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Tag Archive: vacation

Friday Musings – Baggage Claim and Bicycles

Summer Bike Love

Summer Bike Love - courtesy of Oh Shoot

Cycle ladies and gents of the planet, let’s talk about summer travel and bikes, and how you get it done!  Friday means it’s time to muse, and I’m wondering how everyone’s summer has been so far… have you caught some extra rays, enjoyed commutes home sans blinky lights, and pedaled to destination  both near and far during balmy evenings?

I Miss My Bike

Vacation withdrawls... Bike Commuting Addiction?!

After spending quite a bit of time in the airports this summer (Dad’s wedding, teaching assistant programs, Eurail passes, and waaaaay too much MSG consumption with my family) I got to missing my bike quite often!  And don’t get me wrong, doing air cycling (like air guitar, but I do it lying on the couch instead) and borrowing ill-fitting bikes from friends has gotten me through my moments of withdrawls.  “Hi everyone, my name is Mir.I.Am, and I am a Bike Commuting addict.  I snort chain lube, always carry a backpack with a rain slick, wear zebra spandex, and get impatient while walking anywhere.”  Sometimes, when you’re away from home, you just want YOUR bike, because a commuter and her bike are bonded like an Avatar’s braid and one of those flying dragon things.

Flying Avatar

Commuter attachment issues: I braid my hair into my bike, just like this guy.

Elizabeth and I met up in Chicago last summer, and I rented a MTB from Bike n Roll – which allowed for scenic views along the Lake Front path.  Marion and I hit up the streets of Paris on the “best” fit we could claim out of the three working bikes in her garage.  And, while testing out the Xootr Swift, said Xootie and I hit the baggage claim and Pualani Platinum club so I could enjoy a week of car-free goodness between Venice Beach and Santa Monica over the winter hell-a-days.  And of course, there’s always the endless bike share options that I still have yet to straddle…

Paddle Bike

Oh yes, this will get me from Waikiki to Belize, easy!

But, there is a part of me that wonders if it’s worth it to make MY bike into a baggage-claim-friendly-beast with custom installed couplings from S and S!  Since I live in Hawaii, the challenge is to fly with my bike, since it’s the only way to get off the island (no trains, no road trips, and definitely no bike touring to other states).  Unless I get me a floating paddle bike and pack an enormous bag of shrimp chips.  What’s your best advice for bike commuting and jet setting? Anyone out there rocking a custom frame with renovated with S and S couplings, packable travel bikes, a folding MTB, or a chainless folder with teensy wheels?  Do you have a bike away from home that you rely on?  Would it be worth the $350-$700 extra and baggage claim hassle to make your bike more airplane-friendly?  Or are you down with renting bikes, borrowing two wheels, or resorting to transportation dogs?!  Bring on the comments, bike setters!

Commuter with Couplings

Holy Sexy Chocolate Espresso Moly - I'm pretty sure this commuter set up is outta my price range, but look at those S and S couplings, and what a rack!

Two Girls and Two Bikes in the City of Light!

Salut les Bike Commuters! Mir.I.Am is fresh off the jet from France and ready to report on the lovely life on two wheels from the City of Light – Paris.  I just spent several weeks in France (oui, oui, depending on your point of view, cue a “scowl of disgust” or “sigh of extreme jealousy,” dear readers).  Ever since investigating the bike share options in Paris and Bordeaux last year, I’ve been anxious to see Paris from a bike’s eye view.

From the Bike's Eye View in Paris

Two Girls – one with a Backache. My Parisienne friend was incapable of taking the Metro around the city.  Thanks to a chronic back injury, she was on intense medication with doctor’s orders claiming no standing on her feet for more than two minutes at a time. Walking was out of the question and the Velib bikes near her house were always checked out, since she lives on the top of a hill.  Lucky for us, the two bikes in her garage were the perfect option for two girls touring around the City of Light!  We packed up our locks, bags, and water for the road, and set off for a day of errands and sight-seeing rolled into one!

Marion on her B*Twin step through, with my pink bag in the basket.

