Tag: Chicago

Chicago DivvyBikes #fail

20130807-225850.jpgI love bike share programs. As someone who adores being able to tour a city by bike, or sneak a quick ride into a business trip, they provide a great option to me. I also think they help embed the idea of using a bike as transport into many people who wouldn’t think of them as such. I love when I hear about another city adding a bike share program, be it New York City or here in Milwaukee, and hope the concept becomes the norm in all cities.

It was sad when the B-cycle experiment in Chicago ended after a single season a few years back. Due to that and my frequent visits there, I’ve been following the news and buzz about Chicago’s new bike share program called Divvy Cycles. I was excited to give the system a try during this week’s business trip to Chicago.

I thought ahead to bring my helmet (personal preference, saw tons of people on the bikes sans helmets all around the city).


Having downloaded the Cycle Finder app to my iPhone, I headed from my hotel around 5:30pm to the Divvy station at Grand and Fairbanks Court , which was the nearest station and had 11 bikes available. The touchscreen on the rental kiosk seemed very slow to respond, and kept looping back to the initial language choice welcome screen. Finally it asked me to “dip my card” (swipe my credit card), and began to process. And process, and process. Back to welcome screen. One more try, same thing. A young man came up, tried with his credit card. No luck. Said same thing happened previous day. App in had we both headed to the station at Illinois and McClurg. This time we both got a screen with an error message suggesting we contact Divvy via phone.


Divvy’s customer service rep told me that machines often time out, and to try again, try another station, or come back another time. No exactly helpful advice. Off to the next station at Illinois and Streeter. Same thing. Although here we did see a person successfully take out a bike – but using a credit card already in the system. By this time, between the other guy and I we had tried 4 different credit cards at 3 stations, multiple times.

I had planned the stations with a Plan B in mind, as I was determined to ride a bike. Off to Bike & Roll at Navy Pier to rent a “fitness” bike (a Trek 7.2). A more expensive option, but at least an option.


My plan of touring around the city for a couple of hours from Divvy station to Divvy station swapping bikes every 30 minutes, turned into “go for a long ride along the lake”. Off to the Lakefront Trail I went. Which was PACKED. Still was a great ride. Navy Pier is roughly in the middle, and I planned to ride the entire 18 mile length for a 36 mile round trip ride. First headed north to the zero Mile marker at that end.


About 15 miles in, I paused at the Ohio Street Beach to eat an apple, and watch the swimmers train along the breakwater. As a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard, I’ve always been fascinated by these swimmers – water is so cold.


Shortly after passing the Shedd Aquarium, my phone rang repeatedly. Again and again. Enough that I couldn’t ignore. It was Bike&Roll calling to warn me of an incoming storm and requesting I bring the bike back ASAP. Turned around at the 10mile southbound marker, making my ride an even 20miles. Was sad I couldn’t do the entire length – but realize even though no storm appeared, the crowds had slowed me so much that it would have been very dark when I made the trip back from the 0 marker south.


A couple of notes about the Strava from this ride. First, the elevation map (or lack thereof) makes me laugh…so much grey space with the tiny bumps at the bottom, but seriously, 0 feet gain, I don’t see a flat line. ;-). Secondly, it makes me sad to see there were 43 visible segments in this 20 miles and 27 hidden segments. This is a very, very crowded path with bikers, runners, walkers, dog walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and clueless tourists peering through cameras mid path. This is not a path to earn KOM/QOM. Tracking mileage is fine. Going for record speeds, dangerous. Don’t be a Stravasshole


Oh, Balls

Is there some golf event or something coming to Chicago?

Oh yeah, the Ryder Cup is here next weekend. Chicago seems to celebrating with their latest street art series, remember the cows that started it all? This year it appears to be Golf Balls along Michigan Avenue.

