Daniel Maryanovich, Trails Visitor Information Assistant, US Forest Service, was our guest speaker at the June general meeting. His topic: “All About Midewin”.
Midewin is the largest island in the group of protected islands of the Chicago area wilderness. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has over 20,000 acres. It is wide-open public land at the corner of Ellwood & Manhattan, what used to be the old route 66. The preserve is over 25 years old and has many areas that need restoration. There are over 30 miles of paths. Midewin was part of the Joliet arsenal in WWII. The bunkers that held TNT are still on the land and are still being used; they are a cool place to escape the heat in the summertime.
In 2015 bison were introduced to the prairie as a 20-year experiment in restoring the native tallgrass prairie. The bison are popular with the visitors and 2 overlooks were created for viewing. Another part of the restoration work is re-seeding of native plants and grass. Many volunteers (usually about 100-200) collect, clean and plant native prairie plant seeds. Some seed beds are visible at River Rd, Turtle Pond and at the visitors’ center. And of course, where there is prairie, there are birds! Many species survive and thrive in Midewin’s preserve, including Bobolinks & Buntings, even eagles. Bees are part of the restoration work because they are great pollinators, and there are other insects and animals that make the Prairie their home.
Being part of the US Forest Service, Midewin has administrative buildings for them and the US Fish & Wildlife, plus there are training facilities for USDA Firefighters. So many programs are available there; noteworthy is the “At Ease” Nature platoon for US military personnel and their families. Visit their website at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie - Home (usda.gov) to find out more!
Daniel also talked about some of his favorite trails at the preserve. The Ironbridge trail is the longest loop at 3 ½ miles. It’s crushed limestone path winds past the old WWII bunkers and has a bison overlook. The route 53 trail connects to Ironbridge to the visitor’s center. It too has a bison overlook and is a nice hike at 2 ½ miles. The Henslow trail has many restored flowers. Veronica Hinke, Public affairs officer, who also was in on the Zoom meeting, spoke about its beauty, particularly when the sunflowers come out. Some trails are pedestrian only. The Prairie Creek Woods trail is one of those. It goes by the River Road seedbeds and is about 1 ½ miles long. Turtle Pond, another pedestrian trail is a little hard to get to but is worth it. Daniels favorite trail is the Group 63 spur. It is a multi-use trail that is 3.5 miles. Veronica & Daniel spoke a little more about wildlife at Midewin; there are bald eagle sightings & a nest too. Monarchs stop there, and short-eared owls like to visit as well. Both Veronica & Daniel were well versed on everything Midewin has to offer. Indeed, there is “Something Special For Everyone” at the Midewin National Tall Grass Prairie.
May 28, 2021 General Meeting
Nine members logged onto the May 28 general meeting. Dr. Brenda Dixon, President of the Major Taylor Trail Keepers, gave an abbreviated version of Major Taylor the man and the organizations he influenced, including the Major Taylor Trail, the Major Taylor trail keepers, and the Major Taylor Cycling Club..
Major Taylor was the forgotten sports hero of our time. He was born in 1878 and spent his early years in rural Indianapolis When he became a young man, he worked in bicycle shops in the Indianapolis area. That’s when he got his nickname “Major”; he became incredibly good at cycling and wore a military style jacket during his performances. Many, many people know about his adult life. He was a champion of the cycling world, moved to Massachusetts to follow the bicycle races, endured appalling racism, and ultimately his final years in the Chicago area. Because of him, a wonderful trail in his name was opened in the Chicago area. It winds through five wards and is over six miles long. It has very strong support from the riding club and the Trail Keepers. With the assistance of these organizations, grants have been secured from organizations such as REI and Stram for beautification & upkeep of the trail, including artistic murals and clean up events.
Dr. Dixon will come back for a future meeting to give the full history of Major Taylor and his contributions to bicycling.
In addition to the presentation, the bylaws were amended to add “biking and hiking” to the club description and to take out the “patch” as a club benefit.
Thanks go out to Kathy McElligott for hosting the meeting while Larry was away.
April 22, 2021 General Meeting
Folks On Spokes got together via Zoom for the monthly general meeting, and a pretty good-sized group showed up, including a surprise attendee, Chuck Vasile! After an animated chat session, JoDell brought the meeting to order. She touched on the Spring Fling T-shirts; when they go on sale, it will be a separate order from the Spring Fling registration. She then turned over the meeting to our presenters; Barb Barnes & Roger Stoub.
Their presentation was on their Rhone River cycle trip in September/October 2019. The trip lasted about 3 ½ weeks, for a total of 438 miles. They planned out their route (that’s half the fun, right?) using map/guidebooks from Bikeline, Cicerone and Rick Steves.
Their trip began in Brig, Switzerland; they brought camping gear and used it once; they ended up having no trouble finding hotels and other accommodations for the evening. One of the more interesting accommodations was in the town of Morestel, France in what was formerly a convent of the Franciscan sisters! The convent was well-appointed with a very beautiful view, very scenic, and it had a cat who loved Roger even though Roger is not all that fond of cats. All along their way were beautiful churches and town halls. They met quite a few people, and they had a picture of a French couple that was biking also, and they ran into them a couple of times on their journey. France was a delight; they even rode their bikes through a winery! They lucked out with the weather, no rain which made for pleasant riding. The trails and roads were well marked, not too hilly and they rode anywhere up to 40 miles a day depending on what they were doing and where they were going.
They also saw ancient outdoor theaters; the one in Arles, France is still in use. It was the Roman Arena and it used to hold fights between gladiators and wild animals. Today, the only animals there are bulls for the “Bull games”, where ribbons are humanely placed on the bulls and the matador has to try to get the ribbons. Both Barb & Roger spoke highly of the freshness of the food, good-quality pizza’s, seafood, fresh breads for sandwiches, just delicious. They loved the variety of the wonderful produce that they saw on market day in Arles. The end of their trip was in Marseille, where they enjoyed being tourists on a hop-on, hop-off bus. They saw Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, a symbol of Marseille, which was stunning. Finally, they celebrated the end of their trip at a seafood cafeteria that was simply outstanding. Endless memories were made, great photos too, what a place to ride and visit…. As Roger said, “Europe; Best kept secret ever!”
March 25, 2021 Meeting
Jim Saplis, the owner of Orland Park Cyclery, spoke about e-bikes. E-bikes come in many styles now - electric-assist road bikes, mountain bikes, city and hybrid bikes suitable for trails or commuting, and bikes suitable for gravel roads and cyclocross. There are three classes of e-bike: Class 1 has pedal-assist with a top speed of 20 mph, Class 2 has a pedal-assist and a throttle with a top speed of 20 mph and a Class 3 is pedal assist only with a top speed of 28 mph. A battery and electric motor provide an adjustable assist. Some bikes come with throttle control.
Jim offered these tips:
a head light and a taillight are recommended as you will be traveling faster and want to be sure you are visible to the cars.
E-bikes are heavier than road bikes so be sure your bicycle carrier on the back of the car can support the extra weight.
Since batteries are expensive, enterprising thieves may try to steal them, so it is good to lock or remove the battery.
Be sure to check the local ordinances in the areas where you want to ride. Some states and towns have laws regulating the kinds of e-bikes that can be used on their roads and paths.
February 28, 2021 Meeting
The FOS general meeting was held on February the 25th. Fifteen members logged on to chat and catch up with one another and, of course, hear Larry’s presentation.
Larry focused on several aspects of bicycle safety. He began by recognizing that one must use good judgement when bicycling. Riders can avoid an accident by being seen. There is a reduction in crashes, whether its bikes, cars, motorcycles or mopeds when people use daytime or nighttime lights.
Being seen is especially important when riding on curvy, hilly roads and anytime there is poor visibility. Besides lights, reflective clothing is a great way to be seen. Be sure to arrange your gear so that drivers can see that it is a bicyclist coming their way. Watch your road position; be sure to stay solidly one way or the other.
Being heard is important too, especially on trails. We have an obligation to other trail users to ensure their safety as well as your own.
After covering some of the safety gear, Larry showed a video that drove home the point about wearing retroreflective gear. There was no doubt about its effectiveness and the cost is reasonable. Larry touched on the importance of bicycle safety in the early morning hours and at sunset. The tag line, “Where does Danger lurk? Your shadow knows.” If your shadow points at the car, it is likely the driver cannot see you. Larry concluded with a reminder to support bicycling advocacy efforts and bike shops.
January 28, 2021 Meeting
Our presenter at the January 28 ZOOM meeting was FOS member Kathy McElligott. In 2013 Kathy decided to do something she always wanted to do - a cross-country bicycle road trip! She chose to go with “Woman Tours,” a bicycle tour group out of NY. She packed her bags and brought her trusty 2008 Trek 2.1 ladies road bike out to California’s Dog Beach for a cross country road trip adventure that ended in St. Augustine FL.
Kathy gave a very interesting presentation where she described her experiences with the women in the group and her adapting to the rigors of the ride. She described her adventures in several places including Southern California’s Imperial Valley, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and finally, FL. Her presentation included many slides which made her adventures come alive for members.
The group Kathy rode with were aged 60+, they averaged about 55 miles a day and rode for almost 2 months. But as Kathy says, “Life is short, do it!” Her presentation was certainly motivating.