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Active Travels: Bike Chicago

Steve Jermanok and Fran Leavitt bike in Chicago


By Steve Jermanok

Last week, I had the chance to catch up with renowned Chicago biker, Fran Leavitt. Fran has taken at least one international bike trip a year for the past 20 years. These include jaunts on the Garden Route to Capetown, South Africa, on the winding backcountry roads that lead to the chateaus of Loire Valley, France, and along the Moselle River on a barge trip in Germany. Yet, it’s the maze of paved pathways in and around Chicago she knows best. For a stunning introduction to the city skyline, she first took me south on the Chicago Lakefront Bike Path. Starting at Navy Pier, we passed the flowing waters of Buckingham Fountain, the Shedd Aquarium, and Soldier’s Field, home to the Chicago Bears. However, it’s the jaw-dropping vista of the skyscrapers on our return trip that had me reaching for my camera. Next up was a trip she does every Saturday during the summer with her main squeeze, Saul. Starting from the Old Orchard street parking lot, we headed north through the Forest Preserve past lagoons filled with kayakers, eventually reaching the Chicago Botanic Garden. Talk about the perfect place to stop for bikers! The grounds were overflowing with flowers in bloom, you can dine al fresco on freshly made salads and sandwiches, and then fill up your water bottle with both ice and cool water. For my next warm-weather outing to Chicago, Saul wants to take me on the Fox River Trail, another one of his favorite bike paths. Staring at a Chicago bike map, where trails lead off in every direction like the spokes of a bike, the choices seem limitless.


Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

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