Cost Per Mile

I have some time to kill before podcast recording tonight.  I was balancing my checkbook and took a quick look at the report it generated for last year.  I noticed that all my auto expenses for last year were $2532.10.  It breaks down like this:

Fuel $839.25
Insurance $806.00
Service $545.16
Registration $222.69
Parking $99.00
Tax (tolls) $20

And since I drove for 10,400 miles last year.  I’m basically paying (253210/10400) 24.3 cents per mile.  This isn’t taking into account depreciation or cost of the car because I don’t know how to figure that.  Based on just this, each time I bike to work I’m saving 12 * 25 cents or roughly $3.  I didn’t bike that much last year, just 1082 miles.  But that’s a savings of $3246, which is kind of impressive, I think.  Makes me want to keep biking.  And I’m happy that I biked to tutoring and the library last night, even though it was 5 degrees.  It was a painful (approximate) mile to ride, but I saved myself a quarter.  🙂

Starting Off Right

When it was below 0F last week, I saw some people out biking and admired them. I thought if it got above 15-20F, that I would ride too. So this morning, I had a nice, slow ride to work to start the year off right. It’s around 27F, so a little chilly, but pretty nice compared to last week. I felt good, though, a second thin pair of socks would have been helpful. But that’s ok. I want to start riding to work more and this is part of the process.

My ride in .

My First Attempt

I’ve wanted to volunteer somewhere for a while and decided to give Working Bikes a try. One of their volunteer nights is Tuesday night, and I’m trying to go there every Tuesday. Tonight was my third time. It starts at 5 and I got there at maybe 5:15 or so and was basically the only volunteer for a while. This was great because Andrew (the guy in charge) asked me if I could try working on a bike solo. I think he had some things he wanted to do, so working with me was low on his list. Thus, after giving me a quick refresher on how to put the bike in the stand, I got to work by myself.

They ask everyone volunteering now to work on kids bikes because there’s a big giveaway coming up where they need to have a few hundred bikes fixed up to give away. This is good because I don’t really have the skills to work on adult bikes with gears and fancy brakes yet. When you work on a bike, you grab a checklist and just work through all the items. You have to check and grease the headset, front bracket, rear bracket, front hub, rear hub, brakes, trueness of wheels and chain.

Today, I took apart the rear hub and got to see all the parts of a coaster brake. On my first attempt to reassemble it, I put a couple parts in backwards. Fortunately, Andrew stopped by to show me the correct orientation. My biggest issue was with the headset, which kept slipping. After showing it to Andrew, he told me I needed to get a new quill, which is the big, long screw that holds the handlebars to the fork. After switching it, things seemed to work better.

So here is a picture I took of the bike that I spent a little over two hours working on. I hope that the real mechanics who check it think that I did a good job. And I hope that someday a little kid enjoys riding it.


So far, so good

We’re three days into the new year and it’s so far, so good. Tomorrow, I have to go back to work. I’m a little bummed that I can’t wear sweatpants all day anymore, but that’s ok. It’ll be good to get back in the swing of things. I’ve taken short bike rides every day so far and am up to 11 miles. So only 2242 to go to hit my goal. 🙂 I’ve cooked some good meals (homemade pizza, eggs with pepper, onion and avocado) and some ok ones (roasted vegetables with noodles). I’ve also used up my blackened bananas by making banana muffins, which turned out pretty good. I went with Paul today to his bar and helped him clean up some wood. So while I didn’t technically do a workout, I worked there for a couple of hours and got my heart rate up. My car has only been out of the garage one day. And since the weather looks pretty good, I’m hoping that the bike will get me to work for most of this week.

I’ve also been good about not doing anything for work this weekend. Quite frankly, I haven’t done much of anything except watch The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the Bikes vs Cars movie that I bought. I read a little of the book that I bought myself before the holiday. Basically, I just tried to relax. Not my strong suit, but I do feel pretty rested. This is good because this week will be a little busy. For the past couple of years, I’ve taken every Friday off in January. I’m still debating whether or not to do that. Maybe I’ll do it in February. Usually I’m taking some days off because I’m close to the maximum accrual. This year, I’m not at the max, but I’ll get there by April if I don’t take any days. Think I’ll decide later this week.

