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
I’d missed the deluge ( 3 inches of rain in an hour in the mountains means floods. ) In today’s 59 miles there would be several 9 mile descents and instead of mostly open vista’s, the ride would include more canyons and several tunnels.
It followed along and crossed rushing mountain streams,
And Jan kept finding places where the road intersected the trail and surprising me…
About 20 miles in, my tire started to flatten, and my portable pump no longer worked. That left me pedaling up hill for about seven miles on about 2PSI ( Pounds per inch. ) Few things equal the annoyance of carrying extra weight almost 100 miles in the mountains and finding when you need it it doesn’t work. But Jan had a pump in the car and at the next trailhead I replaced the tube. I was ready for more long downhills
Through tunnels ( mostly short ) ….
And up to the last meadow before the end. The burst of green aspen leaves is one of my favorite memories.
Near the end… I was a bit saddened… I wish the trail never ended.
But things end, even the good ones… and I was left with lingering reminders… I’d lathered on bug spray on my exposed flesh, never realizing the mosquitoes would bite right through my spandex leaving me with 40 itching memories on my behind and the back of my legs
This is a bike ride that’s worth the effort.
South Dakota can be brown and solemn or lush and verdant. This trip to ride the George S. Michelson trail was marked by rain and green. The trail runs from Edgemont ( mile 0 ) up to Deadwood ( mile 108 ) along an old railroad branch ( an offshoot from the main route ) that was built in the 1890’s shortly after the 1874 gold rush in the Black Hills. Last used as a rail way in 1983, with the help of Governer George S. Michelson it was converted into one of the best rails to trails paths in the country.
Like the foothills that lead to the mountains, the trail runs up, starting wide open along the crushed gravel path. It was in great shape, and crosses more than 100 converted train bridges as it gently rises. The first thirty-five miles I rode, I saw not a single other rider.
You ride along, with the birds and the small green frogs singing, keeping one out for rattlesnakes who might be sunning themselves ( I only saw one ) sometimes it seems that you’ve covered hardly any ground. If I crept slowly uphill, more on pace with Samwise and Frodo painstakingly ascending Mount Doom than the intrepid Tour de France riders… well stay with me, I’ll think of some excuse soon.
Then you look off to the side and think, I guess I’ve climbed a bit, even with this gentle rail-road pitch to the trail.
I admit at mile 35, where likely 30 miles had been uphill, I was hot from the sun and pretty tired. I met Jan at the trail-head and she had lunch, a sandwich, unsweetened green iced tea, and fresh blackberries. Encouraged an invigorated the last fifteen miles were easily climbed
Just past this pasture, Jan picked me up and it was off to our hotel in Custer City – just as she picked me up at the trail-head the heavens opened with the start of a three inch in an hour rain. But of course, anything can happen in the mountains.
We had the day to cut across Nebraska toward South Dakota and the Black Hills. We headed off the highway along Route 20, stopping a few times when something caught our fancy. Somethings exceed your expectations, and some not. I recall Pizza Hut as better, but it was fun to watch the local town kids go through the pizza buffet like locusts across the plains.
We detoured a bit to Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska. Aside from pirate treasure, what could be more fun than to discover a bed of rhino’s, camels, giant tortoises from long ago.
You can walk by, and see the fossils in situ, as the college students gently work and scrape around them.
Then it’s on to South Dakota and the Mammoth Site called us…
Mammoth Site is a private place, and though we skipped the tour and just hopped through since we had miles to go before we slept… we gleaned that this was a sink hole, where these large fellows tumbled down to be trapped forevermore. This site too showed the bones as they were found…
I recall reading of the early settlers hearing tales of the Indians hunting these beasts. All I know is that these bones show they were here once. We gazed at the bones in wonder, and then it was time to head to Edgemont South Dakota to find a glass or two of craft beer and supper.
If you have time, you can hop off the interstate and drive across the country on Route 20. If you have time, you can stop a time or three just because something looks interesting as you drive past the small towns and farms in Nebraska and South Dakota. You might stop for to take a picture of the “Plainview Klowndoll Museum” (as a joke because your daughter can’t stand clowns ) and find the old-timer working on lawn likes your tee-shirt and opens up the place so you can take a little tour, even though it’s closed.
You might find very rare Red Skeleton pieces, or a clown carved out of a single piece of coal, or another made of the ash from the Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic ash melted into glass. It started with a bequeath – and now every item of the over seven thousand items has been donated. Dolls and knick-knacks, some people come visit this tiny out of the way town to be sure their collection will have a nice home there. And then they donate.
We had places to be, reservations to keep and so we only stayed a few moments. Still we left richer for the time we spent there.
I was going to call this post “A hotdog and a movie” … but that might be misconstrued as self referencing…
First the movie: Mr Pip with Hugh Laurie. If you love the great books and Dickens in particular, then this story of a small Island caught between the Soldiers and the rebels in a revolution – and the impact that story can have is brilliantly done. The location is exotic and the flashbacks to Pip’s England with an island flair are magic. The lesson is honorable as well, in that moment of choice – who do we choose to be. I just had to tell someone.
If you drive an hour or so out of Chicagoland into Indiana you can find the Erie Lackawana bike path. It’s a pleasant well maintained rails to trails kind of path. You can link it with the Monon trail which has a more urban feel and loop it in to get a nice 50 or so miles. This sign near the trail seemed to show the perfect business… 24 hour laundromat, milk-shakes and hot-dogs. Maybe Indiana is cycling heaven…
For our lunch, we had a hot dog and a root-beer float ( generic root-beer ) but hunger is the best sauce….
An art opening requires a celebration, and after the opening we had a nice brunch at Parc. On a nice day you can sit outside and gaze across to Ritenhouse Park where college girls in sundresses walk by, or you might see a woman saunter by with black and white poodles, a perfect fashion accessory. The day was perfect, and Parc is a fine place to have a brunch.
While you look at the menu, the pastry basket is a wonderful start…
And then of course the champagne arrives, a rose since it’s warm outside
Next, the pate…. this was called “Chicken Liver Parfait” it came with a grain bread which was heavenly – it gave texture to the pate and the thin layer of rasberry on top of it. This was rich… a bit of pate.. a sip of champagne… a smile at the sun or the passers by…. This choice was a risk, but you know what they say about risk and reward…
And then “Eggs Norwegian” – a twist on Eggs Benedict – replacing the ham with smoked salmon. The fried potatoes were perfect – this meal required no seasoning… every flavor complemented the other
I thought Parc was a small place, but inside it was bustling – I will absolutely dine here once again. And… how can I not like a restaurant with this wallpaper in the men’s room…