Thursday, June 25, 2009

If one doesn't count the fact that I paid a dinner visit to some family friends in Rochester, NY (an old classmate of my father's and his family), Shaya in South Bend had the distinction of being the first person I've stopped to see on this trip whom I actually knew beforehand. It had been about five years since I'd last seen him, before he moved out to Indiana. When I last saw him and his wife Samara, they had two children. Now they had a fifth on the way.

The job of raising that many children that close in age is beyond heroic. It is hard for me to put into words the respect I have for people who pull this off. It is an unbelievably difficult task.

Shaya lives, from what I can tell, in the neighborhood that contains pretty much in its entirety South Bend's surprisingly large Jewish community. It was a good chance to stop for a while and study Talmud with some of the impressively knowledgeable and erudite students there. Talmud is so complex that an hour or two of seriously studying it tends to give me a headache. After a study session like that, I'm likely to go to sleep. And so, at Shaya's, I slept a lot as well. Peppered throughout was stuff like riding go-karts with the kids. I was paid for some of the Talmud study, as well as for some backyard work, which will help me a lot along the way.

On Sunday morning, I departed, and the kids all got on their bikes and rode to the end of the street with me to see me off.


I rode to Michigan City, and then to Indiana Dunes. The headwind was brutal, and the 50 miles I rode ended up unexpectedly being a full day's work. I was finally on Lake Michigan though. The next day, I headed onward, to a section that I was worried about. I had been told stories by various people, ranging from "you'll get shot" to "there's not a single bikeable or walkable road through there."

The first statement was completely overblown, but the second was absolutely true, and I wouldn't recommend that one try this as his first bike trip; he would end up hating Chicago and hating biking. For cyclists who are interested, I'm going to provide a detailed description here.

From downtown Gary, IN, I went west on 4th Ave (US-12) until 12 went off to the left, but I went straight onto a bridge over railroad tracks. That dumped me out onto Industrial Highway, which I followed for a few miles, past an airfield. The airfield, being devoid of trees and completely flat, had such a nasty wind that I had to get off and walk for a while. Most of the passing cars were trucks, and the amount of dirt blowing around in the wind was something I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen it.

I passed under Route 912 (labeled on signs as Cline Ave), and then turned right onto the next road, also called Cline Ave, which I didn't really understand. That was when I first realized I was in East Chicago and on the Chicago grid, passing 140th St. Cline Ave turned diagonally and I started seeing signs labeling it as Guthrie St. Then the signs seemed to say it was King St. I took a left onto 136th St. It dead-ended into a park, which I rode through, and continued along 136th a few more blocks. Then I took a right onto Hemlock St.

At its end, the grid temporarily ended, and all there was was a diagonal street called Dickey Rd. The neighborhood disappeared and once again there were no normal cars, just trucks and dirt in the wind. I went over a bridge. Dickey Rd ended and I took a left onto 129th St.

I went by a BP oil refinery, with some interesting railroad tracks crossing the road into closed gates with very heavy security. I took a right onto Indianapolis Blvd. I followed it through Whiting and over a bridge. The road spent about a mile under an I-90 overpass. It took some dodging to avoid merging onto it. Finally, a bike path appeared alongside the road, and I followed it for about another mile until, around 100th St, it ended and the road forked.

I took a right, walking my bike through a tunnel on a dirty sidewalk that I felt like I may well have been the first person to ever use. I came out in what didn't seem like a great neighborhood, but wasn't too terrible either. I was on Ewing Ave. I followed it over a bridge, and caught another glimpse of Lake Michigan on my right. The road forked again and I went north on Mackinaw Ave which ended at 87th St. I went left and right (Burley Ave), then left and around, onto S. Shore Dr.

I followed that to 79th St, at which point I saw a park along the lake and went into it. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. I'd have done better to stay on S. Shore Dr. The path was very bikeable, until it ran into a dune and ended. I dragged my bike over the dune. This was where I got my first view of the Chicago skyline, still way in the distance. I ended up on some other street in the upper 70s. I got back out onto S. Shore Dr.

At 71st St, I finally found another "legitimate" bike path. It took me out along the lake again and now continued uninterrupted toward the city.

Easy ride downtown from there.

1 comment:

  1. The path where you dragged your bike over a dune is called Farragut Rd. Didn't you feel nostalgic?