Monday, September 8

A quiet weekend of small journeys

Rarely do I allow a weekend to pass without a day trip or an overnighter. This was a weekend for doing some of those "must-do" things that pile up when the call of the outdoors is defeating. We suffer here in most winters. So I respond eagerly to those calls! Thus, my avoidance has caught up with me. So rather than a long ride or a weekend getaway, I rode up north, along the lake shore and enjoyed the mid-seventies temps and the captivating scenes from the lake. There's been some road patching done on Lake Shore Drive but it's still an obstacle course in spots. I don't mind that too much because I know this road. I love living in a place where I know the nooks and crannies of the streets, intersections and neighborhood. I value the familiarity of being able to visualize what's around the bend before getting there. On Lake Shore Drive, I know which lane has a huge crater in the road, I know where the most popular exit ramp is and when to move to the best lane to avoid the inevitable backups there.

"How do you ride in downtown Chicago?" I've been hearing that a lot lately. "It's dangerous," people tell me. But Chicago is my backyard. If you're smart, you learn your environment. Survival depends on it! Knowing how to get through the often crazy streets is no different, to me, than knowing how to deal with any of the challenges that any environment throws at you. When I was in Vermont recently, I recall thinking how those early morning fogs would made me reconsider my preference for early morning starts and how streets not on the Chicago grid pattern would really force me to hone my map skills or render me totally dependent on the GPS. And, night riding, forget it. There is no blackness more absolute than those country back roads--and I do enjoy an occasional night ride. I suspect, however, I'd learn to adapt to my environment if I lived in Vermont; I'd learn that shedding the outsider's perspective and just getting out there and living like a native Vermonter would accelerate the adaptation process. It's all a matter of perspective. My house in the suburbs puts me within 10 minutes of country roads and when there, I feel the new sensory challenge that it demands and the excitement of not knowing what's around the corner fills me with wonder.This morning, I was out for a walk around 5:15am and the traffic on Lake Shore Drive already was brisk, ample and robust. The sky was dark and in the horizon I could see evidence of the sun preparing its glorious rise. I took my gym rope on the walk and a little camera too. I took the rope because I want to reconnect with jumping rope, something I used to be very good at, including hand crossing the rope, fancy foot work and double-jumps in one turn of the rope--those were the days. My supposed bone condition probably prohibits this shake up to my skeleton, but I wanted to feel a little flight--get my feet off the ground for a change. It went well but I tired long before I could do any damage, I'm sure. I took the camera because I always have one on me, just in case I want to capture a memory. The long walk did me well. Tomorrow, if my body must pay a price, I'll be ready.It's the beginning of a new week and my mind is already thinking of where I'll ride to the coming weekend. The days are getting shorter and the mornings are darker and cooler. Fall hovers. No doubt about it, every day brings me closer to the inevitable: winter storage. This year, I will ride as long as the ground is clear and i can bundle against the cold. I will ride without regard to a calendar date. With still-to-be-purchased winter gear, I don't plan to go to that inaccessible motorcycle winter camp quickly or quietly.

Hope your week changes you in some interesting way. Get your feet off the ground some, if you can.

Ride smart.