Friday, May 27, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 18

IN -
Back in the saddle again today. I woke up and looked out the window. It was supposed to be overcast, but I saw the whole Big Dipper and a lovely crescent moon in a midnight blue sky.

It was cold though, about 45o with a wind chill down around 40o. I decided that it was jacket weather. I wore my gloves and a short sleeve tee shirt under and didn’t zip the collar all the way up to my chin, but my ears did get cold.

I had had my Bears cap on the back on the bike on Wednesday, that muddy return ride, so I had to find a new billed cap to wear.

I use the cap to shield my eyes from oncoming headlights to protect my night vision as well as I can. I ended up with a tan cap we got from Abbott Laboratories (where Mrs. Prop and I work).

I passed a brown fox crossing the street in Mundelein.

As soon as I started heading east the sky was lightening up. The midnight blue gave way to a deep royal blue, then an orange glow grew on the horizon. By the time I got to the highway overpass there were streaks of yellow through the wide band of orange that sat beneath the deep blue turning sky from royal.

It brought to mind the descriptions of dawn in the Oddessy, that of dawn spreading her rosy fingers. It didn't seem that way to me at all, it was more like rolling back the lid of night on a bright new day.

I wanted to take a picture, but I didn't think I could capture it.

Back to the mundane. I had forgotten to change into my gym shoes yesterday when I left work, so I only had a pair of my semi-dress shoes to wear for my ride in. That's what I ended up taking a picture of. They don't look so bad, do they?
Don't look, I'm ugly

The computer said that it is a 10mph easterly, but it seemed like the wind was more out of the north than east, but it was nice and sunny.

There were several interesting yet strong smells. First was the smell of ponds, or water; then cut grass and the foliage. In Mundelein someone must have been doing construction because I could smell the lumber, finally nearing home I could smell the fresh tar from the neighbors getting new driveways. All the odors were pleasant.

The not so nice thing, aggravating actually, was that there were still puddles of standing water and mud. That was really what the pond, water smell was. I discovered it when I surprisingly rode through the first one.

I wasn't packed for a wet ride this time so I had to ride carefully. I slowly rode through six puddles and around one major puddle that flooded the bike drive through at Dairy Dream.

Not So Bike Commute Day

No ride in today because it was storming up a storm. As soon as the alarm went off my wife told me that I wasn't riding in.

I was disappointed because this was promising to be my first 5 day bike week.

I thought it might be interesting to treat my car commute the same way I treat my bike ones and see how they compare.
My other ride is a bike

IN -
I got out late so I pulled away from the house at 4:25. I got to work and in the door at 4:50, so a 25 minute commute instead of a 32 - 37 minute one. That's not that big an advantage. I did take a different route, so I don't know if that makes a difference. I'll have to try this again with the same route as I bike. I will drive home my bike route though and see how that goes.

I didn't see or hear any critters, as suspected.

I listened to the news a bit and weather. Since it's a strong radio broadcast it wasn't very specific to my situation. I had the wipers on steadily for most of the way, and only switched to intermittent for a short while.

I also listened to "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin and "We Are Sex Bob-omb."

Sleepy, so very sleepy. That is a drastic difference between car commuting and bike commuting. I hadn't noticed how much less sleepy I am from riding until today when I nearly nodded off twice on the way home. I guess the ride really does make me less sleepy, even if I get only four hours of sleep I never nod off on my bike.

I did see a pair of ducks in a puddle in a field. I always like seeing them since they remind me of a longstanding, happy marriage. I'm pretty sure ducks mate for life, and it's very easy to see which one is the male and which one the female. There is a Korean tradition of giving a pair of duck figurines to a newly married couple for luck. Our pair is in our china cabinet near our "plate."

It was so windy that it pushed the minivan around a bit. I am glad I didn't ride today, though disappointed that I couldn't.

The drive home was about 24 minutes, so driving alone was twice as fast as riding, but I had parked where I usually do, at the back of the furthest parking lot, so I can stretch my legs and get in the most steps for my 10K-A-Day pedometer. I didn't check my watch to see when I left the building to walk to the car. I think it is between 2 and 7 minutes, so the whole commute home could have been 26 - 31 minutes. I have riding in to work in 32 minutes so that is very close to being a wash, but then you have to add in the time it takes me to change clothes.

In the end it really isn't that much extra time to ride, and well worth it to get in the daily 75 - 90 minutes of free exercise time. Though sometimes I don't see much more on the ride than the drive the alertness of riding makes those trips more memorable and pleasant.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 17 - Happy Towel Day!

Happy Towel Day everyone! (actually yesterday) 

Speaking of Towel Day, I was thinking about staging, specifically at work.

I keep my bike in an unused cubicle near mine.  Mostly I try to keep just my bike there because I don't want to seem like I'm trying to take ownership of another cube for myself.  However, I have on occasion had to go back and get something I forgot in my own cube because it wasn't there with my bike when I left.

I'm not sure it it's better to keep a few things in that cube with the bike or not.  My hat, gloves and reflective vest are a few specific items I'm thinking of.

I'll have to think about it some more.

