Coffee shop culture

Every weekend, Cliff heads out on his group ride and leaves me a note, inviting me to meet him for coffee.  Our favorite place to meet, Italian Coffee Bar, closed so we’ve been meeting at The Brothers K instead. Over the past few weekends, I’ve started noticing some interesting culture at the coffee shop.

The outdoor seating area is a Mecca for socializing coffee drinkers. A particular group that I’ve noticed is a revolving group of older intellectuals from he neighborhood. One guy gets here early, stakes out a table, and as the morning progresses, people come and go from that table. They talk about societal issues, literature, technology, and gossip.

One man remains the same, but the other participants change regularly. The regular takes the time to introduce strangers and invites others to join the conversation. He seems to know many people and actively helps others to connect. It’s fascinating to watch!

And the one thing that stands out each weekend: none of these people are talking on their phones or working on computers. They leave the technology behind in favor of in person, real world connections.

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What a difference a year makes.

I’ve been riding a lot this year, even in this cold weather.  I know that cold weather doesn’t keep “serious cyclists” from their training rides (and sometimes, cold weather just means riding the rollers or the trainer), but it keeps me from doing a lot of things.  I hate the cold, and I really hate the darkness that comes with winter.

Last year at this time, in addition to hating the cold and the dark, I also hated my job.  I knew that I would be job searching in the spring and I became obsessed with finding a job in a place with warmer weather.  Cliff was a bit difficult to convince, but I just knew that warmer weather would make everything better.  

It turns out that warmer weather was not in my future… Cliff got promoted at work, and I eventually took the job at Lake Forest College.  While I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be staying in Chicago, I was excited about my new job, and hoped that would be enough to make the cold winters more bearable.

Then, along came cross season.  I “raced” cross last season, which meant that I did a few races and merely hoped to finish without killing myself.  I dropped out of one race because of a crash that sent me over my handlebars, but I finished every other race that I entered.  But, I wasn’t riding on non-race days because it was cold and dark out.  If the temps dropped below 40 degrees, there was no way in hell I was getting on my bike – and I barely got out of bed to hit the gym once or twice a week.

This year, I decided that my new goal was to finish every race, and to just not be last.  I’ve continued riding even after the temps dropped below 40 degrees and I’ve found that just the act of getting on the bike each day makes the winter more bearable.  Of course, warmer gear helps, too.  With only one more race to go, I’ve met my goal in every race!

Over the past four days, I have ridden outside every single day, for at least two hours each day.  Once cross season is over, I will more than likely hang up the bike for the winter and start hitting the gym, but I’m proud of myself for making it this far into the winter.

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“Open letter to motorists who dislike cyclists”

I’ve been commuting halfway by bike a lot lately.  I ride my bike to the Metra station, take my bike on the train with me to Lake Forest, and then ride my bike the entire way home.  Being able to ride home not only provides my much needed exercise for the day, but it also makes my commute much more enjoyable.

Tonight, as I was perusing some neighborhood blogs, I noticed this link on the blog of a neighbor who also writes about cycling a lot.  I, of course, had to post the same link because it’s such a well-written explanation of cyclist behavior.  If only all motorists could be forced to read this woman’s post!

Chicago Police Cracking Down on Cyclists.

The city is cracking down on enforcement of cyclists abiding by traffic laws.  As a fairly regular bike commuter, I completely understand the need to teach cyclists (and recreational riders fall into that category) the rules of the road and the importance of abiding by them.  I’ve seen quite a few cyclists (both recreational and the kitted up racer dude) blow lights and stop signs without any regard for the cars that are already stopped and awaiting their turn.  Illegal (and completely RUDE) behavior such as this leads to increased driver frustration with cyclists who think they’re above the law.
I also wish that the police would teach drivers about the rights of cyclists.  There have been way too many drivers attacking cyclists with their cars.

2008 Chicago Criterium – Photos Posted

My photos from the inaugural Chicago Criterium are now posted.

Chicago Criterium Photos

Bryan Rheude (MetLife) crossing the bridge on Balbo.

Bryan Rheude (MetLife) crossing the bridge on Balbo.

Chicago Criterium

We’re gearing up for Sunday!  We’ve debated several times whether we will drive to UIC, park there (I already pay for parking for work!), and then ride our bikes over to the race or just pay to park downtown.  We’re reluctant to park downtown because of the prices, but also because we can’t keep the bikes on top if we’re parking in a garage.  We’ve also debated whether to bring the team tent.

I had a little extra time on my hands today, so I scoured the Chicago Criterium site today, looking for into about setting up team tents.  Since I couldn’t find anything, I emailed the only email address I could find (under the volunteer link) and asked.  Turns out, there is an amatuer team staging area, and I received an email with the staging area pass that will let us pull up to the area and drop off the tent.  We won’t be able to park there, but at least we won’t have to haul the tent all over grant park!

See you all on Sunday!

ENH Grand Prix

I am super excited for the race this weekend! I’ll be there taking pictures all day, and Cliff is racing in the morning. It should be a great day!

Check out the request from Jim Marsh, one of the organizers of the ENH Grand Prix, below. He’s looking for volunteers.

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Hi, I am one of the organizers of the ENH Grand Prix and really hope you have a good time at the race and do well. I will be planted next to the start finish line so please feel free to come up and say hi. Thanks for mentioning us in our blog. I have one favor to ask… we are in need of some more volunteers to help marshal the course and make the event go smoothly, we have a solid crew but could always use a little more help, especially from people who know of crits and cycling.

Please forward the link to our volunteer page http://www.enhgrandprix.com/volunteer.html to anyone who is interested in helping out.

Thanks and have a great race!