Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Biking west, part two: Skokie to Niles

sculpture and water court at Skokie public library
Things at the Skokie Public Library: "Swans" steel sculpture by Elliott Balter (1979). 
Chairs designed by Mies Van der Rohe.

So, leaving downtown Skokie by taking Oakton west seemed like a good idea at the time. As you pass the very modern library, it's a nice two-lane street. There are pleasant, if a bit weird, public sculptures and little ranch houses. And then the traffic gets nasty. I've biked down some busy streets, but the speeding trucks and cars here made me a bit nervous, so I switched over to the sidewalk. It's an old, grainy and bumpy sidewalk, but serviceable. While it lasts. Which is until you enter Morton Grove.

skokie public sculpture
The public sculpture mocks your attempts at escape. ("Gourd Man" by Shen Cheng Xu, 2009)

I mean, who needs sidewalks, right? Everyone knows you're supposed to drive from your job to your little house and then down to the mall. That's why everyone works, to drive little boxes around everywhere. Except for the many factory workers I passed trying to walk to whatever bus stops or pickup points exist along the shoulder of the road.

construction ahead
This'll keep those weird car-less people out.

There is no shoulder here. Just semi trucks rocketing by the other side of a long stainless steel barrier. There's a bit of trail worn down from all the sad, despondent working class people, littered with odd bits of debris tossed from car windows.

bike trail overpass at Oakton
Hey, there's the bike trail...

I actually ended up under the North Branch Trail passover. Again, it's a fine bike trail if you're going north or south. Scurrying across Caldwell is another thing altogether. But I did it, and after that the sidewalk re-appeared. I guess people in Niles are nicer than those in Morton Grove. Or pay more taxes.

Oak Mill Mall
Mall of the Living Dead

At Milwaukee, I pulled off to rest my nerves at Oak Mill Mall. When I was a kid, this was an ordinary neighborhood mall, with a nice restaurant and local stores. Now it seems to cater to that elderly aunt who sends you cute greeting cards with cats on them. It's conveniently set up so that you can get your medication, some orthopedic shoes, a wig and "youth style" clothing all in one spot. 

Oak Mill Fountain
The funeral lilies are a nice touch.

I grabbed a Gatorade at Minelli's, an Italian deli very much out of place, just so I wouldn't feel like an intruder. There's nothing like purchasing a refreshing consumer item to justify your presence in a shopping mall. It was either that or a Precious Moments statue from "European Imports & Gifts."

Why are sidewalks too much to ask for?

Anyway, I hit the sidewalk again, which would disappear and reappear, sending me off into various parking lots and driveways. I decided that I'd had enough of Oakton and decided to take my life in my hands one last time, biking down the shoulder of the road until I hit the Des Plaines River Trail.

dp trail

Which, of course, was the best idea ever. Not only was it ten degrees cooler, but getting away from the constant sound of motor traffic immediately lowered my blood pressure. From here, it was just a short ride to my next destination, The Methodist Camp Grounds, which I'll cover in the next blog.

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