Two M’s: Marion & Mir.I.Am. Just like Task Force Chicago, we played follow the leader, with Marion as the leader and me the tourist sheep on two wheels.  It’s so stress free to follow a seasoned local bike commuter when you’re brain is in vacation mode, no need to tape maps to handlebars or plan out routes!  A bike commuting tip from Marion: make sure to loop part of your bag over your handlebars if your bag is in the front basket since bags are easily snatched at red lights or while biking through slow traffic in Paris.

My Parisian ride was the silver "Le Super"

An atypical bike commute for me, I was without helmet (don’t judge), blessed with a slow-leaking back tire, riding a single speed (by default due to broken cables), with a busted built-in generator headlight, but hey – Le Super bike was $free.99 with legit street cred.  I mean, look at the thing!  I climbed aboard with enthusiasm and a smile, as we pedaled through Paris running errands with plenty of scenic architecture along the way like the Paris Opera.

Flowers in your back rack!

Everywhere you look, bikes in the street.

Strangely enough, I noticed that bike lanes and routes were often in the opposite direction of traffic on One-Way streets.  We navigated several roundabouts, green painted bike lanes, bike boxes, sandy paths in parks, and construction zones.  The two girls on two bikes snaked through the city, avoid congested boulevards in favor of smaller back alleys.  Marion explained to me that we give right of way to the traffic coming from the right (at least this is what I think she said in French), and that there were several laws we were breaking but she’s never been caught!  Welp, no time to ask questions, so we ride on and do as the locals do.  Off to run our errands: picking up some new duds for me and maybe some bling bling.

First errand - pick up a new outfit for me, just my size!

Off to the next destination!

Second errand, pick up my necklace from the jewelers...

Two hours of Biking = What an appetite! All smiles and a light sweat later, with errands under way… time for a tasty lunch in a car free zone at Rue Montorgueil!  Merci to Marion for taking me to another great local spot.  There were tons of bikes shackled up against the fences, and the pedestrian quarter was short but sweet.  Sunshine, cigarettes, and salad at a tiny table and chairs at an outdoor cafe was exactly what we needed to recharge.  Bon appetit, mes Bike Commuters.

Getting hungry after a few hours of running errands, off to find FOOD!

The best parking spots - for BIKES only in the pedestrian quarter!

Nom, nom. Salad time.

Two Bikes round up the Sites. We ended our day (a total of 6 hours of girly fun bike time) by taking the scenic route home, through Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  In all my visits to Paris, I had never been to this famous cemetary.  We rolled up to the automobile entry and were halted by the lady at the guardshack.  To our surprise, she told us it was interdit to bring bikes into the cemetary!  We expalined to her that we fully intended to walk our bikes through, as it is pretty steep, bumpy with cobble stones, and I was riding Le Super default single-speed.  But, there was no reasoning with the law, she said we would have to lock our velos outside the cemetery and walk around inside without them.  We left the auto entry and turned the corner, where we decided to sneak in via the pedestrian entry and carry our bikes up the staircase.  I went up first with Le Super to check for a guard, so Marion wouldn’t have to carry the B*Twin up the steps if we were going to get caught.  Lucky for us, a group of 30 middle schoolers were at the top of the staircase, creating a perfect diversion for us to sneak past…  Merveilleuses Marion and Mir.I.Am made it into Pere Lachaise!

Well worth the effort of sneaking in with our bikes!

The cemetery is enormous, like a mini-neighborhood

The Bike’s Eye View is the BEST Eye View of  Paris. So touring about Paris from the saddle of a junky old bike, I decided I liked what I saw.  Two girls playing follow the leader on two bikes in the City of Light was the best way to get around Paris in the summer.  Imagine all the things we would’ve missed in the Metro!  Imagine how sweaty we would be if we had to hoof it around the city instead.  It was so fast to get around by bike that it made the big city feel small.  Enjoy your summer, and enjoy your vacation commutes, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

A little Bike Love from France!

Crossing the Delaware and enjoying new bikes

Over the years I’ve taken vacations, but never with my bike. Last weekend I attended a family wedding in Pennsylvania and all of my family told me the biking out there would be awesome. I contemplated packing up the car with my bike and driving from Chicago to Pennsylvania OR packing my bike for the plane ride. In the end, I opted for a vacation even from my own bike(s) and decided simply to take my chances renting bikes. The weather predicted for the weekend was iffy (at best) but the weekend weather turned out wonderfully — picture perfect for the wedding and a couple of bike rides on terrain that I normally wouldn’t experience if I’d been riding my own bicycle.

