Leisure and Shopping and Uncategorized18 Aug 2008 08:16 am

Farmer’s Market again, late in the morning. I’m pulling the trailer again even though my wife said we could do without it. I just think it’s easier on me and my bike and gives us the option of buying those heavy items like, oh, watermelons. Which we do.

Efficient shopping is not the name of the Farmer’s Market because we run into so many friends and neighbors and even coworkers here. Ad hoc bull sessions are the order of the day and one seems to blend into the other. We still manage to shop and load up the trailer with corn, the aforementioned watermelon, blueberrys, peaches, and the bonus baklava.

The last was the result of my spin through the market before I left and while my wife talked with an old coworker. True to form, I had ants in my pants and had to cruise. I spied the baklava as a man there was handing out the Taste of Armenia flyers for St. James Armenian Church in downtown Evanston next Sunday. He, too, comments on the bike trailer. I told him of my quest to go car-free this summer and he’s interested in how that’s working and tells how he had once considered the trailer when his kids were younger but gave up the idea, joking about the wide turns and needing a police escort for the wide load. I give him this blog so he can catch up and he takes it. I also buy the baklava and he talks about the passions of different baklava cooks at the church who choose honey or rosewater-flavored sugar syrup.

Dessert Downside: The trip home did not do the baklava any good. The layers shifted and slid apart leaving a tumble of sticky but still tasty filo dough and chopped nuts.

Earlier, as I held my bike while my wife shopped, a woman walked up and asked, “Did you start out with children?” and indicated the bike trailer. I explained to her the car-free quest, too and joked about eating the things in my trailer as sounding more like a dark tale from the Brothers Grimm. My wife does not think this joke is remotely funny when I retell the story but at least the woman laughed. Fresh produce and stale jokes, the story of my marriage.

Our evening was a trip to Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood or perhaps Town Hall Police District, east of Wrigley Field and near Lake Shore Drive. The plan was to hang out with my wife’s good friend and colleague, eat dinner, and watch her recording of the Olympics opening ceremonies from last week. We don’t really want to bike the whole way especially with our contribution of a half watermelon conveniently cut up, so instead we do a bike-CTA thing. It works well. My wife votes for boarding the CTA at the end of the Purple Line in Wilmette at the Linden Station because it has a generous ramp up to the train platform, making the bike roll-on/roll-off easy. Very good plan and beats heaving our bikes, selves, and watermelon up the old steps at Central Street.

The Addison stop at Wrigley Field has been rebuilt and so has an elevator for handicapped access. Bike access, too, I might add. We ride that down and then ride to Martha’s house. The streets are buzzing with nightlife even without a ball game. This is a short bike ride but a decent walk. Her friend meets us and lets us into the gangway, sans gangs fortunately, where we park our bikes safely.

On the way home around 11 PM, the streets are still active and awash in the orange glow of Mayor Daley’s sodium vapor lights. Unnatural to be sure but certainly they make riding a bike in Chicago at night a whole lot safer.

The gate at the el station through which we must roll our bike is a pain and the agent tries through the bullet-proof glass to explain the procedure now that the “Out of Order” sticker is pasted on it. This is stupid, for sure. What we finally figure out is that he wants us to scan our smart card on the adjacent turnstile, push it to register the fare, and then open the gate to let us and our bikes through. The gate is manual and swings against my wife’s bike, not surprisingly because she is so close to scan her card and open the gate. She grouses. The agent gets impatient but persists and it finally becomes clear what he wants us to do.

We missed a train in the process.

In the elevator, I note the buttons and comment on the unclarity: “P” and “S”. “Platform” and “Station”?

My wife notes the pervasive smell of urine in the elevator and suggests that “P” stands for something else more immediate.

A train comes quickly and the ride in the lightly-loaded train is uneventful. The bikes do take up a lot of space but fit better in the cars with the open wheelchair space by the door. For now I shed my guilt for taking so many seats on this late train.

