I have an impressively poor sense of direction. One of the many reasons I don’t drive is that it’s just not feasible to pause every block or so to wonder if I’m on track and to pull a U-turn all the times I realize I’m not. Biking, walking, and running are much more forgiving of these lapses. Thank goodness Chicago’s streets are mostly a grid with a very logical numbering system.
It’s curious that I have worked on so many bike maps as part of my professional life considering how much I struggle to use them. Heading south? Unless I can quickly turn the map upside down, forget about it. Left and right is confusing enough when facing forward. But for all my spatial bumblings, I do have solid skills for planning pleasant routes for self-propelled travels. The problem is just remembering them.
Yesterday, I turned a dreaded run into a fun exercise in map making (the time spent planning may or may not have also been a form of procrastination). I’m overdue for getting in some distance and decided to aim for 6-8 miles. As much as I adore the heat, it seemed prudent to avoid the elevated, unshaded Bloomingdale Trail on an 85 degree, sunny, and likely quite crowded day. I considered taking the bus to the lakefront and running on the path and then home. But the lake has no shade either, it would take more time, and the trip back would involve highway and river crossings on major streets.
Sticking with local, tree-rich, residential streets made the most sense. But I needed a route, or else there was a high likelihood of losing steam and sneaking home too soon. So I pulled up Map My Run and created an 8 mile loop that managed to avoid major infrastructure crossings and minimize time running into the westering sun. I incorporated Drake and Avondale, some of my fave mellow biking routes.* It was a treat not to have to worry about one ways. Oh wait, oops. What about water fountains? A few tweaks looped in some parks and I was good to go. . . with a route I would never be able to remember. Thanks to modern technology, I sent it to my phone. And since I am in no shape to run 8 miles, I was glad for the built-in excuse of frequent stops to check directions.
Here’s some running commentary (see what I did there) and pics. I will definitely do this loop again. Hopefully with stronger legs and less need to look at my phone every few blocks.
A. Oh yeah, feeling strong. Hey, there’s the tween daughter of one of my running friends. Hi five! I’m heading out for 8 miles. Think I can do it? Thanks! Wait, why did I do that? I’m such a dork. And a big talker. Now I really have to finish this.
B. Ugh, I haven’t even gone a mile and am so over this. Oops, meant head over to Drake here. Is the app recording my deviations from the map?
C. Much walking (yay, a break!) while studying the Drake crossing of Milwaukee.
D. Water stop inside the Avondale Park Building. Should have checked if there is an outside fountain for early morning runs.
E. Avondale Ave! I love biking on this low-traffic diagonal hugging the Metra tracks. Major intersections are tricky, but otherwise you can go full throttle. Just be sure to veer off at Central Park unless you feel like hitting the highway. Time to take a bunch of pictures and catch my breath.
F. Avondale Ave! Have I mentioned how much I love this street? On this year’s Father’s Day ride, Kevin alerted us to a magical little spot with vegetation arching the sidewalk.
G. Is this the turn? Yes. (Also: Must. Stop. To. Catch Breathe.)
H. Is this the turn? No. One more block. (Also: Must. Stop. To. Catch Breathe.)
I. Private property?? What’s up with this map? Have these fancy folks blocked off the north end of the park? I misread the map. The scrappy park with its old school water fountain was right in front of me.
J. Woo hoo! The app had suggested a Metra crossing I was skeptical of, but hopeful for because it dodges a tricky, detouring intersection. It was an easy scamper up a relatively short set of stairs and a short crossing of two tracks. However I was waylaid by a couple confused by the confusing signage. Hooray for an excuse to be helpful. . . and take a break.
K. Great, another water fountain! Oh, that person is washing their clothes in it. I’ll pass.
L. Love these little stretches of parkways. (I hadn’t been on Kolmar before.)
M. Ok, enough dawdling. There’s no way to get turned around now. One mile south. A mile and change east. Pick up your damn feet. Zip up the phone pocket. This is supposed to be a *run* not a stroll.
N-P. The final stretch. Time to start ticking off the building numbers. . . .Need to remember to look up why we have this section of streets that start with K. . . . Tripp Street? Hahaha that “trips” up the K pattern. Uh-oh. Getting loopy.
Q-T. I hate this. Why am I doing this. . . .Oh good. Pulaski is up ahead. Maybe I will hit a red light. . . .Damnit, just a stop sign and everyone is yielding to me. Keep chugging. . . . Oooo, I love these old rusty train overpasses. That’s why I do this.
U. Hark! Mozart Park. I could just take a little water break. Really, Kilgore?!! You are less than ten minutes from home.
V-W. Avers. Running friend mom of aforementioned tween used to live here. Remember those days of regular runs with friends–many of whom don’t run anymore due to injuries and/or realizing they don’t actually like running. Hmmm, maybe they are on to something. . . .No, you are *not* going to walk the rest of the way home in the spirit of “injury prevention.”
X-Y. Just pretend you are close to the marathon finish line. Oh egads, no need to be so dramatic. . ..Just stop thinking.
Z. Home! Phew! No, don’t just plop into the house. That calf stretcher is by the door for a reason.
*Ever since I helped John Greenfield with this Mellow Chicago Bike Map, I have been taking the extra time to plan out bike commutes to avoid the “Oh crap, I’m stuck on Damen again!” phenomenon. For example, I am trying to sear into memory the Drake zig zag to minimize time on Kimball when crossing the highway. https://chi.streetsblog.org/2018/06/25/why-direct-biking-streets-arent-always-the-safest-or-most-enjoyable-option/