Friday, December 22, 2006

Last Ride of the Year

I'm taking next week off so I won't be biking back to work until January.

Luckily for me this ride was pretty dry. I woke up this morning to near torrential rains to the extent that my front yard was developing a nice little pond. I planned to work a half day and on my bike ride home stop at South Wabash to pick up my wife's watch from a repairman. At 10:00 am it was still raining and the weather system to the southeast still looked pretty bad. So I checked the Doppler Radar for the Chicago area and saw the rains would be passing us by within the next few hours.

When I left work at around noon it was a balmy 50° with stiff winds from the south. Very nice. I didn't wear my long underwear bottoms and hoped to avoid a freak rain shower. Otherwise my attire was pretty much what I've been wearing for the past month or so.

At Roosevelt Road I managed a left turn on State Street to head into the loop. Vehicular traffic was pretty backed up north of Congress. All the stopped traffic formed a nice bike lane between the cars. Normally I stay to the right but too many cars were hugging the curb and blocking my way. There are definitely better streets for biking than State but I wasn't planning on staying there too long. I turned east on Monroe and worked my way to Jewelers row. The watch repairman was nice enough to meet me on the street so I wouldn't have to risk my bike getting ripped off. After getting the watch I worked my way to the Lakefront Trail.

The stiff tailwind wasn't as good as I'd anticipated. I guess all the buildings along Lakeshore Drive create currents of their own in heavy winds. Along Belmont Harbor I faced a pretty steady headwind. Oh well. I was pretty fortunate to have such a good day for riding nonetheless.

Distance Traveled: 24.5 miles
Distance to date: 1486.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.54

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Soggy Morning

I was pleased to see that it was just misting this morning as I set out on my bicycle ride into work. It was raining pretty steady the night before and I was thinking I'd have to take the train in. If I didn't have to bike over 24 miles I'd just gut out a rainy ride. But spending at least an hour and a half soaking wet in 40° weather is something I'd prefer to avoid.

My good fortune was short lived. In Wilmette I encountered light rain. In drizzling conditions my outfit does a good job keeping me relatively dry and comfortable. But my Goretex jacket doesn't quite cut it in steady precipitation. By the time I reached the Lakefront Trail the rain began to diminish and I started to dry off. For the most part I was still comfortable but the threat of getting soaked adds just a bit of stress to my ride.

My feet were in very good shape though. I wear neoprene booties over my bike shoes in cold weather. When wet weather threatens I don a plastic shopping bag over each shoe. In the past this didn't do much good because moisture on my pants and long underwear seeped down to my socks eventually soaking me to the skin. But this time I wore my pants and long underwear outside my booties. Great success.

The Lakefront Trail was nearly deserted. From Hollywood to Roosevelt Road I counted only 36 people; three dog walkers, four city employees, one guy on cross country training skis, one bicyclist and one homeless guy. The rest were runners and walkers. I seemed to have a nice tailwind though. Not a bad ride for the first day of winter.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1462.3 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

December Afternoon

I got to leave work around lunch time today which obviously enabled me to bicycle in daylight for a change. It was clear and in the low 30s with light winds. As I passed State Street on Roosevelt I noticed a slight commotion of traffic, firetrucks and news helicopters. I didn't see any billowing clouds of smoke so I figured it must have been a false alarm or a gas leak. As an afterthought I figured something might have happened on the El. Sure enough, when I watched the evening news there was a derailment on the Orange Line.

Initially I felt overdressed in my long underwear, running pants, Goretex top, headband and gloves. But by the time I was halfway into my ride my body must have regulated itself and I was pretty comfortable. The only noticeable headwind I encountered was on the northernmost leg of the Lakefront Path. Other than that it was a very enjoyable ride.

I detoured to my brother's house on Chicago's north side. He and his roommates have a bee hive on their garage. It is wrapped up for the winter but they harvested 100 pounds of honey in the fall. At first I thought they were crazy and their neighbors would hound them into getting rid of it. Surprisingly a condo owner with a balcony overlooking the hive likes it very much. She told my brother her father kept bees when she was a little girl. I don't eat honey but maybe I'll sample some of next year's supply.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1438.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I started a little after 6:00 am on my way to work. Soon after I got onto the Green Bay Trail I noticed a light from behind which was a guy on a road bike who whizzed right past me. He was moving pretty good and I thought he must be out for a training ride. I kept an eye on his flashing tail light until it disappeared in the distant bend just past Indian Hill. As I biked by Sears School in Kenilworth I noticed I gained some ground on him. I figured he got up some steam to pass me but eventually petered out some (that is my MO anyway). He continued south on the Green Bay Trail through Wilmette and I closed to within a block of him. Once he got onto the smooth straightaway on Poplar he sped up again. We both turned east on Isabella but he turned south before reaching Ryan Field and I figured he was headed to his home nearby. But as soon as I reached Sherman in Evanston I saw his blinking light again. He must be headed to work in the city as well. He didn't have a bag or any other load so maybe he is able to stash everything he needs at his destination. I lost him for good amid the Evanston traffic.

I find commuting in the fall darkness to be slower and a bit more stressful than in the summer. As I crossed Howard into Chicago I thought to myself that I still had fair distance to ride rather than enjoying being on my bike. Lately working my bike rides into my schedule has added to an already pressure fill work environment. But at least the exercise gives me a chance to clear my head.

While turning from Clark to Granville I noticed a bicyclist's headlamp about a half block behind me. I got green lights all the way to the Lakefront Trail so never saw him until he streaked by me. He was also on a road bike with a small messenger bag; definitely much better suited to speed than I was. Then about ten seconds later comes the same guy that past me on the Green Bay Trail! He either has a rotten route or stopped for a long breakfast. Either way I had the displeasure of eating a second helping of his dust. Eventually he zipped by the other roadie as well.

South of Fullerton another lightly burdened roadie streaked by me. It certainly was not a good day for my ego. But then again I have a pretty heavy bag and I just added some snow tires. So I can rationalize my glacial pace at least a little bit. But once I got to the long straightaway heading to Oak Street Beach I no longer saw him and figured he must have turned off at the North Avenue underpass...sissy!

The stiff morning headwinds were taking their toll on me and I was really glad to be heading west on Roosevelt Road. By then I was a bit happier because I'd soon be off the bike and headed to a warm shower.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1413.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.45

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

First December Ride

It was in the 50s and kind of misty as I headed out from work a little after 5:00pm. I was happy to be back on my bike again. It has been over two weeks since I've ridden. The heavy snows and a crazy work schedule pretty much eliminated any chances of riding to or from work.

I never got around to having my wheels trued but they aren't that bad anyway. I gave my rear wheel and cassette a good cleaning though. I also put on 32cc Panaracer Urban Max tires I bought on sale at Performance. I would have preferred 28cc tires but I heard Panaracers run a little small. It took me a while to tweak my front fender in order to prevent the new tire from rubbing. I have to remember not to try anymore track stands. If I catch my shoe in the front fender again it'll be all but impossible to bend it back.

The Lake Front Trail was sprinkled with a few bicyclists and runners; no one to ride with though. At the end of the trail at Ardmore and Sheridan I caught up with a commuter on a road bike. He was outfitted pretty well with panniers, lights, and bicycling attire. I kept on his tail until we got the red light at Broadway and Granville. I said hello and we both griped about the increasingly wet weather. He was headed to Wilmette but turned north on either Glenwood or Greenview while I continued to Clark Street.

At around Clark and Touhy the skies opened up and the heavy rain continued until I reached Isabella and Sheridan. I was soaked pretty good but I wasn't too uncomfortable. My layering didn't keep me dry but kept the wind and the cold out. I don't know how I'd feel if it was ten degrees colder though.

By the time I reached the Green Bay Trail the rain had stopped and I had a relatively pleasant ride the rest of the way. I was very glad to get home though.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1389.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.45

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Not Biking Much These Days

A crazy work schedule and recent ice and heavy snow have prevented me from biking since last Monday. My bike was locked up at work until Friday when I hauled it home. Friday night I biked around the neighborhood and my bike did a fairly good job handling the icy streets. A good portion of my route is on bike paths that aren't routinely plowed though. So I might take a break from bike commuting for a week and bring my bike in for a good tune up.

Monday, November 27, 2006


This morning started out well. The weather was nice and my bike was working again after taking advantage of the long weekend to do some maintenance. I was able to get my rear derailleur to shift properly by merely tightening the cable.

I wasn't bothered too much by the typical morning headwind. It seems I expect it now. At around Irving Park I crawled past a commuter on a mountain bike. I croaked a greeting but got nothing in response. Oh well.

