Exercise.

The City of Chicago has a magnificent lane share system for bicycles. It has not expanded to the entirety of the city, however, there are more than enough separated and marked bike lanes in our neighborhoods to make cycling in the city somewhat enjoyable for me.

Traditionally I hop into the marked lanes and make my way toward to Loop, ride around downtown, and then come a separate route home. Riding around downtown can be stressful, even with the somewhat sparse traffic of the pandemic era. Today I decided to try something different and head north. I ended riding all the way up to Evanston.

Several streets on the far north side are one way streets with bicycle lanes separated and headed the opposite direction of vehicular traffic. Riding toward Evanston is a heck of a lot less stressful than riding downtown.

I look forward to continuing this trend tomorrow.

Cycling.

When I was a kid it was tradition for the country side of the family to meet up at Gram and Gramps’ for Easter dinner. My grandmother was a wonderful “farm-wife” cook and we’d all crowd around one or two tables for a delicious meal. My grandmother always wanted us to be around one table if humanly possible, the “kids” table was not a certain part of the configuration.

Since we lived right next door, I would take the week or two before Easter to fix up some of the bikes left over from my Dad’s childhood that were scattered around the barn. I’d make sure the tires were pumped up and that the bikes were in road worthy condition. If the weather was right, we’d take a four or five mile ride, all of us in single file, along the country roads of the area. I always enjoyed this and I think my paternal cousins did as well.

My husband is working today (Go Cubs!) so I had a few hours to myself this morning. Since the weather is beautiful here in Chicago, I decided to go for a bike ride.

I’ve ridden the Chicago Lakefront Trail plenty of times since we’ve moved here, but the northern half of it was under construction for much of last year. The city has been focused on separating the pedestrian from the bike lanes along the 18 miles of lakefront trail, as well as fixing some of the congestion points near Navy Pier and other key tourist spots.

I rode through the north side to get to the very top of the trail today along my usual route and started heading south along the trail. I’d only ridden twice this year, so my body was a little stiff but I was feeling pretty good. I cruised along at 16 MPH or so. The trail improvements are wonderful and it really does help improve safety along this busy corridor.

About six or seven miles in I decided to see where the trail ended up. I knew the length of it (18 miles) but I had never ventured south of the museums. I decided to ride the length of the trail to its end on the South Side.

What a beautiful ride.

This trail is used daily by cycling commuters, fitness enthusiasts, and just folks out for a walk on a daily basis. As many as 70,000 people use the trail on a typical summer day.

All in all I rode over 38 miles today. I feel fantastic. My legs are little stiff but I feel such a wonderful sense of well being right now. I think I broke a spoke on the way home but I got home just fine. I know some folks worry about me riding in the city but it’s very rare that I feel any sense of worry or danger during my bike rides. Chicago has such a wonderful network of cycling trails in the city, both on and off streets, and we really know how to take advantage of them.

I’m looking forward to my next ride. A lot.

Rides.

Tomorrow morning will be my third year riding in the Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association. I’m a little nervous about riding tomorrow because I started riding a little later in the season this year, mostly due to Mother Nature’s increasingly Sybil-like ways. The weather should be cloudy and will probably be windy, so it could be an interesting ride. When all is said and done I hope to ride 100 kilometers, which translates to roughly 62 miles.

I need to be up in 6 1/2 hours to head out for the event. I’m not an early morning guy. Hopefully the ride will wake me up.

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Persevere.

So yesterday it was 43ºF and soggy outside. I’ve been feeling a little stir crazy lately, despite the amount of travel that we have been doing, and I decided that it had been too long since I had done some sort of zen-like experience through exercise.

I most readily find my zen when I’m riding my bike.

Despite the temperature and other weather conditions, I decided that I needed to go on a bike ride. So I bundled up in several layers of clothing, put a wool cap on under my helmet and off I went, headed for the Canal Trail. I was the only one down there.

A couple of years ago, the local Department of Public Works abandoned a bridge that connected the Utica Marsh area to the rest of the world, claiming the land under the auspices of Eminent Domain. While there are still ways to get to this area in a motor vehicle, it’s no longer an easy task, and the roadway is starting to look quite abandoned.

