… was clearly not sisters with my sister Cass, who sent us pasta in the shape of bicycles.
Thanks, Cass. This pasta is the best, and so are you! ;)
chicago or bust!
… was clearly not sisters with my sister Cass, who sent us pasta in the shape of bicycles.
Thanks, Cass. This pasta is the best, and so are you! ;)
New Video to Watch: Inspired Bicycles
Check. It. Out.
And I thought it was cool that I could make it to work in 15 minutes (with a tailwind)… I’m going to have to work on my skills. Also though, I don’t think my bike was built for this… and I’m not crazy… but wow, I kind of wish I was… anyway, just watch the video. Don’t forget to pick your jaw up off the floor when it’s done.
Rules are rules.
Specifically, car sharing.
Remember when driving was fun? When we lived in places with wide open spaces and scenery and no stop lights or cars in your way? Corn as high as an elephant’s eye zipping past at 55mph? Before the guilt of superfluous carbon emissions took some of the joy out of a joyride? Before we moved to Chicago?
I remember. (Those of you who didn’t actually move to Chicago with us probably remember even better.) Me and Daisy, my little (“little”) Eagle Summit Wagon, zipping around Iowa, downshifting to make it up the big hills by the river, eating pie in little towns 40 miles from anywhere else, pulling over on the shoulder to take pictures of the sunset…
I remember, but barely. Here, driving is a nightmare. It can take an hour to go the three miles needed to get to the freeway on a Saturday in December, for instance. A really, really hellish hour. There’s traffic, traffic traffic traffic, all the time! No left turn arrows, lots of people running red lights (not that I blame them, it’s sometimes a matter of survival) and parking, oh sweet Jesus, Chicago just leased its parking meters to a private company (for the next 75 years, ???) in an effort to make a little money, and this private company went bezerk on fees: instead of paying a quarter to park for an hour at most meters, starting last month parking rates doubled, tripled and quadrupled, with meters in the neighborhood downtown where I work now demanding 14 quarters for an hour. That’s $3.50 (or two full loads of laundry, depending on the specific value you place on quarters).
At any rate, there are a million reasons not to drive, not the least of which is that it’s just not necessary. Usually. The vast majority of the time, even. Of course I endorse biking, and public transit, walking, and good ol’ fashioned staying in your own neighborhood – no need to drive 40 miles for pie anymore when our neighborhood is so inundated with delicious bakeries…
But every now and then, you craigslist an end table from 2 miles away that would be just a bit too much to carry on the bus. Or you need to make a run to Hobby Lobby in the suburbs, the dead zone of public transport (alternative solution would be getting a Hobby Lobby in Lakeview, now wouldn’t THAT solve all our problems?!?!), or you’re closing at the cafe on Saturday night but your dad is speaking at church up in Milwaukee at 9 on Sunday morning, and between midnight and 8 there just aren’t any greyhounds, amtraks, or metras going your way… it’s times like this that you maybe do need a car, but not to own, just to share.
Enter I-Go Car Sharing, its fleet of cars waiting in strategic locations around the city (one right across the street from our apartment!), its array of flexible and affordable monthly/yearly plans, and its super helpful and friendly staff, on call 24/7. It makes a lot of sense: I only “need” a car for, say, 5 hours in an average month. So why not let other people use it for the other 715 or so hours instead of having it just sit there, expensive to park and a risk for break-ins and accidents?
I can reserve a car months or minutes in advance – there’s almost always one available nearby – and I don’t have to worry about paying for parking, insurance, or, get this, even gas. It’s all included. And sure, I can’t store my umbrella and my lunch leftovers for the last couple weeks in the back seat, but with so many cars to choose from, it’s kind of like I own dozens of cars… I’ll say to Mac, “do you want to take the Civic today, or the Prius?” Or the Honda Fit, or the Honda Element? The silver Civic, or the blue one? So many choices!