Near Diversey a commuter on a road bike blew by me and I glided into his slip stream. This guy was really moving. At around North Avenue he slowed to de-snot and noticed me leaching his air. So I took the lead hoping to redeem myself. The pace and the wind pretty much kicked my ass. Soon thereafter he took the lead again and I stuck with him until he needed to re-de-snot. I took the lead again and continued the charade until he probably figured enough was enough. He glided past and I stayed on him until the incline at Ohio Street Beach. I prayed for a red light at Grand Avenue so I could take a break. No such luck. Fortunately he turned off and left me to limp up the hill on my own. It wasn't until Roosevelt Road that I regained my pace.

I faced a red light with no cross traffic at Roosevelt and Clark. I inched slowly through while making sure there were no cars coming up a blind spot. Much to the smug amusement of a waiting bus driver and his passengers, I managed to catch my toe on my front fender and catch it on the wheel. I taco'ed it quite nicely and had to drag it out of traffic. About four minutes later I managed to bend it back into shape and get on with my ride.

While passing St. Ignatius High School, I managed to piss off a parent dropping off her kid. She clearly signaled to park but I thought I could whizz by her and avoid having to veer into traffic. I was nearly sandwiched into the curb but managed to startle her to a stop with a sharp rap on the fender. I pedaled off quickly feeling like a jerk.

All in all, not a good way to start the week.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1365.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Took Off The Training Wheels

It was in the high 50s so my family biked to Village Green Park in Winnetka. I had a few surprises in store for my 4 year old son Joseph. The first was an Incredibell handle bar bell that I bought that morning at a sale at Performance. Joey loves to flick the bell on my bike and I figured he'd love one of his own. The second surprise was taking the training wheels off his $15 Huffy once we got to the park.

I let Joey discover the bell as he hauled his bike out of the garage. He is such a good kid; he never whines about wanting a zillion toys and he loves doing his school work. One would have thought I bought him a BMW with how much appreciation he showed for the $8 accessory.

Once we got to the park Joseph was a relatively quick study on two wheel riding. He initially had trouble getting started but he eventually figured out the pedal positioning to get him going. We biked on the grass so he avoided hurting himself after the scores of spills. Ultimately he handled himself well while underway but his stopping still needs work. After about an hour of this the training wheels were bolted back on and we bicycled back home.

Distance Traveled: 2.8 miles
Distance to date: 1340.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Eve

The bosses let everyone leave work early this afternoon so I hit the road at about 3:30 pm. It was partly sunny, temperatures in the 50s and about 10 mph winds from the south; perfect bicycling conditions for a northerly ride home.

I was really cruising this afternoon. The Lakefront Trail had a handful of people out enjoying the mild weather. I had to shout at three groups of people hogging the sidewalk between Jackson and Monroe. They obviously thought I was a nut. Oh well.

I really enjoyed my bike ride today. The tail wind enabled me to move at a nice clip and the daylight enabled me to enjoy what there is of the view. It didn't get really dark until about the last mile of my ride. I keep my headlamp lit when I'm in traffic no matter how bright it is though. Nothing like a retina full of searing photons to get a driver's attention.

Hopefully I'll find the time for a bit of bike maintenance before I return to work on Monday. I have to patch or replace my rear tire and adjust my derailleurs.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1338.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Makin' Still More Friends

I must be one happening guy...I wish. At a red light at Sheriden and Ardmore I struck up a conversation with Ray, a semi-frequent commuter like myself. He bikes downtown about as much as I do. As we bicycled south down the Lakefront Path we faced a steady headwind. Ray unselfishly offered to pull me along for a while. We both took the front position on and off all the way to the Lake Shore Drive underpass at Chicago Avenue where Ray turned off. The combined effort definitely got me to work a touch faster. I found I wasn't as thirsty during the trip either.

An oncoming Heating and AC truck cut across my path while turning onto Jefferson from Roosevelt. I screamed at him to no avail and swerved to avoid running into him. He pulled over right at the corner and was wide eyed after I flipped him off. For some reason he was looking into his side view mirror as he turned and probably didn't notice me. In retrospect it was probably an innocent albeit negligent mistake and he was probably mystified by my obscene gesture.

I find the vast majority of drivers are courteous and want to avoid the hassle of scraping me out of their spokes and front grilles. I also make a point of giving a friendly wave to drivers that wait for me at a crossing intersection rather than gunning it through. Sort of my way of saying, "Thanks for not killing me."

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1313.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Computer Crash

My Dell computer wouldn't boot last night. I must have gotten a virus. After an hour and a half with a Dell technician we both realized I had to format my hard drive and reload everything. Fortunately I had an old 16 Gb hard drive laying around from a Gateway that was fried in a thunderstorm. With the assistance of another Dell tech I installed it and transferred photos and all sorts of other data that I should have backed up a long time ago. I'll format the original hard after I'm satisfied I got everything I need off of it. Overall a huge pain but glad Dell has technicians willing to spend hours on the phone with me (they probably earn about $20 a day). And really glad that years of photos didn't evaporate.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Evening Ride Home

It was a little warmer than I expected once I got outside today. I was dressed for temps in the 40s but I think it was in the low 50s. So I was a bit toasty once I was on the road tonight. My ride had the usual mix of cars, cabs, and buses. I have gotten pretty use to the tendencies of drivers and the patterns of the traffic signals along my route. Some of the traffic aides have come to recognize me and wave me against the light when there aren't any cars around.

I was really moving tonight at an average of about 19 mph. Either I had a stiff tailwind or someone doped my blood in my sleep. Most times I feel like I'm plodding along and fighting the wind but tonight I was blazing down the empty path.

I solved my gearing problem. I don't change gears. But I know I should get them fixed so I don't blow out my knees. I usually only downshift at lights and a few uphills on Roosevelt Road on my way to work (I don't need to downshift on the hills on my way home because I'm probably not tired yet). I probably need new cables. I hope it isn't my rear derailleur. I'd hate to pay for a new one.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1289.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.41 (Holding steady)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Foggy Morning

It really wasn't that foggy but I'm running out of caption ideas. Anyway it was a good morning for bicycling. I started a little late, 6:15 am, and was greeted with mostly daylight. It was still a little wet so I was careful not to go speedy right out of the gate. Once I headed south I was greeted with a stiff head wind. I knew my ride would seem a tad longer this morning.

It was about 35° but the wind made it seem a bit chillier. When waking and facing early morning rides these days I've often wished I had my car at home instead. I'm not a real cold weather person and sitting in a nice warm car and listening to the radio as I plod through traffic has some appeal when compared to biking into 15 mph winds at near freezing temperatures. But once I get on the road and get warmed up the cold isn't an issue anymore. My system of lightweight long underwear, windbreaker, headband, gloves and booties does a good job regulating my body temperature and comfort. I found that when I have to stop or slow down for traffic I start to heat up and become less comfortable.

North of Belmont Harbor I came upon a commuter on a road bike. He was dressed in blue jeans and biked at a slower pace and I passed him by without really thinking about it. Then just north of Diversey as I'm grinding into the wind here comes blue jeans pedaling past me. I was naturally peeved at his impudence but at the same time glad to find someone to do a little wind breaking for me. The pull from my denim clad clipper didn't last though. After no more than an eighth of a mile he seemed to have burned out. Being polite, I didn't pass him too quickly. But after a while I zipped by him again. Maybe he was drafting all that time without my noticing and when he decided to leave me in the dust he found the wind too daunting. If that was the case, I know how he must have felt all too well. I remeber passing a couple of guys training on their racing bikes and about a qaurter mile later they casually glided by me chattering as if they were out for a stroll.

My derailleurs blow. I really have to get them adjusted. I seem to only have three reliable gears now.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1265.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Friday, November 10, 2006

Makin' More Friends

It was in the high fifties and no wind. So I packed my winter biking gear in my pannier and donned only shirt, shorts and my Goretex top. The ride was a little chilly on my knees once I got up to cruising speed. I was just about to regret not wearing my long pants when I got into heavy traffic on Roosevelt Road and completely forgot about being cold. Except for a cold blast upon approaching the lakefront, it was a comfortable ride.

Between Monroe and Randolph I noticed a steady light coming up along my side as a commuter on a road bike passed me. He kept a good pace so I stuck with him up to Grand Avenue. Between Ohio and Oak Street Beaches I drafted about a bike length behind him. Passing Oak Street I glided by him and offered to let him draft for a while.

North of Diversey we picked up another commuter on a fixed gear bike. So the three of us zoomed through bikers and runners enjoying the relatively warmer weather. After Foster, fixie took over the lead for the first time and he nearly killed me. I thought I kept a fast pace but this guy was really moving. If it weren't for the rest I knew I'd get at the end of the Lakefront Trail, I'd have never tried to keep up. By the time we reached Hollywood my thighs were screaming. Forced to slow at the end of the path I kept my distance so he wouldn't hear me gasping for air. Thanking God for the red light at Sheridan, I dismounted and popped some bills in a nearby mailbox. The guy on the road bike was nowhere to be found. Maybe he turned off when the getting was good.