IN -

It was foggy, misty, wet and cool this morning. It was about 50o, but there was a NE wind that made it feel more like 47o. I was chilly, but oddly enough I didn't feel like I was being pushed back. The streets were still wet from a rain last night and it looks like it will rain on me going home.

I debated with myself on what to wear today. I ended up with a gray long sleeve tee shirt (military) and a white short sleeve one over it. I wore my usual shorts, socks, gymshoes and gloves (wool military). I wore my reflective vest over it all, with a Bears trucker cap and safety glasses.

I think I made a mistake not wearing my jacket. It isn't exactly waterproof, but now I don't have any long sleeve thing to wear home unless I want to add my sweaty one from this morning. I guess I'll have to wear my work clothes home and hope it doesn't rain on me too bad.


It rained all day at work and I was very nervous that it would be a wet and cold ride home. It was ironic since it is Towel Day.

It wasn't all that wet actually. It had stopped raining about an hour before I left and it didn't rain on me at all.

It was slightly warmer than the ride in to work, though I expected it to be cooler than it was so I wore my work clothes home.

It was foggy and damp. The trail was muddy and wet. It was like riding on a beach. I counted six times I had to go off trail to avoid standing water and/or mud puddles, and nine times (nine times, but I wasn't sick or ditching school) I had no choice but to ride through the puddles.

I was packed for a messy commute though. When I got home everything was covered in mud splatters and it was all the way up to the top of my reflective vest. I assume it got up to my hair as well, but I couldn't really see that.

It was all just little drops, not a huge wet strip up my back though. I suppose that was because I actually do have a rear fender. That and the two bags I carry kept me mostly comfortable, if not completely clean.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 16

IN -

The computer says the wind is 4mph from the north, but I think it must be some sort of government conspiracy instigated by the auto makers in cahoots with the oil producers. It felt like a 10mph easterly, right in my face. I don't know why I would be dragging so it's the only explanation I can come up with.

Lots of frogs and birds making themselves heard, but nothing of note to see. I did have a bug fly into my mouth.

It is getting brighter and brighter every morning. At this rate it seems like it will be daylight for my morning ride, but I'm pretty sure it won't. I didn’t start last year until July, but I don't remember it being all that bright in the morning and I was coming in a half hour later then.

Speaking of last year, I commuted 30 times last year so I'm over half that this year already. This is my 16th day this year.


I was a nice, sunny day, bit cold though. It wasn't any warmer than coming in this morning. I think it was a north wind, so that was the most pleasant.

It was all dust on the trail today, some of it showing signs of washing out from the rain. Since the trail looked a bit like a beach I thought it was appropriate to take a pic of what I call the Beach House.
The Beach House

This place looks like it could be sitting on a lake somewhere, but in reality it is just overlooking the North Shore Bike Path.

In Mundelein I was traveling down Prospect and there is an over pass there for the train. This is the second time this year that I have avoid being caught by a freight train in Mundelein by taking this route. I really like the idea that I can ride my bike with a train overhead.
I've always said that I'm under-trained

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 15 & My Ethos

Yes, my ethos.  I'm sure those that know me are saying to yourselves, "well of course he has an ethos."  And those that know me know that I am going to explain it with a little story.

My wife told me that he car was in a bad way, so Saturday we took it into the shop.  While we were there I noticed a Daily Herald laying there and this article was on top.  Hey, another guy in Mundelein who bikes to work. Wow, he has done it since '91, and wow he bikes 15 miles each way.  He works at a bike shop.

Well, duh.  He bikes to work and he works at a bike shop.  It's great for him and all.  It's a great example, but it's a bit of a no-brainer.

It got me to thinking.  I am not a cyclist who rides to work.  I am a person who goes to work on a bike.  I have friends who do triathalons.  They don't ride to work, but if they did they would be cyclists who ride to work.  I'm sure they would wear cyclist clothes, they would push themselves; but they would probably not ride their best bike and not count it as a proper cycling workout.  I am assuming here, but I think that would be their ethos.  I could be wrong, but it's the impression I get from cyclists.

I also get the impression that I am not one of them.  They don't give me that impression and I don't feel I belong.  I'm not serious enough, but ironically, it's because I don't treat it as a sport.

I don't like the sport of cycling.  I don't like racing in general, but I really have no interest in long distance racing.  I find close course cycle racing a bit more interesting, but it's certainly not a sport in which I want to participate.  Mountain biking sounds challenging, but I wouldn't want to race.

I like getting around on a bike.  I like the "being there" that I talked about in earlier posts.  I like being Earth-friendly in a way that is enjoyable.  I like dabling in the "gear" but only as deep as I want to go, which is probably akin to sitting on the dock and dangling my feet.  I like providing my own propulsion.  I like the extra exercise that I can get almost free (very little extra time or effort).  I like being able to do all this and still provide the same level of work, with no special compensation.  I like the idea that if I didn't want anyone to know I could bike commute almost invisibly.

I think of a bike as a vehicle or a tool, not as a toy or a sport.  In English we don't have a word for someone who using a bike like this.  I don't know if they do in other languages.  In English when you say someone is a cyclist it means they participate in a cycling sport.  If you say someone is a driver it doesn't mean they are a race car driver.

