Monday, May 6, 2013

Photo essay: A "magic hour" bike ride through Lincoln Park.

I had a CCLaP meeting to attend at North and Clark at 6:30 this evening, so it gave me a good excuse the ride the entire southern half of Lincoln Park during the "magic hour" of sundown, when the light is all goldeny and slanty. I want to try to get this whole thing posted and done with quickly, so I will probably keep the comments to a minimum. This is one of my major bike routes during the warm weather, because it lets me dash up and down the north side in no time at all, so there will be many more detailed reports like these coming throughout the summer.

Every bike ride starts with this view, of the back alley behind my apartment building, since we're not allowed to bring bikes in and out the front door. It's just half a block until the end of the alley, which takes me to Kenmore Avenue where I go either north or south, in this case north one block and then Buena Avenue east to the lake.



I mostly enter and exit the park at Buena Avenue, 4200N by the city grid, which takes me through this little cul-de-sac known as Peace Garden. I've tried to research this little area over the years and have so far had little luck, other than to find out that it was created sometime in the early '70s as a countercultural refuge against the mostly Victorian and Edwardian Lincoln Park. The statue is brand-new, just installed last year.


Some of the baseball fields in front of the Waveland Country Club, this entire area of the park first developed during the Edwardian Age of the 1910s, and nearby a playground. The bike trail in this area of the park is mostly like you see it here, gently winding between parkland and the highway nearby.

The totem pole at Addison Avenue, or I should say the replica totem pole; the real one was donated many years ago to a Canadian museum from the same area where the pole originally came from. We're directly across from the Boystown gay neighborhood here; during the hottest weather of the year, gay men flock to this little area to sunbathe and check each other out.



Then the section through Belmont Harbor, which has some of the best views of the entire northside, a string of early-20th-century luxury high-rises that still exist in this middle-class neighborhood. There's lots more to see in this area, but I will wait until another photo essay for that.



Whenever I need to get into the city somewhere between Belmont and North Avenue (as opposed to bicycling ahead to River North or the Loop), I always take the underpass just south of Belmont that then takes me into the Inner Park, basically the more local-oriented, less flashy area of Lincoln Park just west of the highway, which opens directly onto vehicular streets on its edges and is a place for hyper-local residents to have picnics, take walks, play with their dogs, etc. The bike paths are crappier here and you have to go slower, which is the entire point.


Then a jagged turn at Diversey and you're in a very old part of Lincoln Park, one that juts right into the actual city itself, home of the giant Goethe statue, the Alexander Hamilton memorial, the Elks national headquarters and more. Many more photos of this area will be coming as the summer continues. The paths for bicycling get especially bad in this area, but it literally skates you along the edge of the vehicular city grid, so is hard to beat when doing some urban commuting.


And a brief detour to the northern edge of the North Pond, one of two Victorian ponds here in the middle of Lincoln Park (but more on the other one in a bit).



Then a hop across Fullerton, and a ride along the edge of some of the most famous sights in the park, including the zoo, the conservatory, and the formal gardens that connect them. Not much to see here early in the season, so I'll take lots more pictures later this summer when everything is in bloom. I wish one of the millionaires who lives in this section of town would donate the money to shore up these beautiful Victorian Arts & Crafts underpasses! These ugly wooden braces have been up all over this section of town at least since I moved here, nearly twenty years ago.



Then a ride down the edge of the South Pond, which was taken over by the Lincoln Park Zoo just a few years ago and transformed into the cutting-edge "Nature Boardwalk" natural wildlife habitat experiment. The zoo is basically letting this pond turn back into the kind of wild lagoon you would've seen in this area before human influence, and has built all these quiet eco walkways around the edges and into the water so that people can observe the nature taking root there close-up, a hugely popular new addition to the park and a much needed 21st-century infusion into a notoriously 1800s area. And just now open again this year, the area just south of this, one of my favorite little areas of the whole park, a very British-looking straight path covered with ominous trees on either side like that one scene in "Watcher in the Woods" that used to scare the crap out of me as a kid.


Then a quick ride past one of the oldest objects in the entire park, a Ben Franklin statue partially paid for by people who personally knew him when he was alive.

And then that finally gets us into the oldest section of Lincoln Park, the original section first designated back in the 1860s when this area opened to begin with. There are lots of interesting things all mushed together in this area, including the Chicago History Museum, the famous Lincoln statue, the Couch Tomb and the Chicago Archdiocese Mansion and grounds (including one of only three public streets left in Chicago still paved with wooden blocks instead of bricks or pavement), so lots more on this area as the summer continues. Here in particular is the big fancy fountain right at the corner of North and Clark, the official "entrance" to Lincoln Park proper, here looking back out into the dirty city we're about to enter again.

And the reason for today's ride, a meeting with the editorial team for the coming CCLaP book "Sad Robot Stories," currently scheduled for release on August 5th: from left, assistant editor Robert O'Connor, author Mason Johnson, and shadow editor Allegra Pusateri. (Not pictured, fellow shadow editor Karl Wolff in Minnesota.)

Ugh, too pooped! I'll take on the rest of this photo essay tomorrow!