Bike to Work Day: Take Two

There I was again: suited up, helmet in hand, tennis shoes double knotted, messenger bag all packed to bike to the office, just as I had been nearly two weeks ago.  Only this time was different.  This time I had my new (to me) bike securely locked up in my living room (yes, I locked it up inside my locked apartment inside my locked building…remember what happened last time?) and after quickly adding some air to my tires, I was on my way.  I was actually biking to work!

The first 1/2 mile was great.  Because I like to head south to hit the Lakefront trail, I pedaled over to 55th Street with nary a care in the world.  Biking is easy!  But as soon as I hit Promontory Point and headed north it hit me: a 15mph headwind that’s more or less a fact of life when you’re near Lake Michigan.  I mean, that’s nothing, right?  15mph.  But for this girl – biking along the lake front for the first time in over a dozen years – it was tough going for most of the ride.  Small hills became mountains.  Seemingly every other cyclist passed me as if there was no wind at all.  There was even some gal wearing jeans and riding an old-school cruiser bike with an air of insouciance that practically screamed, “I could be going much faster, but I’m too cool for that.”  I think her bike had a banana seat and streamers, but I can’t be sure.  Hey, at least I was able to pass her.

A view from the South SideI purposely did not look at the clock before I left or along the way.  Even the mile markers were just approximations of distance traveled because I hadn’t paid attention to the mile marker at 55th Street (it’s 2.5 mile, if you’re riding north).  But it was better that way.  I wasn’t crunching numbers or frantically calculating how much longer I had to fight the wind.  In the brief moments I was able to coast down a hill or take respite as the path lead through a few of the wooded or more sheltered areas along the path, I was able to remember just how fun it is to bike the Lakefront.  Even on an atypical July morning like today, when the birds were scarce and the sunshine nonexistent.

Once upon a time I was in good enough shape (and had enough time on my hands) to rollerblade from Hyde Park to Grant Park.  This happened one year for Taste of Chicago and I remember it vividly because a friend of mine biked and I rollerbladed along with him. Then, after we’d enjoyed a few overpriced but delicious items of food, the heavens opened up and let forth a deluge.  He rode is bike back in the rain but I was relegated to a soggy seat on the 6 bus…in rollerblades.  Perhaps I should have planned ahead more.

But what a memorable adventure that was!  And I’m sure this morning’s ride will stick with me for a long time as well.  As I said in an earlier blog post, this a time of change for me – at least I hope it will be – and doing Ride for AIDS Chicago is just one step along the journey.

Okay, so back to this morning’s commute.  Wind burn: check.  Exhaustion: check.  Brief thought of exiting the Lakefront Trail at 47th Street and catching the 6 bus: check.  But those thoughts all disappeared as I hit Lake Shore Drive and realized my trip was almost over. Dare I say it… That went by rather fast.  As I rolled into the Millennium Park Bicycle Station I was actually feeling good.  No, make that feeling great.  There may have even been a little swagger to my step as I dismounted and headed to the locker room.  On my way out of the bike station I smiled at a guy locking up his bike and I’m pretty sure we were both thinking the same thing: how superior we are for having biked to work!  Amazing what a little exercise and endorphins will do for one’s ego.

My work day’s about half over now and although I sit in front of a computer for most of it, I don’t notice anything different.  No leg cramps, no back pain, no overwhelming need for a nap (well, no more so than most days).  I mean, it’s only 10 miles from my place to downtown, but it’s something, right?  And all that wind is surely a good training exercise.  I still have a long way to go before the 13th, but I’m biking back home tonight, biking to the north side on Friday, then doing a 40 mile ride on Saturday morning.  Get excited!  And I’ll continue to repeat the mantra that I said to myself this morning when yet another gust of wind rushed toward me: It’s okay, Em.  You got this.

I’m riding 200 miles in support of About Face Theatre and other amazing community organizations in this summer’s Ride For AIDS Chicago.  If you’d like to donate, please visit my fundraising page.  Thank you for your support!