I'm not complaining, really I'm not.  I'm observing.  It's interesting and I think different and subtle.  I'm trying to define it.

When I see photos of people in other countries riding bikes to work, like Japan, China, the Netherlands or Denmark, I think, that's like me.  Those people have pretty much the same attitude towards biking that I do.  In this article of the Top 11 Bicycle Friendly Cities in the World, four of them are in the US.  There are lots of bike commuters there, but I really don't feel like I belong in that group.  I feel like an outsider.

Have I forced myself outside, or have I been forced outside?  I don't know, but I do that I feel apart, and it's probably mostly because of my attitude and my ethos.

My super-special, eco-amorous commuting bag
IN -

Monday, yes Monday. Had to take the Mrs. car into the shop on Saturday. When the mechanic asked if we could leave it she really didn't blink, she just asked, "Is that alright?" She didn't ask if I could ride to work or treat it like an extra special favor, but just if it were alright.

Previously we really didn't talk about it much. She treated it as a sort of folly of mine that she tolerated, but now it seems to be a given.

It was warm this morning and the air was dry, but the street was wet.

Last night I had to make a special trip to bring my clothes for the week (since I didn't take the car today to bring my stuff). It was raining so hard that I had to wait for it to let up and stop hailing before I could DRIVE to work. I'm so glad that was all over before I left this morning.


Three words, WIND, mud and gas. Traveling at 12mph into a 20mph headwind means I go 8mph backwards? I felt like it. Seriously, it was a terrible headwind and I was fighting it the whole way.

On top of that, it had rained so hard last night that there was still standing water on some of the trail. Ironically, other parts have such good drainage that they were dusty, but that wasn't as bad as the water and mud. I had to go off the trail onto the grass about a dozen times to keep out of standing water and another half dozen I rode through mud that I didn't realize was there or couldn't avoid. Remember the pictures of Blackie mud spattered? That was today again.

And gas, I had a stomach ache stabbing me and threatening to explode. Maybe I'm sharing too much, but it was uppermost on my mind, when I wasn't thinking about the wind, or the mud/water.

It all added up to a long and exhausting ride home, so I topped it off with mowing the back yard and working on planting a new tree in the front yard. Did I mention that I'm on a team competing to have the most hours of work outs this month?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 14

IN -

Got a good early start today. The smells were particularly interesting today.

While still in my subdivision I smelled cat. This was the kind of smell you get when you walk into a cat person's house. The odd thing is I've never smelled a cat running around outside before. I've seen them, but not smelled them. If there had been a litter box on the curb in the trash or old carpet I would have expected that kind of smell, but it isn't garbage day. Maybe there was a sick cat out there.

After the cat and still in my subdivision I smelled cigarettes. I didn't see any smoker out at 4:05, but I smelled it.

Later I passed a gas station and could smell the gas, and I smelled the bakery I passed.

In Libertyville I smelled wood fire, probably someone's home. Then in Lake Bluff in the other subdivision I ride through I smelled the wood fire odor very strongly. I think someone there might be using wood to heat their home.


It was another beautiful day and I was enjoying the ride. I wanted to take a picture of something different and I was trying to think of what that might be.

I stopped on the bridge over the Des Plaines River and thought I would take a picture of the different level of the river if nothing else came to mind.

As I was taking the pictures (which were lovely, btw) I spotted something. It was brown and low and moving up the river. As I watched it I saw the tail and realized it was a beaver. I snapped a couple of pictures and it was actually moving slow enough that I switched over to video and caught it as it moved out of sight.
Who you lookin at?

When I reviewed the pictures I realized it had been watching me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 13

IN -

Dry and cool today. It was about 55o so I didn't wear my jacket. I didn't see any critters, but I heard a lot of birds. I got a very late start, but the ride was very fast.

Boy that's boring. Who wants to read about that. The thing that occupied my mind the most this morning was snot, but that’s sad if that's the only thing I can think of to report on.

I was thinking about sunrise. The days are getting longer. Of course they are and have been since 22 Dec; and they will until 21 Jun or so. I'm just wondering how early it will get and how late is "night."

Personally, and this is just my little quirk, I consider 23:00, 24:00, 01:00 and 02:00 to be night. Flat out those hours are NIGHT hours. If you wake up at one or two in the morning you are waking up at night. If you go to bed at midnight you are going to bed in the middle of the night.

On the other hand, 03:00 is technically night because in Chicagoland the dawn is never that early. And I think the dusk is never as late as 22:00. But, I don't think I'd say those are night hours, I think they would be VERY early morning or VERY late evening. 21:00 is evening and 04:00 is morning, no doubt.

Now, my point is, I leave the house between 04:00 and 04:30, which is morning, right? It is almost always dark as night and as cold as the day will be, but it's morning, right? I get up at 03:00 which is what, night or morning?

It was cloudy this morning, but I could still see the dawn rising. I wish I could get a picture of that, but alas, my camera phone is not the best (Motorola Droid 2) and I don't think I could really capture it anyway.

Something occupied my mind the whole way home. As I was leaving work I saw someone I know just outside the building. She praised me for biking, but said she could never let her children see me because I don't wear a helmet.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I don't wear a helmet.