The light turned and fixie was off down Ardmore at a noticeably slower pace. Maybe he was hurting more than me. I passed him shortly after turning north on Kenmore and said good night and he thanked me "for the pull." "No, thank you!" I replied. Thanks for nearly giving me a stroke.

Despite blazing through the Lakefront Trail, I find it takes me longer to get home in the darkness. I guess I don't cruise with the same confidence as I did during daylight. I also find I don't enjoy the ride as much. Biking the Greenbay Trail use to be my favorite part of my ride. Now it is like being on a subway. The only thing to look at are the occasional rabbits in my high beam and distant street lights. Ironically the heavy traffic at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street provide the most interesting parts of my ride now.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1240.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rain? No Problem!

I brought my bike out of the garage this morning and was surprised by the rain. It was in the high 40s but the local news said nothing about precipitation. So I rolled my bike back inside and got busy waterproofing. I packed all my stuff in plastic bags. Then I removed my Neoprene booties and wrapped my bike shoes in plastic bags too. In the past the booties let in the wet after 30-40 minutes. So I wasn't about to pedal half of my trip in wet feet. Since it had gotten warmer I only wore a long underwear top and no bike jersey.

As soon as I mounted up, I slipped on the wet pavement of my driveway. Not a good or comforting start. But once I got going my ride was fine. My longsleeves kept me from getting all wet and clammy from the Goretex top and my feet stayed comfortable for the whole trip. I was also glad I installed the fenders. It was nice to see the water dripping onto the pavement behind my front wheel instead of splashing up on my feet. I was going to have a crazy week at work so I probably wouldn't be biking back home until Thursday.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1216.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How To Dress For Cold Weather

Nick, from the website, provides an informative article on how to dress for cold weather bicycling without having to buy fancy overpriced gear. I could do without the yellow sneaks and camouflage trousers though.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Makin' Friends!

I didn't leave work until 5:30 pm today so it was my first bicycle ride through Chicago in darkness. Roosevelt Road is well lit so I was confident my fellow commuters wouldn't have a problem seeing me. My ride started ignominiously; I attempting a track stand as I was waiting for traffic to pass on Damen and my bootied foot caught my front fender. I ended up bending the fender into the front wheel and had to haul my bike out of traffic to bend it back in shape.

I felt pretty strong this evening. Sometimes my quadraceps ache a bit but I was having no problems today. Even on my slight climbs I didn't need to downshift. I guess my steadily biking since late July has gotten me in pretty good shape.

On the Lakefront Trail between Jackson and Monroe I was passed by a commuter on a mountain bike with front suspension so I picked up the pace a bit and eased into his slip stream. We were stopped at the red light at Grand Avenue and exchanged pleasantries. He commutes everyday and through the winter. I learned the Chicago Park District keeps the Lakefront Trail cleared of snow so it is a good route year round. The only problem is the Oak Street curve gets icey since it is so close to Lake Michigan. Once we got going again we bike abreast for a while. Talking and biking is more trouble than its worth at 18 mph. So we bike single file until he breaks off at Lawrence.

At Kenmore and Glenlake I ran into the father of my son's classmates again. So we shared the ride until he turned off at Chicago and Greenleaf.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1192.2 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Thursday, November 02, 2006


It was in the 20s this morning as I shoved off at 8:15 am. I worked a later shift because I had some night work to do. The colder rides haven't been that bad though. At least I was bicycling during daylight.

I biked past my sons' Evanston preschool this morning on the chance I'd get to say goodbye to them once more. I pedaled by and surprised my four year old son Joseph just as he was being walked inside by one of his teachers. I later learned she asked him who I was. I guess she didn't recognize me in my helmet, head band, and glasses. She was probably worried I was some sort of perv.

I was nearly smooshed by a BMW SUV turning into a congested Dunkin Donuts at Clark and Thome. It had its turn signal on but I thought the driver would at least have the courtesy to give me a little room as it queued up for drive through coffee. I gave the vehicle a nice knuckle double tap as I veered up on the side walk and back into traffic. So we're even.

A very stiff easterly wind made the last leg of my commute on Roosevelt Road very slow. Plus my rear derailleur is acting up and I couldn't keep it in gear as I climbed west from State Street. I have to get it looked at. On top of that the sidewall of my rear tire has a hole in it and the tube is threatening to burst through. Maybe some duct tape will keep it in check.

Distance Traveled: 24.4 miles
Distance to date: 1167.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.39

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cold Afternoon Bicycle Ride Home

A crazy work schedule has prevented me from biking for almost a week. My muscles felt a little rusty as I pedaled home this afternoon. Started work really early so I was able to head home at 2:00 pm and avoid a night ride.

Sunny and cold. It was probably in the mid 40s. My outfit seems to be doing a good job of regulating my body heat. And I didn't have to buy any fancy gear. My feet got a bit toasty in my booties but not uncomfortable. The Lakefront Trail was pretty lonely. I think I encountered less than twenty bikers, runners and walkers.

Commute By Bike posted a short video about Alastair Humphreys, a British guy that biked around the world. The movie was ok (I'd have posted it if I found it really compelling) but his web page is even more fascinating. He provides a few chapters from his self published book (another impressive feat), Moods of Future Joys, which is about the first part of his trip from the UK through Africa. After reading a free sample, I bought a copy on for $17. I've always had a pipe dream of trekking around the world on a sailboat or biking across the country or through Europe. Real life and real responsibilities pretty much prevent that now.

Distance Traveled: 24.4 miles
Distance to date: 1123.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Winter Riding Gear

It was 30° and dark this morning. I switched to a pair of cheap ten year old long underwear that I'd "grown out of". They were too tight for regular wear but I thought they might do a better job on my morning commutes. It seems I made the right choice. My earlier attempts at layering caused the areas around my trunk to get too wet and sweaty. This lead to being too hot at some points and then too cold later. The tighter long underwear top did a better job wicking away perspiration and keeping me somewhat comfortable. So I think I might not hate biking in the cold as much as I thought. The only other issue is warming up my toes. My booties do a decent job but after an hour on the road my toes begin to feel a little frosty.

Not a problem avoiding pedestrians, dog walkers and slow bikers on the Lakefront Trail these days. At the Oak Street curve I got a nice view of the sunrise. At the Monroe Street Harbor I smelled the smoke from the building fire the night before and there was still a dark mist hanging over the area of South State Street.

The Lightweights are peeling off the Lycra parts of my gloves. I might try gluing them down because I light their reflectivity and they also look kind of cool.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1099.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reflecty Gloves

Along with my fenders I bought some Lightweights reflective decals at Turin for $13. It was a package of 60 decals in a variety of sizes. I plastered my helmet with about a dozen and put a bunch all over my bike. They say you can iron them on to cloth so I put four on each of my gloves. Hopefully they will be very bright when I signal treacherous left turns. I'm not totally convinced they'll stick though. But they sure are bright. The above link doesn't provide much info about them but it does have a video of a bike that looks like it is on fire. They have a pack specifically for wheels (I figure that is what the video shows). I'd try them but I like the look of my black spokes. If I had unpainted spokes I'd be more likely to put them on as you can't really seem them during daylight.

As I drove down Roosevelt, I saw a huge plume of smoke up State Street. State was totally blocked off by fire trucks. I couldn't tell what was on fire from that distance but I've never seen so much smoke since the first Gulf War. I got a good whiff of the smoke once I passed Monroe along the Lakefront Trail.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1074.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cold Night Biking

I think I'm going to hate winter. When I started my bike ride this morning it was in the thirties and dark. I didn't mind the chill at first but as I got further into my ride my arms were cold but my trunk was hot and sweaty. I was layering with my Goretex jacket, a short sleeve jersey and a long underwear top so I thought I'd be ok. It got to the point that I just wasn't enjoying myself.

On top of that, biking in the dark has been wrecking havoc on my bike. I don't see potholes as much as I use to and I almost totally wrecked. While crossing Elmwood on the Green Bay trail in Wilmette, I misjudged where the trail met the road and ran right up on a curb. I was certain I taco'ed my front wheel. But it seemed ok. It made me really appreciate the Mavic touring rims and 13 gauge spokes. They seem to be bomb proof. But the rest of my bike is a series of rattles, squeaks and grinds.

My XTR rear derailleur continually jumps gear and my middle chain ring is starting to skip. I think I need to take my bike in for a tune up. But I've had trouble with the XTR derailleur. When I had one on my Scalpel I always had to double click the index shifting to move it between my most often used gears. I've read on discussion boards that this is a common problem. Even getting it professionally adjusted provided only a temporary fix. Maybe the main spring needs replacing. I've certainly put a lot of miles on it.

