Saturday, December 31, 2016

Since we probably...

...won't have a Hike next week (too cold!) and since it's also the end of one year and the beginning of another, it might be a good time to reflect on where we've been over the last sixteen months and where we'd still like to go.

In September, 2015, Julie and I decided (okay, Julie decided) that we needed a new program to fill in on Tuesday nights after the Millennium Park Summer Film Series ended shortly before Labor Day. Since I like to tramp around the city on foot (and eat along the way) we came up with "Tuesday Treks with Trace." Each week I'd lead a group from 1212 at five o'clock sharp to explore a different neighborhood of the city. Everyone would be expected to pay their own way on the CTA and purchase an inexpensive (under ten bucks if at all possible) dinner. When the movies resumed last summer we shifted to Wednesday nights and rechristened it "Urban Hike with Mike."

When we began I really didn't know what to expect, but I quickly attracted a "core" group of Trekkers consisting of my son John, Alan and Jack. This expanded some nights to include Bradon, Nico, Ryan, Zechary and some others whose names escape me right now. (We've even had a few dads tag along on occasion.) While we ate a lot at Subway and Potbelly at first to keep the cost down, the guys quickly grew tired of eating subs every week and lobbied for more eclectic fare. So we branched out a little and have dined (Alan likes the verb "to dine") at such varied spots as Manny's Deli on South Jefferson Street, Five Faces on Division, Top Notch Beefburgers in Beverly, Valois in Hyde Park, the Rock N Roll McDonald's, and countless other hot dog stands, hamburger joints and sub shops.

I remember our first Trek, to Bridgeport on the South Side. Alan, Zechary and I took the Halsted bus down to 37th Street and walked past the first Mayor Daley's bungalow on South Lowe and his parish (Nativity of Our Lord), ate dinner at Fabulous Freddies on 31st, and finished up with a stroll through Palmisano Park at sunset. And thus the Trek was born!

A couple of weeks later, we turned our clocks back an hour and the question before us was, should we continue Trekking in the dark? And the response from the group was a resounding "Yes!" So on we went, through the winter months (with the exception of only a few bitterly cold nights and the occasional rainy one) and on into the spring and beyond.

According to Wikipedia, there are 77 community areas (above) which are officially recognized by the City of Chicago. Of these, I can count twenty that we have visited on our Treks/Hikes since we began. (For those of you keeping score at home, that's a little over a quarter.)

In alphabetical order, they are Albany Park, Armour Square, Beverly, Bridgeport, Edgewater, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Lake View, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, the Loop, Lower West Side, Near North Side, Near South Side, Near West Side, North Center, Uptown and West Town. *exhale*

Community areas are distinct from neighborhoods in Chicago. Community areas often encompass groups of neighborhoods. Although many community areas contain more than one neighborhood, they may also share the same name, or parts of the name, of some of their individual neighborhoods. 

Got all that?

Of these "neighborhoods," I can count 21 that we have visited, including Andersonville, Buena Park, Chinatown, Dearborn Park, DePaul, the Gold Coast, Goose Island, Greektown, the Magnificent Mile, Old Town, Palmer Square, Pilsen, the Prairie Avenue Historic District, Printer's Row, Ravenswood, Roscoe Village, South Loop, Ukrainian Village, the Villa, Wicker Park and -- of course -- Wrigleyville.

Throughout all this I think the guys have gotten a ton of fresh air and exercise, learned their way around the city a little, become more comfortable taking public transportation, sampled some of the city's "finer" restaurants and hopefully developed an appreciation of this wonderful town in which we live. And, by the way, despite all my complaining about the winters in Chicago it's really a great city. Julie and I returned here in 2014 after 22 years in the suburbs and we're both so impressed with how much the city has improved in that time. There are so many nice neighborhoods (including our own!) in which you wouldn't have wanted to hike twenty years ago. Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers -- the long-term crime rate in Chicago is down dramatically. (I can show you the statistics if you'd like.) Julie and I both agree: the city of Chicago has never been nicer. Come with us on a Hike sometime and I'll show you!

No comments: