Are We There Yet?

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Remember when…

The classic line uttered by so many of us. We were kids and wanted to get there so we didn’t have to share the backseat or snacks or play stupid car games. As an only child I had none of those issues. I loved having reign over the backseat and sprawling out with my books, workbooks and assorted distractions. But I do recall watching the signs along the way to signal we were getting close to being there.

Truth told, last summer was a different story completely. We were really alone. A few weeks ago I was out there riding my bike and a group of riders heading to one of the local Pedalpalooza rides asked me to join in. Now these are amazing rides with themes like Goth Bike Ride and Dead Baby Prom and Disco Ride plus so many more. I want to ride them all. But there’s something that tugs at me and says, “Nope, not for you. Not yet.” I waved them on and thought, I can’t. Thanks, but I’m not there yet. You might be there, but I am not there. Yet.

Where? You know. There. There is the place where you can be on a bike ride with others and not be consumed with doubt about their health or Covid-19 variants. There is trusting them to tell the truth about being vaccinated. There is not feeling compelled to ask for their vaccination card. There is when you can laugh freely at a joke without wondering about the germs scattered and if you just back up a bit to be safe.

I’m not there. I’m a small group person and the small group is part of a bubble that I do know and trust without question.

Lighthouses are socially distanced. Photo from a recent trip to the Puget Sound.

I know others who aren’t either so I take solace in the fact that I’m not alone in being cautious about being with others. Plus at this point I’m totally enjoying getting lost in my own thoughts or getting lost on a new route. My alone-time will continue.

There is the place and time before it all caved in. Before we all went into our respective caves and stayed apart. Many people have endured more than I can comprehend. If the mask and a vaccine is the least I can do to help others, then sign me up. I was talking with a man who lost his job because of the pandemic. My glass in half full. I’m grateful I have my job. I’m thankful my family and friend are well. I’m grateful for the couple of trips I was able to take this summer. It’s all good in my book.

In Chicago people were masked on the street and inside businesses. However, in the Puget Sound area when I went into a little beach shack on Boston Harbor I saw only two others who were masked and the majority were not. That Includes the cashiers. I couldn’t take it. I was extremely uncomfortable at the sight. I had to get out of there. It’s an anxiety that I’m not familiar with until now. I wanted to exclaim, “You might be there, but I am not there yet, so stop staring. I am a card carrying recipient of the vaccine and I am going to continue to wear a $%&! mask. Deal with it.”

The reality is that I may not be there for quite awhile. I miss the community of riders chatting it up and swapping stories, but not enough to risk my health and the health of others.

Are we there yet? The classic question is part of being a kid and learning how to annoy your parents with such skill that you ask the question often enough that you ultimately get the response, “NO! And stop asking!”

Riding with a friend.

Whether you are there or not is not the point of this blog post. It’s merely to suggest that we respect each other enough to say, “I’m there for you when you feel like riding together again.”

That’s sweet.

Random sunset on the Puget Sound at Boston Harbor.

Thanks for reading my blog. You have no idea how motivating it is when someone clicks that STAR and LIKES a post. It makes me what to vault through the air like Simone Biles. Thanks for being here and there and supporting this little blog. You have yourself a great day and get out there and ride your bike.

Ride on!
Bike Goddess

BrompTuesday

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Have Brompton, can go anywhere!

How many miles does it take for you to know you have the right bike? I was thinking about that today when I took the adorable Brompton out for a ride. I always figured she’d be *just* the travel bike, but that’s silly because she’s such a wonder of engineering and she rides like a goat eats grass. She’s efficient and sturdy and she can go places other bikes can’t. I have hit the mark where my Brompton, (I call her Katniss) has 200 miles and I’m thrilled I have this marvel of a bike.

It took less than 200 miles to discover her talents. Today she seemed to be calling to me to take her on a trail not too far from my home. It’s wooded and rife with nooks and crannies that are fun to explore. It follows a creek and there are a few bridges to cross and it’s enchanting because there are grasslands and glens and city neighborhoods all around you.

