Tag Archives: clothing

Winter Cycling to the Shakespeare Theater

My love for Chicago is largely based on bike-ability and access to culture.  I try to take advantage of these as much as possible and, as a result, my favorite activity is cycling to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier.  This always makes for a lovely Saturday: 12 miles of bicycling, a stop at the bar for a bourbon, and an imaginative and original Shakespeare production.

On this particular Saturday, going to see As You Like It, the Chicago weather was on my side: a temperature of 32 degrees felt nice in comparison to usual winter temps.  My outfit of jeggings (oh yes, I bought jeggings – and I love them!), long wool sweater, and tall boots kept me warm. I was able to ride along the Lakefront path most of the way, diverting to the inner Lakeshore Drive for the stretch that is not plowed.

It’s a good thing that we love to cycle to Navy Pier because getting there otherwise is a pain. Public transportation to the Pier is not direct, requiring two L trains and a trolley from my place, while parking is at least $25 for a couple of hours (not that I have a car to park).

Navy Pier during the winter has an isolated and slightly Kafkaesque mood that I love.

That’s why I love going to the Shakespeare Theater so much. Not only for the excellent productions, but for the time spent cycling there and back along the car-free Lakefront, as well as the time meandering down the Pier – a combination of my favorite parts of Chicago.

I have a long history of cycling to the Shakespeare Theater, which you can read about in the following posts:

With Jennifer from Scotland
Almost exactly one year ago
Through the rain
Shortly after acquiring Betty Foy
Almost exactly two years ago
One of my first LGRAB posts

Where is your favorite place to cycle?

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My Arctic Air Bike Commute

I did it!  I biked to work 10 miles roundtrip with temperatures as low as -4F and a windchill as low as -20F.  As far as I’m concerned, any of you could do the same – and I know some of you have already.  All it takes is a positive attitude, an adventurous spirit and a few extra accessories.  If you put the time into preparation and hype yourself up enough to pull your bike out, everything else should be a piece of cake.

My ride felt similar to any other cold winter ride I’ve experienced this winter.  The biggest difference was that the air was very cold on my face, which I usually leave uncovered.  I ended up pulling my scarf up to my nose and then pulling it down intermittently to breath comfortably.

Important extra accessories:

  • Warming packs in my mittens and boots.  I never would have made it without these because my fingers and toes get extremely cold.
  • Safety glasses, a cheap pair I swiped from my husband’s work pile.  I need these to cover my eyes, which are very sensitive and water easily.
  • A scarf wrapped around my face.

With those extra accessories in place, my usual winter wardrobe would have worked fine.  However, I got so paranoid by the local news, I ignored my own experience and common sense and layered like crazy.  I wore capeline leggings under flannel-lined khakis, a slim wool shirt under a wool sweater under a long down parka, earmuffs under a wool hat under a helmet.  Too much, Dottie!  No part of me was cold, which is good, but I was so hot and itchy.  When I arrived at the office, sweat was rolling down my back and my hair was damp.  The parka was way overkill.  Lesson learned.

Overall, I consider the experience a success.  I’ll never be afraid of Chicago arctic blasts again.

Thanks so much to everyone for your helpful and encouraging comments! I don’t think I would have done it without your support and priceless advice.

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Arctic Air Bike Commute…Or Not?

The ride home today was cold, a dry and bitter 15 degrees.  Nothing compared to the cold expected for tomorrow morning, though.  -4 to be exact.  That’s -4 fahrenheit, -20 celsius.

The headline on the Chicago Tribune today:

An arctic cold blast from Siberia will barrel through the Chicago area tonight, driving temperatures below zero for the first time in a year and creating dangerous wind chills that could hit nearly 30 below.

Alright, team – who’s gonna ride their bikes with me tomorrow?  :)

I’m not one for riding to prove anything, but I’m attracted to the idea of pushing the limits with the temperature.  When we had an arctic blast last year, I set out to ride and gave up after less than a mile, as my hands started to hurt unbearably.  I rode directly to the nearest L train stop, locked Oma up and took the train the rest of the way to work.  I blogged about my defeat here.

But I learned from my mistakes and came up with a game plan to avoid that downfall tomorrow.  Pretty simple, actually: lots of layers, a scarf wrapped around my face and, the piece de resistance, hand and foot warmers that I will remove from the package an hour before leaving.  Maybe even two warmers per mitten.  That was my biggest problem last time – I didn’t open my hand warmers until I’d already set out, not knowing that they need time to warm up.  Also, I might ride Betty Foy, since the pavement is bone dry and I could go faster, thereby creating more internal heat and cutting the commute time by 5 minutes or so.  I’ll have a tail wind on the way to work, at least.  The ride is only 5 miles.  I think this will work…

…Or not.  Who knows?  I may wake up in the morning and think, “forget this madness.”  I’m not going to lay my reputation on it.  The wind chill scares me a little bit.  But there’s no shame in trying.  :)  Stay tuned.

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How To: Cycle Sleek Winter Wear

As winter glides along, I continue to enjoy the beauty of the snow and the invigorating freshness of the cold air.  One thing that begins to feel oppressive about the season, however, is the heft of my usual winter wear.  As I wrap the same wool scarf around my neck, pull the same clomping snow boots on, and zip the same puffy vest up for the hundredth time, I heave a bitter sigh.  That’s when I know it’s time to get creative.

If you’re getting tired of all the bulky accessories that go with winter cycling and are biking less because of it, please read on.  A sleek and streamlined winter cycling outfit is possible, it only requires a bit more thought and care.

  • Legs: The trick here is simple: two pairs of tights, a thick wool pair underneath a regular opaque pair.  No one will know and it’s way warmer than a pair of jeans.  Then you can simply wear whatever skirt or dress you want to wear.
  • Feet: On top of the tights, a pair of thick wool socks.  However, this alone is not enough for me, personally.  Even with snow boots, my sensitive toes freeze quickly.  The only solution I’ve found are toe warmers.   With toe warmers, I’m free from both snow boots and freezing toes.  I can wear fashionable boots for the first time since October!  I get a lot of questions about the ones I’m wearing here – they’re from Nine West 5 years ago, not expensive at all.
  • Torso:   Once again, wool saves the day.  A long-sleeved thin merino wool shirt, topped with a super thick wool cowl neck sweater.  Add a wool caplet and done.  No coat needed.  But the trick here is a seriously thick wool sweater.  Invest in a good one, by which I mean dig around in thrift shops for hours until you hit the jackpot.  I bought the sweater pictured a decade ago and it’s still like new.  I bought the hand-knit caplet from an Etsy crafter.
  • Neck: Now you can leave the scarf at home – the cowl neck on the sweater can be pulled all the way up to cover the nose, if necessary.  If you don’t have a cowl neck sweater, use your happiest and least itchy scarf.
  • Ears:  A wool winter hat takes care of the ears.  Earmuffs would also be a good choice.
  • Hands:  Okay, I’m still stumped on this one, forced to wear ginormous ski mittens.  I just took them off for the pictures.  Like my toes, my fingers are susceptible to freezing.

The great thing about cycling is that you can actually get away with a bit less clothing, since your body will create its own heat.  This get-up might not keep me warm if I were standing at a bus stop, where it always seems like I’m waiting for an eternity, but it’s perfect for my bike ride.

Of course, a lot about how I dress for winter cycling depends on how I’m feeling on a particular day.  Sometimes I don’t give a care and end up in long johns and a puffy down coat.  No shame in that!  But when I feel the need to take it up a notch and escape the winter doldrums, I like to know that it’s possible, without leaving my bike at home.

If anyone would like to pull together a sleek winter look of their own based on this advice or show others how they’re already doing it, please send a picture and description to LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com.  I’d love to create a group round-up, similar to my recent post on winter footwear. (Hint: If you do this, you’ll be one step ahead in the LGRAB Winter Games.  More details soon.)

Any questions or tips of your own? Please leave them in the comments!

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Winter Bicycling Footwear

The women-who-bike brunchers are an endless source of regular cycling knowledge on all topics. For example, footwear. While chatting after Sunday’s brunch, I started to notice everyone’s unique, stylish and utilitarian footwear. I get a lot of questions about my winter boots, so I thought you all would be interested in seeing the varied solutions other female Chicago cyclists have worked out.

This is but a small sampling, but goes to show that there are many ways to maintain individual style while staying warm on a bike in the winter.

What footwear do you use when the temperatures drop?

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January’s women-who-bike brunch

My third women-who-bike brunch was the biggest yet, with nearly 20 women gathering together on a freezing Sunday morning to enjoy each other’s company and $3 mimosas. I love these brunches for the opportunity to sit down and have great conversations with so many smart, fun women. Next we’ll expand to happy hours, in the spring we’ll start some group rides and from there we’ll take over the world.

What an awesome group! I tried to get everyone’s photo, but did not quite succeed. Here are some cool blogs that were represented: Ding Ding Let’s Ride, This Little Bike of Mine, Bike Fancy, Two Pitties in the City (cutest dogs ever), Po Campo, and Chicargo Bike. If I indadvertedly left anyone’s blog out, feel free to leave a comment to say hi and link to your stuffs. :)

As always, if you’re interested in attending our next brunch on the first Sunday of February, email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Meet My New Bike!

Drum roll, please…

After a teaser several weeks ago, I’m happy to report that a new bike has finally joined the Dottie household:  A Velorbis Studine Balloon: designed in Denmark, made in Germany and sold in Chicago at Copenhagen Cyclery.

Rust-colored Schwalbe Fat Frank balloon tires, creamy white steel frame…

Integrated rear rack with briefcase hook…

Wheel lock, double kick stand, chain case…

Bell, comfy rubber grips…

3-speed Sturmey Archer internal hub…

Brooks saddle, rattan basket, fenders, all around super classiness…

Alas, no integrated lights, skirt guard or fancy leather grips, but that’s what keeps the price at a reasonable $1,295.

I want to be perfectly clear about my acquisition of this bike.  I did not buy the bike, but it is not a tester or a freebie.  Rather, it’s bartered using good old-fashioned economics.  Companies advertising on LGRAB usually pay a certain amount per month.  Instead of money, Copenhagen Cyclery is “paying” with a bike.  I view it as a fair exchange for something Copenhagen Cyclery wants (advertising) and something I want (a gorgeous bike).

I also want to be perfectly clear that the exchange includes nothing about my editorial content.  Copenhagen Cyclery will get an ad on the sidebar, nothing more.  There’s no agreement that I will talk up the shop or Velorbis or write about the bike.  Naturally, the bike will show up as part of my usual posting, just as my two other bikes show up, but I hope that you all will continue to trust that I have not turned into a corporate shill.

Incidentally, if other bike shops or companies are interested, Trisha is open to entertaining offers for an Abici or similar light and classy creature.  ;)

Now that all of that’s out of the way, we can focus on the real important stuff. Like, what should I name her? She reminds me of cream and sugar, a cafe au lait, but how does that translate to a name?

(p.s. Squeeee! New bike! :))

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A Very Friendly Bike Commute

Hi there!  We are back and ready for 2011.  :)

My first bike commute of the new year was pretty much perfect.  First, during my absence, all the snow miraculously melted in Chicago.  The temperature has since dropped down to well below freezing, but the roads remain clear and dry.  I celebrated the rare occasion by riding studded-tire-less Betty Foy for the first time in a month.  Vroom-vroom!

Half way to work, I pulled over to change the album on my iPod and blow on my numb fingertips, when Maria of Po Campo rode up next to me on her beautiful Soma mixte.  Our paths soon diverged, but not before I got a picture!

A couple of miles later, Jami of Balloon Biker pulled up next to me in the bike lane and we rode together and chatted the rest of the way in.

Lovely!  Note the skirts, tights and boots that both Maria and Jami are sporting.  That’s how Chicago women do it on a bike in the winter!

