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Living the Dream

By | June 11, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Rogers Park to Wicker Park, Chicago
8 miles

I fly to San Francisco in the morning to meet Sadie and start riding down the coast to San Diego, but I started riding with my gear tonight. It’s really easy to get to O’Hare airport using public transportation in Chicago, but from my house it just takes a long time, at least two hours. But if I leave from my friend Charlie’s place in Wicker Park, it’s only a 35 minute ride on the blue line. So his place has become my go to launch pad for early morning flights.

It’s easier to bike panniers across town than to carry them, so I put the rack back on my mountain bike. I normally only use it for winter riding, and I keep the rack off to make it as light as possible. My touring bike is of course being shipped to the West Coast, from REI to REI. So, I strapped everything to the mountain bike, and headed out at about 10:30pm. Luckily, it’s no problem to leave my bike at Charlie’s for the three weeks I’m gone. It just blends in with the six or so other bikes he has laying about his apartment, not counting his roommate’s three or four. As long as he doesn’t start scavenging it for parts, that is!

I was about a mile from my house when I saw Bonnie, the trapeze school office manager, waiting at a bus stop. What a great start to my trip! I pulled over to talk to her for a few minutes. I love running in to people I know in random places about town. It makes me feel so local. Also, I needed to let her know a few things about the office from that afternoon. One less email to worry about!

It’s great to ride through Chicago at night, because the streets are pretty empty, but really well lit. Except for a few areas dense with bars, like the last mile or so before Charlie’s. Though I saw a surprising number of women in fully sequined dresses, none of them stepped out into the bike lane without looking, and no drunk bros waving their arms around incoherently accidentally knocked me on the helmet. (It’s happened before.) I’m getting used to cars stopping in the middle of the road, instead of pulling all the way over to the right.

However, note to drivers: if you’re going to rush around a cyclist and stop suddenly in front of them, i.e. cut me off, pull over all the way to the right so I can pass you on the left, like traffic normally works. Don’t leave space for me to go around you on the right! Why would I want to pass you on the right? So you can cut me off again?

I made it through Bucktown on a Saturday night, so I think Highway 1 should be a piece of cake. But, I will miss flat Chicago. I stayed in the same gear I normally ride in, even after I loaded about 50 pounds on my bike. I’m only saying that because I weighed in at 60 on the last trip. But it sure doesn’t feel like that much! I also think my rear tire may have been flat. It was sure squirrelly. But it has been a year since I loaded this much stuff on the bike and rode anywhere. It might have been me.

The 9th annual World Naked Bike ride also happened to be going on this evening. I saw one guy in a vest and nothing else turn off Damen at Clybourn. I figured it was over. But as I got close to his house, Charlie rode up behind me. He was headed for the Jewel to get snacks, but saw online that the naked ride was supposed to pass by 2 blocks up any minute. Suddenly, we heard a lot of yelling and honking. There they were. Some totally naked, others in various stages of undress or costume. Riding your bike naked looks very uncomfortable to me, but everyone looked like they were having a great time. Seeing us on bikes, many of the riders beckoned to us to join in. We just waved back. If I wasn’t riding fully loaded, I would have at least followed the parade for a bit. We even saw a few friends in their underwear.

Earlier, a speedy hipster cyclist had buzzed past me, commenting, “Serious panniers.” I don’t think he meant it positively. But I yelled back, “I’m riding to California tomorrow,” stretching the truth a tiny bit. He turned around to come back and ask me about it. A guy weaving on a wierd little motorbike asked me “What’s up?” when I gave him a bit of a stink eye. I don’t like people on the road acting inconsistently, especially when it’s hard to navigate with all that stuff on my bike. “Living the dream?” he asked, trying a little too hard and too weirdly to be friendly. “Well, I am riding to California tomorrow,” I replied. He didn’t have a pithy response to that. In a city full of cyclists, naked ones even, a loaded bike still turns heads.

It felt good to be self-contained on the bike again, and not nearly as traumatic to ride away with all that weight as when I started cross-country last spring. I have been riding a good ten to twenty miles nearly every day for a year since I’ve been in Chicago, so I feel like I’m in pretty good riding shape. At least, as long as the terrain is flat. It will be very interesting to see what an actual hill feels like!

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