Fountain. He said that he would lead us all the way there!!(Our guide, George, who led us to our finish line!)
Reaching the Lakefront Trail, it is a maze of bike and pedestrian paths running sometimes side-by-side, sometimes separate and sometimes one and the same path! It’s signed pretty well to tell cyclists and pedestrians which path to take, but, you know there are those pedestrian who don’t read the signs!!
We had 9 miles on this trail, sometimes in quite congested areas with other cyclists zipping all around. Hardly heard a single rider who passed the three of us say “on your left” or something of that nature. Not much in the way of cycling etiquette from what we’ve observed.
The Lakefront Trail is a beautiful trail. Because of all the rains, the high water level of Lake Michigan was lapping OVER the stone shore edge!! Wow! Lake Shore Drive which runs right alongside of the trail was packed with cars heading in both directions!
Finally, we left the trail and turned towards Grant Park and the fountain. The drivers had no qualm blocking an intersection or crosswalk when the light was against them in their efforts to squeak through the traffic light. So, we slithered our way across Lake Shore Drive to the park and started looking for the fountain. And what a sight it was when it came into view!! The Chicago skyline in the background made for some great photos!(Our ACA finish line, the Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park, Chicago!! Route 66 ride was now complete!!)
Then we Google-mapped our route to our Warm Showers host’s place, about 9 miles away, and started for there. Immediately Fay said, “we’ve got to go to the Route 66 begin sign!” We knew it was fairly close as we had looked it up beforehand, but, we had to negotiate a few very busy Chicago surface streets to get there. There was nothing fancy at that spot at all, just the sign on the street sidewalk! (Of course, we had to get to the “official” start of Route 66 here in Chicago.)
We had texted Roberto that it might take us an hour to ride miles to his place. So, once more we set off for his place. It was back to the Lakefront Trail for us. Missed a few turns to exit the trail and Google maps rerouted each time. Fay wanted us to find a grocery store nearby to pick up some dinner items. Found a Walmart Neighborhood Market fairly close to where we were and made a stop there first. That hour by which time we thought we’d get to Roberto’s had quickly passed. He texted us asking if we were okay and that he had an event to attend, but, created and sent us 3 videos of where to go to put our bikes, where he’d hidden the keys to his place and about the inside of their apartment. All were quite useful! We let him know that we were good and would eventually arrive.
Remapping our route, it took us on Clark Street for almost all the way. We still had about 4+ miles to go! Rob appeared to have a problem with his phone (thought it was dead!!) and we found a Verizon store real close to the Walmart on our route! He’d been charging up his phone earlier with his battery pack, but, wasn’t able to see his screen! The clerk there asked him to unlock the phone! What? Rob took off his sunglasses and saw that the phone screen’s brightness was real low possibly from the very low battery level prior to recharging (obviously with sunglasses on, it looked blank!). He knew right away how to reset the brightness level. Problem solved and we were back on our way!
Then another stoppage! This time for a picture as we came up to Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, right there along Clark Street!
The Clark Street road was a bit bumpy, but, at least had a bike lane and there were a lot of bike riders out on the roadway (most without helmets)!
Finally, we reached Roberto’s place and watched his videos. Wheeling the bikes to the backyard, we saw the basement where our bikes would go. Unload the panniers time and down a small flight of steps our bikes went. We thought about leaving our non-essential panniers there, too, with the bikes, but, there was an open skylight where any rainfall could get the basement floor and thus our bags wet, at least the bottom of the bags. So, we carried everything up to the 2nd floor.
Roberto’s place is the 2nd floor a of cute 3-story, brick, apartment house. He shares it with three other roommates, none of whom were home when we arrived. We were able to use the big sofa in the family room and had full access to the kitchen. After a nice hot shower, we enjoyed our dinner of a Caesar salad with chicken.
Roberto eventually got home an we made our introductions. He’s a real nice young man who’s done a number of self-supported cycling trips. We talked for quite a while about all of our various adventures. He’d been a Warm Showers guest many times, but, said that this was his first time hosting.
It had been a long day and we were ready for bed. The huge sofa was plenty of room for us. Pillows and blankets were all we needed.
Our Route 66 epic adventure was now done. It was kind of sad in a way, but, also very satisfying in what we’d accomplished, completing our first self-supported, multi-week ride. And we knew that home was just a 2-day Amtrak train ride away.
As we have tomorrow off (our train home doesn’t leave until Saturday), Roberto had given us some suggestions for places to see while we were here in Chicago. Not sure what we’ll do as most of these places are at least 6+ miles away and we’d rather not get back on our bikes. Tomorrow, we’ll need to take a little time to double check our repacking of our panniers for what we check-in and carry-on on Amtrak and figure out what we’ll visit. Roberto also gave us some good info about the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) trains (a.k.a. the “L”) and getting around on it.
Time for a well-deserved night’s rest!
Until our next post….