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“Bike until you die”

July 12, 2011

– Graffiti under the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT) I-294 underpass

Lots of biking adventures this week. Saturday night was L.A.T.E. Ride with Roommate. It was my third year volunteering, and my fourth participating. Gorgeous weather as always, friendly people, and a meh sunrise. One of the best organizations I have had the pleasure of volunteering for, and one of my favorite events I have had the pleasure of attending.

DPRT today. It’s a gorgeous day and I was itching to go out and do something. I traveled further south than I ever have been, which was exciting. (I have hiked a continuous stretch between just North of Golf Road and just south of the 294 underpass. I have also hiked small sections in Lake County near the county line and Half Day preserve. Today I rode the trail for the first time ever, from downtown Des Plaines south to Higgins Road.

There’s nothing published about the trail as a whole – part is governed by the Lake County Forest Preserve District and part by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. By the far the most comprehensive is Dave Piasecki’s Trailville page. He covers the entire Lake County portion and Cook County south until Algonquin Woods Forest Preserve. The best resource on Cook County is Chuck Morlock’s Biking Cook County’s Des Plaines River Trail. Chuck mentions nothing south of Higgins Road. Lake County has a pretty good map, but good luck finding a Cook County match on their website.

Different parts of the trail are in various stages of repair, and I definitely experienced that today. The new bike path install in downtown Des Plaines in 2009 is in great condition except for dried mud everywhere from our most recent flood. I can tell Cook County has been trying to improve parts of the trail – curb ramps have been installed at Algonquin and Oakton Roads, and the paths seem to have been recently regraded. I know they were working on that just south of 294 because the construction signs were up through the spring. Even more exciting, and north of where I went today, a connecting path and crosswalk with crossing lights has been put in at Rand and Ballard Roads. Both Chuck and Dave mention the dangerous situation this crossing has been for some time, and thankfully as of early 2011 it is fixed!

South of here…a completely different story. I rode that new section today and was very thankful I had taken Roommate’s mountain bike instead of my road Trek. Both Touhy and Devon Roads have difficult crossings, both with two choices.

At Touhy you can cross a very busy four (five?) lanes of traffic, no curb ramps. I would have waited forever if I took that route. Option two was what looked to have been an underpass in a previous life, with lots and lots of broken concrete but not really any flooding despite a big storm a couple days ago. I went this way.

The path between the Touhy crossing and Dam No. 4 Woods East was blocked by a huge felled tree. There were lots of little ones I could go around, but this one I had to lift my bike over. I don’t know how long it takes the Forest Preserve District to clear the path, but farther north they usually do a pretty good job so I expect it will be gone soon.

At Devon you again can choose an underpass or road crossing. The underpass was poorly lit, and looked to have a good bit of flooding in it. I went across by the road crossing, which has closed signs hanging on both sides of the road. You should ignore these. I continued until Higgins and the path was filled with lots of rocks, and it made me definitely glad about that mountain bike. And really glad I went for a ride today!

It’s my goal to travel (hike?) the whole distance (50ish miles) this summer.( miles down. A lot more to go!

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