Archive of ‘explore’ category

East Nashville Greenway tour

A couple of weeks ago I took advantage of the beautiful spring weather to ride to East Nashville and do some of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway with some friends.

Kermit Allegra was kitted out with everything you need to go 20-ish miles crosstown: coffee and a Po Campo bag.

Of course, we started out at the coffeehouse.

And then hit the trail for a couple of miles.

It’s nice being so close to nature in the city. We could hear frogs croaking like mad and were determined to see one.

Whitney attempted to prod the area with a stick to see if we could make the frogs jump

Finally, we spotted one, thanks to a kid and his mom.

Shelby Bottoms Nature Center

All in all, it was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

What have you been doing on your weekend rides lately?

A Downtown Chicago Adventure on New Year’s Eve!

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I was sipping coffee in my pajamas when I got a text from my friend Elizabeth, encouraging me to join her for a bike ride downtown.  I was sorta prepared to spend the entire day in my PJs with books, but after some peer pressure, I said yes (don’t we all need a lil’ push sometimes?).

I’m so glad I did because it was a lovely way to end the year!

The weather was chilly but mild for Chicago winter.  I broke out my new hot pink Kate Spade tights to go with my suede boots and red jacket – a totally comfortable outfit for the day’s outing.

Betty Foy was ready to go, dorked out with her Christmas lights and mounted camera (with which I recorded this video of the Lakefront Trail).

And of course my dear friend Elizabeth with her Santa hat!

We took the Lakefront Trail south 7 miles to the Buckingham Fountain.

 It was off – booo.

Then we made our way to the Art Institute of Chicago


…to check out the awesome lions with their famous holiday wreaths.

About that time we started to get a bit too cold.  No problem – we popped into a cafe for hot cocoa.  Mmmm, the perfect fuel.


Next, we looped over to North Michigan Avenue, where I had to take one photo of this truly ridiculous temporary Marilyn Monroe statue.  I’m a fan of MM and kitsch, but  if you have any doubt how icky this installation is, watch for five minutes how tourists interact with it when posing for photos!

Finally, I said goodbye to my favorite Chicago building before getting back on the trail to return home, stopping at local book shop, Unabridged, on the way.

By the time I got home in the late afternoon with nearly 20 miles under my belt, I felt great – tired in a good and healthy way that allowed me to spend the next two days curled up with books and scotch without feeling too much like a sloth.  :)

Here’s to motivating friends, fun bike rides, fresh air, and 2012!

{Read Elizabeth’s side of the story at Bike Commuters.}

{See a similar ride I did two years ago (dang, time flies!!) complete with holiday lions.}

Video: Chicago’s 18th Street Protected Bike Lane

Yesterday I was in the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s southside for the Women-Who-Bike brunch.  I decided to take the Lakefront Path for the 10 mile ride home, which I could reach by taking the new protected bike lane on S. 18th Street from Canal to Clark Streets, connecting the Pilsen and Chinatown areas.  This protected bike lane is one of three in Chicago and exists in part thanks to Alderman Solis (read more about his Ward’s projects and his recent trip to the Netherlands here).

Here is a quick video I made of the entire half mile long lane, sped 250%.

Grid Chicago reported on the construction of this bike lane in November.  Progress has been made since then, but I assume (hope) that the lane is not finished because there is no protection on the grated bridge and not much treatment for the intersections.  The riding experience for new bicyclists could be stressful at those points.  Overall, the protected bike lane was a pleasure to ride and certainly an improvement, although not as thoroughly executed as the Kinzie protected bike lane.

A Happy Bike Ride to University of Chicago

Hello, there!  Since today is dark and rainy and I have to go back to work (sad face), I’m starting the morning with something bright and happy.  I just stumbled upon these photos and realized that I never posted about this ride.

On the last Sunday of October, a day of perfect weather, I biked to Hyde Park to enjoy brunch at my friend’s house.  Hyde Park is a neighborhood on the southside where the University of Chicago is located, about 15 miles from where I live.  After brunch, I took the opportunity to explore the area by bike. The campus is beautiful, as you can see below.

At the time, I thought this was my last warm weather hurrah, but winter has yet to take hold of Chicago for real. The high temps this week will be in the 40′s.

I wish I could post something about biking during my Christmas vacation in North Carolina, but sadly my hometown is not conducive to biking. Did any of you make time for a nice holiday ride?

Brewery Bike Tour in Fort Collins

I’m back in Chicago! Can you believe it’s November already?

During my Denver vacation, I spent a day in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado.  Melissa, Chanh, Mr. Dottie, and I went on a bike tour of the city’s breweries. Melissa mapped out an ambitious plan to hit all seven, but a late start, early return time for the bikes, and a lot of beer sampling lowered that number to three.

Our first stop was the Fort Collins Bike Library to pick up free bikes. That’s right: free.  The Bike Library is a non-profit that lends out bikes like a library (get it?).