You may have perhaps heard of Zip Car, a national car sharing program that works similarly. We also have Zip Car in Chicago, and I do support their mission as well, but we chose I Go because it’s a non-profit, and because it’s Chicago. Their goal is to make car sharing an integral part of the public transit system, and to that end, they work with neighborhoods and with the Chicago Transit Authority to ensure that people can get around to wherever they need to go, whenever they need to go, without having to own a car. They’re also interested in turning the freed-up space and resources (owning a car can cost up to $7300/year in Chicago, I Go membership starts at $50) to foster growth in Chicago communities. Says their website, “We expect that lower car ownership would free up resources that could be used to increase home ownership and business development in our region.” Talk about big picture dreaming, hey? I like big picture.
I really do strongly believe that the freedom to live without having to own a car is a birthright. Furthermore, life without a gas and money guzzling weight on your shoulders shouldn’t seem impossible, it should seem normal, and it should definitely seem liberating, particularly in a big city like Chicago. I Go Car Sharing is making that dream of not owning a car a reality for us and hundreds of others. For that reason I heartily endorse them this Monday afternoon, for that and for the little glimmer of a thrill I get on those rare occasions when Lake Shore Drive isn’t so crowded after all and we’re flying on down the lake, faster than the busses… it does feel good. I remember.
I’m so excited to endorse things today! But first off, I want to follow up on last week’s endorsement, for the pure and simple reason that this morning I saw a picture that’s tangentially related to it and I really want to share that picture with you all because it’s hilarious.
Here’s the picture:
And the tangentially related follow-up is that the real Iditarod started this weekend, which is to say, the dog-powered Iditarod, not the human-powered one. Apparently it’s going well so far, at least for this guy. The human powered Iditarod, the Alaska Ultra Sport, which I endorsed last week, faced some of the worst weather it’s ever seen – while Chicago has been flirting with the idea of Spring, Ultra Sporters had fresh snow up to their waists at points! Whoa baby! Sometimes stranded, frequently pushing/carrying their bikes, it’s taken them a lot longer than previous years to reach the finish line, but they started rolling in on Saturday and are continuing to roll, ski, and walk themselves into the finish line even as this guy is just getting going…
As far as the dog Iditarod goes, I’m of course rooting for Martin Buser, who named his son after a checkpoint (and we named our cat after his son). But your actual Monday endorsement is still to come. I just wanted to post this picture.
I know exactly how to dress for a bike ride when it’s 22 degrees out:
Yep, those are the heated pants. Flattering, hey? And snow boots, and my super fancy polartec hoodie from Patagonia, and my biking gloves, and a wind breaker. Perfect. On a 22 degree day, even with a bit of a breeze, when I’m dressed like this I hardly notice it’s winter. For real. If it’s a little warmer, I skip the heated pants and wear jeans with long johns underneath, and I don’t zip my windbreaker up all the way. If it’s a little cooler, I double up the gloves and the socks and crank the heated pants up to high.
But ’tis the one problem with warming temps (which I really, really am happy about otherwise, but): Between my two jobs today I’ve got 20 miles to cover, and it’s 42 degrees out. That’s significantly warmer than 22. I don’t have a clue what I should wear!
Yesterday was the first of March. March is the month of the year where the light part of the day finally gets longer than the dark part of the day. March is the month where crocuses start popping up through the ground, because March is the month where things melt. Finally.
Nevertheless, March was in like a… well, like a snowstorm in December. And I was out on my bike, of course, opening at the cafe and watching the sun rise through the gusting, blowing snow.
Which brings me to my Monday Endorsement: Up In Alaska: Jill’s Sub-Arctic Journal. Again, it’s not a product, but a blog, and a really super awesome blog at that. About a year ago, I happened to stumble across this blog, where a writer/extreme winter mountain biker named Jill was recounting her recent success on the Iditarod. That’s right, the 1100 mile dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, recently featured in a rock-star documentary by the Discovery Channel (which I also endorse, but only indirectly in this post). But get this: if running a team of 16 dogs through interior Alaska isn’t crazy enough, there are people, like Jill, who bike it. And people, like her boyfriend Geoff, who run it. And others (whose blogs I don’t read) who ski it. There’s a finish line 350 miles along in McGrath, where most people call it a day (or five or seven days, more likely), and then there’s the finish line in Nome, yep, 1100 miles up the road, and every year a couple people bike, ski, or run all the way there. They call it the Alaska Ultra Sport.