Grasslands and glens abound on the Burnt Bridge Trail.

With its low center of gravity I feel nimble and quick on my Brompton, like Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance on wheels. I didn’t think I’d go on the trail today. I was riding around and then I went down a hill and knew I was close to the trail so I meandered about like I was looking for my glasses in the dark and found an entrance I’ve never used before. A little more and a bit more still and then I was on the trail and I kept going. The bike felt amazing. The ride felt solid and commanding. Note that I ditched both the saddle it came with and the Brooks Cambium for a Specialized saddle and all is well in the nether regions. I say this because saddles always need a few more miles of testing than bike frames require. Sometimes you have to try a few to find the right fit for your tushie. Here’s a link to the one I really like right now. The picture makes it look rather wide yet notice it on my bike. I love this one and have put this saddle on three bikes.

This is the right saddle for some BUT, not for me. I’ve had it for years but still my bum doesn’t love it.

Recently I had the rear rack added plus bigger wheels on the rack for when I take her into a store. At 200 miles I feel like my Bromptie is ready for anything. I do have a few bikes in my life because I love bikes and cycling. I don’t want to limit the Brompton to travel only so I was riding and wondering about commuting to work with my Brompton. People do it. I don’t know about that yet because I haven’t tried it. I hear people travel the world with their Bromptons and while I can’t do that quite yet I can say that she’s capable of any trips, even if it’s to the store or work.

New rack and wheels on the rack.

I’m happy to have a Brompton in the fleet and I’d tell anyone who’s thinking of getting one to do so. They are spectacular machines that deliver a great ride.

Katniss Everbike with a view.

Thanks for reading and following my blog. My bikes and I appreciate it. Have you ever tried a foldy bike? What did you think of it? If you have any questions please post them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. I’m new but I’m loving the Brompton ways.

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

Box Me In, Please!

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“A small group of thoughful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only this that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

In January 2016, I joined a small group of thoughful people who advise, advoate and work to change our little corner of the world. We meet once a month and there are some people who are always present and others, like me, who try very hard to make each meeting but run into schedule problems on occasion. We are the Bike and Pedestrian Stakeholders Group (BPSG) and we work to make streets safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. In the early days, I sat and listened and I was completely intimidated by all the traffic-speak, acroynms and history. It was hard to keep up and I often felt inept and out of the loop. Frankly, it was humbling on many level, since in my actual line of work I perform competently and with poise. In this new arena, I found it hard to find my words. The content of the meetings continues to be daunting and yet I keep going because it’s interesting and I think what we’re doing is important to the safety of our citizens.

Often times a citizen like me gets involved because they had a particular issue they want addressed. My issue was bikes more than pedestrians, and yet, through time I could see that if a project was good for peds it was usually something you could also expand to bikes. My first two concerns were bike parking in the downtown blocks and the other was an intersection near my neighborhood. The intersection had a history of challenges. At each meeting I would hear that it was being researched for bike box. A bike box is a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclists with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase. Bike boxes have positive benefits on both safety and traffic. Read more here.

There hasn’t been a meeting I attended that I haven’t asked about the status of a bike box in that tricky intersection. It was supposed to happen over the summer, then fall. A few weeks ago, my wish was granted. I saw that the road was closed for construction and I could feel myself getting fussy and frothy. I took a detour onto the sidewalk. Then in my periphery vision I saw this puddle of green paint and the work crew waxing on the color. Could it be? It is really? My bike box!  As I approached my left turn I saw a kid and his mom on bikes about to cross the street. I exclaimed something about the bike box and when they didn’t understand I said, “Follow me and I’ll show you.” They followed as I crossed the berm to talk with the workers.

Proudly I exclaimed that I was on the committe that requested this bike box.

