The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two Brothers Roundhouse, Aurora

Welcome to stop #35 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway, Aurora
Train line: BNSF, Aurora
Time from Chicago: 81 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: At the station

In 1856, the nascent Chicago & Aurora Railroad built the first roundhouse in Illinois in the small city of Aurora. It served as a locomotive shop and storage facility until 1974, then abandoned, even as it won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Flash forward to 2011 when local brewery Two Brothers Brewing opened a restaurant and small brewing facility on the site.

On Saturday, with crisp, clear skies above me, I trekked all the way out there to have lunch and try the beers. Lunch was perfectly fine, as were the beers.

My server brought the flight out with the beers in alphabetical order, which also turned out to be the right tasting order. I started with the Atom Smasher Oktoberfest (7%), a malty, well-balanced, good Oktoberfest-style lager, well-made but sweeter than my palate prefers. The Citra United IPA (7%) hit me with hops on the nose and tongue, finished cleanly, and have me less citrus and bitter notes than I expected. (I wound up ordering a full pint after lunch.) The Wizard Staff IPA (5%) had a bright, light, maltiness to it, with a clean finish and light orange notes. The Wobble IPA (6.3%) had a slight astringent note with high hops and less depth than the others.

I also got a sip of their bourbon whiskey, distilled on site. It had a sweet nose with nice oak notes, and I found it a solid whisky if a bit young. The 75/25 corn/rye mash bill gave it some pepper that would work in a Manhattan well.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? One inside, none outside
Serves food? Yes, full pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

One Lake Brewing, Oak Park

Welcome to stop #34 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: One Lake Brewing, 1 Lake St., Oak Park
Train line: CTA Green Line, Austin
Time from Chicago: 21 minutes
Distance from station: 200 m

Carved out of a 1920s-era bank building right on the border with Chicago, One Lake Brewing has an unusual, multi-level space with a pleasant rooftop beer garden, good food, and great beers. On Sunday, a friend and I trekked out to Oak Park to try a few beers there.

From right to left in the photo above, I tried the Blonde@40 (4.0%), a malty lager with a clean finish that reminded me of MGD (my training beer) the way a Wagyu steak reminds me of McDonalds; the Lando IPA (8.2%), a big, hoppy, delicious and strong ale I'm glad I tried in a small pour first; the Oscar Milde (4.2%), an excellent English mild ale with chocolate and caramel notes and a whiff of toffee; and the Black is Beautiful (5%), their version of a German black beer with complexity, depth, and a long chocolate finish I loved.

(I actually drank them in a different order: Blonde, Mild, Black, IPA.)

We got lucky that they had a 2-top available for walk-in right as they opened, but the rooftop filled up fast. Given Sunday's beautiful weather and smoke-tinged sunset, plus the food (worth a trip on its own), I can see why they've gotten popular.

Beer garden? Rooftop
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Yes, full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Slow news day? In 2020? Ha!

Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:

And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.

Home stretch?

With 58 days until the election, the noise keeps increasing. Here's some of it:

Finally, The Smithsonian describes how Greg Priore managed to steal priceless documents from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, because he was in charge of security for those items.

These PRs will stand for a while

As planned—exactly as planned, if I may pat myself on the back a bit—I took a walk yesterday. To wit: the first thing I did immediately upon turning [redacted] years old was to walk an entire marathon. And I did it in the Chicago Marathon course time of 6:30*:

* Unfortunately, my course time was 7:11, which is 41 minutes too long. My goals were distance first and pace second, course time third, because I knew (a) my pace would be around 9:00/km and (b) I knew I'd need more than 10 minutes of rest along the way. If I did the actual mass event, I would aim for 8:45/km and 20 minutes' rest along the way, so I clearly need to train a bit.

It felt great, possibly because I planned food and fluids well. Along the way I drank about 3 L of Gatorade and a liter of regular water, plus a grande iced tea from a Starbucks in Evanston; ate 4 Clif bars; and changed my socks just before the 27th kilometer. I also managed to take a few photos.

At 6.8 km, 59 minutes in, Juneway Park on the Chicago/Evanston border:

Just a bit farther up, at South Boulevard Beach in Evanston, I found this gentleman in his shady practice room:

At 14.0 km, 2:05, the Bahá'i House of Worship:

Just past 20 miles, at 32.5 km and 4:51, one of the nicest parts of the Robert McClory trail if you're on foot, and one of the scariest if you're on a bike:

The last 5 km or so looked like this, with no trees and lots of sun:

I finished the walk just a block or so shy of the Lake Bluff Brewing Company, which I reviewed way back in February. Since my goal was to end up exactly at that place, it felt pretty good to plan a route that long to 99.1% accuracy.

My total stats for the day: 56,562 steps, 47.7 km.

Today, on my official birthday, the weather is once again absolutely perfect, but given the growing blister on my right foot, I will probably not walk another 40 kilometers. That said, I may walk the Chicago Marathon virtual half-marathon in a couple of weeks, because why not?

Urban Brew Labs, Chicago

Welcome to stop #33 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Urban Brew Labs, 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravenswood (Also CTA Brown Line, Damen)
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 600 m (1.6 km from CTA)

This relatively new (2018) brewery just across the tracks from Empirical has a tiny patio and large ambitions. James, the owner, plans to open a taproom in the former KOVAL Distillery shop that fronts on Ravenswood Ave. as soon as possible. Covid-19 may have delayed that a bit, but he put out a couple of tables on the Winona Ave. side for people and dogs.

