Three hours of rain
A few days before the start of the Boulevard Lakefront Tour (fondly known as the BLT), I insisted that I was going to do the 62-mile route, rather than the 35- or 15-mile options. The first thing I did when I woke up at 5:30am that Sunday was wuss out. It was pouring rain, and 35 miles suddenly sounded like plenty.
This was the 18th annual installment of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's BLT (www.boulevardtour.org), which starts in Hyde Park and takes cyclists on a tour of Chicago's boulevard system and then down the lakefront path, ending in a complimentary picnic lunch back in Hyde Park. Nearly 2,600 folks signed up this year, the bulk of them for the 35-miler. How many signed up for the longest one and chickened out, like me, is hard to tell. But I like to think I wasn't the only one. The Bike Federation estimates that about 1,300 riders actually showed up that morning, despite a steady drizzle. Twenty-one brave souls actually registered the morning of the event.
The mood was stupidly upbeat at the ride's start, with most cyclists in full raingear. Riders started off in waves, and I was in a gaggle of about 100 who started pedaling at 8am. Our route took us west through Washington Park along Garfield Blvd to Western, where we turned north. We passed a lot of stunning architecture I'd never set eyes on before. For instance, the city-owned pump house at 47th and Western is gorgeous. (What’s a pump house? No idea.) There were also beautiful old homes and businesses that were worth the ride, even in the rain.
The northernmost point of the 35-mile route was Logan Square, within blocks of my apartment, and I considered going AWOL. Riders had begun to talk about hot showers and fluffy towels the way starving men talk about bread. I stuck it out, though, and by the time I was cruising south again, I was glad I had. The loop on a Sunday morning is eerily peaceful. I rolled back into Hyde Park around 11:30am, and the lunch (a roasted-veggie sandwich, chips and hummus), which I ate standing under a tree in the rain, tasted like manna from vegetable heaven. Back at home, after the best shower in the history of showers, I was already thinking ahead: Next year, I really am going to do the 62-mile route, rain or shine.