Stabled Mounts; CTA; 911: I Wonder if He will Run me Over?
Friday night was the University of Illinois—Chicago annual bicycle scavenger hunt. Jonathan, his brother Ben and I were a team. Based on the format last year, I didn’t expect to be competitive (lots of ‘clues’ that were more befuddling than enlightening). We heard a rumor that cargo capacity would be damn helpful, so Ben brought a 6’ fresh air trailer, and I took the Bianchi with his rack and biggest panniers.
We realized that splitting up would be hard to organize because: 1) none of us have cell phones, and 2) none of us have watches. Oops. So we planned to ride as a group for most of the event.
However, when we hit the lake shore path, I volunteered to ride out onto Northerly Island to try to pick up two clues for 80 points. Despite a little unnecessary wandering, I found the points and was heading back to our meeting point at the Fireman’s Memorial, just South of McCormick Place. I knew that I was going to be later than the boys, because of my wandering, so I was pedaling fast in high gear to make up the time.
Northerly Island is dark and empty, an oasis from the city. I spooked up rabbits and other animals as I rode along the trail. Up ahead I saw a large puddle that spanned the width of the path. I poo-poohed the cautious voice in my head that suggested I slow down and/or avoid the puddle and the possible danger lurking in its depths. As I charged forward my bike bucked unexpectedly and I thought we were going in the drink. The Bianchi stayed upright, but my left cleat got jarred out of the pedal and somehow my left leg hit the handlebars – resulting in a bruise about the size of an egg.
When we finally cleared the puddle I looked forward to meeting back up with the boys when I realized that the bike was riding really…….wrong. I heard a hissing noise that confirmed that a tire was flattening. My thumb pressed down to the rim through both the front and rear tires. Grrrrrr……. I was fully aware that the boys were probably waiting for me and that riding on the rims is a bad idea. I didn’t want to waste anymore of their time and rode on the rims for the two(?) miles toward our meeting spot.
My Bianchi sounded like a trotting horse with his tires thu-thumping the pavement. I could feel that each wheel had a significant flat spot from hitting the dangerous bottom of the puddle. Damn – did it take effort to move, too. I was sweating a lot despite the chill air as pushed to the meeting place.
Jonathan was there with his bike and Ben’s trailer. Apparently Ben dropped the trailer off and pedaled to another clue while Jonathan waited for me. We didn’t have the tools to fix the flats (I don’t bring tools on races, because I just assume I’ll take the CTA sag wagon if I flat). I convinced Jonathan to go meet his brother while I took the CTA back home to pick up the Julep. Jonathan declined to take the trailer hitch from my bike, because “it will be too much trouble” and instead hoisted the 6’ trailer onto his shoulder and pedaled south to meet his brother. Crazy boy.
After trotting my bike up and down about 10 flights of stairs to cross over lakeshore drive, I finally got to a bus stop for the Cermak bus….and waited.
I rarely, rarely take CTA anymore – probably a handful of times a year. It is easy to forget the reality of being a single woman in a city while on a bike. I stood at the bus stop and felt the eyes of men linger on me as they slowed their cars to crawl past me. Grrrr…. Then on the first of two buses I needed to take to get home, an old man plopped next to me, struck up a conversation and kept touching my hair. He was an annoyance, and in no way a threat, so I didn’t move to another seat. It intrigues me what old creepy men actually are thinking when they are blatantly, unsuccessfully hitting on women.
Anyway, by the time I got home there wasn’t much time left before the final check-in point. I rummaged through my house and collected about 500 points before hopping on the Julep to West Town Bikes. Unsurprisingly, our team did not win. But Ben and Jonathan seemed happy from their ride.
Now both the Bianchi and the Dork Bike are in desperate need of repair. The Julep is my only working bike now – she must be smug with revenge after being stabled all summer.
The next morning, I had to catch a train up to a friend’s place in a northern suburb. I had left my camera at my office, so I hoped to have enough time to pick it up before going to the station. I planned to ride fast in the non-rush hour traffic.
Just a few blocks from home, going East on Chicago between Damen and Ashland, I heard a vehicle honking, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I was slowing for a red light and realized it was the delivery truck behind me. The driver was obviously yelling and gesturing at me angrily, but I couldn’t understand the words.
At this point I was in the middle of the right hand lane, waiting for the light to turn green. I didn’t plan on ceding the lane to him, because I was going to ride fast enough to keep up with traffic. Besides, in the light Saturday morning traffic, he could easily pass me in the left lane if he was in that much of a hurry – I had no intention of moving to the door zone just because the driver behind me was an impatient asshole.
That plan changed drastically moments after the light turned green and we were moving again. I heard his engine gunning and I looked behind me to see the front of his truck gaining on me. I veered sharply to the right and barely avoided getting run down, as I am sure would have happened had I not moved.
The driver of a cement truck and I shared a shocked look at what almost happened. For about a mile, I paced the offending Hostess Delivery Truck, license plate #90-297. It belched black smoke and drove like an asshole the whole time – peeling out of every intersection and jackrabbitting around to pass vehicles on the right. Part of me was tempted to pass him, but the more sensible part didn’t want to be in front of him again. He finally turned into the Osco Drug at the Milwaukee/Ogden/Chicago intersection.
A few minutes later, when I arrived at my office, I called 911 to report him. I hadn’t checked the exact time that I left my apartment, but I think the total trip took only about 10 minutes. The Julep had to fly to keep up with that asshole driver – despite him trying to run us down, I think he contributed to my fastest door-to-office ride ever. Despite making the 911 call, I had to wait about twenty minutes for my train to leave the station.
I hope the driver actually got in trouble. He was clearly unhinged.
Is there biker blood on your twinkie?