In anticipation of wetter weather I installed Planet Bike Hardcore Fenders. They are glossy black so they are a perfect match for my bike. They were a bit tricky too install and I had to use longer screws than the ones provided. Once I got them on though, I was very pleased. I never liked the look of fenders on road bikes but figure I have to put them on if I'm going to keep my feet dryer and my bike cleaner. I actually like the look of them now. I'll probably take them off come summer though.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1050.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Night Biking

It seems I'm doing more biking in the night rather than during daylight. I swapped a small LED light for a rear mounting helmet light at Turin and fitted it prior to my ride home. It is neat because it swings on its mount and is theoretically self leveling. I couldn't tell if it works or not because its on the back of my head.

I left work at around 5:30 and faced a lot of traffic on Roosevelt Road. It was still light out so I didn't have my helmet light on. But after having to shout at a driver coming out of a parking lot I decided to fire it up.

I must have had a tailwind because I sensed I was faster than normal. However my GPS crapped out again so I couldn't monitor my speed and determine if this was the case. But no one passed me today. I guess all the fast bicyclists had already made it home.

The ride up Clark Street was pretty hairy. Twice I was squeezed by drivers turning right. In one case I saw the turn signal indicating the guy was going to park and assumed he'd wait for me to pass. Dumb on my part. Luckily there was a driveway there and I scooted onto the sidewalk and got back on the road shortly thereafter. The next guy was just a jerk. I gave his fender a nice knock to warn him I was there but I don't think he heard me over his subwoofer.

Cars were backed up all downtown Evanston because of Northwestern's homecoming parade. Had I still lived in town I probably would have been delayed a half an hour.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1026.2 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One Thousand Miles

In the vicinity of Halsted, I logged my 1000th mile since I started keeping track on August 8, 2006. Not bad if I say so myself. The ride was a bit hot this morning. It looked cooler outside than it actually was and I overdressed again.

I need to illuminate myself more than I have right now. I currently have a red flasher on my seat post and a small white flasher on my handle bars (I think they are both made by Planet Bike). I was making a left turn on to Granville from Clark this morning and I wasn't exactly confident the vehicles behind me could see my hand signals. So on my drive home today I stopped at Turin and bought a small red LED to put on my helmet and some reflective patches I'll affix to my bike gloves and anywhere else on my bike that I think will do any good. I'm tempted to buy a Safe Turn Indicator to put on my glove but they are $26 and are shipped from Australia.

While bicycling by Belmont Harbor on the Lakefront Trail, I sensed someone behind me. A quarter mile later I took a swig from my water bottle and he passed me. He was a commuter on a road bike and he thanked me for the lift. It must have been his way of offering to let me draft for a while. I must be getting faster now because it isn't often people draft off my dragging ass. So I glommed off his slipstream and except for sporadic puddle spray, I enjoyed the ride.

When we reached the windy straight away from Oak Street to Ohio, I offered to take over again. Once in front I poured it on. In the past, whenever I traded off drafting, I'd quickly tire as soon as I had to cut throught the wind and the other guy would take over again; kind of humbling. So I wanted to make sure I pulled my weight. In this case I guess I left him behind. As soon as I slowed going up the ramp at Ohio Street Beach I noticed he wasn't around anymore. Or maybe he passed so fast I never even noticed. Oh well.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1001.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fall Ride

I've been fortunate to have had a tailwind for my last couple of rides. Not that it really matters much but it is nice to feel like I'm going really fast for a change rather than fighting the wind; which I'd been doing a lot of this past month. The winds were from the southwest and gave me an added boost on my bike ride home this afternoon. The weather cooperated and was in the high 50's. It looked kind of cool from my ninth floor cubicle, so I overdressed. I was a bit hot initially but as it got darker I became more comfortable.

I was stopped at a red light on Chicago Avenue at South Boulevard in Evanston when a guy on one of those folding bikes joined me. I grunted a greeting but got nothing in return. No big deal. He crossed ahead of me and biked north at a pretty good clip considering he was riding on 10" wheels. I hung back for a while and eventually overtook him after a few blocks. Since he was pedaling a clown bike, I assumed he'd quickly fade. But as I crossed Main Street I realized he was still on my tail. I crossed Dempster and he was still there! What was it going to take to shake this guy on his little toy? There were two lanes of traffic backed up at a red light at Grove Street. Cars were crowding the curb so I juked between the two lines of cars. The light turned green just as I hit the intersection. That did the trick; he was nowhere to be seen. I was zooming along nicely except for a delay while waiting to turn left from Chicago onto Clark. As I approached Sherman, I saw him again. But now he was a half block ahead of me and pedaling at about 150 rpm on the sidewalk. He must have biked against one way traffic through downtown Evanston. Quite the ninja! I turned north toward home. God only knows what type of humiliation I would have suffered if he rode a real bike.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 977.6 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dark Morning Bike Ride

Even with a late start (6:15 am) it was still dark for much of my ride. But I cruised through town with my Phantom JetLite perched on my head. I had to ride a little slower because I can't see the pot holes and other obstructions as well as in daylight. One remedy for this would be to mount the light on my handlebars instead of my head. But I also like to use the light as a warning device. A nice flash at flanking cars really gets a driver's attention. I set the light at the lowest of three settings to conserve the battery but it is still blindingly bright.

It was about 50° this morning so I sported some not so tight tights that I got pretty cheap at Galyans. I bought two pairs and should have bought three or four since I ruined a pair over a season of adventure racing. I can never find anything like them without having to pay $80.

The Lakefront Trail was dead. A few runners and bicyclists sprinkled here and there. Once I got to Belmont there was little bit more life around. But my commute is getting a bit routine.

My hamstrings were in a bit of pain from over two weeks of inactivity. Even though I logged a lot of miles on my bike trip, I didn't exert myself to the level that I reach on my commutes. Or maybe I'm just getting older.

Roosevelt Road was pretty quick this morning. If I really grind in certain areas I can make critical lights and really cruise the last leg of my trip. I just have to avoid getting flattened by oncoming cars making left turns. The downhill stretch from the Chicago River to Canal Street is always satisfying as I scream past cars backed up at the light. Most times I get hung up at Canal but for some reason I got the green and sped all the way to the Dan Ryan Expressway. Then I seemed to have the wind at my back and green lights until Damen. All in all a very satisfying ride. And my GPS didn't crap out either.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 953.3 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Video of the Week: Cycliste

An amusing foreign Fiat advertisement.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why I Love the Internet: Fixed My GPS!

My Garmin GPSMAP 60C cost nearly $400 and developed an annoying habit of conking out with the slightest jarring. Sending it back to the factory for repair or replacement costs $135! I'm pretty handy and fix a lot of stuff around my house so with some trepidation I thought I might be able to save myself some significant cash and fix this gadget too. A search of a GPS forum zeroed right in on the problem and the solution to what ailed my model. Twenty minutes later my GPS was fixed (as far as I can tell; we'll see on the next ride).

The internet also has provided me a number of resources for fixing my bike. Bicycle Technologies International is a terrific reference for spare parts for Shimano components. When I owned my 2003 Cannondale Scalpel 3000, I was having problems with the XTR rear derailleur. A repairman at a local bike shop (that I no longer go to) took a look at it and said it would need to be replaced. Hardly! With the help of an exploded view of the XTR rear derailleur I realized the plate axel was worn down and needed replacing. Not many bike stores offer spare parts but Kozy's was willing to order it for me. $26 and 10 days later my XTR rear derailleur was working again.

An internet appliance repair forum was also instrumental in replacing a belt and heat sensor in our gas dryer. I figure I saved $150 to $200 on that one. So all in all the internet has a lot more going for it than just porn.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Back to the Grind

First day commuting in a few weeks. I didn't hit the road from work until about 5:30 pm. I was really cooking down Roosevelt Road and feeling good about myself until I realized I had a stiff tailwind. It was about time I had the winds with me for a change. During the majority of my bike trip, I seemed to always be pedaling into the wind. It was cool so I wore my Goretex Jacket and light fleece pants. I was getting pretty hot though. The Goretex doesn't really breathe enough for fast biking.

Again my Garmin GPSMAP 60C was giving me trouble. At every bump it would turn off. Really annoying since it takes a minute to reacquire its position every time it does this rendering it useless for accurately tracking mileage, ETA and such. I was finally considering just getting a bike computer. But it seemed to have worked so well for so long that I thought I might be able to fix it without having to send in for repair.

