Friday, June 23, 2006

Bike. Dance. Boat.

OK, I'm almost a full weekend behind posting. The upcoming weekend involves more biking, boating and dancing -- plus the PRIDE parade, hopefully an outdoor movie and possibly an ArtCar festival. Oh, yeah -- work, too.

I'm busy -- here's last weekend:

Boating, Biking, Dancing.

This is the trifecta that Jonathan seeks to complete his summer. Pretty hard to disagree with that combination. Last weekend was a great success by that measure. Friday night we met at SummerDance for a set of swing dancing. Goodness -- I suck at dancing. I teasingly threatened Jonathan that as much embarrassment he forces me to endure dancing that night would be returned to him in equal measure during the following day’s "training ride." We agreed and it began to be a running joke throughout the rest of the weekend.

Next we biked to the harbor with Jonathan’s dancing pals and took the boat for a sail. The wind was strong so the boat felt peppy and fast. As usual, the view of the city’s skyline from the water is beautiful – especially as we witnessed the change from dusk into evening. Out in the water the stars in the sky are visible, too – and the noise of the city completely disappears. The night air felt a bit chilly out in the water, but not so cold as to make us reach for additional clothing. As we returned to the harbor the air flowing from the city noticeably became warmer. Ahhh....urban heat islands.

After his pals were all rowed back to shore, Jonathan and I opted to spend the night on the boat. We slept out in the open air, in the shadow of Chicago’s looming skyscrapers, yet completely secluded and peaceful in the privacy of the dark water. The cramped conditions and resulting poor sleep are absolutely worth the serenity of sleeping outside in the gently rocking boat.

The next morning we needed to hustle to meet up with friends for the Starved Rock training ride. We realized we wouldn’t have enough time to meet our friends for the pre-ride breakfast, so we cooked/ate breakfast at my place while we packed and cleaned up. I made us eggs scrambled with sauteed leeks, spinach, garlic, herbs from my garden and blue cheese that we ate along with chilled potato/leek soup, bread and fresh strawberries. Yum.

Our friends were just finishing off their breakfast when we arrived. It was bright and sunny and obviously was going to be a hot day. The first leg of our trip took us into the wind. We rode at a conversational pace that wasn’t taxing. Jonathan had just got his bike outfitted for the trip with fenders, a rack and a new rear wheel to replace the wobbly mess that he had been riding on. He hasn’t done any long rides and was sort of nervous about this ride and the actual Starved Rock trip. I didn’t think he would have a problem, but you never can tell.

We all stopped at a farmers’ market in Wheaton for lemonade and to buy tasty things to grill at lunch. The group split up more after this break and Jonathan and I rode in the front with T.C., Josh, Todd and Jim. Still, the pace was mild. By the time the group stopped and met up for lunch it was past 2:00pm and we were hungry and rather sick of being in the saddle. The grill was lit and gads of food were produced from our collective paniers. We gorged ourselves on bread, cheese, fruit and raw vegetables while also filling our bellies with much water.

The croquet kit was set up and Jonathan laid down on a picnic table for his regular afternoon nap. Given the lateness of the day, many people began making plans to take one of the Metra trains back to Chicago instead of completing the ride. Of the seventeen of us who began the ride, only seven of us biked back together to Chicago. This ride went much faster. We had the wind on our back for much of the ride (or it was a pretty wicked cross-wind) and we rode much of it in a pack or paceline. Around Berkley/Maywood it began to sprinkle (which felt delightful on our hot skin!), the wind gusted around us and the sky darkened. A beautiful full rainbow appeared ahead of us. We fully expected to get caught in a storm and drenched, but luckily the storm never appeared.

Once we got into the city I was chomping at the bit to get home – and by ‘home’ I mean the Hbar. Riding through the west side of Chicago never inspires lingering and today was no exception to that rule. Actually, it was early enough in the evening that the vibe felt more festive than potentially volatile like it often does. I’m sure that an hour later would have been less comfortable. There is no way to pass through these miles without feeling conspicuous and drawing attention because we are white. The tailwind, the neighborhood, the knowledge that the Hbar is only a handful of miles away and the desire to get out of the saddle made it extremely fun to ride fast.

Jonathan and I raced through this part of town. I was torn between giving in to the urge to just ride as fast as possible, and keeping the group together. I compromised by stopping for all yellow and even some stale green lights so people could catch up. As we got closer, the group ended up splitting anyways. The huge party that is the annual Puerto Rican festival was taking place. Streets were closed to cars and it was a blast to feel all of the people’s energy on the car-free streets.

We had some food and drink at the Hbar’s beer garden. Delightful. Even better was going home and washing off the thick layer of sunscreen/sweat/trail dust/chain grease and the massive amount of visible, gritty salt that powered my skin and coarsened my hair. It feels so nice to crawl into bed clean and cool after being hot and dirty all day long.

I gave Jonathan a neck/back massage because he said those muscles were where he felt the day’s work. I thought he did he very well on the ride, especially considering it was the longest ride of his life. We don’t really know what the mileage of the trip was, because no one who rode back had a bike computer. It was about 44 miles when we stopped for lunch, but we took a more direct route back to Chicago. My guess is that the ride was somewhere between 70 and 80 miles. It was a good ride – and I am really looking forward to the actual ride over the weekend of the Fourth of July. Fun, fun, fun.

The next day we got to sleep in before meeting my law school friends for lunch in Pilsen. We took a meandering route there with the intention of detouring for interesting sites. We found a ripe mullberry tree and stopped to snack and turn our skin purple with sweet juice. Jonathan hopped up to climb the tree, whereas I grabbed the low-hanging fruit.

We figured out how to use my camera’s timer, too:

Then we went to Pilsen for lunch with some of my law pals. Fun times. I don't see Tara and Isaac enough. Afterwards we went to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum to see the exhibit about African influence on Mexican culture & people. Good stuff.


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