Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Millennium Park Bike Station

I got an early start leaving from work today. Since I had more time to bike home in time for dinner I decided to check out the rental bikes at Bike Chicago located at the Millennium Park Bike Station. Two friends from the Marines are visiting in September and we're planning to do some light touring to Wisconsin and Michigan. Rather than schlep their bikes in from the West Coast, I said I'd track down rides for them locally. We'd planned to do the trip last year and I'd arranged a pretty good deal from Bike Chicago for a five day rental. But this year they raised their prices and a four day rental of a road bike would have cost almost $250 each. I could probably buy a used bike and sell it at the end of the trip for less than that. So Bike Chicago is out. A funny thing is they are one of my usual Google advertisers.

The bike station is bike commuter heaven! Bike parking, showers, lockers, repairs. It is an absolutely terrific place if you bike to work. But because it is located in Millennium Park and on the east side of the Loop, it is only convenient for a small part of the working population of downtown Chicago. When I biked to work downtown I never seriously considered using it. It was just too far from my office. I would have had to walk another seven blocks to get to my destination (I guess I could have rented a bike for the trip or parked my car nearby).

The bike station is popular though. When I went inside, I saw that the members only parking area, located right inside the entrance, had bikes in nearly every rack. Non-member parking is downstairs (there are special bike ramps along the sides of the steps) and was pretty well filled up as well. It would be nice if the City of Chicago could nudge the builders of the next centrally located Loop parking garage to put in another bike station.

The rest of my ride was the usual. Sunny weather and lots of people enjoying the Lakefront Trail. I got on the trail at Monroe Street and intercepted a young guy wearing an old school helmet on a road bike; a bike messenger type. We were going about the same speed but I passed him on a downhill. I decided to slow down and let him take the lead shortly thereafter since I just started my ride in earnest and was getting warmed up. Plus I always promise myself to just pick a pace and stick with it. The ride is long enough without getting into a race.

Messenger guy and I negotiated the trail traffic along Monroe Street Harbor, the bridge over the Chicago River, and the pedestrians going to Navy Pier. Messenger guy was slowed at the light at Grand Avenue. Able to conserve my momentum, I shot in front and apparently it was on. Since I don't have a rear view mirror, I didn't know where he was until he passed me just north of Oak Street Beach. I was being overly cautious with all the runners and bikers and I guess MG had enough of my rear wheel. He shot ahead and I figured I would watch him gradually disappear in the crowds up ahead.

By the time we passed North Avenue and rode along the volleyball nets, I had caught up. I guess he was watching the jets practicing for the upcoming Chicago Air & Water Show more than I was. Near the Theater On The Lake at Fullerton, he seemed to finally notice me and he was off again. By now I knew his adrenaline wasn't going to sustain him at that rate. I kept an eye on him and slowly reeled him in. Or more like his energy flagged which allowed me to catch up. Eventually I was on his wheel again but he was done with sprints. At the Montrose or Wilson crossing he was slowed by another cyclist. I shot past and that was the last I saw of him. Boo Yah, I win! A triumph only a 41 year old adolescent can appreciate. That night my family had dinner at my mother-in-law, Jan's and I told her and my wife about my apparent inability to control myself. Jan shook her head laughing but also in disappointment. Her seemingly level headed son-in-law was just like all the other silly men out there.

Distance Traveled: 25.0 miles
Distance to Date: 126.2 miles
Price of Gas: $3.31

No comments: