For the longest time, seeing a person riding a bicycle in the depths of winter meant one thing to me: Chronic drunk driver. That is, someone who has offended so many times their license has been suspended and sacramentally burned, whose insurance agent blocks their calls and whose face is deeply lined with the toll of ten million drinks, not to mention the lash of the winter wind as they pedal to the package store in 15-degree weather.
(In Indiana, these guys were also allowed to ride mopeds. I once passed one hauling a case of Old Style strapped on the back. Actually, I saw this a lot of times.)
But lately, bike culture has taken its rejection of the motor to new lengths. I now see people winter riding in expensive outerwear that only slightly blurs the contours of their impressive leg muscles. These people are not alcoholics, just tough-ass cyclists.
It snowed overnight when we were in Chicago, a heavy, wet one, but we still saw many cyclists out there plowing through it. Full-face masks are pretty standard, and one guy had added skier’s goggles.
I see them in Detroit, too, but not so many. One of the bars I visit regularly keeps a large rack outside, and it’s been stowed for the winter. (Either that, or stolen for scrap. You never know.)
There’s a guy at the Eastern Market who sells sprouts year-round. A few weeks back he showed up with a Dutch grocery bike crossed with a limo — solid metal body with a long front section where he can store his toddler, all encased in sturdy clear plastic. A trailer hitch on back is for the produce trailer. Saturday he didn’t have it.
“Where’s the limo?” I asked.
“My wife needed it for a doctor’s appointment,” he said. “She has the boy with her.”
I wondered if she might be feeling too poorly to pedal to the doctor in 25-degree weather. Oh, she’s not sick, he said. Only pregnant. Due in three weeks. I didn’t ask about how they were planning to get to the hospital, as I suspect it’s not part of their plan.
They’re the couple with the baby in this story. One-fifth of an acre in the most bombed-out part of east-side Detroit.
I think I’ve said before my misery index is 40 degrees, and my cycling hiatus is November 1, give or take, through the ides of March. I did a 60-minute spinning class today, in an effort to start feeling it again. This might be a new-bike year.
So, today’s bloggage? The Florida sinkhole story is the latest testimony to the essential weirdness of the Sunshine State. It’s good to know that whatever happens in Detroit, Florida always has a countermove.
After Dad Shot Mom, a story in the WashPost Sunday magazine, and the headline says it all.
And since I don’t have any more links to throw at you, some photos, from Rob Kantner, one of my Facebook friends, who lives north of here. The first is jet engines purchased in South America by one of his clients, slated for recycling:
Next, what was found living in one of them, after its arrival in Michigan:
A northern caiman lizard, most likely. But do you realize what this means? This is the snake in the carpet urban legend! Redeemed!
Have a good week, all. Hope it’s lizard-free.
Dexter said on March 4, 2013 at 12:58 am
This hasn’t been the worst of winters, and I used to ride bicycles in winter, for fun as much as for any rational reason, but I have lost my desire this winter. I can’t blame age as I feel about the same as I did at , say, 39…but I am unwilling to find that one patch of black ice and crash down and perhaps fracture a hip; I am no spring chicken , for sure.
Still, if there is no black ice, I’ll get out there; I rode a paltry four miles last week, for example. Dutch grocery bikes are so cool, I investigated the possibility of acquiring one, but I can’t justify the cost compared to what I want it for. They are work-horse bikes, and to buy one on a lark is foolish. They cost too much to have one around to look at and maybe ride a little.
Was the lizard destroyed or sent to a zoo? I assume it wasn’t DOA.
Jolene said on March 4, 2013 at 6:51 am
The point of this video is not to show off the bicycle, but, still, it’s a creative solution to a problem that affects lots of people. Am sure that being able to get around in the open air is good in all kinds of ways for this couple.
Jolene said on March 4, 2013 at 7:20 am
From yesterday’s NYT, a great story that, like the video above, captures both tragedy and resilience.
Josh Miele, the subject of the story, has done a remarkable thing in creating a life that is not only “normal”, but highly creative and productive in the wake of terrible–and completely unearned–suffering.
