The Chainlink

Hi, I was looking at the thread on bicyling to Milwaukee and noticed that many of the posts go back nearly a decade.  I'd like to ride from Chicago to Kenosha and was wondering if anyone had advice to share.  The McCrory trail had negative comments on TrailLink but again the comments are older and thankfully the cycling infrastructure generally improves over time.  Has anyone ridden this route recently?

Thanks,

John

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There part from Great Lakes to Waukegan isn't particularly beautiful but quite safe to ride in. Mostly crushed limestone. North of Waukegan it picks up again. If you don't mind a more longer and scenic route take the Des Plaines River Trail to the Wisconsin border and head east from there.

The Google Maps route is solid, and almost all on trails. The main annoyance is that the McClory Path north of Great Lakes, besides being crushed limestone, has constant street crossings. If you're in a hurry and are OK with riding on a large road with faster traffic, take Sheridan Road instead. 

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Richard+J.+Daley+Center,+50+W+Washi...!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x880e2cbaec2cb9e3:0xfbe0dd57735f8fa7!2m2!1d-87.6301771!2d41.8840546!1m5!1m1!1s0x88055e372255d1e5:0x6d11785b8a32df18!2m2!1d-87.8211854!2d42.5847425!3e1

It  has been  a while since I rode this but  Lewis in  Waukegan is a good route  to take you all the  way across the  Cheddar Curtain.

If rail trails aren't your thing, look for North Shore Century 100-mile routes on places like Ride With GPS. The century turnaround has traditionally been the Kenosha Velodrome. Here's one example.

I did not ride this route at all during 2020, because of COVID-19 reservations.  I make a day excursion out of this by visiting and eating at places off trail and ride Metra home.  I hope to get clearance from my orthopedic surgeon June 18, 2021 to ride bikes again.  I am looking forward to this the Kenosha trip and some other routes starting from downtown.  I have been keeping notes about cycling to Kenosha because the online descriptions were not complete for a first time solo rider. 
see you on the road,

Elwood

Bike Trip Loop to Kenosha

60 miles total distance from Roosevelt Red Line Station to Kenosha Metra Station

 When the wind is weak or generally from the south, I enjoy cycling from the Loop to Kenosha Wisconsin then return on the Metra.  The route is basically along the Metra UPN tracks. I mostly ride the route on weekdays.  When I ride solo, Metra is my sag service.   I ride a flat bar touring bike with 32mm x 700c tires or drop bar Mercian with 25 x 700c tires.  I have made an effort to follow bike trails regardless of path conditions.  Other riders opt to ride possibly faster but higher traffic routes avoiding the chip surfaces for higher traffic streets.  The following are my personal notes about my route.  There are some personal preferences and likely some mistakes.  My notes are not exactly turn by turn directions, but I detailed sections that have confused myself and other new riders.  I often use compass directions and avoid left/right directions because it is easier for me. Distances are in miles rounded to nearest tenth or city blocks to match my cyclometer and what I remember.  Mileage from Google maps in some places agrees with my cyclometer, but differs in other places.  I think the discrepancy is because Google maps does not always have an accurate placement of off street bike trails.  My  route differs from Google suggested cycling directions to avoid street traffic and be more scenic.  I used this route with a loop back to Illinois Beach State Park hotel, (permanently closed spring 2021) when going for 70 miles on my 70th birthday. 

 

Lakefront trail North to Granville  Ave. 

 (11 miles - from our home near Field Museum)

The last mile is on the streets, mostly Kenmore Ave. Follow LFT to the north end.

The north end of LakeFront Bike Path is Ardmore Ave. 

West on Ardmore Ave one full block to Kenmore Ave. Ardmore Ave is one-way eastbound , except for bicycles which can go both directions.

North on Kenmore to Granville 0.5 miles.  Kenmore has speed bumps.  When I approach and go up a speed bump I relieve all pressure on handlebars.  Near the top and going I push down on the handlebars while constantly pedaling.  With such a technique I regularly pass cars on Kenmore. 

