Uncategorized30 Aug 2008 01:34 pm

This turns out to be a fuller day of errands than I had planned but that happened by layering on new commitments to old ones. Will I avoid the car or not?


Why not?

Let’s look at the day and that will tell the story.

Errand #1: Donate Blood

They’ve been calling me and calling me and finally they got me. I had to reschedule once from yesterday, when I had planned to donate at Evanston Hospital, a very short bike ride away. Mind you, I regularly donate in Skokie on Golf Road, south of Old Orchard Mall, and typically I drive there. I certainly could ride this minimal 3-mile ride on my bike but the route is definitely less than bike-friendly. I figured a better choice would be to find another location and nicely enough, there are mobile blood drives this week. My alternate choice today is minimally farther than Evanston Hospital: the Evanston Civic Center.

I ride my bike and lock my bike to the old-school pipe rack in front that has a distinctive parallelogram lean to it. Only one other bike is locked to it. The back of this property is covered in asphalt to encourage driving to city hall.

I make it there as they are still setting up. Errand #2 is weighing on me so I want to try and get in ahead of my 9:30 appointment and they allow me to do this.

A thought occurs to me as the blood draw winds down and they give me the usual marching orders about what not to do, which includes, “no strenuous exercise.” Does riding my bike home count as strenuous exercise? I eat extra snacks and juice to compensate.

I do just fine riding home but I know I will be hungry later as usual after giving blood. I have enough time for a little break before errand #2.

Errand #2: Take Daughter to O’Hare

I’m crying “Uncle” on this O’Hare trip: it’s a terrible location, bike-hostile, roundabout on transit, and it’s just starting to rain. I want Amanda to make her flight to San Francisco and I’m out of work and I don’t want to pay for a $40.00-plus taxi ride for her or make her pay for it. I will use the car for the first time since its return but I will combine this trip with errand #3.

It’s drizzling now as we go to the car out front, still not allowed in the garage because of bikes and projects. I can’t see its tears because of the rain. Right.

Dempster Street is light but still an unattractive local speedway. The Tri-State Tollway is still under construction but moving. Amazingly, the toll gate on the branch 190 road to O’Hare actually records my 80 cents, unlike last time and other times before. I drop Amanda off with time for fun stuff like going through security and hoping American is actually flying today.

I rejoin the hyperkinetic northbound flow on the Tri-State but soon slow to pay my cash toll. I have not bought an I-Pass and thus am not the beneficiary of “open road tolling.” I will buy a CTA card and I will buy Metra 10-rides but I refuse to buy an I-Pass. I don’t want them earning interest on my money while it sits there and they continue to add more lanes and push for more toll roads to build more ugly suburbs sprawling every farther out.

God, the Illinois toll road is an ugly gash across the landscape, I recoil as I drive it and yet use it. It’s so ugly and noisy that they have raised new ugly sound barrier walls along the reconstructed road. I’m at a loss for words here: if the topic you’re discussing is ugly upon ugly, can you call it “gilding the lily”?

Errand #3: The Sick Mac Laptop

This is getting tedious: my fourth hard drive has failed this year, this time on my “old” G3 iBook. Two work MacBooks and my old iPod preceded it in platter death. I have an appointment at the Genius Bar at 12:20 at Old Orchard. Ostensibly, I could have given blood nearby after all. So much for not using the car earlier except for one important difference: I got the exercise.

Predictably, I’m hungry, so I eat a slice of pizza in the food court. I don’t know when the last time I was here but it was a long time ago. For a while at least, I’ve successfully avoided getting malled.

I spend about an hour total and I give up my old Mac to the maw of the repair department. Computers are another toxic waste scourge and I’m at least trying to get my use out of the ones I have. More conflict here: I like computing and make my living at it. Argggh.

Errand #4: The Doctor’s Appointment

I have time for a dog walk when I get home and leaving again around 1:40. The sky is clearing up and I have enough time to include the bike in my plans but I want to make sure I make it to Diversey and Sheridan by 3 PM. I decide to do a hybrid trip there at least: ride to the Central Street el station to avoid the long walk and dealing with the long bus intervals. A wise choice, I’m there in no time. I miss a train, as usual, but try to recharge my CTA card. Some women apparently are having trouble with the machine so the agent comes out to let them through the gate for free. She does the same for me and she does it with courtesy and a smile and I appreciate it. Another train comes soon and soon after that I’m tranferring to the Red Line at Howard. Things are going way better than they did the other Saturday going to the play.

I make it Belmont delay-free and heave my bike down the steps into the still-under-construction station. The agent has come out to let a woman with a rolling suitcase ahead of me out the handicapped gate and holds it for me with a smile. Again, I thank him. I’m grooving to the CTA employees today.

I ride my bike across ever-busy Belmont and down Sheridan Road to Diversey. The ride is about 5 minutes but would have been who knows how long waiting for the bus and riding it in narrow, trafficky Belmont. Wise choice bringing the bike: I arrive 10 minutes ahead of my appointment.

I’m done quickly but I’m hungry again. This always happens when I give blood so I find a place to eat. The choice of a Chicago dog and fries is hardly a nutritionists choice but it hits the spot and I eat it at an outside table so I can watch the show on Diversey, always a fun time even when it’s not 3 AM. Besides, I’ll burn this off by riding all the way home on my bike. Remind me to ask my heart how it feels about Chicago dogs.

I take the Lakefront bike path, something I rarely do since I tend to ride the streets for speed. It is still a nice ride with lots of natural and human scenery to distract or entertain me.

Here’s what to watch out for: cross traffic that doesn’t stop at Montrose, Wilson, and Lawrence. Here’s what happened: cars stopped.

The trail has ended after only about 7 minutes of riding and I’m back on the streets again. After the speed bumps and Stop signs of Kenmore I shortcut through Loyola’s campus and end up back at that other speedway, the north end of Sheridan Road. Should I chance the ride in traffic? I’ve done it before and I can’t resist.

Bonus: it’s rush hour and parking is banned so I have the parking lane to my self. I’m doing about 20 and even though the cars are rushing past me I’m catching green lights and making great time. The choke point of narrow sidewalk along the lakefront in Evanston is slow and slower still because of heaved concrete but I’m soon back on quiet residential streets I normally never would drive on. It is very pleasant and I ride much more slowly.

Errand #5: Drop Off Film

I had planned another stop on this route home, dropping off some film to be processed at Wolf in downtown Evanston, which I do, rolling my bike into the store to save locking time. They will have the film done and digitized by 6:30, less than two hours from now.

I ride home.

Errand #6: Pick Up Film

I ride back to Wolf at 6:30 and make it by 6:44 or so. As I leave the store, the sky is dark again in the west. I must have sensed this in the store because I put the prints, CD, and negatives in a plastic bag in my bike bag.

Amazingly, I make it home before it rains.

A Random Catcall

My day, despite the drive to O’Hare, has been successful and mostly car-free. Don’t worry, I’ll revisit this because it’s bugging me, too. But the transportation day isn’t quite over and is ending on a stupid note.

My wife has returned from her yoga class just west on Central Street to which she had ridden her bike.

As she was walking her bike across Central to the yoga studio, a young white man in a green car yells out the window at her as he sped by: “Bitch!”

There had been no prior words or confrontation.

Why are so many motorists threatened by the bicyclist? It seems to me that the balance of transportation power is hardly in favor of the bike.

Gas pains? Inconvenient truths? Or just plain rudeness combined with testosterone and auto-entitlement?

Did I hear someone say “auto-eroticism?”

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