Ever since reading her riveting account of her 2008 Iditarod run, I’ve been both anxiously awaiting the next Iditarod and also reading her blog every single day. She lives and trains in Juneau, where she bikes year round, even in the winter, particularly in the winter. She sometimes logs over a thousand training miles in a month! Yikes! And I thought the seven miles to my tutoring job got kinda long… most of all she takes breathtakingly stunning pictures and posts them almost every day:
The Alaska Ultra Sport finally kicked off yesterday, with much fanfare and about 8 inches of fresh powder, as I understand from the updates I’ve been reading eagerly, which is actually really not helpful when you’re on a bike.
If you, like me, think this is pretty much the coolest possible sport ever, way cooler than pro football and stuff, and you’d like to follow along with me and with all the other extreme winter mountain biking fans out there, you can check out their “latest news” page.
Very sadly, upon checking the latest news this evening, I learned that Jill, my winter biking hero and inspiration in the worlds of both cold weather bike rides and of blogging, stepped in some overflow water on the first night, got frostbite in her toes, and had to scratch out of the race. Ah! All the biking bloggers seem to agree that living to bike another day is smarter than pressing on because you’ve worked so hard to get there… but wow, what a bummer. I’ll continue to read her blog every day though, and her boyfriend Geoff’s blog (he’s an ultra marathon multi-champ, wow!) and I’ll continue riding through the cold, snowy, windy streets of Chicago on my own bike, but with a renewed thankfulness for the lack of open water for me to have to cross without the aid of a bridge.
Interestingly, and tangentially relatedly, one of the checkpoints along the trail, which seems to be exactly only that and nothing more, is Rohn. Yep, our cat was named after a checkpoint on the Iditarod trail (or more accurately, he was named after a kid who was named after the checkpoint on the Iditarod trail). Furtherly interestingly, Mac has just suggested that we move “Rohn” to his middle name and make his first name “Pepper” (very masculine) and his last name “Edwards” and then refer to him by his first and middle names and last initial. You do the math. That will be Mac’s contribution this evening. I don’t know that I endorse it.
I have one rule about riding my bike in the winter:
When temps are below zero, take the bus.
Today I’ve decided to add a second:
When sustained winds are at 25mph with gusts up to 37, also then take the bus.
It’s kind of a bummer, because it would be a perfect day for the heated pants, which I haven’t had out in a while, AND I just finally installed my new side cages on my new rear rack:
which makes me look super spiffy, and gives my back a feeling of freedom that, when I get over the slight panic that I must’ve forgotten my backpack somewhere, is totally awesome.
That picture is from yesterday, when temps were about the same as they are today but it wasn’t snowing and the wind wasn’t blowing and my ride was very pleasant. I was almost late to work, however, because (I stopped frequently to take pictures, and) that stretch south of Fullerton has iced over again. I had hoped we were over this. Bummer.
This is around where I’d wiped out last week… you can see how this would be a potentially somewhat hazardous place to take a spill, and why I wasn’t keen on pushing my luck and riding through it again, and why I don’t want to be anywhere near this on a bike in 37mph gusts of wind.
In totally unrelated news, yesterday at work, an Irish woman named Patty (yep) came into the cafe and told us, among many other things, that martinis are like boobs – one’s not enough but three’s too many. She said she came up with that herself but she’s sure she’s not the first one to have said it. I didn’t know how she’d have taken it if I’d have replied, no… no, you might have been the first.
When I tell people that I get around the city primarily by bike, even/especially in the winter, the most common response I get is, “aren’t the roads kind of dangerous in the winter?” A legitimate question – all that slush and ice and snow and salt and muck and goodness knows what else out on the roads, it could be a recipe for disaster. It sure is for lots of cars. But I can always tell people, with 100% honesty, that I have had more near wipe-outs crossing the back courtyard to the bike room than I ever have had out on the road. Or that my tired legs have almost tripped and I have almost fallen on my face on the stairs on my way up to the apartment after a ride… but out on the streets, I’ve always felt very safe.
