Errands and Miscellaneous12 Aug 2008 12:48 pm

We decided to keep the car the extra day because the nominal extra charge of $12.00 before taxes at the weekend rate was no comparison for sending my wife to O’Hare in a taxi, provided one would come. My own taxi rides from O’Hare have been in the $40.00-plus range.

Around 2:30 we leave to get her there for a 3:59 flight and arrive around 3 PM. Uneventful except that a taxi is holding up the line at the toll baskets getting onto 190 to O’Hare. The other lanes are moving. When he finally clears the gate after throwing in more money, it’s my turn for delay. I put in the required 80 cents and the light stays red. I go and decided to report it. After leaving O’Hare, I get the required numbers and complaint cards from a sympathetic attendant at the northbound toll gate after giving up my $1.00.

Even at this, is mostly simple, easy, and time-efficient. Only later after the scheduled departure time does she call me to tell me the United flight is delayed at least until 5:40. So much for efficiency.

On the way home, I’m still thinking of what I can use the car for now that I have it. Most are gratuitous or certainly not critical. I opt only for stopping at the liquor store on Dempster to see what interesting beers they have and opt for the bargain singles in the shopping cart. After all, it makes sense to watch my money, right?

I parked the car at home and ended up not using it any more. I still rode my bike to 5:00 class because the weather was still nice, borderline cool.

Errands and Miscellaneous09 Aug 2008 12:15 pm

A romantic drive in the country awaits me today. But first, hell.

The bike is not part of this discussion today. We have to be at Northern Illinois University for the 8:45 AM orientation start but I’m aiming for 8:15 AM because I’m Germanic. We actually hit the road at 6:40 and the western sky is a very dark gray. 65 miles in an hour and a half is do-able, right?

In a past life of consulting, I did numerous projects in the Western Suburbs especially Oak Brook area, so my trip down the Tri-State Tollway I-294 from Dempster is familiar territory. Thankfully, the Dempster southbound ramp is open again and the Tri-State is moving. My son looks to the west and remarks humorously on the sky that is now nearly the shade of charcoal. Blending onto I-88, the sky darkens and begins to fill with some very dramatic forky lightning and soon the rain starts to come down much like the trickle-down economics of Ronald Reagan, for whom I-88 is named. And like the Reagan era, things just continued to get worse.

The rain is hard and the traffic is slow and bumper-to-bumper through the extended construction zone almost to Elgin. Only there does traffic begin to clear and we reach expressway speeds with the clock nearing 8 AM. With the drizzle still coming down, we barely made it to NIU at 8:40 AM. I cannot for the life of me imagine a daily car commute under these conditions. Surely I can millions with an Internet business that allows me to work at home without keeping an inventory of valuable overstock.

The campus tour is well-organized and upbeat and led by cheerful, charming student guides. I know they have the Huskie bus lines around campus enabling students to make do without cars. What I didn’t know was that they offer free loaner bikes to students for two-week checkout much like a library book. OK, let’s see if my son takes advantage of that.

The day’s orientation ends around 4 PM and after some calls and administrivia on campus, we head home. I cannot face I-88 again and opt to drop off some borrowed brick samples in Hampshire, Illinois to the north. Despite the detour along two-lane back roads through corn and soybeans, we make good time.

There’s not a bike to be seen. There are more subdivisions cropping up here and there along 47. I think there’s actually a Metra stop near Elburn, though.

It is a pleasant drive in the country, though, and I still enjoy tooling along the back roads.

Reality is soon upon me as I re-enter the Tollway system at 47 onto I-90 eastbound. No jams, I’m happy to say. My son comments on the pretty green of the Fox River Valley as we cross over it. Short-lived nature gives way to office parks and subdivisions and vinyl siding and massive electrical towers and swaths of concrete and lawn and fast food and shopping. I bail out at Ikea onto 53 for drive east through Arlington Heights on Euclid and Lake.

OK, good to have some variety. I could never cover this much territory on my bike in this time.

I could never put up this every day.

Leisure and Miscellaneous and Uncategorized30 Jul 2008 11:39 pm

I feel like a bike ride and damn it, I’m going to take one before it gets too hot, and I do. After yesterday, my butt needs some exercise. And other things need it, too. I head up the Green Bay Trail to Ravinia.