It really bothers me that there is often a witch-hunt about that. I get people asking me out of the blue and I don't know what to tell them because they clearly BELIEVE one thing and anything I could say probably would not convince them of anything.

Why don't I wear a helmet? The bottom line is three fold. I don't like them; there is no law requiring me to wear one; and I think there is too much fear mongering or attempts to seem effective with a quick fix.

That last part is inflammatory and I really don't want to get into an argument. There are lots of sites with lots of things on them, some studies and lots of opinion.

Let me share a story that illustrates what I mean. When I took my youngest to the pediatrician the doctor asked her if she always wore a helmet when she rode a bike. She told her that she had to never ride a bike without a helmet because 80% of children who die do so because they weren't wearing helmets.

That clearly wasn't true. I found the study that she was trying to quote. It's an often quoted study and it has been found to be extremely faulty and misquoted.

I don't like when people try to shove that kind of thing down your throat with misinformation, ignorance and fear.

I'm not advocating not wearing a helmet. I'm advocating safe biking, the whole package and not -slap a helmet on and you are safe. I'm advocating understanding the studies and the arguments and making up your own mind.

I'm not saying you should not make your children wear helmets. I'm saying that you should know and understand the studies as best you can and make an informed decision.

I will request this you:

Do not teach your children fear and do not teach them that biking is dangerous. Teach them to be careful, cautious and active.

While thinking about it I thought about all the other things I do to be safe. I have three front white lights, two red back lights. I wear white and/or reflective clothing. I assume no on sees me unless I make eye contact with them. I signal my turns. I ride with traffic.

I stop at stop lights, and I stop at stop signs. I had gotten a bit lax with that, but I certainly did so today, and I will from now on.

I choose to not wear a helmet, but I'm going to do so when I'm doing everything else to be safe. I have seen that with normal riding it would statistically take you 3,000 years to get a head injury. Per mile the chance to have an head injury on a bike is the same as walking.

One other point I want to make is, please do not force me to be an advocate for helmet pro-choice. I really don't want that argument.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 12

Book Idea - I had an good idea yesterday for a non-fiction book.  Well, it seemed like a good idea to me. 

I started thinking that it would be cool to build a trailer and ride pole to pole on a bicycle.  Then I thought it could work to eat one hot meal a day.  That evolved into eating it at McDonald's, and then the idea to use McDonald's as a logistical base and then to the idea of a sort of opposite Supersize Me, where because you choose healthy meals at McDonald's and you are exercising all the time you actually lose weight and/or maintain it. 

Then I thought it might be hard to find McDonald's on the polar ice cap, the jungles of the Amazon basin and down in Terra Del Feugo.  So the final morph of the idea was to bike across the US.  I could call it, Coast to Coast on McDonald's.

I believe that most if not all McDonald's are free WiFi hotspots so you could write and do all your computer stuff there too.

Somebody willing to try it?  I'm kinda busy with the wife and kids etc.

IN - Hardcore! It rained on me the whole way in. Okay, it was only like two notches above mist, but it was the whole way.

I looked out the window when I woke up and it was cloudy, but no rain. I looked up the weather on-line and it said cloudy with only a 25% chance of rain. It was supposed to rain when I was at work. It was about 51o so I planned on not wearing my jacket. When I opened the garage door I was surprised to see that the van was wet, but I couldn't see any rain. I put my hand out and sure enough the mist was actually falling, rain.

I put my jacket on and wrapped up my stuff tight. I was mainly concerned about kick up wetness. The wind was slight out of the NNE, but since the air temp was so warm it actually was more comfortable than yesterday. I got to work not exactly dripping. There are actually parts of my bike, my shorts and my jacket that are dry. I do feel like a nice hot cup of coffee though.

Oh, and I still made it in under 40 minutes.

It definitely feels like I'm dragging though. I had to sprint to make the light at St. Mary's and I just couldn't get it to go, even when I stood up. I thought it might be the rain or even my rear tire going flat, but it wasn't the tire.

I wonder if anyone else feels a drag when the pavement is wet?

HOME - I rode home in my work clothes, but without my jacket on. It was the same temperature as the ride in, but the "rain" was dialed down two notches to mist. It wasn't falling and the ground was drying, but I could feel it as I rode through it, as if the rain drops were hanging in the air. It was probably over 95% humidity.
I never talk about smells, and I think I should. A few days ago it smelled a lot like summer. Today the smell was damped by, well, the dampness. There were three smells that struck me, wood burning, good; cigar, good; and bus, not good. Why is it that some burning smells are nice and others aren't?
This was the second time I rode past a bike standing on the trail with no sign of the rider. These aren't abandoned bikes left to rust to death. I don't know what that's about.
Speaking of which, the train was sitting, waiting again.
Speaking of rust; I don't know if you can see it in the photo, but my bell is starting to rust ever so slightly. That's interesting since I NEVER leave my bike out. Not when I'm at work, not when I'm at home, never. So the only time the bell has gotten wet is when I'm riding the bike, and I must have ridden in the rain and wet enough that it's rusting. That is hardcore.

