Paddle Over Peddle

Featured

We cyclists work out the lower half of the body with every revolution. Whether we go fast or mosey our way to and from work or wherever, we are working out our legs, calves, thighs and gluts. We ride the waves of the pavement like a surfer amidst the swells. Our arms, biceps, shoulders and back hold us in place but they don’t get half the workout that our southern regions do.

Kayak time.

Even professional cyclists have massively muscular legs with well defined calves and quads while their arms look like linguine. I’m not a professional but I do love it when I notice my leg muscles. I mean I can’t see ‘em but sometimes you flex and suddenly you’re like, “Whoa, those are my legs and dang, there’s some new definition there.”

In the waning days of summer as the start of a new school year looms I’ve been longing for the water. My guy sails and he’s very good at it. I love the feel of sailing but I admit that within a short time of being on board, I’m ready for a nap. The lulling action is like being rocked into the lands of Wynken, Blynken and Nod. Also, I’m here to admit to you dear readers that sailing is an all day event and unlike biking you’re at the mercy of the currents and wind and factors that on a bike you can usually change by going left or right and trying a different route. I’m not the sailor my guy is nor is he the biker I am.

Not my dog in the water, but that’s our sailboat.

We’ve been trying for over a week to go out for a sail, but there hasn’t been enough wind to scoot a napkin across a table let alone fill sails. We have a kayak and the ducks and geese in the marina have been terrible tenants. There was evidence of their derelict behaivor and partying so we decided to remind them that it belongs to us. Within an hour we had it all cleaned up and ready for action.

Geese what? They quite literally did #2 on our kayak cover.

After a deep cleaning and super scrub we successfully exfoiliated all the moss and algae and unidentified green goo from the underside and I went out for a paddle. Not a typo, I paddled a kayak. A paddle over peddle means that a muscle group heretofore unused got a bit a of a workout. It was a gorgeous dead calm day in the marina which means I had a great time paddling about like I was on an Olympic Paddle Team. It was glorious and I stayed out there for over an hour.

I’m not a seasoned kayaker, but I’m not a novice either. Here’s how it usually goes. I go out and then the next day my arms scream for relief and I don’t go out again for 4 years. I was thinking about that as I paddled around. Don’t overdo it in such a way that you never want to do it again.

Despite the fact that the opening to the Columbia beckoned to me like a siren I opted for the safety of the marina. I have no idea what the currents are like and IF my triceps could handle it.

I could stop and start and turn around pretty easily and I was feeling good. I was musing about taking a kayak trip of the whole Columbia, but of course, that’s the lustiness of adventure speaking. I paddled around and felt like a teenager who got their driver’s license. I didn’t know I could record kayaking as a Strava activity or else I’d have proper evidence. Next time.

What about that other muscle group known as the upper body? I’m happy to report that the next day my triceps were fine. Okay, a little stiff but if anything I feel ready to go again. I’m not as sore as I thought I would be. That must mean that I yell and wave my arms at offending car traffic enough to keep those muscles toned.

What’s the attraction? Why kayak instead of a bike ride? Some cyclists run. I’m not a runner. However with all these activities you are communing with nature and enjoying the world around you in a different way and seeing life from another perspective. I’m always up for that kind of adventure.

I rarely choose anything over a bike ride, but sometimes you gotta get out there are try something else. Paddle over peddle? Sure, it’s every bit as fun. What about you? Ever been kayaking? What did you think?

Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate it and I hope you enjoy the rest of the month. Stay safe and take care.

Kayak Goddess. Nah, just kidding. It doesn’t have the same ring. Until next time, get out there and ride. Or paddle.

Bike Goddess

Le Tour de Imagination

Featured

I’ve been watching Le Tour de France this summer. I’m always in awe of how fast, how far and just how this race comes together. Think about it. Twenty-three days and multiple countries on flats and in mountains and always right alongside rabid fans. It’s a spectacle that captivates my imagination. I stopped watching in 2017 because I was traveling in July. Then Paul Sherwin of the Phil Ligget/Paul Sherwin team of commentators for the Tour died in 2018 and I couldn’t listen. I missed their collaborative banter. They were such a great team of commentators whose “suitcase of knowledge” about the sport made me feel like I should sit up and take notes. It wasn’t the same without Paul. But this year with Bob Roll riding shotgun with Phil Liggett plus Chris Horner and Christian Vande Velde in the studio it’s been amazing. Watching these young riders primed and ready to attack is entertaing and fun once again. I’m not one for watching any other sport so take this all with a swig of your favorite sports beverage.