I also took some time to look for more bike rides to do this year. Found two that I didn’t know about. The Tour du Port (not sure why it’s called this) is in Baltimore in September. I don’t think the roads are totally closed, but the ride looks neat. There are different lengths of ride, but the one that looks the most interesting to me is the shortest one. “A family friendly 14 miles around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that includes designated bicycle lanes through historic neighborhoods and the famous National Aquarium rest stop.” Riding through historic neighborhoods will pretty much get me every time. The second one, also in September (sigh), is NEOCycle. This is billed as “The Midwest’s biggest urban cycling festival taking place September 11-13 on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.”. The part that interests me is the Fundo ride. (Guess it’s a play on Gran Fondo rides, but this one is apparently FUN since it’s not timed. But since most people don’t know what Gran Fondos are, I’m thinking this name might not make sense.) Anyway, they also have a short family (10 mile) ride that looks to go through downtown Cleveland. Could be interesting, but I’m thinking this is on the same day as both Detroit and Minneapolis and I think I’d rather go to one of those. But we’ll see.

Black Friday

Today is “Black Friday”, which means that I’m spending it relaxing after hosting Thanksgiving yesterday. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I believe yesterday was quite enjoyable for everyone. The wild turkey got deplucked and turned out ok. My turkey breast roast, made out of a bunch of pieces, was good. The roasted sweet potatoes were good. And as always the desserts were finished off without a problem.

I had fun yesterday posting to twitter about all the things I was thankful for. And we ended the evening by introducing my sister’s kids to the beauty of Star Wars. Since we normally have a Christmas viewing of Star Wars, I’m not sure what we’ll do then. We may have to move on to “The Empire Strikes Back”.

Today people will shop, which is a little weird after spending yesterday being thankful for what you have. While I have no desire to “go shopping” ever, I know that I ran out of laundry detergent yesterday. So if I want to wash all the dirty linens, a trip to a store might be needed today.

As I now have three full days over which I don’t need to think about work, I have a couple of personal projects that I’d like to take a crack at. One is the letterpress-printed save the date cards for my brother’s wedding. I’m hoping my plates get delivered today, though they may not. It would be nice to be able to play around with that today. Another is to build a little project with some of the wood I have in my basement and to try out the milk paint I bought as a finish. Lastly, though it’s supposed to rain for most of the day, I’d like to go for a bike ride. It’s supposed to be in the 50s today, which will make for a nice ride.

Winter Biking

Chicago had it’s first snowfall of the year yesterday. A few inches. But then it got quite cold and while roads were plowed and salted, the remaining water froze to ice. Since I have been biking all year and loving it, I wanted to keep the commute to work for as long as I can. I was a bit nervous about biking in the snow, so I decided to get up early this morning and bike to the grocery store, four blocks away. It was 14 degrees when I left. I was dressed well, so the cold wasn’t a concern at all. All I was worried about was the ice.

I live on a side street, so it gets plowed after all the main streets. It doesn’t have a ton of traffic, but it has enough that the snow gets compacted pretty quickly into ice. I started by taking the bike right out into the street and going very slowly. I had read someplace that when you’re on ice, putting your foot down usually is a very bad idea. So I rode really slowly because it was all ice until I got to Ashland. Since that’s a main street, it was completely clear and dry. I had no problems there. Normally though I wouldn’t ride on Ashland because it has a lot of traffic and people drive fast. But I was pretty sure that the side street I normally take was a sheet of ice, so Ashland seemed to be the better option. All was good until I got to the parking lot for the store. Again, a sheet of ice. Fortunately, there was hardly any traffic out, so I could take my time and the whole road to make my turn. So I made it there and back ok, but I wouldn’t ride in that to work. Mainly because on a weekday morning, there’s much more traffic around and I wouldn’t feel safe at all.

The good news is that I should be able to use my own street as a gauge. If it’s clear, the ride in should be fine. If it’s icy, I probably shouldn’t take the bike. The temperature only comes into play when it gets cold enough that the salt won’t melt the ice. That’s right around 15 degrees I think. So if it’s colder than that, I’ll check for ice. If not, I should be ok.

