Sleeping with strangers…

OK, not actually in the same bed with them, just in their house!

I’ve learned that y’all like catchy post titles, so I couldn’t resist 🙂

I want to take a moment to elaborate a little more on the Bunk-a-Biker network since I used it again recently.  I’ve mentioned it before in a previous post, and have it listed as a resource on the Resources and Inspiration page, but I think that the volunteers that keep this network running deserve a little recognition, and that y’all might like a little background.  

Zee Traveler, a nomadic female biker who has lived on the road for 5 years, picked up a stagnant couch-surfing network for motorcyclists back in 2019.  Though young, she be mighty!  An article was recently published on her and the evolution of Bunk-a-Biker, so I’ll encourage you to read it HERE instead of regurgitating the information on my blog.  She manages an open website map and keeps it up to date with hundreds (I think maybe thousands at this point) of pins, color-coded to help potential bunkers identify different levels of hosts (ie, inside, outside, or information only).  She, along with a dozen or so VOLUNTEER moderators, manage over a dozen international Facebook groups to keep folks connected and to put faces with names and experiences.  I can attest through first-hand experience that the Bunk-a-Biker slogan of “Making friends, one bunk at a time” is no exaggeration.  The friendships I’ve made each time I’ve used the network have been way more valuable to me than the money I’ve saved on lodging.

Making friends one bunk at a time!  Purpose Statement as listed on official website:  Bunk-a-Biker is a worldwide community of motorcycle riders who voluntarily provide accommodations to traveling bikers.  It’s a self-moderated network to be utilized along the road for meeting new friends, making road family, and getting support for maintenance needs.  While it is a privilege to use, it’s not rightfully designed to be used purely for the sake of saving money, but instead to promote the togetherness and support of a motorcycle-enthusiast community.“ BunkaBiker.org

Which leads me to my third Bunk-a-Biker experience, this time in Bolingbrook, IL, a suburb of Chicago, with Mary and Casey.  I knew I had to go into Chicago to take a pic of the beginning/end of Route 66 right downtown, but I didn’t want to do it towing my camper, and staying in campgrounds with a soft-sided pop-up in urban areas is just way too noisy, so I checked the Bunk-a-Biker map.  Bolingbrook was close enough to pop into Chicago for a day, but far enough away to not be in the middle of city life chaos, so I reached out to see if they could host me for a couple of nights.  Even though they would be just returning from their own moto camping trip over the weekend, they graciously agreed to put me up in their home for a Monday and Tuesday.  Man, did I hit the motorcycle host/hostess jackpot with these two!  As if the four motorcycles in the garage wasn’t a dead giveaway that they LOVE to ride, all the cool moto memorabilia throughout their home surely was.  It was such a delight to hear the riding stories behind each piece, and to share my own experiences since we’ve done many of the same rides.  When it came time for dinner, they added to my list of “first” experiences by piling me into the sidecar of their Ural, and the three of us set out on it to Portillo’s, a local favorite, for a classic Chicago Dog.

Even though you can’t see the bike in the pic, I’m taking this selfie from the sidecar of the Ural, with Casey driving, and Mary riding two-up, as we are cruising down the road.  I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the whole ride!  So much fun on a warm summer evening!
Portillo’s is a Chicago-based restaurant chain that started off in the 1960s as a small hot dog stand called “The Dog House ” and the brand has become synonymous with a Chicago dog.  A “real” Chicago dog is a beef dog on a steamed poppy seed bun, surrounded by mustard, relish, celery salt, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, peppers, and a kosher pickle spear!  Delicious, especially when paired with a cake-shake.  And yes, I’m gaining weight on this trip :-/ 

Since they both had to go to work during the day, they helped me game plan my day in Chicago, giving me tips on timing and attractions, where to park, and areas to avoid.  Their local knowledge proved invaluable; I was able to shoot in and out of the city, having accomplished everything I wanted to see and do, and be back in time to meet them for bike night at their local Cycle Gear!

The Cycle Gear bike night in Bollingbrook gathered one of the most diverse group of bikes I had ever seen. Sure, there were lots of American V-twins and Goldwings, but also in the mix were Monkeys, Groms, Royal Enfields, BMW (including classics), some super sexy Italian bikes, and a bunch teeny tiny bikes that showed up in a swarm!

I admit to knowing very little about the Pullman National Monument before visiting this south-side Chicago neighborhood.  I thought I was going to learn about the history of the iconic Pullman luxury passenger cars and the porters that made them famous, but it turned out to be so much more than that.  The NPS website provides a great summary:  “The park tells the story of one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States, the sleeping car magnate who helped create it, and the workers who lived there.  The district is significant for its influence on urban planning and design, as well as its role in American labor history, including the 1894 Pullman Strike and Boycott.”  

The exhibits housed in the former Pullman Adminstration-Clock Tower building, built in the 1880s, tells about the rise and fall of Pullman, the advancement and exploitation of the Pullman Porters, and their union’s impact on labor laws. 

Like the rest of Route 66, it’s hard to determine an actual Eastern terminus since it depends on which alignment you use.  For simplicity, and because I despise big cities and I get out of Chicago as quickly as possible, I googled “Historic Route 66 Begin Sign” and was taken to the corner of W. Adams St. and S. Michigan Ave. 

As you can see from the pic, it’s hard to tell from, but that rectangular sign below “Route 66” supposedly spells out BEGIN under all those stickers.  Whether it does or not, it was good enough for me!  
Mary and Casey gave the scoop on where to get an authentic Chicago deep dish – Lou Malnati’s!

I saw a few other sites in Millennium Park, but quite honestly, there were just too many people and too much traffic to really enjoy it, so I didn’t spend much time there.  I have traveled to Chicago several times in the past for business and had visited some of the tourist sites, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything this go-round. 

Route 66 completed, another National Park unit visited, and new friends added to my biker family – what a great stop on this journey!

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