Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chicagoland bike ride!

When I read months ago that Northwestern would play Illinois at Wrigley Field, I was determined to make the trip back to see it.  This would be a historic game, bringing football back to Wrigley for the first time in 40 years.  So exciting was this chance that I didn't hesitate to skip my class reunion at NU in October, knowing a far better gathering was in store the following month.

When my dear college friend Glo and her husband Mike (also an NU boy) generously shared one of their tickets to the big game with me, the dream trip was suddenly a reality.

It was a total blast. There were happy surprises around every corner.  An early flight that left time for dinner with best buddy of 29 years (!) Vince.  Feasting on Chicago delicacies at places worth planning your trip around (Red Apple on Milwaukee... amazing.)  A visit to campus to walk along the lake shore and relive happy memories.  Bumping into a Bobb Hall friend a full 25 years after the last sighting and picking up where we left off, laughing about dorm adventures and characters.

And all this was before the game even started.

But what might have been the nicest surprise of all was Saturday's sunshine that opened the door to a bike ride through the suburbs with Glo.  Mike loaned his mountain bike and Glo rode her year-old, beautiful WSD road bike by a manufacturer whose name I keep forgetting.  (I'll find out and update).

Our route took us past the Chicago Botanical Gardens and through parts of Highland Park, Glencoe and Winnetka.  Although we traveled on surface streets as well, we mainly followed the bike trail that runs alongside the Metra tracks.  It's tree-lined, evenly paved and scenic.  Our fellow bikers were polite, everybody made room for strollers and joggers and the friendliness of the North Shore shone through on a gorgeous day.

We turned around at Indian Hill and headed back to Glencoe for coffee.  The entire ride was about 13 miles, but Glo's pace and the chilly air made that more than enough to get my blood pumping.

It was a great way to start a very big day and the best way to see some of the prettiest residential areas in America.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Look out below

For some reason, I'm unable to cycle alongside major roads or highways without battling the unreasonable fear that I will be struck by a flying hubcap.  In my imagined calamity, a hubcap comes loose from a fast-moving wheel and flies Frisbee-like at incalculable speed until in makes sudden, fatal contact with my face.

I'm at least half serious about this.  When I lived in New Mexico, I heard of a friend of friends who was nearly decapitated by a cast-off hubcap while riding as a passenger in a car.  The image stuck with me and still creeps me out today.

So, when riding to Davis alongside I-80, I can't shake the feeling that there is a hubcap out there with my name on it, waiting for the ride moment to slice through the Cyclone fence and knock me off my bike.

Crazy, right?  Irrational, ridiculous fear.  Could never happen.

Uh, no.  Not so crazy.  Look at this.  Look what was waiting for me on the bike trail the other day.   That's right, a damn hubcap.  And how do you suppose it got there?  That's Highway 160 in the background, some 40 feet elevated from the ground.

Clearly, somebody in a Taurus hit a pothole and the hubcap went spinning, flying, careening down the highway.  It hit a bump of its own and became airborne, clearing the guardrail and concrete wall and flying onto the bike trail below.

Here is Satan's Frisbee up close. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A wild time on the bike trail

It's been many years, but I have been to a party where I came home without my shoes.  Actually, the party was in the house where I lived, but somehow my favorite Top-siders were gone as the fog cleared the next day, and were never seen again.  That, evidently, was a pretty good party.

But I think the poster of this sign has one over on me.

The sign is posted where the bike trail meets the parking lot of a newish and very nice hotel, so it's not entirely clear where the individual was parted from his/her shoe and leg brace.  My first thought was of a rustic soiree along the river, but perhaps it was an indoor occasion, where the evening's dancing required one to be unencumbered by footwear -- or, in this case, half of one's footwear.

To make things more interesting, there's no getting around the fact that the sign implies the two missing items are a united pair.  To me, the sign quite clearly does not say, "I lost my shoe, dammit.  And, come to think of it, I have also lost, quite by coincidence, a leg brace."

No, to me the sign says, "I lost my shoe/leg brace combination.  No room here to explain, but I really, really need it back."

All of this leads me to the conclusion that the lost item is basically a prosthesis.  And while losing one has got to be a huge downer, the circumstances under which this would happen could well make you the envy of partiers everywhere.

A country ride in the city

I've got this image in my head of the kind place I'd like to tour by bicycle.  Frustratingly, the place seems to exist only in my head.  Consider:

It has to be easy to get to.  No rack on the Honda means driving to a starting point is more hassle than convenience.

It should feature country roads, tree-lined streets and something scenic.

It needs to be free of traffic.  The prettiest country road is spoiled instantly by a too-close motorist.

Well, I'm happy to report that I found at least a tiny portion of this bucolic cycling spot.  It lies just beyond the terminus of my daily commute on the American River Bike Trail.  Just a bit south of downtown, the bike trail briefly becomes one with a quiet, empty road used to access a boat launch on the Sacramento River.  This may be a busy spot on weekends, but on a weekday ride, it's completely empty.

And, it's appropriately tree-lined and scenic. 

Here it is:

Just a little farther along, the trail becomes just a trail again, but runs along the levee, giving clear views of the river as it bends and works its way toward the Delta.

There's a lesson in here somewhere about the thing you're searching for being under your nose.

A cursed fig tree

I spotted this along the nature trail in Davis, while looking for burrowing owls. 

Immediately, my thoughts turned to Matthew... and Mark.

18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

A mikespokes exclusive (I think)... bikeshare in Sacramento?

We're not known here at mikespokes for breaking news.  The biggest stories we've broken so far are: The Bike Trail is Nice; The Bike Trail Can Be Dodgy; People Can Be Rude; Old Bikes Are Cool; and Look At My New Bike.

But today is the beginning of a new era.  We have actual news.

It appears Sacramento is getting a bicycle sharing program, or at least a miniature version of something that looks a lot like one.

This afternoon, I saw a long pallet wrapped in plastic outside the CalEPA headquarters.  When I left the hearing I was attending, a man and woman had unwrapped a portion of it to reveal six locking stations of the kind seen in urban bike share programs.  I'd seen them in Brussels, Paris and Luxembourg City and read about them in Denver and other U.S. Cities but hardly expected them in our folksy capitol city.

And yet, there they were. 

Lucky for me -- and you, devoted readers -- the two workers were friendly in the way that only Canadians can be friendly.  Alex and Jenny, both visiting from Toronto, represent Electron Inc.  (or maybe Electron Technologies, or Electron Systems... I'm new to this reporting thing so don't expect precision on Day One.)

The company is installing a six-bike share kiosk outside the CalEPA building.  Would-be riders would register inside and obtain a bracelet that can be swiped at the kiosk to unlock a bike. The bikes are by Bionx and are electric-assisted models.

No word on cost or on whether the program is open to anyone other than CalEPA employees for now.  My guess is it's a pilot project that will require a CalEPA ID, but I could be wrong.

Remember, you heard it here first.