After what feels like an absolute age I have finally gotten back on the saddle and ridden out of Chicago.
It was strange to be setting off again. I did not feel anywhere near as fit and healthy as when I arrived in the City. Still, I'm quite positive that after 3 or 4 days I will feel good and strong again.
I departed from downtown, so immediately started along the lakefront, sharing it with thousands of people who were on their way to work or getting an early morning fitness fix.
It was a beautiful start to the day - I pedalled as slowly as I could in order to take it all in. The high rise buildings, the boats in the harbour, clean waters, blue skies and sun etc all looked brilliant and I didn't want to leave it behind. Unfortunately, despite almost pedalling backwards, the sky line did get smaller and smaller. The number of runners and cyclists also steadily reduced.
I soon reached the suberbs and South Shore/South Side.
I was getting hungry and wondering where to stop for food. This is always more difficult in a City because you have to keep the bike very close by.
At some traffic lights I had a pretty standard interaction with someone on a motorbike. He asked if I was going cross country and what route?. I said yes and explained my start/end point etc. All pretty boring.
He seemed helpful so I asked if he knew somewhere I could stop to get some food. His response to me was - " well your right in the middle of the hood at the moment so I wouldn't stop riding if I were you. Keep going until you get to Indiana" (about 5/10 miles)
I was aware that south Chicago had a worse reputation but hadn't really worried too much about it until now. I already had any expensive looking Stuff (GPS) in my bag instead of on show but wasn't worried, just cautious. The streets I was riding hadn't felt threatening.
After this interaction however, things did start to get a bit more industrial. Derelict houses became more apparent etcetc. If anyone was watching my live track they may have noticed the dot start moving a bit faster.
I have to say 1 or 2 of the locals in this area seemed very friendly. In most cities people make you feel like you're not there. Here it was very obvious they knew you were there. They seemed to want to make eye contact but then when it was made, strangely, didn't follow it up with a smile/hello or nod. Instead their eyes just opened wider. Was this local custom for acknowledging a new friend? By the time I mulled over that question I was long gone - I may never work out the answer ;)
The majority of today's ride was along cycle paths. A more direct route along roads would have saved about 10 miles. However I opted for 'safer' more 'relaxed' riding away from cars etc. Despite this I still found a wreath and flowers on route heading through a park. I don't think it was a riding accident though.
Later I stumbled across a teenagers baseball match. I was getting hungry and noticed people were queuing for food so decided to head over to see if I could buy myself something.
Unfortunately it was not a public thing and was arranged by the baseball teams parents. They were not selling food but still would not let me leave without eating some burgers and watermelon :) I sat and talked - apparently the other team had not turned up so they had way too much food. It was really handy because I probably managed to eat the other teams share.
Further on I found probably the least picturesque bit of riding of the trip.
I ended up on a gravel track that dipped and weaved along the route of two sets of crackling electricity pylons and an old dissused railway track!! The moist humid air made me feel like I could be electrocuted at any point. Periodically the track would completely disappear under dark, murky water. It was wonderful.
I eventually reached Michigan City actually feeling pretty good physically. I had done about 70 miles but unfortunately everywhere was booked up or too expensive. I cycled around for nearly 10 extra miles until I found something.
My final mileage was 80.5 miles.
The only place I could find is an absolute dump. So far I have got them to change my room once and also collect the pile of rubbish sitting close to my front door. The tv is from the 70's, the aircon is a joke, the curtains are a colour I didn't know existed and the carpets are best appreciated with socks and shoes on. The bed is clean though otherwise I may have opted to sleep back in the hood.
At least I'm going to be keen to get going in the morning. :) :)
Indiana is my 9th state.