Monthly Archives: October 2012

Fading Fall

Last week, on my bike rides, I was drafting a blog post in my head about how glad I was that I hadn’t entirely missed fall. My favorite oak tree still had a share of blazing red leaves, and the weather was cool but not cold (in fact, the first day I was back, it was 80 degrees!).

Fall leaves on the cobblestones in Amsterdam

Alas, my procrastination made that post obsolete; I woke up this morning to a chilly 36 degrees and a projected high of 54, not too dissimilar to the temps Dottie described in her last post. But with the weather going on in the East today, I’m not going to complain too much about fall’s abrupt conclusion. At least there are new fall TV shows to curl up with: has anyone else been watching “Nashville”? I cued it up on Hulu when I got home last week and totally got sucked in. Except for the fact that everyone on the show has a Southern accent—something that’s increasingly rare in actual Nashville, which, like any good boom town, is full of people from other places—the setting feels pretty authentic for a drama, and I absolutely love seeing places like The 5 Spot and the Musica statue on my TV every Wednesday. And the music is awesome: T Bone Burnett is a producer, and most of the music is written specifically for the show by local songwriters, although they used a Civil Wars song on the first episode.

Anyone else tuning in? Do you have another favorite fall show?

Late October Chill

BRRRRR!  The October warm-up is over and real Chicago fall has arrived with morning and evening temps in the 30’s F, which is basically as cold as winter in my native North Carolina.  This is my 6th fall in Chicago, but the reality of the first chill still surprises me.

Yesterday I wore a wool dress, tights, and my new Chloe trench from Paris (love!) for my entire bike commute.  I thought I would get overheated, but nope.

The street lights were on by 5:30 p.m.

I felt kinda like a baby, complaining of my frozen fingers and toes when I arrived home, but even Ted the Cat, with his massive fur coat, has taken to snuggling under blankets.

So here’s to staying warm with the start of cold weather bicycling in Chicago!

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Fashion Friday: Riding in the Rain

Overcast and rainy skies have surrounded me lately.  Much of my riding in Amsterdam took place under damp mist and yesterday a heavy rain fell in Chicago, causing me to tuck Coco in my office for the night and take the L train home.  Alas, I was caught without a coat to fend off the sudden cold and rain.  If I could do my Thursday morning preparations over again (with dream clothes/bike collection), I would opt for something like this European-inspired rain outfit.  Why not, right?  :)

I hope all of you either have been staying dry or enjoying the wet weather in style!

{Collage details here}

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A Bit of Amsterdam in Chicago

I know I love Chicago because whenever I return from a trip, no matter how cool the cities I visited, I’m happy to be back and Chicago shines a little brighter for a couple of days.  I must say that after Amsterdam, though, the bicycling situation in Chicago is looking especially bleak.  At least I can retreat to the Lakefront Trail, where the bicycling conditions are Amsterdam-level easy, pleasurable, and safe.

I took these photos before I left for my trip.  I was worried that cold weather would have set in by my return, but today is sunny and in the 60’s F!

When you return from traveling, do you feel better or worse about bicycling in your home city?   If you’ve visited a bicycle-paradise city like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or Bogata, did seeing the possibilities make you more hopeful for the future or just make you want to run away to said bicycle-paradise city?  I’m not yet sure where I fall.

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With Love, From Amsterdam

Just popping in to say “Hi!”

Trisha and I left Amsterdam this morning, we are in Dublin now, and tomorrow we return to America.

Lots to share soon!

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London! Boris Bikes, Reader Pints & Sunday Lunch

Bonjour! Dottie and I are blogging from our Paris hotel room. But we couldn’t wait to talk a little bit about London, where we shared Sunday evening pints at The Harp with delightfully witty and friendly readers Fred & Liz. Both are native(ish) Londoners, so they gave us a local take on cycling in the city. Apparently there are vast differences between the boroughs when it comes to infrastructure—and cycling gets better the further east in London you go. The money savings on transport here is huge: one way on the tube costs 2 pounds, so choosing to bike gets you more than freedom from the crowded tube.

