Tuesday, May 18, 2010

11.9 miles to the bowl of oatmeal

Happy National Bike to Work Week!

Why yes, yes I did bike to work today, thanks for asking, prompted by the unofficial participation of my workplace in the League of American Bicyclists' "Bike to Work Week" event. I enjoyed the ride very much — enough that I'm probably going to be a fairly regular bike commuter this summer and fall.

Google Bike Maps (hereinafter GBM) did a bang-up job of creating a bike-friendly route from my home in Naperville to Argonne National Laboratory's West Gate. The map did need a tweak here and there — just a matter of clicking and dragging the route line to a more-direct street — but 90 percent of the route was perfect. (To access Google Bike Maps, pick "bicycling" when getting directions on Google Maps.)

Fuel for the commute: a bowl of oatmeal and two strips of microwave bacon. Channel 9 News said was 47 degrees when I left the house at 6:30 a.m., dressed in sweatpants, hoodie sweatshirt and a windbreaker. A helmet, of course. Printouts of the route were at the ready in my handlebar bag, as was a radio tuned to the local sports talker. My backpack held a change of clothes and necessaries for a shower.

Your commute looked like this ...

... and my commute looked like this.
Neener neener neener.

The route took me though leafy suburban backstreets, then down 79th Street to Greene Road. GBM provided a great shortcut through the Greene Valley Forest Preserve's pathways.

The delightful, partly paved mile and a half wound through prairie and forest alive with birds. Red-winged blackbirds perched on rushes near a small lake. Snowy egrets padded through the shallow water. A bluejay: brilliant blue and white with an incongruous, ugly squawk. Goldfinches with their sine-wave flight paths. I took one wrong turn on the maze of trails in the preserve, but all too soon, I was looking at Rt. 53 directly across from 83rd Street and staring at a steep uphill. That climb up the ridge presented the only serious bicycling challenge of the morning.

A smooth bike lane on Woodward Ave.,

Soon I was gliding east along 83rd Street, and then west on Woodward Avenue, both of which have wide, smooth asphalt bicycle paths separated from the roadway. I stopped for a Diet Coke at the BP station at Boughton Road, where I peeled off my windbreaker and gloves.

Up over I-55 — the inbound lanes already clogged at 7:15 a.m. — and then along Frontage Road. A quick squiggle through the subdivision brought me to the Westgate Road and the laboratory's western entrance.

Shower facilities at work, while not luxurious, were adequate to the task and the patient bicyclist is rewarded with hot water after only a few minutes' wait. I arrived at my desk at 7:50 a.m. The ride was 11.9 miles long, which I covered in 69 minutes, as measured by my cheapo GPS unit.

I wasn't particularly tired in the morning although I did notice I needed my mid-morning snack (a banana from the coffee shop) about an hour earlier than usual. Got pretty yawny in the afternoon; perhaps joining in the Running Club's 2-mile walk at lunch was pushing it.

The ride home was assisted by a very welcome 20-mph tailwind. It was 12.8 miles in 68 minutes. The day's total: 24.7 miles by bicycle, and a two-mile walk. Yah, I'm tired.

My Toyota Highlander hybrid gets about 25 mpg in the city, so by riding my bike today, I avoided burning about one gallon of gas and the attendant generation of 19.4 lbs. of carbon dioxide, per U.S. EPA estimates. To be sure, that total is offset by the pound or two of CO2 generated as I huffed and puffed my way up that hill on 83rd Street.

Gonna ride the Harley tomorrow, to give the legs a break, and try the bike commute again Thursday.

dsj 100518


  1. You're commute is fairly similar to mine - I join on at 83rd (I don't go though Greene Valley) via some back paths and then it's on to the same destination. Just to keep you motivated, I've been commuting daily this way since early March and will try to keep it up until the first heavy snowfalls. Swapping Gas for Oatmeal!