The transfer at Howard to the Purple Line is simple with a small wait and a short ride back to Linden. We ride home in the cool night with a nearly full moon and the trees are alive with summer night noises.

Errands and Shopping07 Aug 2008 11:39 pm

I lash up the trailer to my bike for the now-usual Saturday trip to the farmer’s market. Hooking up the trailer is routine and the routine is comforting. This time my wife rides with me instead of meeting me there. We’ve decided that the farmer’s market is easier as a two-person operation. It doesn’t need two people, it’s just easier but perhaps less efficient.

Walking the bike with the trailer through the market allows you to load up as you go and not make trips back and forth. I’ve done this thing with the car in the past when lugging watermelons or cider just keeps you from buying other produce and makes your arms longer.

That said, it is its own bother. I volunteer to watch both bikes and hold them in the middle of the aisle while Nancy does the shopping. Boring job but somebody’s got to do it. I miss just walking around and looking and smelling and impulse buying tasty things and schmoozing. I’m trapped. Standing in the summer sun is also less than satisfying.

Still, we’ve got another nice load of items and the trailer is fulfilling its workhorse role. Drivers continue to cut me a wide berth as they pass me on the way home. I’m guessing they don’t want to take a chance on harming my little dear ones riding behind me. Would they be so courteous if they knew I was going to eat the little dear ones in the trailer?

I rent a car, too. I haven’t done this in a while and hardly know how to behave. I do it after the farmer’s market. Partly, I figure the temptation to use it would be too strong to resist. They give me the limited options left, namely two compacts for the category I requested. An SUV sits in the lot and I’m not upgrading. I’m sure it doesn’t care about my opinion of it and its ilk.

I need the car for a Monday trip to DeKalb, Illinois, for my son’s college orientation. I’m looking forward to this mini road trip since I’ve never been there before. The rental place is not open as early on Monday as I would need to make it there by 8:40 AM and they are closed Sunday so the only option is to get the car before noon on Saturday. I start thinking of what I could use the car for over the weekend.

I draw a blank. The car sits in front of my house.

Errands and Shopping30 Jul 2008 11:04 pm

I’m a phone bank of one today. Between that and emails I’m pretty much occupied and stick close to home.

When my brain starts to melt down late in the afternoon, I decide it’s time for some errands by bike to get air and exercise. Nothing extensive and all in downtown Evanston.

Did I tell you it is not raining? Believe it, it is sunny and warm.

A trip to Wolf Camera where I roll my bike into the store to pick up some processed film burned to CD. I was inspired by that big digital camera that the Cubbies women on the Metra platform had so I do some browsing with the store manager. Very nice but not on the current budget, methinks. We chat about the article I saw in the DIY magazine Make, about building a camera using an old flatbed scanner for the back. The results look amazingly like the pinhole panorama photos my wife did at the Art Institute. Cool, he likes the idea, I will call him with the issue tomorrow. I almost feel like a photo student once again.

The only other stop was Whole Foods again. I am finally learning the fine art of parsing the purchases so they fit comfortably in my panniers. This takes discipline and means impulse purchase don’t fit the methodology. I have a taste for some wine. Nope, too heavy, I’m buying two half gallons of milk. Balance for the panniers. Cider vinegar and some cheese were on the list. Okay, the brie was not on the list with parmesan but it was not a big weight add-on. And it fits in the top bag on the rack. The cable goes on my handlebars.

Add bacon for the German potato salad for dinner. Homer Simpson would surely find fault with this style of potato salad. After all, that’s what he found in hell and screamed. I still like it, hell has other things waiting for me, I’m sure.

Don’t even stop to ponder the brats. Put back the chicken livers that temp me to make the rice my friend from Trinidad does so well and no one else in my house likes.

Be strong. Besides, it keeps the bill down.

Errands and Shopping28 Jul 2008 03:47 pm

Farmer’s Market again this morning.

