Monday, March 30, 2015

Another Notch in my Bikeshare Belt

Another city, another opportunity to try a bikeshare system - in this case Chicago's "divvy." When I arrived on Monday, all flights had been delayed by an inch of snow. I was NOT thrilled to encounter one more spring snow, but the weather forecast was for warming temperatures by Wednesday afternoon - which was perfect, since that was when my work obligations would be over.

 Tuesday I had spent some time walking around my neighborhood, looking at the traces of green still coloring the Chicago River a week after it’s St. Patrick’s Day dye job. A statue of Nathan Hale showed him festooned by a whimsical snow cap atop his head.

On Wednesday I headed for the docking station just a block from my hotel, but when I got there the touch screen didn't work. My next try was successful, but finding easy access to the lakeshore path was more of a challenge. I thought I turned the right direction, but I ended up inside an enormous playground through which I had to walk the bike in search of an exit. Naturally it took me several blocks in the wrong direction, but once I escaped I was happy that the temperature was a comfortable 40-something degrees.

Chicago has an abundance of outdoor art – both sculpture and mural.

Once I got around a detour on the path, it was smooth sailing toward my destination: the Lincoln Park Conservatory, one of the nation's oldest botanical gardens - and free to the public. I knew I would have to change out my bike to avoid extra fees, and I suspect I didn't make it within the required half hour. I had to do a short stretch on city streets to dock the bike and do not think Chicago drivers understand about a three-foot passing zone. I resorted to the sidewalk in a few places and, thus, am still alive to write this blog.

The gardens were beautiful, featuring a palm room, a fern room, an orchid room, and a spring display - reminding me of what we have to look forward to in the next month or so.

Getting back onto the lakeshore path again entailed a bit of backtracking to cross the major road. I decided to get off north of my hotel to avoid the playground fiasco again. Finally I found a city street with an actual bike lane. Bike infrastructure in the downtown area seems much less developed than what I'm used to in D.C., Arlington, and Philly. However, as in cities everywhere, I didn't have to ride far for my lane to be blocked by a delivery truck.

After docking the bike, I saw a sign for State Street and remembered that I had scoped out a Mexican restaurant there. I enjoyed a late lunch at Cantina Laredo, which serves "new" Mexican cuisine. The avocado and artichoke enchilada, served on spinach and other piquant vegetables, was to die for.

 On Thursday I walked to the Amtrak station for a slow ride to  Wisconsin - near Devil's Lake state park - for a family visit. The double-decker train with its spacious seats and the landscape out my window made it clear I wasn’t on the East Coast!

Next month: Minneapolis for AWP conference, where I hope to add another bikeshare experience.

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