February 2013 archive

20 Miles in a Zac Posen Dress and 4-Inch Heels

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On Sunday, I biked 20 miles in a Zac Posen dress and four-inch high-heeled ankle boots.  My day was full, including a trip downtown for a Joffrey Ballet performance and to the Logan Square neighborhood for my friend Sara’s Oscar party.  Getting ready in the morning, I considered throwing on jeans, flat boots and a wool sweater, but decided to stay strong and dress appropriately for the occasions.

The (second-hand) dress conveniently zips all the way down the back from both ends, allowing me to create more leeway from the bottom while on my bike.

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The weather was sunny and 30 degrees.  For the ride, I threw on a cardigan, trench, cashmere scarf, gloves, and winter helmet.  The trench coverage was helpful because the dress did ride up a bit while biking.

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Once I got downtown, I was able to take the Dearborn protected bike lane for the final mile and a half.  The city has a special snow plow to use for protected lanes and the lane was plowed, but sloppily and some areas were more clear than others.

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And look!  An SUV parked in the lane.  This was the second one I saw.  The city needs to: 1) create better signage; 2) build real barriers; and 3) ticket these drivers.

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Okay, back to my happy place…

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The ballet, American Legends, was beautiful and thought-provoking as always, as was the view from my first-row-balcony season ticket seat.  (Thanks, Groupon!)

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Leaving the ballet, I mounted my camera on Betty Foy’s handlebars and made a video of my ride on the Dearnborn protected lane and the connected Kinzie protected lane.  I’ll post the video soon.

The Oscar party was fun (despite the host’s lame “jokes”) and I enjoyed biking home on empty streets at the end of the night, 12 hours after I left.  My dress and heels were fun for the day, but I was happy to change into flannel pajamas.  :-)

News from Nashville

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It’s not even spring yet, but there’s a lot of bike and transport news items happening in Nashville!

Last week, I attended a “visioning session” at Oasis Bike Workshop about the Tennessee portion of the United States Bicycle Route System.  The route system, which was started in the early 1980s, has ramped up again in the last 10 years—six new routes were added in 2011, and two in Minnesota and Michigan last year.

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Now, they want to plan a route to bring USBR 25 through Tennessee, connecting Franklin, Kentucky, with Ardmore, Alabama, and passing through Nashville. David Shumaker and Bruce Day from Bike/Walk Tennessee came to explain the concept of the Bicycle Route System.

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After their talk, we divided into two groups and marked a map of the greater Nashville area with stickers, highlighting places of interest (yellow), bike-friendly routes (green) and places to avoid (pink).

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Once a route is pulled together, it will have to be submitted to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at their spring or fall meeting for approval. Looking at the map made me realize that I need to expand my biking horizons a little—there wasn’t much that I could add outside the urban center and the greenways! Maybe it’s time for a more ambitious ride…

You can follow the USBRS on Facebook or Twitter (@usbicycleroutes)—and of course I’ll be posting anything I hear here.  If you have a brilliant idea for a route through Nashville (or between Nashville and Franklin—we were slightly stumped!), email me and I’ll pass it along. If you’re curious about what might be going on with the USBRS in your state, this PDF gives a brief update, state-by-state.

The other Tennessee project I got a glimpse of this month was the Nashville Bus Rapid Transfer project, which is going full steam on the East-West Connector. They wanted input from cyclists about how we might use the BRT, and where they should put bike racks (answer: all of the stops!). It was encouraging to see that the people involved really cared about getting this right, for the city and for the citizens—including cyclists.

a mock-up of the BRT, at the intersection of Broadway and 21st Ave. S.

Concept mock-up of the BRT, at the intersection of West End and 21st Ave. S.

The buses, which will be double length and hold around 80 people, will have designated lanes for most of the route, which goes down West End from St. Thomas, merges onto Broadway, then takes a left on 5th to Church and then across the Woodland Street bridge to Five Points in East Nashville.

I won’t lie, I’m kind of bummed we aren’t getting light rail—but BRT is about a million times cheaper (why yes, that is an exact figure!) and quicker to build. There will be kiosks at each stop, where you can buy tickets, as well as sheltered waiting areas and the aforementioned bike racks. There will be park-and-ride locations and extra bike racks at both termini. And the buses are going to act like light rail, which is the important thing. You don’t have to consult a schedule, because they’ll be coming by every 10 minutes.

