A couple of summers ago, my beau and I biked through Chicago from Logan Square to the Chicago Botanical Garden and back. It was a magical day: perfect weather, great company, and a lot of adventure.
We didn’t have any maps to guide us other than Google Maps and a vague idea of where the bike trails go. It turned out Google Maps was an excellent guide for taking us through the city. Once we figured out how to find the trail heads, we were golden.
The best part, at the end of a very long day, was coming back through Northwestern University’s gorgeous campus on the coast of Lake Michigan. We were a little lost, trying to find the trail head, when I looked up and saw the pristine Baha’i temple ahead, an imaginably ornate white dome bathed in pink against the bluest sky.
We pedaled in wonder, with the city and waterfront bathed in pink, until the sun set. We were exhausted, euphoric, and grateful to be witness to such a golden moment.
But back to Google Maps.
This trip was great fun, but in hindsight it felt reckless not to bring any other kinds of navigational equipment. We had our cell phones and our wits, and that’s all.
Doubling down on our recklessness, we repeated this plan — nothing navigational but our phones — on a trip in Elkhart County, Indiana, that Fall, doing a sixty mile loop including the Pumpkinvine Trail, a rural rail-to-trail line through Amish country. On both trips, the Google Maps app gave us clear directions which included the best route for cyclists, using designated bike trails when possible.
Tip: get an inexpensive stem mount to hold your phone for easy use while in the saddle. Your friends will make fun of it until you lead them home.