Unexpectedly meeting up with two bike friends really brightened my morning.  As a bonus to my already awesome morning, between seeing Maria and Jami, I passed a woman going the other direction who was riding a Dutch bike with flowing hair, carrying a baby on the front and a toddler on the back.  It was so beautiful, I could have wept.  She must be Dutch or something, although I would love to be wrong.  Anyone know a regular Chicago mom who throws down like that?  I was tempted to turn around and catch up with her to snap a picture, but figured that would be weird.  Instead, I offer this supermum representation from Copenhagen Cycle Chic:

Women on bikes are taking over – watch out, Chicago.

Happy new year!

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Back to Bike

If anyone was wondering about the cliffhanger of Monday’s post, I did not ride my bike to work.  As many of you mentioned in the comments, it was not worth the risk of leaving my bike parked outside downtown overnight.  Of course, as life goes, the snow storm did not begin until later in the night, when I was safely home.

Riding the L train is a great back-up option, though.  As a bonus, at the L station I got to shake Rahm Emanuel’s hand, as he greeted the commoners and kissed babies and such.  I wanted to say, “More bike lanes!” but all that came out was, “Oh, hai!”

Today I was back on my bike.  Yay, bike!  Above is an unglamorous representation of my winter wear, hat, helmet, scarf and all.

Tomorrow I’m flying out to North Carolina to be with my wonderful family for Christmas.  I haven’t seen them since last year, so I’m very excited!  Too bad I don’t have a folding bike to take with me.

Happy Holidays!

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FAQ’s – Part II

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the second half.  Read the first half here.

Amsterdam is flat. Chicago is flat. Is Nashville flat? What effect does topology have on how bike-friendly a city is? I suppose Portland is not flat.

I don’t think Portland is flat, no. And Nashville definitely isn’t! IMO that is not the biggest consideration for bike-friendliness, although it may be an obstacle in developing a large bicycling culture since hills can be intimidating. You will develop the necessary muscles, and there’s always the downhill stretches! And hey, as Dottie pointed out in a recent post, there’s no shame in walking your bike up a hill if you need to.

Don’t your feet get sweaty when wearing heels? Even when I wear just flats its definitely not as comfortable as when I wear socks + some sort of sneaker

No, my feet are actually cooler when I’m not wearing socks and sneakers. Maybe you could throw a bit of talcum or baby powder into your heels before you set off and see if that makes a difference.

Continue reading

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FAQ’s – Part I

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the first half.  We’ll post the second half soon.

How and when did Dottie and Trisha meet?

Trisha and I met through our mutual friend, Erin, at a group happy hour. The first meeting I really remember was at a Russian dinner party I threw at my apartment. Trisha showed up with a shirt that said, in Russian, “I love Russian.” Awesomeness. Soon after, we went to a midnight showing of Gremlins and I drank too much beer and had to leave before the movie ended (beer buzz + crowded theater + gremlins driving Barbie cars = overwhelming). From then on, we were fast friends.  :)  That was, I think, about 4 years ago when I lived in Nashville for law school.

What saddles do you use on your bikes?

I (Dottie) have Brooks saddles, which I love. On Oma it’s the B67 with springs – the most comfortable saddle ever. On Betty it’s the B17S – no springs and took longer to break in, but still great. Trisha’s Batavus came with a Selle Royale and her Peug has a vintage saddle.

Continue reading

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Freezing Rain

Today’s evening commute brought on freezing rain. Not the most fun weather, but not insurmountable. There was no ice on the road, so the only issue was staying dry and warm. A tweed skirt, long wool winter coat, knee-high leather boots, earmuffs and huge mittens did the job admirably. A thick leather Coach purse in my basket kept my belongings dry. As long as the rain is mild to moderate, this kind of set up works well – no raincoat and waterproof panniers needed.

The photo below shows why I hate to ride downtown in the rain at night. With the wet pavement reflections, I doubt my bike lights and reflectors bring much attention from drivers, which is why I choose routes with as few cars as possible during times like these.

I’m grateful that Chicago does not have a long rainy season. Soon this rain will turn into snow, which – although bringing its own host of problems – is more enjoyable to me.

