Monday, November 6

“The Mother Road”--US Route 66 & another St. Park

Sunday promised to be a sunny day with some major warming up on the side and from the window, it all looked true. I left late, around 9:45 a.m. and the temp was 41 degrees. Still, I felt it not cold enough to try out my new battery operated socks, the new gloves with the micro fiber, heat-holding liner insert. Instead, I wore a less hefty pair of gloves with the new liners. I also didn’t use the heated hand warmers that slip into the knuckle pocket atop the liners. I should have stuffed these items into the tank bag just in case I needed them, which I did eventually. I did wear the ski socks I recently purchased. My feet and toes stayed warm all day even though the temp never really warmed up and maxed out around 51 degrees. The day was nippy but the only thing cold were my finger tips.

Destination: U.S. Rt. 66 and Silver Springs State Park, near Yorkville, IL. One thing this bike has done for me it heighten my appreciation for Illinois. I know we’re the “Land of Lincoln” and all, but outside of Chicago, let’s just say I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve lived in the suburb a huge chunk of my adult life but always favored the city whee I grew up with some myopic notions about suburbs that living there reinforced and challenged all at the same time. Queenie has gotten me outside the city, into the suburbs, into small IL towns, such as Ashton, Harvard, Oswego and Somonauk. Places I’ve driven through but never desired to stop. I’m still a reluctant “visitor” but somehow riding through on a bike makes me feel less resistant and more open to such places that in the past just seemed way too Wonder Bread-ish to me. But I digress…

Lately, I have been reading about US Rt. 66, that famed route that has become legend in music, myth and TV. If you’re of a certain age, who doesn’t hear Nat King Cole's velvety voice singing, “Get your kicks on Route 66.” The tales of motorcyclists trying to ride the original route are often compelling. In fact, the list is long of riders getting confused, missing the road and never finding pieces of it because the original route has been switched, paved over, neglected in spots--you name it. Still, people come the world over to ride it. I am fortunate to live a few blocks from the start of Rt. 66. I’ve dreamed of following it to CA too but lately feel that riding it, at least, through MO would suffice as I’ve read that much of the original route along this stretch is easy to follow and quite nice. I like to explore too and experience the serendipity of a trip, but I wouldn't want to work that hard to trace the original route.

Directions: I start out on an old favorite, US Rt.34 (Ogden Avenue) which co-exists with parts of Rt. 66. You’ve got to not mind traffic going this route. You can avoid most of it by starting early and on a Sunday. I’ve driven this stretch many times and ‘cycled it a few but never desired to stop and pay much attention to its sights and sounds. A hunk of Rt. 66 is in Berwyn, IL, a town with a history that has definitely influenced my bad attitude toward it. But like things and people, Berwyn has changed and you can feel it riding through. I now have no hesitation stopping there, which I did.

Proud blue and white banners announce that you are on Rt. 66. Even a “beverage” place uses the name to advertise itself. I travel on Rt. 34 for many miles, looking for state Rt. 71 South. At that point, take it and travel to Van Emmon Road where you will take a right turn. Take it north to state Rt.47. Well, at least that’s what the map says. I never found a Rt. 47 this way (again, get that GPS mounted or what’s the point?!). I checked and rechecked the map and it looked as if I was to take Van Emmon until it ended, which I did. But take a right turn there and you end up in some dead end gravel filled abandon railroad area—scary stuff to anyone with a morbid imagination. I retraced my route a little; still no Rt.47.

While riding up and down, I happen to glance up and see "River Road." The road that Rt. 47 was to lead me to. I back tracked and realized that “Bridge Road” must be Rt. 47. So why not say: “Bridge Road (Rt. 47). See, this is one reason why I don’t like these places…insiders know this information and they must figure “why bother” making it clear to the rest of us! Outsiders, well…go away, we don’t want any!” Yes, I take this stuff personally.

Got onto River Road and it was worth the hassel, I admit. It is a rolling, tree shaded, back door to the state park—this is why these people must want to keep it to themselves! It’s sweeping and undulating in all the right places. To this point, most of the roads getting here have been great, but this is part of the reason to ride. I’m following the Fox River, a tributary that is part of the Illinois River and Wisconsin River. It is worth looking up on an IL map to see its rolling, twisting snake through this area known as the Fox River Valley.

Not many people in the park. A friendly couple walking two large dogs waved and smiled at me. I snapped a few pics and watched the river flow. Motoring through the park’s curvy grounds (20 mph speed limit) was pure joy--just what I needed to shake off the mini-hassle of finding my way here.

Return: In a word, uneventful. I abandoned the one scenic route back I mapped out and just reversed my steps and took Rt. 34 in. It looked like rain and the sky was darker. I didn’t want to be caught on dark, unfamiliar back roads with visions of lynching clouding my brain. When in doubt, go with the familiar. The warm up turned out to be a “no-show.” Besides, I was now cold and hungry— never got around to breakfast, it was now nearly 1:30 p.m. and my stomach was screaming for lunch.

Stopped at Panera’s for soup. A bike is truly a conversation piece. A woman seated behind me asked me how my riding was. That’s all I need to get started. After my overly long answer, she said, “I feel guilty not allowing my husband to ride today, listening to you…he wanted to but I had work to do so he had to watch the kids.” She seemed sincere sitting amidst a stack of papers and a laptop computer. We had a long conversation about women and riding; she told me about the bikes her husband had owned and her ever present concerns for his safety. I recommended she learn to ride too, to which she seemed open. Then, I told her to “let” him ride on Wednesday since the weather is supposed to be nearly 70 degrees and that soon we’d be forced to put away the bikes. “Then you’ll have him all to yourself.” She brightened at that and said that she would definitely get him to take a ride on Wednesday. At that, she smiled.

I hope I helped a fellow biker ‘cause I know I’m looking forward to Wednesday too.

Silver Spring State Park pics