We were told that it currently takes 16 minutes to get to downtown from St. Thomas. If traffic continues to grow at the pace it has been over the past few years, and no major transportation changes are implemented, by 2018 the same 5-mile trip will take more than 30 minutes, so this project is definitely needed. Construction could start as early as this fall, although it probably won’t be completed until 2015. For more on the BRT plans, this video is a good summary.

What’s going on in your city’s transportation world?

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Koyaanisqatsi: life out of balance

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On Sunday, my friend Maria and I went to a screening and panel discussion of Koyaanisqatsi at indie theater Facets. Koyaanisqatsi (subtitled “life out of balance), a sequence of images set to a score by Philip Glass, is described as such:

An art-house circuit sensation, this feature-length documentary is visually arresting and possesses a clear, pro-environmental political agenda. Without a story, dialogue, or characters, Koyaanisqatsi (1983) is composed of nature imagery, manipulated in slow motion, double exposure or time lapse, juxtaposed with footage of humans’ devastating environmental impact on the planet. The message of director Godfrey Reggio is clear: humans are destroying the planet, and all of human progress is pointlessly foolish.

Sounded wonderful in a beautifully depressing way – sign me up! For a better understanding of the film, watch the short trailer below:

For me the film displays an overwhelming grimness and hopelessness for the human species. City life is portrayed as absolutely Kafkaesque, with a focus on endless streams of cars and people being sucked into and spit out of public transportation like so many hotdogs on an assembly line. By the end, I felt ready to flee Chicago for a quiet country cabin in the middle of nowhere.

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However, this feeling of oppression lifted as soon as I stepped outside and started riding my bicycle home. Nothing seems so grim while bicycling down tree-lined streets in the sunshine and fresh winter air. I really think I would not have lasted in the big city this long (6 years and counting!) without my bicycle, because being stuck on a crowded subway train or in car traffic every single day is oppressive. Bicycling allows me to break away from all that.

(Here is what I wore on my bike, before piling on the winter layers.)

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You can watch all 1 hour and 26 minutes of the film for free on Hulu. Warning: if you watch, be sure to have some kittens, puppies, or bicycles nearby afterward to cheer you up.

Has anyone else seen Koyaanisqatsi? What did you think?

Bicycling to Picasso

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On Saturday, I visited the Art Institute in downtown Chicago for a lecture on the museum’s new Picasso exhibit.  The outing involved a total of 14 miles of bicycling in 15-20 degree temps.  No big deal.  ;-)  I set out on Betty Foy wearing my new Wolford tights with a dress, trench coat and suede knee boots.

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Unfortunately, once I got going, I realized that I was quite underdressed for the weather, with freezing toes and thighs.

But there was no turning back – all I could do was make the best of the situation, which was not difficult, considering the beautiful surroundings.

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Despite the chill, I felt great after the 7 mile ride and happy to spend time with my friends Sara, Chika and Glenn.

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The Art Institute is one of my favorite places in the city.  I really should go more often, since I have a membership this year that allows for free admission.

The indoor sculpture courtyard is a must-see during every visit.
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Another favorite sight is Chagall’s American Windows.

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After the museum, we headed through the Loop to have a drink and a bite at Pops for Champagne.  The ride there was lovely, as we got to take advantage of the Dearborn protected bike lane.
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Fortified with food and drink, I enjoyed my freezing but refreshing bike ride home.
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As always, bicycling around made my day out in Chicago twice as enjoyable.  :-)

Did you have a fun outing by bike this weekend?

LGRAB aime Paris

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Since we’ve been going on about our fall vacation over the last week, here are some scenes from our October trip to the City of Lights. We didn’t bike while we were there—it was just a 48-hour trip—but we walked our feet off. We’d both been to France and Paris before, so our priority this time around was acting like locals. Well, and doing a little photo shoot on the banks of the Seine.

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The weather could have been better, but we were just happy to be in Paris. We were also incredibly pleased with our budget hotel, the Hotel Tiquetonne. For just 60 EUR a night, you have this view.

 

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If you look carefully, you might see Sacré Coeur in the background.

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And this stairwell.

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And you’re incredibly close to this wonderful restaurant. We had to settle for the wine bar, but it was worth the wait. Afterwards, we shut down the café near our hotel—the perfect Paris night out!

