Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Youngest and Safest Cycling Instructor

So yesterday, my almost 3 year old daughter and I went on a little jaunt to a park nearby.  I prepared the bike, trailer, got my gloves, her helmet, and off we went.  Not long after we made our first turn, I heard her saying something from the back.  "Dad, you need your helmet!  You need to go back home to get it!"  

Now, we weren't going far, only a couple of minutes to the park.  I almost tried to talk her out of it, not making it a very big deal, saying we're not going to be riding that long etc....  Then I realized the example that would set.  She was right, and I needed to confirm that for her.  So I turned around, went back to the garage and got my helmet.  She was very happy about that.  We didn't lose anything by going back.  But I think we gained alot. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Going the Distance on the Dahon

My trip to Wisconsin with the 1980's Folding Dahon 3-speed is completed.  Why did I choose to fly with my 16" wheel folding 3 speed bicycle, and then ride it 40 plus miles down the eastern shore of Wisconsin?  Well, maybe because the story could have gone like this:  "I flew to Milwaukee.  I drove the rental car to my friend's wedding in Belgium.  I drove the rental car back to Milwaukee.  I flew home."  Instead, the story now goes like this.....

I was going to ride a round trip from the airport, but I ended up just riding back to the airport, a one way trip.  That was a good thing though because I wouldn't have wanted to ride over 40 miles twice in two days on this bike.  It really was challenging due to it's size.  Instead, my good friend and first ever college roommate from 1994, Nick, picked me up from the airport.  Our first stop as we headed up to Green Bay for the night was Ben's Cycle on Lincoln Ave.  I had made previous arrangements to store my hardshell suitcase there because I wasn't able to do the trailer conversion with it before the trip.  However, they were closed for labor day.  But Vince, the owner, let me keep it in the "Big Truck" (also named Vince).  Even though we just met for the first time, he gave me the key to the padlock so I could get it out on my own when I returned.  After a great time with Nick and his family on  Saturday and Sunday morning, he dropped me off at Paul's wedding at the Cedar Beach Inn in Belgium, WI on Sunday afternoon.  It is after the reception dinner that my bike ride began.

I prepared my bike, and left the Cedar Beach Inn in Belgium (Ozaukee County) around 7 pm on Sunday night, just in time for the rain to begin.  I meant to leave about an hour earlier, but of course I got caught up with dinner, and talking to people at the wedding.  I rode Cedar Beach Road (which happened to be mostly an incline) to Hwy LL, which took me to the Driftwood Inn where I stayed for the night.  I was rained on for all of the 10 miles it took to get there.  I had prepared for rain though, so I had what I needed to alleviate the annoyance of getting wet.  It took me about an hour.  It was slow going on this bike, and I had a 25-35 pound bag hanging off of it.  Although that night I had it on my back.  Thankfully I brought a bungee cord with me, and was able to connect it to the rails of the seat for the rest of the trip the next day (Labor Day).  I enjoyed meeting the sweet owners, Nicholas and Irene.  The Driftwood Inn is a cute little place off the beaten path if you're ever in Port Washington, WI.  

After a restful, $45 night, I woke at 5am to shower and get ready.  I was on the road by 6am, and my first stop was a George Webb diner at the corner of Sunset and 32 there in Port Washington.  It was changing names, and I don't remember what the new one is, but the owners, employees, etc. are still the same.  I was there by quarter after 6, and had an excellent breakfast of eggs, coffee, toast, OJ, oatmeal, and milk.  Meat is not good to eat when you're going to be on the bike, and anything battered would be even worse.  After fueling up I was excited to get on the road, but when I stepped outside the sky looked treacherous.  Severe thunderstorms were suddenly moving through the area.  It took even the weathermen by surprise.  There were reports of hail in certain areas, and lightning was striking every few seconds.  The rolling thunder added to the ominous clouds.  It was moving east over Lake Michigan at about 40 mph, but it still delayed me by almost two hours.  I finally left while it was still raining because I wanted to get moving south knowing that eventually I would come out of it.  However, not far down the road, I started to see consistent lightning again.  I decided to put my bike down in the ditch, and sit in the first row of a cornfield on husks to protect me from the mud.  The lightning dissipated in that area, but I stopped again further down the road for the same reason.  This time I sat under the Interstate 43 overpass for a while.  I find it interesting that in the bathroom of the diner I had just left, there was a motivational poster just above the toilet that said "CHALLENGE .....The harder the course, the more rewarding the triumph."

