Day 1: Chicago (Ryan)

The morning was a little chaotic. We had finally moved every thing out of our house the night before and it just seemed like there were too many details to finish up: the bank, a friend’s house, back to another friends house, someone else’s house for breakfast, etc. Finally around 11:30 we left. Instead of just jumping on I-94 to go to Chicago we decided to take US-12…the old Detroit-Chicago highway. US-12 or Michigan Avenue as it is called through much of Michigan starts at Cass Avenue in downtown. We rode down Woodward and started at Michigan Avenue (a block or so before it becomes US-12 at Cass).

Michigan Avenue winds through southern Michigan. Most of it’s woods, but there are open stretches and a few hills to go along with it. Most of the days ride was just a matter of getting everything adjusted. Better riding glasses, improved packing, dealing with sun and windburn, etc. The Shadow (or Abram) ran excellent throughout this portion of the trip. We averaged about 57mpg for the day.

US12 starts in the somewhat revitalized downtown Detroit before cutting through some rough neighborhoods that have weathered everything from race riots to the decline of the auto industry with numerous scars to show for it. After you get out of what my friend Dave in Chicago calls “American Mordor” you go through Dearborn, first an all Arabic neighborhood and then your classic American Suburb. After Dearborn Michigan Avenue runs through the gamut of suburbs from wealthy to impoverished. Just a note if you try to follow US 12 like we did, the signs are misleading as you approach Saline, if you follow them you end up on I-94. We made that mistake and it cost us a 5 mile backtrack.

After you pass through the Michigan countryside you cross into Indiana and go through Michigan City. US12 winds through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and probably was the nicest part of the ride.  The road is smooth and ambles pleasantly through the dunes with large trees overhanging the road. For more info on the dunes see http://www.nps.gov/indu/index.htm.

When we hit Gary, Indiana it felt like we were back in Detroit. There was the same boarded up and graffiti look that you become accustomed to if you live in the D. We also lost US 12 again and ended up taking a couple different roads, most 41 up into Chicago. After Gary we ended up riding through the South Chicago which again was an indicator of how far some of the American cities have slid. The streets were definitely “tough” with plenty of gang graffiti and people wandering aimlessly on the streets.

The scenery quickly changed as we came closer to downtown Chicago. The Skyway drive was gorgeous with a storm closing in on the city highlighting its skyline. As the entered the downtown area there were numerous signs about closing related to the upcoming NATO meetings. In contrast to Detroit, Gary, and South Chicago there were people everywhere and they busy going about there lives rather than aimlessly wandering. People were running, jogging, walking, and biking along the Michigan Lakeshore.

Dave’s apartment was on the 27th floor of a 42 story apartment building with a beautiful view of the city. It was great to spend time and catch up with an old college friend. We tried out some real Chicago style pizza…which was an amazing mass of cheese. I have come to the conclusion that I like pizza in all its forms: Chicago Deep-Dish, New Jersey Boardwalk Hand-Tossed, and Hamtramck Bengali Pizza (if you’re ever in the Detroit area you should try either their Tandoori Chicken or Philly Cheesesteak pizza http://www.amarpizza.biz/). I’m not sure I have a favorite pizza, I just like pizza.

Dave waiting with us for deep dish pizza goodness.

The Shadow kept much more questionable company!

The view from Dave’s apartment

For more pictures check out our ever expanding photobucket album at http://photobucket.com/shadowcrosscountry

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