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More beautiful Paris pictures:

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Pretty sure Dottie was taking the photo above when Trisha took this one:

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We also made time to stop for an apèro. Or three!

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Coffee and crepes on a rainy day.

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Shopping at Galeries Lafayette‘s flagship store. We spent our time/money in the food hall, but admired everything else.

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The store’s beautiful ceiling

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A quick stop at the Musée Carnavalet.

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That is all.  <3

P.S. see our previous trip to Paris here, plus bicycling Versailles and an American girl(s) on Velib.

Amsterdam shenanigans

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Lest you think all we did on our trip to Amsterdam is visit bike shops and examine cycling infrastructure, let me assure you that we also did what we could to sample the culture, food and drink. Here’s what we got up to during our three nights and two-and-a-half days in the city.

We stayed in a houseboat on a canal—highly recommended.

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Dottie unlocks the door while the suitcases wait patiently to enter.

We discovered Little Bear on the Water thanks to the fab Cup of Jo, and Anno was an incredible host. He even left us two Heinekens in the fridge.

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Our welcome gift

Our first night in Amsterdam we were lucky enough to have dinner with locals—Malay takeout! The next day, we set off on our bikes to check out the Van Gogh Museum. Well, as close as we could get to the Van Gogh museum, which turned out to be the Hermitage Amsterdam since the real museum is being renovated. Since we were right there, we had to try to take a picture in the i amsterdam sign—with limited success (that’s us in the “m”!).

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After admiring the exhibit (I thought it was interesting that Van Gogh and his brother corresponded in French!) we went to lunch at Gartine, a spot Dottie had uncovered during her Amsterdam research. It’s hard to pick a favorite meal on this trip (see below, plus we ate here in Paris!) but this lunch was definitely the best meal for the money that we had on our trip. We each had a delicious sandwich and shared a custard dessert.

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Outside of Gartine

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Lunch, the aftermath

 

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Dottie through the lantern on our table at Gartine

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Looking up from our table

 

After lunch, we got back on the bikes and struck out for Bols Genever, with an unscheduled stop at a book market that we just happened to pass through (love this aspect of traveling!). Dottie bought a vintage bike print.

cyclists zipping past the book market

cyclists zipping past the book market

 

The House of Bols museum was definitely a slick, commercial tour—still, it was a very nicely done and affordably priced one. We went on a Friday night, so the entry was just € 7,50—which included a cocktail and three tastes of Bols.  The perfect aperitif! We felt like we got an interesting glimpse into the history of this precursor to the gin we both love so much. :)

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the four main types of Bols Genever

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Bols also makes flavored liqueurs—you could spritz these into the air and guess what flavor they were.

After our time at Bols, we pedaled through Vondelpark to our first dinner out in Amsterdam at Restaurant Blauw. We ordered the rice table, which was a first for both of us but definitely something we want to do again—nothing like having scads of tiny, delicious dishes spread out before you.

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I think she’s impressed

On Saturday morning, we took a ferry to Noord Amsterdam (separate post on that one) and then returned the bikes to Henry at WorkCycles before hurrying back to our houseboat to meet my brother. Charlie had arranged for a stopover in Amsterdam on his way back from a work trip in Italy. After a brief cultural detour and a couple of drinks, we headed to dinner.

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my brother and me

We had dinner at a place called Marit’s, which was in a quiet neighborhood and was another of Dottie’s discoveries. Marit serves dinner a few times a week in her home—so it’s sort of a cross between a restaurant proper, and a supper club. The service was professional, but the atmosphere was homelike and cosy.
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You know, like the sort of place where you might pause in the middle of the meal to pet a dog.
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We walked home, intending to stop at the windmill brewery that Henry had recommended. Alas, it was closed, but we found a bar next door that would serve us their beer. It was quite good. I guess it’s a good thing to have something to look forward to on our next visit…

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Brewing beer in a windmill! Brilliant idea.

 

windmill IPA

 

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Our walk took us past the Vanmoof factory—we saw a handful of these in the wild on the trip.

Eventually, we returned to our houseboat and reflected on how lovely it is to bike and walk everywhere so easily in such a cozy, friendly city.

It was up early the next day to head to the airport. Amsterdam, we’ll be back!

