2020 Annual Starved Rock Ride–a Review

2020 Annual Starved Rock Ride–a Review

Short version: I had a pretty good time. You guys shoulda been there
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Longer version: I had a pretty good time. You guys shoulda been there. Here's what I 'member give or take a few lapses and moments of total confusion not to mention giving a lie or two.

Thanx to our prez, Patrick, for getting this ride on the front burner and off the launch pad. Nadia wanted to go and Pat asked if anyone would take her? I like 2up and waited a cuppla days to see if any club member who likes 2up as much as or more than me would step up? I had met Nadia briefly at the March club meeting and she seemed to be avid for the MC activity. Patrick supplied some contact info and I rang up Nadia to put a timeline together. It was a tough week for Nadia and I wondered if we were going to pull off the ride? It kinda came together at the last minute, The 60F degrees at 7;15am had Nadia in a harley jacket and an extra long sleeved shirt under my Stich. I had budgeted extra time to orient Nadia to the bike and get our bike mounting skills sorted. First effort went well but I wished for a spotter and didn't have one. It has been a long time since I was 2up for the day. My skillz are decidedly rusty.

First Cluster of the Day: The O'Hare Oasis is out of service. Additionally the little sign that directs traffic into the site is hard to find and I missed it. Dave & Fran (D&F) saw it and told me about it later. I rode against traffic up the Oasis's on-ramp to I-294 to make sure that nobody was waiting for me. The big gas pricing sign was lit making me believe that the pumps were available. But the pumps were dark and the service station was boarded up and dark. Fortunately, I was able to phone Dave&Fran and reschedule our meet-up for Denny's on WB 95th off 294. They took the adjustment with good grace and I was grateful. Nadia was amused by my old style flip phone. Somebody had let Jack Branas know about the oasis closure and he let me know the night before. I didn't believe it and didn't check it out either. I will never ever learn except by the hardest road possible.

Transiting from the O'Hare Oasis to Denny's, the autonomic part of my brain was calculating mpg for the day and lit the light signaling for fuel asap as the best plane overall. We fueled at the Hinsdale Oasis. And practiced our dismount/mount skills. It never fails to astonish me how few times it takes a fresh 2up team to get pretty fluid at that task. Early ballet training not required but helpful in one's life skills repertoire at moments like these. Makes me ponder how much a group buy for ballroom dancing would improve the club?

Denny's parking lot was essentially empty when we got there. D&F showed up nearly right behind us. Greg Tamm was scheduled to meet us there and he showed up pleasantly early. Consulting the time on my GPS, we were ahead of schedule by enough for a brief Riders' Meeting. You can ask D&F and Greg what they thought of it? I did mention that we would do a photo opp at the Santa Fe Mem, Rock. AFAIK, they had never heard of Santa Fe Raceway? I did my brief explanation and asked them to look up the details for any fun that might pertain to the place. The history goes back to the early 1900s.

We left Denny's pretty much on time. Nice cool riding weather and a nearly cloudless sky on roads slow enough to see everything that it might be worthwhile to see.The slow transit along 95th allowed me to tell Nadia about the Sabre Room www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-sou...-20160607-story.html Widely believed that a lot of political deals were cut there over the years. A mere few years ago it was finally demolished and condos built on the site. Not far north of the Sabre Room, were a few riding stables. Horses were rented out for riding the nearby forest preserve trails. BITD, I discovered that horsemanship would largely elude me and motorcycles seemed much safer and way more fun. Stories available upon request with one of the most popular involving a spectacular dismount and broken arm. One of the many joys of being 2up is having somebody to share thoughts. Granted, I forgot to tell Nadia that she could tell me to STFU as she liked. But she seemed like a forthright person who would make her needs known?

South of 95th and Willow Springs Rd is an old boy scout camp and the Little Red School House & Nature Center. Even a little more south and back on Rt45, is a paved model airplane airport where lots of amazing RC planes and helicopters are flown. Continuing west on 95th, some damn fool decides to step out into traffic from the bushes onto a crosswalk. Other than the painted lines there are no signs or anything to warn 45+mpg traffic. I dodged him easily and it made me wonder what his intelligence level might be compared to a herd of deer? Shortly after that the road sweeps thru a cuppla nice bends and past Maple Lake. If a rider knows the road and has taken a sighting pass thru there, a rider could take those bends at a comfortably brisk 60mph. The lake parking area was cone'd off and there was no traffic of concern. But I road slow enough to tell Nadia that the lake was a fun place to fish and learned that Nadia likes fishing. As a kid on the Far Sout' Side of Chicago, a bunch of us would ride bicycles about 15mi out to this area for a day. Some of the bodies of waters are called a slough. Its possible to drown in a slough if one forgets to stand up. BITD, The nearby Swallow Cliff toboggan slides were a scary thrill until I got a motorcycle. search.aol.com/aol/image?p=cook+co+tobog...ies.jpg&action=click