The Bike Library is located in a small hut in the middle of the downtown pedestrian plaza. Once we signed a waiver and provided credit card information, we were free to pick out the bikes.  Many were unrideable due to needed repairs, but lucky for us, several were left in good condition.

I scored a Jamis Commuter, the first bike I owned as an adult.  This was a very nice version, complete with 8-geared internal hub, chain guard, fenders and generator lights, although it made a crazy noise and the fenders were bent up.

Melissa tried out the bakfiets (awesome!)…


But went with a cute blue cruiser.

Chanh and Greg chose/were left with red single speeds.

Our second stop was CooperSmith’s Brewery, since it is next to the Bike Library and has a pub where we could eat lunch. Also, beer!

Then we set off down the road to our next stop, Odell Brewing. The ride was quick, but most of the route was along the shoulder of a two-way street with faster traffic. Someone with less experience riding among traffic may not be totally comfortable with this route (along Lincoln) but we found a more enjoyable back-streets route for the return trip.

The beer at Odell was AMAZING!  Easily among the best beer I’ve ever had, especially the Bourbon Barrel Stout.

I think we managed to taste them all.

Our final stop was New Belgium Brewery, which appropriately had a wide bike lane outside.

And its own small fleet of branded bikes.

I’m a big fan of New Belgium, both for its Tour de Fat/bike advocacy and its delicious beer.

Uh, yeah, we enjoyed our beer. :)

Fort Collins is not only breweries, though. Before heading out, we spent some time walking around the cute downtown area.

It is very pedestrian friendly.  ;)

We played with the interactive street art.

Surely, this fish was meant to be ridden.

Definitely this bike piano was meant to be played.

Fort Collins is an awesome little town.  We had so much fun and I’m happy we spent a day there.

I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. What could be more fun than bikes and breweries?

B-cycling in Denver

Mr. Dottie and I are in Denver this week vacationing and visiting Melissa and Chanh. We’re staying at a B&B downtown and so far we love the area. Today was devoted to B-Cycling. We picked up a couple of bikes a block away and made our way across town to the Platte River Trail, where we biked several miles, stopping for lunch and an excursion to the flagship REI store.  We biked about 12 miles total for the day.

B-Cycle is Denver’s bike share system.  There are 500 bikes at 51 stations, mostly serving the downtown area.

The bikes are fully outfitted for city riding, with 3-speeds, drum brakes, skirt guards, chain guards, baskets, generator lights, fenders and adjustable quick-release seats. Very comfy.

You swipe your membership card (which we borrowed) and the bike of your choice is released.

After paying a membership fee, using a bike is free for the first 30 minutes, $1 for the hour, and thereafter $4 for every half hour, to encourage short local trips. We managed to spend no more than $4 all day by docking and re-releasing our bikes as often as possible.

And then we were off! The trail is lovely – paved, scenic and well-maintained.

The fall colors here are gorgeous.  So beautiful.

We stopped by a cool bike shop/coffee shop, Happy Coffee Co., that had this great mural outside.

Then Mr. Dottie had to infuse the ride with adventure and bomb up this hill with his little B-Cycle. Pretty impressive for a 3-speed city bike. We’ll have to find some real mountain biking later this week.


We loved our adventure on the B-Cycle and are enjoying biking in Denver.  The past couple of days have been warm, but it’s supposed to snow up to 10 inches tomorrow!

Now back to vacation…

In Search of the Most Peaceful Commute

While I wait for Chicago to be covered in gloriously safe bike infrastructure, I have to work with what I’ve got. As some mentioned in the comments to yesterday’s post, small side streets can provide a calm and safe way to travel through the city – no special bike infrastructure needed. Using such routes to get from one place to another may require practice, familiarity and extra time, but it can be well worth the trouble for those who value peacefulness above efficiency.

Over the past two years, when it no longer made sense to take the car-free Lakefront Trail on a regular basis due to the location of my new office, I have been adjusting my 5-mile commute route from the efficiency side of the scale to the peacefulness side of the scale.

Happy to be cycling on Chicago's peaceful side streets this week

I started with the most obvious and direct bikeable route: a left and a right and I was there (Lincoln to Wells). Most of the ride consisted of a diagonal street with either sharrows or bike lanes the whole way, popular with both bikes and cars. Unfortunately, vehicle traffic moved quickly and there were lots of trucks, buses and giant six-way intersections.  After a while I grew tired of the traffic and aggression, such as drivers shouting at me to get out of the way or just generically being awful. The stress was really getting to me.

Looking for an alternative, it occurred to me last summer to sacrifice some efficiency and try taking slightly calmer streets. The new route amounted to a right, left, right, left and right, instead of a straight diagonal (basically, Southport to Armitage to Wells). I still had to deal with congestion, often riding down the bike lane past grid-locked vehicle traffic, but the cars moved considerably slower, the intersections were smaller, and the bike lanes more consistent.

This route served me well for a year, but lately I have been craving a more peaceful commute. Participating in the super calm Critical Lass rides helped me realize that Chicago has lots of small, tree-lined, neighborhood streets to ride, as long as one is willing to meander: these magically quiet streets have a tendency to end or become one-way suddenly. For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with different side streets, backtracking and exploring a lot.

