Another pro of the spring weather: Le Peug (or the Bat, depending on my mood) isn’t the only bike at the office. My co-worker K rides her Schwinn at least once a week—and since we’re more or less neighbors, sometimes we even ride together on the way home.
Le Peug and his buddy
Until I had fellow bike commuters at the office I didn’t realize how much less alone it makes you feel. It’s nice not to be the only one who recognizes that riding to work can be fun. Anyone else have a commuting buddy?
Grams at age 10 with her new Schwinn bicycle (and cat!)
There was hard work to be done on the Wisconsin farm where my grandmother grew up, but as the baby of the family by nearly 10 years, she was doted on — her sister Dorothy even took Grams along on dates to the drive-in.
Grams did let Dorothy ride her Schwinn once — but the story goes that Dorothy was not a very skilled rider and promptly crashed into the merry-go-round their dad had rigged up out of a plank and a wagon wheel. Grams still remembers the scratch it made on the fender.
Biking with my brother over the Fourth reminded me that our first bike rides ever were taken together. The last time I visited my parents, I dug up some photographic evidence.
These Schwinns were our first bikes ever. We got them for our birthdays (both in April — yes, this is what April looks like in northern Minnesota) in 1985. Charlie was turning 4, and I was turning 5. Training wheels were the way to go back then…
Here I am frowning at the handlebars (this bike stuff was serious business) while Mom adjusts Charlie’s bike and Uncle Bob looks on.
Getting to know you…
Meanwhile, Charlie barely fits on his bike! Moments after Mom let go of the handlebars, he was off…and crashed in the woods since he didn’t know how to brake yet. Oops. I think we may have this on video somewhere.
It’s now been officially one year of commuting for me and coming up on one year for Dottie. Even though the bikes we started out on are no longer with us (the late, lamented Janis and Pinkie), we’re planning on using two wheels for a very long time.
Curious about how it all began? We bring you these emails from the very extensive Dottie/Trisha email archives (biographers, get in line now!).
On Trisha’s first ride:
Just prior to beginning bicycle commuting, I’d been in Chicago for a taping of the Oprah show with my parents (not a guest, just an audience member). While I was there, Pinkie was being tuned up and getting new tires after her long stay in my grandparents’ garage, and as soon as I got back we went for a ride.
Pinkie at Jerusalem Cafe, during one of her last lunch breaks.
On 5/2/08, Trisha wrote:
thanks so much for another lovely time in Chicago. I only wish I could have stayed for the weekend. : ) Hopefully I’ll be able to arrange a longer visit soon, or you guys can come hang out here. . . .
Did I tell you I’m joining in yours and Greg’s efforts to save the planet through alternative commuting [editor's note: at this time the Dotties were taking the El train]? I hope to start riding my bike to work next week. Tomorrow I’m taking a test run. Last night I went to the grocery store and back…I had forgotten how fun riding a bike could be.
On May 5, 2008, at 3:46 PM, Dorothy wrote:
Thank you for coming!! Lots of fun! Too bad you missed all the Second City and Jameson
How’s the bike working out?
We adopted Chloe yesterday. She is a sweetheart!!!!!
On May 5, 2008, at 4:46 PM, Trisha wrote:
Bike is good. I rode to work and back yesterday and will do it again tomorrow. Figured easing into it is better; plus I went home for lunch today so I didn’t want to use up all that time riding the bike instead of the car. Good news is, it only takes like 20 minutes to get here, which really isn’t much longer than it takes to drive. Well, double the time, but a 20-minute commute isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things.
On Dottie’s first ride, two weeks later:
Janis the Jamis – Dottie's first big-girl bike
Date: May 20, 2008 9:54:08 AM CDT
I am here to chat, despite my pile of work. Because that’s how I roll.
I bought a bike Sunday! This one, from my little neighborhood bike shop, Roscoe Village Bikes. I’m going to totally copy you and try to commute to work via the Lake Shore Path, since the el takes me 45 minutes to an hour these days, with all the construction. Plus, sometimes smelly people sit next to me. First I need to get used to riding a bike after a 10-year hiatus. A little scared of riding in the city, but really excited about how much it will change my day-to-day life. The path that follows Lake Michigan is gorgeous – a great way to start and end the workday. Remember that road we went down in the morning on the way to Oprah? The bike path follows that. How’s your riding going?
On 5/20/08, Trisha wrote:
Ooh, I love your bike! And a bike path on the lake would be beautiful. So far, I really like riding my bike to work. You get to smell the honeysuckle, feel the breezes and sometimes see interesting urban sights, like burning cars. : ) OK, that only happened once (and in Hillsboro Village!!) but it was awesome.
date: Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 10:19 AM
subject: Re: your vacation, my staycation
I had a great weekend! Spent the whole thing with Greg on my bike. We biked everywhere – the dentist, best buy, brunch, downtown to the Gospel festival. And I biked to work this morning! Door-to-door it took the same amount of time as the el. My odometer said 7.1 miles and on lake path I was averaging between 14-15 mph, but much slower on the road with all the stop signs. It’s very hot out today, so it would have been nice to take a shower, but a wash cloth and bathroom stall worked out pretty well. Beautiful ride on the lake!! I took my bike back to the shop this weekend to get a rear rack, bell, lights, panier, and odometer installed. It’s so cute My bell says “I (heart) my bike.” I can carry all my work clothes and stuff in my panier (I think I’m spelling that correctly) that goes on my rack. Like a mule. I’ll have to send you a pic and you still need to send me a pic of yours!
Neither of us could have predicted how much cycling would become a part of our lives, but as you can see, we loved it from the start.
This sadly rusting beauty is one of thousands of Schwinns that populate Chicagoland’s streets and sidewalks. During the summer, it seems nearly half of all bicycles that go by are old Schwinns. Once upon a time, of course, Schwinns were made in Chicago. That’s all history now.
Yesterday I set out to visit various bike shops. I visited four total, just the tip of the iceberg in these parts. Two were a pleasure, two were highly annoying, and none led to a bike discovery. On the positive side, I enjoyed spending a few hours cycling around the city. This pic was taken in my “backyard.” Yes, I do live that close to the el tracks, but the noise is not an issue. I prefer to be close to public transit, although I rarely take it nowadays.