Monday, August 21, 2006

Wilmette Train Station

A chilly dewy morning. Bike is a little squeaky from the rain and mud of Friday’s ride. I gave everything except the chain and gears a good cleaning over the weekend (I couldn’t remember where I left my chain cleaning gizmo). My pedals had been squeaking for a few weeks. Chain lube hadn’t been working but a shot of WD-40 on each seems to do the trick.

I stopped at the Wilmette Metra Station and dropped off my gas payment in a mailbox. Through an open window I saw the coffee stand I remembered as a kid. All through junior high school I sold newspapers in the station’s waiting room. I had to be there at 6:30 am and was almost always a few minutes late. My workday ended after the 8:15 am train departed. I was initially paid $10 a week but by the time I left my wages increased to $12.50. Every Friday I kept $2.50 and deposited the remaining cash at at 1st Federal Savings located at Central Street and Green Bay. By the 7th or 8th grade I accumulated enough cash to get a 30-month certificate of deposit. I remember it earned and interest rate of 18%. Years later my father told me how impressed he was by my financial timing. That was my peak however.

As I turned on to Sherman Avenue in Evanston, I saw a figure biking toward the city in the distance. He was at least four to six blocks ahead of me. As I rode I could see I was gradually gaining on him. He was wearing a yellow top and drove a road bike. He turned toward the lake at Elgin but I chose to continue through downtown Evanston so I could see how the new construction was coming along. I worked my way south through residential areas and turned east on South Boulevard off Judson. Then there he was again but he had much more distance on me.

It wasn’t until Albion, just north of Loyola, that I saw he was crossing Sheridan while I was continuing on to Winthrop via a tricky left turn at Devon. He was a ghost until I was stopped at the red light at West Ardmore and Sheridan and he caught up to me. He stayed behind me at the intersection so I didn’t have a chance to say hello. I usually like to acknowledge other cyclists; it feels awkward otherwise. Once we got the green, we were off. He never passed me so I figured I just had a quicker pace.

The stretch between Belmont Harbor and Diversey always seems to wear me down. The path has some slight hills that after my 15 miles or so seem more dramatic than they actually are. Approaching Fullerton Avenue as I slowed and drank my fermenting Accelerade, mystery man called out, “On your left.” I practically sputtered in surprise since I figured he was a goner long ago. Fortunately his pace wasn’t too much faster than mine. I accelerated and was able to draft off him.

It was tough keeping up with him at first but my drafting was definitely helping me conserve energy. I don’t ride in groups and my only experience drafting has been with strangers on the Lakefront Path. There could be a whole protocol or etiquette for drafting that I don’t know about. Drafting can be quite dangerous since cyclists are going pretty fast with merely inches separating their tires. I’m not sure how far behind one can be before drafting looses its effect but from my limited experience the closer the better. It doesn’t allow for much sight seeing though. During the entire time I figure I was looking at the guy’s ass or tire about 85% of the time to avoid colliding with him. His butt actually looked kind of big; like a black Lycra goose perched on a leather egg (my middle age keister probably looks big too). As we slowed through the morning path traffic near the North Avenue crossing I said I hope he didn’t mind my drafting so close. He didn’t and said it probably provided motivation to keep up. Indeed it did. As we passed Oak Street Beach and continued south we were going 20 to 21 miles per hour and I was barely pedaling. He had to break away at Navy Pier and wished me well. I thanked him for the tow and continued on. The rest of the ride south seemed so much more laborious by comparison.

When I got to work the locker room was filled with colleagues finished with their morning workouts. They teased me about my tight shorts and funny tap shoes. When it became known that it was just one of my many 25 mile rides in to work, I earned a slight measure of respect. Still more jokes about tight shorts and funny shoes; but that’s the way it is in a locker room full of guys.

Distance Traveled: 24.7 miles
Distance to Date: 200.3 miles
Price of Gas: $3.29

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