My Kinda town…


Mrs O’Leary’s cow and the Chicago Fire:

Golf, of course:

And others:

A Tale of Two Cities’ Bike Rides

One of the reasons I love living in the Milwaukee area is its close proximity to Chicago. While there are many reasons which give Milwaukee the edge as to my choice of residence, I consider Chicago as a second, adopted hometown. (I guess growing up midway between Chicago and Milwaukee has left me with torn allegiances – we won’t even get into Bears vs. Packers or Cubs vs. Brewers). Anyway, I avail myself of any opportunity to take advantage of what both cities have to offer. Organized lakefront bike rides are no exception with each city offering up a ride on back to back weekends.

The first was Chicago’s Bike the Drive on May 29th, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Organized by the Active Transportation Alliance, a group encouraging biking as transportation within the Chicago area.  The ride offers the once a year opportunity to ride a bike along Lake Shore Drive. The 30 mile loop begins at Jackson, with the option of 1st heading south to the turn around at the Museum of Science and Industry or north to the turnaround at Hollywood. I love the views of the skyline and Lake Michigan, the museum campuses and harbors from a car along Lake Shore Drive and was quite excited to see these from my bike. Alas, this year, the weather did not cooperate. The city was fogged in with a slight mist all morning. Not sure I ever caught an actual glimpse of the lake…or even a true view of the skyline.

 This ride was very well organized and supported. The event website included a calendar of spots to pick up ride packets in the weeks leading up to the ride. We didn’t make it in town until too late to get to one of these pick up locations…but will next year. The line to pick up packets was long when we arrived around 6:30am, and getting longer by the minute. Look closely in the picture below – when we got there the line went to the porta potties in the far back, by the time we got our packets, it had doubled back upon itself. Packets included the mandatory, and frequently checked, race bracelets and numbers, along with t-shirts and route guides.

Rest and re-fuel stations were provided at each turn around point and in the middle/start area. Quite impressive set-up – well stocked, tons of volunteers, and active recycling efforts.
While in line to pick up packets, I heard a group debating which direction to go first, and the 1st mention of “the hill” – as in “maybe we should go north first to do the hill in our first half”. As we rode, I’d hear bits and pieces of conversations about folks dreading the Ohio Street hill. When we encountered this hill at about mile 28, it reminded me that hills are relative to where you live…and that Chicago is a very flat place. Yes, as I was feeling smug about my ease of riding up “the hill”, I also acknowledged a biker from Colorado would laugh at all my complaining about Hillside Drive or the Hanson Park hill on my bike commute. At the top of the hill we stopped for a quick photo opportunity of a leg of the river and the idle construction site of the Chicago Spire project.
The ride offered a post ride festival, but the weather just wasn’t hang in the park and listen to music friendly. Instead we biked over to our fav breakfast spot, Yolk as a post ride treat. Great ride despite the weather, and one I plan on making a tradition.

 The next weekend was the Miller Lite/UPAF Ride for the Arts in Milwaukee. This fund raiser for Milwaukees Performing Arts scene offers a variety of routes from 5mile and 12 mile family friendly routes through downtown, to a bit more challenging 25mile route heading south along the lake, and for the true cyclist northerly 50 and 75 mile versions. We’d originally planned on doing the 50miler, but technical difficulities (a deja vu of hubby’s flat in last year’s ride – but with need of a new tire in addition of the tube) put us behind schedule and we called an audible and joined the 25miler.

All routes begin at the Summerfest grounds. As with the Chicago ride, routes are well marked, well organized and well supported. Yellow shirted ride marshals were apparent through out. I appreciate all the volunteers time and efforts, but would suggest the ride provide a bit more training and guidance to the marshals. We happened to be riding much of the route by a couple of marshals that frequently rode no-handed, changed lanes without looking back, passed without calling out to riders – all of which in a crowded biking situation could cause problems, but more importantly did not model good biking etiquette and safety while on an organized ride.