I plan to meet my wife there after her yoga class when she will call me. I hook up the Burley trailer to my bike: I’m getting much faster at this. The trick is unthreading the knob on the retaining clamp so the jaw is wide enough for me to first hook under the horizontal bar and then maneuver on the retaining clamp on the diagonal bar.

I head across the alley to consult pro-bono with my neighbor on his website. Hey, this is what I do even if I’m not doing it at the other place.

My cell rings and I excuse myself for the Saturday produce run. Not quite like the old Bat signal going off and my roaring out of the cave. Instead, I roll up the garage door by pressing a button, pull my bike and trailer, lean the bike against a neighbor’s garbage can, and close the garage door. Somehow, this is just not heroic.

I get over it and get on my way. My wife has already snagged the garage door opener from the old car and takes it with her on her bike. The gal travels in style, I tell you.

The sun is getting hotter and I get to a crowded Market. The cider is already sold out on a nice day like today. Last week one farmer noted the lack of foot traffic due to the rain. Once the trailer is well loaded and we’re sick of thinking about what else to buy, we head off together. Actually, pulling the trailer is not so bad. I notice the load, for sure, and I run for the few little “hills” like I learned to do riding a bike in Pittsburgh.

Cars have been giving me the wide swath, too. I’m thinking they assume I have a sweet little offspring in that trailer, ready to grow up and ride a bike like its Daddy. Awwww, that’s so cute, even if it’s not true. I like the courteous drivers, though.

Mission accomplished until later in the afternoon when a block party in the old Chicago neighborhood calls. We decide to ride our bikes but my wife wants to go later, so I head out on my own. Here’s the consideration riding your bike to a potluck: do you carry something the whole way or buy it closer to the party? This time, as a few other times so far this summer, I opt for buying it closer to the party. Especially beer or watermelons, of which I buy neither this time.

Despite temps in the 90’s, there’s a cool breeze from the lake even in as far as California Avenue. Traffic is really light on the street and the breeze seems behind me mostly. I get to the North Center neighborhood in about 45 minutes.

As I was approaching the home stretch on Lincoln Avenue passing under the Brown Line el and feeling pretty good about my time and riding there, a thought occurred to me. Don’t get complacent, George, almost every near-accident you’ve had has occurred within blocks of your house or destination. I get alert in just enough time. At Wilson, a guy in a Chevy Blazer just starts to make a left turn west in front of me.

His window is open. I yell with great profanity and tell him to stop. He does. No hard feelings, just learn to drive. Sheesh.

The party’s fun and my wife rides down about an hour or so later. She also decides to leave earlier and heads off to catch a Metra train at Ravenswood because she wants more time at home. I consider doing the same later and keep an eye on the time as conversation winds down and we start to clean up and devolve into watching the Monty Python Bavarian Restaurant skit on YouTube on Kevin’s laptop.

After goodbyes and teasing about how geeky my well-lighted helmet is, I head off half-heartedly for the 9:48 PM Metra but I know it will be tight. I decide to try at Damen and Lawrence and start to head east. In the streetlighted distance I can just make out the locomotive starting to pull northbournd out of the station. I turn around and ride my bike north on Damen.

The police are very busy tonight: a dark unmarked Crown Vic is aimed into first side street north of Lawrence. A couple younger guys are leaning with their hands down on the hood. Seems about three big plainclothes cops are milling around, obviously calling the topics in this friendly dialog. Off in the distance, I see blinking blue lights by Amundson High. This is not the CPD security camera blue lights on poles by the school, it’s a regular squad car that has pulled over a Murano that’s illuminated in the squad car’s spotlight. I pass another squad car up by Bowmanville at the cemetery and the office just looks at me from his open window as he passes. Constantly observing.

The ride is nice and fast and cool and uneventful, except for a cabbie who has to blare his horn behind me as he passes on Ridge. Get a life. Those LEDs on my butt are not spelling, “Honk if you hate cyclists.”

I don’t let him disturb my peaceful night ride home.