My Bell bell, see the rust there on the left?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 11

IN - When I checked this morning to see if it was good weather for riding, the moon was so bright that it lit up the tree in the backyard. I knew then that it was perfect, at least precipitation-wise. It was 41 with a wind chill of 37, a far cry from last week.

I felt like there was a drag on me the whole ride. I did manage to catch some key lights and for some reason my nose wasn't as runny as it had been. I only had to stop once to blow my nose. In the end I got to work in only 33 minutes.

It's sad though that the thing that most occupies my mind on these trips is how much my nose runs. Next time I'll stop and try to take a picture of the moon, but today I have a very big meeting I have to get ready for.

A freight about to pounce
HOME - It was a beautiful day. I think it was a bit warm for it, but I wore my work clothes home.

Abbott creek

As I was leaving the campus there was a train waiting just off the crossing. I heard it cross after I had gone over the highway and smiled to myself. I also took a picture of the creek that runs just west of Abbott. It's a cute little thing and glistened brightly in the sunshine.

Around Butterfield I saw someone walking their bike. As I passed I saw that it was a teen and nothing seemed to be wrong with his bike. I feel bad because I didn't ask him if he needed any help, but he didn't look like he needed any and having two teens at home I know how touchy they can be. I still feel bad, I mean it couldn't have hurt to ask, not really. I think my karma kitty is certainly less full today because of it. I'll be looking to refill it.
A package, for me?
When I got home guess what was waiting for me? I got another Body For Life log book. It was free since I "finished" the first one. I'm not sure I want to do that program again, but it is always nice to get something in the mail and doubly nice when it's free. And it's good for me so win-win.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Proud Dad - Camping and High Ropes

This weekend my youngest went on a camping trip.  It was possibly her first camping trip and it was COLD.  I understand it got down into the mid 30s.  They were in a building, but it was a plywood one built for summer, with no heat and some of the windows were only screens with canvas over.  She reported no hardship whatsoever.


I brought her to the camp (Timber-Lee in East Troy, WI), about an hour and a half from our house.  Since I had to do quite a bit of driving and I had stayed with her sisters on their first trips I decided to stay as long on Saturday as I could.

As soon as they got there they did archery.
Then they had lunch, orienteering and then, right before I had to leave they did high ropes.  This is very similar to COPE, if anyone is familiar with Owasippe (it might be a BSA-wide thing too).  The difference is that each of these "elements" is separate.  You have to climb up to each one and they lower you down each time.  There is no slide for life at the end.

In the time they allotted she managed to do two (that was typical I'd guess for our group).  The first was a balance beam, 22 feet in the air.  The second was a tight rope.

Here's a photo of her climbing the second element.  I'm so proud.  I took videos of both the elements she did, but I'm not sure if I want to share them on the net.

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 10

This is for Friday, 13 May 11

IN - Started at 4:19 again and again I got in at 4:54, same exactly as Wednesday. That's strange since this felt like a much slower trip.

I was caught by nearly every light. I was even caught by the light at Libertyville high school (which is never red when I go by) and the one by the Luthern church. Libertyville HS was especially strange since there were cars waiting.

I have to confess that I blew the light at St. Mary's Road. It was red with a car waiting as I approached and I thought I would never make it, but I kept pedaling. When I was just short of the begining of the left turn lane (which I consider to be the distance limit from a green light that will allow me to cross, given the length of the transition from green to yellow to red) it turned green so I started pedaling furiously. I was doing very well when about 2/3 of the way up the turn lane it turned yellow. I leaned forward and gave it all I had. I usually don't even enter an intersection when it's yellow, but this is a long light and no real way for me to trigger it alone. When I got to the intersection the light turned red. The yellow was probably less than 5 seconds. Not really a useful yellow, since isn't it supposed to warn you and give you enough time to stop? I probably could have stopped, but I could see that the car drivers crossing Hawley hadn't yet registered that it was their green. They were still at a dead stop. So I went.

I'm a very bad boy and I will have to do penance somehow. Oh, and my nose was runny again despite the fact that it was in the 70s this morning.

HOME - I'm writing this Monday morning and I can't hardly remember my ride home Friday. That's not good, since I really didn't want it to just become the sort of commute that everyone has, one that you can't remember. That a big part of recording my rides, so they will make sure I pay attention to the ride and not put myself on autopilot, because I'm going to have to report on it.
I can tell you that it was ominous with the temperature cooler than the ride in and the clouds and wind. When I left my building I stopped and repacked my stuff in case of rain. I thought I was racing a storm all the way home. I had a bit of a tail wind and the ride was very quick.
It felt like it could possibly be faster than my ride in to work because of the racing feeling, but as it turned out it was 5 minutes slower. And it never did rain until after night fall.
I'm going to really have to pay more attention, and not just for photo ops.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 9

IN - Seems there is a lot more to write about in the afternoon than in the morning, well, some of the time. This morning was mostly uneventful. I left at 4:19 which has become sort of late-ish. It's 66o again (I think it was 62o yesterday), but it felt pretty comfortable. I guess I must have had a slight head wind which actually cooled me down. My nose was runny again, but I managed it a little better. It was very foggy and I suppose if there hadn't been a wind it would have been very low visibility.

