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Bucket List Mon May 14 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Riding a Bike in the City

Previous Entry: My Chicago Bucket List: Learning Resilience from Preteens
Next Entry: Run a 5K

Number 31: Ride a Bike in the City and Try to Not Die or Be Permanently Damaged

As I shimmy through 2012, this bucket list is becoming less and less things to check off a list and more and more scary things to do that freak me out of my comfort zone and into the magical. And considering the stalemate of boring I mucked around in for much of 2011, this is exactly what I needed.

My latest venture out of my comfort zone involved a Craiglist impulse buy of one red Schwinn Beach Cruiser. Ten minutes of Craigslist scrolling led me to Annie, a hefty 40-pound cruiser meant either for really slow city biking or possibly razing buildings. The first time I sat on her and attempted to pedal, I shook... she squeaked... and we swerved down Paulina Street in Rogers Park like drunk Dutch man after Cinco de Mayo.

But five miles of SLOW shaky pedaling later, I was officially a city biker; something I thought was reserved for the school children and hipsters. And it felt great and strangely liberating.

Not to get too philosophical here on you all, but biking in the city is a lot like life.

First and foremost, you can't care what you look like and you sure as hell can't compare yourself to others or you will fall flat on your hopefully-helmeted-head. While I was swaying down Ravenswood, a group of bike-shorted, color-coordinated, "real" bikers zoomed by me. I had to just laugh, knowing I looked like Miss Daisy with a floral bike helmet instead of the straw hat. Annie and I may not zoom anywhere but we will get there eventually and hopefully enjoy the ride along the way.

Of course along that ride, even if it just from Rogers Park to Lincoln Square, one probably, most definitely, will get lost. Did you know that Ravenswood dead-ends into the death trap known as Ridge Road? Fun little fact I learned on my first biking adventure. And when dead-ends happen, sometimes you need to get off you bike, take her by the handlebars and guide her along a different path, preferably one deemed safe by a gently-laughing pedestrian. Like Ravenswood, life is not a simple linear road meant for easy bike travel. Dead-ends happen even along the most well mapped out of journeys. Career paths dead-end into soul-sucking data entry positions, relationships crash and burn, that JBA turns into a bitter online blog about soul-sucking data entry positions and relationships that crash and burn. Dead-ends are not the end of the journey but a moment to get off your bike, consult a compass and change your path and your plans.

But just because you discovered a new path doesn't mean it will always be smooth. When the road gets bumpy it is important to realize it is easier to go through those potholes rather than trying to dodge each one. If you see a particularly large pothole coming, slow down, brace yourself, and bump through. You'll come out on the other side more resilient to the turbulence. And just because it isn't smooth road doesn't mean it isn't the right path. (Good lord, why do I suddenly feel like a less eloquent Dr. Seuss?)

Bottom line: biking, like life, is work. If you are doing it right you will sweat. You will get achy inner thigh muscles. You will be shaky and wonder where that whole "it's just like riding a bike again" phrase came from. You will wish you kept a spare sports bra in your purse.

But during the work, in between the potholes, after the wrong way on the one-way street, there will be moments of flying, of calm smooth rolling wheels, of effortless freedom, of pure self-confidence, a moment when you know you are on the right path because you feel it in your core...

And then you will dead-end into Ridge Road. And you will pick a new path knowing that somewhere up ahead is a hill, possibly a dead-end but also that moment of joy when you think "F yeah! I'm riding a bike in the city."

CIMG2149.JPG

Here is Annie, all secured to my building's dryer unit. She is temporarily out of service after I went a bit too hard on her hand breaks and broke the back break. Any tips on good (read: cheap) local repair shops?

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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