free ticket to paradise…

My bike! copyright 2011 Pamela Breitberg

I ride the sidewalk to the bike trail to the horse trail to the gravel path to the restored prairie. My travels lead me only a couple of miles from home, so I don’t need to leave until about an hour before sunset to capture images with the of life highlighted by the warm setting sun. My mountain bike is perfect for all terrain; but needs to be parked by the side of the last path as a couple of signs remind me each time I ascend the shallow hill to the entrance, at the top of this image.

My bicycle journeys along the horse trail most times I venture into the preserve. It is rare that I encounter a horse and rider; and experience has taught me to stop so as not to spook a skittish beast. No rider has ever reminded me that there is a bike trail, so I think I am not “really bad” by this habit. I prefer the horse trail because it follows close to a branch of the Chicago River while the bike trail parallels the public parking areas and picnic grounds. It’s more of an adventure to follow the river; at least more of the natural wild adventure and my preference when seeking a release from the trials of the work week and duties of housekeeper and mother and wife (though I treasure each descriptor of me).

Chicago is flat, except for some man-made little hills, so gear changing is rarely necessary. Only to change my pedaling workout do I ever shift into higher or lower gear.  The wide, deeply treaded tires lend themselves as my choice for a “mountain” bike in a city that is hundreds of miles from mountains or rolling hills.  The bike also fits my rather slow, rambling nature; racing is the last thing on my mind when I’m in the forest. I might miss sighting a deer or something else of interest if I speed past this treasure of urban nature. I don’t really worry about popped tires, air leaks, slipped chains or stolen bike (though I am fond of it!)  because no matter where I venture I have the luxury of being in an urban preserve so near to major streets and retail and service stations. My cell phone has relieved my husband from worry now that I ride solo because, alas, our girls are grown and no longer my partners in adventure.

My journeys are usually only several miles each way; but when I’m really up for adventure and workout I can use over 15 miles of trails northward or about 10 miles south of our home through the forest. Two prairies appear in woodland openings south of home and the Chicago Botanic Garden with its restored prairies  is my northern destination. The dirt horse trail along the river’s edge wind through the entire route. And sometimes my discovery is a great non-natural find; best was finding Super Dawg years ago! Then my bike wasn’t the ideal vehicle since it’s hard to attach a drive-in tray when there’s no window to roll down part way.

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