Wednesday, September 23, 2015

North Shore Century ride 2015

My son Steven joined me for this year's North Shore Century Ride. I'm a happy dad. I decided to show a little mercy on the kid and keep it to the Metric Century, 62 miles (100 metric kilocentimegaters), this year. I'll keep working on him over the next year or so and talk him into the full 100 miles in 2016.

Anyway, 7:30 a.m. in the lakefront park in Evanston, Illinois, found us registering, picking up our T-shirts, and heading west into the high-value 'burbs on the annual ride.

Gosh, we both look so serious about this. In actuality, we were both having a pretty good time. Later, those of us with less long-distance bicycle experience began to feel a bit of discomfort.

This is Sunrise Park, in Lake Bluff. The most picturesque bit of the entire ride, which is why there is this picture.

At about the 30-mile mark, my shifting started going to hell. I couldn't shift any higher than about fifth gear (out of 9). I compensated with the front chainring, but it was far from ideal, since I've become a complete bike snob. When we got to the second rest stop, I headed over to the Trek tent. I was thinking there was an obvious problem that would easy to spot if they put the bike up on the rack. A length of fishing line caught in the derailleur, for example, which had happened to me before after a ride around Whalon Lake.

John from Highland Park Trek was happy to set my bike Shadowfax up on the stand and take a look. His first thought was that the original lubrication around the shifter had congealed. He sprayed some Gunk into the mechanism and let it work while Steven and I rested. After about 15 minutes, John ran the Shimano 105 through its paces: still not working right.

While I was distracted by some ancient Northwesternite — who had noticed my NU jersey and insisted on telling me the entire history of the Northwestern University Chick Evans scholarship at great length — John found that the shift cable was badly frayed and commenced to replace the entire right-hand cable system on my bike. While I watched, astonished, he restored it to better-than-factory readiness in about five minutes. Seriously, holy cow. I was so stunned all I could offer was a handshake. Now I realize a $20 bill (or two, or three) would have been appropriate. At any rate: thanks, John with the chainring tattoo on your elbow. Reply to me personally and I'll treat you to lunch.

Who needs .GPX files as long as you have a cue sheet, a handlebar clip, and sexy knees? Here we are on the home stretch. Nasty-ass pavement on Sheridan Road. You'd think the roadway along some of the most expensive real estate in the nation would be smooth as the proverbial baby's tuchis, but no. I kept having to swerve out into middle of the street to avoid crevasses and potholes on the roadway's perimeters. For shame, Kenilworth! For shame!

The Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette is always a welcome sight. Yes, it's one of the most beautiful buildings on the immediate planet, but it also means that we're almost to the end of the North Shore Century Ride. Total was 63.5 miles in 4 hours, 21 minutes of ride time (about six hours total, including a long stop where John rebuilt my bike).

I insisted on a post-ride beer at Tommy Nevin's pub in Evanston. I studied for (and somehow actually received!) a master's degree at Northwestern, and my classmates and I spent quite a few evenings decompressing at Nevin's after a day of classes. While we sipped a libation and munched a late lunch, a group of musicians ambled in and began to play Celtic music. Serendipity!

Also, there's video.

dsj 150923

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sept. 13 German-American fest and lakefront ride

Sister-in-Law Susan was visiting the weekend, so rather than watch the Bears and Cubs LOSE LIKE A BUNCH OF SICK NUNS not that we're emotionally invested in either team WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE we decided to head into Chicago and check out the German-American fest and maybe take a short ride along the lakefront.


The German-American fest was underwhelming in terms of extent and strudel content (none - Mary checked). But the music was thigh-slapping, the thuringer was drowned in good mustard and wimpy sauerkraut and beer was had by me. I bought a T-shirt.
Underexposed sisters and skyline.
After Dave had enough of mingling with his people, we headed east to the lakefront path. Susan had never experienced the LFP. We headed south from Lawrence and soon came to a photogenic bit.
More sisters and Chicago skyline.
Eastbound on Lawrence, heading back to the car.

Rather than head straight home, we detoured to Arlington Heights and ordered some decent Malaysian food — OK the only Malaysian food in the Chicago area — from the Penang restaurant

Got home, downloaded the pix, wrote a blog post, sucked down some prawn mee, got sleeeeeepy. Night, all.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Cal-Sag Trail with Steven

Daisies, I think.
Steven and I took a spin on the Cal-Sag Trail today, and aside from the wilting heat, it was a great time and we'll be back.

