Well, the review on the forest preserve is mixed. I initially enjoyed the ride there, until it became clear that the directions I had meticulously written down had a mistake in them and were missing the crucial road name that linked the first and second part of the trip. That wasn't a deal breaker, just rather inconvenient. I was in a part of town I'm not too familiar with, I only had a CTA map with me so it didn't have all the streets on it, and I was in an apparently deserted residential neighborhood. (Actually, that was maybe the nicest part of the ride. Nobody was around, and while on one side there were nice houses as far as I could see the other side was a forest. It was very, very quiet.) I eventually decided to take a bike path I had noticed in passing that was headed the right direction. That was fine, and eventually dead-ended in the street that had been my original final destination, Devon. There was a rather harrowing ten minutes of riding down a busy street without a bike path, but I finally reached the North Branch Forest Preserve.
Which was... Hmmm. Not worse than I'd expected, but not as good as I'd hoped. There weren't too many people around (although plenty of parked cars, so I don't know where all the people were; maybe on paths I didn't know about?), and there were definitely short periods where I felt like I was really outside, with trees and water on either side. At one point the insect and bird noises actually drowned out the cars! Because really, I was never far from a road. I'd be riding along, enjoying the forest-y smell and relative solitude, and all of a sudden I'd turn a corner and there'd be a road, or the back of a house. I didn't make it to the Botanical Garden or the unpaved part of the trail, so maybe that's a little more isolated, but I was pooped and slightly disenchanted. Also my trail appeared to dead-end in a road, with no signage to indicate where I might want to go if I were to continue. The entire trip was about twenty miles (including some riding around after getting lost, which happened on the return trip also), and now I'm beat. But next time, I'll be able to amend my directions and get there more quickly, and maybe see some slightly more isolated parts of things. If I can make it past that dead-end.