Thursday, June 30, 2005

on a morning walk through palmer park

on a morning walk to loosen my muscles, i came across a man on a park bench with a simple mountain bicycle frame and bags that clearly pointed out he is a traveler. his clothing was old-fashioned looking, mostly light colors and browns. pants and a button-up shirt. simple brown leather shoes. i kept walking and saw another man, much the same, on another bench about 200 feet away. the first man had a reddish beard, the second a blonde beard. i returned to the first man, eager with questions (the second man looked too tired for conversation, his hand covering his eyes and elbows resting on his knees).

the first man has been traveling for eight (EIGHT!) years like this, although he says he does "hitch-riding" [sticks his thumb out] mostly now because of his weak knees. This is his life, without a home. i asked if he ever has destinations or if he just wanders, and he replied that he often travels to places that he dreams about.

i offered him food and a place to shower if he needed and he politely declined, taking a rain check.

he was dressed so politely... i wonder if this is to not scare off strangers or draw attention from police. or perhaps this is just the way he's always dressed. most likely.


the first man's name is ezra. after writing the story above, i went out again to give him a copy of "women awheel." ezra had disappeared, so i walked to the other bench and gave it to his friend, whose name is hans (i think).

when i was talking to ezra earlier, i told him i saw someone nearby with a bicycle and panniers and asked if this was his travel partner. oh, he's up there? he asked, unaware that his friend was so close by. i thought it was interesting that neither man knew that the other was in the same park.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I grew up on a bicycle.

In the mid-1980s, My father taught me how to ride an old, yellow Schwinn in the grass across the street from our house in New York state. No training wheels, just his hand to guide me as I accelerated. A few years later, we moved to Italy and lived on a military base. My family won a bicycle in a raffle drawing and I had a brand new 12-speed Huffy mountain bike to get lost on. I had a habit of arriving home hours late, the time spent exploring different neighborhoods and nearby parks. In a couple years, I had successfully disassembled and reassembled all the basic parts to that bike. this natural curiosity, of course, got me into trouble often as I enjoyed taking apart other household things, like stereos and alarm clocks and other peoples bikes.

When I entered high school, the Huffy wasn't holding up so well (not to mention it weighed around 50 lbs), so my father bought me a Diamond Back mountain bike. I put countless miles on that bicycle, not to mention broken handlebars and a folded front wheel as a result of miss judging the speed necessary to complete a dirt jump. I cleared the distance a little too far and landed with my front wheel. A few months later, the repaired bicycle was stolen and never seen again.

When I arrived in Chicago, there was an obvious drawback to the mountain bike. There weren't any hills or dirt in Chicago, and so I a began searching for something a little more efficient. I built up a blue Ochner frame that I had found in a used sporting good store on Western Avenue for a hundred buck. I followed the trend of one-speed bicycles I saw everywhere in Chicago. Less than a year later, I crashed into a car that was turning into a cemetery. I survived, but the blue bicycle did not. I found an old white Italian frame and switched the parts a week later.

Sometime in the summer of 2003, I began dreaming of a bicycle ride that would take me from the rocky coasts of the north-west, through the green forests of northern California, and finally down to the beaches of southern California. I tentatively planned a route from Vancouver to Tijuana. Come the summer of 2004, I was working full-time as a high school English teacher and did not have the time to ride down the west coast. I did, however, have enough time to ride to my grandmother's house only 400 miles away in Iowa. Once completing that ride, my cycling companion and I rode from Indianapolis to Yellow Springs, Ohio, where we joined an environmental activist conference for a week. It was an achievement and earned us some bragging rights among environmentalist for riding across states to get to an environmentalist-sponsored event. Most important to us, we had accomplished our dream of riding without boundaries. Our perspectives changed that day, just like the time I first rode downtown and back from my apartment on Montrose Avenue. Even better, we proved to our friends and family that riding across states is easier than one might think. After we arrived back in Chicago that summer, a friend of ours borrowed some panniers and rode to her parents house in Rockford, Illinois.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

what do i with my time lately? buy books and ride my bike

i promised rachel i would put oil on my chain when i got home. i had told her eariler about how everytime i go out on my bicycle, i glance down by my feet and am reminded that the chain is dry. furthermore, each time i get home i neglect to lube the chain out of forgetfulness. when i got home after meeting with rachel, i finally grabbed the chain lube.

i also fixed the back brake. and re-wrapped the bar tape. and put air in the tires.

on friday, the next day, i rode around 13 miles to the south lake shore for a seminar with teachers and the Alternative School Network. my collegues were surprised to find out that it took me less time on my bike than it took them in their car. sigh.

i rode back home from hyde park that night, and then rode 12 miles down Pulaski avenue to Daley College for class on saturday morning.

my ride on saturday was pleasent, mostly because of the stimulating street life--the stores and the people wandering about. i pass through North Avenue, Garfield Park and the west side, Little Village on 26th, the industrial structures throughout the 3000 block, the shopping centers and strip malls of the 5000 block, and the crazy shirtless man on top of a building somewhere around 63th street. i took side streets occasionally to keep away from traffic. doing so, i get to observe the communities and faces of neighbors throughout the west & south side.

on my ride back after class, i had to stop a few times from fatigue. i haven't riding long distances like this in months. lucky for me, i had what was left of a chocolate bar and some peanuts in my bag. yum.

