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Car-free Summer, 2008 » Saturday 8/16/08: Bike Trailer Conversation Starters and an Evening Out
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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.

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