I’ve been entertained to such a level that I’ve taken my 2012 Trek Portland road bike (probably more of a touring rig) out for a spin on more than one occasion in the last several days.

Must be special if I’m putting on the cleats.

As a commuter I forgot what a road bike feels like. It’s a different sort of riding experience when you clip in and go. I’m amazed at how swift and agile the machine feels. Shifting is instantaneous and your heart pumps with a pace that makes you feel alive and ready to race and pace with anyone around. I immediately saw a rider in front of me and went full tilt to catch ‘em like a retriever eyeing a bird. Of course the guy was in his 70s and on a tricycle with a basket, but still, in my mind he was Chris Froome.

The 2006 Trek Portland is more of a touring rig, but still, she can move.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a racer but gosh it seems like such an exciting life. The bikes are exquisite and I love that the traffic is all in service to the riders. The cars are ready to serve each rider whatever they need; water, air, food, energy bar, a new bike, now that’s perfect.

My husband has stepped up to the challenge of watching with me too. “What’s the Green jersey?” He asks. “But the dots are mountains?”

It’s fun to realize what I know about TdF standings as if I’m a child who knows all the names of the dinosaurs. “He doesn’t have the legs today,” I’ll observe or when I explain how the riders need to cool down after a ride.

“I’m only watching this because of YOU.” My husband observes daily but it’s genuinely fun because the arena is the world. I mean how amazing is it to hear all the languages and see the sights and scenery. I especially love when the rider crosses the finish line and punches the air with the herd of helpers gathering around with water and congradulatory pats and shoulder squeezes.

I understand why people speak in sports metaphores when I watch the Tour. Life is full of stages and some are mountain stages when others are flat and steady but all in all you get up, get dressed and go out there to see if you have the legs. You see what you can do. Some days you’re in the peloton just keeping pace, helping your mates and other days you’re on the podium.

Keeping pace.

Thanks for reading. Have yourself a Yellow Jersey sort of day.

Get out there and ride. Stay safe.

Bike Goddess

The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1

Featured

If it was raining would you know if someone threw water in your face? I ask because last week while riding home from school a kid in the backseat of a car emptied his water bottle in my face and then threw the bottle at me.

Not being one to litter, I stopped and got the bottle and I was so confused by the whole incident I didn’t get a license plate but I did get a good look at the kid and the white Scion hatchback so even though I couldn’t “catch” them to throw the liter bottle back in the car and say, “Hey, dingdongheads you dropped this!” I did manage to think it over well enough to compose a decent blog post.

Over time I have been extremely lucky and had very few encounters like this out on the road. As the rain got a bit heavier and I thought about the times I’ve yelled back at a driver I can say it’s enough to count on one hand.

This sitch was different because there was someone else driving and the kid in the backseat seemed to be gleeful about his actions. I heard him laugh as if he heard a hilarious joke.

After retrieving the bottle I thought I saw them on the opposite side of the road but my glasses were dotted with drops and the din of rain and traffic noise made it hard to tell what was going on. Plus, there are lots of white cars out there.

Once I got home I was telling my husband and he said I should report it. Uh, how do you do that? It’s nonemergency and so do you call 911 or is there another number.

It’s 3-1-1 and there’s a dispatch operator who took down the details I report and asked me a few clarifying questions and then an officer called me to go over the the incident.

Bear in mind that I ride this route every single weekday. Monday through Friday, if I’ve ridden my bike to school I’m very likely riding this East-West stretch home. It’s wedged between a high school and a middle school and in a dozen or more years I’ve never had something hurled at me. Drivers along this segment are accustomed to the bike lane which is what makes this whole event all that much more startling.

“Would you recognize the kid if you saw him again?” Inquired the officer.

“Yes, I defintely could recognize him. He had reddish hair, no mask so I could see his face. He was 15-16 years old.” I replied.

“Yes, that’s consistent with other reports. Were you injured?” He wondered.

“No. The bottle missed me but it was certainly aimed at me. He emptied the water in close proximity to me and seemed like I was being splashed with extra water. It was as if I hit a branch on a tree that was heavy with water on its leaves. But I wasn’t near a tree. Then I saw the bottle and heard his laughing.” I explained.

