The 411 on The 606

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Welcome, indeed!

If you’re looking for urban perfection then follow the trail to the 606. It’s an oasis for cyclists, runners, walkers, dogs, cats, birds, you get the gist. When I got my introduction, I thought, “Is this heaven?” The response, “It’s Chicago!”

My affinity for Chi-town, the Windy City, Second City, started at birth. My mother’s side of the family hails from Chicago. When we would visit nearly every other weekend I loved the tuk, tuk, tuk of the L, and I adored how when I stayed with my grandparents, we’d walk everywhere. Mostly to get bubble-gum ice cream outside the Sears Robuck. My Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) would hold my hand and we walk slow and steady so I could drink in the sights and sounds.

This post isn’t about the Memory Trail though, it’s about the 606, a.k.a. The Bloomingdale Trail. If you use Trail Link I’ve linked the map. At 2.7 miles you might think, “Meh, what’s the big deal?” Yes, it’s short in length but long in personality, character, art, landscape and history. It’s elevated too. Read that bit again. It’s elevated. Like heaven.

The eyes have it all and this ingenius art installation called Bird Watching by #JennyKendler from 2018 is stupendous. There are 100 photographs of birds’ eyes watching and each bird is named on a placard labeling the installation. I spent about 20 minutes studying it all and watching families interact with it. Pure joy!

I’m glowing!

As I was riding I couldn’t help but think that this trail is one of my new happy places. I’ve uncovered a secret. My cousin’s hubby told me about it and while he’s not a cyclist, he is a train guy. He’s an expert on all things rail and when he first told me about it I started to research it on Trail Link and then I wondered how I would ride to the trail. This is often a challenge when you hear about a possible trail and you’re lost when it comes to navigating easily to the trail.

Cool mural on the way to the trail.

It’s easy enough to get to if you’re staying/visiting/living in the Lakeview East area. I had some directions from him which I checked with the Maps App and Google Maps and it worked out pretty well. There were a few busy stretches but I don’t recall a street that didn’t have a bike lane. There’s a small portion on Cortland that could use some paving but all in all I arrived in under 20 minutes and then spent a few hours exploring the the 606.

14 feet wide with plenty of room to stop or pass.

It’s on Chicago’s northwest side and it’s built on an old rail line, hence the elevated bit. It sits about 20 feet above four of the city’s neighborhoods: Humbolt Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Bucktown. You get a distinct feeling that you are one with the world as you traverse effortlessly atop the city as if you are a rare bird trying to decide where to build a nest.

You can easily use ramps to get down into the neighborhood for a closer look at murals you can see from the 606.

On your left a mural and on your right an art installment then oh is that another mural and wait a statue and on and on for nearly 3 miles. The perfectly paved trail is 14 feet wide so there’s plenty of room for everyone. It wasn’t crowded and I had plenty of room even whilst people were walking with double strollers, big dogs, little dogs and inline skaters.

A feast for all the senses.

I regretted every picture I didn’t take, so I tried to take many pictures, but it’s hard to capture it all. There was a point when I was riding and these exquisite blossoms were waving at me and I felt like I was being caressed even visually massaged by the color orange. My senses were like fireworks on the 4th of July.

Orange you glad you’re learning about the 606?
I neglected to bring my handlebar mount but I did manage to get a little video of the trail. The flowers.

Chicago has an impressive trail system. According to Trail Link there are more than 200 miles of on-street protected, buffered and shared bike lanes. The 19-mile Lakefront Trail is possibly the most well known, and the 606 is worth exploring. Chicago is a great place for cyclists. Why is it called the 606? That’s the first three numbers of the zip code and the areas it goes through. The 606 is just one more reason to love Chicago. The 606 is worth riding again and again and in different seasons. Oh, there’s an idea! Yes, dear reader, I will return to the 606 and next time I write about it I’ll include more video.

Katniss Everbike (mentioned in the previous post) did a great job. #mybrompton

Can a trail be inspiring? Can a trail infuse you with enthusiasm? I think so. The 606 is inspiring. Well done, Chicago!