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Barnes Avenue

I rode the mile or two to the abandoned bridge before turning around and heading back to the canal trails. It was a little spooky. I then continued eastward on the trail.

The trail ends at a busy street, so I decided I would just do a U-turn and head back home. This would bring my ride to about 12 miles or so and I was feeling every mile; it’d been a while since I’d ridden my bike. When I turned back and looked at the western sky I picked up my pace significantly.

The sky was very dark with a storm blowing in. Since it was 43ºF when I had left, I knew that it would be interesting.

I was about a mile from home when the skies let loose with a little bit of rain and a lot of hail. This was my first time riding in a hailstorm and I can confidently say that it’s not really that pleasant. Hearing the hail pinging your helmet is an interesting phenomenon, having the hail hit your exposed face is really interesting.

I laughed about it all. I ended up having a ball. However, I was happy that I only had a mile or so to go to get home. If I had to ride any further than that in those conditions I probably would have been a little less jovial about the situation.

Despite the weather I really enjoyed the experience and cemented (for the billionth time) that I am happiest exercising when I’m doing it on my bicycle.

I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity, come rain or shine.

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Ride.

So on Saturday I went for my third “long” bike ride of the season. Having already ridden west and southwest on my previous rides this season, I decided to head to the southeast towards the relatively famous village of Cooperstown and then onto the nearby city of Oneonta. I knew the ride was going to be a challenge because that’s hilly country down there. While I know that hills are a part of the whole cycling experience, if I were to be completely honest I’d have to admit that I’d rather ride on the Great Plains or the Salt Flats.

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The weather forecast mentioned thunderstorms and showers on Saturday and I was lucky to remain dry for the entire duration of the ride. What I didn’t factor in, however, was that the approaching front was kicking up some winds. After getting to the top of a particular challenging climb (where a bunch of Amish kids stopped their chores and smiled and waved at me, helping me feel better), I found myself pedaling as hard as I could and barely moving forward. I was struggling to keep the bike upright. It turns out I was riding in 30 MPH gusts.

Good times.

I burned through my snack packs and found myself craving calories as I continued to defy the wind and ended up stopping at a quaint little place called the Fly Creek General Store. As I slurped down a Muscle Milk and chowed down on a Clif Bar, I noticed that I had an unread text message on my iPhone.

Due to the iOS 7 upgrades to our phones, Earl could no longer find me on “Find My Friends”. Yay for progress!

I sent him a text message telling him to start driving on Route 28 south of Cooperstown and he’d find me down there. I told him that I was ready to call it a day whenever he found me.

A while later, my Knight in Shining Armor (well, a black Jeep) arrived.

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When all was said and done, I rode 52.26 miles in 4 hours and 50 minutes. My average speed was 10.8 MPH, well below the 13-14 MPH average I usually clock in at.

While I enjoyed my ride (I always enjoy time on my bike), I told Earl that Saturday’s ride was the least favorite of my long distance rides this season. He understood that but reminded me that I still rode a pretty good distance in the wind. Apparently while trying to find me he had ridden through some windy weather in the Jeep.

I’m looking forward to one more long ride before the snow flies.

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Helios Bars: Building A Smartbike.

I love Kickstarter. If you’re not familiar with the site, Kickstarter provides a platform for creative, inventive types to generate revenue to turn their dreams into a reality. One of the devices that I use everyday, the Elevation Dock, began as a Kickstarter project and turned out to be a successful little gadget for iPhone folks.

Cali Lewis mentioned the words “Smartbike” in one of her latest episodes of GeekBeat and I was instantly intrigued. I watched her coverage and then headed over to Kickstarter to read more about Helios Bars.

There’s more information on the official website if you’re not in the mood to watch a video.