 

Granville Ave west to North Channel Trail 3.3 miles 

This section is all on city streets, but designated as bike friendly. I stop for the full count for all traffic lights, but I cheat most of the stop signs on Granville after looking. 

West on Granville 2.7 miles to N Kedzie, which is a T intersection. Turn south on S Kedize staying close to right side, take the first ramped curb for access to the pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the North Channel.

Turn west , cross North Channel bridge, turn north onto the bike path at the other side.

North Channel trail through Skokie Sculpture Park and Ladd Arboretum in Evanston 5.1 miles

 This section parallels McCormick Ave it is all paved cycle path in parks

Traffic lights on this section have”push to walk” buttons in random locations.  On some, maybe all, if the button is not pushed then the “Walk” symbol never appears.  Either always push the button or just proceed when the north bound traffic has green for all northbound lanes. 

McCormick T intersects with Green Bay road.  Poplar Ave can be accessed by going one block north on Green Bay road and turning east at the first underpass.  

Lower traffic option to last two blocks

There is a fork in the paved path a block before Green Bay Rd.   Take the fork that leads to a crosswalk over McCormick. Follow Prairie Ave past the school, turn east on Lincoln and join Poplar just after underpass. 

 Poplar Avenue / Green Bay Trail to Robert McClory Bike Path  -- 13.2  miles

  The Green Bay trail is a combination of low traffic urban streets and off street bike paths.  It runs parallel to the UPN Metra Line.  Thirteen miles following Metra Track seems simple to follow, but the devil is in the details. One difficulty is trail signage and trail maintenance varies with community.  Another source of confusion is in some places the bike path ends in Metra station parking lots. In those places the route continues parallel to the tracks and resumes on the other side of the  lot using bike paths, wide sidewalks or low traffic streets depending on the community. Often the street is Poplar Ave or Old Green Road.  Another difficulty is there are three major bike-arounds where the route is not parallel to Metra tracks.  

  1. Keniworth bike-around
  2. Highland Park bike-around
  3. High wood bike-around           

The exceptions happen when there is urban development or park bordered by the tracks.  Those bike-around sections are explained below.   I have seen various mile markers in this section measuring distances to and from various unknown places.  I ignore those mile markers.

 There is an app for iPhone and Android named maps.me  It uses OpenStreet maps which in fall 2019 has a more accurate rendering of the Green Bay Trail than Google maps.  Between web sources, map labels and signage. I have seen different places where the Green Bay trail ends and Robert McClory Bike Path starts.  I think the official source might be hidden  in the Highwood planning office.  My mileages arbitrarily starts Green Bay Trail  at  Beth’s Little Bake Shop and Robert McClory Bike Path at Fort Sheridan Metra Station.

Poplar Ave parallels the Metra runs into Green Bay Trail off street trail in Wilmette.  

Kenilworth bike-around  0.4 mile  

Bike-around for the park and Joseph Sears School.  

The trail turns north-east at a traffic circle and T intersects with Cumnor Rd. 

Northwest on Cumnor Rd a quarter block and turn Northeast on Melrose Ave  Melrose Ave  1 block  to Abbotsford Rd  (September 2019 there was no sign indicating this turn)

Northwest on Abbotsford Rd 2 blocks to a Y intersection.  

Turn southwest toward the tracks ½ block

The street turns southeast and a sign indicates bike route.  Follow that sign, even though you are backtracking, ⅛ block and consider downshifting. 

Turn West up a steep entrance to the bike path.

On my first trip I temporarily lost the route on the Joseph Sears School bike-around. 

Continue on the path between the tracks and backyard fences.

There is a 0.8 mile chip limestone section connecting  Old Green Bay Rd to Braeside Metra Station that is often muddy and some unpacked sand. Similar to the sand traps on the golf course next to the trail.  If you use a rear bag without fenders make sure the weather flaps are down over the zippers, I jammed the zippers on mine from chip grit. Normally if this section is easily rideable then all the chip/gravel sections of the entire route are also. 

 Highland Park bike-around 0.8 or 1.2 miles 

 There are two routes, both are not complete in signage. 0.8 mile or  1.2 mile  on streets in Highland Park.  