One of my cube neighbors came up to me today.  He asked me about my bike.  He too commutes by bike.  I'll talk about him more some other day, but he commutes from the other direction and might have a great place to stash bikes inside the building (IF I can't put it in the cube I'm hiding it in now).

HOME - I guess I was wrong. There was very little to write about on this trip home. I didn't get a chance to write about it right after I got home, and wehn I did go back to write about it, I couldn't think of anything. It was nice and sunny with very little wind. I did take some pictures.

The bike path less taken

I took a picture of the trail sign where Mundelein comes in.  On of the things I really like about my commute is that I go through three towns.  I also turned around and took the snap of what I call, "The Spur."  I don't know what it's officially called, but you can take the trail down a twisty, open trail behind Carmel high school.  It adds about a mile and is very hot in the sun, but I'll take it when I have the time.
One of the things I really don't like about my commute is that the trail is really not that bike friendly.  In fact the whole area is very car-centric, and almost anti-bike.  At Butterfield and at Milwaukee avenues you have to stop, go over to the intersection and press the button.  It really slows you down.
Seriously, I mean, seriously?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 8

IN - This was not a good day. On the bright side, my bike did not fall apart and it didn't rain on me. I left late (4:21) and by the time I got out of the subdivision I realized I had forgotten my ID. I went back for it losing 7 minutes.

Then I got stopped at 45, Butterfield and Milwaukee. I was following a car at each and at each the light was green for the car, but by the time I got there it had turned back red. At Milwaukee it turned yellow and red before the car had even gone through the intersection; and there were no cars waiting the other way! I caught a red at St. Mary's too, but I had timed that one better and didn't actually have to wait or put my foot down. Then after I crossed the highway on Atkinson I was on the downhill really picking up speed and about 5 seconds before I got there the train gates lit up and started coming down. I didn't want to risk it so I waited for the freight train.

To top it all off, even though it was like 60o this morning my nose was running all the way. I had to stop three times to blow it.

It was a very comfortable temperature though and I didn't wear my long sleeve tee shirt, jacket and gloves. I wore a short sleeve tee only and was quite comfortable.

I saw a single deer at the Seminary and I shouted it back into the woods.

HOME - I wanted to see how long it took to get from my desk out the door. It took 14 minutes and that was with someone stopping and asking me a question, and with me changing into shorts, so not too bad. The overall Desk-to-Door time was 58 minutes.
Wow, I actually had a tail wind. The wind was out of the south and it was about 82o and mostly sunny. The fact that the wind was not in my face was so very welcome. I stopped to take several pictures.
Wind turbine and an Easterly
The first is a picture of a wind turbine I ride past. I'm not sure exactly where it is (some day when I have more time I'll try to ride around and find out), but I see it when I pass Culvers (which I will have to stop at one day when I have more time). It shows that I had a nice favorable wind.

Fellow bike commuter's ride and place of business
On my other side at the time I was taking that was a bike rack at Culvers and the bike of a fellow bike commuter. I see it there every day. I'm guessing 'he' works at Cluvers.  I should stop in and ask him while I enjoy some frozen custard.
I had a couple of funny encounters happen today.
Two important facts for the first one: I have a reflective vest, and everytime the North Shore Bike Path crosses a street it's a blind alley. I came up on one street and I was slowing down to stop because I saw a car. I guess she was looking somewhere else and when she caught that bright vest she slammed on the brakes and the car skidded and lurched to a stop. There was really no need. I let her pass and crossed the street. A lady supervising some day car kids playing nearby gave me a thumbs up.
Later I came to an intersection and stopped at a stop sign. A woman on the street to my right smiled and said something encouraging as I let her turn right. A half block away we were side by side waiting for the light. Again she smiled and nodded.
So I guess I get a 2 out of 3 approval rating today.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 7

It occurred to me that I might be taking entirely the wrong approach.  At work I try to maintain normalcy.  I try to make it not a big deal that I bike commute.  I try to make it so that if you didn't see my bike you wouldn't know I rode it; I don't want you to see me ride it in and I don't want you to see me ride it out.

I think it might be good that I want people to know that I'm normal even though I rode my bike to work.  I can go to meetings and be clean and on time.

On the other hand, though I've haven't asked for it, I think it might be right to ask for special considerations on account that I ride my bike to work.  It isn't an imposition to my employer.  It isn't that I'm some crazy fool that expects work to bend over backwards because I'm having too much fun playing around with my bicycle.  It is fun, and because of that I've been feeling like it's a guilty pleasure, but it shouldn't be. I shouldn't be ashamed or feel guilty.

I should advertise it, or at least let it be known.  I ride my bicycle to work, and so should you.  Why aren't you riding to work?  I encourage you to, I'll help you, I'll show you how, I'll be an example.
Hey, Mr Big Corporation who is so interested in presenting yourself to the world as a great place to work and a friend to all the little people, why don't you showcase me, the eco-friendly, health conscious bike commuter.
Abbott Laboratories, where I work has a half dozen health programs.  I'm in one now called Exercise Across Abbott, where they challenge individuals and teams to compete against each other to see who can exercise more.  I just completed a program called Body for Life, sponsored through Abbott.
On the other hand, the corporation recently had a fun poll on their main website asking employees world-wide how they got to work.  Do you know, more people answered that they walked to work than biked?  Something like 6% walked to work while only 2% rode bikes.
At my old building there was a concrete pad where a bike rack was supposed to go, but there was no rack there. When I asked for one, they were very happy to accommodate. They put a rack there designed for one single bike. The real trouble was that it only weighted less than 50 lbs and wasn't bolted down. Basically it was a small concrete block with an eye-bolt sticking out. I never used it. I brought my bike into the building and put it near my cube.