The story also touches on one of Nancy’s favorite hobby horses–untreated mental illness. That the story was written by someone who experienced this event as a child in the neighborhood makes it particularly interesting, as it illustrates how the effects of tragic events such as this can extend far beyond those directly affected.
Sorry about that horrible long link above. Am typing on my iPad, which makes it awkward to reach all the special characters needed to create embedded links. After seeing that one, though, I decided that it was worth the trouble.
beb said on March 4, 2013 at 8:12 am
Boy, if I had found a snake in a carpet, I’d be half-way to Alaska by now.
I do have my concerns about toxic chemicals in city grown foods but it all depends on what was sitting on top the lot before and whether it is near any heavy-metal using factories.
Heather said on March 4, 2013 at 8:54 am
There are definitely a lot more hardcore winter bikers here in Chicago. I’ve even seen a few riding in a blizzard during rush hour, but my admiration is tempered by concern for their safety (and sanity).
I’ve had my bike out a few times this winter, but only when the roads are pretty clear. Did a trip to the grocery store on Saturday, which was perfect. I’m not inclined to go for longer rides though, because it’s just not fun and I also find I’m really susceptible to head colds from the wind.
Pam said on March 4, 2013 at 9:05 am
“whose face is deeply lined with the toll of ten million drinks” or in other words, John Boehner. This year the graduating class at Ohio State will be treated to a commencement address from President Obama. All we got was lousy old Boehner who was completely uninspiring. None of us can remember anything he said, even the jist.
Julie Robinson said on March 4, 2013 at 9:12 am
Our son is one of those fearless bike delivery guys you see around town, riding in every kind of weather. He loves it because he’s active all the time, and he gets great tips when it’s crummy outside. It’s not the dream career I’d wish for him, but for this place in his life it’s a good fit. I try not to think too much about the dangers and am just glad that his company requires him to wear a helmet.
Here’s someone we know who runs a contracting business with his bicycle. He occasionally has to have larger items delivered, but for the most part, he does smaller projects where he can strap everything on the bike and trailer. Perhaps not surprisingly, he lives in Portland. (Oregon, not Indiana) http://builderbybike.wix.com/builderbybike-1
Scout said on March 4, 2013 at 9:17 am
I’m such a wuss my bike window is between 70 and 95 degrees. I can ride most of the winter, spring and fall are optimal, but summer when it’s over 105 – fageddaboudit. #desertratproblems
Julie Robinson said on March 4, 2013 at 9:21 am
I forgot to mention that our daughter was part of an urban garden in Chicago and they used raised planters to avoid any possible soil contamination. It was pretty expensive up front, because the planters also had a self-watering system. They have people bring their compostibles to the garden to help rebuild the soil. She also knew people who had chicken coops and beehives on their terrace, right in the middle of the city. They were thinking of adding pygmy goats. I’m glad I’m not their neighbor.
LAMary said on March 4, 2013 at 9:46 am
My younger son is not as gung ho on getting his drivers license as you might expect a Los Angeles kid to be. He currently rides his bike about 26 miles a day to and from work. He had interned for four months at his current job and in January they hired him with a pretty good hourly rate for an 18 year old kid. With his first paycheck he bought nice bike, perfect for his uses, for about 550. I like to think my kids occasionally show signs of having descended from some cheap, pragmatic Hollanders.
Connie said on March 4, 2013 at 10:05 am
I was in high school when a neighborhood farmer found what he called “an alligator” sunning on the bank of a creek that ran across his field. With the help of first the sheriffs, and second, the Grand Rapids zoo, it was identified as a South American caiman and moved to the GR zoo. Excuse me, John Ball Zoological Park.
Charlotte said on March 4, 2013 at 10:09 am
Oh my, the Australian man and his bike chair just made me weep. And that bike is ingenious! How lovely to be able to still get out like that. One of my dearest friends is going through this with her mom, but unfortunately her stepfather is not a loving caretaker like that dear man.
And Dexter, I’m with you – -I’d love one of those Dutch cargo bikes (I can just see how happy my crippled arthritic dog would be!) but who can justify the cost unless you’re really going to give up the car?