At home, I tell my wife I missed the Metra train. No loss, she reports: the conductor would not let her on because it was…Venetian Night.

She rants and I agree: Metra hates bikes and looks for any reason to keep them off the train.

She said the conductor was polite. OK, that’s good. We just cannot depend on Metra to let us on with a bike. That’s hardly a reliable mode.

Errands and Leisure and Shopping and Uncategorized25 Jul 2008 01:42 pm

I’m on a roll with my Slavic heritage this weekend.

The Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival pulls me back with the first two music acts of the day on the main stage: The Polkaholics and the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. The Polkaholics are 10 and Maxwell Street is 25. I’m neither one of those numbers but I still can plop my sorry self on bike to see these bands play.

I ride along the lakefront through Northwestern’s campus. Surprisingly empty for noon on a very nice Sunday but some people are enjoying it, walking or sunning themselves. I make a mental note of some black-eyed Susans growing among some seagrass along the trail. Those need to give up some seeds for me later in the summer.

I’m running a little late but I resist the urge to speed through the pedestrians and a dog or two, and remind myself that a hard turn at speed on sand is going to net me some road rash. Good thinking there, Ace, you’ve learned something after riding a bike all these years.

The Polkaholics are firing up with their wacky brand of humor and amped-up guitar polkas. There’s not an accordian in sight, unlike some of the weddings I’ve been to in my life. Their answer is simple: they took guitar lessons when they were 10, not accordian lessons. Duh. Makes sense to me

Did you know that both “kielbasa” and “kishka” are sausages that begin with “k” and end with “a”?

Thank you, Polkaholics. These guys are fun and they are having fun. The play Too Fat Polka. They play Beer Barrel Polka. They play the Existentialist Polka. I never heard that one at the VFW.

Of course, I never heard klezmer music growing up, either, but my past Russian language study and travel mixes with the joyful music and makes me happy again to hear Maxwell Street perform fine pieces like, “Odessa.”

These folks are pros. I’m also thinking I could maybe look cool in a fedora and a necktie. Maybe this bikeshorts style needs to be revisited. I still won’t be able to sing or play the violin or clarinet. Next life. Maybe.

I catch the end of an altiplano group at the other stage as I’m leaving and I stop my bike to listen. I can’t play the pan pipes or the charango, either. Damn. They’re fun to listen to. Definitely not Slavic. I’m am so proud of my powers of observation.

I make a quick stop to buy some liquid things at Whole Foods. What self control: olive oil and dish detergent. I’m learning to parse out the heavy stuff. Again, I’m learning.

Ironically, because of a bike event, I cannot make my other desired stop at Wolf to pick up my photos. The sidewalks are cordoned off for a bike rally and I can’t cross the street. Could be worse, could be NASCAR on the North Shore. There’s a vision for you: silver-haired men in polo shirts splashing martinis cheering at speeding Porsche Boxsters, tanned blond at each driver’s side.

I have a little over an hour so I do a car thing with my bike: I ride my bike home instead of waiting downtown, walk the dog, and ride back downtown for tai chi, which manages to kick my butt despite its calm pace. I ride back home again.

The bike gives me this flexibility but I’m also getting tired from the day’s transport. That’s what happens when you use your own energy to get around.

I sleep well and the music is still in my head. Too tired to think of North Shore NASCAR.

Errands and Leisure and Shopping22 Jul 2008 01:13 pm

It’s raining again. Hard. I saw a duck waving a white flag.

No I didn’t. But I did steal a line from Bob Hope.

I have plans to meet Nancy at the Farmer’s Market and this time, I’ll pull the trailer to get the “full” experience. By the time I head out around 11:20 AM, the rain has backed off to a slow drizzle. It eventually stops while I’m at the market, thankfully.

We load up big time on this trip and then Nancy heads off to Whole Foods for some smaller items she can carry on her bike.

