August 2010 archive

Seventies light

Life has come between me and long blog posts, but these photos sum up my evening rides home better than words anyway. As the days get shorter and my workdays get longer, the ride home takes place in what I like to call “Seventies light”—because snaps from that era often seem to include the same preternaturally bright greens and golds that spring to life in the early stages of the sunset.

How’s the scenery on your commute these days?

Another side of biking safety

Chicago is a big city, which presents some unique challenges when bike commuting. Usually, heavy traffic is the biggest problem, but sometimes – rarely – the problem is dangerous people.

Greg (Mr. Dottie) is working in the far suburbs this week, so yesterday morning he rode his bike to Union Station, took the train and on the other end rode his bike to the worksite. While still in Chicago, almost to Union Station, he was stopped at a red light behind a cab when a goth-looking street guy with a big cart walked into the road to his left. The guy asked him if he was an undercover cop and then started ranting that no one was going to stop him from getting to Detroit.

Greg was boxed in on three sides by the guy, the cab and the curb. The light turned green, but the cab did not move, probably watching what was going on behind him. The guy was still more than an arm-length’s away and before he could get closer, Greg started backing up to turn his bike around. Just then the guy pulled out a knife, the cab finally moved forward and Greg rode off, informing the police of the guy when he got to Union Station.

Downtown Chicago is rarely dangerous, but there is crime. Although my initial reaction is “never ride in that area early in the morning again,” Greg’s reaction is, “never stop for a red light behind a car in that area again.” Also, be aware of your surroundings, don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt, and don’t let anyone get near you. Although someone on a bike is less protected than someone in a car, at least it’s usually easier for a bicyclist to get away.

The Last Weekend of August

Yikes – this is the last weekend in August. Where has the summer gone? To enjoy as much of the remaining warmth as possible, I spent Saturday experiencing a new-to-me Chicago summer tradition: the Ravinia music festival. There the music takes a back seat to enjoying time outside – Chicagoans so love time outside in the summer. Ravinia Park has a huge lawn where thousands set up elaborate picnics, often complete with tables, candles and multiple courses.

Riding home from the train station

The evening’s performance was by Rodrigo y Gabriella, but because we could not see the stage, our focus was on picnicking, drinking wine and spending time with friends. As everyone in our group bike commutes and some race, there was much discussion about terrible drivers and the awesomeness of cyclocross races, which sounds like an event I should go watch sometime.

New friends Brian and Patty

Me and Greg at Ravinia

Mr. Dottie and I rode our bikes to the Metra station and the suburban train took us straight to Ravinia Park for free. Hordes of others had the same idea to take the train, which resulted in extreme waits to get in the Park and back on the train after the show. Although this was hectic and I wished I’d had my bike, it was far better than driving.

How are you enjoying the last few summer weekends?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

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OK, so I’m still not sure about this statement when it comes to romantic relationships, but it does apply to me and my bikes. Every once in a while, I get in a rut where bicycle commuting seems as problematic as any other form of routine transportation. Over the past two years I’ve learned that if I start feeling that way, the best remedy is to not fight it. After a few days off the bike, riding it again feels like a new discovery or a special treat. That wasn’t the reason for my recent break in riding, though: it was due to the extreme head cold I’ve been fighting since getting back from NYC. Despite a welcome drop in the temperature I hadn’t felt up to getting on my bike — until yesterday.

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What happens to one's skin under heavy bangs after 3 weeks of 100 degree temperatures is not pretty.

And it felt great. Le Peug and I added on an extra couple of miles by going to my friend Erin’s to pick up our CSA share. Only one squash was lost on the way home (darn pletscher racks).

Hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather.

Who, knowing the truth, would choose anything else?

This morning I planned to take my usual street route to work. After I got on my bike and felt the sweet sun and cool breeze, however, my instinct took over and led me to the Lakefront Trail. I thought maybe I needed a clear stretch of pavement to go fast and get out any residual aggression from yesterday’s jerk sighting, but after I rode the mile to the lake and my tires automatically slowed upon hitting the Trail, I realized that what I craved was some quiet time with the horizon, safe from all motor vehicles.

The same held true for my ride home from work in the evening. Just what the doctor ordered.