Saturday I managed to turn over one of my raised beds that I’d had hooped under plastic for a few weeks — lots of festive earthworms! Then I planted greens and hooped it back up and yesterday it snowed. My second wee hoop house (3×6) has overwintered greens that are alive, but not doing much. Looked it up in my garden log — last harvest from that bed was 11/29. Hoping for new kale soon though — down to 2 ziploc bags of my own greens left in the freezer. Cold this morning again — in the teens. We desperately need the water, so I’m not complaining but oh, it has been a grey and windy winter.
Bitter Scribe said on March 4, 2013 at 10:16 am
I took a train to school starting in second grade and used to have to ride my bike home from the train station. It sucked, especially in winter. Yes, everyone has a barefoot-through-the-snow story, but my point is that when I see someone riding a bike in horrible weather, my first thought is, “There but for the grace of God…”
nancy said on March 4, 2013 at 10:25 am
This is still the best single Dutch-bike joke I know. I’d think Coozledad wrote it, but the geography’s wrong.
Dexter said on March 4, 2013 at 10:43 am
nance at 14…it’s been along time, but I used to visit my old army buddy in Brooklyn and I can’t solve the puzzle at first glance…how is the geography wrong? Atlantic Avenue runs east-west, so south of it seems right. Ten short blocks south of Atlantic Avenue is Eastern Parkway, and Crown Heights is right there, and it’s over 90% African American…the heart of the West Indies community. if the dude was trying to impress the sisters, Crown Heights seems to be the place.
Deborah said on March 4, 2013 at 10:46 am
Jolene that story about the 4 year old kid who had acid thrown on his face was sad but well written the way everything that happened was revealed.
We had a creepy incident last night someone knocked on the door at about 9:30 which had never happened before here in Santa Fe. Little Bird called out asking who it was out there and what they wanted. A guy yelled back “pizza” but when she looked through the peephole the guy had no pizza box with him. We hadn’t ordered pizza so Little BIrd just yelled out through the door that we hadn’t and he went away. We turned on every light and I called my husband in Chicago, whatever good that would do. We called the cops but it turned out one of the neighbors upstairs had ordered a sandwich from a pizza place and the delivery guy came to our door by mistake, why he had nothing in his hands was a mystery. Little Bird and I were still so freaked out we slept in my bed together.
There used to be a shop on Armitage in Chicago that sold those cool extremely expensive Dutch bikes, the shop is no longer there, don’t know if they went out of business or just moved to another location.
adrianne said on March 4, 2013 at 10:48 am
Loved the NY Times story on Josh Miele. Really unexpected twists there.
And now for something completely different: Ryan Chittum writes about the Newhouse empire’s gamble on reducing the frequency of their print editions. I believe he’s nailed the real reason why: Third generation of Newhouses wants out of the newspaper business, and they’re going to try to pump up the “value” by slashing costs in advance. Here’s a link to the story:
Bitter Scribe said on March 4, 2013 at 10:51 am
Deborah: There used to be some punks in a Chicago neighborhood who would knock on doors at random. If no one answered, they would break in. If someone did, they would ask for Mike and claim they had the wrong address.
Finally they did it once too often. The woman who came to the door and said, “Yes, Mike lives here.”
The kid was in shock. “Uh…”
“Mike lives right here. Would you like to come in and wait for him?”
“Uhhhh….” Eyes widening in panic.
“He’s down at the firing range, testing out his new pistol. Those .357s are tough to handle, but you know Mike, he’ll get the hang of it in no time. Why don’t you come in and wait for him? What’s your name?”
“No! No! That’s OK!” The kid practically left skid marks getting off her porch.
brian stouder said on March 4, 2013 at 11:01 am
I guess I’m gonna be one of those old guys who cries; that story Nancy posted about dad shooting mom really grabs a person.
And the ending is quite poweerful.
btw – we watched Argo this past weekend (rented it from the video store; been awhile since we were in there) and it was OK.
I can see why Oscar loved it; it’s a ‘company town’ movie from beginning to end.
Jeff Borden said on March 4, 2013 at 11:03 am
A lot of the folks I see riding bicycles in Chicago in the winter appear not to be any kind of biking fanatic, but just too poor to own a car. Bikes are inexpensive, easy to maintain and after purchase pretty much don’t require much in the way of additional expenses like gasoline, maintenance and insurance. The guy at the end of my block rides his old cruiser-style bike to his job as a maintenance man at Weiss Memorial every day through pretty much every kind of weather.
