Tag: Illinois

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…


Blackhawks:

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

Golf, of course:

And others:

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.

What better place to spend Mother’s Day than Mom’s garden

One of my first blog posts was called Where it all begin. In it I talked about *my* first garden. But honestly, where my love of gardening and gardening experiences began were in the gardens of my Mom and my Grandma.

So it seems fitting that as I am re-connecting with my passion for gardening I spend Mother’s Day with my Mom – in her garden and visiting garden centers with her.
So much of this garden feels like home.

At the same time there’s bits and pieces of my influence- the corydalis lutea given to me by an on-line friend and shared with mom; the daylilies from an order I placed one winter as my life was about to change. I’d used Mom’s garden as a nursery bed during that time of upheaval in my life. Splits of these daylilies are spread around her yard, found homes in my subsequent garden but still have a home in this “temporary bed” by Mom’s vegetable garden 12 years later. Unfortunately, over time the plant tags for the daylilies have disappeared- hoping later this season I will recognize them – or at least be able to make notes of bloom time, height, and color, so I can divide and move pieces into my new garden.

On this trip I did dig up a few clumps of corydalis, and several of Mom’s ferns (including this one which had made it’s way out of the border), and was fascinated by the fiddleheads in the process.

I’ll take lessons from the side of the house where Mom says she doesn’t mess with – letting the plants spread as they may. Lesson one – I found the green white color scheme soothing, calming. It is one I will use in my own garden. Lesson two – skip the Snow in the Mountain, which is probably the influence behind the let the plants go attitude.

Left Mom’s with the car loaded to the brim with the spoils of our Mother’s Day adventures, two garden centers (Gurnee Garden Center and Jamaican Gardens), a stop by Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery for alfalfa pellets and cocoa hulls, a bucket of ferns in the back seat and Mom’s Corydalis tucked in the right corner.

When I arrived home, planted the ferns and potted up the smaller divisions. Made me smile this morning as I left for work to see these pieces of “home” waiting for their new spot in my current home.

Once again a Chicago post….more lustworthy plants and plantings

The streetscape, Chicago urban plantings, I’ve highlighted in my June post and the one earlier this week were just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more. I’m sure that I have barely scratched the surface in my walks – which have always been no more than a few blocks east or west of Michigan Avenue – from a southern point of the Blackstone Hotel north to the North Avenue beach. A tiny, but vibrant slice of this great city. Great plant combos, incredible use of color, texture. Mixes of annuals, perennials. Can’t help but share a few more, random sightings. In the center of one of the main promenade entrances to Millennium park, is this planting centered by what I assume is some sort of dark leaved sugar cane or Saccharum arundinaceum. Unfortunately, I struggle with my blackberry to find the perfect shot to highlight the scale and drama of this beauty.

The most striking aspect of any plant focused stroll through the heart of Chicago is the wide variety of plantings. Sure some plants, like the Angel wing begonias are repeated, but with different partners, in different ways.

But even in variety is repetition, bringing both drama and cohesiveness to an area.

And, I must acknowledge the individual plants who caught my eye, grabbed my heart. The striped maize noticed on the walk to the start line of the Chicago Rock-n-Roll half marathon, the unknown silvery beauty, and of course, the oft mentioned un-named yellow dahlia.

The Lurie garden in Millennium Park has offered a full season of ever-changing vistas with the current scene dominated by the Japanese Anemones, Russian Sage, Ornamental Oreganos and a late season second bloom of perennial salvias.

My late September visit to the Lurie Garden was the first time I noticed the use of twig “fences”, used to both keep the plants from the paths – and I’m sure keep the people out of the plants!

I have a running joke with my world-traveler Mom about her opinion that when you stand on the shores of Lake Michigan and look out, you have a view that could be anywhere – the Baltic Sea, Downtown Chicago, the Atlantic Ocean. This planting at the Oak Street Beach really helps blur that line.

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