The bike rack for my current building is on the opposite side from where I enter, which is the front of the building.  Also, it is all the way out at the parking lot.  It is where the side walk and the parking lot meet.  Wow, if that isn't car mentality.  Why should it be there?  Why would a bike commuter want to park his bike where his car isn't?  Why can't it be where the sidewalk and building meet?
I don't know, but I'm thinking that as long as I keep my bike under a bussel the thinking won't change.  And I think that might be a bad thing.

IN - Good ride today.  I twas that in between temp that messes with me (50o).  It was too warm for the jacket, but to cold not to have it.  2/3ds of the way along I had to unzip part way and I didn't wear my gloves at all.  On the other hand my left eye was teary all the way and my nose ran like a faucet after half way.  Whoo Boy, you don't get that kind of fun in a car now do you.  There was a bit of fog, especially at the end.  I saw some mysterious shapes crossing Atkinson near the highway and it turned out to be deer so I talked to them all the way until I got on the bridge.  Funny that my shouting at them seemed to have less effect than my little bicycle bell.  There was no hidden train this morning, but only about two minutes after I crossed the last train tracks I freight train arrived.  I would have been stuck.  Since I make a sharp left turn after entering campus the road runs parralel to the tracks for a while.  I don't know how I developed it, but I have an instinct to race trains.  It wasn't much of a race since that train was booking, but I did pick up my pace.  Must be my inner prop kicking in.

HOME - I had to ride home to get on a phone meeting that would go over 1:30.  I ended up leaving a lot later than I had planned.  I think I need to time how long it takes to get from working at my desk to walking out the door with my bike.  I think I'm grossly underestimating the time it takes me to get out the door.  I didn't have time to really look around as I rode home so I don't have anything much to report except that it was really busy.  I guess a lot of people were trying to get home early for the weekend.  One thing to note though is that I rode with my work clothes on.  Actually I think I did that all but one day this week.  I'm pretty sure that Wednesday I changed into my shorts before leaving.  When it's only about 60o then I'm comfortable in my work clothes.  Oh, and I didn't make it on time for my 1:00 meeting.  I was five minutes late.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 6

Every notice that when you travel by air you can't count the places you fly over as having been there?  I feel the same way about driving.  You pass through places, you aren't really there.  When someone calls and asks where you are you say, "Crossing Main Street," or "Just coming up on Hooterville."  You're never, "At the museum," unless that's you're destination.

One of the things about riding your bike to places, rather than just riding around, is that you feel much more like you are actually AT the places you ride through or by.  You see more because of the slower speed and the all around view.  You experience the cold or rain, or heat and sun, and there's no escape.

On the other hand if you aren't careful it will get to be just like driving there in the car.  While car commuting I often don't remember the trip because I was on auto-pilot.  While riding I rarely go on auto-pilot, but sometimes I get more caught up in the RIDING than in the BEING.  I'm concerned about the gears or the state of the bike or how fast I'm going.  I ride in my own little world and it doesn't much matter where I actually am.

The other thing that contributes to that is the stopping.  When you fly over some place or when you drive past some place, you don't stop.  You aren't THERE, you are approaching there, near there, and then past there.  You never ARE there.  When I'm running late or want to see just how fast I can make the trip, I often would never consider stopping and being there.

The reason I'm keeping this journal about my commute, and the reason I'm sharing it, is because I never want to develop a bike commute auto-pilot.  I want each trip to be an adventure.  Not a scary, don't know what's going to happen next, we might all die, Poseidon Adventure.  I want a, we are going camping this weekend adventure.
Back of dogwood house
Front of dogwood house

IN - Smelled skunk all through Mundelein today, didn't see one though. Very cold 39o and my eyes started watering. That was new. Pretty quick and quiet ride. I had to guesstimate my start time because I forgot to look until I got to Hawley and Lake in Mundelein. Something I noticed again today, sometimes there is a freight train sitting and waiting south of Abbott Park. I don't know why they do that.