How about you? What trails have stayed in your memory. Share a trail you love. Thanks for reading. Get out there and ride your bike!

Bike Goddess

It’s A Bromptime!

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They look like clown bikes if you ask me. Honestly they do. How can they possibly even BE bikes that you could actually ride for more than a few miles! Bromptons are like a praying mantis with wheels or a pterodactyl that mated with a pennyfarthing. Yet, they are the most elegant, feisty and dynamic wee bike machines I’ve ever had the privilege of riding. They’re truly a marvel.

It started as a conversation with my husband who has a Brompton he bought a few years back. I thought I’d see if he’d let me borrow his for a trip to Chicago. Poor Bromptosaurus (as we named it) was just folded up in the garage and I thought I could coax him into letting me borrow his for the trip. But my plan backfired when he decided he’d like to get back into riding it.

We went to the bike shop to check on a used carrying case for the Bromptosauras and ended up buying a bike for me. Yeah, it all happened so fast and color played a big part in the whole story. We tinkered with the case and getting his bike inside properly and there was this used red one that I took for a test ride and one thing led to another and suddenly I was taking a test ride on an orange beauty that reminded me of Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games because the orange flame lacquer was shining bright and it felt like I was on a chariot with flames coming off the rear wheels. I have a very healthy imagination. Find me and #KatnissEverbike adventures on Instagram. Next thing I know, Clever Cycles has my credit card and I’m considering accessories and of course bike bags.

Katniss has a straight handlebar and all she needed was a dynamo light system and then Brompto and Katniss could be canoodling Brompties and the whole household could be happy.

New Bike Day with Katniss Everbike: June 6, 2021

Size matters when it comes to traveling with a bike. On a Brompton, it’s three folds and a pedal and with origami engineering it feels compact and creative. Such an engineering genius. Since new bike day Katniss and I have been to Chicago by train and then back home via plane and then I got a “special bag” from Ikea called Dimpa that’s a solid investment at $5 for traveling with your Brompton via car so we went on a short road trip with our bikes in the boot.

My S6L in flame lacquer.
The Dimpa bag from Ikea is $4.99 and an easy way to pack up a Brompton for a road trip.

I’m enjoying a new lease on life with a bike that acts like a Yorkshire Terrier. It’s small, compact and ready to go, go, go. All bikes come with energy, and the Brompton seems to have an unbridled energy that begs you to get into places you might not go with a regular bike. You can take your bike inside a store or restaurant with you. With 6 gears you’d think you were on a short leash, but quite frankly I feel free and ready to ride off into any sunset, anywhere.

This is the kickstand fold. The sculpture is called The Kiss.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You can rent a whole lot of a bikes for what it costs to buy a Brompton. Yes, but… I have and I’m sort of done with that drama. Also, I’ve done that for more than a decade. This gives me more freedom to get out into the world and explore and travel.

I happened to meet a bike mechanic at the Specialized Store on Halstad in Chicago who used to work at Brompton. He said he loved Bromptons and he especially loved the people who rode them. “They’re cool people,” he added. I might have beamed a bit when he said that. I sure feel cool when I’m riding. They have a BMX sort of vibe. People do look at you a bit but and sometimes they ask questions about how Brompties ride. When you’re fluent in bike all that matters is that you’re enjoying the ride and experiencing the place where you’re riding. That’s all part of the adventure.

Bromptosaurus and Katniss in Chicago.

Do you travel with your bike? Tell me about it in the comments.

Until next time, get out there and ride your bike.

Stay safe,

Bike Goddess

Chicago near Buckingham Fountain

Out of True

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I’m a year older tomorrow. I don’t feel older. That’s good. I do feel wiser. Since my last birthday which involved a masked party in my mom’s garage (which was great), the pandemic has been the top story. This whole year has been about surviving the pandemic and getting the vaccine and pivoting in ways that let me know I should practice yoga. At work, remote and in person have given way to roomers and Zoomers. Every day has been an adjustment to an ever changing landscape of challenges. Like the spokes on a wheel help the wheel hold its shape. Each day of my 58th year has been a spoke helping to move me forward and get me through.