Sunday afternoon around 2 I had the patio to myself, at least for a few minutes, so I got a chance to talk to James and try a few of his beers. First, the Hazy River New England IPA (6.5%), a malty, not-too-hoppy, well-balanced ale with a clean, slightly bitter finish. Second, the Straight from Zee Wickel (5.6%), a Zwickelbier with a malty, fruit-forward flavor and not too much alcohol. Finally, the Packy New England Ale (6.4%), which had a fruity nose followed by a hop-forward clean ale with some grapefruit and lemon notes.

Now that autumn has arrived, and given the likelihood that the taproom won't open until next spring at the earliest, I strongly recommend getting over there whenever you have the opportunity. And then pop over to Empirical, because it's a 2-minute walk.

Beer garden? Yes, but tiny; taproom opening in 2021
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? None
Serves food? No; BYOF encouraged
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

How long is this going to take?

I'm sitting at my desk waiting for my work laptop to finish updating, a process now in its 24th minute, with "Working on updates 25%" on the screen for the past 5. Very frustrating; I have things to do today; and if I'd known how long it would take (I'm looking at you, help desk), I would have started the update when I left this evening.

So, all right, I'll read a few things:

My laptop has rebooted three times now and appears to have gotten up to 83% complete. I may in fact get something done today.

I didn't realize they were doing it on purpose

Conductors on the heavy-rail line I take downtown twice a week haven't asked me for my ticket all summer. Apparently they're pissed at Metra, the agency that runs our commuter trains:

Metra, which is struggling financially during the pandemic, said Union Pacific’s refusal to send conductors into the train cars is costing the commuter rail system $1 million a month in lost ticket revenue.

Union Pacific, which operates the UP North, Northwest and West lines, is not allowing conductors back into the aisles to punch tickets, citing coronavirus safety concerns. That has created a “no fare” policy, Metra said, essentially giving passengers on those lines a free ride for the foreseeable future.

“Because UP conductors are neither selling tickets nor validating fares, most riders on their trains have been riding for free, which is hurting the system financially and is not fair to riders on the other lines who are being asked to show their fares,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said Tuesday.

Metra and Union Pacific have been in negotiations since last fall to either extend their service agreement or create a new one. One option on the table would be for Metra to take over operations of the commuter trains using its own employees, Gillis said.

For what it's worth, I've "burned" an electronic ticket most times I've ridden on the train. It seems like the right thing to do. But it also seems like the conductors need to do their jobs.

Also, I want to know why, after five years, we still don't have a new inbound station at my stop. They've built all the bridges, and only a couple weeks ago they started laying new track, but at an incredibly slow pace. One morning I see a few dozen ties (sleepers); later in the week, a few more. Then the following week, they plop a single rail down on a few of them. It's maddening, especially as we're going to have yet another winter without shelter on the inbound side.

Mickey Finn's Brewery, Libertyville

Welcome to stop #32 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Mickey Finn's Brewery, 345 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
Train line: Milwaukee District North, Libertyville
Time from Chicago: 67 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: 600 m

If you look at the Brews and Choos Map, you will notice that the Milwaukee District North line has only two breweries near its stations in Lake County. Grayslake's Light the Lamp Brewery was delightful, and I may go back this summer. Mickey Finn's, well, they're in Libertyville.

Mickey Finn's has been around since 1994. Their beer didn't wow me and their patio didn't help. Like a lot of places, they have too many TVs and they keep the music up, making conversation difficult and reading impossible. The beer garden also has an unbalanced shape and strange aesthetic, with the quietest two-top available on Friday being right on Milwaukee Avenue.

The friend I had dinner with pointed out that this place qualifies as nightlife in Libertyville; thus, the noise and confusion.

I tried three of their beers: the Cerveza Lager (4.8%), a sweet, malty brew with a lime wedge that provided desperately-needed flavor; the Tradesman Pils (5.8%), a sweet, light-finishing, fairly balanced beer with loads of caramel and maple notes; and the Pineapple Express Double IPA (8.0%), also sweeter than a regular IPA but the only one of the three that approached my palate.

At least the wings were good, and I enjoyed catching up with my friend.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Ubiquitous, unavoidable
Serves food? Full pub menu
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? No

Road trips in American literature

Atlas Obscura published a map of 1,500 places mentioned in 12 books about American cross-country travel:

The above map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel, from Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), and maps the authors’ routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer’s descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times.

To be included, a book needed to have a narrative arc matching the chronological and geographical arc of the trip it chronicles. It needed to be non-fictional, or, as in the case of On the Road, at least told in the first-person. To anticipate a few objections: Lolita’s road-trip passages are scattered and defiant of cartographical order; The Grapes of Wrath’s are brief compared to the sections about poverty and persecution in California; the length of the trip in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is short in the geographical sense even if it is prodigiously vast in every other; and yes, The Dharma Bums is On the Road’s equal in every respect, and if you want to map the place-name references in all of Kerouac’s books, I salute you.

Now I've got to read all these books...or follow these trails...