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Ride

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Public service announcement: Make sure your belt is fully secured before you start biking. Mine (a loop through style, worn on pants without belt loops) fell off halfway to work this morning and started clanking against the frame. Luckily it caught on the rear rack rather than in the spokes, but I had to pause and put it in my purse.

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Other than that, it was a beautiful morning for a bike commute here in Nashville. About 40 degrees, with sunshine and blue skies. I took it slow and had a sip of coffee every so often, just because I could.

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I can tell I’m a little out of condition after biking infrequently for the past few weeks, but in some ways it’s fun to have my commute be a little bit of a challenge for a change.

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I was even happier that I had biked to work when I got to the office and found someone had brought us some Valentine’s Day treats!
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Hope there’s some glorious weather in the forecast for the rest of you, too—especially poor New England. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bright and Clear Winter Biking

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What a gorgeous day in Chicago yesterday!  The clear blue sky made the air feel clean and fresh, despite the city pollution.  There was no better way to experience the beauty than on a bicycle.

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I biked to work on Betty Foy, flying along, soaking in the sun (through my SPF 46), jamming to PJ Harvey, and wearing my happy red coat.

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photo_4resizedI also wore my new Chloe boots, a gift from the second-hand shopping gods.  I stayed up late the night before reconditioning and waterproofing the buttery leather and they are good to go.

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During the day, the temperature climbed to the 30′s and after the ride home, I was actually sweating in my (second-hand) cashmere and wool.

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This is the kind of winter bicycling I can get used to.  Winter is not all doom and gloom!

(As I type this, I hope everyone in the Northeast is recovering from the blizzard – yikes!)

Visiting the Mothership: WorkCycles in Amsterdam!

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Me, Henry, Trisha and Pascal in Amsterdam

When I purchased my most beloved WorkCycles Oma, little did I know I would be visiting the mothership four years later, hanging out at the home of the founder and his family.

Lucky for me, Henry, the owner of WorkCycles, is a very cool guy.  When I told him Trisha and I would be visiting Amsterdam, he was absolutely welcoming. He and his wife opened their home to us our first night in town.  After a scenic bike ride with his children, a delicious dinner, and a crash course in navigating the city, he sent us off on two lovely WorkCycles for the remainder of our visit. It was so nice to spend time in someone’s home after being on the road for so long!

With Henry

With Henry

Henry maps out Amsterdam for us after dinner

Henry maps out Amsterdam for us

Biking Amsterdam in the rain with Henry and his family

Henry and his family

We were both so impressed with Pascal’s riding skills—at just four years old, he was navigating the streets on his own like a pro. Henry’s wife is from Japan, so both children speak three languages: English, Japanese and Dutch. Which made conversations with 2-year-old Pia especially interesting!

Henry's adorable, bike-loving children

Henry’s adorable, bike-loving children

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Pascal’s custom ride

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Pascal: best, youngest cyclist in Amsterdam (nay, in the world!)

Here we are with our adopted WorkCycles. Cycling Amsterdam like locals rather than on bright red rental bikes was cool, and being totally comfortable with handling Dutch bike helped us navigate the crowded bike paths with ease.

Trisha and her loaner WorkCycles

Trisha and her loaner WorkCycles

Dottie on our first ride

Dottie on our first ride

Hug a bike today!

Hug a bike today!

Now here is a special tour of the WorkCycles shop. This place was warm, welcoming, and packed full of goodies!

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Bike specials of the day

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Love the creatures on the WorkCycles shirt

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OMG! A BABY OMA!!

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WorkCycles Bakfiets

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Family of four? WorkCycles has a bike for that!

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Starter bikes

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The front office

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Leather bike saddle stools – WANT!

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Bike bags and bakfiets sans bak

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Pretty little bikes all in a row

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Communal table

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Heavy duty bike pulley

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Heavy duty front rack

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Suspended WorkCycles frame

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More WorkCycles!

On the day we returned our bikes (so sad) the weather had turned out chillier than we anticipated. Perfect timing to get some cozy WorkCycles hoodies—which have been favorites for both of us ever since.

Booking it home after we'd returned our bikes—thank goodness for the hoodie.

Booking it home after we’d returned our bikes—thank goodness for the hoodie.

If you are ever in Amsterdam, we highly recommend a stop by WorkCycles!

Visit the WORKCYCLES website.

Visit Henry’s blog, BAKFIETS EN MEER.

Thanks, Henry!

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