Monday, April 2, 2007

Endorphins are high, Houston.

Work on the El began today, and I was determined to abstain from the chaos, and bicycle in. One may think that because this part of the world is flat that biking would be a snap. Sometimes it is.

Sometimes it's windy. Like when it's 45 degrees and a cold wind roars along a little body of water we like to call Lake Michigan.

Thus it was that today I biked seven miles into a headwind that had me cursing at the air in enraged futility like Ahab at The Whale. Add to this that I have a heavy mountain bike, which is pathetic for long distances and/or speed, plus two panniers with my assorted clothing/food/date planners, etc., and I was working pretty hard. I'd always thought that having two bikes was an extravagance I'd avoid, but now I see that getting a good used road bike would be a smart move. Pretty much the only person who didn't whiz by me on the bike path was a geriatric old man, and even that wasn't a foregone conclusion. Mile after mile, people in head-to-toe spandex and bike shoes zoomed past me, their bike bells smugly announcing their passage, while I in my spandex leggings/GAP boy's gym shorts, hiking rain jacket and puffy winter gloves plodded on. It's not that I was going particularly slowly; it's just that I was a lead weight in the wind, and the tiny radius of my mountain bike pedals makes coasting a lovely fantasy.

When I'd studied my Chicago Bike Map I realized I could follow the lake out and past Navy Pier and then cut across nearer my building in The Loop, or cut across at North Ave and head down Wells into the Loop, into Wacker. I chose the latter because it seemed more direct, and because I apparently have a death wish.

If you're not familiar with Chicago, The Loop is exactly that - a loop in the Chicago River that hems in the business district on three sides. Wacker Drive runs along The Loop. Inside the loop are El tracks and lots and lots of skyscrapers. Imagine Boston's Financial District on steroids, with a six-lane road running around it.

It was into this that I rode my bike.

I knew it was bad when I didn't even see couriers on the road. I dodged buses, potholes and parked cars, and finally made it as far as the Lyric Opera before an overdose of adrenaline forced me off the bike and onto the sidewalk for the last two blocks.

To go home, I'm thinking that cutting across to the bike path might not be a bad idea. On the bright side, I feel terrific. Endorphins are kicking, I love everything about my job, and I'm wide awake. My mental agility is up, up, up.

Fingers crossed for a tail wind home. If not, I'll need to chart a course through the city and use the buildings as wind breaks.

Or tomorrow I'll just leave three hours early and walk into work. It could be fun...

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