We caught the trail, newly opened as of June 6, at Route 83 just south of Archer Ave., at the Sag Quarry trailhead. It's a brand-new asphalt surface, smooth as the proverbial newborn powdered tuchis. Even the few road crossings are smooth, for now. There are some mild hills and enough squiggles in the pavement to keep things interesting.
The shade was most welcome.
Heading east-southeast on the trail, the Des Plaines River is on your left, with a hilly glacial moraine beyond. There are forested sections (much cooler on the 85+ F, humid day) that remind me of the nearby Archer Avenue "tree tunnels."

A highlight of the ride: a bald eagle soaring on the thermals over the moraine. When I see one of these magnificent birds, I always feel like I should salute.
Not daisies, but these yellow flowers
grew alongside the trail by the billions.
At Lake Katherine, we got punk'd by some ambiguous signs and ended up on the plain old Cook County Forest Preserve trails, which are themselves excellent and well worth the ride. At the 12.5-mile mark, we turned around and headed back.
A park in Palos had these exercise stations,
and of course Steven had to try them out.
25 miles was more than enough on a sweltering Labor Day. I can't wait to try that trail on a cool sunny morning in October, when the leaves are changing. It's going to be amazing.
Boss! Des Plaines! Des Plaines!
OK, you had to be there.
And thanks to my friend Eleanor, who recommended the trail!


dsj 150907

Cubs by bike

And so it came to pass that Mary joined her women friends and went to Lake Summerset for the weekend. And lo, rather than pine away in a darkened room, Dave got himself a Cubs ticket and headed east into the city for the day. Metra allows bicycles on off-peak trains, including those on brilliant mid-August Saturdays, so rather than fight the traffic and stress over parking at an inner-city ball park with no parking, I rode my bike. Well, not all the way -- I took the train from downtown Naperville to downtown Chicago. There was much Cubbie blue on the Metra platform. Apparently I wasn’t the only Napervillian heading for the game that morning.
All aboard the Cubs bandwagon. Er, train.
There was a bit of fumbling getting on board. I was not aware, nor is it obvious from the Metra website, that bicycles are only allowed on the ADA / handicapped equipped cars. However, a conductor whistled me over and got me squared away. I was ready with a bungie cord to tie Wyvern down. (Wyvern is the name of my Trek Crossrip bicycle -- it’s the commuter, 32 mm Gatorskin cut-resistant tires, aluminum frame, rack for pannier bags or, in this case, a trunk bag. It’s green.) An hour later, I was headed north along the Chicago River.
The river gets even greener on St. Patty's Day.

Seriously, world, how hard would it be for all streets to be like this stretch of LaSalle? Cars and bicycles sharing the road, the lion laying down with the lamb, cats and dogs living together, kumbaya my lord can’t we all just get alo-- hey, asshole, get off your freakin’ phone and pay attention there’s humans on bicycles over here and don’t you honk at me you jerkface douchebag!
Please note that I came to a complete
stop for the red light. 
I am a good
bicycle ambassador.
Heh, I kid because I love. Actually, riding a bicycle in Chicago is pretty easy and fairly safe. There are lots of bike lanes, or at least "sharrows" as in the picture above to remind motorists that there may be bikes about. It’s an eight-mile, 45-minute ramble from Union Station to Wrigley Field. The Cubs have a free, secured and guarded bike check right across the street, tucked in behind the T-shirt store.

Soon I was in my seat, very close to the infamous Bartman seat, I think: right where the foul line meets the brick wall in left field. Wind was blowing right-to-left and out-ish. A hot dog, a glass of wine, some friendly seatmates to my left and right, a warm sunny day in Wrigley in a rare winning season -- well. I was one happy guy. I got even happier when the Cubs’ home runs started landing in the basket. Cubs won over the Braves, 9-7. Great game.

On the way out, right under the big sign at Clark and Addison:
She said yes. But only because the Cubs won.
Feeling very Cubbie Blue on the way home, I decided to stop at Harry Caray’s restaurant for an expensive but always excellent dinner. I ordered the succulent 8 oz. filet at the bar while I watched the first quarter of a Bears preseason game.