I also just finished this book called Frostbike by Tom Babin. He’s a guy who lives is Calgary who wanted to continue biking year round. He went all over the world to find places where people do and don’t bike in the winter and why. It was very interesting. But the main thing that I took away from it is that, like all things, it’s all about your attitude. We’ve pretty much demonized winter so that all we do is complain about it. This is stupid. If you live in a northern climate, winter has always been around. What’s the point of complaining about it? He also gave some good backup data to my new favorite saying (which is not in the book), “There is no inappropriate weather, there’s only inappropriate clothing.” I had actually been thinking that I want to take advantage of winter this year. I had been ice skating past winters and really liked it. I’d like to do that more and even just go out for a nightly walk in the cold. That’s one of the things that I love about biking anytime…being in touch with the weather.

Bike Travel

The bulk of my vacation time the past few years, has been spent with me driving to a city with my bike and then biking around the city. Sometimes this has been to go on official bike rides with thousands of other people on closed streets and others it’s just me riding around town on bike paths or in the street. I absolutely love doing this. The big rides are fun because the towns usually route the ride through interesting neighborhoods and past important landmarks. And the individual rides are fun because it’s neat to learn your way around a new town. It’s also easy. I can put a destination in google maps and have it tell me directions best for biking.

As the weather gets chillier and I’m riding a little less (though not much as I want to ride through as much of winter as I can), I’m looking for other events or just fun places to ride. I’ll probably set up a regular webpage with information when I have more, but I just wanted to put down what I’ve found so far. One thing I’ve noticed when I searched for rides is that it’s a little difficult to determine if a ride is car-free or not. Since some people who I have biked with will only ride on closed-streets, it’s something I have to take into account.

Car-free Rides on the Road

  • Bike The Drive – Chicago
    My hometown ride that I’ve been doing for years. It’s always on the sunday before Memorial Day. Beautiful Lake Shore Drive is closed to traffic from around 6am to 9:30. It’s 30 miles of road that you can ride as many times as you want in the morning.
  • Five Boro Bike Tour – New York
    I’ve done this ride the last three years. It’s fun and you get to go to all five boroughs of New York. Two drawbacks for me. One is that the end of the ride is on Staten Island and you have to take a ferry back to Manhattan. There’s usually a pretty long wait for the ferry, though the free ride is pretty cool, since you can see the Statue of Liberty. The other is that there are a lot of people on this ride and it gets so congested in spots that you have to walk your bike. A third drawback for me personally is that it crosses a number of really high bridges and I’m slightly afraid of heights. Other people will probably not mind this at all. Total ride is around 40 miles, though you can take the Brooklyn Bridge back to make it shorter. This ride is the first weekend in June.
  • Tour de Troit – Detroit
    Just did this ride for the first time this year. Loved it. It’s around 28 miles all over Detroit. You get to see all sorts of different neighborhoods. It was a little crowded at the beginning, but then it turned into a lovely ride, even if it was lightly raining when we did it. I will definitely be going back next year. It’s in September.
  • Tour de Ille – Montreál
    I signed up for this ride this year, but couldn’t go. For me, this will be a little difficult to get to, but it looks to be an awesome ride. It’s 50km (31 miles) all over Montreál. It’s around the end of May/start of June. Definitely on my list.
  • Minneapolis Bike Tour – Minneapolis
    I just found out about this one and it looks like a good ride. Sadly, it also appears to be on the same day as the Tour de Troit. I will have to check the date for 2016 as I’d definitely like to do it. They have different lengths of 16, 25 and 32 mile routes. And I know Minneapolis is a very bike-friendly town, so I’d assume this would be a great ride.
  • Ride for the Arts – Milwaukee
    I’m not sure that this is 100% car-free as the map shows some roads as closed, but I can’t tell if they all are. This ride also has routes of various lengths. Drawback, for me, is that I think it’s the same day as Bike the Drive, but will have to double-check.
  • Pedal Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh
    This is another ride that I’m not certain is 100% car free. I have biked in Pittsburgh before (I love Pittsburgh) and one thing I should note is that it’s not flat. I rode up the steepest hill I’ve ever ridden here and while that was quite the challenge, I think the more terrifying part was the ride down. Note that I’m used to riding in the flat midwest, so hills are always a little crazy for me. Routes of various lengths and it’s usually at the end of August.
  • Tour de Nash – Nashville
    Again, not totally certain that the ride is 100% car free. The pictures on the website don’t show any cars, which makes me think it is, but I’m not sure. This ride is in May and they look to have three routes of different lengths.
  • Ride the Drive – Madison
    This is a closed road event, though it’s not just for bikes. The streets are closed from 8:30am to around 3pm for people to use the road for whatever they want. I can’t really tell how long the ride would be from end to end, but my guess is about 10 miles. For 2016, it’ll be on July 31st.
  • Hub on Wheels – Boston
    This ride is not completely car-free, though the 10 mile ride is. For the longer routes, you’ll share the road with cars. I have biked around Boston once and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t have any problems on the road, so I think this ride would be pretty good, even if you have to share the road with cars.
  • Acadia National Park Car-Free Mornings – Maine
    Two days in 2015, Acadia National Park closed the roads to cars. Don’t know if they’ll do it again in 2016, but that could be fun.
  • Ciclavia – Los Angeles
    Another place where they close the roads to allow people to do all sorts of things in the street. I haven’t gone to one of these, but they look like fun. One drawback that I’ve heard is that so many people come out, it can get very crowded in some places, which would make riding your bike difficult.

