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

The Heat Is On

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Not only a classic hit from the 80s, (Thanks Glenn Frey) but a reality right now living in the Northwest. Temperatures have been usually high. Before last Saturday three digit temps were a record from 1965. Our heatwave of 115 degrees is a shock to most natives. Even though I enjoy the sun I must admit that it has been intense and scary.

At least it only FEELS like 111 degrees.

Even seeing the big number 115º made me think of the hottest temps I’ve experienced in my life. The highest temperature I recall experiencing was 118º in Athens, Greece in mid-August. Not unusual for Greece. I know that on the coast-to-coast bike trip I experienced days of temps in the high 90s and mid-100s, but I remember 118º because I had to convert it from Celsius… (47.8C). When you do math like that in the real world, you remember it.

How do you ride in high heat? I’m not an expert, but I’d say you have to work around it. One thing I do is I start early. That’s my first big tip. I’ve set out early on my daily rides during this heatwave. On Sunday I went out at 5:30 AM and it was already in the high 70s and inching up a few degrees every few minutes. Monday I woke up a little later and set out by 8AM and today was a wonderful respite from blazing heat with temps in the mid 60s. I even broke out with a case of goosebumps for a few minutes going downhill. I wanted to take a picture because I didn’t think I’d ever feel chilly again. During the summer even if it isn’t a heatwave, I tend to head out early.

Two bridges ride

Always have water. Even better if you throw in more ice cubes and let it melt during your ride. Friday I wanted to go a different route but I changed my mind at the last minute because the heat was coming on fast. Not being one to admit I should turn around and head home I figured the best thing would be to go forward toward the other bridge and cross to make my way home. It would be 15-18 miles round trip and I had water so I did it. Sunscreen is a must! The heat is a formidable opponent. I had slathered on the sunscreen and I wore one of my favorite summer garments, my Terry Soleil top. I’m not making any money to tell you this, but these tops are the bomb! They are super lightweight, moisture wicking and UPF 50+. Plus even with long sleeves they are weirdly cool and I love them!

Another tip: Ride in the shade if you can. My route did not have much shade. I was out there and exposed to the rays of the day and without some of the aforementioned tips it could have been bad. I think the heat has reminded me that it’s important to pick routes closer to parks and keep my foliage friends nearby and ride in areas where you aren’t out there like cookie dough in the oven of life.

Desperately seeking shade.

I’m bad about packing food, so another tip is you should pack a protein bar or some snack you like because you never know when you might need it. Since I’m so accustomed to commuting I don’t always remember to check my snack stash. Sometimes you can pick up something while you’re out but that may not be convenient so better to leave with something in your snack hole.

No, I’m not in Phoenix, it only feels like it.

“Shoot some over here!” It’s usually what I yell at someone watering their lawn if I happen to be going by their yard and the planets align and they spray me. I love those moments but people are becoming so much better about watering their lawns that it’s hard to find sprinklers running when I most need it. Take two water bottles and spray yourself with one. While we’re on the topic of water, another top tip for riding when the heat is on is to carry a bandana or just soak a shirt and wear it.

I’m a slow rider. Works great in the summer months to ride slowly especially in the heat. You wouldn’t want to sweat any more than absolutely necessary.

Thanks for reading. Try any of the ones I mentioned? How do you cope with riding in the heat? Any tips you want to share that you completely endorse for riding when the heat is on?

Feel free to comment.

Until next time… stay cool and get out there and ride.

Bike Goddess

Where’s My Oscar?

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I’ve always wanted one and I think this year I really earned it. The whole line goes like this: “Where my Oscar for acting like everything is fine?” A friend of mine posted it and I’ve been thinking about it today. Nailed it!

The drama of the last few months of school is something I will spare you, dear reader. Suffice it to say that I survived and now I look forward to some fallow time to find myself and my life. I want to reclaim my time. I have some advice for you. If you know a teacher or anyone in education, please just say, “Thank you.” Maybe they deserve it, maybe they don’t, but I’ll tell you something, if I was a tire and this year was my tread, I’d be shredded. 

This is from a kids bike. They know how to shred!

I’m a seasoned, veteran educator which is a diplomatic way of saying I’ve roamed the land with the dinosaurs. I love it, however, even I haven’t seen a year like this. I’m not okay. None of us are. Not really. We will pretend. We will continue to act like it’s fine. We will continue to do what we do. Friday was the last day of school and I’m slowly regaining consciousness.

The first Monday of break is always a real day. It’s not the Monday of Sunday night plans and preparations, it’s just a day full of unstructured time. Potential just waiting to unfold. The only thing I know for sure is that my first Monday will include a bike ride. Some riding and some writing will get me on the road the finding my way through.

Get out there and ride your bike!

Thanks for reading.
Bike Goddess

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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Friday the 13th, 2020

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Today’s sunny day was lucky!

I’ve always been superstitious. That said, Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day for me. I never go into a Friday the 13th thinking something bad is going to happen. 