Speaking of the unfortunate Mr. Bartman:
The most famous baseball shreds in Chicago history.
I headed back on Wacker Drive. It was pretty cool zipping along the almost-deserted downtown streets at night.

Strapped Wyvern into the handicapped spot on the train car, like the old pro that I am.
Mine's the one with the flag. 
And managed to stay awake all the way out and not miss my stop. It was a long four-mile ride home from the train station, but all in all, it was easier and more fun than driving.
♬ Catch the last train to N-ville and I'll meet you at the station ...

dsj 9/7/2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 Rotary Ride / Metric Century

Video: 2015 Rotary Ride. Yes, the helmet mount was on an angle and looks a bit weird. Sorry.

I really enjoy organized rides, whether I do the whole 100 miles or some fraction thereof. In past years, I've been riding solo: Whatever conversation and company occurs is happenstance, the spontaneous camaraderie that happens along the way.

But starting with last year's North Shore Century, in which my cousin Mark joined me, I've started to think having some company is a good thing. When Mary volunteered her workout friend Judy to join me on my annual Naperville Rotary Club Ride, I was initially put off. I like my classical music and internal conversation ("Ya damn woosie, stand up on those pedals and attack that hill!").

Turns out, conversation with an actual human is not only fun, it makes the miles fly by. I noticed that phenomenon with Mark last year, and with my new biking buddy Judy this year. I hope Judy had a good time: she's great company and I hope she'll join me again.

We did a metric century (62 miles / 100 kilometers). I arrived at Commissioner's Park fairly perky. Seriously, I could have done another 20 miles (4,345 centipedes) that day. It overcast and humid, but for August, relatively cool (77 degrees Fahrenheit / 2,987 pricklewads per centripoid). 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

606 Trail in Chicago

This is the best new extremely short trail in the Chicago area. All 2.7 miles and 30 minutes of it. I can prove it, here's the video.

Winner of the Tour d'Sexy.
Mary and I hit the new 606 trail this morning. This is a real marvel of urban bicycle / running / baby-jogger-stroller planning and is a MUST for anyone living in the six-county area.

We exited the Kennedy at Armitage, fumbled around a bit on the back streets, and found a place to park near the 606's east end. It's an old elevated train right-of-way running through the mid-north side of the city, basically yuppie central. Bicycles have a nice two-lane divided highway down the middle. Runners have a rubberized strip on either side to minimize the impact on their plantar fascias, or fibular cerebellums, or whatever. Dog owners have a three-mile linear excretion zone.

There are little pull-offs with benches or picnic tables. Beautiful (and we hope dog-proof) gardens.

My goodness, what a great people-watching opportunity. My favorite today: the guy in the FULL Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling outfit, and his kid wearing the Superman cape.

All too soon, we returned to our starting point. Mary was ready to continue our ride, so I suggested we head to the lake front path, about two miles east. About 1.5 miles east on Armitage, we hit Lincoln Park Zoo. Surprised that we could just wander on in — admission is free! — we locked up the bikes (two cable locks and a U-lock) and wandered on in.

OK, I'd eaten all the Kahlua pork and
macaroni salad by this point.
We checked out the flamingos (pink, how cliché) then saw a zebra and white-lipped deer, both of which appeared to be suicidal, and perhaps only delaying their exit until they could obtain heavy weaponry, starting with grenade launchers, and take a few hundred humans with them. Mary and I both agreed that zoos were depressing, and decided to leave post haste.

A short ride up Clark Street brought us to the little storefront "Aloha Eats," one
of our favorite places in the city. They serve up delicacies we've only had in the islands, starting with spam masubi: a soap-bar-sized slab of sticky rice topped with a slice of fried spam (yes, actual spam, wonderful spam) and wrapped in a sheet of seaweed. It's a carby rice, salt/umami-savory/fishy combination that's unlike anything else. Yum.

Personally, I'd like to live in Chicago.  But that's just me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Little Miami Trail Video

Lil Miami Deer
Here's the video from the Little Miami Scenic Trail earlier this month. Took me a while to get the video downloaded and spliced.

Check out the little spike buck (deer) at 1:15 -- I could have reached out and touched the thing.

No video of the signpost crash, sorry. I'm never rolling when I do something stupid.