Having already sampled some of Wisconsin’s finest beer and cheese we reasoned that it was time to get moving on to Chicago where we intended to spend the 4th of July. On our way southeast, we dropped by the University campus in Madison. In addition to some excellent lakefront views, we took time to marvel at the capitol building - both inside and out. After perusing the grounds I had a much better understanding of where tax dollars go! I’ve been told that Madison has the tallest capitol; the attention to detail was apparent, even down to the drinking fountains. I’ve never felt so privileged to use a restroom - I half expected the toilet paper to be composed of freshly minted bills.
Closer to Chicago, we stopped at a farmer’s market in the town of Burlington where we were given a tasty loaf of fresh baked bread and offered a place to stay. We were in no position to refuse such hospitality and before you could say “home-made pizza and warm apple pie” we were having dinner with some of the most friendly folks we have met all trip. Our hosts, Lori and Gary, made us feel like sons. You couldn’t buy better accommodations at a bed and breakfast. Having our fill of food and fabulous conversation (Gary is an avid cyclist), they sent us to bed only to have us wake up to a delicious pancake breakfast! Life is rough I tell you. Before we hit the road Lori made sure we had everything we needed including Gatorade, toothbrushes and toothpaste (she manages dental practices), a loaf of banana bread cooked especially for us, and a bag of roasted almonds. Gary even rode with us on the way out of town, giving us a delightful tour of the rural surroundings. Did I mention that these are some of the most exceptionally kind and loving people ever?
Thus began the ride into Chicago. When we asked people the best way to get into the city they typically scratched their heads and offered a potential route, followed by a disclaimer. We soon found out why: there isn’t an easy or safe route into the city coming from the western shore of Lake Michigan. Before you know it, we found ourselves pedaling for our lives (literally) alongside speeding multi-lane traffic, dodging potholes all the while. While we were successful in our plight to avoid being squished by autobuses, we were not lucky enough to escape untouched. Both Clancy and myself bent wheels on the rough road (mine had to be replaced) and had personal items shake off of our bikes only to be lost somewhere along the street. I can say this however, if you have been praying for our safety, your prayers were answered that day. Luckily, we didn’t pedal faster than our guardian angels could fly.
Once in the city, we took a full day to explore the many treasures of the metro area. Grant Park, next to our hostel and directly on the lake, was filled with hundreds of thousands of people for the Taste of Chicago festival. We took in a free concert, walked all around Wrigley Field, checked out the zoo, ate at the notorious “Wiener’s Circle” (purveyor of authentic Chicago dogs) and caught fantastic fireworks two nights in a row. We must have walked more than 20 miles on our day off to places like the Sears Tower and the “Magnificent Mile.” Wander over to our photos page to see some of the sights.
Thankfully, the road south out of Chicago wasn’t half as bad as the road in. Despite many the many warnings we received and being nearly the only white kids around, everyone was very polite and things never got sketchy. We did talk to a really chill police officer (mountain biker) once we got south of Gary, Indiana and he told us we were lucky to have come through the area in the daylight, mentioning that we “wouldn’t have stood a chance during the nighttime hours.” Perhaps we were fortunate, or maybe we just look rough and tough after two months on the road (I wouldn’t bet on the latter).