My wish for bright spring colors came true today, at least a little bit. The amazing 50 degree temperature combined with the bright, lingering sun made the city feel like a springtime paradise. The sidewalks and lakefront were filled with Chicagoans basking in the glory of the weather. The photos below look cold, but the mere fact that I was able to bike on the Lakefront Trail is a sign of the thaw. Most of the snow has melted, leaving behind mounds of dirt, salt and debris. I even warmed up enough to remove my scarf, which looked quite lovely on Oma.
Unbelievably, I heard on the evening news that Chicago may get over a foot of snow mid-week. All the more reason to appreciate days like today, I suppose.
EleanorNYC has a lovely little post today showing “women who look stylish on their bike and not afraid of a little snow.” This reminded me that to not be afraid of a little snow, I need studded tires. If there is snow on the ground that has not yet been totally plowed off the salted streets, I’ll only ride my bike with studded tires.
These are the bad boys on which I rely: Schwalbe Marathon Winters. I bought them five or six winters ago and they’re still going strong.
Because I don’t have the time, patience or interest to swap out the tires myself (a longer-than-usual process for my Dutch bike), I brought Oma to a local bike shop a few weeks ago for her yearly tire swap.
When it was time to pick Oma up the next day, I Divvied to the shop. (Thanks again, Divvy!)
My girl was waiting for me, still wearing her medical bracelet.
Oma was also wearing a note from my friend Dan, who saw her when he happened by the shop later to have his bike serviced. An inside joke involving karaoke and Justin Timberlake – fun! :-) Now Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow. A lot of Chicago bicyclists get by fine without studded tires – and in fact I never put mine on two winters ago due to the relatively mild weather – but I like having them as an option. What do you do to take on winter bicycling?
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?