The Lakefront Trail is pretty empty now. Mostly die-hard runners. Somewhere south of Addison I was passed by a commuter on a road bike with a messenger bag on his back. Initially he had such a quick pace that I thought of just letting him go. Then his pace slacked off and I realized I might be able leach off his slipstream. Shortly thereafter we passed a biker stopped on the trail and the guy in front of me asked if he needed help. Then I realized I knew this guy! Our kids go to the same preschool and swim classes and my oldest son practically gushes about his daughter. So for some reason I was determined to stay on his tail even if it killed me. We'd seen each other dozens of times and been introduced but I couldn't remember his name (I'm great at remembering faces but I have some pathological problem with names). I kept up with him pretty well but by the time we hit Bryn Mawr the ride was taking a toll on me. Fortunately the trail was ending and we'd be taking it slower on the city streets. So at a red light at Sheridan Road I said hello and we reintroduced ourselves (I'll remember his name now).

He commutes about as much as I do but for some reason we never came across each other until now. We take the same route all the way into Evanston. We stopped at around Clark and Touhy so I could put on my Phantom JetLite (I didn't think it would so dark though). He turned off at Chicago and Greenleaf and I continued northbound home.

By the time I reached the Green Bay Trail it was even cooler so I was actually pretty comfortable. It was also pretty dark and so the trail was like a tunnel. If my GPS was working I'd know how long it would be until I got home. Oh well, life really stinks some times. Beats driving though.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 929.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.51

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Took Some Time Off

I took over a week off from riding in order to let my saddle sores heal. Plus having to catch up on work and a weird schedule was not conducive to biking in. Then I scratched my cornea somehow and that kept me from biking as well. I'm bringing my bike to work tomorrow and maybe I'll ride home in the cold.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bike Tour: Milwaukee to Winnetka

Ralph's knees were shot. We had to either shoot him or leave him behind. Ralph opted for the latter. Joe, another Marine friend that couldn't (or wouldn't) ride with us, agreed to drive up from Chicago and pick up Ralph. Since this was going to be my last day, Ralph agreed to haul a pannier bag full of stuff back home for me. At 10:00 am, after a complimentary breakfast of waffles, cereal, juice and rolls at the La Quinta Inn, Dennis and I headed back to Winnetka.

Our route picked up the Oak Leaf Trail, a 100 mile trail circuiting Milwaukee County. Our portion of the trail was an off street bike path skirting the Milwaukee River on a former railroad right of way leading us to Milwaukee's lakefront. Much of the ride was below grade and tree lined. I lived in Milwaukee ten years ago and the path went right by my old apartment. It had also been improved a bit as well. I remember the path being pretty run down in some areas.

The off street path ended near downtown Milwaukee and we biked by the Milwaukee Art Museum, a portion of it designed by Santiago Calatrava. It was the first time I'd seen the museum since they added the new wing. It was quite impressive.

We biked through Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, a former manufacturing and warehouse district that is now home to art galleries, condos, and tony restaurants. The skies were getting darker and Dennis and I hoped to outrun the rain. We biked south through manufacturing and warehouse districts that had yet to be gentrified.

At around 10:40 am, while on Milwaukee's residential south side, it started to rain the hardest we encountered during our entire trip. The temperatures were already in the low 60s, so the rain and the wind made it seem much colder. Figuring we had at least six hours of biking ahead of us, I was not looking forward to a cold and wet ride. Once we got to the shoreline, the winds picked up and I was getting even colder. My Goretex jacket and a light long sleeved shirt just wasn't cutting it. I might have been dry but I felt really wet. Dennis was hanging in there quite well but I was not enjoying myself a bit.

At 11:15 am, I'd had enough. We approached an apartment building south of Warnimont Park that had a sheltered parking lot. I told Dennis I wanted to pull over and get out of the rain and wind for a while. I decided to put on my pants and another shirt. Then we noticed the sky was clearing. We only had to wait about five minutes for the rain to stop and to get back on our way.

The weather was better and I was warm again; so my mood improved considerably. But my butt was feeling the effects of three days in the saddle. I'd been using Bodyglide skin lubricant but even that didn't seem to be working anymore or I just hadn't used enough of it this morning. The thing about Bodyglide is that after spreading it all over the pad in my bike shorts, it initially feels like I've just dropped a wet pant load. Nice! However it now felt like my shorts were made of acid dipped steel wool.

By now we were back tracking. The sun came out and I had to stop at Puetz Road to take off an undershirt. We continued on and I had to stop again twenty minutes later just south of Botting Road to take off my pants. Now I was set for the duration. We took a break at the same liquor store in Racine and stopped at a Burger King in Kenosha where I had hoped to goop on more Bodyglide. Alas, I'd left it with Ralph.

It ended up being a pleasant day for a bike tour but I was tired, saddle sore, and ready to be home. My GPS was even giving up and flipping off at every bump. Rain always seemed to threaten and the gravel paths that seemed so smooth and scenic were now bumpy and routine. Fortunately we avoided a major rain storm that swept through northern Illinois.

We arrived home at 5:30 pm after biking 310 miles in four days.

Distance Traveled: 84.5 miles
Distance to date: 904.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.64

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bike Tour: Ludington to Manitowoc to Milwaukee

We had to get up pretty early because we had to board the SS Badger at 8:00 am for a 9:00 am departure. After a nice breakfast at the Four Seasons Lodging and Breakfast we pedaled a short way to the ferry landing. We were greeted by a short inspection by a crusty rent a cop and boarded the rust bucket. Unlike the Lake Express, there wasn't a specific place to secure our bikes. We were directed to wait for Mike who would tell us were to stow our rides. After about five minutes, Mike showed up and told us to park them under some stairs near a bunch of oily ropes and hoses. Nice! I had some bungee cord and was able to secure them to a pipe.
Then we went topside up a metal stairway with a sign warning us about the greasy rail. Nice! Upon arriving in the lounge, I was kind of lamed out (if that is a proper expression). The SS Badger is clearly an old ship. Lots of institutional blue chairs and vinyl. It reminded me of a prison day room. With the delay waiting for Mike, we also missed any chance of getting window seats.

Once we got underway, my opinion of our vessel improved. Since the lake was calm and the ship is pretty big, the ride was smooth and barf free. The cruise director (or substitute cruise director; some fella was apparently filling in for Todd, the regular guy) kicked off on board entertainment with bingo. The prizes were gift shop apparel, tchotchkes and soft drinks. Ralph and I both won a game. I picked an SS Badger T-shirt for Dennis. After a while the gaming shifted to SS Badger trivia; name of the captain, length of the ship, fuel, history, etc. I won a free soft drink. Then the game was name that tune. Dennis took the ship by storm with his vast knowledge of bubble gum pop. More free soft drinks. The four hour trip went by quite quickly and we were nearing the Manitowoc shore. I actually left with a very good impression of our cross lake trip. Plus it is a bit cheaper than the Lake Express. The one downside is loading and unloading takes about twice as long though. Oh well.

We left the ship at 12:07 pm. The weather was cool, cloudy and threatened rain. We were looking forward to strong tail winds after all of the stiff breezes we faced biking north in Michigan. But a nasty surprise was the slight wind from the south. We just couldn't catch a break. Plus we were facing the longest ride so far. We had to go all the way to Glendale, Wisconsin which is over 80 miles.

The crew stopped at a Manitowoc gas station to replenish our supply of junk food and soft drinks. A local guy was shocked when told our destination was Milwaukee. I began to question the wisdom of pushing so far. But we had a schedule to maintain; not much I could do about it now. So we set off south toward Sheboygan on County Road LS.

The ride to Sheboygan was uneventful with the exception of a sign at Point Creek Road saying, "Bridge Out - One Mile." A detour would have added another two or three miles to our ride. So we took a chance and ignored the sign hoping the bridge would be passable to bikers or pedestrians. It turns out they were only doing surface work and we crossed without asking. The rest of the road skirted Lake Michigan and was mostly deserted.

Sheboygan was much like our other urban rides; not too special. I'm sure there are nice places to bike in Sheboygan but they weren't on our route. I was showing off my curb jumping abilities and punctured my tire through the sidewall; my extra thick tube no less. I quickly repaired the flat when Ralph noticed Dennis's rear tire was badly worn. His tire was almost worn down to the inner tube. We kind of freaked since we had no idea where we'd find a replacement. We figured our best bet would be a Walmart since bike stores seem to be so scarce these days. We gingerly pedaled to the closest gas station and asked where we might go. We just happened to be about five or six blocks from Wolf's Cycling and Fitness. Imagine! We kept thinking to ourselves how disastrous it would have been if we'd been out in the country somewhere. I suppose if I got my hands on some duct tape I could have bought a few miles with a patch of some sort. Fortunately there was no need. After buying a new Panaracer Urban tire for $20 we were on the road again logging only 45 minutes total.

Our next destination was Cedar Grove where we would pick up the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. The ride there bordered on miserable. We faced slight headwinds and cold rain along boring country roads. It wasn't raining too hard but just enough to bother me. My feet were getting damp and despite my Goretex jacket, I still felt cold and wet. When I'm in pain or in discomfort, I tend to focus inward. No more joking or socializing. So it was a silent ride for me. But at my most miserable Dennis would chime in, "Hey! What a nice looking barn" or "What beautiful fall colors!" Dennis can really soldier on and maintain a positive attitude even in the cruddiest of conditions.