I could never have imagined what happened on this day last year. 2020. It was the last Friday when life could be called normal. It’s the sort of life altering day that seems prophetic by the light of 2021. When I look at pictures of me and my students in the studio doing the news LIVE, or being together with our unmasked faces, I wonder if we had any clue what was ahead. Of course not. There was a massive run on books in the library and shelves were left in disarray when students learned that we would be starting Spring Break weeks ahead of schedule. It was a great wonderful mess that made me feel happy to have something they wanted. Books! But it was also paralyzing. There was an upcoming musical and the cast was  commiserating in the library and clinging to each other but also looking to the adults for answers. We didn’t have many if any answers. 

Chromebooks and books checked out in droves.

Then the doors were shuttered and we went home and our world of screens and Zoom meetings became our new universe. Schedules were completely overhauled and even though I’d had solid video editing experience at the juncture even I had to learn other tools. So many other tools. 

Remembering that a year ago it seemed like there was no one else out. A biker’s dream!

We had 5 days to shift, pivot, swivel, think, mourn and wonder what was next. The anxiety could be seen in everyone’s eyes through the little Zoom screens. We all looked like the sun was too bright in our eyes or our brows were furrowed enough to create a unibrow of distress and uncertainty. Then we had “spring break” week to rest, but no one did. I worked. I was trying to think about what my job would look like and how I could help provide assistance to teachers remotely. I could continue to offer classes and record instruction and share the videos with teachers. There was a massive push for eBooks and audiobooks, so I used the remaining money in my budget to purchase those resources. It wasn’t much but it was something. I created a Google Classroom for students who wanted to join to have virtual contact with other kids in my school. I would post tasks, ideas, suggestions, videos, lessons every weekday during their breaks. It never stopped either. Even now, evenings, weekends, everyday is consumed by school.

With my commute less than 20 feet, my biking life changed drastically. Instead of going to and from school I would wait until the end of the day and ride to all the Little Free Libraries and stock them up with books from my home. I’d even move stock around if I noticed that one was brimming with books while another was nearly empty. I rode not to or from but around. I rekindled my love of the ride. Just to get out there and ride with no destination or task in mind.

Did you have a period of time when you sampled masks? I did. I tried one or 10 others to see which one(s) fogged my glasses the least. The weather was decent which made getting out easy and predictable. 

Here I am a year later. I’m grateful that I’m healthy and one shot away from fully vaccinated. I’m employed and able to continue working in a job I love. I’m also grateful there’s a vaccine and that little by little the students are returning to school and life is starting to expand beyond my house and my school. I have a fashionable assortment of masks and all in all life is good. It is hard, but it is working out. It always was good, but a pandemic helps reveal all that is good.

My wanderings to every Little Free Library within 20 miles of my house.

Saturday the 13th of March 2021, I rode my bike on a gorgeous sun shiny day. The daffodils are popping up like sunshine at your feet and I see the rhododendrons are also starting to flower and I can’t help but think of the lyrics from Sheryl Crow, Soak Up The Sun, “…It’s not having what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got.”

Today was a good day. I hope your’s was too. 

Take care out there.

Be safe.

-Bike Goddess


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Snowlandia

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This Trek Stache 5 is the best snow bunny.

Winter has fallen. Snow is not unheard of in my corner of the world, but it doesn’t often stick for an hour let alone a day. Flurries were expected yesterday but the weather has a mind of its own. It has been snowing all day and now it’s as if confectionary sugar has been scattered everywhere. I have learned not to get too attached to the snow. Instead I seize the moments however sleeting and take a quick ride or at least a few pictures and marvel at its beauty. The bright blanket of white that both confuses and awes young and old alike. 

Snow has a quiet quality until it mixes with freezing rain. As it begins to transform into icy pinheads you can hear it in the trees and its audible droplets turn the powder into sheets of ice as soon as they hit the ground. The freezing chorus whips into song as the wind blows. I don’t fancy riding on it when it’s icy. I prefer the powder. Admittedly wearing a mask and riding in the snow means I can’t see a flake in front of my face. Very few people out in it because we just don’t know how to drive in this weather since we seldom have to do it.

It could be gone by the morning. It’s a welcome change from the usual weather du jour. The forecast says more is on the way and it won’t be turning to rain until Monday.  I like the possibility that it will linger a bit longer. Like a guest you didn’t even know you missed. I’ll give credit to the pandemic for making me more aware of the subtleties in changes. Everything small feels miraculous and worthy of note.

Brisk ride at midday. Perfect powdery combination for a ride.
Me in the mirrored eye leaving after my first dose of the vaccine.

In other news, I got my first dose of the vaccine today. That is notable since this day was all about getting to the site to get the shot. I was considering biking to the clinic or taking the bus, but my guy drove me. In Portland there were vaccinations scheduled to be administered at the Convention Center and in Vancouver at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Both were closed due to the snow. I wasn’t nervous about getting my vaccine but when the nurse told me that the other sites were closed I felt waves a gratitude that it worked out for me. This whole thing has been like gambling. In 29 days it will be March 13th when life in the pandemic started. My school building closed and the whole pandemic-quarantine-bubble existence kicked off.

View of the park across the street. Great light dance on the snow.

Who knows what’s around the next corner? Let’s not even guess. The snow is beautiful. I had a brisk ride in the powder and I got my first dose of the vaccine that didn’t even exist until recently.

I’d say that’s a good day.

I hope you had a good day too.

Get out there and ride or take a walk.

Stay safe. Stay kind.

Thanks for reading!
Bike Goddess