Saturday, September 14, 2013

Simple Errands by Bike Become Journeys of Discovery

With a couple hundred miles on my newly-built Surly 26" Disc Trucker, things have started to settle in. The disc brakes have needed a couple minor adjustments, new racks and bags have been purchased as others such as these have proven their lack of durability.

An infrequent yet bothersome screeching began to emanate from what I suspected to be the sealed bottom bracket. I called around hoping to find someone stocking a common Shimano UN-55 bottom bracket in 115mm spindle width. After a few minutes of calling around I found a shop that had my bottom bracket in stock. Comrade Cycles had the necessary part, so I had them hold it with the intention of riding over to pick up on my next day off.

Comrade Cycles had come through for me before, being the only shop in the Chicago area I could find with a suitable disc brake caliper mounting bracket that I needed to complete the V-brake to disc conversion on my cargo bike when I was in a rush to get the job done before the Chicago Cargo Bike Roll Call annual picnic. I was looking forward to the ride through the city and over to Comrade. Their shop is a narrow, crowded place staffed by guys with crazy beards, tattoos, and multiple facial piercings. In other words, typical hard-core bike wrenching folks who love bikes. It's also cool that their shop is organized like a collective. I'm sure they're not making money hand-over-fist, no-one who owns a bike shop is, but at least they're all sharing equally in the profits.

So, I set out to do the 26 or so mile round trip ride to Comrade with the intention of documenting the trip. I realized a mile away from home that I had forgotten to bring my camera. Oh well, maybe some other time I thought. Fighting a stiff headwind most of the way, I enjoyed the ride nevertheless. I arrived at the shop, and comrade Bailey assisted me. It also happened to be Bailey who I'd dealt with several weeks before when I needed that disc brake part. A fellow Surly owner, he came around from behind the counter to check out my bike, complimenting me on my Disc Trucker build. We talked about Crane Suzu bells which I'd been wanting to acquire for some time. The last time I'd been in, Comrade had been out of the stem mount bells with the clapper. Bailey was using one on his bike, a Cross-Check so I went outside to check out his bike, locked up to a rack out front.

We talked about plans to tour and lamented that fact that neither of us seemed to get much more saddle time than what was involved in the daily commute. I left the shop with well-wishes to enjoy the North Shore Century, which I was intending to ride in just over a weeks time. About two blocks away from the shop, I decided to turn around and go back to get some shots. I'd enjoyed the ride over and had seen some interesting things. I thought the simple errand to could be turned into a blog post afterall, showing some of the neat sights along the way. Instead of my Nikon D200, I'd make due with my phones camera instead. I stopped back in the shop, took the phone off my Randonnerd mount and snapped a few pics. Comrade Jesse was intrigued by my phone mount so we spent a couple minutes talking about it before I hit the road. Jesse's page on Comrade's website doesn't do his beard justice. You need to go in an see it in person for the full effect. If anyone was ever rockin' a Sheldon Brown tribute beard, it's gotta be Jesse.

You can get this design on a really cool, super soft T-shirt for $20 - well worth it, and currently one of my favorite Ts.

The shop extends around the corner into a whole other cramped back room area with more stock and several repair stations. Obviously, the cell phone camera with it's lousy sensor and incredibly lengthy shutter delay is definitely not the best tool for the job. Perhaps I should invest in a small point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix for trips like this where I don't want to lug along the bulky Nikon D200.

 A turntable sits in a cluttered corner near the cash register. I think it's totally cool that these guys are rockin' out to tunes played on classic old vinyl. Kids these days don't know what vinyl is for, except maybe ruining with their DJ turntable scratching crap. Sigh!

The actual reason for this trip. Hopefully, installation of the new bottom bracket will eliminate the screeching sound. The bell with its incredibly loud tone and lengthy sustain will work far better for announcing my presence on the bike paths than the pitifully quiet, facetiously-named "Incredibell" that I was using before.

The actual reason for this trip. Hopefully, installation of the new bottom bracket will eliminate the screeching sound. The bell with its incredibly loud tone and lengthy sustain will work far better for announcing my presence on the bike paths than the pitifully quiet, facetiously-named "Incredibell" that I was using before.

Heading back from Comrade, I documented many of the interesting sights I saw along the way. Making the journey from east to west across the city, I like to take Hubbard Street to get close to Comrad. Although it has no bike lane, Hubbard is far quieter with much less traffic than the similarly direct route of taking Milwaukee Avenue.

Woodworkers will recognize this as the home base for Jorgensen and Pony brand woodworking clamps. I had no idea that this more than 100 year old staple of the woodworking industry was based right here in Chicago.

I saw these large wheel things from a half block north over on Hubbard street. I don't know what they are but the looked interesting. One of the Metra diesel commuter train lines runs parallel to Hubbard Street. Its elevated tracks provide a canvas for some weird and unique murals as well as some strange graffiti.

This section of the expressway running under Hubbard Street is known as Hubbard's Cave, for obvious reasons.

The final, (first) panel along the railway shows these murals were painted back when I was still five years old.

Passing from Hubbard to Kinzie Street I ride through one of Chicago's first protected bike lanes which goes right by the Blommer Chocolate Company factory which has been gifting downtown Chicago with the luscious smell of chocolate since practically forever.

Kinzie Street takes me right by Dearborn Street where I decide to take Chicago's latest protected bike lane, a two way path that runs through the heart of The Loop replete with bicycle-specific traffic signals that evoke images of similar cycle paths in Copenhagen, Denmark. The two-way lane and signals are kind of neat but I find Dearborn to be a frustrating way to move from north to south through the Loop. There is no "green wave" timing of the lights, so you often find yourself frequently waiting for the lights to change.

Dearborn goes right by Daley Plaza, dominated by an iconic Chicago landmark, a sculpture by Picasso that is supposed to be a woman, but instead looks like a duck to me. I never have liked anything by Picasso anyway. I find the pigeons far more interesting. There are some neat "splash-white" guys in that flock there. Daley Plaza is also the assembly point for the Chicago Critical Mass ride, taking place on the last Friday of every month, all year round, regardless of the weather.

Over on 18th Street, just before I make my way back onto the Lakefront Trail, I pass by the historic landmark Glessner House Museum. The Glessner House was built in 1886 and is one of Chicago's oldest buildings and has a strangely monolithic medieval look about it. Across the street is a more decorative yet still similarly old house that is the site of the US Soccer Federation, whatever that is. Apparently there are guided tours of these buildings. I'll have to make a point to come back to take the tours one of these days.

The Lakefront Trail has numerous areas of ongoing prairie restoration which aim to return parts of the Chicago lakefront to a more natural state, resembling what the area looked like before European settlement. These restored prairies act as vital resting areas for migratory birds coming through the Great Lakes area during Spring and Fall migrations. Several of these spots along Chicago's Lakefront Trail are known as some of the best places in the country for birding during the twice yearly migrations.

 A few more miles of this and I completed my trip, arriving back at home. Parts were installed and a celebratory beer was consumed.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Like the pics of the good old US? I presume.