Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bike Tour: Milwaukee to Winnetka

Ralph's knees were shot. We had to either shoot him or leave him behind. Ralph opted for the latter. Joe, another Marine friend that couldn't (or wouldn't) ride with us, agreed to drive up from Chicago and pick up Ralph. Since this was going to be my last day, Ralph agreed to haul a pannier bag full of stuff back home for me. At 10:00 am, after a complimentary breakfast of waffles, cereal, juice and rolls at the La Quinta Inn, Dennis and I headed back to Winnetka.

Our route picked up the Oak Leaf Trail, a 100 mile trail circuiting Milwaukee County. Our portion of the trail was an off street bike path skirting the Milwaukee River on a former railroad right of way leading us to Milwaukee's lakefront. Much of the ride was below grade and tree lined. I lived in Milwaukee ten years ago and the path went right by my old apartment. It had also been improved a bit as well. I remember the path being pretty run down in some areas.

The off street path ended near downtown Milwaukee and we biked by the Milwaukee Art Museum, a portion of it designed by Santiago Calatrava. It was the first time I'd seen the museum since they added the new wing. It was quite impressive.

We biked through Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, a former manufacturing and warehouse district that is now home to art galleries, condos, and tony restaurants. The skies were getting darker and Dennis and I hoped to outrun the rain. We biked south through manufacturing and warehouse districts that had yet to be gentrified.

At around 10:40 am, while on Milwaukee's residential south side, it started to rain the hardest we encountered during our entire trip. The temperatures were already in the low 60s, so the rain and the wind made it seem much colder. Figuring we had at least six hours of biking ahead of us, I was not looking forward to a cold and wet ride. Once we got to the shoreline, the winds picked up and I was getting even colder. My Goretex jacket and a light long sleeved shirt just wasn't cutting it. I might have been dry but I felt really wet. Dennis was hanging in there quite well but I was not enjoying myself a bit.

At 11:15 am, I'd had enough. We approached an apartment building south of Warnimont Park that had a sheltered parking lot. I told Dennis I wanted to pull over and get out of the rain and wind for a while. I decided to put on my pants and another shirt. Then we noticed the sky was clearing. We only had to wait about five minutes for the rain to stop and to get back on our way.

The weather was better and I was warm again; so my mood improved considerably. But my butt was feeling the effects of three days in the saddle. I'd been using Bodyglide skin lubricant but even that didn't seem to be working anymore or I just hadn't used enough of it this morning. The thing about Bodyglide is that after spreading it all over the pad in my bike shorts, it initially feels like I've just dropped a wet pant load. Nice! However it now felt like my shorts were made of acid dipped steel wool.

By now we were back tracking. The sun came out and I had to stop at Puetz Road to take off an undershirt. We continued on and I had to stop again twenty minutes later just south of Botting Road to take off my pants. Now I was set for the duration. We took a break at the same liquor store in Racine and stopped at a Burger King in Kenosha where I had hoped to goop on more Bodyglide. Alas, I'd left it with Ralph.

It ended up being a pleasant day for a bike tour but I was tired, saddle sore, and ready to be home. My GPS was even giving up and flipping off at every bump. Rain always seemed to threaten and the gravel paths that seemed so smooth and scenic were now bumpy and routine. Fortunately we avoided a major rain storm that swept through northern Illinois.

We arrived home at 5:30 pm after biking 310 miles in four days.

Distance Traveled: 84.5 miles
Distance to date: 904.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.64

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