Category Archives: commute diary

Fashion Friday: Spring Scarves

I have a fun new accessory for spring: a beautiful vintage silk scarf that Trisha brought me from her recent trip to Italy.

I used to associate silk scarves with my elderly Sunday school teacher from childhood, but Trisha wears scarves with such effortless chic, I realize now how stylish they can be.  I drew inspiration from Trisha yesterday morning when deciding what to wear.  The Italian scarf called out to me and allowed me to wear an all-black ensemble without veering into Lydia territory.

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The 80 degree weather from Wednesday dropped dramatically to the 40’s, so it was back to tights and long sleeves for me.  A silk scarf is lovely for warmer weather with a chill in the air.  It’s also fun for bicycling, I learned.  With the bright scarf whipping in the wind behind me, I felt a bit ooh la la.

Like a toned-down version of this.  :-)

When I got to work, I pulled myself together by slicking back my hair, taming my scarf and throwing on heels that live under my desk.  As demonstrated with this very classy bathroom photo.

Now I want to seek out more silk scarves.  Lucky for me, they can be found a dime a dozen (almost) at thrift stores.  Highly recommended for the civilized transportation bicyclist!  (Just be sure the scarf is not too long – don’t want it catching on anything while cycling.)

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Warm Weather Excitement!

After a very long winter/early spring, truly warm weather has finally come to Chicago.  Yesterday was a whopping 85 degrees!

Bicycling in warm weather feels so different from bicycling in the freezing or even chilly weather.  Over the past 6 (7…8…?) months, I’d forgotten how it felt.  And there are lots and lots of other bicyclists out there, all of a sudden.  Love it!

I picked out my lightest silk skirt and blouse to celebrate the occasion.  I retired my black, winter Bern helmet for my happy, pale pink Nutcase helmet.  (Unfortunately, I had a sweaty helmet hair situation by the time I returned home in the evening, as shown above.)  I also pulled out my fingerless gloves, which I wear in warm weather to prevent discomfort from sweaty palms rubbing against cork grips, as well as to absorb some of the road shock.

That’s about it!  Just happy to share my warm weather excitement.  :-)

P.S.  I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s personal take on the issue in the comments of yesterday’s post, Women, Bicycling and Makeup.  Reader Bettina in Germany posted her perspective on her blog, Books, Bikes, and Food (hey, three of my favorite things!).

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Bike With Me: Elston Separated Lane

Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting across town, which led me to a different route for the commute home.  I was able to take advantage of the newish separated bike lane on Elston Avenue.  I first wrote about this lane in the fall, but have not had occasion to bike it since.

Riding in this lane is like butter.  The separation from cars makes all the difference, of course. Other benefits are not being placed in the door zone and the relatively small number of cross streets, alleys and parking lot exits.  I would love a set-up like this on the busy streets that connect my neighborhood to downtown, where I often feel like a hunted animal during open season.

You can see previous videos of me biking along Chicago’s protected bike lanes here:

Dearborn protected lane  – two-way bike lane in the Loop

18th Street protected lane – the most similar to Elston’s bike lane

Kinzie protected lane – Chicago’s first separated bike lane

 

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Suiting up for spring

Right about now is the perfect time to bike in a wool suit without sweating or freezing.  Yesterday I did just that, as I had a court hearing in the morning.

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The early spring weather was chilly (I ended up putting on a light jacket over my suit) but beautifully clear – especially along the Lakefront Trail.

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As I biked down the trail, I passed a group of tourists on a rental bike tour preparing to set out and heard the tour leader say, “And this is the lakefront path, over 20 miles of…”  This was a good reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty I’m lucky enough to enjoy on a daily basis.

{For more on wearing suits on bikes, see my earlier post, How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit.}

Looking Back on Winter 2012-13

Five!  That’s how many Chicago winters I have biked through.  I counted over and over because five seems too high, but my math is correct.

Biking through my first winter, 2008-09, seemed so dramatic – I was amazed at my achievement. That was a particularly snowy winter, and I biked through all kinds of extreme weather to prove to myself that I could.

