Bike into autumn to see fall colors, noteworthy architecture around the suburbs

Take in the season by biking to see fall colors, noteworthy architecture around the suburbs

  • Jess, Logan and Mark Schneider pause their Morton Arboretum ride to take in the wooded scenery at Lake Marmo.

    Jess, Logan and Mark Schneider pause their Morton Arboretum ride to take in the wooded scenery at Lake Marmo. Courtesy of Mark Schneider

 
By Ralph Banasiak
Along for the Ride
Updated 10/17/2021 10:14 AM

Biking amid eye-popping fall colors in our rain-starved corner of Illinois may be tough, given a seven-inch shortfall in normal precipitation.

Daily Herald reporter Mick Zawislak's recent "Fall Is Here" article noted several weather factors affecting the autumn pageantry we regularly enjoy on our favorite forested trails.

 

Even with adequate rainfall, autumn's rich palette and its timing are elusive. Smart money suggests considering different and creative options to savor biking in the crisp, cool days ahead.

Bookmarking the Illinois Fall Color Report at Enjoy Illinois (www.enjoyillinois.com) is a good start. It offers information on peak times for fall color, plus recommended places to visit. The first update suggests our region's peak is likely Oct. 10-16.

Find alternate locales

Lisle's Morton Arboretum offers nine miles of paved roads through 1,700 acres of magnificent trees, and is Villa Park cyclist Mark Schneider's choice. As members, his family enjoys "biking the loop. It's a much better way to see the arboretum than drive, park, drive, park, repeat."

Seeking something longer? Let Bikes on Metra help you explore somewhere new. All 11 rail lines allow bikes and e-scooters on trains. ADA-accessible diesel railcars accommodate up to five bikes/scooters. Electric train cars, all of which are accessible, handle up to two.

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Special "Bike Cars" holding up to 16 bikes are now available on various Metra lines. Introduced last November on the Milwaukee District North Line, it's a 1960s era Pullman-built car with 24 seats removed from its lower level.

In May, Metra added bike cars to Rock Island and BNSF lines. On Saturday, Oct. 16, Metra's "Rails, Trails and Ales" promotion offers bike cars on two outbound and two inbound Heritage Corridor Line trains between Joliet and Chicago.

One long-ago autumn Saturday, I pedaled back to Palatine from Harvard, Union Pacific/Northwest's end of the line, with an adventurous buddy. For a one-way fare, we rode the rails to the self-proclaimed "Milk Capital of the World," crossed into Wisconsin, then rambled home via country roads and bike trails.

Other beauty awaits

Riders enjoy beautiful fall weather on Wheaton's architectural bike tour Sept. 25 at a midcentury home designed by architect Edward Dart.
Riders enjoy beautiful fall weather on Wheaton's architectural bike tour Sept. 25 at a midcentury home designed by architect Edward Dart. - Courtesy of Wheaton Bicycle Advisory Commission
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

More than 60 cyclists rolled through Wheaton on Saturday, Sept. 25, for an architectural tour sponsored by the Wheaton Bicycle Advisory Commission. The seven-mile route (GPS map with cue sheet) focused on midcentury modern architecture, with a Wheaton Historic Commission docent commenting on the iconic homes and architects.

Architects featured included Paul Schweikher, Winston Elting, Edward Dart and Charles Goodman, among others. This was one of 10 rides WBAC hosted since April, all leisurely rides 7 to 20 miles long. Historic bike tours, a collaboration between the two commissions, are held the same weekend every year.

WBAC member George Schmidt, III, said, "WBAC sponsors this event to demonstrate how pleasant it is to bicycle and how accessible destinations are by bicycle."

WBAC is a volunteer group established to help advise on implementation of the Wheaton Bicycle Plan.

Cycling North Shore architecture

Baldwin House in Kenilworth, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is on the Open House Chicago app bike "trail."
Baldwin House in Kenilworth, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is on the Open House Chicago app bike "trail." - Courtesy of Anna Munzesheimer

Another free architectural tour, available through Oct. 31, is the brainchild of the Evanston Bike Club and the Chicago Architecture Center. Based on North Shore architectural bike routes developed by club secretary Bruce Miller, the CAC organized a "trail" (self-guided tour) accessible on its free Open House Chicago app.

"When Bruce approached the board about creating these routes, I suggested we see if the Chicago Architecture Center would be interested," club President Alvin Spector said.

"Maybe we could partner in some fashion to promote both the EBC and cycling in the Chicago area. Hallie Rosen, CAC director of Program Operations, is a personal friend."

That idea took off.

"Open House Chicago is our biggest event of the year," said CAC Director of Communications Sinhue Mendoza. "We're excited to be partnering with Design Evanston and Evanston Bike Club on our new, self-guided biking trail."

The 12-mile tour leaves Wilmette's Centennial Recreation Center, meandering through Wilmette, Evanston and parts of Kenilworth. Featured are 11 modern homes by architects practicing in the Prairie School and International Style -- six Frank Lloyd Wrights, plus homes by John Van Bergen, Bertrand Goldberg, Philip Will and George Fred Keck.

Design Evanston's Kris Hartzell and Heidrun Hoppe, also an EBC member, provide audio commentary about the homes and architects. Design Evanston is a nonprofit design advocacy organization.

Ian Spula, CAC content manager, said CAC's first bike trail originated with "EBC's existing Frank Lloyd Wright circuit as a starting point. Then we consulted resources from Design Evanston and elsewhere to densify and diversify the route with additional early modern homes.

"The non-Wright homes are all significant," Spula said, "either as a forward-looking early work of a noted architect or a remnant of a prefab movement, such as the Sears Modern kit home. Both the club and Design Evanston were valuable content partners."

Check out Open House Chicago's 11th annual free monthlong festival of Chicago area architecture: in-person visits Oct. 16-17 at Chicago area sites, eight virtual presentations and the free Open House Chicago app containing 30 "trails," which is available via Apple and Android devices.

Cycling shorts

Proclaiming Aug. 28 as "Arlington Heights Bicycle Club Day," Mayor Tom Hayes joined club members, from left, Kim Heuer, Roger Hitchings, Paula Matzek, Dave Martin, Mitch Polonsky, Greg Konieczny, Mayor Tom Hayes, and Francine Grossi.
Proclaiming Aug. 28 as "Arlington Heights Bicycle Club Day," Mayor Tom Hayes joined club members, from left, Kim Heuer, Roger Hitchings, Paula Matzek, Dave Martin, Mitch Polonsky, Greg Konieczny, Mayor Tom Hayes, and Francine Grossi. - Courtesy of Ford Sakata

Mayor Tom Hayes proclaimed Aug. 28 "Arlington Heights Bicycle Club Day" for its 50th anniversary celebration. Vintage bikes from Village Cycle, plus club historical items were displayed at Recreation Park.

"We wanted to share our joy of cycling with friends, neighbors and the general public who want to join us and learn more about the fun and friendship of club cycling," Anniversary Committee chair Bill Kragh said.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at alongfortheridemail@gmail.com.

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