Afternoon on the Fox River
Sunday. I woke up. In the morning. It was a perfect spring day, all bright and sunny and full of promise. I threw open the window.
The weather reports were similarly deceptive: High of 76! (W. suburbs; 52 lakefront.) Something like that. The wind off the lake is cold. Perfect in summer, agonizing in spring. I was tired of cold. So fracking tired of cold. If only I were 40 miles west of here.
Hey, there's an idea.
I took the Metra BNSF to Aurora. The plan (I sort of had a plan) was to ride up the Fox River Trail to Elgin, possibly continuing all the way to the end and then up the Prairie Trail to Crystal Lake, or possibly stopping short at Geneva if it turned out to be a really stupid plan. I'm flexible, and Metra covers ample territory for ridiculous adventure---so long as you don't mind waiting, sometimes. But I'm much better at this now.
You see, I have unfinished business with the Fox River Trail, going back about two years. The pre-Tail Rider days. The dark ages, if you will. My very first failure, and boy, was it a doozy. But that's another story.
I've been meaning ever since to go back and do it right, ride the Fox River Trail from Aurora to Elgin (at least) on my own with success. (Actual success.) But stuff kept coming up. I could never find the time. For two years. Sunday I felt lucky. Cold, and lucky. I arrived in the Aurora area to weather that was almost downright hot. But then this happened.
Okay then, I suppose the task must still remain incomplete. Whatever, but now what?
I turned around and made a wide detour through downtown Aurora, which I must say is looking well lately. And yet there are still more dilapidated old vaguely historical buildings than you can shake a stick at, which I'm sure would have made some of you wildly jealous. But I wasn't in the mood to take pictures of any of them. I mean, it's just Aurora. Been there before, will be there again. Usually only because I'm trying to get somewhere else. Most everything I remember best is gone now, or nearly so. (Mostly cornfields. And then bulldozers.)
I headed south from downtown until I ran into the Virgil Gilman Trail, which I took west back to the river where the Fox River Trail picks up again. That segment was technically closed as well, due to flooding.
There was not a lot of water (certainly much less than there had been), and it was shallow, but the currents were swift and swirly. I watched a large log drift downriver at an enviable pace. I also watched another rider simply cut through the water as though it were nothing more than a puddle, but it seemed like a really stupid way to end up dead. So I took an on-road detour instead, from bridge to bridge. (Ashland to Mill, I think, if it matters.) I paused at Ashland for another gape at the river that always seems to flood so dramatically.
At some point (the Kane/Kendall county line, probably) the Fox River Trail becomes the... Fox River Trail. And then... the Fox River Trail. I think. Same trail, different management. Something like that; I confess I wasn't paying much attention this time. Whatever it is, it ends in Oswego. I could have gone farther, I suppose, but I decided against the idea; it still seemed too early in the year for an epic journey, and the plan (I sort of had another plan) was to catch the 6:30 train back to Chicago. In case I just barely didn't make it after all. Like last time.
This time I paused briefly to watch the water glinting in the sunlight, feeling strangely fine.
The Fox River never beat me. It can't. It doesn't care what I do. And really, no one else does, either. Why do I beat myself up over a river and a trail?
I returned home to gloves-and-earmuffs weather, quite thankful that I had bothered to drag my jacket around all day. I stopped at Oakwood to get a picture of home, one that finally turned out halfway decent.
It's the best I can do.