Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 64 - FOUR Train Day!

The morning train that caught me, Train #1

New PAVED trail behind Culvers, ahh.
Train #4 - nah nah, ya missed me

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 63

A smashed pumpkin in September is far more ominous than one on 1 Nov
Click here for audio report

The opening and closing music is:

A Machine To Break Your Heart

Artist : Henning Ohlenbusch
Genre: Retro | Album: Looks Like I'm Tall

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 61

IN –
Near the new animal hospital, just west of the river, there is a big field.  This morning it was full of cars with a big advertising balloon that looks like a balloon, and one that looks like a big fox with a tee-shirt that says, “Car Fox.”  I’ll try to take a picture sometime.
Of course it was cold again and my nose was running again.
This was a much more interesting ride, even if I wasn’t planning on paying attention.
I left work early because my youngest had an early release from school.  I left at noon and it took me 48 minutes to get home because I took the Des Plaines River Trail as I reward myself every Friday.
The trail was very nice as usual.
On Atkinson I saw a family of geese crossing the street.  They all looked like adults so I guess the young were born earlier this year (or hatched I guess).  There was a big group of geese they were joining on the other side of the road so I guess we know why they crossed.
I saw a lot of other bike riders today (but not that group I’ve been seeing because it was too early).  I was surprised because it threatened rain the whole afternoon.
Along the trail I passed another rider and then looked back at the trail, right in front of me I saw a chipmunk turning and diving into her hole.
Later I passed a black and white cat about where I saw the black cat the other day.  This one was on her way into the underbrush as I approached.
Just after that I came up on an older gentleman with a serious looking bike and dressed as if he were a common biker.  He was putting away a map when I first saw him.
I pulled up behind him and slowed down to a crawl, “Are you okay?” I asked.
He said that he was and that he was just deciding his route because he said it looked like rain was coming.  I said that it did indeed look like rain.
By this point I had drifted passed him and since I really didn’t have time to chat about the weather (I was supposed to be going home to finish my work day) I didn’t stop and make any feeble attempts at small talk (afterwards I realized I should have asked him how far he was going and if he rode often because he sounded like he had a Wisconsin accent and looked serious enough to have just ridden down from there).
He said, “Thanks for stopping,” in a friendly tone, but I felt guilty.  I hadn’t actually stopped, I had only slowed down.  Had he said thanks for asking I would have felt better.  I’m glad I actually asked this time though.  Baby steps.
While I was working on my notes for this a young man with a large back pack rode past my house on a bike.
I was going to stop at Culvers on the way home and treat myself to a hamburger, but I figured I had to get back to work.
I noticed that I never pedal backwards anymore.

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 60

(from 15 Sep 11) -
IN -
COLD!  It was in the 40s this morning.  I wore a zip-up, hooded sweatshirt (because I couldn’t find my jacket) and my gloves.  I don’t want to be too gross, but the snot thing is almost too much.  I wish there were some way to avoid it.
I got stopped at the light coming out of my subdivision, at Hawley and Midlothian.  There was no way for me to cheat because I left a bit late and there were cars in three directions.  I had to just stand there and wait painfully while the stupid light went through its entire program.
One interesting thing to note was that I saw my first morning woman driver.  I had not seen a single woman in the mornings since I started last year.  This was a woman in her 20s or 30s, not that that matters, I just thought I’d throw out a bit of detail.
I spent the whole ride home thinking about an audio drama I want to write.  Unfortunately I didn’t notice much of the ride AND I really couldn’t get the story to coalesce in my mind.  Lose lose.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 59

IN -

Speaking of "on fire" (reference to my thighs yesterday afternoon), apparently there was a fire on the Minnesota Canadian border and the winds did an unusual up and over move. A bunch of the smoke from the forest fire was dumped in the Chicago area, over 400 miles away. You could see it yesterday afternoon and many people said they could smell it.

This morning the cold air, humidity and the smoke all combined into the thickest fog I have seen yet on my morning rides. There were places where it obscured my vision a bit, and I couldn't see any stars. It wasn't anything like thick London fog or anything, but very noticeable and striking.

Otherwise my ride was fairly uneventful and surprisingly quick considering I wasn't really pushing.


When I got home I recorded myself so that I wouldn't forget anything. I was hoping to be able to embedded the audio here, but as I was finishing my daughter walked up shouting. I really don't have any time for post production so I'll just have to type out what I wanted to say.

It's funny that riding is a bit like dreaming. Everything seems so vivid and memorable while I'm riding, but as soon as I stop I seem to start forgetting things, the more time passes after the ride the less I remember. I wonder why that is.

I wanted to try to focus on the ride and work on my memory so I tried to remember ten unique or rare things on my ride home. These would be things that only happened on this ride or happened rarely so that it is noticeable when they do.

Here's my list of 10 Twos:

1. Bike Pack - There were about 15 bike riders gaggled together on the street in the subdivision near work. I don't know if they were an organized group. They went the other way.

2. Train crossing - A Metra train crossed St. Mary's road just before I got there. It didn't slow me down, but I tried to use it to pass some cars (which I didn't manage to do) and it led me to the next one.