95th ends at Archer/71/171 and we turned back east to Willow Springs Rd to cross the Cal-Sag and the DesPlaines R. German Church Rd took us west to Wolf Rd which winds back SW to 91st and the site of the Santa Fe Raceway Mem Rock. My commentary to Nadia on all the tight corners and narrow street and zero street lighting used to have a lot of crashers who were mostly drunk but a few were sober and over-challenged. A night of race watching made everyone believe that they were great drivers and riders. Fran took pix at the Rock:

WB from the Mem. Rock, we ogled the high end homes of Burr Ridge. I told my "Mean Despicable Real Estate Developer" joke but musta flubbed it badly as I got no wry smiles. Turning south onto Rt83 we rode a short way to the next light and turned west onto Bluff Rd. Bluff Rd is a big part of the return route from Starved Rock and it is nice to touch it so close to the start. Lots of parked cars and traffic along side the parks as we approached Cass Ave.This foreshadowed what we would find at Starved Rock.

We rode past Argonne Natl Labs. Nadia heard me drone about the nuclear waste from the U of C pile buried nearby. It has a small fence around the plot and I have always wanted a Geiger counter to see how active it remains? As a boy scout, our troop was orienteering to it once. At the time, mapping and compass work seemed worthwhile to know. Celestial nav was fun to learn and I actually employed my meager skill on backroads in MI in the middle of the night trying to get to a beemer rally.Good thing that the sky was clear or it would have been a rough go.

About this time, I suspect that Nadia was grateful for a transit SB on I-55 to Arsenal Rd. I had to shut up for a while. And the speeds were high enough that got some cooling in our gear after so much dawdling. My Riders' Meeting and Mem,Rock moments failed to mention the Arsenal Rd exit ramp.The Arsenal Rd exit ramp might have the loooongest high speed LH curve in Illinois if not the country? And it is banked, usefully. If a rider wants to erase the chicken strips on the left side of his/her tires, the Arsenal Rd exit ramp is a pretty good place to do that if one does not have access to a roadracing track. The Autobahn CC is nearby and I have included a visit on other bike rides. But I haven't figured out how to so it for this ride. I have several Autobahn CC stories available upon request and might tell one if a libation was put in my hand and a quiet expectation overcame the assembled masses. Me and Nadia rode that ramp briskly with no fearful screaming but some minor "Oh Yeahs!" scattered about. Its really really nice to have a co-rider vocalizing in harmony at such moments.

Blodgett Rd is shady. I didn't realize how warm I was on the x-way until we got some shade on a narrow county road. Speed dropped from the x-way windy blast to a comfy 50mph. Flooded roadside areas assailed us with its rot. Not as bad as the stench from the sewage treatment area along side I-294. Motorcycling was always Aroma Therapy long before today's idiots believed that it could be sold in a can. Now that we were slowed down, I started pointing out stuff of interest to me hoping that my following riders might find it of note. If nothing else they can make fun of my arm waving and dream up fantastical stories about it all. Joliet Motorsports Park was pointed out.I would normally ride past it to see if any bikes were playing within eye-shot. But one of my riders was 'gravel adverse' on the day. And I was appreciative that he let me know early enough to make routing adjustments easy. Later at a map re-fold (30 turns on my route sheet, both ways), I remarked that I had ridden my GS to the park and rode all 3 tracks. I managed to exhaust myself in just 2 laps of the kiddie track/loop. Stories upon request and more than one proffered libation. There are a bunch of little roads to explore all over the area. Cottage Rd is one loop that I will have to take someday.

Will Rd has 2 bridges and one is covered. It was too warm of a day to feel the comfy warmth of the covered bridge. There's a lot of wildlife refuge in the area but I have never seen any wildlife. Lorenzo Rd starts the boring slog west. Not much to see and not much to mention to Nadia. You are lucky to see a lone hawk soaring. Where all the turkey vultures came from is beyond me? Never saw any in my yoot but they are ubiquitous now, sigh. Somewhere we arced around a turtle scrabbling to cross the road. I had my foot out a lot and went real wide hoping that none of my followers would hit it. If I was a lone bike, I would have circled back and carried it off the road. 3 on-coming cages made me give up on the idea. I said a quick fervent prayer that the turtle might make it. That's the second turtle-in-the-road that I have seen this year. The other was a big snapper that was already being attended by a kind soul.