At around 4:30 pm we came upon a railroad crossing in Cedar Grove which I assumed would be the start of the Ozaukee bike path. But it was a real railroad. I wasn't going to panic but I was a bit concerned. We took another break at a gas station while I tried to figure out where to go next. Ralph's knees were beginning to bother him. After refueling I headed out to reconnoiter our route. I headed to a local library thinking they might be able to help me. The librarian had a vague idea where the trail was but I needed better than that. Then a local mom gave me more detailed directions. The beginning of the trail was just down a major road nearby. After rejoining my buddies, we headed out and picked up the trail soon thereafter.

The Ozaukee Interurban Trail is like an autobahn for bikes. It is another "Rails to Trails" bike path and definitely worth making a special trip to ride it. Ozaukee County obviously spent a lot of time, money, and effort making this bike path. The have a terrific map of the trail including details of the towns it passes through. My camera was malfunctioning so I couldn't take any pictures of the nice farms, streams and bridges we biked by. But just click the above link and you'll get a good idea what its like. The path north of and into Port Washington is especially noteworthy; a verdant and wooded valley path leading to a picturesque downtown.

By now Ralph was slowing and in pain. Every stop and start caused him great discomfort. I guessed he hadn't been downshifting as much as he should have and muscled up too many hills. Dennis and I enjoyed the ride through all the scenic towns but Ralph's agony was gradually growing. The Ozaukee Interurban Trail also passes through Grafton, Cedarburg, Mequon and Thiensville but we really didn't get a chance to enjoy the sites. I could go on and on about this bike path but you just have to see it for yourself. I really wish we had something like it in Chicago.

It was nightfall and at 7:00 pm we stopped in Thiensville to put on our headlamps. Ralph and I donned our JetLites and Dennis wedged a handlebar lamp in the vents of his helmet. We were a halogen and red blinking train headed through the misted darkness.

The trail continues into Milwaukee County for about a half mile to Brown Deer Road. But it is only a crushed limestone path and hardly worth riding on. We navigated the night traffic on Brown Deer Road toward River Road via Range and Dean Roads. We biked past mansions on huge properties. Ralph's progress was slower still. I figured it would take only twenty five minutes to reach our destination but it ended up taking almost an hour. After biking down the Milwaukee River Parkway to Silver Spring Road we finally reached Port Washington Road where our hotel was located. I prepared them both that we weren't staying at La Quinta Inn and Suites but at the La Quinta Inn, three blocks further south.

At 8:26 pm we finally arrived. La Quinta Inn was the priciest of our three hotels but seemed the most modest. Oh well, welcome back to the big city. We cleaned up and ate at a nearby Perkins. Our friend Joe would be driving up from Chicago the next morning to take Ralph and his bike home.

Distance Traveled: 83.3 miles
Distance to date: 820.2 miles
Price of gas: $2.64

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bike Tour: Muskegon to Ludington

We had a nice breakfast at the Holiday Inn and were on the road by 10:30 am. It was chilly and partly cloudy. The area around our hotel was kind of tired. According to the hotel staff, Muskegon was known for processing timber. Much of the industry has moved on however. It was evident from our ride through town. Not much going on downtown. On the plus side, not much traffic. Our route took us on country highways up to the twin cities of Whitehall and Montague. Not a very scenic ride but it got us where we wanted to go.

Whitehall and Montague are pretty towns on the shores of White Lake. Ralph and Dennis took a bathroom break at Big John's Pizza while I checked out the White Lake Chamber of Commerce located in a nearby restored train depot. According to Ralph, Big John wasn't big at all; in fact "John" was a teenage girl. It started to rain after Ralph and Dennis joined me at the C of C. The young lady on duty was devoted to duty and provided information on the local restaurants and where to find the Hart-Montague Trail (she pointed to the trail right outside the window).

Once the rain subsided a bit we went on our way. We biked across White Lake and admired the majesty of the Worlds Largest Weathervane. Unfortunately it indicated we'd be biking into a headwind. We each refuled with a chocolate dipped soft serve cone at the nearby Twisters Ice Cream, 8688 Water Street, Montague MI and waited out more rain.

After a while the rain subsided again and the sky appeared to clear a bit so we set off in earnest on the Hart-Montague Trail State Park. This 22 mile trail is the first "Rails to Trails" path in Michigan on a Chesapeake & Ohio right of way. It is paved and runs through the towns of Rothbury, New Era, Shelby and Mears.

It was nice to be off the road again and on a dedicated bike path. The trail is tree lined, flat and in some places, so straight that you can barely see where it ends. We zipped right by Rothbury, which might be a nice town, but since we were on a roll we didn’t take the opportunity to check it out. New Era is a small country town with a nice rest area for bicyclists. We took a break and read a bulletin board that had a history of the town and then continued on our way. Shelby is a larger town and also has rest area for bicyclists including a bulletin with more local history and a poster for a 2004 Breast Cancer Walk. There is also some type of gem dealer advertising along the trail that has a showroom and theater(?), if one is interested in that sort of thing. We blew right by Mears without even knowing it. Upon heading northwest I realized we missed a turn. Mears is on the map but it isn’t a very big town; so it was easy to miss.

So we had to leave the bike path and head out on the roads again. The roads were smooth and mostly deserted in this area of apple orchards and small vineyards. We headed north on 60th Avenue and progressed well until crossing Harrison Road. Apparently in these parts an avenue can also be a two track sand path. At first it didn’t seem too bad and we could still manage ok. But as the track got hilly, the sand got deeper in the low parts and we were forced to walk our heavily laden bikes. Ralph breaking down in laughter didn’t help either. I didn’t see what was so damn funny. I was a bit panicked that I’d be leading these guys through the forest until nightfall. Fortunately after about two miles we eventually made it back to hard surface.

Soon thereafter we reached Pentwater Lake and another scenic ride leading to the town of Pentwater. Pentwater is a picturesque town with plenty of places we could have stopped to eat if we had gotten there in season. But we did find a deli and restocked with the junk food necessary to continue on our journey.

We next biked past Bass Lake along North Lake Shore Drive which was lined with summer cottages and cabins. After that we biked near Lake Michigan and encountered a series of hills that seemed to come one after another. This was dogging Dennis in particular. Eventually we reached the top where there was a reservoir and a hydroelectric dam of some sort. From our level we couldn't see the water though. It was if they built a giant above ground swimming pool. Then we had a dramatic downhill on Iris Road that lead us to Pere Marquette Highway. Marquette Highway is pretty busy and luckily for us we didn’t have to travel on it very long. We turned off on a side road and headed into Ludington.

We were passed by a fancy pants road biker shortly before we finally reached our destination, Four Seasons Lodging and Breakfast (not a bad place; I’d stay there again if the need arose). We checked in and asked the desk clerk for a good place to eat. She recommended Jamesport Brewing Company and PM Steamers (I thought she said Cleveland Steamers). We cleaned up and headed out for something to eat. It was nice to walk around and be off our bikes as we checked out the town. I forgot to pack regular clothes so I had to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt. We decided on Jamesport Brewing Company merely because it was easier to find. It was a good choice; a lot to choose from on their menu and lots of good beer for my pals. Dennis was smitten with Pabst despite puking it up the night before. Unfortunately they only offered higher end beers. But enough already; we ate and went back to the motel to sleep.

Distance Traveled: 63.2 miles
Distance to date: 736.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.71

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bike Tour: Winnetka to Milwaukee to Muskegon

At 9:30 am, Ralph, Dennis and I set out for Milwaukee on the first leg of our journey. We served together as lieutenants in a Marine Infantry Batallion during the first Gulf War. We're now in our early forties and fighting off middle age.

The long range weather forcast is not good. Rain, thunderstorms, and colder weather are predicted. This morning is sunny and mild though.

I'm on my Cannondale T2000, Ralph is riding a Surly road bike borrowed from a member of the Evanston Bike Club (EBC), and Dennis is riding a Trek 1100 borrowed from another EBC member. I was also able to borrow a pannier, trunk bag, and an additonal Phantom JetLite. I've plotted our route on my Garmin GPSMap 60C so I won't have to stop and consult maps along the way.

Ralph insists on a morning cup of joe, so we warm up with a short ride to Starbucks in Glencoe IL. After that we start our ride in earnest on the Green Bay Trail taking us north through Highland Park.

I really like the Green Bay Trail because it is straight and flat. It was converted from the North Shore Electric Railway right of way that provides the route for much of our trip to Milwaukee. Because it is a week day, the Green Bay Trail is relatively empty. We encounter a handful of walkers and only two bicyclists that I can remember. More about the Green Bay Trail. And even more about the Green Bay Trail.

