Saturday, August 02, 2008

Flying solo - a day in the life

The Rev and Zane have gone on an extended trip to Missouri to visit friends and family, leaving yours truly to fend for myself (without a car). I started off the day by heading over to church to pick up our weekly share from our CSA. Drop-off is around 7:40 AM, and the buses don't run too frequently at that time of day on the weekends, so I had to leave the house around 6:45 to make it in time, even though it meant arriving 15 minutes early. Fortunately, a bus arrived a few minutes after I picked up the groceries, and I was able to make it back home fairly quickly.

Next I decided that our bicycle, which has barely seen the light of day in the past 5 years, needed to be cleaned up and put to use. Unfortunately, the tires were flat and we didn't have a bicycle pump. I figured I could pick one up at Home Depot (which is probably the closest hardware store to us if you're using the CTA), so I decided on a plan. I would go to Agent Orange (because it makes your green disappear) and buy a pump, then head to the Roscoe Village neighborhood where the annual "Retro on Roscoe" street festival was taking place, figuring I could have lunch and also find a bike shop (there aren't any in our neighborhood that I know of). Then I could head home, pump up the tires, and take the bike in to get tuned up and buy other necessities (helmet, lock, cable, spare tubes).

Well, it's always wise to have backup plans when public transport is involved, and when the southbound bus I wanted didn't show up for 10 minutes, I saw a bus heading westbound so I hopped on and went to Jefferson Park. As the bus was nearing the end of its route, I spied a bike shop on the left, so after I got off I walked over to check it out. It didn't open for another 30 minutes, so I walked to the library, checked e-mail and read for a while, then walked back to the shop.

The guy behind the counter (I believe it's the owner) doesn't win any points for congeniality, but he did help me find a combination pump set (one for home - a floor pump - and a portable one to mount to the bike) as well as some tubes and I headed back home on the bus. I was able to pump up the tires and ride back to the shop without incident. I left the bike for a tune-up and was promised it would be done by the late afternoon, which meant I had about four hours to kill.

So I decided to head to the Near West Side, which I've never been to before (that I remember). I knew that the original Al's #1 Italian Beef was in the 1000 block of West Taylor Street, but that's about it. I took the train through downtown (avoiding the crowds heading to Lollapalooza) and got off near Union Station, then walked south to Taylor Street and headed west.

As I walked down Taylor I saw the street blocked off with lots of fire engines and other equipment. Turns out it was the Chicago Fire Department's 150th anniversary celebration at the Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy. I stopped in and got a "junior firefighter" hat for Zane, but didn't stay around, although there was free food and other cool stuff, which in retrospect could have kept me fed and entertained until I was ready to head back. Incidentally, I learned in my readings at the library that the Fire Academy was built in the 1950s on the site of the former home of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary, where the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started in a barn behind the house. (The O'Learys' cow was probably NOT responsible for starting the fire, by the way.)

I continued west through the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago, had a Polish sausage at Al's, then headed north to catch the train back to Jefferson Park. I had more time to kill, so I went back to the library, then found a local coffee shop and got an iced coffee, then back to the bike shop, where I bought a lock and a helmet and biked home (but based on my experience and comments from others, I'll be looking for another bike shop next time). A good day of exercise. Maybe I'll hit Roscoe Village tomorrow - now I can bike there instead of navigate by train and bus.