“Hmm. Do you want to file a report in such a way that you have a case number?”

“No. I want you to know in the event that it happens again.” I continued.

“There have been other reports of a kid in a white hatchback who throws stuff at people walking or riding their bikes. We think he’s being picked up at school. That’s my beat, so I know.” The officer elaborated.

“Really?! Wow! I ride this all the time and this is a first, but I’ll keep an eye out.” I declared.

“Yes, and you have my number so if anything comes up don’t hesitate to let me know.”

After I hung up I felt like it was a small win for bikers. I also loved hearing the word “beat” in the conversation and I thought maybe he had one of those notebooks you jot down notes in like all the cop shows.

The next day, Friday, I took off like normal but when I got to the spot where the bottle was thrown I stopped for a moment to see if I got the cross street correct. Yes, it was 144th. Okay, good. Behold in front of me was the hatchback.

1 Adam 12

I took a few pics of it and called the officer and gave him a license plate. This is consistent with the other part of the story in which I heard the deliquents again on the other side of the street. I just couldn’t see since they probably passed as I was passing on the other side. They didn’t have school on Friday, but my school did, so I was out and about gathering evidence, I mean riding to school.

Overall, this was an interesting experience. The 4-1-1 on calling 3-1-1 is that you should do it. What’s the worst that can happen? You take a little bit of time to report an incident which could lead to helping out the next person. It’s important to the safety of others if you or someone else is harmed or threatened.

Be safe out there! Don’t let the dingdong heads keep you from enjoying the ride. As I mentioned before this incident was rare but it rattled me until I got it on the record and now I feel like I did my civic duty and maybe helped someone in the future. There’s strength in numbers and my dear readers and fellow bikers, we have to stick together.

Watch your 6 o’clock and get out there and ride.

-BG

Year of the Tiger(s)

Aside

Born in Detroit but also Year of the Tiger

Happy Lunar New Year! I like that it’s a new month and another new year. January was intense for me. January is usually the one month out of the 12 that sort of comes with too many expectations and it has this never-ending quality which is overwhelming. It was challenging to ride and you’ve read my ongoing complaints about rain, so January was a slog.

January is all business. I usually set some goals like how many books I want to read this year (100) and how many miles I want to ride (5,000) and other than that I’m going to enjoy the days and the seasons and see what comes. Not too many plans. I’d like to post more on my blog, but that’s a very indefinite goal. I noticed I posted the first part of last and I’ll admit with my Tigers shirt I felt a post coming on. I know if I’m too definite I end up disappointing myself so when the muse speaks I listen and try to write.

What else? Maybe traveling will come back into view, but if it doesn’t I’ll have to be okay with that. Maybe I’ll get the basement of the house finished but it’ll have to be okay if that doesn’t pan out either because I’m content and I’ve learned over the last two years that that’s a gift all by itself.

I won’t hedge my bets this year on anything and I’ll tame the tiger in me a bit and try to nurture the calm instead of getting riled up. That’s important for the Tiger born since we’re often “hungry for excitement” and I agree that I often look for mischief and even when I try to avoid it, well, it comes my direction anyway.

January night ride.

Ox and Goat are considered the “luckiest” signs in the Chinese zodiac and apparently wearing red will bring you luck in your birth sign year. Maybe I should buy a red bike? Riding a red bike would certainly be the luckiest way to celebrate, don’t you agree? Red isn’t my favorite color, but let’s agree that red bikes are attractive. Have you ever owned a red bike? My first bike was red. It also had three wheels, but it was a beauty.

I am superstitious. I’m Greek, so I was trained in the ways of my grandmother, my yiayia, that itchy palms mean money coming your way and you enter a house with your left foot and you always spit to bring good fortune and toss salt behind an unwanted guest and they’ll leave. I think a red bike for good luck makes sense. There’s one Greek superstition that involved the color red. If you and someone else are talking and you both same the same thing at the same time, like when you say, JINX, well to the Greeks that means that you and the other person are going to have a big argument so you touch red cloth to bread the spell. I know, right? You can’t make this stuff up. A red bike seems to make the most sense.

As the sun sets on one month and we get closer to Spring, life starts to feel less dark. Yes, there’s more light and we’re waking up out of hibernation and it feels good. Winter won’t last forever and we can all roar into another month. I may not see the sun often enough but when I do I try to take a picture so I can remind myself that it’s going to be okay.

