An actually excellent Friday the 13th

After a week of 90+ temperatures, when the air cooled off and the clouds were racing across a bright blue sky, Julie and I finally decided to do it. We’d been saying we would bike to the Chicago Botanic Garden for weeks, if not months: with conditions like this, there was no time like the present.

The day got off to a promising start. Spoiler alert: it stayed pretty perfect.
The day got off to a promising start as I left my apartment building, bike in hand. Spoiler alert: it stayed pretty perfect. This post is actually not a tragicomedy!

I’ve been happily doing my running thing for about a month, but my bike has, unfortunately, spent a lot of time in my apartment building’s laundry room this summer. No worries, though, right? We had a map and an open schedule, and Google said we’d be there in an hour and a half.

Google makes some funny jokes sometimes, fyi.

The original plan was to take the North Branch Trail, which has some occasionally confusing bits that we were totally prepared to tackle, thanks to this helpful comic. We fumbled our way through a number of interruptions and detours, but figured this was probably the last hiccup that would bother us; it appeared that we’d have smooth sailing as soon as we passed, say, Devon Street.

Not actually the case! All through Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Skokie and into Evanston, we had to start and stop at very busy street crossings (though we did get to enjoy some interesting public art along the trail). By the time we made it to Evanston (more winding through streets, at which point we nearly hit the football stadium, distressingly close to the lake), it was nearly 2 o’clock and both of us had been counting on eating lunch at the Botanic Garden by then.

Enter Walker Bros.

Oh my god.

I learned that corned beef hash is something that looks like it will give you mad cow disease, but tastes like heaven. Hurrah for culinary daring!
I learned that corned beef hash is something that looks like it will give you mad cow disease, but tastes like heaven. (It’s hash browns or potatoes plus corned beef, all fried together.) Hurrah for culinary daring!

The whole interior of that place is well worth a photo essay all its own, but a little Instagram will have to suffice for now: we had better places to be.

The rest of the route we followed took us alongside the Union Pacific North Line, one of the Metra commuter railways. This was sometimes narrower, sometimes unpaved, but peaceful and quiet, with your quintessential “arch of trees” stock photo effect. The whole trip had been and continued to be good, though. It was just a good life decision. And, after some iPhone navigating once we’d hit Lake Cook Road…

We made it! Selfies or it didn't happen.
We made it! Selfies or it didn’t happen.

We had some doubts as to whether we’d be too wobbly-legged to make it too far into the gardens, but a brief detour into the gift shop actually cures all things. Which, thank goodness: this place is not to be missed. I’m really looking forward to coming back — especially given how close to the Braeside Metra station it is — with more than a point-and-shoot camera, but here are some highlights from our meanderings.

The Esplanade, with a view of the extremely mist-happy fountain behind it.
The Esplanade, with a view of the extremely mist-happy fountain behind it.
I came out of this visit wanting vertical gardens of my own more than ever. This one featured oregano and strawberries.
I came out of this visit wanting vertical gardens of my own more than ever. This one featured oregano and strawberries.
Bees! And melons! So many of both!
Bees! And melons! So many of both!
"They look like Christmas lights!" Ornamental peppers: they're a real thing.
“They look like Christmas lights!” Ornamental peppers: they’re a real thing.
ChiBotGard08
We sat on that bench for a while. This is all in the “vegetables are beautiful, btw” section. It’s a new experience, constantly resisting the urge to eat the exhibits. You wouldn’t believe how pretty brussels sprouts and beets can be.
There's a Sensory Garden, where you're encouraged to enjoy the feel of the plants, the smell of the air, and, to great effect, the quiet spaces they create.
There’s a Sensory Garden, where you’re encouraged to enjoy the feel of the plants, the smell of the air, and, to great effect, the quiet spaces they create.

We hoofed it home on the Metra, and rewarded ourselves with enough fried food and beer to negate everything we’d burned. (I know I’m losing Jewish points for not fasting on Yom Kippur, but I’ve been atoning today — I woke up like an old man must. Oof.) It was a fitting close to a good, good day.

Our final tally, by the way? Twenty-five miles. Not bad for being out of practice! Biking: it’s still great. Come the cooler weather, I’m looking forward to much, much more.

What you see when you leave. And, of course, when you return.
What you see when you leave. And, of course, when you return.
Advertisements

1 thought on “An actually excellent Friday the 13th”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s