There are remains of the abandoned Indian Hill Station of the North Shore interurban with its art deco concrete. Metra still uses this station.

indian hill station

I ride in a tunnel of trees:

Wildflowers are blooming. Queen of the Prairie is stunning in Glencoe:


The teasel, introduced by Europeans to tease wool, is tall in all its spiky glory:


It’s a great day to be on a bike. Plain and simple. The final picture tells you why I’ll probably be guaranteed to ride my bike more, regardless of weather:

subaru on towtruck

This evening, the tow truck came by to pick up the old ‘90 Subaru Legacy that we donated to charity. We are a bit sentimental about this car, we both admit. It took the kids from Chicago to a lot of swimming lessons in Skokie and Deerfield. It took us to a vacation in Door County and a July 4th wedding in Iowa one year. And numerous trips to Pittsburgh down the Turnpikes and Toll Road. We even drove back from a family party in Rockford with the back filled with horse manure for the garden, my wife’s idea. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the smells generated by some occupants of the car over the years, let me tell you.

Antonio was a nice driver. He addressed me as “Jorge” when he called to tell me he was on his way. He indulged our sentimentality and took a picture of us both by the car and then drove away with our family history trailing behind, orange four-way flashers blinking goodbye in the night.

We watched until he turned out of the alley and was out of sight.

The garage has more room for bikes. Where’s that garage door opener?

Errands and Miscellaneous23 Jun 2008 11:31 pm

What else do you take for granted with a car, aside from time, comfort, and ease?

Hauling capacity.

A recent BB shot through a back window in my house eventually cracked into a full-blown broken window, which my wife secured and decorated with some lovely duct tape. This needs to be fixed and today is the day.

What are my alternatives? The closer hardware store or the nearby glass shop are both closed on Sundays. The one that is open is walkable but a hike with a wood casement window. The window won’t fit the bike trailer. Wait until Monday for the closer stores are open and miss some work to deliver it?

Nah. It’s raining on and off today and leaving the house unsecured with a missing window is not a good idea.

With some guilt, but not very much, I decide to use the unsold old car to haul the window up and back. The hardware store repairs the window as promised by 1 PM and I pick it up two hours later. Despite some rain in the meantime, none gets in the house and I remount the window with my wife’s help after she comes home.

I assuage my guilt by running my tire pump errand at the bike shop using my bike and then going to tai chi. I get rained on both ways but nothing serious.

And the window job got done. When that car is gone, chores like this will be different.

More planning, I guess.

Errands and Leisure and Miscellaneous23 Jun 2008 04:10 pm

My transportation needs today are minimal, by choice. I just don’t want to go anywhere.

Neighborhood walking accomplishes what I need: a morning walk with the dog includes a stop to buy coffee beans. On the way, another “Lassie!” exclamation nets me a pleasant conversation with a woman coming from the bakery. She is a fellow dog owner and my stop to talk helps us both wait out the showers under the awning of the food store.

Late in the afternoon, a walk to Dominick’s recharges the fish needed for a reprise of fish tacos.

Today is also the anniversary of the last run of a streetcar in Chicago, June 21, 1958. The Chicago Tribune carries a story about it: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-chicagodays-laststreetcar-story,0,5968955.story

and two days later, so does the Sun-Times:


Under pressure from the city, the Chicago Motor Club, and others, the Chicago Transit Authority’s surface lines went all rubber tire on this day, a combination of propane, diesel, gas buses and trackless trolleys to serve the dense street system. A headlong rush to modernity, supposedly. Ridership on the CTA still continued to drop with the expansion of the expressway system and the easy access to the suburbs. The buses rattled over streets that temporarily got smoother with asphalt instead of cobblestone-paved streetcar tracks but potholes and the hard lives of transit vehicles resulted in rattly, bumpy bus rides, worse on some of the harsher vehicles like the legendary vibrating propane buses.

Fast forward to the rebirth of light rail systems in the 80’s. Never as dense or comprehensive as streetcar systems but a far cry forward in terms of comfort and ride. Try it sometime in a city like Pittsburgh, San Diego, Toronto, Minneapolis (below) or many others. Steel wheels on welded steel rail makes for a nicer ride by far. Nice touch: the Minneapolis Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) have bike racks inside them by the doors.

A Minneapolis LRV rolls down the Hiawatha corridor, above. Below, the historic cars of the Lake Harriett line show what was lost in 1954.

Twin Cities Rapid Transit streetcars

I ponder the loss but enjoy the Summer Solstice, a long and lovely day in Chicago. A great long day to walk or ride a bike or just sit outside. A day that many people have wasted in a car.

Their loss.