Thanks for reading. Greeks also like to say, “Good month” or “Καλο μηνα” at the start of each month. That’s less a superstition than it is a good omen. Now where’s my evil eye? (called το ματι in Greek. Wards off the bad stuff.

Until next time. Take care.

Bike Goddess

Racing A Roadie

Featured

Roadie Dude

I wish I was a primo athlete who cared about racing with others, but the fact of the matter is that even if I cared (which I sort of do) I am not that type of cyclist. I learned that fact early. Last week on my regular commute to school I was in my zone listening to a book and a roadie came up on my left and started to pass me. Now keep in mind that I ride 11.2 miles to work and about 12 miles back home in the afternoon with a rambunctious day of working with middle school students in between so I’m pretty much tuckered out by dinner time. Being a teacher means you are active. Maybe some have some time to sit, but I rarely do. Teaching is a workout!

Back to the roadie who dared to pass me. He was in full roadie regalia and I saw him off to my left as I was scanning the streets and taking in the sparkling sunshine. He said, “I decided I probably shouldn’t be pacing off you. So I’ll just pass.” Suit yourself, I thought.

I turned my audiobook off and decided to engage. I launched into conversation, keeping pace with him side by side. He’s likely in his mid to late 40s and he used to race. I’ve never met a roadie who didn’t claim that they used to race. I usually say that I prefer touring to racing, but again there’s very rarely a follow up question about what sort of touring I have done. He says, “I’ve always thought of eBikes as cheating but I can see and hear that you’re working.” Good thing my glasses are tinted because I was rolling my eyes! I was carrying the conversation, so yeah, I was talking and keeping his pace of 19-22 mph in first level of assist on my Specialized Como Turbo eBike. I’m pretty sure I could have kept pace with the electric juice anyway, but I might not have stayed with him for 5 miles. Maybe. But maybe he couldn’t have either.

I was having a blast. But consider this if you will. I am not an athlete. I don’t claim to be athletic or even sporty. I am lucky to keep my weight in check and ride a bike. I have bike commuted for over 20 years. I am average height and weight and I work at eating my salads and not overdoing it on anything. I think even if hired a trainer and worked on speed and climbing and time trials I’d still only manage to be a roadie who could crank it out at 12-15 mph. I don’t have speedy legs. I don’t care about being fast. I do care about getting on my bike everyday and riding my rides and my routes and being in my bike-ish element. End of story. Also, I ride an eBike for commuting, errands and whatever else I want to do but that doesn’t mean I ONLY ride eBikes. I love all my bikes and I ride non-ebikes as much if not more than eBikes. Also it’s assist, not a freakin’ motorcycle or a mo-ped or a scooter. Good grief, people are weird about eBikes and honestly I think it’s bizarre and narrow-minded. Is a carbon fiber frame cheating? Is electric shifting somehow cheating? What about people who drive less than 5 miles? Should we shame them? I mean why didn’t they walk the mile to the store instead of drive? I digress!

He’s a fair-weather cyclist who likes to put in some miles before he goes to work and even though he raced when he was younger it’s hard to get in the miles now. He has had a few different brands of bikes and one of his favorite bikes was a Specialized he had in the 90s. He asked some questions about types of eBikes and he said he was interested in trying it out because clearly you could as I demonstrated get a good workout with one. Plus it could replace a car. I was pleased to hear him say something supportive.

As we got to the part of the conversation that was more, “Well, it was nice talking with you…” I told him to ride like he would normally and I’d pace him. Now whether he was showing off or not, I don’t know, but I paced him at 24.4 for about a mile and then he decided to make a left turn and we waved good-bye.

We like our categories, containers and levels don’t we? I wish we weren’t like that. Bikes are bikes and you should take care of them so they can take care of you. Bikes are transportation and exercise and touring and racing and cargo movers and carts and anything else you need them to be. If you see a person with a certain type of bike you assume things about them. I’ve see more than my fair share of roadies who didn’t look like roadies and I know I don’t look like much of a biker but let’s not let that get in the way of us riding our bikes. Just ride your bike!

Whatever your ride, enjoy it and don’t let anyone give you a flat tire of attitude about how, where, how far or what you ride. Just be you. Get out there and ride your bike and throw a wave along the way because that’s always encouraging.

Take care out there! How do you feel about other riders or bike or interacting with riders you meet on the way?

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

The 411 on The 606

Aside

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!

Aside

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