|Lake Michigan after the Sunday storm . . . open water near the horizon as the storm clouds move east (JWB, 2011)|
One of the great annual events in Chicago comes on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend when the powers that be shut down Lake Shore Drive, north and south, and allow bike riders to navigate a 30-mile circuit down the middle of one of the great urban roadways in the world.
There ain’t no road just like it . . . anywhere I’ve found.
The experience is always a blast, no matter what the weather. Weather-wise, we had a little bit of everything this past Sunday. My daughter, Kristen, and I headed south from Diversey at 5:45 with our wristbands prominently displayed. We were at the Sullivan Arch at Columbus and Monroe by 6:05, where we picked up my friend, Ron, who had driven in from Channahon in heavy fog.
The fog never lifted. It was hard to tell as we headed north to the Hollywood turnaround where we were at any point. The city was shrouded in a thick cloud, and we were cycling through the middle of it. It made the sense of peaceful quiet that always comes from thousands of cyclists zipping along one of the busiest highways in the city even more pronounced.
The fog continued throughout the morning as we discovered at 57th Street when the Museum of Science and Industry suddenly appeared out of the mist. Fortunately, the winds were light and the going was easy. It was another great day, shared with thousands of other Chicagoans, all of them up early and prepared for rolling along between the great lake and the city they love.
You work up a big appetite after 30 or 40 miles on the road, so the three of us headed for the Cosi on Michigan Avenue and had ourselves some good coffee and a nice, hot breakfast. There are few things better on a Sunday then casual conversation, lots of laughs and good coffee. That’s especially true after planting your rear on a bicycle seat for three hours.
Just as I was headed for the second cup of coffee, Kristen held up her I-Phone and said, “Hey, guys, you better look at this.” On the screen was a blotch of red and yellow that had not been there a half-hour before. Thunderstorms were on the way.
So the three of us scurried back to Grant Park to pick up our bikes, and after saying good-bye to Ron, Kristen and I started back north to Diversey, four miles away. In the rain. In really heavy rain.
By the time we cleared the Roosevelt Bridge and rounded Oak Street, the real heavy-duty action began. A person feels very vulnerable, riding along a large body of water on the seat of a bicycle, the tallest object in the area, with lightning flashing all around.
We made it to the North Avenue beach house . . . alive. I paid seven bucks for a yellow plastic poncho that Kristen used to keep the I-Phone alive, and we moved on, finally arriving back home, soaked to the skin and covered in the sand our wheels threw up as we pedaled along the beach.
On the Inner Drive the water was so high that ducks were swimming next to the curb across the street from the Diversey driving range.
The rest of the afternoon was a mixture of heavy storms and a strange fog that repeatedly moved west from the lake and fell back again almost as if the lake were breathing. The above picture gives a good idea of how strange that afternoon was as the storm clouds once again head east and the lake sends forth another layer of fog.