HOME - There was a big southerly wind today. Maybe it was SSW because sometimes it was straight in my face. I swear I could feel it pushing against my bags. I spent the trip looking for the dogwood tree I wanted to take a photo of, and anything else that would make a good picture. I noticed a lot of things. Despite the wind it was a pretty good ride. It took 51 minutes, but considering I took two photos and had to take a detour to get the front picture it was fine. The tree in the photo was completely bare last week when I started riding, now look at it. I wanted to take a back and front picture because on the trail I get to see the backs of all the houses and businesses. I think sometimes the difference will be striking. BTW, I have no idea who lives here or even where it is exactly, it just struck my eye.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 5

Entry - Denied or You Shall Not Pass
IN - The gate was locked!  That's my first thought as I write this because it was the most recent and because I took a picture of it.  I actually left earliER than I had been (4:09) so I was pretty happy.  Most of the lights were with me, but I did have to make a full stop to blow my nose at one point.  It is very cold this morning (39o now at 5:15) but very little wind.  Before I came to the gate I saw a car parked on Atkinson south of Abbott, which is very unusual since it's all open fields there.  On two previous occasions I had been at that particular gate onto Abbott's Abbott Park campus and I saw them open it between 4:25 and 4:35.  I got there this morning at 4:41 and there were no security in sight.  I stood there for almost a minute and nothing.  I started riding around and decided it would be today's picture so I doubled back.  When I did, I saw that same car that had been parked driving eastbound on Atkinson with only the parking lights on and the gate was still closed.  I had to ride at least an extra mile to go around to another gate.  When I passed my gate on the inside it was open.  Well, that's more exercise for me.  Since I signed up for Exercise Across Abbott with a lady who is a tri-athelete I can sure use the extra minutes for the team.

Abbo-Labbo from I294 and Atkinson
HOME - Well the gate did what the trains could not, I got home one minute faster than it took me to get to work.  It was bright and sunny, there was actually a heat index so although it was like 51 it felt 60ish.  It was very nice with a slight breeze.  I was only going to go with one picture today, but as I was leaving work I was crossing the interstate and snapped the second picture.  It is decidely less impressive than the at-night version, but I was in a hurry this morning.  There was quite a bit of traffic on the bike trail this afternoon, but otherwise it was uneventful.  I did pass UNDER a train on Prospect in Mundelein near Lake street, that was satisfying.  Also, I had purchased a reflective vest that I wore yesterday and today.  I don't like it because it makes me look like a construction worker, but it is highly visible.  Also, it makes me look fat.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 4

Des Plaines River at Rt 176 looking South today
Got some pictures for y'all!

IN - The train gods must have had it in for me today. I got stopped by a train in Mundelein for about five minutes. Another train crossed my path on Atkinson, but I slowed down enough that by the time I got to the tracks it was done. I got another very late start (4:16), but at least it wasn't any LATER than Friday. Each day last week I had gotten later and later. I have got to prepack and get up at 3:00, not 3:05 if I'm going to be changed and ready to work by 5:00. Cold again (39o but no wind) this morning and overcast, but there is a greater chance of rain this afternoon.

The Des Plaines River Bike Trail, or would be
HOME - It was still really cold coming home (42o real feel 39o) but it was a Northerly wind that I mostly didn't even notice, so the going was extra easy. I was very surprised at the number of times I was actually in my highest gears. I can usually never get out of 2x4 (Middle (2nd) front gear, 4th back gear (out of 7) but today I spent a lot of time in 3x7. I actually thought I would beat my going to work time, but I stopped to take some pictures of the Des Plaines river and to hook my hat on the back of the bike. The river is really swollen. In the second picture it shows the Des Plaines River Trail, which I could take from Atkinson down to the Northshore Trail, if, of course it weren't under three feet of water.  Oh, and I take it back about the train gods, they made it up to me on the way home.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

First Quarter Review of Inner Prop's 2011 New Year's Resolution

Here, I said I would review my resolutions each quarter, so here you go:

1. Waist - 36  I think I'm about 38 now, that's good down from 41
2. Weight - <220  232 down from 244, not doing so well yet
3. Finish P90  Switched over to BfL which I would have finished if I hadn't hurt my back
4. Bike commute as often as possible (75 times)  Because of weather I had to wait until April, not March, so I've revised this down to 75, and I'm well on my way to that.
5. Walks (10k steps a day)  I'm averaging 8,000, so I need to work on this

1. Pay more attention to family finances  I think I'm doing that
2. Quarterly Dates  We've gone out to dinner several times, but no overnights yet
3. Game Night  Tried this once, it was a no go. We're going to have to do something else
4. New Pet  We're investigating rabbits and cavies, but don't have one yet
5. Walks  Need to do this more, I expect more now that the weather is good.

Music (these are sort of in order):
1. Learn to play ukulele (the definitions are still subjective, focus in Jan)  Been working on this nearly every day. I need to beef up my minutes a day though.
2. Play with my family (both in my house and a holiday gatherings)  I have taken my uke to two family gatherings at Boushette's house. The second time I actually had people sing along with me, fun.
3. Learn to play harmonica (again learning and playing are subjective terms)  Not yet
4. Learn to play bass  Not yet, probably Q2
5. Join a band  No ready yet, looking at Q4 for this one

1. Commissioner Key  Haven't talked to the District Commissioner yet
2. Archaeology Merit Badge Clinic  I have only one contact, need to go to another clinic and get MB counselor training

1. Do NaNoEdMo in March  FAIL - Signed up and started, read most of Seekretya, but haven't finished reading it and have not edited at all
2. Submit my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel to a publisher  Not yet
3. Blogging
1. I will blog more posts this year than any previous year  Can't tell yet
2. I will review and update my 2011 goals at least quarterly  Done, here, now

1. Don't get laid off  So far so good
2. Get a Promotion  This is a Q4 thing, and I've told my boss about it