  • Direct route - 0.8 mile route through business district is follow St. Johns Avenue  0.7 miles to Vine Ave turn west for 0.1 miles passing the high school to path entrance  
  • Scenic route - 1.2 miles east on Hazel Ave to Linden Ave (first street - 0.1 mi )  follow Linden Ave north up and down around bends 0.7 to Vine Ave.  West on Vine 0.4 miles to bike path entrance immediately after the high school

Highwood bike-around  0.9 miles

  Follow the marked route towards Moraine Park on Bloom St. then turn  North on St. Johns Ave to the fence around Fort Sheridan.  0.1 miles east on Bloom St. to St. Johns Ave.   North 0.2 miles  on St. Johns Ave to bike trail/sidewalk on Walker Ave.  The route is on wide sidewalks to Fort Sheridan Metra Station.  I start the  Robert McClory Bike Path  from Old Elm Rd across the street from the sign indicating the ending of Green Bay Trail .

Alternative Shorter Route with Traffic -- Ride Waukegan Ave parallel to Metra tracks it becomes Sheridan Rd around Clay Street to rejoin the bike path on the  wide sidewalk with center stripes. 

  

Robert McClory Bike Path to state line 19.9 miles.  

 The Green Bay Bike Trail becomes Robert McClurey Bike Trail near Fort Sheridan Metra Station - The trail is paved for 8.1 miles to southern Waukegan. The paved section going through a prairie restoration is one of my favorite parts of the trip.

 At 7.3 miles from southern start of Robert McClory Bike Path is the “P” turn.   The route turns right crossing  Sheridan Road at a light then backtracks to underneath Sheridan Road on 24th St..  On my first Kenosha trip I missed this turn and continued north on Sheridan.  Interestingly, I met another cyclist boarding at Zion Metra station, he also missed the same turn.

    At 20th St in Waukegan the path is gravel , mid-block with a suggested stop at each street. This section of short blocks through Waukegan is my least favorite. Riding  Glenn Dr parallel and east of path from 20th to 11th is preferred by me and some others.  South bound Metra trains leave Waukegan hourly in the afternoon.

Optional shorter trip — 18.8 miles from start of Robert McClory Bike Path is Winthrop Harbor cutout  Leave Robert McClurey bike trail at 9th Street and go 1.6 miles mostly east to  Metra Union Pacific North - UPN at Winthrop harbor Metra station on 7th St. There are fewer trains North of Waukegan.  There is a south bound  late morning, mid afternoon and early evening train through Winthrop harbor.  Check schedule.  I like the Mexican food at Linda's Family Restaurant on 7th St near Sheridan Rd on way to Metra station.

Staying on the path at 9th street leads to the state line in 1 mile.

Kenosha Bike Path and streets to Kenosha Metra Station from state line is  8.8 miles. Starting at state line,Kenosha Bike Path smooth 

pavement for 2.9 miles. It is a joyful reward to cycle this after enduring the section through Waukegan.  Staying ahead of a rainstorm, once I rode this section in 10minutes on a mountain bike.  There are many city street options from the end of paved path to Metra Station.

Scenic route option-  Leave path early going East on Springbrook road (fast traffic) to 91st St. East on 91st over Metra tracks to 7th Ave.   7th Ave north to 78th Street east to Southport Park.  Lakefront path  until it curves west , then north on 3rd Ave to Eichelman Park , Lakefront paths north to 54th street .  54th St west to Metra station at 13th Ave & 54th St   

Proven places to eat list was last updated in 2019.  I did not ride this area in 2020 COVID~19 lockdown. Some or all of these places maybe closed in 2021. 

McDonald’s 3122 W Touhy Ave, Chicago, IL 60645 

(1 block east of North Channel Trail on Touhy), one feature feature of this McDonalds is filtered water option at the self serve drink counter. I fill up my water bottles here and avoid the over sugar or fake sugar drinks.  Most McDonald’s offer bottled water at a price more than the sugar drinks.

Beth’s Little Bake Shop 1814 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201 closed Sunday & Mondays, near mandatory stop if you ride with me.

