Wrigley Field Road Tour – August 27, 2011

Preliminary notes: This is my story of the Wrigley Field Road Tour, my longest bike ride ever. Like usual in my writing, I have lots of humour, and also plenty of references to earlier times and memories.  I’ll underline all of these memory-based references, and I think I’ll do that in any future full journals that I post too.

Also, the photo numbers don’t start from [1] because I had failed to offload the first 46 pictures prior to the Tour!  Who says that the references MUST start from [1], anyway?  The photos are from Facebook like usual.  If you want to follow along with the photos, best to do it in two tabs or two windows.

Saturday, August 27 ~ Wrigley Field Road Tour

The day began for me at 550h in my recent usual style, with Radetzky March back on my phone.  Last night, I got my low-average of 7 hours of sleep.  The skies were clear and sunrise was nigh.  Yet I couldn’t get a great view from my apartment [47-54].  Packing my bag with Crocs, toiletries, change of clothes, money, and more, I equipped my T2 jersey, secured my camera and my phone, took the refrigerated hydration out, had a few morsels of Cinnamon Chex, and flew off.  The sleep had evaporated by 620h.

The ride toward Wrigley Field was uneventful.  Near Howard, I got a picture of sunrise over the cemetery [56-57], and again over Touhy Park [59].  As I passed Winnemac [64-5], there was nary a cloud in the sky—there will be no storm today!  The T2 tent [68] was just fourteen blocks ahead on Waveland, and I got there feeling great!  My adrenaline is pumping, and the end of Stage 0 is a good feeling!  STAGE ZERO: COMPLETE!

At the tent, I checked in my bag, then snagged a bagel, orange, and some energy beans.  I saw Becky, Vega, Greg, and others who were in my Compu-Trainer class.  Everyone looked to have excitement, nerves, and other emotions that I couldn’t really discern (you know that’s not my strong point!)  The crowd in the area was also big, with several other groups [70-71].  Others took team or sub-group photos, a few of which I was also captured in.  The pre-staging time seemed to drag, yet fly… it’s the game of polarity.  We headed underneath the SRAM balloon, and most of us grouped in the “B” group, expecting a total time of six to seven-point-five hours [72-77].  At 800h (and two seconds—curse my photo timing [78-79]!) we were still waiting to start the ride.  I hope that we’ll be able to stick together as a semigroup!  If there were any announcements that were being told, the noise of conversation drowned it out.

A few minutes later, all of us could hear an air horn.  We duck-walked out slowly, but in my mind, I was replaying the Dragon Boat races of 2004.  “ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! FIVE! SIX! SEVEN! EIGHT! NINE! TEN! REACH! REACH! REACH! …” complete with a taiko drum in the background.  Everyone funneled through the Wrigley concourse–a chance of a lifetime!   I probably should have video-recorded instead of attempted photo-recording [82-86], but of course, a memory is worth a thousand pictures.  That’s a great way to start the ride, even though I feel it may have been precarious.  Throughout Stage 1, I mostly stuck in the group with Greg, Becky, and Manuel.  Regrettably, the en-masse crowd guaranteed it would be a crawl, in addition to the red lights.  Road rage was obvious with some of the drivers, but at least it wasn’t like Trail Trek IV (on this ride, we all clogged the Rock Island Trail and someone not affiliated with the ride was cursing all of us out).  Further north in Chicago, we did get some escorts by bike cops.  A few interesting venues appeared, and I got signs and bikes captured on camera [87-100].  Despite all the riders and jerseys, it did not feel like anything special yet.

Heading into Evanston, we went on Howard toward Dodge, and followed that ALL the way to Bridge Street.  Separation occurred, and that’s fine by me.  We followed residential roads to Wilmette Avenue, passing a few curb-side support crews [101-116] and a brick street.  The shade feels nice, and the small talk with the subgroup is great too!  Wilmette took Greenleaf (?) to Sheridan, and as Hootie had recommended last night, we blew through the “bogus” rest stop at Plaza del Lago, thirteen miles in.  I wanted to take some pictures on seatback, but safety first [117-131].  Bogus!

On Sheridan, they had finally smoothed out the stretch in Winnetka [130-134] which was good, as the road was easy.  I kept up with the group, and we easily conquered the tough Lloyd hill [135-137].  Turning on Tower, an attempt to catch The Worst Sign in the World® failed [138].  After Scott, the rest of Cook County involved a radar sign [141], singing ♪”Shalom chaveirim, shalom chaveirim, shalom, shalom–L’hitra’ot, l’hitra’ot, shalom, shalom”♪ past the North Shore Congregation, and more signs.  Once past Ravinia Park, St. John’s led directly to Higher Gear.  I feel great at this point, despite being near the back of my pack each time!  [146-155] STAGE ONE: COMPLETE!