Typically I ride a road bike with narrower tires and a more forward position. For bike commuting and recreational riding around Chicago and the Midwest, my bikes suit me well. I do have a project bike in the works that would position me in a more upright position, but I rarely take any bike off-road.

But my weekend getaway introduced me to a few new bikes and to riding along crushed stone trails.
Meet my hybrid rental:
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New Hope Cyclery rents these Trek hybrids from their store for hourly, 1/2 day and daily rental periods and suggested riding the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail, which is mostly crushed stone
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I took their advice and crossed over to the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, rode down to Washington Crossing State Park and crossed the Delaware River again to ride back up the tow path on the Pennsylvania side – to complete the roundtrip loop.

No bike riding across the bridge!
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Paying tribute to Washington at Washington Crossing State Park
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Having fun on the bike rentals (no- that’s not me poppin’ that wheelie!)
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The next day I ventured upstream to Frenchtown, NJ, to rent a tandem bike from Cycle Corner (advertised on the local area visitor map).
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Upon entering Frenchtown, I felt like I was in bicycle heaven. Everyone seemed to be out on bikes – whether they be visitors or locals. Bikes and bicycle riders decorated the town.

The shop guy happily showed off and adjusted the Electra Tandem Bike – cruising in smokin’ red style!
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Riding along the trail on a bicycle built for two:
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I did ride in the rear for this outing, but took a turn in the captain’s seat. Getting going was a bit wobbly at first but was fun once I got going… then I had to stop again (not the easiest especially with the rider in back).
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The end result of this vacation getaway? SMILES all the way.
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For me it’s always fun to get away and enjoy new adventures. I’m grateful for the vacation from my own bikes and even more so for the opportunity to ride different bikes! (For this bike trip I did take my own helmet and gloves so that I knew I’d be comfortable riding with my own gear; I just had to sign a waiver to turn down the shop’s helmet.) A while back Miriam visited Chicago and explored the bike rentals from Bike and Roll.

What bike travel adventures do you have to share?

Playing Hooky, part 3

I took the day off from work today. This has been the first vacation day that I have used all year just for the sake of not going to the office. I did not have any travel plans, or anything on the agenda. My family had been talking about traveling for Christmas this year, so I planned ahead and was really conservative with the days I spent away from work all year. When I did take time off, it was used to travel back east to visit family and friends. I must say, it was nice to not be in the office on a Monday and just use the day to relax and get caught up on some reading and some writing.

After sleeping in and catching up on some errands around the house, I grabbed my laptop and coffee mug (that I use instead of a paper/styrofoam cups) and went to a coffee shop that sits right across the corner from a LBS called the Bike Barn. I had a cup of coffee and did some reading and writing. A pleasant afternoon. When I had satisfied my writing needs, I walked across the street to the Bike Barn (it really looks like a barn…) and grabbed a new set of tires for my road bike. I had gotten 2 flats in the past 2 weeks due to glass and rocks in the road.

When I started commuting on my road bike, I did not make any modifications, and have been riding on 700c x 23 racing tires. These have served me just fine and have not been too uncomfortable but they have about 1200 miles on them and are starting to get too many cuts. When I got to the Bike Barn I found a set of Specialized tires with “Flak Jacket protection” that is supposed to reduce the amount of punctures in the tires. I figure if I couple these with some slime tubes, I should be pretty flat-proof, at least for a while. I also got a slightly wider tire, 700c x 25 to give myself a bit of a smoother ride.

I spent the later part of the afternoon removing the old tires, cleaning my wheels, then mounting the new tires. Since I was in a “wrenching” mood, I figured I would go ahead and clean the rest of my bike. I do this pretty regularly, so “cleaning my bike” usually only requires a warm, damp rag to wipe off all the dirt and grit.

Now that I have a clean bike with brand spankin’ new tires and tubes, I am really looking forward to my ride to work tomorrow morning!