And they're closer than I thought! I mean, I know there are awesome hills around Galena, and in Little Egypt, and these aren't really hills so much as undulations, but they may be the best hills within the Metrasphere (the Metrasphere is the radius around Chicago served by Metra, Chicago's excellent commuter rail system; in many areas the extent of Metra service is the extent of the sprawl).
Today I did a real proper north-suburban/rural-ish grueling bike death march. The route went like this, from the Zion Metra station to Jess' house in Cary. If you turn on the elevation chart you can see what I'm talking about. No big climbs, but lots of little chops. The hardest climb was probably the one right at the end on Rawson Bridge Road. I hadn't looked at the chart beforehand and wasn't expecting it.
I spent a fair amount of time with my Chicagoland bike map plotting the route out of Zion, since I'd be going through the middle of town and the network of recommended bike streets was sort of complicated. All the time was wasted. There was not a whiff of traffic anywhere. I have to go ride out there more often. The wind came and went throughout the ride, probably more due to how exposed the various stretches of road were than the wind really shifting around. While I was in the wind it was steady and coming from the west or northwest, making the initial gradual climb away from the lake shore a bit tougher. Grass Lake Road was the early scenic highlight, winding through the Chain of Lakes.
Coming south was a mixture of far-suburban subdivisions and more rural stretches. Johnsburg Road north of Johnsburg was downhill, smooth and fast, scenic at times, mundane at others. I was pretty tired by that point, not looking around very much. In my directions I'd accidentally written a left turn instead of a right onto Bonner (easy to do when writing directions from a map coming south; I make mistakes too frequently, though). Fortunately I was properly suspicious of the left turn, because three straight lefts didn't make any sense given my location and bearing, and I didn't have to go far to determine I was going the wrong way: the road ended after two miles. The wind in my face coming back west on Bonner after crossing Highway 12 (at the top of a ridge) was particularly strong but that wasn't a long stretch. The last few miles into Cary flew by.
Jess wasn't sure if she'd be home, she was to leave for Urbana at some uncertain time. She had already left when I arrived, so I went over to the train station and waited for it. Bunch of hooligans on a bar crawl on the train going from either Woodstock or Harvard to Mount Prospect. I got off at Jefferson Park and rode the 5 miles back home. Hit just about every red light on the way back, including the lights at consecutive blocks at Damen, Wolcott and Ravenswood, then two blocks later at Ashland, the next block at Clark, three blocks later at Broadway, and two blocks later at Sheridan. Reminding me well of why I wanted to get out of the city for a bike ride.
I didn't time the ride very precisely but I think it took about 3:10, including the time I spent doubling back, and the two times I stopped to stuff down food (I haven't mastered eating and riding simultaneously, let alone opening wrappers for stuff... I guess if traffic was really light I could go no-hands and do it). With the four extra miles from the directional mistake, my pace for the ride was about 17MPH. I don't know if that's good or not (I know nothing about biking, and I've really tried to keep my biking simple rather than getting a trip computer to feed me data I don't know how to interpret. I've just been paying attention to myself physically and learning how to read my body). Wind, the slight overall climb and rolling hills throughout, eating time, and occasional waiting to cross streets slowed it down, obviously. I was pretty tired by the end of the ride, but I was strong on the last little climb, the last few miles flew by, and my legs never really died. I think I paced myself well, kept my cadence pretty fast, and remembered to eat before I felt like I needed it, avoiding the lull that I've had on some other rides between desperately choking down a Clif bar and being able to use that energy. But I have no data to back any of this up.