Spokes are pretty amazing when you consider what they do for a bike wheel. They take all the stress we put into our bikes. As I understand it, the spoke pulls the rim toward the hub. Spokes have to put up with all sorts of stress. Consider those potholes you hit because you’re watching traffic. Consider the time you lob yourself over a curb to avoid a squirrel or what about just trying to go a little faster and on the road only to end up on gravel or worse. The tension makes them stronger.

That’s all well and good for a wheel but what about life? It has been a very tense year. School is extremely stressful and even if you are doing your very best you feel like an utter failure everyday. Everyone does and you can’t even complain without hearing someone best your story with one of their own. “Yeah, you’re right,” I want to say, “You are working harder.” We have these signs on campus that extol positive messages. I’m all for that and yet I overthink them. One is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Okay, so what should I do instead? I feel both driven and lethargic. I tell myself to focus on the students and think about them first and foremost and in the same moment I feel ignored by coworkers. An island. Alone. We are isolated and every meeting and most interactions fall short of community and connection. 

My balance.

A maladjusted spoke makes the wheel out of true and wobbly. I love the way that sounds: out of true. Whoa! Conversely if it is balanced than it is trued. It is aligned and working in the community of spokes. Truing in bikes is making those tiny adjustments and getting the spokes aligned so they can handle the stress and tension of the ride ahead. It takes work to true a wheel. Typically there are 24-36 spokes on traditional bikes. Truing a wheel can mean hours to weeks of time to get it into balance. We are making similar adjustments.

That’s just it. We all have to make tiny adjustments to be true and aligned and balanced to withstand the stresses of whatever is around the corner.

William Shakespeare said it best, “To thine own self be true.” He probably was not talking about bikes but he and I share the 23rd as our birthday and I think staying true and honest to yourself is as much about balance and alignment as a spoke is to a trued wheel. 

Here’s to fair weather and trued spokes and another day to ride. Stay safe!

Bike Goddess

Thanks for reading. How do you find alignment and balance in times of stress and worry?

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Adding Up, Counting Down

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The year end countdown begins. There are numerous tasks that get counted down at this time of the year. The days are easy, but there’s are also miles, number of books read (or not read), weight loss or its opposite, pounds gained. We tend to countdown days to a vacation, or the days before the start of a season for a sporting event (TdF).

Of course, there are news stories, births, deaths and everything in between. This time of the year there are demands on our time that often don’t get on a schedule. There are cookies to be eaten and a variety of tasks that demand vigilence. The new norm is being the busiest person in the room. Sometimes we forget to countdown because we’re busy adding up. My whole working life has been about achiving some sort of balance between school and life. Most days I fail on that count, and yet I continue to try.

No big surprise, but balance for me is achieved on two wheels. It’s like those photos you see when someone is standing in the middle of the photo but there’s a frenetic city scene behind the subject. The technique is called shallow depth of field. Shallow depth is a wonderful oxymoron. When I’m trying to be the subject of my own photos, I can always count on my two wheels to help me find balance and focus within the blur of life.

2020 Full speed ahead!

The temperature today is hovering around freezing. The sky is chalky and dull. It’s not raining but it isn’t sunny. I scheduled myself for a massage and it was wonderful to relax and have my muscles stoked. I rode my bike and it was surprising how few people were out. As I count my miles and calories and add up the books I’ve read and friends and family members, I think about what awaits. A new decade on the other side of the next week will reset my miles and my goals for another year. Moving forward with hope is one thing, but sometimes hope is not a bright shiny day. Hope can be persistence. As the saying, “Keep on keeping on,” gets utilized, I think that’s good. That’s moving forward.

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, be sure to beat the drum and count the seconds to another decade. Celebrating is an essential part of counting down. How do you feel about setting goals in the new year? Tell me in the comments below. Thanks for sharing some time with me today.

Until next time.

Ride.

Bike Goddess