Tonight I have a glow and maybe, just maybe, it’s from something other than all the time in on the bicycle this weekend. Maybe. If this marker still provided accurate information, then I would have been standing right on top of buried nuclear waste, in my bicycle shorts.
This marker lies out in the middle of a clearing in the middle of the woods, smack dab (I love saying ‘smack dab’) in the way of a singletrack trail at the Palos forest preserve, a Chicagoland treasure. Now and then I take that trail and I always have to stop to read the marker’s warning.
Caution – Do Not Dig. Buried in this area is radioactive material from nuclear research conducted here 1943-1949. Burial area is marked by six corner markers 100 ft. from this center point. There is XX danger to visitors — U.S. Department of Energy 1978
The buried waste isn’t there any more, but it’s kind of fun to think about. As well, the marker is a good place to rest. To get to the meadow it rests in, a long twisting, steep trail has to be traversed, the last 50 yards or so the steepest with a lot of loose sand that complicates the climb.
My friend Jon took the picture of the marker early yesterday morning, sent it to me by text as we rested with our bikes next to the marker. Riding the trails had been a little bit more complicated due to the moisture falling from the sky at the time, making the trails a bit slick in places. It didn’t rain enough to stop us from riding three hours. Jon and I are the dedicated ones, our buddies chose to sleep in since the forecast was very cool temperatures with rain. Our luck was good. The rain was light when it did rain. The low to mid 50’s temperature helped keep us fresh. I had to cut our ride short, we had planned to ride four hours, a broken left pedal the bad guy that stole that fourth hour from us. I had plenty left in my tank.
That’s why I was fresh enough to ride another three hours this afternoon. Since I was riding by myself (I couldn’t coax my sixteen year old off of the couch), I elected to try out a place that was on my list of must see rides — Raceway Woods forest preserve in Carpentersville, Illinois. Rather than couch potato for the Bears game, I replaced the broken pedal with a spare pedal (I will not lament my hatred of removing pedals from a bicycle — although this removal went fairly smooth), then loaded up the bike on the VW for the 20 mile trip to Raceway Woods.
What a cool place! Greeting me as I pulled into the parking lot is the original silo from the old Meadowdale International Raceway that occupied the site from 1938 to 1969. Once abandoned, the raceway was forgotten and taken over by the woods in and around it. The silo that had marked the raceway was about to be demolished, but was rescued by locals who wanted to restore the landmark. After that, the forest preserve was established.
An asphalt path follows the original raceway pavement, still intact in many places, including the pit areas. The guardrails can still be seen even though the forest claimed them long ago. Nature trails and singletrack bike trails have been carved into the woods inside and surrounding the original race track.
I went there for a casual ride on the singletrack, but found myself drawn in by imagination, my bike tires riding the same race track that cars had raced on decades ago. Little side paths called to me to explore, most leading no where except a dead end. One even ended with a barrier of piled limbs and debris, a no trespassing sign accompanied by the threat of a vicious dog that most certainly lurked beyond the barrier. I didn’t dare ignore the warning.
Some of the singletrack trails had obviously been established by local mountain bikers, the terrain and remote woods a great place for trails. Those were the trails I enjoyed exploring the most, one trail leading to a suicidal drop off, avoided by taking another small path to the right, leading to a murderously steep drop into a opening below. There was a bail out to the right, a narrow path along the top of a berm, a treacherous drop off on the left as it took me to the opening. From there, it lead to the ominous warning signs at the dead end.
The front of the Raceway Woods was a nice set of singletrack trails, most likely established when the Chicago Area Mountain Bike Riders (CAMBR) trail advocacy group took over maintenance of the Raceway Woods system. They have established some nice smooth and flowing singletrack trails, especially fun when ridden from the top down, fast with lots of sweeping banked turns and little jumps thrown in for good measure.
The last two months have provided some of the best riding that I have had in years. My endurance is at a peak, my muscles solid from the exercise, my weight dropping off so much that I…ummmm… well… am not ashamed to look in the mirror so much any more. Riding will do that to a person.
I am enjoying this while I can. October is going to zoom by, November will bring colder temperatures and shorter days. Come December, I will be smiling at the memories of the rides I have had this year. Good rides. On a bike I thought I would never have, part of the reason these rides have been so good. God has been good to me, is reminding me that I am blessed. God.. and bikes… will do that to a person….