At the stop [156], I took advantage of the KYBO and got some pretzels and Fritos.  Sodium is the thing you have to replace on long rides to avoid hyponatremia!  After our pace group reunited, we started Stage 2, with me singing, ♪“Turn the speds to zero… the starting of a brand new ride!”♪  I’ve been told that the ride seems easier if you think of it as six shorter rides than a single long ride.  The mind is so powerful in that way!  This finished Highland Park and went on Patten, just like last week.  No storms or Loops of Death™ this time, but mostly some successful photos [157-169].  Maintaining my sense of humour, I hummed “Windemere” by James Swearingen on the outer part of Patten. Manuel wanted to change the personal radio station though–sorry, no can do!  There was also a f-m–e (and I said the whole word… so sue me!) involving a water bottle.

As we took the McClory Bike Path, I heard and saw a Metra train, and that encouraged me to sing, ♪“I hear a little sound of a Metra train, SCARAMOUCHE!”♪ and it was furthered behind me with the real words in duet-style.  Even if we sing terribly, it’s fun!  Lightening the mood is always an effective strategy.  A non-WFRT’er had a fun “cosecant” jersey, but was biking dangerously [171-2] near the “Dangerous Intersection.”  Granted, my taking of photos while biking is quite dangerous too!  Shortly after the Lake Forest Metra, one of the Higher Gear wiped out in front of me (a few seconds after I took [175]), but I chose to push on since I was already a bit behind my pace group.  I will not get caught in No-Man’s Land!

In the shade of the trail, it felt good, but I lost the head part of my pace group.  I hit 37 miles in here, but the attempt to snap it didn’t develop well (sorry, Lisa) [176-182].  After passing more cheering and reaching the Great Lakes Metra [182-185], the trail continued toward the north and a siren was blaring in Coneville to the right [MISS] in the military base.  The wind was now unimpeded, and it had an angle of about 3π/4 with respect to the direction of travel.  YIKES!  (At least it wasn’t π!)  The ride continued through North Chicago, and the bad red light cadence made me further lose my group.  I’m in a quandary now—push on or pull back or be in this no-man’s land?  It seems that I chose the formermost [186-191].  I think it NOW hit me that we’re actually en route to a hundred miles… since we’re finally out of familiar territory.

Waukegan was next, and I could really feel the wind now.  My legs were starting to get a little sore, particularly the right leg near the knee, but nothing felt sharp.  I knew I was close to the stop, however, and that helped me push on.  After all, the rest stop is not just for the body, but also for the mind!  I recovered some of the squad upon passing a Pace hub [192-198].  Sheridan became semi-residential, allowing some wind break, and the scenery was pretty nice as we approached Bowen Park [199-205] for the rest stop sponsored by T2.  STAGE TWO: COMPLETE!  Once we arrived, Dallas was cheering and giving high-fives with even more alacrity than I do!  High energy is always appreciated!  I got some more food, filled my green bottle with cold J blue Gatorade, used the restroom, and after ten minutes, left with the original pace group.  We have just sixty miles to go!

Begin Stage Three!  Leaving Waukegan, the wind and some hills were contenders.  I was finding it difficult to keep up with the group, but part of my problem was trying to force myself to stay in Hootie’s group—BAD IDEA!!  Not only the wind and my tourist mind [207-215], but also the inopportune red lights [216] lost me from the rest of the squad.  Although I want to stay with the group, I will not violate traffic laws and risk getting hit!  The north side of Waukegan was quite scenic, with some neat buildings [217-222].  The challenge from the wind was obviated in [223] as you can see the flag flapping toward us.  A few more blocks and we exited Illinois [224-230]!  This is my first time ever crossing a state line on bicycle, so I am really excited about that!

After a picture with the sign [231], Pleasant Prairie came… and though the road had the proper adjective, the wind did NOT.  The trees weren’t breaking the wind very well, but we pushed on.  Though I didn’t have headphones, my internal MP3 player was cranking out all sorts of “athletic” music, but I wasn’t singing aloud this time.  Trees, domes, and abandoned gas stations were the bulk of the scenery, and some signs too [232-239].  Once we got to Kenosha, a drive-in theatre caught my attention [240].  I’ve never seen one of those in person before!  Sheridan took a right on the drive-in intersection, and the wind was still brutal.  Not much to see, but after a mile or so, when the street turned residential, there was a car wash and a “46 miles to beer” sign, among others [241-248].  Having cheering crews is a great thing when it gets tough like this!

