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A path worth riding

Heather Pfundsterides her bicycle Illinois Prairie Path which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  |  Submitted

Heather Pfundstein rides her bicycle on the Illinois Prairie Path, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. | Submitted

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My happy place is clear in my mind — the sound of crushed limestone under the tires of my bicycle as I roll along the Illinois Prairie Path.

Talk of the path’s 50th anniversary has brought me back to the many hours I spent riding alongside my now husband.

Granted it’s been some time since I’ve made my way along the Batavia Spur toward Aurora from Napervillle or rolled down the hill from the bridge at “zero mile” in Wheaton. My 3-year-old isn’t quite ready for those long 30-mile rides my husband and I used to spend an entire Saturday enjoying. But she will be — she just started pedaling her new pink princess tricycle she got for her birthday.

I know, we have a ways to go before she can feel the mojo of the breeze and a sunny weekend afternoon after she’s flipped 25 miles on her odometer — and she’s just getting started.

The height of my days on the Prairie Path took me from my apartment in downtown Naperville through McDowell Grove and then hooking up with the path as it winds its way through Winfield — an excellent place to stage for a long ride, including a passable outhouse.

I can still picture the changing colors of the trees as the breeze whips through my bicycle helmet — or a bug makes its way down my throat! I can feel the rhythm of my pedal stroke as I merrily ride along thinking of nothing but the miles I’m tracking — and the sumptuous dinner I will get to eat because of all the calories I’ve burned. And I can hear the comforting sounds of cyclists saying “on your left” or “bike up” as I wind my way along some of the 61 miles of the first rails-to-trails project.

I realize there are others out there more dedicated than I am — the birth of a child would not keep them from their bicycles. But I look forward to the days when I can introduce my daughter to the joys of the Illinois Prairie Path. One day, I’m sure, she’ll say “on your left” as she races past me.

- Heather Pfundstein

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