The worker knew about the group and gave me a thumbs up. As I got into the traffic lane he said, “Miss, you’re in LIVE traffic.” But the other one told him to hold off the traffic so I could get my pic. All in all, it was a perfect moment.

I use it every day. Drivers are staying out of the bike box. In fact that was one of the constant issues on that street; drivers pulling up beyond the curb line to see traffic. For the first time in three years I feel safe, protected in my green bike box. I was part of making that happen. You could say I helped stop traffic. This victory gives me momentum that will carry me through the next issue, bike parking.

Be safe.

Get out there and ride!

BG

Clubs & Group Riding

Luna's RoadIMG_2739

Summer 2015 I stretched myself a bit on the social front and decided to go on a group ride. The Vancouver Bicycle Club is a great organization and I often see groups out and about while I’m commuting to and from work. This was my summer to seize the moment and give it a whirl. I checked out the site and found the Tuesday Friend ride was a good fit. A nice place to start. Clay is the leader.  I didn’t know what to expect. Group riding is the place to learn how to riding with others. You are in a situation where you need to point out road’s infinite imperfections to the riders behind you. Plus you signal left and right and call out “Car back” and help your fellow riders pay attention. It’s a nice change of pace and you get to socialize. Plus, someone else drives and you fall in behind. Also a fantastic way to learn new routes.

My first group ride with VBC was about 10 riders strong and I was one of three women. I found this surprising. Exciting that other women were present, but they didn’t socialize much with me. They were friends, so they talked with one another.  Once of the women was new to cycling. She bought a bike about a year ago and she was going on her first 40 mile ride on the upcoming Saturday. She was extremely nervous about it. The men were telling her how to eat and when to drink. The common advice about drinking before you’re thirsty and eat before you’re hungry. They talked about energy bars and goos.

I had forgotten the tendency cyclists have to bloviate and brag about rides of yore. My sage advice was simply to ride as your own pace. If the ride isn’t a competition, then dial it back and enjoy the day. You have to decide when you want to push it and when you need to pull back. I waxed on about a Seattle to Portland ride of some years gone by when I tried to ride in a group that was going about 18 mph. I was holding my own for 25 minutes and then I bonked. Bonked big!  I waved them on and I pulled over. I staggered to a stop and sat down with my bike on my knees. Everything got black. My eyes were open and I could not see. It was 90 degree out and I was shivering.  I stuck my head between my knees and ate a Power Bar while hearing a chorus of people ask me if I was okay. I thought I was going to die. As my vision returned and I guzzled the water I realized I suffered a classic bonk. I learned a valuable lesson that hot July day about hydration and energy. Not everyone’s pace is the same. You have to take care of yourself and know your limits.

“You did the STP?” A member asked. “We probably saw one another. Back in the day when that ride was only 4000 riders.” We swapped food suggestions. Listening to the banter reminded me on a big family reunion where everyone remembers something. “Those red potatoes. Boil those up with a little salt. That’s better than an energy bar.” Another suggested.

“Peanut butter on apples.”

Another said, “Bananas, always bananas!”

Three summer rides with the guys and a few gals of the VBC and I’m hooked. Group rides, especially with the right group, are highly recommended. Group rides remind you that you’re not alone out there; strength in numbers when you’re out on the main roads and navigating the backroads. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship even if you just met everyone. Someone has your back and there’s an energy that helps you keep up and motivates you to ride strong. As is often the case with me, I overdo it. I wanted to try the other weekly rides, like the Earthquake ride, but instead I became a card carrying member and stick to the friendly Tuesday ride. I couldn’t go with them today. I took off earlier and did the route but without the group. How odd it was! I got a few things wrong in the route and I missed Tony, Dave and Steve, plus there’s a guy who smokes a pipe as a rest stop. At first I was slightly shocked by this and now it doesn’t faze me.

Not every group will be the right fit. Nor will every ride. But you should try. When it’s good, it’s great and you make friends and learn about life outside your bubble.

When you miss the group, that’s when you know a group ride is working for you.