I do usually take city streets in the winter – there’s that very convenient, not to mention beautiful path along the lake that connects us directly to downtown, but I’ve been avoiding it for the last few months simply because I like to have some sort of buffer between myself and the unceasing winds off the lake. They’re cold. Not even heated pants can save you when they come gusting at 30mph on an already only 15 degree day. But in these last few weeks, we’ve had some warmer/calmer days, so little by little, I’ve been venturing out there again. It feels good to reconnect with the lake, and I like biking uninterruptedly for miles, instead of having to stop every 2 minutes or so at a red light. It’s nice. I like the view of the skyline as I ride south. It’s like, hey, yeah, that’s my city.
In venturing back out onto the lake path, I discovered that one section of the path, just south of Fullerton Ave, had been blocked off and re-routed over the grass up the small hill for a stretch of about a quarter mile. This appeared to be because that section of the path ran right up against the edge of the lake and therefore was completely covered with sandy splashy crunchy (dangerous) shelf ice. This icy part has been slow to melt, even with these warmer days, but the re-route has been quick to turn into a giant, soupy, sludgy, icy, sandy, totally gross mess:
There was really no option but to close your eyes and pedal your buns off (and wear your galoshes and pack and extra pair of pants, just in case). Exhilarating, maybe, not actually my favorite thing to do on my commute. The prospect of having to plant a foot in 3 inch-deep almost-frozen sludge is just not fun, not ever. It’s really been in just the last couple days (yeah, this blog is cutting edge) that the ice on the real path by the water has melted enough that it’s passable again (and I can wear my regular shoes). Joyfully, I rode the path into work this morning, with a light breeze at my back, and I made it in a record 18 minutes. Smooth. Beautiful. No mud soup. What more could you ask for?
Coming home today, that light breeze that had been at my back had picked up just a bit, and it was now in my face. I made my way ever so slowly north into the wind, thinking I should’ve maybe opted for city streets and a buffer this evening, but the lake is just so tempting… I tried my best to think it was beautiful when all I really thought was that it was windy, until I got to that stretch just south of Fullerton, where we can finally ride the path up by the water’s edge again. I noticed, much to my delight, that the path was wet, which meant waves were crashing along the edge. Oh how long it’s been since we’ve enjoyed waves crashing along the edge of the lake!
I giggled to myself a little as I approached the spot, watching for wave crashes and wondering what it would feel like to get splashed (probably miserable, but what a fun and summery idea!). I made it through safe and dry, and as I passed I felt a big gust of wind and saw a wave crashing just behind me! I turned to look… and my turning combined with the gust of wind combined, most of all, with the frozen concrete (yeah, just ’cause the water in the lake is moving doesn’t mean it’s above freezing)… and oops, out went my back tire, and oops, out went my front tire along with it, and next thing you know, there i was, on the ground, with my bike on top of me and my u-lock about 10 ft up the road.
It was the perfect wipe out, really. That stupid head wind had me going so slowly anyway that I might as well have been standing still, and with the way the tires slipped out from underneath me, I slid so gently down onto the concrete that you might have thought that was how I always stopped my bike.
I stood up and stood my bike up. Deep breath. I checked the chain – it was still on. I spun both tires – still aligned, rims looked fine, fenders looked fine. I checked the brakes. They braked. I checked the pedals. They pedaled. I picked up my lock and hooked it back on my handlebar and hopped back on my seat and took off again.
By most counts I’m past due, really, for some sort of incident, given the number of miles I ride in a week or a season, and the kind of conditions I do it in. And I tell you what, if this is my incident, hey, I’ll take it.
And by the time I got home, I couldn’t even have told you what part of my body hit the ground – not a scratch or a bruise or anything. No mud, even.
For the record, my tired legs almost tripped and I did almost fall on my face walking up the stairs to the apartment. Always an adventure, isn’t it?