May 10, 2004
The Oak Leaf Trail, Shorewood-Lakefront
"Break-In Ride --- Rainbow Jersey to the Lakefront"
Beginning Mileage: 1261.3
Ending Mileage: 1268.0
Total Miles Traveled: 6.7
Since dropping off my bicycle at Rainbow Jersey on 4/28 after snapping off the left pedal on my way back from jury duty, AND for a good tune-up, I had decided that a ride was in good order when I picked up the bike. For todays ride, I also invited Alice, whom I must thank for being part of the inspiration for getting the ol' Schwinn back out on the road.
Of course, we left early enough to try to miss the rain, but about 10 minutes too early, as Rainbow Jersey doesn't open till Noon. As always, the staff at the shop were very friendly, and let us in before "official" opening time.
We set out across the street from Rainbow Jersey, where I had parked my truck (1), and went south on Wilson Drive for two blocks, where the Oak Leaf Trail currently stops across from Congress Street. New trail construction is in progress north of here, which I'll discuss later. We got on the trail and headed south, crossing over the Capitol Drive bridge. I had plans to go all the way down to Michign Avenue, but Alice wasn't quite sure about that...
Alice had actually been on this trail before, as her grandmother lived a few blocks away. I think I had also been on this trail before, in addition to last year (8/7/03), for some kind of MSOE party when my brother started college many years ago.
Alice spotted the Alterra Cafe shop (2) in the old Flushing Station (trust me, click the link, read the story) so we decided to stop there ("nature" reasons). Getting there from the trail took a little zig-zagging, but was well worth it, since we both got DELICIOUS smoothies. After I finished mine, we headed back.
This is probably one of the nicest parts of the Oak Leaf Trail system. The trail is asphalt paved for its entire length. Additionally, the entire trail from Wilson Drive down to Michigan Avenue is all former railroad (more on this in "History", below), so the trail is very level, with no inclines except at some of the connections with surface streets. Best yet, no streets intersect the trail, since the trail passes over Capitol Drive and Menlo Boulevard on bridges and under several streets to the south.
I am happy to report that this "rail-trail" is being extended to the north, about another 1/2 mile, as far as Berkeley Drive. The old railroad line that the trail replaces is out of service all the way to Silver Spring Drive, which also includes a couple of bridges over I-43, so there may be more Oak Leaf Trail expansions in the future!
The trail was once a double-track railroad line that was part of Chicago & North Western's Milwaukee Loop. C&NW had a passenger depot near where the Milwaukee Art Museum stands today. C&NW's "400" passenger trains cruised along this line several times a day, while freight trains generally bypassed Milwaukee via the lines to the south and west. With the decline in passenger trains and a very small number of freight customers on this line, C&NW eventually abandoned the line and the Milwaukee County Parks converted it to part of the Oak Leaf Trail.