Downtown, there was an Orpheum, which easily caught my eye as I recalled the time that Holly and I went to the Brad/Colin show back on October 15, 2005 at Omaha’s Orpheum Theatre.  Though I had lost my part of the group, I recalled that story to the sub-group I was with.  I could smell (figuratively) lunch, so I paced ahead, somewhat alone with my head, camera, and sore legs [253-270] for about two miles.  The beachside road had the worst winds that I have felt thus far on the trip—ACK!  I managed to get to the lunch area, and after striking out on the sandwiches (all of them had cheese and/or mayonnaise), got some fruit salad, cookies, chips, and pickles.  The time was about 1240h.

With other T2 members like Pheasant, Greg, Devin, and Becky, “we were sitting under fresh tree and waiting for Stage Four.”  Oh… one more thing I forgot to mention. STAGE THREE: COMPLETE!  While we ate, conversations focused on the wind and recalling our training.  The lakefront view was also something to behold.  Although my total mileage thus far is higher than the others’ [271-274], we’re all up there.  I recalled Hootie’s message, “You’ve trained for this wind. Go for it!”  Although I was definitely raring for more, I could tell that we were getting a little tired.  I wanted to hop back on, and we did, continuing onto the road at about 1315h.

Begin Stage Four!  As long as we stayed on the lake, the wind was brutal.  Carthage College appeared less than a mile from our restart point, and the part of the campus that I could see was quite pretty [275-282].  After a bit longer on Sheridan Road (although I think it’s a different name now), and on my 64th mile, we turned westward for a brief respite from the wind.  This ended quickly, despite the next road being wooded.  A saving grace of the weather was that it wasn’t hot, and that the hills have not been killers.  Since Mom and Dad survived Saggy Thursday on RAGBRAI in 1997, there’s no way I’m quitting here!  Keeping up with my squad was again tough, and I occasionally fell into a slow (i.e. 11 mph) pack.  What do I do now?  The wind definitely has [293], minus 0.02 and then times ten, in it!

We have reached Racine/Sturtevant!  The path here was a little bit tortuous, from road to bike path back to road.  Some ball fields, buildings, and colourful walls were ahead [299-305].  This was immediately followed by a challenging steep uphill past the golf course [306].  It didn’t feel as diabolical as the Grade 9.0 hills from this week’s Compu-Training, though.  After that, the return to a trail involved people dressed in weiner costumes cheering us on [MISS] and Midget football was in the air.  I didn’t say the seven-letter F word that I said back in Fort Sheridan.  But, shortly thereafter, a killer hill with a turn at the top appeared, sort of like the pernicious turn atop the levee of Holmes Lake.  We had no momentum from a previous downhill.  Although I slowed down to less than 10 mph at the top of the hill, tackling that makes me feel ready for ANYTHING now!  Continuing, “the bus” stops, marching band practices, and Pick ‘n’ Save appeared [315-323].  The latter told me that we’re getting within reasonable distance!

I’m a bit sore all over, but right now the biggest thing killing me is the bladder!  At this point, I was in a small T2 sub-group (with Meera, Devin, and Greg, and a few others… I think) that stuck together for a bit.  Although it only took a long 15 minutes from South Street to the rest stop (thank goodness for camera time stamps!), it felt a lot longer [324-334], possibly due to weariness, the urge, or just the unfamiliarity of the area.  I had plenty of will to continue, but on some of those hard points, I remind myself that we are all in great status, having bikes instead of having to walk everywhere.  We’re biking for those people in Africa who don’t!  Plus, I’ve proven that I can have pretty high pain tolerance.

At the rest stop, my first stop was the restrooms, and unfortunately there was only one stall.  The men’s line was longer than the women’s line (shocker!).  When the men ahead of me saw me as uncomfortable as I was, they let me to the front of the line (thank you) and this relieved me greatly.  Going back to meet the other T2’ers, it was apparent that some of them had hit a wall… they were on the grass, stretching, questioning the ability to continue.  Although I had no intention of quitting, it seemed that Hootie and I were the cheerleaders for the group.  I didn’t sit down, because of what they were going through.  It takes a team to overcome an individual’s mind!  COME ON T2—WE’RE JUST A MARATHON AWAY!  STAGE FOUR: COMPLETE!