( on Poplar Ave start of Green Bay Trail - 19 miles from home , 41 miles to Kenosha, if you worry about calories or added sugar don’t even walk in the door. they often will allow customers to use the bakery bathroom, be polite.)

CLOSED PERMANENTLY - Bob’s Pantry and Deli  57 St Johns Ave, Highland Park, 

IL, 60035 ( across from Braeside Metra  about ½ way to Zion - Was a good ½ way stop. Closed I miss it. A couple times I bought the pizza sub and ate half on site.  I ate the other half waiting for the train in Kenosha.

McDonald’s  1988 1st St, Highland Park, IL 60035

( very close to Business route - cross Metra at Elm Pl  north on 1st one block )

( predictable McDonald's food, but a very nice place. It has comfy chairs and some nice table locations, restrooms and WiFi. 

Mobil Mart - 1100 Belvidere Rd, Waukegan, IL 60085

( ¼ block east on Belvidere from bike trail , has a water faucet that will fill water bottles, working (and worked over) restroom, ice cream bars, numerous other snacks, no Clif Bars, only place I have stopped in Kenosha. 9.8 miles south of state line, 8.8 miles south of Winthrop Harbor cutoff - all unpaved ) 

Dona Patty - 848 Sheridan Rd, Highwood, IL 60040

    (small Mexican place next to House of Peking  0.25 mils south of Metra - good )

McDonald’s 894 Sheridan Rd, Highwood, IL 60040 

( just south of end of Green Bay Trail  approx  19 miles to Winthrop Harbor cutoff ,28 miles to Kenosha Metra , good place to plan if you are going to Kenosha or use a shorter route) 

Linda's Family Restaurant  1707 7th St, Winthrop Harbor, IL 60096

(¼ block  east of  Sheridan Rd on 7th, Winthrop Merta is 0.2 miles downhill from Linda’s , ask for Taco salad, excellent!

 The Tropics  301 North Point Dr, Winthrop Harbor, IL 60096

( on the lake 1.1 miles east and some north of Winthrop Metra Station,  good burger )  I have gotten off the trail on 9th Street and gone for a quick swim at the nearby public beach. Changed out of wet cycle clothes in the beach restroom. Had a nice burger at The Tropics and caught the mid-afternoon Metra home.

Wendy's  5210 Sheridan Rd, Kenosha, WI 53140

( 0.2 miles east and north of Metra on Sheridan Rd - for Metra access- exit out back and zig-zag to 54th, I lock my bike to a handicap parking sign so I can watch it while eating.) 

Choo-Choo Charlie’s - inside Kenosha Metra Station 

    ( ate there once, not planning on returning) 









I rather enjoy taking the Des Plaines River Trail when it's dry (as it has been lately).

https://goo.gl/maps/LKfa2wQmAXrjN1SA7

I usually do this trip once a year, but didn't go in 2020.  This is my route from 2019, I think.

The first part of the trip, from Albany Park to the Botanic Garden:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1134861330

Exit the Botanic Garden and turn LEFT and take these routes to the DesPlaines River Trail:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1135151693

The DesPlaines River trail north to Russell Road.  Not good after heavy rain, there may be flooded section, and most of this is gravel, good gravel, but not paved.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1135590847

Take Russell Road east a short distance to Kilbourn Road in Illinois, then north when it becomes County Hwy H in Wisconsin. I took that to the Oasis Inn near the expressway where I intended to stay, but it was full and I had to go back south to Rt. 50 where I found another cheap motel along the frontage road.  Plenty of places to eat.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1135738061

Route 50 each into Kenosha.  It was not what Google Maps suggested but it's an excellent bike route.

I wanted to take Metra back to Chicago but I was too early for the first train to take a bike on. 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1136445373

I decided to ride south instead of waiting.  Truthfully, I could have ridden all the way home on a much shorter route, but I got lost and stopped at Waukegan.  This is the center terminal and there are many more trains returning to Chicago from Waukegan.  I'm sorry I didn't stay on the McClory Trail, the Green Bay Trail, and the North Shore Channel Trail.   It would have been a much shorter trip south.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1136745842

I'm not enamored with Stava; I use Map My Ride now.

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