Fred, Dottie, Liz & me

Also exciting: how we got there!

The bike rental system was about as easy to figure out as any bike rental system we’ve used in the past. Hardest part was getting the bikes free from the kiosk, really! And of course it was virtually free: one pound for a one-day pass, and the first 30 minutes of each rental is free. Our first stop was here: For this

Equal parts delight and intimidation in that expression, don’t you think?

Then we got back on the bikes for a ride around St. Paul’s before heading to the Harp.

The ride was pretty relaxing for the most part, beginning on quiet streets with well-designed bike lanes.  After a couple of miles, we ended up on The Strand for a few blocks with approximately half a million double-decker buses. That’s when we dismounted and walked our bikes on the sidewalk.

Obviously, we didn’t conduct a complete tour of London by bike, but our brief experience felt very different from our experience as cycling tourists in Paris, where many of the main through-roads seemed to have infrastructure for cyclists.

London felt more like Nashville in the sense that big roads are the worst for cycling—but when you’re in a city you aren’t familiar with that is not set up on a grid, it’s pretty difficult to navigate using smaller streets that would require frequent turns, even when you have a Moleskin City Guide map strapped in front of you.  :-)  If London wants to make cycling more appealing for tourists—especially those who are not used to bicycling in a big city—it should make the major boulevards more bike friendly.

We’re looking forward to using the Velib today, which we greatly enjoyed during our last trip to Paris.  A tout a l’heure!

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How to Make Your Own Hair Powder

Like any red-blooded American woman, I have spent the last couple of years intrigued by the “dry shampoo” trend. Caught in the fantasy of a world where blowdrying one’s hair each day (OK, every other day, but still) is not a necessity, I cruised beauty blogs and drugstore clearance shelves to find this mythical product. Trying out half a dozen varieties left me with but one that actually worked, but it was prohibitively expensive.

just two of the many failed dry shampoos

Then, somewhere online, I read a passing remark about how all this stuff was basically baby powder. I’ve used that in my hair before, but hate the smell. Then it occurred to me that baby powder was basically cornstarch. A lightbulb went off: I HAVE CORNSTARCH! I began Googling in earnest.

That was about a year ago, and I’ve eventually cobbled together a dry shampoo formula that works incredibly well for me. It’s a lifesaver after a hot summer bike ride, and it is NOT $12/oz. Intrigued? Read on!
Continue reading

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Fashion Friday: European Vacation

Today I’m heading to Europe, where I’ll meet Trisha to enjoy a whirlwind 10-day trip through London, Paris, Amsterdam, and a bit of Dublin!

This is the collage I created to plan my packing.

And here is Trisha’s packing collage.  Yes, we are planning nerds.  :-)

Everything is good for walking and bicycling comfortably while (hopefully!) looking chic.

We’ll be taking many trains and riding lots of bicycles.  And we’re shoving everything into carry-ons, so wish us luck!

How do you pack for trips?  Do you have any traveling tips to share?

 

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Indian Summer

I continue to enjoy fall the best way possible: by bicycle. These days, the lakefront trail is even more beautiful than usual.

To accompany the beauty of the season, I’ll share with you one of my favorite songs, Indian Summer, instead of a poem this time.

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Gone With the Wind

Biking may make your skirt fly up, but if you want to keep it from becoming literal, here are some tips:

  • Attach an office binder clip to the hem of the skirt to weigh it down—or, if the skirt is long, try clipping the front and back of the hem together to create makeshift culottes.
  • Wear a garter belt on your thigh with a safety pin and then safety pin your skirt to the garter belt from the inside, or purchase a bike garter.
  • If your skirt has a pocket, put a cell phone or keychain in it and shift the pocket to the front while you ride to act as a skirt weight.
  • If the skirt is voluminous enough, tie it tight with a rubber band or hair tie (you’ll have to weigh your modesty against the possibility of wrinkles with this one).