Our subgroup vowed to stick together on this part of the trip without overdoing it.  That will work well for me, hopefully!  Even better, Stage Five started with a tailwind for a bit!  It came against us again at Charles, and the street names were really interesting [335-341], including one that put a “5mile” to my face as we passed it.  This part of the ride was sometimes north, and sometimes west (on the n or n+1/2 Mile Streets).  The latter had winds such that |θ| < π/2 , but once we got back on northbound roads, the angle increased to more than π/2.  The scenery in this area wasn’t much to write home about, but I’ll cite them anyway [342-353].  In order to overcome the soreness that I was feeling, I regained my signalling.  Therefore, I started loudly calling commands like “CAR BACK!”  “HOLE!”  “CRACK!”  “CAR UP!” and more.  One of those “CAR UP!” calls was in response to a parked car, and even though I was in the back of the line, I then said, “CAR UP ANYWAY!”

My mind also wandered back to my junior year of high school, as I shouted (without contempt!) “GO ALONG! GO ALONG! GO ALONG!” We have finally reached Milwaukee County [354]!  Even better, I saw a Route 15 bus sign… that route goes very close to Aunt Soni’s house… and a nine-mile marker to “Milwaukee” [355-358], which mentally recharged my batteries, despite my body still being a little worn out.  My T2 contingent kept a pace of about 12.8 mph, and the teamwork helped us all to get through.  Despite the photos that I took on this part of the road and South Milwaukee, it frankly wasn’t that picturesque, but it helps me later for chronicling [359-372].  Cudahy was the next suburb, and sticking with the squad somewhat, the wide-open Lake Drive went straight.  My tanks, i.e. water bottle and CamelBak, were both on “E” for about a mile [373-377], but unlike a year ago, there were reserves in my system that were going to last at least a mile.  We passed Vega’s mom’s house [378-379] and that was our sign that we were almost at the rest stop!  JUST FIFTEEN KILOMETRES TO GO!!  STAGE FIVE: COMPLETE!

The rest stop [382-383] was a quick stop at the KYBO for me, fuelling my G bottle (and leaving the CamelBak empty, though I should have filled it anyway), Fritos, and Hootie’s admonition: “Get some quick fuel and get the hell out of here!”  Heading out, we saw some picnics, the lake, and a few challenging hills [384-388].  Marvelling at the view while pushing and starting an “Eye of the Tiger” on the lakeside hill [389], my song was forcibly suppressed by Devin.  Oh well—I’ll still sing in my head!  (She later apologized, to which I accepted).  A little later, the City Limit sign appeared, me with 97.74 miles currently under my belt! [390-395]  WE’VE GOT THIS!

Lake Drive gave way for another street, and after a downhill [396-398], we reached a church before Kinnickinnic (what a fun street name) [401].  With camera ready, I got a big number ON THE NOSE, followed by a mulligan 0.03 miles later. [402-404]  The next corner revealed Café Centraal [405], which definitely “gave” me reason for “thanks” – I went there with the Ruffs and Pitlors on November 24, 2010, i.e. the day before Thanksgiving.  We’ve come this far and are so close!  As the road looked familiar, I could also see the “big Clock Tower” in the distance [406-410].  This led to a rotary and a spire bridge, and at the bottom of a hill, Sixth and Canal.  THIS IS THE FINAL MANOEUVRE!  TWENTY-EIGHT MILWAUKEE BLOCKS TO GO!!!!

The  path passed by an arch, Potawatomi Casino, and more [411-423].  Manuel asked me what song I would sing at the finish line, and I didn’t know.  I decided to keep whatever it would be in my head to avoid an explosion by anyone else.  Ahead, a marquee warned of delays for the cars [426], and under a bridge shortly thereafter, I could see Miller Park!  Past the bridge, the trail had a downhill bend, and I could see orange shirts and the T2 tent to the ten-o’clock position.  This finish line didn’t look very ceremonious, but who cares!  STAGE SIX: COMPLETE!  WE HAVE TRIUMPHED!!!

Coming around the bend, I raised one (NOT TWO—I’ve had enough injuries to last me three years now!) arm in triumph as volunteers, staff, Alex, and Vega cheered us down the hill to the parking lot [432-434].  This was perhaps the most dangerous part—the lot was gravel!  OF COURSE, pictures and words won’t do justice to the feeling that I felt.  As all of us hugged with the “We did it” type of diction, I felt a transcendental experience… obviously in a different way from Ha’Kotel, but still beyond my comprehension of thought and emotion.  And if I’m overstating the transcendentalism, then please forgive my “transencental blasphemy,” Thoreau!  I tried to snap my final totals, needing a few times to get it good.  Eight hours. Six minutes. Twenty-seven seconds.  One hundred and four-point-seven miles.

My initial food was a bagel (sesame 🙂 ) and some of the remaining Gatorade.  Looking in my backpack, there were no Crocs.  Either they took their own derivative or teleported back to Engelhart!  So, danger awaited as I walked on the gravel in my Shimanos.  But I didn’t fall!  I dropped off my bike near the semi and picked up the baseball ticket from a long-but-short queue behind the T2 tent.  Calling Mom and Aunt Soni, the rendezvous with the latter was obviously not going to work—I had finished the ride at 1715h, just 55 minutes prior to first pitch.  Next time in Milwaukee!

Because of my insistence of going to the game, I also eschewed the shuttle to the YMCA.  Frankly, though I was sore, I did not feel sweaty or disgusting.  It may get warm in the stadium anyway, and I’d rather just take one shower today!  So, I walked (er, clomped) over in Shimanos.  Awkward—so this is what it must feel like to wear high heels!  As I approached the bridge, it became a little bit of sardines, but I managed to get through.  Near the gate, a band was covering “Higher Ground” in a high-energy manner, and a security guy gave up on my over-stuffed bag after I told him all I had were clothes and toiletries.  Probably not a good sign if they give up that easily on testimony alone!

Power-walking through the concourse, I got to my seat for the SECOND pitch.  I sat initially in my assigned seat, as the Cubs went down quietly in the first.  I also shed the Shimanos in my seat—AHHHH… that feels good to have unconstrained feet!  The park is only ten years old, and it is a neat place with the marquees, four tiers of seats, and a great view of the sky.  The fans had a lot of fun in the first to the tune of two doubles and one home run (sandwiched by strikeouts and a line-out)!

I’ll journal some of the experience more than the game, since the box score I’ll give and I also have the scorecard (hopefully I can attach the file here).  The game itself was quite fun to see the fans’ reactions to plays like the robbed home run followed by a no-doubt homer by the Brewers.  The former had a Brewers fan cheering, so I quipped, “Purim is still six months away!”  A few seats away, Ricky, who was wearing a Cubs jersey, said, “I thought that was in October.”  After thinking for a few seconds, I realized he confused Yom Kippur and PurimThough, I have heard reasonable connections between the two holidays in some Divrei Torah.  This, of course, was a great conversation starter, with the Israel experience, neutrality in this game, and more.  Although the conversations were fun, I got distracted by the game (or was it vice-versa?)

Rewinding a little bit, I splurged (in more ways than one!) after the second inning on a burger, waffle fries, and a pop.  This will probably be enough to just reset my Calorie balance on the day to zero.  In parentheses, I got the plays that I missed since the scoreboard chronicled each at-bat from each player.  Now, fast-forward to the end of the game and the line score:

BREWERS 6, CUBS 4

Chicago (57-76)          0 1 0    0 0 0    0 3 0 = 4    9   0

Milwaukee (80-54)      3 1 1    0 0 0    1 0 x = 6   10  2

Before leaving, I used the restroom, and clomped back to the buses, with my bike light awkwardly on my head.  It only fits well on a hard hat or a helmet, and my helmet I left with my bike!  Next time, I will bring the light that I used in Israel!  Clomping back to the buses, moving faster than the cars, I boarded a bus about to leave just outside of the parking lot.  It’s a charter bus!

Of course, this brought some nostalgia from a month ago.  Unfortunately, there was no misparay barzel l’hitpakeid, “Son” label on a thermometer, or Hebrew music.  I could hear some sing-alongs in the back, but like usual, I was near the front of the bus (on an aisle seat).  However, this didn’t matter this time, since I won’t be able to get any good pictures of the road in the dark… since the darkness is the same in Israel and in Wisconsin.  En route, I watched Northwestern at Utah in volleyball on livestats.  It was tight, but the ‘Cats answered each challenge that the Utes posed.  I’ll just get to the line score and call it good on this account.

WILDCATS 3, UTES 0

Utah (2-1)                   19     24     24 = 0

Northwestern (3-0)     25     26     26 = 3

Approaching Interstate 94, a backup was evident due to lane closures.  It was slow-going, but we arrived at Wrigley at 2320h or so.  But, the bikes also got stuck in traffic, so we were waiting for a while.  Once they arrived at 2340h, they appeared to be pulled randomly from the semis.  Several riders appeared cranky, because they were on the early buses that have been waiting even longer!  It was at just after midnight when 696 was wheeled out of the semi.  So, a la the Negev, I enthusiastically shouted, “THAT BIKE IS MINE!”  With enough energy left to pedal to Nir’s apartment, it took less than five minutes.  So ends this adventure!

Actually, the adventure isn’t over yet.  I am raising funds for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  Any bit helps… if you want to donate, please click anywhere on this paragraph. Donations will be accepted until the end of 2011.

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