As of today, I’ve finally discovered The Calmest Route from My Neighborhood to My Office (patent pending). My route is now: right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left. That is no exaggeration: I typed while visualizing my ride with my eyes closed.

The difference in my stress level from my first commute route to my current commute route is night and day, with my current route being virtually stress-free. Of course, this comes at a cost. First, it takes about 10 minutes longer than more obvious route. Second, the potholes are especially bad on side streets. Third, this route probably won’t be an option during the winter, when side streets are neglected by snow plows. Finally, I have to be extra cautious at each block’s four-way stop sign because drivers in neighborhoods love to roll through stops, unless there’s another ton vehicle staring them down. Despite these costs, the calmness of the route is worth it to me.

I wish I’d thought of adjusting my route like this a long time ago, but I guess such a paradigm shift is obvious only in hindsight.

I know this kind of meandering commuting is not for everyone, but I’m curious: does anyone else seek out the most peaceful routes possible?

Ice cream ride

Not to be outdone by Dottie’s delicious-looking cupcake ride, a couple of weeks ago Whitney and I made an ice cream ride. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was opening their first shop outside of Ohio, and the siren song of “free ice cream” was impossible to resist.

Whitney crosses the pedestrian bridge

So we rode to East Nashville to meet our friends S&T in line, where we discovered that we were far from the only ones who heard the call.

That last dark grey building on the right? That'd be the shop.

 

Sparkling conversation and a disinclination to hop right back on the bike for 7 miles back in the steamy summer heat kept me in the line. (The taste of an amazing macaron ice cream sandwich we were offered by a Jeni’s employee didn’t hurt either.) So we waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually* we were right outside the shop.


A little while after that, we could see the sign advertising the event.

And soon after that, we were actually INSIDE.


It smelled delectable. I think it was the freshly made waffle cones.

I tortured myself further by reading Jeni’s cookbook, which is full of tempting recipes.

But then we were at the counter and sampling the flavors. And eventually meeting Jeni herself, who was friendly and welcoming and flattered by the amazing reception her ice cream was getting.

brambleberry crisp and strawberry buttermilk

salty caramel & queen city cayenne

Verdict? Splendid!

 

*and by “eventually,” I mean and hour and a half later.

Photos in this post, with the exception of  the first and fourth, taken by T.K.
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Summer Joyriding Plans

So far this summer, I have been riding my bike about the same amount as during the winter.  That is to say – a lot.  I bike to work daily, of course, and to get anywhere else I need to go.  But I need to start joyriding, now that I can stay outside for longer than an hour without turning into a dotsicle.  :)

Me on a mini-joyride to Humboldt Park

I need to create a plan to enjoy the great outdoors with my bike during the next two months of warm weather.  I definitely want to go camping again, like last year. And I’ve always wanted to take the long ride to the Chicago botanic gardens.

Any other ideas?  What joyrides have you taken in the past and what do you have planned for this summer?

East Nashville Ride

My ride to East Nashville added up to more than a sunburn. I’m the worst when it comes to taking photos—especially when one has to pause to take them under the broiling noonday sun—but I did manage to capture a few images from my ride with Whitney and Raleigh a couple of weeks back.

First of all, her Raleigh and Le Peug are now serious buds. Don’t they look great together?


Like all the best bike rides, the point was the journey. It was Mother’s Day, so we avoided the more traditional brunch spots and had salads and a drink at Beyond the Edge, followed by a delicious ice cream cone at Pied Piper Creamery.

By that point the Nashville Bicycle Lounge was open, and we swung by to check it out and chat with owner Dan, who was in the midst of building up this sweet ride. In his words, “If Lizzie Borden rode a bike, this [custom Surly] would be it.”

The Bicycle Lounge is a really cool spot—it’s one of the only places in Nashville with a selection of transportation bicycles like Surly and Linus. Dan said he has trouble keeping the Linus bikes in particular in stock.

 

 

 

As soon as Whitney and I walked in, Dan greeted us. His first words were compliments on our vintage rides. Saying nice things about my bike is on the top 10 list of ways to my heart (other items on the list: cooking dinner, an affinity for Lionel Shriver novels, laughing at my jokes, foreign accents) so things were on the right track to begin with.

After ordering a couple of parts and purchasing some new brake pads for the Raleigh, we were heading back in the full heat of the day. Since going back home from East Nashville contained a few more uphill runs than the way there, we paused in a parking lot. Being dehydrated and sweaty did not make contemplating the soul who discarded a chicken bone, a grape jelly packet and the butt of a Swisher Sweet in the parking lot any more appetizing (let’s hope he or she did not eat them all at once).

 

Anyone else visited a new bike shop lately, or gone somewhere else a bit off the beaten path? I have to say that this ride whetted my appetite for some longer rides. Nothing like the sense of excitement that comes from conquering another part of town by bike.

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