Chicago reprised

After my fun evening with great hosts, Brian and Roo, it was time to press on, but even so I had a lazy start chatting again out on the porch over several cups of coffee. I timed myself loading the Trooper, it took half an hour! But then I was chatting to Roo and Brian at the same time.

My original plan at this point had been to head down to Indianapolis to visit my good friend Max, but he’d already left Indianapolis and headed down to Austin. I just had to hope that I’d be able to catch up with him later in the trip. So instead of Indianapolis, I was going to go to Chicago a day earlier than planned. This wasn’t a bad thing as it would put me a day ahead of schedule, and I’m sure I’d be able to make good use of the slack to get the Trooper serviced.

But right then I had a more pressing requirement. I needed new boots. Brian was kind enough to write out directions to the next two nearest Harley-Davidson dealerships along my route on a post-it that I could slip into the map space in my tank bag and off I set.

The first dealership was Buffalo Creek H-D, just off I-94, and they had just what I was looking for. I’m now the proud owner of new shiny waterproof Hustin’s. I put my old boots in the box the new ones had come in, and told the sales assistant to put the box straight into a toxic waste disposal bin. After the soaking they had had the previous day, they absolutely stank!

From Michigan, July 2013

With my mission accomplished, I got back on the Interstate. Not the most interesting of rides but it was getting me to Chicago and a reunion with Jason as quickly as possible.

As I crossed the state line into Indiana, the sky grew black and the temperature dropped noticeably a few degrees, a sure sign of rain. I pulled off the interstate at Michigan City to refuel, and as I was pumping my gas, the heavens opened. Since the gas station was covered, I decided to sit on a bench and wait it out. As I sat there smoking a cigarette, it occurred to me that I had pulled off at this very same intersection nearly two years ago to put on wet weather gear as the rain started as I approached Chicago. I wondered if it always rains here.

My reminisces were shattered as 8 sports bikes pulled on the forecourt with throttles screaming. Perhaps to let cars know they were there, perhaps to make some other statement. All the riders were wearing cuts with club colours I didn’t recognise, and all were black. They pulled their bikes up around the Trooper, and jumped off to talk urgently.  It was an odd sight seeing the Trooper in the middle of their huddle. I sat on the bench and watched on, hoping they weren’t going to start messing with my machine. I must admit I didn’t feel entirely comfortable. I wondered whether I would have spoken to them if they had been white MC members? Race in the US is an odd thing, at least from the point of view of a Brit that doesn’t live in an inner city area with a large racial mix. Clive had talked about race and racism in Milwaukee last time I was here. I’ve also formed some of my own views from the sidelines. I’ll post about some my impressions on race and racism in the US when I have more time, but for now I’ll leave it there. As it happened, the other bikers didn’t hang out to shelter from the rain, they set off a few minutes later the same way they had come in – with throttles screaming.

I waited another 30 minutes or so until the rain had died down to almost nothing, before venturing a few hundred yards up the road to a McDonalds to use their internet. I needed to book my hotel in Chicago and make contact with Jason. As I was preparing to leave I’d put my gloves on the dry bags on the back of the bike, and then, like a numpty, I got on the bike and set off without putting the gloves on. So I am now down a pair of gloves. Doh!

With the evenings arrangements made, and the sun trying to escape the cloud cover, I got back on the Interstate. A few miles up the road, I saw all of the sports bike riders pulled over on the shoulder with a police patrol car sitting behind them with lights flashing.

The ride into Chicago was dry unlike last time but I suffered the same problem as last time, in that there isn’t really anyway I could take a photo of the Chicago skyline from a bike on the Interstate. I’d also decided that Lake Shore Drive was the most scenic route for me to get up to the Lincoln Park area where I was staying. As I couldn’t take a photo, I have taken the liberty of posting someone else’s.

 Lake Shore Drive    Courtesy of PBS               From Chicago, July 2013

My visit to Chicago was in many ways a repeat performance of last time, at least Day 3 of it. I was staying in the same area as I did before, I was meeting Jason as I did before, and we went to some of the same places.

From Chicago, July 2013

Jason came to meet me at the hotel at around 7pm, and after a brotherly hug, we headed out. On my previous visit, Jason had taken me to a great burger bar, Kuma’s, where all the burgers were named after rock and metal bands. He said they had opened a new bar, Kuma’s Too, just along the street, but it real busy right now, so we could go for a drink somewhere else first, if I didn’t want to wait. We went to Deliah’s but stuck to a couple of beers this time, rather than whiskey (American) and whisky (Scottish), before venturing back to see if Kuma’s Too was quieter.

Kuma’s Too has a lot less character than the original Kuma’s. It  looks almost like a chain restaurant. There’s no guitars or skateboards adorning the walls, just neat rows of framed pictures, and vinyl albums. But the menu is pretty much the same and the burgers are good, as is the beer. And of course I had to have the Iron Maiden burger again (although I did toy with the notion of having the Metallica burger), washed down with the strong 9% ABV Artic Panzer Wolf. Oh and the background music is superb there too! They played the Trooper within minutes of me arriving.

From Chicago, July 2013
From Chicago, July 2013
From Chicago, July 2013
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