Day 27: Riding Chicago on a “rest day”

I’ve had the same “problem” in each major city I’ve stopped in for a rest day: so much to see and do, yet so much need to not do anything and give my body some rest. Invariably I opt for the former with a dash or two of the latter. Chicago was no different, and I had just as fantastic a time in the city as I always have.

It started with breakfast down the street from Kaitie and Bethany’s at Pilsen Breakfast and Grill, whose omlets and coffee were spot on. I stuffed my face while plotting out my day.

I had wanted to enjoy the city off the bike just to recoup, but I couldn’t resist riding. All my time in windy farmland made me yearn for frenetic city riding, and I had to experience it. Kaitie urging me to the night before just greased the wheels.

I cruised through bike lanes on 18th and weaved in and out of indifferent taxis to Grant Park, where Buckingham Fountain begged for a tourist portrait:

And then it was a hop skip and a jump to the Art Indtitute of Chicago. 

I’ve been there countless times. It’s the place I’ve gone to celebrate good times (like after passing my thesis defense), I’ve gone to ease the pain of bad times (take your pick), and I’ve gone just to go. In grad school I was a member and a few times a year I’d wake up at 5am, drive five hours, get cleansed in the museum, hit up Millers Pub, then make it back to Cincinnati by midnight. Some people go to church. I go to the Art Institute of Chicago (and rock shows, but I’ll gush on those once I get to Boulder).  The collection is so vast and comprehensive that it can be overwhelming being inundated by some of the finest visual art in human history. I’ve gone in the past to feel connected to humanity and to get clarity. Since my tour is giving me a more active way to do those things (massive understatement), it felt fitting to go back. 

Personal favorites:

Diane Arbus.

El Greco (always sinister and heavy on the black).

Jules-Adolphe Breton (with a plaque saying Bill Murray loves this painting).

Toulouse-Lautrec (working on bicycles!).

My favorite Van Gogh. 

And then Renzo Piano’s Modern Wing.

It’s been a favorite since it opened a few years ago. Such a great space for the 20th century’s finest. 

Cindy Sherman.

A version of my favorite painting ever by Magritte (“The Treachery of Images” is at LA’s LACMA. I want to ride to it.).

And, of course, Picasso.

Part of the fun of the place is to watch other museum goers, like these two goofing off with Warhol:

And last but not least, the current special exhibit, “America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s”, which was an outstanding collection that drove home how dire the Depression was. I saw paintings that depicted all the places I’ve ridden through and of places I will on the road ahead. I thought about how much everything is interconnected, and how traveling by bicycle has given me an unmatched opportunity to recognize that interconnectivity. Exhibit highlight:

Alexander Hogue’s “Erosion No. 2 – Mother Earth Laid Bare”. It speaks for itself I think. 

True to form, the Art Institute cleansed me. It had been a few years since I had been there, and even though I was on the fence about going back, I’m so glad I did. I left with a smile, which was good, because I had more riding to do. 

I needed to get some fuel for my stove, as I was preparing to do a fair bit more camping than I have so far heading into my next rest day in Iowa City. I had to head north towards Lincoln Park about 5 miles, which meant I had the opportunity to ride down Michigan Avenue. 

The pictures don’t do justice to the big city bustle. I could only snap them at “safe” times.

It was a few short minutes of sheer bliss. Riding through heavy traffic, never stopping, threading my bike through three lanes of Magnificent Mile craziness with bursts of acceleration that lifted my front wheel off the ground… There’s no way to describe it. You just have to do it, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

I got my gear then needed to splurge on some Chicago deep dish. I wasn’t planning on it actually, but I figured why not. I thought about Gino’s, but once I read “tourist trap” in an online review I opted for Lou Malnati’s.

Apparently Lou’s Dad was in the room when deep dish was created. I also heard he “probably” created it himself. Either way it was delicious. 

More riding through skyscrapers to the next stop:

I had to get some staples to shove in the pannier, but Ididnt bring my pannier. So I improvised:

I headed back to the apartment in Pilsen free maybe 20-25 miles on the bike. Not much of a rest day on that front, but it was worth it. I had never ridden in Chicago before, and it was a joy to finally put that city under my wheels.

I laid low at night, trying to rest up for the hard push through western Illinois in the days ahead of me. I tried to get some work done on Bethany’s laptop that she graciously lent me for the night but I was dozing in and out and came up short

Kaitie took me up to her roof before heading out to meet friends, and I was so, so happy she did. 

I stayed up there for a while, just bathing in the city at night. I didn’t really want t leave just yet, but I didn’t realize how much until the next day…

-J

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