Gordon & Max Bike the Drive

(Photo: Father and son velo-bond on a sunny Lake Shore Drive morning.)

The following is a Chicagoans Project guest post from Gordon Mayer, vice-president of Chicago’s Community Media Workshop. For the genesis of this project, please see here. To tell your story, email me at mike (at) chicagocarless (dot) com.

Now that my son, Max, and I cycled 21 miles on Lake Shore Drive last weekend as part of Chicago’s annual Bike the Drive event, I guess I can guest post on CHICAGO CARLESS. We went 7 miles an hour–-kinda slow, but we got there. Here are some impressions from our ride.

The eight-year-old was up at 5:10 a.m. We ate breakfast at home. I made myself a cup of coffee, tested the weather, decided a t-shirt and sweater would be about right. No wind Sunday morning, so it was really beautiful.

We had already gotten some advance help getting ready from the Blackstone Bicycle Works cooperative, where a local 13-year-old and one of the bike experts not only replaced an inner tube on Max’s rear wheel, but schooled us on how to do it ourselves the next time.

Then Max decided to change his pants at the last minute. I should have written down the time of our Metra train from Hyde Park to downtown the night before. 6:12? 6:18? We decided to skip the early morning Dunkin’ Donuts visit and headed directly to the station. At 51st Street we took the elevator up to the platform with our bikes. The train was right on time. At 6:15. A friendly conductor nicely helped us position the bikes mostly out of the way of the other passengers.

On our trip to the Loop, we came to grips with the same problem Eric Zorn had in the past with Bike the Drive–it’s kind of a pain in the neck to have to start downtown when we already live a few blocks from the Drive in Hyde Park. (Note to Eric: I think it would’ve been cool to start where you want, it’s not like the cops at the on-ramps were checking–and we met one couple who were riding downtown to sign up).

At Roosevelt we got off with a platoon of other bikers. Everyone talked about gas prices and made predictions that we might not have to share the road with cars in the future. We had received ride stickers from the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation in the mail, so we put them on our helmets and rode out to Lake Shore Drive and Jackson to head north.

Before 7:00 a.m. we were riding northbound on LSD, around the curve–sailboats on our right, high-rises and the site of the proposed Children’s Museum on our left (more or less)–over the bridge south of Navy Pier. Why this was so cool, other than the total quiet of the highway-turned-bikeway, I do not know. But it was really fun.

We stopped for lots of pictures, met Marge the babysitter near her home around Irving Park for a candy pit-stop, then headed back south, past the same wonderful scenery. After a break once we got back to downtown, we continued to ride all the way back home to Hyde Park. We parked the bikes in the yard at around 9:45 and finally made that visit to Dunkin’ Donuts (coffee, bagel, and chocolate donut, please).

All done by 10:00 a.m., the eight-year-old went on a playdate a couple hours later. The old man took a nap.

A quick shout out from me to the staff of Chicago Tribune’s Q Section for their pre-event bike issue. In it, among other things, they profiled two Tribune employees–one in marketing, the other a travel subeditor–who ride to work all year long. The employees made a big point of the fact that their riding habit did not affect what they wore at work.

I wish they had dug a little deeper on that point. Do they always carry clothes with them, or keep some extras stashed in the desk? Do they change back to riding outfits at the end of the day? What do they do if they have night meetings? But maybe these are all rationalizations standing between me and my ongoing New Year’s pledge to ride to work three days a week.

And why is it that, cool as it is, biking hasn’t done a thing for my waistline? Maybe because my visits to Dunkin’ Donuts seem to rise in direct proportion to the number and length of my bike rides.

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Gordon Mayer is vice-president of Community Media Workshop, one of the foremost grassroots media-relations training organizations in America. He’s originally from the New York suburbs, but don’t hold that against him. After 20 years in the Windy City, he considers himself an adopted Chicagoan.

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