It was at that point that I got off track a bit, and had taken a wrong turn.  I was at the intersection of Lakefield and Hwy W when I saw a man walking his dog.  His house was across the street, and just as he had gotten inside I made it over there to ask for directions and confirm what I was seeing on my map.  There was a road that looked like it must be W, but it wasn't marked as such.  He was very helpful, and it wasn't long before I was back on Lake Shore Dr. heading south.  After this I didn't have to stop due to lightning again.  I was finally getting south enough to get away from it.  I still did get rained on though, but like I said, I had prepared for that.  

I passed Concordia University, which is right on the lake.  Not much further from there I came to Virmond Park.  I rode past at first feeling anxious about the time I had lost, but decided to turn back and ride through.  I'm glad I did.  I saw two graceful blue herrons floating just above the ground.  They are such beautiful birds.  The park sits atop a high bluff looking down to the beach and out across Lake Michigan.  The wind was strong, and I watched the birds wondering how these storms effected their day.  I stayed long enough to refuel a bit and use the bathroom.  I'm glad I took that bit of time to stop and take in the scene.  It was one of those peaceful moments that feed the soul, and keep life in perspective.

It wasn't long after this that I came to Milwaukee County.  A couple of days before I had decided to change the route I was going to take.  Initially I was going to ride the Ozaukee County Trail, but that would have kept me further inland away from the lake.  While driving to Green Bay, I realized Wisconsin is very bicycle friendly.  Traffic isn't too dense, and the roads have plenty of space on them.  So, I decided to take Lake Shore Rd. down from Port Washington.  At this point, I had chosen to meander my way to Santa Monica Blvd., which took me right to the Wheel and Sprocket bike shop.  I stopped in for a break, but also to get input on the rest of my route plans.  Paul was extremely helpful, and tipped me off to current construction on the Oak Leaf Trail, which I was planning to get on next.  He helped me avoid future frustration, and put me on the trail further down the road.  Wheel and Sprocket sells thousands of bikes in a Bike Expo every April.  They have multiple locations, and this one was humongous.   Be sure to check them out if you're riding in the area.  

The Oak Leaf Trail was paved, and well marked even with the street names for any overpasses or bridges.  That really helped keep me on track, and confident I was going in the right direction.  I made my way past the Milwaukee Art Museum, which has been built to resemble a ship.  When I got to Chicago St. I was stopped by the Labor Day parade that was slowly moving by.  I wasn't sure of the best way to cross the river to get to Lincoln Ave., but more kind strangers helped me out.  Another sweet married couple, Tina and Jose, looked at my map with me, and helped me choose the best way to go.  I crossed the draw bridge on Pittsburgh, which happened to be up when I got there, and made my way to 6th street.  I took that to Ben's Cycle, my final destination on the bike, where I got my suitcase out of the truck to repack the bike.  It was about 12:30pm.  So after 6.5 hours and 30 or so miles I was done with my journey on this little Dahon.  

Was it worth it?  Yes, of course!  Being out in the elements when you are prepared lessens their effect.  It reminded me that we are not in complete control of our lives and what happens in this world.  Also, bad weather certainly has its own beauty.  I met and interacted in a positive way with people I would not otherwise have seen or communicated with.  I have the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal I set for myself, seeing it through, and now I have the memory of the experience with me forever.

The map I used is the Milwaukee Bike Map and Southeast Wisconsin published by Bikeverywhere.  It fared me very well.  In Wisconsin, what you see is what you get, and I liked that very much.  Thanks to Tom Fritz (Milwaukee Bike Collective) and Bruce Thompson (route researcher of the map I used) for input before I made this trip.  Thanks to the other strangers who helped me, and who I already mentioned, Vince, Nicholas, Irene, Paul, Tina, and Jose.  Thanks to my friend Nick for taking care of me while I was in town, and to Paul for getting married in Belgium, Wisconsin.  

Thanks to Mr. Hon, who years ago came up with a folding bicycle design that set the premise for the future of folding bikes.  This 1980's stainless steel folder stood up to a great test with this ride, and it did the job I needed it to do with no complaining.  

My route from the Cedar Beach Inn:

Cedar Beach Road west/Hwy LL south/Sunset Rd. east/Division Rd. south/Lake Shore Rd. south/Lakefield Rd. west/Hwy W south/Pioneer Rd. east/Lake Shore Rd. south/Zedler Lane west/Port Washington Rd. south/Fairy Chasm Rd. east/Santa Monica Blvd. south/Regent Road west/Brown Deer Rd. south/Lake Dr. south/Green Tree Rd. west/Santa Monica Blvd. south/Wilson Dr. south/Oak Leaf Trail south/Michigan St. west/Jackson St. south/Corcoran St. west/Erie St. northeast/Pittsburgh Ave. southwest/First St. south/Virginia St. west/Sixth St. south/Lincoln St. west