Luck was with me. I spotted the "Pavement Ends" sign in time to slow and make a left onto a paved road. Normally, as if anything I do is normal. I ride along gazing at as much scenery as possible not giving too figs about routing or arriving on schedule. Sometimes the gravel is hard packed with the tire swathes looking like concrete. Sometimes, the gravel is freshly spread and deep allowing a bike to wander significantly. Anywho we avoided it. But I looked at the pebbles fondly as a missed moment. We had a nice cross-breeze. So following bikes would not have gotten dusty. Rant on 'why a bike should never be washed' upon request. No libation needed.

There are 2 sections of down-hill-with-curves that could catch a rider out. Another place has a sharp right immediately beyond a high bridge that conceals everything until it too late.I am careful of my group riders.

A cuppla years ago, I had enough time cushion to do a side loop to the Illini State Park. There is a river lock and a dam worth riding past. F&F have stopped at such a place and at the I-M Canal info center. Both those sights are on my local bucket list. Maybe next year?

We turned onto River Rd and I missed a chance to point out what looks like an old river boat of the Mark Twain persuasion. I have always wanted to stop there and see if I could look it over or go inside? Another corner had an antique car being rebuilt in front of somebody's house. If the weather was warm enough, the owner would be out working on it year after year as I rode past. I was always going to stop for a quick chat with the owner. But I didn't see it this year. Nor did I see the green metal-flake chopper that is usually parked in front of the most run-down wooden shack seen along the whole route. Make an annual pilgrimage enough times and you get to know stuff along the whole route denied to the casual traveler.

Many moons ago riding this route with my all-time fav co-rider, I missed a turn for the street that would take us out of a housing development. The upside was that we got to see all the locale's Halloween decorations. I couldn't find my out but wasn't really lost. After a while my co-rider asked, "How many times are we going to circle these blocks?" I replied, "Let me know when we come to the street that we came in on and I will take it out of here." Since then, my route sheet has the name of the desired street in great big block letters. So we got thru there w/o missing anything important that I know of because there was no holiday on the cusp.

Rolling into the Starved Rock Park area, we had enough traffic that many of the great curves could not be enjoyed with a brisk pace. So it was lollygagging at scenery time. Right next to the river was cooling. But it soon got hot climbing up the sandstone elevations. The Park entrance was closed and traffic abounded. Lots of roadside parking had me wary of little kids and animals. One of us needed a loo. So we made the slow crawl into Utica. We rode completely thru Utica and turned back before the perfect port-a-potty was selected. One rider selected a loo in sun-blistered gravel parking lot. Another rider selected the loo across the street which was nicely shaded under a large tree. And the nearby building made parking the bike in the shade for comfy e-z off/on. Only downside to that was the 2 lefts required to make it happen in traffic. nadia and I waited on a gravel drive under a shade tree with a nice breeze. They took the moment to shed some warm gear.

Coming out of Utica and heading for Smitty's, the crawl past the Park was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. D&F must have a lot of experience as they hung back a long way to avoid the worst of the slow-riding. Which gave me a lot of room for my own slow-ride efforts. THANX, DAVE! (Aside: Dave rode exceptionally well the whole day. Rarely in my hip pocket when he didn't have to be. I'm glad to go anywhere with him again.)

Finally getting up to the stop sigh, I noticed a string of bikes turning south. Many of them beemers and many of them resembling club members. And they all stopped at Smitty's.And that little crossroads town of Lenoire was hot. Like 90F hot. Beau Coup Thanx to the club member suggesting it. There was SHADE. And the food was good and it was cheap. A lot more club members were there than on the rsvp list. There should be a list of attendees somewhere. There was shaded parking but I didn't want to be in that glut. Nadia and I got a place to sit in front of a floor fan. There was enough breeze anyway. But I didn't want to be in a place where the breeze might quit while the floor fan still ran.

Bruce Haynes whom I have not seen in a long time showed up. He grew up around there and knew to order the house special pork tenderloin big enough to feed 2. It was big enough to feed 4 if accompanied by sides. Nadia and I had a canned soda while figuring the menu. My burger was great and came quickly. I was going to treat Nadia to lunch. But some club member comp'd her food before I got the check. No idea who and I couldn't find out? But it was a class act. And Nadia and I say THANX for that.

About 1-1;30pm, my group left for home. Some club members were still arriving after getting into the park that we were denied. And they got pix too. Some guys have all the luck. Did I mention that it was now Hot? Like 88F and humid enough to feel Hot. And there isn't much shade on the homeward run. Even right alongside the river, it wasn't exactly cool-ish. Anything a little ways from the river was just plain hot. There was enough traffic that we were confined to 50mph instead of the usual 60-65mph when traffic is light. The heat had the river boats out on it. Lots of pontoon boats loaded with people. Ski boats and large cruisers would pull up on island sand bars and socialize in the shade of trees. I didn't see much fishing. Nor were the hot rodders and antique cagers roaming around? Mostly I saw families and couples taking advantage of the parks.