I ride my bike a lot and to do this I tend to ride in the darkness of your typical Central New York morning. While I have battery operated lights on my bike, they’re not the best in the world. They’re not that bright and I’m always worried that I’m not going to see something in the road or more importantly, that a sleepy motorist heading to work isn’t going to see me. I’m always looking for ways to improve my visibility and I think the idea of Helios Bars makes amazing strides in that direction. When you add the functionality of GPS and being able to track the bike via smartphone, well, come on, that’s just wicked cool.

And we all know how a geek likes wicked cool. Especially a geek on a bike.

I’m hoping that this Kickstarter project gets funded because I think this is a really good idea. I’ve made my contribution to the project because I really want Helios Bars on my bike and I’m all for making the world a safer place. With all of the distracted drivers behind the wheel these days, increasing visibility is really vital for those of us on bikes.

Relax.

So today I found myself with the afternoon off from work with one instruction, “Relax.” Since my bubble isn’t quite in the center, I decided that this could be taken many ways. I considered relaxing in the manner in which is implied by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but I’ve been there, done that way too many times in the past 30 years or so, so I thought to myself, “how can I forget my cares in the world today and just enjoy myself?” Since The Art of Shaving is too far away and there wasn’t any room at the spa, I went with my third option, a bike ride.

Three hours and 19 minutes later, I was back home, after completing a ride of nearly 42 miles. It felt like a 30 minute ride, most of the time.

I usually ride in an east-west direction, usually favoring the west because I prefer things in that direction in The Empire State. East-west usually avoids the bigger hills in the area as in these parts one can follow along the Mohawk River and the Barge Canal. I decided to be a complete mad cap and headed in a northeast direction. There are some roads over yonder that I had never ridden on before. These roads are narrow and sparsely dotted with dairy farms for the most part. After passing through the northern limits of the city and in the adjacent county, I found myself on a road called the Shortlots Road. I took a photo of a very old cemetery that had no way of getting to it, as it was surrounded by a cornfield.

All of the farms I passed on the Shortlots Road were fairly busy with activity. I spotted at least one farm implement in motion with a friendly driver at each farm. The story repeated itself on the adjacent, but narrower Dutchtown Road.

The climb up to these roads was a bit of a challenge but since it was fairly early in the ride, I trotted up with hardly any difficulty. The headwind kept things interesting, but the sun shone brightly and I was feeling content. After making my way down the hill through a little hamlet I didn’t even know existed (Millers Grove?), I followed along the Mohawk River and then made my way into the valley village of Frankfort.

Here’s a shot of Canal Street in Frankfort. I’m thinking the grassy area must be the original Erie Canal.

After eating a little snack because I was starting to feel a little bonky, I decided to try my hand at the Frankfort Gorge. Now for those of you not familiar with the area, there are several gorges that run roughly north-south, with the northern end being the lower end. Since I was already at the north end of the Frankfort Gorge, I knew that it would be a climb to get to the southern end. Feeling good, I decided I was looking forward to the challenge. The little NYSDOT marker on Route 171 indicated that it was five miles from where I was to the end of the route, which was the southern end of the gorge.

I was too out of breath to stop to take any photos along the Frankfort Gorge. I did notice that several people had the same idea of riding bikes in the gorge today. I encountered about a dozen cyclists winding their way through the gorge. The only difference was they were heading downhill and I was heading uphill.

When I got to the marker that indicated the southern end of the gorge, I stopped for another snack. I was pooped.

So after riding through the gorge, my choice was to either keep heading up the hill or just ride the gorge back down to Frankfort at a pretty good clip. Feeling ambitious after the energy bar, I decided to keep riding up. I ended up riding to the top of the hill where I found Frankfort-Highland Airport, an airport that my father and I had flown into many, many years ago in the Piper J-5A.

Runway 13.

By then I decided I should probably start the ride home, so I rode along the Higby Road, which is a road I never thought I would ride on because it’s way up on top of a hill. It turned out to be a very busy road so I decided to get off of it as soon as possible and found myself descending back into the City of Utica along Albany Street, which has a VERY steep hill. I think I burned whatever was left of my brakes on the way down.

From there it was just a matter of riding through the city during Friday rush hour, where I shortly found myself home after 3 1/3 hours.

And I feel totally relaxed. A very good way to destress.