My second, third and fourth winters all seem like a blur now (except I distinctly remember bicycling the day after the great 2011 blizzard!), but it’s all documented in the LGRAB archives.

This winter started not so great, but I did not let that stop me.  And there was soon cheerful news, as Chicago celebrated the installation of its first downtown protected bike lane.

There were some seriously freezing days, when I was very thankful for my hand and toe warmers.  But many of the days were sunny and not too extremely cold.

wore skirts and dresses almost every day, along with tights, of course.

Most of all, I took time to appreciate the unique beauty of biking through winter.

 Now I am ready for spring!

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How about you – did you bike through winter?  Was it your first time?  What stands out to you the most, looking back?

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Wintry Beauty

Dusk.  Lake Michigan.  Frozen waves.  Two days after a storm dumped 9 inches of snow on Chicago.  Just another work commute.

 


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By the time I made my way up the trail, the sun had finished setting.  As you can see, despite the heaps of snow, the trail itself is totally clear – plowed and salted.

There is something about bicycling outside on a particularly beautiful winter day that gets me every time.  During these magical moments, no other season can compare.

This is a reminder to enjoy and appreciate the wintry beauty while we can, even while excited for spring.

{A different look at the beauty of wintry Lake Michigan two years ago.}

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A bike-only week in Nashville

I’ll admit it—I’ve been a little lazy when it comes to biking lately. It’s just so easy to drive here, so if it was cold, or raining, or windy this winter, I’d been hopping in the car at least half the time. It’s so darn convenient to be able to haul unlimited stuff and wear whatever you want without thinking about the weather. And in my world there’s no paying for parking, not any longer than my bike commute, no traffic to speak of . . . of course, some of these things also make it equally easy to bike, as I have been recalling the past few days. My Mustang needs a new alternator and so my bike has been my only means of transport since last Thursday.

Without the option of a car for getting around, I was soon reminded of the lesson I learned when I went car-free for a short time last fall: It’s not really that big of a deal. While it will be a while before Nashville’s public transportation and bicycle infrastructure renders cars a total luxury item, living where I do I can get a large portion of what really needs to be done done without a car, as long as I’m willing and able to sink in some extra time. So far I’ve walked to the grocery store, taken the bus to Italian lessons and biked to work and social events.

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Of course, taking the bus has its own hazards—here’s the current state of the bus stop by my house. Oops? Me and the two other people trying to catch it moved a bit further down the block…

And none of my excuses have presented any problem so far. Cold? Biking warms you up, and there are such things as scarves, hats and gloves. (Here in the South we like to forget how to use those.) Even rain isn’t too big a deal for a short commute like mine: You just wear the right clothes and watch for a gap in the radar, like I did this morning.

I had fun coasting through puddles with my legs in the air to minimize the spray on my jeans (gotta figure out how to take a photo of that). And listening to the awesome new Kate Nash album. I got to work in the nick of time; it started pouring minutes after I entered the office.

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Really, biking in the drizzle was harder on Kermit Allegra than it was on me.

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Although I do have the perfect saddle cover for her.

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French readers: enjoy the pun!

Which is more than I can say for my own self, who is suffering badly from rain hat hair. Why did I get bangs again, again?!?

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Car culture and the driving habit really is insidious, even with the best of intentions. I’m sure this is a lesson I will have to keep learning (and that my 11-year-old car will be happy to remind me of by breaking down). Yes, it’s a hair less convenient, but I feel so much more energized when I get to work by bike!

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Valentine’s Day Ride

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!

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Public Transit Makes the Bike Heart Grow Fonder

I have not left my house since Monday due to a dreadful illness.  Today I’m venturing to the outside world again, but sadly not on my bicycle because 1) Chicago is a slushy, icy, snowy mess and 2) no energy.

Here’s a quick trip down recent-memory lane.  When I walked out my front door on Monday morning, the ground looked like this…

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And the streets looked like this…

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So I walked myself to the L train and got to work that way.

