I had been planning this half-solo, half-groupie ride for better than 6 months. PAC Tour would be riding the eastern half of Route 66 leaving Amarillo May 21st and arriving in Chicago June 5th. I would ride four days down to Litchfield where they'd enter Illinois and then ride back with them to Chicago. Perfect! Their finish motel is only 8.5 miles from my house!
So, the planning began--customizing and tuning my new-to-me Bacchetta Ti Aero, route planning, drop shipping supplies to myself along the way, test riding the bike with loaded panniers, etc.
Sunday, May 29th finally came: Day 1--Wilmette to Joliet. Dave Eidenburg would meet me on the road by Swedish Covenant Hospital and we'd breakfast at Ina's instead of our "regular" Lou Mitchell's. The 29th was also Bike The Drive with thousands of cyclists enjoying the freedom of riding Lake Shore Drive for several hours while the road is closed to all car traffic. Lou Mitchell's, being close to The Drive, would surely be overrun with cyclists, tourists, happy Holiday-ers, but probably few regulars.
Chicago's winter has been endless and the Spring, if you can call it that, has been ridiculous with cold, rain, wind, storms, and more. So,I was not surprised to awake Sunday, May 29th to find the temp in the mid-50's, fog that could best be described as pleuritic froth so dense it dripped off my handlebars and soaked my knee warmers. Oh, so glad it was 6:30 a.m. and no one was on the road cuz my visibility was, at best, two car lengths. I needed to wipe my glasses every 30 seconds just to see anything. Even considered turning around, loading my bike in the car and driving to Joliet. An option, yes, but decided to decide after breakfast with Dave.
Indeed the fog did lift, at least at Racine/Randolph; but by the time we reached Indiana/Roosevelt it had returned with a vengeance. On we rode to 71st/Cottage Grove where Dave would U-turn to go home and I would seep alone into the southwest side's blight and fog.
I wanted to pee before Dave left, but finding such a facility was a challenge since gas stations in ghettos don't typically have restrooms. But what did manifest was what would be the first of 4 close encounters-of-the-police-kind right there on the corner of 71st and Cottage--a Chicago Police Station!! While there the sky opened up with proverbial buckets which gave Chicago's finest a chance to check the hourly forecast for me and "bless" my route. Gave Dave a farewell hug and headed out into the drizzle, pizzle, and pour Oh Lord.
Vincennes, the road, turned out to be under construction (rough, grooved surface) so sidewalk riding, curb and water-filled pot hole hopping while praying my gatorskin tires would resist the everywhere detritus.
Finished the ghetto; breathed easily in the beauty of Beverly; then girded my loins for surviving my invisibility in the fog on unshouldered, 45 mph south suburban streets. Jumped the sidewalks many times to stay out of harm's way, playing the stop lights for lane space.
Old Plank Trail was music to my eyes, even paused long enough to call Kirk with an update of my continued survival. Fog still BIG, but being the only wheeled vehicle on the Trail, actually being the only creature on the Trail, didn't seem like it should be too hard until--the 7:00 p.m. darkness at 1:30 p.m. turned to 11:00 p.m. darkness; the fog on my glasses became blinding rain, and the hirsute foliage edging the trail alive, competing with my trail space. And so it went to New Lennox when the elements became more civil and a Police Station appeared at trail side. Close encounter of a police kind # 2.
Did he think it safe for me to cut through the east side of Joliet to get to my motel or should I take the extra 7 miles to route around the "iffy" neighborhood. He voted for the extra 7 cautious miles.
The Joliet Red Roof watched me pour water out of my shoes, pour out of my pannier rain covers, and pour out of my panniers themselves. Washed my bike with shampoo out of the motel waste basket and stomped around on my clothes in the shower and fell dead asleep at 5:00 p.m. awakened by Rhonda's call saying she was at the front desk ready to take me to Syl's for dinner.
Day 1 in the books, a day of wise riding, protection and luck. Grateful for them all.