{For another take on riding in the rain, read about my friend Elizabeth’s wet commute on Bike Commuters.}

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Ups and Downs of Bike Commuting

I’ve written before about the ups and downs of bike commuting. A year later, I’m revisiting the theme based on the ups and downs I experienced during the past two days.

Down: Last night, as I was riding up Lincoln Avenue, a major bike route, a woman in a van yelled, “Ride in the bike lane, retard!” Wow, really?? For the record, I was riding on the outside line of the bike lane because otherwise I would be in the door zone. Regardless, anyone who would yell such awful and ignorant words at anyone is a miserable person. Incidentally, wouldn’t Chicago be so much better if everyone felt safe to ride their bicycles, including the developmentally disabled? I think so!

Up: Tonight, a woman standing on the sidewalk whistled and called out, “Hey, I love your bike!” while the men with her nodded in appreciation. The fact that they were outside a cool live music venue and not a tool-central type of bar doubled the impact of the compliment. I smiled and called out, “Thank you!” :)

I’m pretty sensitive, so I can’t help but be affected by such incidents, but really, no matter what someone may or may not yell at me, I always prefer my bicycle over any other form of transportation. If someone offered me free daily door-to-door Towncar service with complimentary muffins and NPR, I would turn it down without hesitation.

If you doubt me, check out the scenery from my ride this morning.

The temperature was in the high ’30s, but with a dress, a wool sweater, tights, boots and gloves, I was set.

For some reason, a lot of the “citizen cyclists” seem to have packed it in for the winter already, leaving me and a bunch of guys on road bikes. Just as I was thinking, “Gosh, everyone out here is in spandex going really fast,” my friend Dan rode by on his WorkCycles Oma and stopped to chat. (You may recognize him as top hat guy from the cocktail ride.) I love that in a huge city like Chicago, I still run into people I know regularly via the Lakefront Path and bike lanes.

A little later, a guy on a WorkCycles Opa rode by and rang his bell. I don’t know if he’s a reader (hi!) or merely a fellow Dutch bike appreciator, but it was great to see!

Back to the “ups and downs” of bike commuting. This I know for sure: I’m totally enjoying the up of autumn before the down of a long winter. Oh, who am I kidding? I kinda love winter, too!

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Cocktail Party Ride – Fall 2010

On Sunday evening, 25 Chicago cyclists joined together to ride and drink in style, demonstrating that bicycling in a suit or dress and heels is easy.  The temperature was about 40 degrees with a stiff wind, but otherwise a lovely autumn evening, perfect for bicycles and sidecars.  Thanks to everyone who came out! You all looked fabulous and I wish I could have taken everyone’s picture! And special thanks to Mr. Dottie for putting on a suit – very rare.  :)

THE RIDERS

THE RIDE

THE COCKTAIL PARTY

To all Chicagoans: See you next time! Date TBD. (Likely to be co-hosted again by John of Vote With Your Feet.)

To all others: Start planning your own cocktail ride. It’s so fun and easy!

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Bike Fancy Showcases Chicago Cycle Chic

Attention everyone: you must check out the new blog Bike Fancy. Pro photographer Martha Williams is documenting stylish cyclists in Chicago and sharing them with the world, including a selection of her own cycle chic looks.

Martha photographs Emily

A resource showcasing Chicago Cycle Chic has been a missing link in our bike community and I’m super excited that Bike Fancy is here to pick up this slack. I look forward to watching the gallery grow!

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Women-who-bike brunch

My inaugural women-who-bike brunch took place on Sunday. The focus was on enjoying good food and even better company, while bikes took a backseat as a tool for transportation and for connecting us all in the first place. To this end, a dozen awesome women rode their bikes without ceremony, in their regular clothes, and proceeded to chat for three fun hours. Here is but a sampling of the awesomeness that ensued.