3. Mail man - There was a mail truck at the head of the line waiting on the train. When all the cars went he moved forward just a little an pulled over to deliver the mail. I nearly ran into him. I'll have to watch out for those guys more closely.

4. Trail cracks - I noticed yesterday for the first time that part of the bike trail just after St. Mary's is so dry that it has big cracks in it.

5. Burnt steak - I smelled a steak behind some office blocks. I thought it smelled great, but then it smelled like they burnt it.

6. Loud crack - Just after I smelled the steak, in my revelry some one dropped something metal and heavy. It startled me.

7. Black cat - Up ahead of me on the left side of the trail I saw a black object. It had two small points on top. I thought it might be a cat, and as I approached it moved off to left and I was sure, but it didn't cross my path.

8. Wet lumber - Between Milwaukee and Butterfield I smelled a very familiar odor. It smelled like wet lumber or maybe some fresh wood chopped for mulch. It smelled like my Dad's basement, over by the work bench.

9. Cold wind - I was going to say tail wind, but I didn't really feel it as a tail wind, it certainly was cool though (and it's almost a Lovecraft story title ("Cool Air")). It was five degrees warmer in the afternoon than the morning, but with the wind I think it was actually cooler.

Drat, I could only remember nine things without listening to my recording.

The tenth was School bus - I had to stop for a school bus in Mundelein. The bus was just after a stop sign and it really didn't seem fair for me, moving as slowly as I do, to have to stop twice, but there were cars all around. I managed it by stopping long at the stop sign and moving forward slowly enough that the bus started moving before I got there.

There was an additional thing that I didn't want to mention in the twos because it deserved a specific note.

As I was coming to the three way intersection on Countryside Road near Fremont School and the museum a brown SUV suddenly appeared to my right. This intersection is a yield for me, a stop from the other way and no control on the street she was on. I was somewhat slowing down and watching for cars, but I was still going pretty fast. She appeared so suddenly that I had to slam on the brakes and come to a complete stop, which is rare there.

I squeezed both brakes all the way to the grips and didn't slow down enough. I've had brakes so tight that squeezing them that hard would have stopped me like hitting a curb, but mine didn't even slow me down enough.

I ended up putting my left foot down on the street to come to a complete stop. I had slowed down enough for that, which is very scary because in order to put either foot down I have to actually get off the seat (I call it a seat, I know it's a saddle technically, but isn't it far enough removed from horseback riding days that we can call it what it is instead of the archaic thing it was meant to replace?). Getting off the seat means I am really no longer riding the bike.

There are really three problems here, I was over-riding my brakes (going too fast for my brakes), my brakes need tightening, and the dust from the trail has made my brakes not grip well enough.

The last one is better after a rain, so I may have to wash Blackie. I will have to tighten the brakes and just watch my speed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 58 - I Feel the Need for Speed!

IN –
Whoo Boy!  My legs were fresh and I think I had a tail wind.  The lights were against me mostly, but I was pedaling hard.  Once I got to Atkinson I thought I might be able to get a new record so I hit it hard.
I left the house at 4:02 and when I got there I saw the clock change from 4:34 to 4:35.  I’m going to take it as 32 minutes travel time which is one minute faster than I have ever done it so far.
Obviously I didn’t really pay much attention to anything else.  I did notice that the moon was full and VERY bright.  I had heard that there might be rain, but as soon as I woke up and saw the light streaming in the window and knew it would be a good riding day.
SPEEEEED!  I decided from the get-go that I was going to try to get home as fast as possible.
I had another reason for a need for speed.  I left work early because I had to attend a meeting that bridged the time when I had to leave.  Of course I didn’t leave my desk until when I should have been leaving the building.
I nearly ran through the halls to my bike and threw on my clothes.
I got out the door at 12:10.  There was a strong wind out of the NW.  Officially it was the NW, but it felt much more like it was right out of the west.
I couldn’t afford a 50 minute ride home and even a 45 minute ride would not really wouldn’t have given me enough time to cool down before calling in.
I blew through as many intersections that didn’t have traffic, but I did go to all the lights.
I came up behind a woman rider at one point.  She was riding casually, and had stopped at a stop sign.  She started going and I went past her.
Then I saw another rider in the distance.  This one struck me as another woman, though I couldn’t really see, I couldn’t even see if it was actually a rider and now a walker.  All I could see was the aqua shirt.
As I got closer I realized it was a rider.  I was closing, but the rider was still far ahead and might turn off at any intersection.
I saw the rider come up to Butterfield.  That street has a light and you are supposed to go to the actual intersection, press the button and wait for the light.
I always do this because going straight across is a matter of timing and I never catch it just right.
This rider went straight across (which I call cheating).  I had a tough ride ahead to catch up.
I got to the street and of course the traffic didn’t allow me to cheat.  I went to the light and hit the button.
When I could, I crossed and put the hammer down.
I was never really sure it was a woman.  When I caught up she was riding pretty well and I hate passing unless I’m really riding a lot faster than the person I’m passing.
I blew past her and never got a great look at her, so I’m really guessing that it was  a woman.
Right after her was a woman jogging.  I came up to her at Carmel High School.  She surprised me by turning around as soon as she got to the driveway.
I had been ready with my bell so I could pass her and in the end we nearly collided.  I did ring my bell as politely and we apologized to each other.
Mrs. Prop as Trixie
I made it home at 12:51, only 41 minutes into a headwind!
My thighs were on fire, I’m going to take it easy tomorrow.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 57