Here’s what fit in the trailer today:

  • 6 pints black raspberries
  • 2 pints red raspberries
  • 2 pints, in bags, blueberries
  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 2 bunches of snapdragon
  • 1 jar of bread and butter pickles
  • 1 bunch sweet white onions
  • 1 bunch red onions
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 bunches of white and red radishes
  • 2 bunches of orange radishes
  • 2 bunches of dragon carrots
  • Nancy’s rain jacket and rain pants

And on my bike:

  • 1 jar 5-cheese garlic spread in glass
  • 5 fat portabella mushrooms
  • 1 free issue of Edible Chicago magazine

Pulling the trailer was better than loading up my bike like a Model T heading to California from the Dust Bowl. I got up to about 15 mph a few times so the trip home was easy and fast.

I did not get a flat tire.

At 5 PM, I returned downtown for entertainment at the Ethnic Arts fest. As I was readying to push off from the alley, I noticed a water strider in a big puddle by my feet. No joke this time. This has been a wet summer.

Along with an enthusiastic crowd, I take in the bright and brassy enthusiasm of the Boban i Marko Marković Orkestar, a father-son Serbian brass band whose roots are in Gypsy (Roma) music and which draws from funk and jazz and other traditions.

The rain was gone and I got a good seat. People danced by the stage and cheered in Serbian from the seats.

My bike ride home included a CD.

And a satisfied rider.

Commuting and Leisure and Shopping and Socializing and Uncategorized21 Jul 2008 12:51 pm

My wife and I have separate missions at different times in The District today but we both start the same way: walking to the East Falls Church Metro station. The scenes along the way remind me I’m someplace else where the issues remain the same. Take a look:

Not the Beltway but related: the ubiquitous HOV lane signs to expressways that let the buses ride the shoulders at rush hour at 25 mph.

The encouraging bike lineup at the Metro station. Can’t say I approve of the motor scooter in there. Park in the parking lot, dude, save this for bikes.

Not quite clear why they taped over “Covered” and “In Bus Area” but at least I know that there is “Bicycle Parking Along Wall.”

And the Metro, of course. Not perfect but they key to the kingdom when I visit DC. The outsides are looking a bit tatty these days with faded brown paint. The insides have some dingy carpeting but carpeting alone on a transit vehicle still intrigues me, coming from Chicago.

In Georgetown, where I walk from the Foggy Bottom station, plenty of people are on foot. Some cyclists are out, too, in the increasingly hot and muggy morning. A cyclist on a road bike is powering up the hill in the bike lane on Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Natch, a big black SUV gets a big idea to make a big fast move to the right to get around a car in front and almost hits the cyclist but stops in time.

Doesn’t the SUV driver know yet that no one is first in traffic? Oh, and bikes are traffic, too. There, I said it.

I’ve arrived at Georgetown in a little less than an hour door-to-door and I’m early. I forgot how much I like Georgetown and the C&O Canal and the commercial energy.

We won’t talk about the prices for now.

I walk back to the Foggy Bottom Metro to meet up with my wife for an all-too-brief visit to the Afghanistan treasures exhibit at the National Gallery. By now the DC heat and humidity is living up to its reputation. The escalator is not working but I’m at least going down.

The air conditioning is not working in the Metro car I take one stop to Gallery Place from Metro Center. It is oppressively hot.

We get the boot at 5 PM. Dag.

Off to Bethesda for dinner with other friends. A hot walk back to the Metro. On the way, we stop for a traffic light and a cyclist powers his way up the grade as we wait. These DC cyclists seem to be favoring light road bikes and lycra. Makes sense with the hills and the heat. New bike, George? I’m banned from wearing lycra, though.

A stop for flowers in Friendship Heights means finding them first, but a pedestrian points us to the nearby Giant store. We cannot find the entrance at sidewalk level. Nancy is wise: find the parking lot. Which we do. Up the hill. In the heat. I’m losing it and she suggests a cab to our friends’ house for dinner. Great idea and we do it.

