You can’t go home to a trailer park and farm in North Carolina again, not after living the simple bicycling lifestyle in Chicago for three years. It’s not that folks from my hometown read my blog and hate me for portraying them as bumpkins, a modern and predictably crappy remake of Thomas Wolfe, simply that my way of seeing the world has changed dramatically in the past few years.
A Vanity Fair article I read years ago aptly described my military hometown as a mix of strip bars and Baptist churches. Growing up, I itched to get out of my city; it was an ill-fitting sweater that took 16 years to wrestle off, catching my limbs, pulling my nose, tangling my hair and finally releasing me as I gulped for fresh air. My yearnings were basically the cliche teenage feeling that there is a big world going on without me – not a world of parties and glamor, but a world of pedestrians and cafes. I had fantasies of sidewalks, which I knew existed from TV and rare visits to family in Massachusetts, and a hazy idea of “culture” that my city lacked.
My hometown is a pod world, where the city functions only as a series of tubes to travel from pod to pod. Pod 1 – house. Pod 2 – friend’s house. Pod 3 – Walmart. Pod 4 – chain restaurant. Each pod may be lovely, filled with laughing family and home-cooked meals and loyal pets, but there is no in-between. No journey, all destination. Walking and bicycling are abnormal, left only to the most desperate populations. Nashville looks like Copenhagen in comparison. If this all sounds a bit too Kafkaesque, then I’ve described it accurately. Unless I’m a pretentious city girl who’s forgotten where she came from, which is possible.
I sometimes idealize my in-laws’ farm as a country sanctuary, and while I sit at my work desk, in my head I loll on a porch swing twisting grass with my toes and talking to earthy great-grandma Lula who lived to 100 years old, but I’m not prepared for what lies outside – a narrow 2-lane country highway with no shoulder leading to truck stops and gas stations. The stark reality is that I would have to create my own culture: cook my own Thai food, bake my own to-die-for Bavarian cream donuts, perform plays masterfully in my own head, be my own yoga teacher, grow my own bouquets and fill my own time. A thrilling fantasy, but a daunting and lonely reality. What makes for a wild, free-range childhood would make for a suffocating adulthood.
Everyone’s different – and I’d love to hear from the country mice out there – but I say: Give me a train outside my window, different languages whirling around my head, throngs of people, bright lights, buses, sidewalk cafes, neighborhood pubs, theaters with Shakespeare and ballet, art museums, and – most of all – bicycles. I belong in the city. I’m home again, simply to a new home.
Beach biking pictures are usually the province of California bloggers like Christa of Bike By the Sea or Cosmo of LA Cycle Chic, but this pic was snapped by my friend Ali, who had the great fortune to be spending Christmas at the beach.
A little over two months after staying at my place in Nashville, Victoria made it to Santa Monica Pier in time for Christmas. Check out her blog to read about the final leg of her journey, and congratulate her on her amazing accomplishment. Way to go, Victoria!
Merry Christmas everyone! I’m in Alabama with the fam, dressing our cats in silly costumes and making a few modifications to Le Peug with my dad. As Dottie mentioned, it might be a slow week on LGRAB but we have some big things coming in the New Year — including a top secret project to commemorate our first anniversary — so stay tuned.
Wishing you all the very best for the holidays and a wonderful 2010!
On Tuesday morning I woke up to heaps of snow. Not anything like the EastCoast is experiencing, but the first real snow for Chicago this winter. One of my rules is not to ride in measurable fresh snowfall, but my girlish fun side took over, enchanted by the winter wonderland and potential for pretty pictures. If I wanted the easiest way to work, I would have taken the L train.
The side streets were not plowed at all, and thus a bit slippery at times, even with my studded tires. Drivers were very patient, though, going slowly behind me as I took up the one-way street to ride in tire tracks. Once I got to the Lakefront Trail, I was surprised that the Parks Department had already plowed it. Thanks, Parks Department for making my commute 100% easier! The streets downtown were, as always, miraculously free of any trace of snow.
Oma embraces snow
I met up with Mr. Dottie for the ride home and we took main city streets, which were perfectly clear after a day of plowing. No problems at all. I wore the same outfit on my bike that I wore at work: a gray Brooks Brothers skirt suit. For the commute I simply added wool leggings, a wool overcoat, snow boots and gloves.
Tomorrow I’m leaving for North Carlina to spend Christmas with my parents, sisters and in-laws. We’ll have daily scheduled posts, but otherwise will not be writing or riding much. Happy Holidays!
Check this helmet out – what an idea! The author of Oh Joy!, a top style-lifestyle inspiration blog, happens to be a very chic cyclist. When she couldn’t find a polka dotted helmet to suit her needs, she made one out of a Bern Muse helmet and sticky decals.
On Friday, after riding city streets all week, the beauty and safety of the Lakefront Trail won me over. Light snow fluttered in the morning, but changed to freezing rain by the evening. Again the temperature was 30-something and my new thrifted wool cardigan kept me warm enough.
Here is a secret to winter bike commuting: it’s not that bad. If you look closely at the individual days that make up winter, you’ll see that most of them are pretty nice. Sure, sometimes the windchill is -20 and sometimes a foot of snow falls, but the time between the extreme days is perfectly fine for bike commuting.
It’s really criminal that I waited so long to post about this, actually, because not only was it a fun 20-ish mile ride with great people, it also marked the meeting of the Flik and Andrew’s Bike Friday. How would the two folders compare?