There was a great post on EcoVelo recently about how ridiculous it is when non-cyclists speak of your bike commute as a great sacrifice, when it’s anything but. Riding a bike is almost too fun and too perfect for starting and ending the workday. That really is the big secret, apparently. Who, knowing the truth, would willingly chose anything else?

A Typical Tuesday

My commute to and fro today was lovely, other than having to yell “JERK” at some jerk, who honked at me for being in the road and then cut me off to turn right.  I guess I should not be surprised, since some people (*cough* men *cough*) are often jerks in general.   The anonymity of driving naturally magnifies this tendency.  They should get their ridiculous testosterone under control and stop bringing me down.

Anyway, my ride really was (mostly) lovely.  There is finally some relief from the oppressive heat and I can feel autumn trying to break though.  Although I know it’s too soon to get excited, I can’t help it – I love autumn!

How’s everyone else doing?  I’ve been so busy lately, I feel a bit disconnected from my fellow bike commuters out there in internets land.

Bike Fun with Girls & Bicycles

On Saturday Mr. Dottie and I had the privilege of spending the whole day with Miss Sarah of Girls & Bicycles and her husband Don. We showed them Chicago, local style. First they came to our place to get fitted on Oma and Sir Raleigh. Despite the height differences, the bikes worked out.

Then we rode a few miles to the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, where we had brunch at Toast and walked around. While Sarah scored at the BCBG sale and the thrift store, I finally found a good straw hat at Goorin Brothers hat shop. Eventually we ended up at the gem of the neighborhood, Copenhagen Cyclery. Much riding of awesome bikes and talking of sustainable living with owner Brett and manager Phil ensued.

We all had lots of fun with the Velorbis Mobii.

Then we rode the Larry v. Harry Bullitt.  That bike got the best of me – I could not even ride it a few yards without bailing, lest I fall over.  Something about the steering is very odd, but Don and Greg managed to figure it out.

After the shop, we drank delicious cocktails at The Violet Hour speakeasy.  Our drinks: Swingin’ on the Lawn, The Etiquette, Georgia Peach, Tattooed Seaman, Tequila Old Fashioned, and Juliet and Romeo.

Next we bought wine and picnic food from The Goddess and Grocer and rode our bikes to watch To Catch a Thief in the park with bike friends Elizabeth and Dean, before finally returning home 12 hours after we set off.  A very good day!

Sadly, Sarah and Don – and their crazy foreign accents – are now heading back to Canada.  I’ll have to start planning my trip to Edmonton.  :)

You can see more fabulous pictures of the whole day from Sarah at Girls and Bicycles.

Friday Unwinding

This morning I almost took public transit instead of riding my bike, as the news predicted a sweltering 90 degree day with thunderstorms. I decided to ride anyway. By the afternoon, the official thunderstorm watch was the talk of the office, with heavy rain and lightening strikes predicted…any minute… But the rain never happened. So after work I rode my bike a couple of miles as planned to meet up with Sarah, Don and Mr. Dottie at The Publican for dinner.

After a delicious and very interesting meal, we walked the 1.5 miles back to their hotel, stopping to take random photos, of course.

I have no idea what we were talking about in this last photo, but I was obviously amused.

After leaving Sarah and Don at their hotel, we rode the 7 miles home via the Lakefront Trail. The night ride was a perfect way to wind down after a long week of crowded streets and hot sun. TGIF.

I find that switching up my commute at the end of the week is a good way to unwind and usually I have the opportunity to do so after going out with friends. How do you unwind to leave your weekday riding behind?

Meeting Miss Sarah

When I first started riding a bike over two years ago, the internet was my best resource for information: how to pack a pannier, change a tire, signal turns, etc. All very technical and masculine, but I accepted that as the bicycling culture. Then one day I stumbled upon Girls and Bicycles. One girl and one bicycle, to be exact: Miss Sarah and her Pashley. For the first time, I saw the possibility of a different kind of bicycling lifestyle, one in which dresses, heels and nights at the opera fit seamlessly. The rest is history.

Tonight I had the great pleasure of meeting Sarah, although I felt like I already knew her well. She is just as interesting, funny and open as she seems on her blog. And stylish! Killer outfit for her date with me. :)

Sarah and her husband Don are vacationing in Chicago this week (lucky for me). Check out Girls and Bicycles for lots of awesome Chicago pictures, and stay tuned for more Miss Sarah (and Don!) on LGRAB. We’ll be hanging out more this weekend – yay!

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