William Udrow practices what he preaches to his clients at the Will County Community Health Center.
For the past 21 years, the 70-year-old licensed psychologist from Joliet has been bicycling, eating healthy foods, getting a good night’s sleep and rising early.
A few weeks ago, he woke up early to head out on his annual 50-mile bicycling trip from Joliet to Ottawa, where he spends the night and repeats the journey home the next day. This trip and his daily rides are the perfect medicine for a healthy, low-stress life.
“It gives me a chance to self-reflect – it’s my therapy,” he said. “I do a lot of prayer and meditation.”
Biking also is easier on the joints than running. “This is smooth and a healthier cardiovascular workout,” he said.
Unlike the strokes and heart trouble suffered by his grandfather and father, Udrow believes the biking is keeping him – and his heart – healthy. He rides the Rock Run Greenway Trail around three times a week to keep in shape and to prepare for his annual long-haul trip, which really tests his mettle.
He recently started his 2018 expedition on Forest Preserve trails near his home and headed west to Ottawa, a trip he’s taken since 2011. The ride hasn’t always been smooth. In 2015, the trail was flooded.
“There was water up to my knees,” he said. “That’s what makes it an adventure. That’s the part I love about it.”
Obstacles make the journey more interesting, he said. For instance, if a tree is blocking his path, he'll find his way around it.
“But that’s all part of the adventure,” he said.
(Photo courtesy of William Udrow)
Udrow also has had wildlife encounters. “I’ve had deer that run right alongside of me, and it’s breathtaking.”
It’s exciting until the deer give him a stare and assert themselves. “You’re pedaling and they’re letting you know that they’re boss, and all of a sudden they go a little faster and cut in front of you.”
Udrow has made some concessions to his age. He bikes at around 10-12 mph, and he sticks to flatter trails, which is why he likes the Rock Run and I&M Canal trails.
“I don’t do well with hills at my age,” he said. “I used to go (past Ottawa) to Utica, but it was just a little too much for me. … “I learned, as I teach my patients, we have to compensate for our age. Maybe it’s a little more of a challenge than in 2011, so I do OK.”
Even though it’s a challenge, it’s worth every pump of the pedal, Udrow explained.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” he said. “I love the I&M. If you stop along the way at the different places and you read about the history, it makes it a much more fascinating experience. And you understand the sweat and the work that went into this (towpath and canal) just before the railroad here became really popular.”
(Photo courtesy of William Udrow)
Linking the trails
Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve District's chief operating officer, said Udrow's experiences – riding local trails weekly and connecting to regional trails occasionally – is all part of the master plan for bikeway planning in Will County.
"For several decades, the Forest Preserve and its regional partners have been focused on planning, developing and managing regional trails that connect our counties, communities and natural areas," he said. "The next step was stitching together a network of paths that connect neighborhoods, forest preserves, and local parks to those regional trails as well as to each other."
Paths now connect Will County residents to Cook, DuPage and Grundy counties.
"We hope to continue to realize our goals and connect with Kendall, Kane and Kankakee counties in the future," Schultz said. "The Forest Preserve offers more than 125 miles of trails that provide excellent opportunities to experience nature, energize your spirit and improve your health whether biking, running, walking or horseback riding."
For now, Udrow’s mix of exercise, meditation and appreciation of history is just what he needs to tackle life and prepare for even bigger biking adventures.
In addition to local and regional trails, Udrow has pursued his bicycling passion all over the world, from as far away as Europe and Singapore to closer to home on the three-tunnel, Elroy-Sparta Trail in Wisconsin a few weeks ago. His next stop? A biking trip to Chile in 2019.
Editor's Note: Do you have a favorite spot, activity or annual event you enjoy in the forest preserves of Will County? Tell us your story by contacting public information officer Cindy Cain at email@example.com, and we may share your preserve passion with others.