Other Places

  • Washington DC – I was in DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival last year and it was great fun riding my bike around town. There are lots of bike paths there and it’s easy to get around.
  • Philadelphia – I’ve heard that Philly is a nice place to bike because the roads are all pretty narrow so cars can’t travel that fast. They also just put in a new bike trail that I’ve heard is a really nice place to ride.
  • Maine Lighthouse Ride – Maine
    This is an organized ride where you share the road with cars. I’m looking into it because Maine is beautiful and I have a friend who lives in Canada not too far from there. So we could meet up to do the ride. It’s in September.
  • Tour de Lou – Louisville
    I signed up for this ride last year, but didn’t go because the weather looked really bad. It’s the start of Kentucky Derby Festival and looks to be an interesting ride. The road are not all closed, so that’s one drawback. It’s on May 1st, 2016.
  • Tour de Donut – Staunton, Illinois
    The only reason I’m including this is that it combines two of my favorite things in life, riding my bike and eating donuts. In general, I like riding in cities more, just because there’s more to look at. And this is partially a race and not just a leisurely ride, so it’s not high on my list of things to attend. But it has donuts…
  • Indianapolis – I’ve ridden the Cultural Trail and the Monon trail and they’re really nice. It was raining pretty hard when I rode them and I still had a great ride. There are plenty of places to stop and eat if you’d like. I’d definitely like to do this again.
  • Atlanta – Heard about a trail called the BeltLine. Could be nice
  • Portland – Everyone always says Portland, so I’ll have to get out there someday
  • Prince Edward Island – I’d think this would be really pretty.
  • Winnipeg – They have a pretty active biking community and a big bike week in June. They also have a ciclovia.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll try to make a more permanent page as I get more information.

Could I Live without My Car?

A couple of days ago, I hit 2000 miles of biking for the year. It wasn’t a goal to do this at the start of the year, but I’m rather pleased with myself. I actually thought it was a bit of an accomplishment until I read a blog post somewhere about a woman with MS who rode like 6000 miles for the year. I have a long way to go to reach that. But this got me thinking, do I really need to own my own car?

One of the big plusses in buying my house was that I didn’t want to be dependent on a car. While I mainly bike to work, if that’s not an option, I can also take public transit. I absolutely do not need my car to get to work. I live approximately four blocks from a grocery store, four blocks from a library and maybe six blocks from Target. And I’m less than a mile from a train station that can get me downtown in around 10 minutes. For my day-to-day life, I really don’t think I need a car.

Are there times when I do need a car? Absolutely. I can’t easily get to my Mom’s house without a car. And I have plenty of other family members and friends who live out in the suburbs that are much easier to get to with a car. It’s also really nice to have the car when I go to get supplies from Home Depot for working on my house. Could I replace these drives with using a rental car instead? One of the most-brilliant things I did years ago was purchase a lifetime membership in, then startup, I-Go Cars. In Chicago, this by-the-hour car rental is now part of Enterprise. And I’ve just found out that there’s an I-Go car parked about a mile from my house. It’s not as convenient as my garage, but it’s pretty close. So using the rental more is definitely an option.