After Highland Park, the trail turns into the Robert McClory Bike Path. We have the path pretty much to ourselves until reaching the state line. But prior to reaching Wisconsin, we take a detour to a Clark Station at 9th and Sheridan in Winthrop Harbor for drinks and snacks. I buy a quart of chocolate milk and nosh on some left over pizza from dinner the night before. More about the McClory Bike Path

Crossing a bridge over Russell Road, we are now in Wisconsin and on the Kenosha County Bike Path, a continuation of the North Shore Electric Railroad right of way. It is much like the McClory Path, straight, flat, and tree lined. The weather continues to be clear and mild. We ride three abreast and talk about the crappy old days in the Marines. But the trail is a joy; cornfields, farms, and wooded areas. It is well maintained too.

At 89th Street in Kenosha, the trail abruptly ends with city streets. We continue north on 30th Avenue, a busy concrete street. For some reason the bumps cause my GPS to conk out. One of the weaknesses of my GPS is that the battery terminals can get loose and a jerk of the unit causes it to turn off. After miles of urban riding, we get back on the trail at 35th Street. The trail isn't initially as pastoral as it use to be but it is good to be back. After a few miles, we're back in the country side.

Eventually the trail crosses into Racine County. We only know this because of the bike trail signage. Otherwise it is a seamless transition. But again the trail gives way to city streets. The upside is a liquor store adjacent to the bike path. Dennis's bike computer puts us at 50 miles. Sick of chocolate milk by now, I purchase a liter bottle of Dr. Pepper for my bottle cage. The three of us started the ride with 70 ounce Camelbaks. Having taken only one sip, I empty it out and stash it in my pannier for the remainder of the tour. We take a meandering route through Racine until we pick up another bike path north of town. It appears to be along another railroad right of way but I'm not sure if it is the same North Shore Electric line.

After a few miles the trail ends at 5 Mile Road and we take Highway 32 north. By now it begins to drizzle. Hwy 32 is a bit hilly and Dennis falls behind. The ride isn't quite as pleasant with all the vehicular traffic speeding by in wet weather. I guess I was hurrying in order to get this part of the trip over as quickly as possible. We suffer on this road until we can turn to the east on Ryan Road in Milwaukee County which quickly takes us north on 5th Avenue, a quiet county road with intermittent views of Lake Michigan.

By now the rain has let up and the ride is again pleasant. The ride north is part of the Oak Leaf Trail, a bike route ringing Milwaukee County. At College Avenue we leave the streets and take a bike path through Warnimont Park in South Milwaukee. It is a nicely paved winding trail through wooded and prairie parkland. The trail gives way to parkways and another off street path along some windy bluffs fronting new lakefront apartments in Cudahy.

The crew is getting tired and we finally reach the ferry landing at 4:00 pm where we will take the Lake Express to Muskegon, Michigan. Our boat doesn't leave until 7:00 pm, so a Lake Express staff member suggests we grab a bite at the nearby Palomino's, 2491 S. Superior Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is a terrific tavern with a big picture window so we can watch over our bikes and a juke box with songs from my college days. Dennis and Ralph gorge themselves on fried foods and dollar Pabst Blue Ribbons.

We trundle back to the ferry terminal at 6:00 pm. We are quickly inspected by security and wait to board inside. By now it is a little chilly and I've put on pants. At about 6:40 pm we ride our bikes aboard and hang them on wall racks on the vehicle deck. We go to the upper passenger deck and take our seats and wait to cast off. Dennis has been wary of the voyage since he is prone to seasickness and the waters look a little choppy. We are quickly underway and once we reach our top speed of about 35 knots, Dennis is no longer his bubbly self (although his stomach probably is). Dennis succumbs to seasickness, fills three barf bags, and finds a corner of the deck to lay down. So much for the dinner at Palomino's. Ralph is feeling a little rough as well and goes outside to gain his equilibrium. I've never suffered from seasickness, so I stay seated and watch over our stuff. Fortunately the voyage only lasts 2 1/2 hours. Once the boat stops, Dennis regains his perk and we all yuk it up.

We land at about 10:15 pm local time. After a short night ride, we arrive at Holiday Inn, Muskegon Harbor. After warm showers and cable TV, we rack out for the night.

Distance Traveled: 78.9 miles
Distance to date: 673.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.75

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gone Touring

On Wednesday myself and two friends, Ralph and Dennis, bike to Milwaukee and take the Lake Express Ferry to Muskegon, Michigan where we will spend the night. On Thursday we bike to Ludington, Michigan and overnight there. On Friday we sail on the SS Badger to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and bike down to Milwaukee. On Saturday we bike back home. The weather forcast is rain and colder. Terrific.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Draft Rejected!

Got a 6:00 am start. Again I used my helmet mounted Phantom Jet Lite to illuminate the first part of my ride this morning. It was a clear morning so I could have just done without it though. It was a very pleasant and cool morning but ten miles into my ride my legs felt a little weak. At first I thought I was biking into a head wind but the nearby flags told me otherwise. Then I thought maybe a tire was low but that wasn't the case either. Then I realized my previous ride's racing was the culprit.

At Oak Street Beach I was passed by a racing bike rider and a road bike mounted commuter. The racer I let go by. But I went after the commuter. I was drafting pretty well and at Delaware I made sure to make my presence known by asking if he minded my drafting. I guess I startled him (he had earphones on) and he swerved off. I repeated myself but he demurred saying it was too dangerous and he peddled off. At first I thought, "Geez! What priss." In retrospect I realize I was doing the biking equivalent of panhandling. Why should he let some total stranger not only leech his air and but also potentially put him at risk? But my ego was also a bit bruised because he was faster than me. He turned off at Randolph so he wouldn't have been much help anyway. So I also consoled myself in the thought that he hadn't been riding as far as I had at the time too. I can be such a child.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 595.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.84

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blitzed Again

Terrific weather for bicycling. Left for home around 2:30 pm because I worked an early shift. Sunny and high 60s. Not a lot of people on the Lakefront Trail at this time of day. Passed a road biker around North Avenue beach. He looked like he was enjoying a relaxed pace. But like many before, I guess he took my passing him as a personal challenge. Around Fullerton, he passed me by and like Pavlov's dog, my conditioned response was to go after him. Some riders zip by me at such a good clip that I don't even think twice about trying to keep up. But those that are just a bit swifter than me are the bane of my existence. I have to run them down no matter how much it wears me out. This guy looked like he had a lighter bike, an obviously lighter load, and was probably younger than me as well (most people on the trail are). I kept up with him pretty good. By leaching off his wind I was able to coast every once in a while and conserve what little energy I had left in me. He was much better accelerating though. When slowing down for turns he was much better at picking up the speed again and it really tired me out. Just north of the Wilson crossing we had to nearly stop for some toddlers in the path. After that I was done. He was able to get back up to speed like a sports car whereas I accelerated like a loaded RV. Fortunately he turned off at Lawrence because I was spent.

Along Granville some jerk driver was probably trying to impress his girl by hugging the parked cars and not letting me pass. I know I shouldn't be passing on the right but I can quickly cruise through Granville while all the cars get bogged down at the stop signs. Jerk off had his fun until I was able to speed off at another intersection that was free of parked cars. But another car unknowingly did the same thing. I gave the car's fender a little knuckle rap just to let them know I was there so it wouldn't squish me. I freaked out the driver and she braked quickly. When the car came closer to me at Clark I gave an apologetic wave so she wouldn't think I was a total A-hole.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 551.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.89

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Video of the Week: Biking Down a Japanese Volcano

This looks like footage from a Japanese TV show. I believe they call it Super Terrific Happy Hour. Anyway, this guy gets up to 172 kph (106 mph) until his front fork fails on him.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cool Morning Ride

Used my helmet mounted Phantom Jet Lite to illuminate the first part of my ride this morning. Unfortunately the battery wasn't fully charged and I had to switch it off before it was light out (you hurt the battery if you let it run down all the way). At Lawrence or Wilson I spied a road bike mounted commuter far ahead. He had a good pace and it took me until around Gordon Terrace to catch up to him. Unbenownst to him, I believe, I drafted off him for a good while and quite enjoyed the lift. Around Diversey he slowed down. So I passed him and let him know I'd cut into the wind for a change. We shared the duty until he exited the trail at Randolph.