In Chicago, all neighborhoods have a direct public transit route to downtown.  While I prefer to ride my bike, taking the L train from my home to my office is quick and easy.  Unfortunately, the situation gets trickier when I want to go somewhere other than downtown.  At least one transfer is involved, which adds a lot of wasted time to the trip.  Times like those are when I really appreciate the freedom that my bike provides.

A perfect example is my Monday evening outing.  After work, I met up with my friends in the Logan Square neighborhood, which is a few miles west of my neighborhood.  This involved taking a bus and transferring to the L train – basically, a lot of standing around waiting in the cold, then gripping a pole while trying not to fall or touch any other passengers inappropriately.   No way would I want to do that every day as my regular commute.  I reeeeeeeally missed my bike.

But it was nice to get off my usual beaten path.  Here is Logan Square after sunset:

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Here is my friend Ash, ridiculously awesome woman.  If you look closely, you’ll see her one-month-old daughter tucked warmly in a special “car seat” in the bakfiets.  Read how she rigged it up and how she biked with her baby eight miles roundtrip to our brunch on Sunday.  Meanwhile, I was on the bus.  I know.  Lame.

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And here is my friend Megan, also looking very winter cycle chic and being cooler than me with her bicycle.

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Back to the public transit story.

After saying goodnight to my friends, I planned to take two buses to get home, but when the CTA tracker informed me of a 25 minute wait for the first bus, I realized that traveling the few miles home would end up taking well over an hour.  I hailed a cab instead – definitely not a financially viable way to get around the city on a regular basis, but at least I was home in ten minutes.  Bonus, I got to sit uncomfortably while the cabbie talked to himself and yelled at other drivers during the whole ride.

But again I reeeeeeeeally missed my bike.

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So as you keep on keeping on, winter cycling friends, remember to thank your bicycle for being awesome.

Anyone else forced to take public transit and appreciating your bike even more as a result?

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Winter Bicycling: Rational and Enjoyable

Happy February!

This morning, my friend Elizabeth posted a response on Bike Commuters to a dumb op-ed stating that winter bicyclists are “insane” and “suicidal.”  I love how her response is so reasonable.  Unfortunately, this particular poorly written op-ed is only a drop in the bucket of ridiculous stuff written and said about winter bicyclists.

My own personal response is: calm down and stop being so lame!  You sound silly.  Winter bicycling is perfectly rational and enjoyable.

So when I returned home from work this evening after bicycling 6 miles in 10 degree temps (-12 C), I made a quick video demonstrating how simple and normal the whole thing is.  Pretty dorky, but I’m embracing my inner Liz Lemon in remembrance of 30 Rock.

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My bike ride this evening could not have been better.  As I cycled along the lakefront, the setting sun turned the sky soft shades of blue and pink over the placid, icy blue lake.  Salt covered the trail, rendering the danger of ice moot.  I was not cold; I was happy. And here is what I wore.

What would you say to those anti-winter-bike goofballs?

{See also; video of cycling the lakefronthow to dress for winter cycling, and the LGRAB Winter Guide}

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Snow, Sun and Sleet

The past three days have been warmer than earlier this week, but presented challenges related to precipitation, rather than temperature.

Snow fell heavily on Friday morning and I took the L train to work.  I never bike when the streets look like this:

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One day later, the skies were clear and blue…

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…and the snow was reduced to mucky slush on the side of the road.

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My friend Janet and I were able to ride our matching Omas to ballet burn class with no problem.  (Except for ballet-burn-related soreness!)

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Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day Sunday, which I took as a sign to stay inside and read Wide Sargasso Sea (and hate  Mr. Rochester so much).  The world outside my window looks pretty nasty, so I’ll probably be on the L train again Monday.

This mix of snow, sun and sleet reminds me that the best way to get through winter is to be flexible and not put pressure on myself to bike all the time.

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When I feel comfortable biking, I enjoy it so much more.

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Icicle Bicycle

The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling.  For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Yeah, that’s cold!

I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling.  Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy.  Which is often.  A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them.  :-)

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These photos are in an alley.  The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.

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When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.

Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.

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Hand and toe warmers.

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Snow boots that have been serving me well since 2001 (or the brown ones shown above).

