Our third autumn of life on two wheels is here in full force. From the suddenly deserted beaches of Lake Michigan to the leaves burning with color, everything around me during the bike commute signals the changing of seasons and the passage of time.
Other than during my girlhood, I never took so much notice of or pleasure in the weather as I have in these last two and a half years of riding my bike every day. It’s amazing how a simple change in transportation mode can lead to a powerful change in life.
Jennifer is a bike commuter in Edinburgh, Scotland and an LGRAB reader. She owns both a WorkCycles Oma and a Pashley. When she mentioned that she was taking a vacation in Chicago, I was excited to suggest that we get together.
On Wednesday, we met up for a few beers with my friends Patty, Brian, Elizabeth and Dean (all bikey people, incidentally). Then yesterday Jennifer and I spent the day together with Oma and Betty. This turned out to be quite an adventure!
After a hearty Mexican lunch, we set out for the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier via the Lakefront Trail. The wind was exceptionally fierce, crashing waves onto the path all around us, and the rain unexpectedly picked up during the ride, but it was still great fun.
I assume this mounted police officer was there to make sure no one tried anything stupid, like surfing.
Our raincoats mostly protected us. When we got to the theater my tights dried quickly and Jennifer cleverly let her long tunic top become a dress, while her jeans hung to dry in the coat check room. Then we warmed up in the pub over whiskey and Baileys before settling in for a great production of Romeo and Juliet.
After the play, we walked along Navy Pier a bit as the wind whipped around us, speculating as to how difficult our journey home would be, since the tail wind we enjoyed on the way there would be a head wind.
We walked over to the ferris wheel for a ride but it was closed, apparently due to the high winds.
As we figured, the head wind was killer and the 7-mile ride home was slow, cold and dark – but pretty funny! We could not help laughing at the absurdity of the situation: the trail was deserted and the two of us, in our dresses and on our upright bikes, were the only ones intrepid enough to brave the weather.
Undeterred, we swung by my place to pick up Mr. Dottie and continued our ride to the Lincoln Square neighborhood, where we enjoyed dinner at a very lively German restaurant. Schnitzel, mashed potatoes and steins of beer work wonders to warm a body.
The rain picked up full force for our late ride home and poor Jennifer’s jeans got soaked all over again. Luckily, she was just an L train ride away from the warmth and comfort of her hotel room.
Many thanks to Jennifer for being great company and such a good sport! What could have been grounds for complaining instead became a fun, invigorating, laughter-filled adventure. ‘Cause cycling ladies are cool like that.
The whole country seems to be pretty hot this week. Chicago has been at a high of 90 degrees, including during my ride home yesterday. As I sat at a stoplight in the sweltering heat of the direct sun, car exhaust swirling around my head, I fondly recalled the winter. But is one really better than the other?
In the sweltering summer:
I wear a tank top and skorts, carry my work clothes with me and change in the bathroom at work after freshening up with an Action Wipe or washcloth.
My hair gets sweaty, especially my bangs.
I ride more slowly to stay cooler.
I slather on sun block to keep my sensitive skin from burning.
Lots of other cyclists are on the road with me.
In the freezing winter:
I can wear my work clothes on my bike.
I have to wear extra clothing layers – tights, leggings, scarf, gloves, wool socks, snow boots, ear muffs.
Oma is the bike of choice, equipped with studded tires.
I ride slowly to watch out for slush and patches of ice.
Lights are essential, as my commute is usually in the dark.
Only a few other cyclists are out there with me.
Both extremes have their challenges and benefits. Of course, the best weather for cycling is between the extremes, which is most of the time.
How do you deal with the different seasons? Would you choose sweltering or freezing, if you had to pick one? And why oh why do most people choose to ride their bikes on the hottest days and abandon them after Labor Day?
Some of you probably know that Nashville just endured a record rainfall–a 500 year flood, by some accounts. In 48 hours, we got nearly 14 inches of rain–25% of our annual rainfall.
Poor Dottie & Greg were here to experience it all. A weekend with them with no bike rides just didn’t seem right, but we did get some Scrabble in at E & S’s house on Sunday, where we sought refuge from my power-less condo.
Obviously, we were extremely lucky to have only a 12-hour power outage and rained out bike rides to complain about. Between games, we watched the rain and worried over news reports showing images like this one (from the Nashville Flood 2010 Flickr pool.)
I didn’t know what our airport run on Monday morning would be like, but it was eerily calm and clear. Only the hint of fog over the ground, and the wet streets, recalled what had happened over the weekend.
Though there were other signs, if you paid attention, like uprooted trees.
And the flood-damaged items your neighbors put on the curb for Metro to pick up.