Roosevelt Road was pretty backed up from Wells to Canal Street and blocking the bike lane. So I had to resort to slaloming through cars. Kind of exciting but not something I'll make a habit of doing.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 527.2 miles
Price of gas: $2.89

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bicycling to Grandma's

The whole family hit the Green Bay Trail for a bike ride. It had been a long time since I'd ridden with my wife, Christine. I had to give her 20 year old Schwinn Mirada a little tune up prior to departing. But it was in really good shape and just needed refilling the tires and a little cleaning. Joseph was on his Huffy and Eric was in his seat mounted on the back of my Bianchi hybrid. We headed south from Tower Road. Joseph wore his new backpack and insisted on stopping at every bridge to take out his water bottle for a drink. Needless to say it got a bit tedious after a while. Fortunately the last bridge is at Cherry Street and we could make some progress for a change. We biked to Indian Hill and rather than turn around we decided to continue on to Christine's mom's house. Then Christine and I biked back home later and picked up the kids in the car. Grandma was quite surprised that Joseph was able to bike almost four miles.

Distance Traveled: 7.3 miles
Distance to date: 502.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.89

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Still Another Ride With the Boys

Took sons Joseph and Eric on a late morning ride on the Green Bay Trail to Orchard Street and back. Joseph tends to lean to the left on his training wheeled Huffy to the extent that he is almost wearing the tire down to the metal. He got a kick out of putting his sippy bottle in my bottle cage. So much that for a while we had to stop about every 100 yards so he could take another drink. While on our umpteenth break some Evanston Bike Club riders went by; quite a friendly crew. Made our usual stop at Hubbard Woods Park to watch a Flying Gaonas trapeze class.

Distance Traveled: 3.7 miles
Distance to date: 495.6 miles
Price of gas: $2.99

Adventures in Selling a Used Bike

Last summer I had a 2003 Cannondale Scalpel 3000 that I needed to unload. The bike is a high end cross country bike whose features were going to waste since I wasn't racing anymore. I considered selling it on eBay. But I just didn't want to risk letting the bike go for a rock bottom price on top of having to pay a percentage. So I put a $2.00 ad in MTB Reviews classified's and it ended up working out great. My ad had a lot of information about the bikes's condition and past use as well as a full view photo of the bike and a composite photo of the bike's major components; crank, rear derailleur, shifters, front brake.

Within a day I was contacted by one of many Nigerian scammers. I wished I saved some of the emails because they were hilarious. Their emails are so transparent that I wonder how anyone is ever fooled. They initially ask a few cursory details about the bike to which I dutifully reply with the slight hope they are legit. A very short time later they write back saying it is the bike of their dreams and offer to buy it immediately. They also offer hundreds or even thousands more than the asking price along with some crap about a friend picking it up or some other trash that entails my sending cash back to them(!). In the first few cases I gave them my cell number and my work address to send the check (I've heard these guys sometimes FedEx the funds all the way from Africa. Imagine how much that must cost!). Within a week or two I got a check. I think I received one or two checks via regular mail from the UK and Spain. The sender's name never even matched the person in the emails. These guys must have been trainees. The checks were obviously counterfeit; the small security printings would have misspellings and the typesetting would be misaligned.

Some people are actually fooled by this scam and deposit the checks. Shockingly some banks even accept them. Then the dupe ships off the item for sale along with the cash difference (minus some dough for their trouble). Eventually the bank gets wise and the dupe is held responsible despite the bank accepting the check in the first place.

In my case, the scammers waited a bit and then emailed asking if I'd received the check. I strung them along. I'd either write that I hadn't gotten the check yet or ask they send another one for one reason or another. One guy even called from Africa. Eventually I guess they got tired and went away.

I did receive a good number of legitimate inquiries though. The prospective buyers asked for a lot more information than my Nigerian friends. I took lots of photos and sent them off. I ended up saving an email with a half dozen photo attachments so I wouldn't have to go through the laborious process every time someone asked.

The eventual buyer knew much more about my bike that I did. He even informed me that I had the size wrong. After a lot of back and forth which included my taking off the front derailleur (he wanted to see if it had been put on too tight and pinched the aluminum frame-it did) he bought the bike for my asking price. He said he was buying it for his girlfriend. What a guy! Through my online investigating I learned he was actually a reseller and his girlfriend story was likely bogus. But why should I care? He paid the best price and I hope he made money on the deal.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Finally Riding on Properly Inflated Tires

After suffering three pinch flats in two days and consultation with Howard at the Compleat Cyclist in Dolton, Illinois, I realized my tires weren't properly inflated. I purchased a tire pressure gauge and sure enough, I was riding my 2002 Cannondale T2000 touring bike at 40 psi when I should be at 90-120 psi. Before my ride home from work the following day I only inflated my tires to 75-80 psi though. That is a lot of pumping with my compact bike pump and my ride is rough enough already. But I did notice a difference. My bones got a bit more rattled on every sidewalk and roadway seam but I seemed to get more power in my pedaling. Well duh!

The weather this afternoon was great. Sunny and high 70s and just a little wind. At Roosevelt Road and South Clinton, I was nearly creamed by an oncoming car turning left. I blame myself despite having the right of way though. I was going down the bike lane at a nice clip passing to the right of a UPS truck stopped at the corner. To the turning driver I'm sure I came out of nowhere. Fortunately for me he hit the brakes in time. Something to remember.

I chatted with a couple on a Co-Motion tandem between Ohio and Oak Street Beach. I was really envious. When my boys are older, my wife and I would like to purchase a road tandem so we can bike together. Not that we can't bike together now, but I like to go faster than she does. Then I passed a leisurely big guy on a road bike near North Street Beach. Like myself, he probably being passed personally. About a half mile later he passed me and I nearly killed myself trying to keep up and draft. I made a nice meal of his dust.

My pedals began to squeak in Evanston from the previous day's wet weather riding. It got too annoying so I pulled over on Isabella to lube them up a bit. I stopped pedaling to see how far I could coast. I went about three blocks.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 491.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.99

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Worst Day Ever!

There was a light rain this morning and the Chicago area forcast threatened even heavier weather. I left my car, raincoat and umbrella at work the previous day. Since I was going to get wet either way, I decided to bike in and make the best of it. After donning my Goretex jacket and Neoprene booties, I was ready to roll at 6:00 am. My booties did a decent job keeping my feet from getting wet but I was getting a little sweaty in the Goretex. The ride was fine until I hit a pothole on Ridge in front of Evanston Hospital and suffered a pinch flat in my rear wheel. I got an extra tube out of my seat pouch and got busy. I was able to remove the wheel without taking off my pannier and was back on the road within 15 minutes. I would still arrive at work early. My only concern was that the spare tube was a 700x19 for a 700x25mm tire. I crossed my fingers and rode on.

The Lakefront Trail was practically deserted. I was the only biker until around Montrose, a commuter on a road bike screamed past me. We exchanged hellos and I drafted off him as long as I could. At Addison I realized keeping up with him was a pipe dream. He cruised away and by the time I passed Belmont he had vanished in the distance. Just as well, my middle aged legs aren't meant for such punishment (although he looked just as old if not older than me).

The rain was still light but I sensed some sogginess in my left foot. I guess the Neoprene is far from fool proof.

If getting soggy wasn't bad enough, I suffered another rear wheel pinch flat somewhere around the Oak Street curve. I sensed my ride was a little more labored and the bumps seemed a little harder. The tire wasn't fully deflated but I could tell something was up. I soldiered on since I only had about five miles to go. But after crossing the Chicago River I realized I had to do something or I'd ruin my rim. I stopped just south of Wacker Drive and reinflated my tire. I could hear the air escaping but I hoped it would hold long enough to get me a bit further so I wouldn't have to patch my other tire in the rain.

After clanking past Monroe Street, I realized I was kidding myself. At this pace I would be pumping up my tire every other block. So I pulled over to a park bench, took off my jacket and got busy once again. Then the rain really started to pour. Patching a tire with an old patch kit is quite challenging. I only had one patch left and it was much too big for the tire. Plus my tube of cement was nearly dried out and now had a gummy consistency. Needless to say, the patch didn't take. So I decided to retreat to the Millenium Park Bike Station where I might be able to buy another tube. Fortunately I didn't have any early appointments at work.

I trotted my bike over the winding bridge spanning Columbus Drive and eventually got to the bike station. Luckily for me the bike station and its little shop is open at this hour. Unfortunately the guy on duty didn't have access to the repair shop where all the spare tubes are kept. They didn't have any repair kits on sale but they did have some rubber sleeve that supposedly patches a hole. At $3.99 it was about the cost of a whole other tube and seemed like a goofy solution. So I decided to just do a better job patching one of my tubes now that I had a roof over my head.

About 10 minutes later I got my tire patched and was back on the road. I finally arrived at work at 9:00 am; about an hour and fifteen minutes later than I should have. Another unlucky break was that the female custodial staff was cleaning the locker room. So I had to wait another fifteen minutes to take a shower. What a morning!

Work brought me out to Dolton and I bought a thorn resistant tube at Compleat Cyclist.

Distance Traveled: 24.7 miles
Distance to date: 467.6 miles
Price of gas: $2.99