Women who bike - photo by Martha Williams

Rebecca! of Active Trans

Emily! of Po Campo

Samantha! of Ding Ding Let's Ride

Martha! of Bike Fancy

Janet and Patty

The group checks out Po Campo prototypes

Me - photo taken by Martha Williams with my film camera

Are you a woman in the Chicago area who would like to join us in the future? Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com. If you’ve sent me your email before but did not get the message about the brunch, please re-send. I might have indadvertedly left some people out.

I must sound like a broken record but women who bike are pretty much without fail smart, fun and cool. :)

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Simply Bike at LGRAB

This weekend a very special guest stayed chez Dottie, S from Simply Bike. I was very excited to meet her in person, after following her for a long time on Academichic and now on the newer bike blog.  Obviously, we have a lot in common and as I predicted, we got along extremely well and I had so much fun. As a bonus, she and Betty Foy were perfect together.

Riding bikes was a big part of the visit, since she had a conference about 8 miles away along the lakefront and I dropped her off and picked her up each day.  Other notable activities: the Race Against the Sky movie, a big German meal at Chicago Brauhaus, a ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, fresh Mexican at Rick Bayless’s XOCO, Checkov’s The Seagull at Goodman Theatre and warm donuts from Dinkel’s Bakery.

I love getting out and enjoying Chicago to the max.  I always try to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, but hosting an out-of-towner gives me an extra push.

Saying goodbye to such a cool lady was sad.  All of us fun, smart bike ladies should colonize a new city, where we can hang out and ride bikes together all the time.  :)

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Relaxed

After a demanding day at work and the stress of two serious posts, I decided to take the Lakefront Trail home to avoid cars and meditate on the horizon. Before I knew it, my body and mind relaxed, the anxiety effortlessly left behind.

Bicycling is amazing like that. All I’m doing is getting from work to home, but somehow there’s so much more going on.

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Final Outdoor Farmer’s Market Trip

October is drawing to a close far too quickly and today was the last outdoor farmer’s market of the season. Luckily, Chicago’s Green City Market continues year-round indoors. Still, I will miss spending time outside in the fresh air of Lincoln Park. This is my last hurrah post with pictures I took using my vintage film camera.

After the market, I met up with Melissa and Chanh for the somewhat lackluster Rally to Restore Sanity (the main event was in D.C.). Afterward, we went to lunch. They were dressed up for Halloween as a redneck and a hippie. The waitress, after remarking on their costumes, turned to me and said, “I know who you are. From the Wizard of Oz. You’re Dorothy.” Hmm, I thought, this is actually how I dress everyday (in my new thrifted outfit). Aloud I said, “Yes, I am Dorothy.” A true statement, but not in the way she understood it. :)

And now, In Memorium: Summer 2010 Farmer’s Market.

Bicycling to the Farmer’s Market
Simple Pleasures
Farmer’s Market by Bike
Farmer’s Market on Film

How are you spending the last weekend of October?

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Bike Deprivation

I am in the middle of one of the longest stretches of bike deprivation I’ve suffered in my 2.5 years of cycling. On Saturday I did not ride my bike because I spent the entire day on the couch reading the fascinating book Joyride by former Portland Bicycle Program Manager Mia Birk (stay tuned for my write-up). On Sunday I did not ride my bike because I spent the entire day at a film bootcamp learning to develop and print my own photos.

Monday – I rode my bike! And Martha shot this portrait of me and Oma.

Me and Oma, shot by Martha Williams

Today I took the L train to work and I’ll be doing the same tomorrow. By force. Chicago is currently in the throes of the second-strongest storm in it recorded history, a cyclone over Lake Michigan that is bringing sustained winds of more than 30 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. As much as I love to ride, I know where to draw the line.

Things I miss about riding:

  • Eating donuts with a clear conscience;
  • Feeling the wind in my hair;
  • Not feeling like a giant ground sloth;
  • Free transportation – the L train ride today was $4.25 I’ll never get back;
  • No wait time;
  • Fresh air;
  • A cheerful start to the day;
  • A stress relief after a long day.

What good stuff did I leave out?  :)

Is anyone else feeling the affects of this massive storm?  I’m sure there are hardier souls than I who rode anyway.

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