Prospero said on March 4, 2013 at 11:18 am
GOPers would rather starve children and grannies without medical care and leave vets homeless than deprive big oil companies of their subsidies.
We live with a couple of Carolina green anoles that keep our place free of spiders and other insects. They go missing for long periods of time and it is always a treat to spot them. I think they were imported by way of a hanging wandering Jew or a spider plantfrom a roadside stand. I know, homeliest houseplants, but they’re able to survive the human residents, so they stay. As do our reptiles. It’s not something the C of C wants tourists (or visitors as we call them, ha) to know, but this place is crawling with spiders, and it’s not unusual to wake up with an itchy bite or two. Since our mini-komodos moved in, nary a bump.
This week’s Sunday NYT mag is replete with great photography that everyone should check out, and a Thornton Wilder-style story of travel by rail. Good reading. And here’s a guy that builds custom cargo bikes for as little as $500:
The company town aspect of Argo is what I liked best about the movie. I thought Arkin and Goodman walked away with the movie, particularly Arkin.
Jeff Borden said on March 4, 2013 at 11:24 am
Has anyone seen any of the footage of Mittens and Queen Ann Romney on Fox yesterday? I didn’t think it was possible for me to like them even less, but damn, they pulled it off. I especially liked the horse whisperer’s contention that the nasty media never really showed Mittens for the wonderful fellow he is when it is apparent that this is a man uncomfortable with just about everyone outside his immediate family. Folks, we truly dodged a bullet by not letting this dauphin and his lady enter the White House.
Bruce Fields said on March 4, 2013 at 11:24 am
“I didn’t ask about how they were planning to get to the hospital, as I suspect it’s not part of their plan.”
(No car at home here; we took a cab there and got a lift back from friends. But I’m sure there’s lots of other ways to do it. Pregnant without a car isn’t really that unusual.)
coozledad said on March 4, 2013 at 11:29 am
Nancy: I wish I’d written that joke, but it has volumes of cultural awareness that I will never experience.
I have a deep affection for New York, but I was always absolutely lost there until I walked into a bar, and then it didn’t matter.
Bruce Fields said on March 4, 2013 at 11:29 am
(Or maybe you meant “they seem like the home-birth sort”. OK, OK, could be.
Jack used to help fix people’s bikes before critical mass rides in Ann Arbor. Nice guy!)
Bitter Scribe said on March 4, 2013 at 11:42 am
“…this is a man uncomfortable with just about everyone outside his immediate family.”
Romney always reminded me of a Richard Nixon with more money, more confidence and less brooding paranoia.
Deborah said on March 4, 2013 at 11:44 am
“I have a deep affection for New York, but I was always absolutely lost there until I walked into a bar, and then it didn’t matter.”
Prospero said on March 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm
I know, I’ve beaten that Boob Song performance like Raskolnikov’s dream mare, but one final thought about MacFarlane’s clueless and childish misogyny. Was watching a bit of Contact Saturday night and it registered with me that in the Jodie Foster part of the song, he makes a specific reference to The Accused. Really dickhead? You mean the movie about a young woman gang-raped on a piinball table while a crowd of lowlifes watch and don’t intervene? Could you be more obtusely offensive? Damn, what an asshole.
Jolene said on March 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm
The story about the dad who shot the mom reminded me of a friend’s family. Seven children in a mainly Catholic suburb of St. Louis. An alcoholic father with an explosive temper. No one got shot, but my friend grew up terrified of her dad. And some of the fallout–children with various kinds of emotional difficulties, marital problems, and conflicts among them. So much damage. So very sad.
Lex said on March 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm
Lizard? I thought it was an ammunition belt. “OK, for the hijacking, we’ll hide our ammo in an aviation propulsion unit whose internal temperature reaches 932 degrees Fahrenheit! What could possibly go wrong?”
MichaelG said on March 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm
That CL bike ad is hilarious.
