Wednesday, January 03, 2007

First Ride of the Year

And what a great bicycle ride it was. Well sort of, considering it's January.

After almost two weeks of sloth I was very ready to go back to work. Not that I didn't enjoy watching scads of TV after the boys went off to bed and sleeping in until 8:00 am. But I could feel my jeans getting tighter in the waist to the point they were giving me back pains where the denim was compressing my spare tire. Jeez! I did spend a day regrading the foundation of my flagstone patio. So I got a decent amount of exercise hauling lots of slate around my back yard. But not enough to ward off the growing mounds of body lard from laying about.

Dark, clear and a brisk 34° with southwesterly winds when I left a little after 6:00 am. I really felt the wind when I biked the Green Bay Trail. I initially thought it was because of the time away from the bike but then I noticed how speedy I got when I biked by a stand of poplars providing a wind break. My fingers also got really cold. Normally my thin gloves provide plenty of protection but I guess they don't do so well in the wind.

Normally I'd encounter a handful of joggers and dog walkers on the Green Bay Trail at this hour. But for some reason I guess they all decided to sleep in. I figured I see an increase in activity due to New Years resolutions (no resolutions for me; why tamper with success?).

It started getting light as I biked through Evanston. I figured I'd be able to see the sun rise while I biked through Chicago. My GPS provides such celestial data and I'd be able to see when exactly the sun would crack the horizon. But I forgot to attach it to my bike today. Not a huge deal. I'd either see it or I wouldn't.

By the time I biked into Chicago my core temperature rose and sent more warm blood through my hands. So my fingers weren't bothering me anymore.

I reached the Lakefront Trail before the sunrise despite it being already bright. It wasn't until just north of Diversey that I saw the first glint of sun over the horizon. In all the months of bicycling this was only the second time I'd seen the dawn though. I slowed to take in the view and was passed by another commuter and we exchanged pleasantries. He was about as heavily laden as I was. But judging from his lack of a lighting I figured he hadn't been on the road as long as I had this morning. I was pretty well beat from the winds that I didn't even consider matching his pace until around the pedestrian bridge to North Avenue Beach I thought I might actually be closing in on him. Ever the adolescent, I couldn't resist trying to reel him in. Maybe he was beginning to suffer the effects of the stiff headwinds as well. I feel they can be somewhat demoralizing after a while.

It wasn't until around Chicago Avenue that I slowly crept by him and I said something lame about the headwinds. I'm at a loss as to the etiquette in such a situation.

Just as I was climbing the ramp from the Ohio Street Beach I saw that I had a chance to make the light crossing Grand Avenue. So I pedaled really hard while keeping an eye on the cross walk signal. The signal was flashing and counting down from 4 while I was still on the S turn and about 100 yards away. Despite getting a solid red signal, cross traffic didn't have a green when I reached the intersection. I slowed slightly but remembered other bicyclists screaming through the intersection after I had stopped on other occasions. So I gunned it, made it through and maintained my momentum.

I was kind of spent on the uphill after that and basically faced a struggle all the way to Roosevelt. But the winds didn't seem to be a problem as I biked inland despite them being almost in my face. I seemed to have all the lights on my side and made very good progress westward.

At Roosevelt and Ashland I spied what looked like a low cart in the bike lane a few blocks ahead. I quickened my pace and as I closed in I realized it was a very low riding recumbent bike. It looked like the guy could pedal under a car with room to spare. I was very surprised anyone would ride such a thing in traffic as he was very, very easy to miss. It wasn't until I was nearly on top of him that I saw he had two bleached out raggedy flags at eye level. If I was him I'd have put up a couple pinwheels and some Mylar balloons. He was practically begging to get smooshed. But I did say hello as I passed. He was an old guy so maybe he's senile.

When I got to work I was pleasantly surprised that the building management put in some bike racks. I guess they didn't like the three or four of us locking our rides to handicap parking signs.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1511.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.51


edgewater_roadie said...

Hi Steve,

I think you wrote about me again today. Someone passed me south of North Ave and commented that the "Wind was a bitch". The person that passed me was on a road bike(?), but I didn't think you had a road bike.

I enjoy reading your journal as I have many of the same thoughts and experiences. (I left a comment back in Sept/Oct).

Anyway, I'm the roadie with a blue bag on the back. I live four blocks from the path in Edgewater and don't have to go on major streets (except 1/2 block of Sheridan) I usually keep the blinkies off on the trail in the morning. Always 7-7:30 AM.


Steve said...


I thought you looked familiar, especially your bike's paint scheme. But I didn't think it was so long ago. Thanks again for the nice comments and I look forward to seeing you out there again.