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Your Complete Fox Valley Internet Guide.

 
 By Richard C. Ross
 

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Bike Trails

Fox River Trail
Great Western Trail
Virgil L Gilman Trail
Illinois Prairie Path

 
Fall in the Midwest

 

 

 

The end of summer -- at least in terms of the celestial season -- officially arrives at the moment when the direct rays of the sun, in their journey south, cross the Equator.  This year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), that event takes place  on Friday, September 23, 2011 at 4:05 am CDT.

Unofficially of course, the event is marked by the arrival of Labor Day; kids are sent back to school and summer vacation is but a distant memory as thoughts of the World Series and football games now filter through our minds.  Meteorologically speaking, the end of summer coincides with the end with August -- arranged in this way by those of us who like to view the seasons in 4 equal pieces.  No matter which version to which you subscribe, the time is generally thought of as painful for many: time to empty the pools, time to harvest the last vegetables and tear up the garden, time to tune up the snow blower... yuk!  Personally, I'd rather take a different tack.  Even though I know what is to follow, September is a time that I really enjoy -- and part of the reason that I live here in the Midwest --  and, in particular, why I like it here in the Fox Valley .  
 

Living in the Fox Valley has many perks, and one of the nicer and definitely more utilitarian of them is the bike trail that follows the Fox River for many miles -- actually 35 of them -- from Aurora all the way to Crystal Lake!  Just one of hundreds of trails in the state, it provides thousands of bikers annually with uninterrupted stretches of asphalt (and in some cases, crushed limestone) along which can be seen incredible varieties of wildlife, windmills and waterfalls.  Weekends on the trail during the summer months are often more frenetic then the Eisenhower during rush hour, as those on the trail for exercise speed along in both directions like so many Danica Patricks and Marco Andrettis. 

After Labor Day -- especially during the week (being retired does have a few perks of its own) -- the traffic thins out to an incredible extent, and "joy-riders" like me can pedal along at a snail's pace and enjoy the crisp air, sounds of dwindling numbers of song birds, the sights of an occasional egret or Great Blue Heron, muskrat, hawk or perhaps even a deer.  I live in Batavia and only occasionally take the path much farther south than the point at which the Illinois Prairie Path branches off to the east.  Instead, I prefer to get on the path just north of Wilson Street, where a rider actually has the choice of following the route north on either the east or the west side of the river -- at least until Fabyan Forest Preserve, where one must continue north on the east side of the river.

At a younger age, I often would take the Marco Andretti approach and time myself for the round-trip from Geneva to the Hideaway restaurant (Valley View/St. Charles) and back.  It was great exercise but there was precious little time taken to "stop and smell the roses".  Perhaps it is nothing more than the process of aging... but I now prefer to take my time in the cool and shadow of the early morning, hoping to have the trail all to myself -- even stopping periodically to watch a solitary fisherman, wading through the river and working the shoreline for the occasional smallmouth bass or walleye that have returned to the area in increased numbers. 

I know that I have numerous options in terms of which path I could ride; my usual route generally takes me only from downtown Batavia to the footbridge near Bistro One West in St. Charles and back.  I still look upon the condominiums that have taken the place of the "Piano Factory" shopping mall.  The building was once home to the Howell Company -- the company for which my father gave forty-two years of his life, working his way from the paint line to National Sales Manager.  I don't really care how long my trip takes now.  Most people don't have the luxury of taking their time, even if they had it to take.  But the serenity is unequalled and the scenery is  -- especially at this time of the year -- simply awesome. 

As the sun angle decreases, the trees begin shutting down their chlorophyll production, and the rainbows that have resided within the leaves and unseen by our eyes, begin preparing their annual show of color.  The yellow of the willows generally appears first, followed by the squash yellow-orange and fire-red of the maples and reddish-browns of the oaks.  By the end of the month in a good year where there has been sufficient rainfall at the right times, the woods along the river are ablaze in color.  One has no need to travel north to Wisconsin to see color; in a good year, no destination could match what we have right here...  The morning air is cool, dry, and warms quickly as a result; the slight chill is a welcome relief for guys like me who prefer temperatures in the high 50s to high 60s. 

Another thing that occurs at this time of the year is the calming of the atmosphere.  There are gentler breezes -- if there are breezes at all -- and thus less resistance to peddling.  I might not even mention that, except for the fact the the bike I ride is the one I rode to compete in a race called "the Little 500" when I was a freshman in college.  It has but one speed, foot brakes and medium-fat tires.  There are few like it around anymore, but every time I get on it, I can easily remember the fire that burned in the aching muscles in my legs with every lap I peddled in that race, and so the nostalgia of the bike and the race are worth more than any of the latest model Titanium versions costing several hundred dollars.

My "bucket list" includes longer rides on some of the bike trails to the south and east; I even mentally planned a long trip north to Wisconsin... or beyond.  Seems like the bucket is growing bigger...  In the meantime, take some time.  Slow down.  At this time of the year, nothing really beats what Mother Nature has to offer along the Fox River Bike Trail.  Exiting the trail and walking up the hill toward Route 31, I notice a flock of geese.  They are flying just a bit higher than they did last spring...

 

 

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