Bikes are a big part of the transportation scene in my neighborhood. As Jeff B notes, it’s because so many people are too poor to afford cars. No brightly colored spandex riding suits, no zillion dollar carbon fiber frames here. Just bikes cobbled together and maintained with whatever is available. There are a lot of real ‘mutt’ bikes assembled from disparate components and lots of home built trailers. I’m sure many people around here would give their left whatever for a cargo bike. On second thought, for that cost they’d probably go for a pick up truck.
Julie Robinson said on March 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm
Like Mary’s son, our lad bought himself a semi-upscale bike when his teenage cheapy bike proved inadequate for six hours a day of urban riding. It’s got super-grippy tires for rain and snow, flashing lights and he also has the face mask and goggles, because his eyes were getting irritated from the wind. He got it from a local bike shop that took a lot of time with him choosing the right model and fitting it to him. They even had layaway which was great because this one does not save.
Has anyone ever ridden one of those Dutch bikes? They look awkward to me, and I wonder how easy it is to steer with that great big trailer in the front. Pulling a trailer I get, but pushing it seems counter intuitive.
Charlotte said on March 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm
When gas prices went up out here, we saw a lot of people in town start using their 4-wheelers for local transport. I guess they have them for hunting or just “recreation” (although driving around on logging roads unable to hear anything because of your noisy engine doesn’t sound like recreation to me) — and there’s one good guy in my neighborhood who has a snowplow attachment — he plows all our sidewalks.
The local bicycle champion though is this older, obese man on oxygen who tools all over town on his big tricycle. He doesn’t go fast, but he’s out there in all kinds of weather.
Bitter Scribe said on March 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm
OK, I just read that WaPo feature. The guy very nearly murders his wife in front of his children and spends just a few hours in jail??!?! I realize things were different then, but Jesus Christ!
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm
Things were different until not very long ago, and we still have a few cops who just don’t get it, but know how the review board will look at their actions, so they follow through, even if begrudgingly.
RickB said on March 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm
Speaking of horrific crimes, here is a story speculating that Adam Lanza might have been molested. The article needs a bit of editing but gives details I had not read before concerning his Catholic upbringing. Chilling.
Deborah said on March 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm
Charlotte, One of our neighbors in Abiquiu has a 4-wheeler that he uses responsibly to do his chores around his land but when his son comes to visit (he’s a bouncer in Vegas) he drives it around through the arroyos like a maniac. It’s noisy, the wildlife must be traumatized and it tears up the land something terrible. We haven’t yet spoken to the neighbor about his son but I can see that it is going to be necessary at some point. At least the kid isn’t there that often, thank god. My step daughter and her in-laws are into tooling around on them in Southern California on sand dunes. It just does not seem like fun to me, a true menace that should be outlawed.
Jolene said on March 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm
In retirement communities around the country, people use golf carts for casual transportation. They are cheap to operate, can accommodate more than one person, have enough space to haul a modest grocery order, and go fast enough to travel on neighborhood streets.
My sister and her husband have one at their place in AZ, but I don’t think it’s as fancy as those shown in this CBS Sunday Morning feature.
Suzanne said on March 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm
I didn’t see Mitt and Mrs. Mitt on Fox but read about it. His cluelessness is precisely why he is not in the White House today. And he’s still clueless. Amazing.
coozledad said on March 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm
We’ve got an electric ATV that is remarkably quiet. It makes a slight whining noise under a load of from about 800 lbs to a ton, but other than that animals don’t seem to be able to hear it. You get to see a lot of deer and birds (and coyotes) that would have otherwise cleared off. I think they hear it less than they do a human on foot. The best thing about electric motors is you don’t have to gear down and ride the brake to slow them down to a walking pace.
I’d probably use it more, but my ass is already fat enough.
MarkH said on March 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Deborah, we have a few four-wheelers here in Jackson that have taken the place of cars in some instances. Most are kept off-road. If on the street, they are required to be licensed, so there are not that many. We see them frequently enough in the forest here but are not overwhelmed as in the desert, perhaps. My experience is that the vast majority of the riders are responsible. Regulated, perhaps, but one infrequent yayhoo near you means outlawing them? If he’s on public lands, one call to the BLM or state land authorities will get his attention.
brian stouder said on March 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm
Here’s a little story for you – which taught me anew about perspective and relativity.
Several weeks ago, we put in a request for our 14 year old daughter to go to New Tech High School at Wayne; this place offers project-based learning, and lots of techie raz-matazz (one of our local first-generation Very Rich Guy [owner and founder of Sweet Water Sound] endowed the school with a generous gift toward the purchase of I-pads and all the rest), and seems to be a very logical progression from her Montessori middle school experience.
Otherwise, Shelby would default into going to South Side – a school which I dearly love, and where I know many of the teachers and administrators. Frankly, I was rooting for Shelby to miss out on the lottery and become a South Side Archer; and in any case (as I would say whenever it came up for discussion) it was really a “no-lose” proposition all around, yes? Either the fancy new school with the gadgets, or the superb South Side, with its literally world-class International Baccalaureate program.
The game is – if New Tech got more requests than available openings (which, in fact, came to pass) – then the prospective students go into a lottery to see who gets the openings. The public can attend, downtown, when they conduct these lotteries – but it’s held at 1 in the afternoon on a workday. They conduct three random lotteries, place the three results into three different envelopes, and then a member of the public selects one, and those become the official results.
If you didn’t attend and want to find out the results for your specific student quickly (rather than waiting another two weeks for the mail), you go downtown and present some ID, and they tell you.
So last week at lunchtime, during a lumpy-rain/snow storm, I went down there and presented my ID and then learned…… Shelby wasn’t picked; she was going to South Side. YooHoo and Hip Hip-Hurrah, yes?
But then I had the strangest feeling. I’d gotten precisely what I wanted, and it made me smile… and then wince. I smiled one more time, but then there was no mistaking it; this was not a good thing. Our 14 year old wouldn’t be happy; in fact it would be a major disappointment for her. The person downtown told me she was ‘very near the top’, and likely to still get in – as others who got selected make other choices. Thin gruel, eh?
And then, two days later (after Pam went to work with her network of friends and associates) the news came that – Lo and Behold! – Shelby got into the high school she wanted, New Tech at Wayne.
And it occurred to me that if this had been the initial outcome, I really would have been (and would likely have remained) disappointed.
Life is strange, eh?
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm
Blessings on her new school experience next year, and how sometimes crooked lines can curve into the most direct path.
Deborah said on March 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm
Brian, interesting chain of events and congrats to Shelby. How wonderful that she also got to go to a Montessori middle school. I didn’t even know they had those. Many moons ago I worked as an assistant in a Montessori preschool that my daughter attended. I love the Montessori method.
Sherri said on March 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm
Being a parent is strange, Brian. I have to constantly remind myself that my daughter is not me, she does not share my experience and my baggage, and that what I would want is not necessarily what she would want. These people who are so much you and so much not you, I find them puzzling at times.
I’m glad she got into the school of her choice.
Julie Robinson said on March 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm
Brian, my hubby was asked to be a judge at something or other at New Tech, spent a couple of hours interacting with teachers and students, and came away mightily impressed. He’s also been a Junior Achievement teacher all over town for maybe 15-20 years and says New Tech is much more like the business world than a typical high school. Project based and working in teams on real-world issues as well as all those fancy gizmos have attracted a good group of teachers and students. Best wishes to Shelby, and I’m sure we’ll all be interested in her experiences.
brian stouder said on March 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm
I’ve never actually toured New Tech, but Pam has, and she was quite impressed.
Julie, your husband’s reaction is reassuring; I believe Shelby will do fine wherever she goes, and if the program challenges her, that’s a good thing. South Side’s IB program certainly would have done the same, albeit by different means
Jolene said on March 5, 2013 at 12:53 am
I loved your story, Brian. Finding yourself, first, less happy than you thought you’d be with the outcome you thought you wanted and then happier than you thought you’d be with the outcome you thought you didn’t want is quite an emotional journey, however brief. Am glad that, after those somersaults, you got an outcome that will make both you and Shelby happy.
LAMary said on March 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Personally I can’t get over the fact that Shelby is 14. I think of her as a little girl, as she was when I first started visiting this place.
yoyo said on December 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm
dude thats a tegu