Hi all. I just moved to Chicago and need local wisdom: I like to go on long-ish rides, 80-120m and so far I'm having trouble finding the variety I'm used to in my previous home. I've lived in the NYC area for the past 12 years and--I'm not being a Yankee snob, I swear! Totally psyched about Chicago!--there is no shortage of bike friendly rural roads in every direction around the city; I don't think I ever duplicated a long ride in all my time there. Here, however, I'm stymied a little bit: biking in the city is awesome & fun, and the paths I've found around (North Shore Channel Trail, Green Bay Trail, Des Plaines Trail, Prairie Path, Lakefront Trail, etc.) certainly are fun and provide enough distance for long rides. The problem is that I like variety, and every time I've tried to ride outside the city but NOT on one of the paths, I seem to find myself on these big highway-ish roads that are NOT fun to bike on; I don't like to be on strip-mall/big-box-store-filled roads with tons of debris on the edges and cars hurtling by at 50 mph.
Does anyone have advice, either specific routes or general strategy? I am really excited to explore the area outside Chicago by bike and would love ideas on how to do that. I'm looking for quieter roads that have fun stuff to look at and less speedy-car stress. Oh, also, I don't like to drive to do a ride (just a personal preference/quirk) so I guess I'm looking for suggestions within a 70m radius from Chicago. Oh yeah, one more thing: hills! I miss em! Any hilly rides would be an extra bonus. Thanks so much!