Bike to Work Week 2014

It’s Bike to Work Week in Chicago.

While I was an enthusiastic bike commuter in Champaign, I hung up my wheels for the first year I lived in Virginia. A bike commute wouldn’t have been impossible, but it would have been a miserably hilly 8.5 miles on busy city roads on a heavy steel bike from the 70s with approximately 2 available gears. A year later, I had a lighter single speed, a 7.5 mile commute along the Potomac, and a couple of coworkers living in the neighborhood, so biking to work was actually kind of a joy.

I did it!
Bike to Work Day 2009

Then came just-as-hilly Michigan, where my commute was uphill both ways, with stoplights at nearly every block for half of my commute. I had good intentions of biking and a dramatically shorter commute, but barely rode at all for the two years I lived there.

By comparison, biking in Chicago has been a joy. Yeah, I broke my arm (again). Yeah, I face-planted on Cermak last year and narrowly avoided getting hit by a truck. Yeah, I had a wheel stolen, and replaced a wheelset because roads on the south side are just terrible. Yeah, I tense up every time I bike on the open grating on many of the city’s bridges or over tracks that even slightly protrude from the road. Yeah, I get pissed off at drivers, at buses riding in the bike lane, at pedestrians not paying attention, at cyclists breaking the law.

But that doesn’t make it any less of a joy. It’s such a different way of being in the city. I can’t explain it any other way. Even on the worst of days – like Tuesday, when I did my 8 mile bike commute straight into 23mph winds – it’s better than driving, and easier than taking mass transit, at least for my commute.

Before I got pregnant, when we were first talking about the prospect of having a baby together, we argued about biking. I love it. It makes me incredibly happy. I’m also injury-prone (see above), and that’s not good for a baby. A friend’s husband and midwife banned her from biking when she was pregnant. It’s too risky.

We struck a compromise: no road bike during my pregnancy, but Divvy was OK as long as I was riding conservatively. When the weather finally improved, we spent a couple of long weekend afternoons riding Divvy on the lakefront – not too fast, not aggressive at all, just enjoying the weather and the view and the exercise. It felt amazing. N – who hadn’t been on a bike in the city until last fall – ventured onto the city streets with me. I had a serious case of bikeyface.

And so I’ve resumed biking to work a couple of days per week – 7-8 miles on Divvy via the lake or MLK Drive. I arrive at work sweaty, hungry, happy, and energized. I don’t have to go to the gym on my lunch. In the afternoon, I take the Metra, picking up a Divvy bike for the two miles between the station and home. It’s great.

My goal for Bike to Work Week was to ride at least one way, every day. I’m not sure I’ll make it the final day – 5 days of consecutive commutes on heavy bikes while six months pregnant have left me jelly-legged and exhausted, and besides, the weather’s going to be terrible – but I’m awfully happy that I was able to ride this week, and hope I can keep it up awhile longer. Besides, judging by the kicking, the baby seems to like it.

First bike commute of the year.

Morning commute #divvyon

Nice end to my day. #divvyon


Belgium, part 1 of many

It’s been three months since we got home from Belgium, and I’m just now starting to get through the hundreds of photos we took in our two weeks there. It’s strange to page through my Flickr and see day-to-day Instagram shots of the beginning of summer interspersed with photos from oh-so-cold weather and the early days of my pregnancy. Oh well – better late than never!

My first impressions of Belgium were colored by severe lack of sleep and motion sickness from our flight from Istanbul. Can I tell you how stressful it is to meet one’s partner’s family on 2 hours of sleep, having thrown up in the airport? You’ll excuse the exhaustion in my face in most of these photos.

On our first day, we didn’t manage much other than the train from Brussels to Antwerp, the tram from Antwerp to Deurne, a long nap, and a walk around Rivierenhof, a beautiful park minutes from where N** grew up. The park includes a lagoon, a terrace full of afternoon beer-drinkers, a fairy tale house (pictured below), a rose garden, and lots of wandering paths for strolling and walking.

Fairy tale house at Rivierenhof

After the first extremely tired day, our visit fell into a comfortable routine. Most mornings we would sleep until 9 or 10, and would wake to N’s mom returning from the bakery with fresh pistolets or other pastries (or bread from a vending machine!!). We would share a breakfast of pistolets, cheeses and meats, kefir with fruit and nuts, coffee, and juice before getting ready to head into the city. I only had the energy for one or two adventures per day, but then most places close by 6pm, so we would take in a few sites with a late afternoon stop for a second coffee, Speculaas, and pastries. In the evening, we would either have dinner in the city or head back out to Deurne for a quiet evening in.

Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral of Our Lady, the dramatic and beautiful centerpiece of Antwerp

Vlaeykensgang, an alley dating to the 1590s

Via Brabantica
Imagine my surprise as we kept coming across wayfinding devices for the Camino! Apparently Antwerp (and also Bruges) sit on the Via Brabantica. Perhaps we’ll walk it one day.

Riverside, golden hour

Sunset over the Scheldt

**You may have noticed that there aren’t many photos of N on this site. It is his preference to keep much of his life offline, and I’ve tried to respect that here. I hope to include a few photos of him in this series of posts, but will for the most part be sharing photos of the city, our adventures, or photos he took of me.

May is for new music

I’ve been in a music slump for the last six-or-so months. Of late, I listen to the news on my commute, the same 4-5 DJ mixes while running or at the gym, and then whatever N puts on at home, which tends to be instrumental/electronic/classical. I tried to Shazam something I really liked the other day, but it didn’t work.

It was confounding to me as a teenager (and after) that my parents seemed to have minimal sense of the music that was popular when they were in their 20s and 30s – coincidentally all of the stuff that I was really into in my early 30s. That impression has turned out to be not entirely accurate, but as I’m hitting my mid-30s full on, I guess I get it? Pop didn’t have much time to listen to music when he was working 10+ hour days, and Mom was home with 3 little kids and wasn’t ever really into music anyway. And there was no Spotify or internet, so it was radio or nothing, and who knows what the local radio stations were playing in the small amounts of time when they might’ve tuned in?

So having acknowledged my ongoing music slump, I resolved to listen to one new-to-me album for every workday in May. I didn’t hit that goal, but I did listen to a bunch of new stuff, and have a Spotify playlist populated with more than a day’s worth of music still to try. Perhaps I’ll try for the same goal in June!

May Playlist
Lykki li – I Never Learn
Hiroshi Watanabe – Genesis
Kina Grannis – Elements
tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
Seabound – Speak in Storms
Fennesz – Bécs
Parov Stelar Trio – The Invisible Girl
The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Tess Parks – Blood Hot