IN -
I went for speed.
I got it, getting to work faster than any other time this week, and at great cost since there was an appreciable headwind..
Ok, it wasn't that impressive, but I was really pushing it, and I was somewhat successful.
It was about ten degrees warmer than any other day this week.  I wore only a short sleeve shirt instead of a long sleeve tee shirt under a short sleeve one.
This was the four day of taking my bike in a four day week.
I had decided that today I was going to treat myself.  I have passed a store called Dairy Dream (I play on Dairy Queen, and a very similar store) every day.  It is the kind of store that closes in the cold months so I wanted to stop there before the season ended.
Dairy Dream has a sign facing the bike trail that says Drive Thru, which is very funny since they do not have a drive through and the sign only faces the bike trail and not a pathway that allows any motor vehicles.
Being Friday I also treated myself to a bit of the delightful Des Plaines River Trail.  I took Atkinson straight to St. Mary’s Road and then down to Oak Springs and over to the river.
As I went along Atkinson there were entire fields full of daisies.  I didn’t stop to take any pictures because I couldn’t get close to them.  I decided to stop if I saw any along the river trail.
Unfortunately I was enjoying the trees and the trail so much that when I did pass some daisies I was past them before I realized and I didn’t get the picture.
I turned onto the North Shore trail and headed toward my date with ice cream.  I pulled into Dairy Dream and was staggered.
They have 28 different flavors of ice cream and at least a half dozen flavors of dips.
I got just a child sized vanilla dipped in sweet chocolate.
I asked them and they said that they will be closing in late October.  I think that another Friday I’m going to stop and get one of their burgers.
After I got on the North Shore trail again, I passed a bush I’ve noticed several times earlier.  It only bloomed in late August.
What is this pretty bush?
I’ve been wanting to take a picture of it and since I figured that I had missed my chance with the daisies I would get these (whatever they are).
Before I got to Carmel High School I cut out into the park that goes behind the school.  I try not to take that route unless it’s cool and cloudy because it’s all exposed.  It was both on Friday.
Sure enough, on the twisty turny path there I passed some daisies.  They seemed to have felt snubbed and refused to face me.  Oh well, they looked nice.
Snubbed daisies
 It took me about an hour to get home, but it was a nice trip.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 56

From 8 Sep 11 -

IN -

I was watching shadows today. As I passed street lights and lights illuminating signs along the way, I watched my shadow gliding along next to me. It looked pretty cool and it seemed to be moving really fast. I mean that thing was bookin' while I was just creeping along. I don't know how I kept up with it.

As I crossed over the highway a car came up behind me. I moved far over to the right. As I came down off the bridge I actually went too far to the right and ended up falling off the asphault and onto the gravel. It was a pretty big jolt and I lost one of my tail lights. Ironically it was the light I had found and doubly ironic was the fact that it was the same spot where I had found that light in the first place. I stopped and went back for it.

If something is doubly ironic is it like a double negative and it actually becomes non-ironic?

I had no gloves today, so I brought quickly rummaged through the closet by the garage door for something. I ended up with a washcloth that we use for washing bathrooms. On the trip my nose was very runny and I actually had to blow my nose in it.

Those things are very absorbent you know.

Every day this week when I get to the corner of Hawley and Midlothian, right at the corner where I leave my subdivision, the light had been red. I press the button, but so far it has taken an unacceptably long time to change, and then it just changes to a left turn arrow. I've had to blow that light three times this week so far.

I wondered why I care that what I write about is actually what happened that day and not some other day.

I got nothing.

I took this photo of my whiteboard at work (one of them, I've lined my cubicle with them). I've had this tally sheet up for months and I actually used the map once to explain to someone how far and where I go. No one has ever actually asked me directly about these papers or about bike commuting because they saw the papers.

Am I the weird one because I always ask people about the things hanging on the walls in their cubes?


I felt different today, and not in a bad way. I wanted to do something completely different, make the day extra special.

Well, not completely different, I did wear clothes for instance, and I did use a bicycle and not say, a file cabinet on wheels.

My route was somewhat different.

I took my normal route to St. Mary's Road, but there I went north instead of south. I went to Oak Springs Road and headed west.

Normally I might take Oak Springs on a Friday to get to the Des Plaines River Trail, but today I took it straight on as far as it goes. It passes Minear Lake and I stopped to take a photo of it.

Then when I got to the end of Oak Springs Road I went south, then west, then south, in a zig zag pattern until I got to Garfiled and then I crossed over Hawley to catch the trail.

When I got into Mundelein I went straight across Lake Street and took a slightly different route to get to my subdivision.

I guess it's not earth shatteringly different, but it did shake things up a bit.