As I tweeted earlier, today was absolutely the most beautiful day of the year so far to bike in Chicago. Simply perfect. Light wind, warm air, calm water, blue skies, gentle sun, and a hint of a chill to prevent sweating. It doesn’t get better than this. On such days, I am super grateful for my bike, which allows me to spend a lot of time outside just going to and from work.
In addition to biking, fishing is a popular activity on a day like today, as demonstrated above.
I wish all of you similarly perfect bicycling days. :-)
Yesterday I had the pleasure of bicycling downtown to see the Joffrey Ballet’s Othello. The ride was about 7 miles each way, along the lakefront trail. The theatre is close to south Grant Park, which looked very nice on this beautiful day.
And at my destination, here is the view from my regular seat in the front row of the balcony.
What these photos fail to show is the wind. It was really, really windy – even by Chicago standards. This resulted in a super fast bike ride down the lakefront trail on the way to the show (I arrived 10 minutes earlier than I expected) and a strenuous bike ride back home with the wind in my face. I popped Betty into an easy gear and focused on spinning. I got quite a workout!
Also, the photos don’t show the black spandex shorts I wore under my dress – necessary, as the wind blew the light silk around like crazy. :-)
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:
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.
While out and about on my bicycle yesterday, I noticed some definite signs of early spring.
For example, after brunch with my women-who-bike friends Catherine, Christina and Maria, the sun was high and bright, making Maria look particularly angelic…
And casting a strong shadow for Betty Foy…
And slowly but surely melting the patches of snow…
And causing icicles to drip at a fast pace.
I noticed that these early spring sights had accompanying early spring sounds – notably, the sounds of melting icicles and birds chirping. Here is your one minute of meditation for the day:
I’m already daydreaming about the long recreational rides I will take on my bike in the coming months. Maybe a trip up to the Botanical Gardens or down to the Indiana border. Until then, I will wear the Road Holland jacket I have for review (and that would be perfect for such rides) while hanging around the house working. And daydreaming. :-)
Of course, as I type this early Monday morning, the forecast calls for half a foot of snow on Tuesday. Such is life.
Have you noticed sights and sounds of early spring in your neck of the woods (or of early fall for Australians)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay, back to my happy place…
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!)
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. :-)
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.
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.
Despite the chill, I felt great after the 7 mile ride and happy to spend time with my friends Sara, Chika and Glenn.
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.
Another favorite sight is Chagall’s American Windows.
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…
And the streets looked like this…
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:
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.
And here is my friend Megan, also looking very winter cycle chic and being cooler than me with her bicycle.
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.
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?