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Ta-da!

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I hope everyone is staying warm, whether on the bike or not.

Now how many weeks until spring?  ;-)

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Winter Bicycling Is…

Winter bicycling is more than temperatures and forecasts and wool layers and hand warmers. Winter bicycling is when the world brightens as the wind whips and my mind clears as my cheeks flush.

My fingers and toes may be numb, my nose may be running, my eyes may be watering – but I am the happiest and calmest version of myself, bicycling on a crystal clear winter day.

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Today I experienced a rare winter treat: leaving the office early enough to catch the sun before setting. The late afternoon light painted the sky with an ombre splash of color, inspiring me to record a video that I hope conveys some of the joy of the ride.

The accompanying song is “This Winter I Retire” by Said The Whale.

(Hello, there!)

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What is winter bicycling to you?

 

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Saturday Night Sleet

Here I am Saturday night after biking home in rain and sleet with Mr. Dottie.  The streets were not slippery yet, so the ride was not so bad.  :-)

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My Lululemon Ride On Rain Jacket continues to perform well.  Being able to put the hood under my helmet is a great help.  Today the weather is super cold, dry and sunny, which I generally prefer, but sometimes a ride in the freezing rain can be invigorating.

P.S. Who watched the Golden Globes last night?  Love Tina and Amy!

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Winter Beauty

Winter is my favorite time to ride a bike in Chicago.  The paths are relatively empty and there are many sunny mornings, when the blues and whites and sands shine brilliantly.

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There has been a little ice and snow this winter.  Just enough to add a bit of sparkle to the city, not enough to disrupt my routine or put challenges in my path.

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I cannot imagine Chicago winter without bicycling.  I think life would be pretty grim this time of year, if I did not have a reason to frolic outside with regularity.  And I would miss out on so much beauty!

 

 

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A Freezing Start to 2013

Welcome, 2013!  As I followed my ritual this morning of pouring a cup of coffee and popping open my macbook to check the weather, I was greeted by this sight:

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12 degrees fahrenheit – yeesh.  (That’s -11 celsius.)  Normal for Chicago winter, but by far the coldest day of this season so far.  At least most of last week’s snow has disappeared.

With very little traffic lately due to people being off work for the holidays, I’ve been enjoying my bike commutes along otherwise highly trafficked streets.  I certainly did not want to miss out on cycling today.  Here I am preparing to set off:

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I wore a wool dress with tights.  To this I added the following for non-bulky but highly effective layering: wool leggings and wool leg warmers, wool socks and winter boots with warmers, a light windbreaker and trench coat, cashmere scarf, glove liners and ski mittens with warmers, earmuffs and winter helmet, and sunglasses (safety glasses after dark to protect my eyes from cold wind).  This is very similar to what I wore in my how-to video for winter cycling.

This worked perfectly.  I was like a little moving furnace.  My only problem was forgetting to fill my pockets with tissue to blow my nose, which runs like crazy in the extreme cold.

When I left work in the evening, the weather had warmed up to a relatively toasty 22 degrees and I was sweating under my layers by the time I got home.

How has your 2013 started?

P.S. For more info on dressing for winter bicycling, see The LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling, How To: Cycle Sleek Winter Wear, and How To: Dress For Winter Bike Commuting.

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Returning to the bike after a crash

I got back on my bike last Friday.  The morning was beautiful.

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I felt great during the whole ride, including the bits on the street.  Thank goodness for the Lakefront Trail, where I don’t have to worry about cars.  I’ll be taking this route much more from now on, since my peaceful side-street route turned out to be not so peaceful.

Last night I took city streets home – a similar route as usual but avoiding the intersection – but it was too soon.  I was fearful and started crying a bit for no reason as I went along.  Typing that out is embarrassing, but there you have it.  I’ve always been super defensive and cautious, but now I feel like I cannot trust any intersection situation no matter what.  Plus, I think the night and everything felt too similar.  I’m back on the Lakefront Trail today.

For anyone who’s gone through something like this, how did you feel getting back on the bike?