Monday, November 08, 2004


i found a rat patrol sticker on a post near the library.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

strange news from afar

things are quiet lately.
i haven't been to critical mass in many, many months.
bicycle riding is a lonely affair, a silent journey from here to there.
futhermore, i am thinking about my future and where i will travel to. will i take my bicycle(s) with me? will i ride from state to state? i used to think of my blue cannondale as such a precious, fragile peice. my deluxe ride. i wouldn't want to damage it, i thought. but then i realized it is a solid frame and set of wheels, ready to see the country with me, through rain and sun and slipping in gravel parking lots. so now i don't think of my blue bicycle as such a precious jewel but rather a sturdy machine willing to ride. and ride. and ride.

miles and miles ahead. the chinook, the cannondale, lots of books, and the boundless moment, living in the now.

Friday, October 29, 2004

minneapolis critcal mass

i arrived a few hours early with a horrible craving for french fries
i searched the town
but could not find any place for cheap fries
only pubs

heading down oak street i found a grocery store in the basement of an old building
i walked around for a good twenty mintues around that
tiny grocery store.
picked up some masking tape
and then the perfect chips
i asked how much the were.
he told me and
muttered in a southern accent something about there being some many things he can't remember

i have absoulty no idea what he was talking about
but the way he said it under his breath made me laugh

so i grabbed a banana to add to my nutritional dinner of chips
and headed back toward the bench where i wait for the rest of the critical mass bikers to arrive

as i sat watching the park
i had vistors
so all you guys who know me, know i am scared! of squirrels
this was not exciting to have them come closer and closer
so they can jump on my head and suction cup to my brain

so i decided to make up the courage to sit with the guys at the top of the hill
who started the gathering for critical mass
i went and asked if this was critcal mass

i was EXTREMLY shy

i sat on the bench just watching
the pink flimengo, zombie for bush, and the cool ranch dorrito slowly join the group

we waited until about 5:45
just as i put my foot on the petal
i felt rain
i would have never expected it because today was the nicest day
i couldn't believe it, hardly long sleeve weather and the sun! the sun was out! ((this is rare))

it was perfect
costumes and warm rain!

it was a small group, compared to chicago, about 50 tops

it began to pour

it was amazing

i look behind me
a girl with bat wings is hunched close to her handle bars to keep the rain away
the light
dark clouds with the sun setting

the rain let up every now and then
but always came back stronger than the last time
we rode around soaked

i then broke away from the group when we passed a cafe i go to
i sat there
wet, sticking to the seat drinking coffe and reading my book

and the only thing that makes this night more perfect

is that tomorrow is candy shopping for the trick-or-treaters and i am going to wear a costume!

Saturday, October 16, 2004


today i found out why i
was never
comfortable on my blue bike

even though i took it across the midwest i never felt like it was my bike

__it was living in the wrong city.

its seems happy here.

yeah! throat burns from the cold, that make me spit!
yeah! cold fingers!
yeah to the red, cold faces!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

yellow springs

in a few hours
my road trip begins

tonight is my last evening in yellow springs ohio
last night in the dorms of antioch

i don't know if i'm ready to go
not ready for chicago
not ready to leave ohio

but i guess i'll see what happens

i didn't take advantage of the bike trails
as i would have liked

i had dropped out of school about a week ago and
i honestly don't know how my time passed so quickly

i went on a few rides
((yesterday a few of us rode to xenia for mexican food!))

but for the time i had and the trails they have i should have done more

and i have to say i am very ashamed
. . . . my chain has rust . . .
i feel horrible'

every since i moved into that awful awful dorm
i couldn't bring my bike upstairs anymore
so i had to leave it out
to collect rain and dew and fallen leaves

it's almost time that i should be taking off the wheels and packing it into the green car
and off onto the roads of chicacgo

Friday, September 17, 2004

fantastic sight

just outside my school is the
most wonderful bike trail in ohio

for a short time i was enrolled in a bicycle class
what could be better
getting credit for riding my bike for a few hours
last class we rode about 45 minutes to springfield and then we rode back
i talked with liam
about cities and city riding ((he's from boston))
i miss dodging car doors, riding betweeen taxies, the constant awareness. . . .
trail riding is beautiful and nice
but its a different kind of riding

but in a city you can't find something like this::
larissa and i went on a bike ride a few days ago
she told me she had found the most fantastic sight

i followed her as
we left the path and
started down the corn stalk lined streets

as we got to a park
i was waiting for an amazing view

we jumped off our bikes
and headed towards the weeping willow

the weeping willow sat next to a little pond
i looked up and
saw an old yellow crusier wrapped around the branches
it looked as if the cruiser was laying on the ground
and then the tree began to grow and grow
and the bike just sat in the branches and went along for the ride
as the tree grew

it was the most fanstatic sight i have seen in a while.

the death of CILO

"what kind of bike is that? wait, don't tell me..."

my scavenged bicycle served me well for over two years, taking abuse and rolling for thousands of miles. the frame had a bend and a crack in it's downtube after too many front-end collisions, but this crack was not the cause of the bicycle's demise. after such a strong and lasting friendship, this frail old bike gave up and let go. its seat post is what finally cracked--the support that holds the rails of the saddle, to be exact. i was riding through the park, no-hands breezy and rolling smooth, when the seat gave out from under me and i fell backwards, the seat post impaling me in the lower back. i fell backwards and the bike kept rolling foward. i finally toppled back-first onto the ground. unluckily (and after all that), i was wearing my kryptonite NYC chain--the rediculously huge chain--around my waist like a belt, and this chain is what cushioned my fall. i couldn't walk for a few minutes. i just lay there on the ground, not sure how badly i was hurt and not even sure what the hell had happened to the bicycle. i had heard a snap of metal, but what?

the swelling has gone down now after two days. i rode my blue bike today, my first ride since the accident. my body proceeded with caution, but was happy to once again be on a bicycle.