What secrets do you have, readers? Share in the comments!

{ More on wearing a skirt on a bike—and how to wear a long skirt. }

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Sad News from Chicago

Yesterday morning, 32-year-old attorney Neill Townsend was biking to work when a man in a Nissan Altima opened his car door into the bike lane and Neill’s path, causing him to swerve suddenly and fall under a flatbed semi truck passing to his left.  He died on the scene.  The man who opened the car door was cited for a traffic violation.  You can read more about Neill’s life and a vigil held in his memory in this Chicago Tribune story.

I mourn for Neill and his family and friends.  This sad news has shaken me, as I bike past the exact spot every day.  The bike lane lines are faded to almost nothing.  There are severe pot holes through the bike lane that force bicyclists either to swerve far out into the main traffic lane or inch closer to parked cars than is comfortable.  There is a high school where parents park in the bike lane to drop off their kids.

This exact type of collision occurred only one block over in 2008, when Clinton Miceli was doored and struck by passing traffic.  The city needs to build protected bike lanes to the right of parked cars, which would avoid collisions like this.  At the very least, it needs to keep existing and heavily used bike lanes well-striped, buffered, and free of dangerous potholes.  Drivers and passengers need to take a second to look for coming bicyclists before swinging their car doors open.   The city must do more to educate and remind drivers of this.  Bicyclist should try to avoid the door zone, but I well know that is not always possible in Chicago.  The entire bike lane where the incident occurred basically is the door zone.  Grid Chicago wrote a more detailed examination of this infrastructure problem.

Biking home from work yesterday with this tragedy fresh on my mind, I took care to bike extra far from parked cars.  Almost immediately, a driver in an SUV honked at me.  I assume he wanted me to move over to the right.  We have a long way to go in Chicago.

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Fashion Friday: Flights of Fancy

Today I feel like indulging in some flights of fancy.  The result is my dream outfit.  This is by no means a shopping guide, simply an expression of my aesthetic at the moment.  This lushly beautiful Stella McCartney dress is waaaaaay too rich for my blood.  But there are some attainable luxuries, such as striking nail polish and a romantic hair style. Also, I am in love with this Bloom Theory camera strap and will have to figure out how to make my own out of whatever scraps I can find at JoAnn’s.  :-)

I could easily ride a bike in this outfit, especially a lovely upright Velorbis, while enjoying the final remaining days of tights-free weather.

{collage details}

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Philip Larkin’s Fall

Mother, Summer, I

by Philip Larkin

My mother, who hates thunder storms,
Holds up each summer day and shakes
It out suspiciously, lest swarms
Of grape-dark clouds are lurking there;
But when the August weather breaks
And rains begin, and brittle frost
Sharpens the bird-abandoned air,
Her worried summer look is lost,

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness
I can’t confront: I must await
A time less bold, less rich, less clear:
An autumn more appropriate.

{see also, Emily Dickinson’s fall}

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September Women-Who-Bike Brunch

In September, the women-who-bike brunch group picnicked for the final time this year.  Lucky for us, the weather was perfect.

Here are some of the cool women-who-bike and their trusty steeds.

After the picnic, a few of us walked over to the nature museum and stopped by the butterfly sanctuary…

…on our way to check out the final day of the “Bikes! Green Revolution” exhibit, which I originally blogged about last spring.

I dig the old school cycle chic posters.

The next brunch will be this Sunday with special guest Trisha!  :-)  Email LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com if you’re interested in joining us.

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A Happy October Outfit

Welcome to October!  It’s hard to believe that September is already over and fall is seriously here.  The weather in Chicago is cooling down substantially and in response I pulled out the (sometimes fingerless) gloves, cashmere, and jeans.

This is a typical fall outfit, although for now the sweater comes off at a stop light early in the ride.

I’m happy for the change in seasons – in fact, October is my favorite month!  How are you handling the transition?

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