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Another Friday

One week ago, I began my Friday morning at Heritage Bikes

For a quick breakfast…

With my friend Elizabeth…

Then we biked to work together…

And 10 hours later Elizabeth was picking me up from the ER and ferrying Coco and me home.  (She also happens to be the organizer of Chicago’s Ride of Silence).  Thanks, E!

Today I plan to get back on the bike for the first time.  Circumstances forced me finally to change Betty Foy’s flat tire, so I’ll be riding her.  :)

Happy Friday!

 

 

 

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Hit and Run

To begin: I’M OKAY.  But on the way home from work Friday, I was hit by a car.  The driver ran a stop sign and struck me with the front left of his car.  The force crumpled the front of my bike, slammed me counter-clockwise into the side of the car and then onto the pavement.  The driver kept going.  There were a lot of witnesses and some extremely nice people came over to help me. They called 911 and provided statements to the police that I was doing everything right.  An ambulance came and brought me to the ER.  I have some pain and bruises, but am otherwise okay.  Coco the bike is in pretty bad shape.

Apparently, the driver of a silver/white car had swerved to the right (illegally – only one lane each direction) around another car waiting at the stop sign, barreled through the intersection, and sped even faster to escape as soon as he hit me.  There was no way for me to anticipate or avoid such recklessness.  That was after I stopped completely for my stop sign (four-way stop), waited for two other cars to go before proceeding, and almost made it through to the other side.  Unfortunately, no one got the license plate number.

My view – car came from my right:

Driver’s view:

The police officer who took my statement at the ER said this would be passed to the major crash unit.  They can check video surveillance from a city camera a block away, but I’m not expecting anything.  Although this person should be thrown in jail and never drive again and I wish I could get some money for Coco, I’m really not worked up about the driver.  I don’t have the energy for that kind of anger.  The extreme kindness of everyone else involved – the witnesses, police, fire department EMTs, doctors, my friend who drove me to pick up my bike later – was much more powerful than one driver’s cruelty.

Of course, I will continue to bike, once I’m feeling better, although I’m sure I’ll be more anxious and I will never bike through this intersection again.  Sadly, no amount of caution can protect you from a reckless driver with no regard for human life, whether you’re in a car or on a bike, but life must go on.

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Lost and Found

I’ve had the worst luck losing stuff lately – and the best luck finding it again.  Last Wednesday, I arrived at work and went to lock my bike as usual.  I reached for my u-lock…

…but instead of hanging on the rack as shown above, the lock was simply gone.  Yeesh!  I reasoned that the lock must have popped off the rack at some point during my commute and  wheeled the bike into my office for safe-keeping.  On my way home that evening, I stopped at J.C. Lind Bike Shop for a new lock.  I needed one ASAP, since I was meeting my friend Sara for dinner and a movie, and I’ve been wanting to upgrade to an Abus chain lock.

While at Jon’s shop, I also picked up a new Cat Eye front blinkie light.  My old Cat Eye also popped off my bike a couple of days ago and shattered.

Am I the only one with stuff popping off my bike left and right?  Maybe I need to secure stuff better, but part of the problem is the awful conditions of Chicago’s streets.  Potholes galore.  Well, would this … thing … pictured below even count as a pothole?

This has been there for years and I can never go around it because traffic’s always whizzing by on my left.  Right next to this monstrosity is where I found my u-lock the next morning.  A kind bicyclist, I assume, moved my lock from the street to the sidewalk – or maybe it really popped that far??

So now I am the proud owner of one bike lock too many, but I’m sure it will come in handy one day.

My u-lock is not the only thing that I lost and found that day.  I also forgot my helmet under my chair at the restaurant where I met my friend for dinner.  I didn’t realize I was missing my helmet until hours later, after a movie and drinks.  By 11 p.m., the restaurant was dark.  But as I unlocked my bike, the owner, who was about to drive away, popped out of his car and said, “You forgot your helmet, right?”   He unlocked the restaurant, went in, and appeared a couple of minutes later with my helmet.  Very kind of him!

Now let’s see if I can go a few weeks without losing anything else.  :-)

 

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