My riders fueled in Ottawa. I did not. There were new traffic lights to me making my fav gas station a little annoying to find. There used to be a bunch of murals in Ottawa. But I saw only 2. Ottawa has some rich people and I told Nadia that I had attended a cuppla of high end weddings that didn't impress me at all. Traffic did disappear some of the time and most of the ride was easy if not brisk. And we did ride thru some shade which felt great for the short time it lasted. The gun club had no skeet shooters when we rode past it. I told Nadia a story about riding the road 2up on a sportbike when it was completely torn out and closed for sewer and rain controls for about 4 miles. The underbrush conceals a lot of the I-M Canal and its bicycling and hiking trail. Didn't see a soul on that trail whenever it came into view. The little bit of Rt6 that we had to ride was blissfully free of traffic. I pointed out "The Cliffs Insane Terrain park which I have never visited but intend to someday. looks like a good GS challenge if the 4WD idjits and the insane MXers don't run me over. I hear that the trails are marked one-way and restricted to some kinds of vehicles? Could be a fun place to visit when wet if they will let you in for pictures? Anybody having been there should clue me in? I have seen some insanely muddy 4WD being towed out of there.

Wildlife consisted of one crane standing majestically in what looked like a recently drained swamp.

One could stay on Rt6 or one could be on some back streets and I don't think either would have scenery better than the other? Its a nice trip if not spectacular in any way. But, unless you need I-80 to make a tight schedule, I can't believe Slab scenery worth that route. We all finally arrived to the I-55 Slab and waved good-bye to each other. The Slab was moving well but i knew it to jam up quickly at any moment. Did I mention that the Slab was Hot? Usually, I ride bare-handed in the summer. The backs of my hands get a multi-hued sunburn/tan of reds, oranges, umber while my fingers remain lily white. Most people don't notice but those that do give me some funny looks. Today was the first day of the year when i was out long enough to get a good start on discoloring my hide. I saw an old guy naked from the waist up cruising the Slab. No eye protection behind his barn door sized windshield. Bald head matching the tan on the rest of him. But he was safe from the Virus wearing his latex gloves. He followed me for a long time. I assume he couldn't take his eyes off my hot biker babe on pillion?

And then a miracle happened! Coincidental with crossing into DuPage County, cooling 'lake effect' hit us. Aaaah, that feels goooood. Yes, the Slab eventually tightened up and we slowed a lot. But it was a cool slow ride. No remembrance of what we talked about while going slow? But it passed the time quite well. Riding north on Cicero, our conversation was so good that I missed the turn for EB Fullerton. Cicero Ave was initially clogged with typical urban glut traffic. I saw several bikes. The most notable of them were a small and loud MX 2-smoke and a loud piped mini-bike/scooter. Both were maniacally ridden in the worst possible way by young people sans any protective gear including eye protection. My grumpy old man self raged at the idiocy while the kid in me elated in seeing their riding joy. In the end, I wished them well and prayed that they would survive the learning curve to be come life-long bikers. Someplace on CiceroAve had a horrendous stink. The kind of stink that makes ones throat close up and ones eyes slam shut. Nadia declared it to be 'garbage' and I am not going to disagree. But there seemed to be more to it than mere rotting garbage? I gave thanx to the local dieties that the traffic light was green and we got past it w/o a wait. Wainwright was nice and full of speedbumps (Sleeping policemen in mexico and other southern places). Nadia got some MX experience. If we ride 2up again, I will be less timorous about taking the road less traveled with her. Nadia rides well and has a great attitude and a lot of fun to contribute.

I managed to get back to my garage by 4pm after fueling a half mile from my house. It was about a 300 mile day for me averaging 44mph while on the roll. David and Fran and Greg were all kind enough to express their thanx for the fun. What was missing on the day? Bugs. No bugs were mashed on my windshield or any other part of the bike. For all the slow riding we did thru the fields and along side the river, we garnered no bugs.

there you have it and bobs's your uncle,

postscript (I luv'em): Greg sent a nice note to me post-ride and observed, "I was going to liken your grandiose arm sweep, indicating high lites, low lites, places of beauty and special interest, as fran's PT Barnum wave. Your left arm uncurls, then at the end your fingers bend, sort of cupping the beauty, holding it still for us to observe with awe and wonder. If I call you PT in the future, that is why." Greg is the first biker to notate my fun riding gestures in the whole of my riding experience. Now that I know this, if we ride together again, I will display my repertoire for the fun. I might even make up a new one and name it in his honor?
pps: Any accompanying photos are courtesy of Frances Dietzgen who kindly helped with this ride in a lot of important ways for which I will be forever grateful. THANX, FRAN.

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