I can’t decide if these three last, sunny days are Mother Nature’s apology or just further proof of her fickleness. The river crested on Monday; the waters are receding. But power is still out downtown, and many people lost their (non flood-insured) homes–from suburban Bellevue families to stars like Kenny Chesney (though he at least has more than one home). We are rationing water, since we only have one functioning water treatment plant (we would have had zero, if it weren’t for some heroic efforts by state prison inmates). We may soon be rationing beer since local distributors are underwater. Total damage to the city is estimated at $1.1 BILLION. Damage to the Opryland Hotel and the Grand Ole Opry, along with some of downtown’s most beloved landmarks is going to be devastating for the local economy. Tennessee has only a sales tax, no state income tax, so tourist dollars are especially important.
Left: our new symphony center. Right: the Country Music Hall of Fame, taken May 4.
Sorry for the long, non-bikey post, but with the Gulf spill and the NYC attempted bombing, the Weather Channel seems to have done most of the national coverage of this disaster. Local blogs, TV stations and Twitter feeds have been incredible, and I wanted to do my part. If you want to help, you can text ‘REDCROSS’ to 90999 to donate $10 to disaster relief in Nashville. If you live in town, consider signing up with Hands on Nashville and volunteering to help with cleanup efforts — there will be plenty to do all summer long. (And if you see me on one of the projects, say hi!)
Thanks to all of you who checked in on me in the comments or on Twitter; your concern is appreciated!
Biking news out of Nashville is going to be slow for the next day or two, due to Snowpocalypse 2010. Friday morning, snow started falling and continued for the rest of the day, ending with an accumulation of (gasp!) about four inches (I can hear Dot laughing all the way from Chicago).
My office was closed on Friday, as were all the schools, and many businesses were shut over the weekend.
Before you hardier New England and Midwestern souls start laughing too loudly, I should explain that this sort of weather strikes us, oh, only every 10 years or so, so the city has no proper snow plows. This means that streets stay icy/slushy/snowy for days following a snowfall–especially side streets, which are what I take to work. And of course, none of my bikes are set up to cope with this amount of slush, snow or ice.
It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow, with a high of 4o, so fingers crossed some of this snow will be melted away and I can be back on two wheels come Tuesday or Wednesday! I’ve missed my bikes.
My car stayed at home this weekend too
Luckily, my neighborhood is walkable. I spent most of the weekend tromping around, trying out the new Thai restaurant that’s just blocks away and having a beer at my local pub — at least, when I wasn’t at home drinking hot chocolate, working on a long-neglected craft project or two, or catching up on “Gossip Girl.”
Anyone else dealing with unexpected wintry weather?
I think today was the coldest of the season, dropping down to 32 degrees F. We donned our winter Bern helmets and safety glasses for a trip to a home improvement store. I got caught up in the holiday ribbon section, where I picked up some trimmings for Oma (more on that later).
Waiting for Winter
Despite the chill today, the weather tomorrow is expected to be sunny and up to 54 degrees F. I feel like I’ve spent a month bracing for a winter that never comes. By this time last year, snow was on the ground. Not that I’m complaining – I’ll be on my bike enjoying the sunshine!
Not sure if the rest of the continent (or world, for you non-North Americans!) is feeling this, but instead of coming in like a lamb, and going out like a lion, March decided to keep us on our toes by giving us half a dozen of one and six of the other just about every twelve days. So far, April is proving equally indecisive. Last week, the weather alternated between cool, rainy days, and warm sunny days, culminating in a deluge on Thursday that turned spawned a tornado on Nolensville Road and turned Hillsboro Road into a river, as this local Flickr user video documents.
Not a fun day for that poor barista! Fido is one of my favorite coffee shops.
I did bike home after the worst had passed, but still ended up getting pretty soaked. Here’s an example of the type of “debris” that ended up in the bike lane.
We had beautiful weather over the weekend that extended through Monday. On Monday’s ride (courtesy of P and her Dahon!), I saw other commuters for the first time in months (to be completely honest here, I should say that “saw” is usually a substitute for the words “was passed in the bike lane by” — unless they’re traveling in the opposite direction, that is.)
As seen on Franklin Rd. over the weekend, from the Mustang.
My first thought was, how nice to see other people out riding. Too bad they don’t know you can ride when it’s below 50.
Then I realized it was only a few months ago that I realized riding when it was below 50 was possible or desirable, and that I was not a happy camper on the day I rode when it was below 15 this year – I’m not sure I’ll do that again. Also, I’m still working on negotiating rain, which kept me off my bike yesterday.
While I’m sure I can get to the point where a shower or two won’t keep me off the road, I doubt I’ll ever voluntarily ride in a thunderstorm or even hard rain (does anyone do this?). It’s not necessary, and I’m no masochist. What keeps you off your bike? I’d be interested in hearing where others draw the line. No judgments! And if you’ve conquered a former bike-commuting hurdle, let us know about that, too.