 A highlight of this year’s ride was the trip over the Hoan Bridge. Before the start organizers warned that no photography or stopping on the bridge was permitted, s have no pictures of the incredible views. The 3 percent grade of the bridge made climbing it not too strenuous at an easy pace, nor did it cause problems on the group descent. Hopefully this made us one step closer for the DOT to allow biking across the bridge in the future.

Bikes of all types, road, mountain, hybrid, recumbent, were apparent on the ride. Huge props to the guy on the single speed old fashioned bike. We saw him start and finish – and at the turn around, so know he did the 25mile route. Passed a couple of families using tandems plus tag alongs for a three person ride.

The UPAF Ride also includes a post ride festival on the Summerfest grounds. Local fav, ‘Love Monkeys’ were the featured band. However, we opted to head to brunch instead, this time to Honeypie in BayView. Creating our own post ride tradition, of re-fueling at brunch favorite restaurants.

Recommend both rides, and together they make a great way to kick off the summer riding season!

A Tale of Two Cities’ Garden Shows

Early spring…..the time when gardeners in the upper-Midwest start itching for some greenery. It’s the beginnings of seed starting season, but still several long weeks from outdoor planting time.

So what’s a gardener to do? Visit a garden show or two. Which is exactly what I did. First up the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, held March 10-18th at Navy Pier. This one had an added bonus for me of a tweet-up with other Chicago area garden bloggers. A couple of weeks later closer to home, Hubby, Kiddo and I attended the Milwaukee Realtors Home and Garden Show, held March 25 – April 3rd at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds.

The theme for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show was “Sport of Gardening”. The display gardens all had some kind of sport theme, from the obvious such as giant croquet mallet and balls (made out of beautiful white orchids), backyard putting greens, and sailboats. Or the less obvious “sport” of backyard entertaining and chicken keeping. Even the decorated tablescapes/floral arrangements had a sports theme.

Best of all the sport’s themes, the over the top but fascinating Blackhawks garden

 The display garden where I spent the most time was the garden featuring stone sculpture’s and plants (mainly woodies, both deciduous and evergreen) from Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, IL. While we were visiting, the artist was actively working on a new piece. Watching him hand carve the stone was fascinating – as were the mainly examples of his craft woven throughout the garden.

 But, of course, it was the plants that drew me in. Can’t wait to get down to Woodstock and check out this nursery located 65 miles southwest of me, 35 miles due west of my Mom, I have no excuse not to go. Based on the specimens in the garden (which were very nicely marked), this is a must see place for me.

Spring garden shows can get ideas flowing for projects large and small. Unfortunately, as one of the garden bloggers commented, more and more these shows are about selling bricks, pavers, and other hardscape. The Milwaukee show made no bones about it with both the sponsorship of the “Garden of the World” theme by Uniloc, a manufactured block and paver company, and the outdoor bedroom display when you first walked in the door.
Like the Chicago show, the Milwaukee show’s display gardens included lots of focus on outdoor entertaining, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and water features.
My favorite garden at the Milwaukee show was the one that highlighted a bit more green practices. Beekeeping, green roofs, rain barrels…
Both shows had water features created by drilling holes through rocks. The Chicago show even had a vendor selling kits of pre-drilled rocks to make your own at home fountain. I love this technique for fountain building, first seeing it in the Better Homes & Gardens display gardens in downtown Des Moines back in 2003 or 2004. Trend setters that we are, Hubby & I built one at our last garden. Here’s the ones from the garden shows:
And mine from 2006, in situ:
Each show also had a market area. The Chicago one a bit smaller than the Milwaukee one – which to be fair was a *home* and garden show. From Chicago I brought home seeds and a few bulbs. Milwaukee’s catch was much more fun. I’ve always wanted a bottle tree. There was a vendor with iron bottle tree forms, plus other iron garden scupture. Couldn’t resist the bottle bug to go along with the bottle tree. Now to find them a home…..

Windy City Weekend

Love this sign for so many reasons, not the least of which is the St Pat’s theme and the green river.

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