Saturday, November 10, 2012

Biking DuPage

I biked to the Western Ave. Metra station for a 3:30 train on the Elgin-bound line. It managed to be an absolutely stress-free bike-on-train experience both ways (not a lot of other cyclists despite decent weather), except that I'm back to using my heavy vintage bike after a lightweight used one I had briefly was stolen.

I got out at the Schaumburg stop, and while trying to find my way out of the station and parking lot area, went the wrong way past the Boomers baseball stadium, even though I biked this route twice earlier this year. It's not easy to figure out and I'd have wasted much more time without a map on my phone. I made it to the major north-south street, Gary, and the unpleasant choice of going on a 45 mph road or on the sidewalk paths with a tendency to end in the middle of the block, necessitating walking the bike for a while or crossing the 45 mph road to use the path on the other side, until it inevitably disappeared too. I noted which side to take for the ride back (and forgot it anyway).

I made it to Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale without incident, except biking up to the mall I didn't see any bicycle rack and didn't have time to search. (Some malls do have them, and I'm always the only one parked there.) I locked it to the "K" (easy to remember!) parking area sign in front of Macy's and had a short trip around the mall. More vacancies than I remembered from a visit a few months ago, but too nice and crowded to be classed as a dead mall (a topic that will be explored a lot on this blog later).  Santa Claus' area was set up but he wasn't arriving till Friday the 16th. (I'd have gotten a better view if security wasn't nearby.)

I was indecisive about the food court and needed to get cash without an ATM charge so I decided to go to the Meijer store across the street to buy some food and get cash back. It was getting dark by then and making it across the huge road and into Meijer's surprisingly badly-lit lot (on both sides; around the store itself was fine) was another ordeal. Nothing looked like bike parking, so I locked it to a stop sign/concrete thing (those things that keep people from driving too close to the store). As I did, a man walked by and said "Biking in November?" in a quizzical tone. (Er, I guess that's implied with the question mark.) He was wearing shorts. In November, because it was warm. I think this is an area where bicycling seems strange at any time...

I got a better meal for $5 than I would have at the food court (Meijer premade sandwich, blackberries on sale for $1, Meijer brand cola), and left the lot. Trying, not successfully for the trip, to recall which side of the street I needed to bike on back north to Lake. And being unpleasantly surprised that there are blocks and blocks in the suburbs that don't have street lights, except at intersections. You're limited to house or business lights, if any are around, approaching headlights, or whatever is on your bike, which, uh, wasn't enough.

I found the Coachlite Skate Center in Roselle, where I'd be seeing DuPage Derby Dames rollerderby for the first time, in their last bout of their first season. I looked for bike parking. Again, I had to lock the bike to a sign. I'm usually the only one biking to suburban sporting events, even in the midst of summer baseball season. The rollerderby was fun and concessions were inexpensive, but it ran to within about a half-hour of the last inbound Metra of the night, and I got nervous. The ride from Coachlite to Metra was shorter than from Stratford Square to Coachlite, but plagued with the same lack of light and disappearing paths. I got to Metra three minutes before the final train.

I try to use the #bikeCHI tag on Twitter often, to describe the joys and hazards of bicycling in Chicago. I ended up tagging this #bikeDuPage and #donotbikeDuPage.

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