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?
This morning, my friend Elizabeth posted a response on Bike Commuters to a dumb op-ed stating that winter bicyclists are “insane” and “suicidal.” I love how her response is so reasonable. Unfortunately, this particular poorly written op-ed is only a drop in the bucket of ridiculous stuff written and said about winter bicyclists.
My own personal response is: calm down and stop being so lame! You sound silly. Winter bicycling is perfectly rational and enjoyable.
So when I returned home from work this evening after bicycling 6 miles in 10 degree temps (-12 C), I made a quick video demonstrating how simple and normal the whole thing is. Pretty dorky, but I’m embracing my inner Liz Lemon in remembrance of 30 Rock.
My bike ride this evening could not have been better. As I cycled along the lakefront, the setting sun turned the sky soft shades of blue and pink over the placid, icy blue lake. Salt covered the trail, rendering the danger of ice moot. I was not cold; I was happy. And here is what I wore.
What would you say to those anti-winter-bike goofballs?
The past three days have been warmer than earlier this week, but presented challenges related to precipitation, rather than temperature.
Snow fell heavily on Friday morning and I took the L train to work. I never bike when the streets look like this:
One day later, the skies were clear and blue…
…and the snow was reduced to mucky slush on the side of the road.
My friend Janet and I were able to ride our matching Omas to ballet burn class with no problem. (Except for ballet-burn-related soreness!)
Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day Sunday, which I took as a sign to stay inside and read Wide Sargasso Sea (and hate Mr. Rochester so much). The world outside my window looks pretty nasty, so I’ll probably be on the L train again Monday.
This mix of snow, sun and sleet reminds me that the best way to get through winter is to be flexible and not put pressure on myself to bike all the time.
When I feel comfortable biking, I enjoy it so much more.
The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling. For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.
Photo by Jose M. Osorio
Yeah, that’s cold!
I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling. Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy. Which is often. A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them. :-)
These photos are in an alley. The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.
When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.
Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.
As you may have noticed, I enjoy wearing skirts and dresses, which means that I often cycle in skirts and dresses. Last summer, I posted about cycling in a long dress on a bike with a chainguard and soon made a part II video on a “regular” bike with no chainguard. In both cases, I was wearing ankle length dresses and had to be careful that the hem would not catch in the chain.
Recently, I found myself wanting to wear a new long(ish) skirt on my regular bike. This skirt stops about 6 inches above my ankle. I thought I would have to gather the skirt to keep it from the chain and back wheel, but discovered that the skirt hem stayed far from those danger zones once I’m up on the saddle.
I made a quick video to demonstrate how easy bicycling in this long skirt can be – no special accessories or preparation needed.
On Sunday morning, our group of awesome women got together for some brunching. :-)
I must give a special “thank you!” to the new restaurant, Southport and Irving, which was especially welcoming (see that looong table below? that’s all us on a busy morning) and served delicious food (duck confit with caramelized onions, scallions, duck fat potatoes, poached eggs and mustard sauce – I had to hold myself back from licking the plate).
(The duck confit was gone before I got to my camera, so here is a photo of my tea bag.)
I was so distracted by eating, I failed to get photos documenting everyone who was there. I managed to capture only a few stragglers. :-)
Chika! looking so fab in orange.
Sara with her sparkly gold helmet, blue Pashley, and orange Chika.
Sarah rocking the fur hat.
Her front rack is conveniently equipped with a bottle opener!
Rachel just moved to Chicago from Atlanta and brought this amazing cat helmet with her (kids’ section at Target!).
I threw on jeans, boots, and a trench. Forgot my earmuffs but lucky for my poor ears, I did not have far to bike.
Interested in joining our brunch group? You should be! We’re friendly, smart, and fun – if I may ring our own bell. We love new people. Email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com to be included on the evites.