The evening is fun catching up but I’m paying for last night’s late catching up. The prospect of a night walk to the Metro and two trains back to Falls Church is daunting but I’m determined to do it.

Greg offers to drive us home. We want to protest but not really. We’re happy for the ride.

The ride to the Beltway takes us past the revived Glen Echo Park, a “streetcar park” once served by the DC Transit system and like other streetcar amusement parks, built to generate traffic on car lines and boost revenue for equipment otherwise idle in off-peak hours.

The neon glows like a beacon over the streetcar they have parked in front.

The old rail right-of-way is a bike trail now.

I can live with that. Sweet dreams, indeed.

Errands and Leisure and Shopping and Socializing15 Jul 2008 08:30 am

Having a car lets you take energy for granted: not only fossil fuel but personal energy as well.

To wit: do we run errands because we need things or because we need to feel accomplished?

Sometimes we do need things and sometimes they all pile up when we work all week long. On the other hand, does having a list of stops as long as your credit card statement and spending all Saturday in your car so you can check things off the list really define “accomplishment.”

Knock yourself out, then. I’m finding that without a car I pick and choose a bit more carefully. That extra side trip to the bread store got nixed when my wife rightly pointed out we had plenty of bread right now.

I instead walked to the hardware store to return an unused toilet handle from last weekend’s plumbing caper. I took the dog along and doubled up a chore.

On the way back, I ran into my neighbor with the collie mix heading in the opposite direction. She was pushing her son’s bike to the bike store for repairs. Of course, we stopped to talk as the dogs sniffed and socialized.

After we parted, I realized she was doing the same as I: combining errands. I also realized, she could just have easily put her son’s bike in the car and driven it to the bike store. She didn’t.

Missions, plural, accomplished.

With energy to spare.

Without driving.

Leisure and Shopping01 Jul 2008 10:26 am

This day is one rainy bike story sandwiched between two dog stories. Let’s start with the happy dog story.

Happy Dog Story

My morning dog walk takes me to the bakery to buy a pecan-topped sticky bun for Phase 2 breakfast. Apparently I wasn’t satisfied with a bowl of cereal topped with perfectly good and healthy Farmer’s Market berries bought and biked yesterday.

As I unhitch my dog from the parking meter a medium-size brown dog runs up to me wagging his tail. No leash and the closest humans are a dad and his son on bikes nearby on the sidewalk. I look at the boy and he says, “It’s not our dog, he followed us.” “From where?” I ask? His vague answer was polite but unhelpful, so I start looking at the dog’s tags and one has two phone numbers on it. I also loop the handle end of my dog’s leash around it’s neck so he doesn’t bail out on me. She’s still wagging her tail. I call the first number while maneuvering two dogs, a cell phone, and my neglected sticky bun. Voice mail, I leave a message. Paydirt on call number two: could be a boy or a girl, sounds young, clearly sleepy at this ungodly hour of 9 AM. I tell him/her where I am and the response sounds more female, “I’ll be there in two minutes.” Well, a bit longer than that but still soon a Chevy Blazer wheels around the corner and a young woman in glasses jumps out and comes over, clearly happy to see her dog. She thanks me, I unloop the leash, the dog is a girl, and it’s over in a few minutes as she drives away with the dog in the Blazer.

Nancy found the cell phone yesterday only one half block away and reunited it with its owner. We’re on a roll. We’re certainly getting connected by walking and cycling.

Keep reading, please. This is going somewhere.

Rainy Days and Sundays Always Get Me Wet

Wardrobe crisis mixed with transportation dilemma: how to get to a recital on the Northwestern campus and still look decent if the threatened rain stops threatening and begins doing. Which it eventually does but misses me, at least before the recital.

It will be the bike with grey jeans and a nice summer shirt. Grey will hide any bike chain grease even with pantleg elastic straps. The shirt will dry fast and still look good because it has a pattern.

It works for me because I leave earlier than my wife. She walks into the recital later, dripping wet.

