From Kalamazoo to Chicago and back without a car

Bikes on trains!

Amtrak bicycles to accompany their fine owners on their journey along the rails. I traveled to Chicago from Kalamazoo one weekend in fall 2013 using only trains and bikes to travel, even around Chicago to enjoy many natural and recreational activities.

Leaving Kalamazoo was pretty fun, anticipating the train’s arrival to the station. I made my bike pose for a shot in the station while waiting for the Blue Water train. 


My bike in the station in front of the train ticket counter. For effect, as I had purchased my ticket online.


Compass in the floor of the Kalamazoo station.


Boarding the train I met a fellow traveler who had ridden his bike through Canada from Brooklyn to stay for a few days with a friend in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He had a cargo trailer and you can see the blue frame and oversized tires for long distance travel. We talked in the dining car at a table, only to find out that his friend grew up only three houses down from me. When he arrived at Chicago Union Station he would have to put his bike in a box and switch trains to Denver.


My bike on the Blue Water train in between two other bikes – one headed to Chicago from Lansing, and the other coming from Brooklyn headed to Denver (cargo trailer in the foreground).


Bikes on the train!


We were surprised to find there was already a bike in the on-train bike parking area, and later found out that someone from Lansing was headed to visit a friend in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood – undoubtedly on a similar journey of fun to mine.

The train departed early enough that upon my arrival I had time to ride out to Steven’s house in the Avondale neighborhood to drop off my weekend bag and get ready for our evening meeting with the Chicago GIS Network. So we decided to spend the afternoon at the Montrose Park Bird Sanctuary on Lake Michigan.


View of downtown Chicago from the Montrose Bird Sanctuary.


Margaret and Steven


ADA accessible view of the beach.


From Montrose Avenue we rode down the Lakefront Trail, gale force winds off the lake in our faces, to arrive sweaty to our evening gathering.


Riding along the Lakefront Trail in Chicago – Belmont Harbor


Riding along the Lakefront Trail in Chicago


Walking our bikes on the final block we passed a branch of the Chicago Architecture Foundation.


Chicago Architecture Foundation


Being a GIS gathering, beers inevitably followed business, and by the time we rode to felafel I was ravenous.

Friday was a work day, but we did spend part of the afternoon at Ryan’s place to check out some things in his garage, including this giant-box-on-the-front cargo bike (which the Dutch call a bakfiets). Ryan also lent me his copy of the book Reverse Effect by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang architects. In it she and the Natural Resources Defense Council suggest reversing the flow of the Chicago River.


Cargo bike in Ryan’s shop


Cargo bike in Ryan’s shop



Reverse Effect book by Jeanne Gang about the impacts of reversing the flow direction of the Chicago River.


The evening’s events included an open house at West Town Bikes.


Entrance to West Town Bikes


Saturday was the grand opening of the Studio Gang-designed wave building. A kayak rental company also opened for operation, and we eagerly awaited our canoe and photo trip up the North Branch of the Chicago River.


Bikes and Boats!



Location of Chicago Canoe and Kayak – WMA boat house designed by Studio Gang on the North Branch of the Chicago River.



El Train passing over the river – boats and trains!


Water treatment plant.


Boats are taken in and out of the water for the season at stations like these.


Stormwater overflow tunnels.


Windmill on private residence along North Branch of the Chicago River.


With remaining daylight to enjoy the day, we decided to stop in and investigate The Garden mountain bike track through the wooded area adjacent to the boat house.


Bikes at rest in The Garden mountain bike trails and tracks.


After returning for a small lounging spell, we descended on the Lakeview neighborhood first Taco Festival.

On Sunday we visited the Logan Square Farmer’s Market.


Logan Square Farmer’s Market


Logan Square Farmer’s Market


Logan Square Farmer’s Market


Logan Square Farmer’s Market


Walking back, we observed a yarn bombing of the trees along the boulevard.


Yarn bombed trees


As a final destination, we visited the coffee shop in Logan Square that has a map designed by Cartographhika painted on their wall.

27 29 28

The only Blue Water train of the day left Chicago Union Station at 4:30, and I had to arrive at least 15 minutes early to get my bike loaded in the café car. I was the only returning bicyclist on the trip.


Return trip on the Blue Water from Chicago to KZ


Leaving the city, the immediate view is of industrial rail yards out the window.


Industry bids you farewell along the tracks


Following the train on the GPS track rounding the bottom of the lake showing the approach to Michigan City, Indiana.31

Back in my apartment in Kalamazoo, my cargo bag, bike and backpack were all I needed on the trip.


Margaret Spyker

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