When I moved from Ohio, I missed the trees and hills. Yet, I’ve grown to find the prairie pure, abundant and ever changing. This section of Springbrook park was burned completely down last fall, once the lightning storms and the Indians renewed the prairie this way. In one spring and summer the prairie returns verdant and full of life.
As we cycle this path, every day its newness is a gift.
I’ve ridden the TGV in France more than a few times. All I can say today is thank God for heroes.
lookin for stories
be back when…
We hopped the train to downtown and just outside of Union Station is Lou Mitchel’s restaurant. Since 1923 Lou’s has been at the start of famous Route 66, that American mother road connecting East to the West during the dust bowl ( 1930’s ) as people migrated to California hoping for new chances and prosperity.
Route 66 has long faded, replaced by the super highways that bypass the small towns, but Lou’s has kept some old traditions. You get a donut hole ( baked there ), a complimentary orange slice and prune with breakfast, and a free tiny serving of ice cream after your meal.
We had omelets which were light and fluffy, but the whole-wheat toast baked there was sublime. A bite of omelet, a bite of toast, a sip of fresh squeezed orange juice… life is good.
With a bit of ice-cream to cleanse the palate we were off. Chicago has adopted some European ideas for bike lanes and in many places the bike lane is next to the sidewalk inside the parking lane. This creates a wall of parked cars to protect cyclists – and I felt safe on those roads. We headed over to the 606, a new elevated bike/jogging/hiking path that runs over the streets. You can cycle for forty city blocks without a light or car nearby. It was one of the best planned paths I’ve seen – and at $95 million to complete – it’s certainly costly. But it makes Chicago safer and better for living.
Heading North about 35 miles through the luxurious Evanston and nearby burgs along the lake you view awe inspiring houses but we had The Botanic Gardens and butterflies in mind.
Then North another 15 miles for lunch…
Then ten more miles to the train-station and home. Chicago is a cyclist’s friend.
the katy trail is like a collage –
It’s Indigo buntings, and more cardinals than you’ve ever seen
It’s great owls that take off ahead of you like eagles
and eagles soaring overhead
It’s the river – powerful and fast
overflowing the boundaries after rain
It’s dolomite cliffs always on the right
and the river meandering near and away on the left
Towns that vanished leaving just traces when the
railroad failed…. bridges made 100 years ago
It’s mosquitoes – turtles and frogs that serenade you…
and jump 15 times their length to get out of the way
it’s humming birds, and dragonflys that dart
like birds and pebbles that fly to life – butterflies
or salamanders or lizards as you approach
The Katy trail is smiles from most everyone you meet
for I suspect I was smiling too,
even in the Missouri heat.
The book “Undaunted Courage” chronicles the 38 man Lewis and Clark expedition to new and marvelous places. Some 200 years later on my bicycle I chanced to follow their steps for nearly 200 miles along the mighty Missouri river.
Expecting to live off the land, Clark and his crew were all expert hunters and brought with them 400 pounds of lead to make bullets and the following food supplies:
150 pounds portable soup ( bouillon )
3 bushels rock salt/spices
30 kegs of spirits
The expedition also traded with the native Indians for squash, venison and fish along the Missouri, but after thirty miles on the trail we found “Trail Smokehouse” – and learned Missouri is barbecue.
Funny how a great sandwich and a glass of dark beer can energize a fellow. The river was very high, and one section of the trail was flooded taking us about five miles around through mud and water before we finally rejoined the trail. At the end of the day nothing says sixty miles through 90 degree heat like a frozen Margarita.
In the morning it was waffle house and grits… ( I was born in the South after all ) It reminded me of Lewis writing in his journal about using the last of the butter, or his first taste of buffalo. Near Rocheport where the eagles and hawks soar over the river near the cliffs you can ride up, park your bike and get a fresh pizza made in his outside wood oven.
The expedition found the bugs so thick that they often smeared their skin with grease or sat in the smoke of their fires. We had deep-woods Off, but this little gem of a restaurant had tents for shade, and giant outdoor fans to create a gentle breeze to keep the heat and bugs away.
Clark’s team went through lean times, where they were forced to trade for horses and dogs from the Indians to eat, or the river was so dangerous that they had to wait until it subsided before continuing on. We had missed the rain, but the river was racing by full of trees and other obstacles. It wasn’t all hard times, when fruit and berries were in season, Clark and his men enjoyed berry tarts, or Morel mushrooms. Near Jefferson City after the hottest day we found a little place “Prison Brews” with a motif like an old prison. In it they brew some fine beers, but most importantly – make their own root-beer. I had that first.. what a way to start a meal.
They had a fine Stout that Jan enjoyed and my Blue Cheese Burger proved, life in Missouri can be pretty fine.
We did a bit of urban cycling the other day, down the CALsag trail in it’s newly paved beauty along the canal, and then through Blue Isle ( not sure how a landlocked town gets that name ) and through Roseland to Pullman. Roseland is the hard hit neighborhood where many of the stores are boarded up or converted to Churches or Mosques or bars. When the jobs have left a place, then people look to find hope in one place or another. Just beyond is Pullman, a town of historical contradictions.
Of the Pullman factory – the engine of opportunity where luxury rail-road cars were made little remains.
Factories need people, and George W. Pullman envisioned a city for his workers, designed by architects with clean air, good schools manned by trained teachers, and indoor plumbing in every house. It was his idea of Utopia. In 1870, he was a visionary humanitarian – and his city was considered the finest in the world. Today, you can ride past the grand hotel, or magnificent church and the row houses and boarding houses in which his workers lived and worshiped.
The company maintained every building, and the workers paid rent. The workers shopped at the company store, banked at the company bank – and even the ministers rented the church for services provided their sermon’s aligned with the Pullman beliefs.
In 1874 there was a recession, and Pullman cut the worker’s wages by 30% but refused to reduce the rents. The factory workers struck, and Pullman crushed the strike. Then railroad workers across the country refused to work any passenger train that had a Pullman car on it. The Pullman name was reviled, and his utopia called un-American and despicable in every way. The Federal Government then broke the rail strike.
Pullman died shortly after the strike of a heart-attack. The scoundrel had tons of cement poured over his grave so that no-one could desecrate his body, and the humanitarian left a bequeath to fund a million dollar endowment to educate the children of the workers at his factory.
As we rode back to wrap up our 50 mile ride I pondered this complex man, and his vision while words of John Goodman’s ‘City of New Orleans’ played in my mind…
And the sons of Pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their fathers’ magic carpet made of steel
PS – if you ever played the video game Bioshock – with it’s visionary madman and failed utopia – it has to be modeled after this time and place