The cello recital by our friend’s daughter is amazing. She is a talented and poised young woman. The setting in the Alice Millar Chapel is stunning. The reception afterwards is a chance to catch up with her parents and mutual friends.

Their older daughter shows slides on MacBook of her Ball State 3-month program earlier this year in south and Southeast Asia, working with NGOs on community development and tsunami reconstruction. Wealth and poverty are colliding in Mumbai. Why can’t more Americans open themselves up to the rest of the world?

We’re too busy being busy, indulging ourselves and driving around, I guess.

After the recital and a real trip to Whole Paycheck because she brought the trailer, we head home with three heavy bags of groceries.

It starts to rain as soon as we leave the store. 8 mph pulling groceries and we drag out the rain experience. A car waves us through an intersection, very nice of them. Are they feeling sorry for the little kid who might be in that trailer?

Or our groceries?

Do we like rain or are we victims of circumstance…or of our own trying to prove a point? Forget the victim stuff. Cars make you assume comfort.

All’s well, the groceries are fine, we’re wet, and the rain stops after we’re home.

Of course.

Take the dog for a walk. Next story.

Sad Dog Story

Not my dog, a neighbor’s dog.

Walking my dog, I run into a neighbor one street away and stop to talk. He tells me that his dog, a 14-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, had died about three weeks ago. I’m sorry to hear this. I and the local dog community had been following the dog’s declining health for a while and his owner’s efforts to make its life bearable. You just get attached to these critters. We trade stories about our pets, those who have declined and died and left us with an empty space in our lives and emotions

He also asks if I belong to the local bike club, which I do not, but his question is centered more on how he can ride more. For him, it’s been a big production to get the bike out and ready.

I tell him just to do it and that the more he does it, the more the bike will be ready. It takes time to fine-tune your ride even for leisure riding. I invite him over to get an idea of what our riding readiness involves.

Community, again

When you are part of a community, you share things. Walking is part of creating a community.

Do you want to live in isolation?


Errands and Shopping28 Jun 2008 11:02 pm

We head to the Farmer’s Market after another stop and Nancy is pulling the trailer to head off the problem we’ve had on the last few Whole Paycheck visits: too much stuff to put on the bike. Plus, I’m heading off to Chicago for a haircut and I won’t be hauling stuff there and back. Her old women’s bike with the front basket makes shopping handy.

We are no sooner there when someone calls my name: Kelly from tai chi is there, too, shopping with her bike, equipped with the milk-crate pickup bed.

We get some great radishes and chat it up with the farmer.

Quick flashback: a few blocks from our house, Nancy spots a cell phone in the street and we stop to let her rescue it. The owner calls and Nancy arranges for her to come to our house later that afternoon to pick it up. She had put it on top of her car, forgot it, and drove to Northwestern University. She’s very grateful.

My ride to Chicago from the Farmer’s Market takes me on an indirect, inefficient, but interesting path. City streets all the way, jogs as streets jog or end, Clark Street traffic, the community garden at Ridge, other gardens along the Metra tracks on Ravenswood Avenue, Rosehill Cemetery with its castle-like entrance, the Brown Line el heading for the Wilson curve.

CTA Brown Line el at Wilson

I get to my appointment on time…only to be told I’m really late. Hmmm…1:30? No, the desk person had written down 12:30. Oh, well, she’ll still take me but in at least 45 minutes. So I break for lunch and be patient. I chalk it up to slowing down. It’s a good choice.

Gusty winds on the way home generally work in my favor but work against me in one big way: more rain and scary gusts by the high school. I’m wet in no time, again.

But still, when you ride a bike, you’re in touch with other good things: at Emerson, I have to stop for the red light. A Harley with an older couple pulls up beside me for their right turn and I look at them as the wind and rain pounds us three. “Charming weather, isn’t it?” They smile and respond but it’s hard to hear over the storm and the Harley but it’s still a connection.

The rain is over within a few blocks. I’m wet. Oh, well.

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