Since this year I’ve been trying to use my bike over my car, I have found that when I do drive my car…it’s more fun. It’s kind of like a treat to take out the car. I know a lot of people dread driving, but I’m not one of them. The other thing I like about having a car is that it’s a complicated piece of machinery. And learning how it works is really interesting to me. There’s a small part of me that enjoys doing maintenance on the car. Yes, I know this makes me an oddity, but it’s also an argument for keeping the car. And I do have to say that driving my car to a new city with my bike, has been my major source of relaxation for the past year.

I think I’m going to use this winter as a test. I want to see how many times I just go to my car without thinking about it. Or I’ll see if I can plan all my trips so that it would be like I’d be planning on getting an I-Go car. Now I’m just curious about this. A few years ago, I would have never thought this was a possibility. But now I’m thinking that it might be.


It’s rare, but every so often I take a real vacation. By this I mean, I take off at least a week from work, go someplace and just relax. In my case, that means riding my bike around and reading. This time, I spent just over a week in New York City. I went for the Five Boro Bike Tour and stayed to go to a friend’s reading of his play. During my trip, I ended up biking over 130 miles and read six books. I could have done more of both. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken.

Pictures are here:

I took Amtrak from Chicago to NYC. It’s really a terrible way to travel, especially when you’ve been on the great trains in Europe. But since I wanted to take my folding bike and it would have cost me an extra $250 at least to fly with the bike, I took the train to save money. The money saved covered the cost of a hotel room for a night in Manhattan. So while it’s an unpleasant way to travel, it was great with my bike.

My first night (Friday) was spent at a hotel pretty close to the train station. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to want to do much after 20 hours on a train and I was right. I put the bike together at Penn Station and biked a few blocks to the hotel. Time for a shower and a piece of pizza and I was out for the night.

Saturday was all about me going to pick up my packet for the ride. I basically biked down to near the second hotel I was going to stay at to pick up my packet. I decided not to check out of the first hotel before doing this because the weather was great and the riding felt good. Plus, once I checked out, I’d be carrying my heavy backpack wherever I went. So after coming back to the hotel, I took the scenic route around Manhattan to get to the South Seaport area and my hotel. Had a small issue at the tip of Manhattan where I biked into a Lupus 5k walk. So I had to walk the bike a bit there, but it was ok. Easy to grab a hot dog from a vendor for lunch and keep moving.

Saturday rides:

Sunday was the bike ride. I’ve done it twice before and really like it. However, I do think this will be the last time I do it. While it is fun, there are quite a few sections that are so crowded that you have to walk the bike. That’s not really fun. I’m actually fine riding in traffic, so I don’t need to be just on closed streets. So while I’m happy to have done it, I don’t know that I’ll sign up again.

Sunday ride:

Monday was my day to try to save a bit of money and stay in Brooklyn. So after a couple of hours reading under the Brooklyn Bridge, I biked across the bridge to go to Brooklyn. I stayed at a hotel in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. Since I had time before checkin, I biked to Prospect Park, which I heard was a nice park in Brooklyn. It did not disappoint. I relaxed there for a few hours reading a book before biking around to get something to eat. Then to the hotel, a shower, some more reading and hockey playoffs on tv.

Monday ride:

Tuesday was about riding around Brooklyn. I had read that the oldest bike path in the United States was in Brooklyn, along Ocean Boulevard and it took you right to Coney Island. This seemed like the perfect ride to do, so I biked to Coney Island and then around Brooklyn. Ended the day with reading and hockey playoffs.

Tuesday ride:

Wednesday I moved back to Manhattan, but was also the day the my pal Shadla and her husband came to NYC. They were staying in Brooklyn, so I met up with them for a late breakfast before heading back to Brooklyn. I wanted to ride over the Williamsburg Bridge to get back to Manhattan for a change of pace. I got a little lost on my way to the bridge, but eventually found it. Then we all met up back in Manhattan for dinner and the play Skylight, which was quite good.

Wednesday rides:

Thursday was a day to hang out in the Village, which I really didn’t know until Shadla told me where we were. This made me feel incredibly cool. We had lunch and eventually found a great place (Molly’s Cupcakes) for a celebratory cupcake. (The cupcakes I got in Manhattan after the ride were pathetic.) We then head up to the High Line and met up with Garin. We walked the High Line a bit, people watched and checked out the new Whitney Museum. (My take on the Whitney is to skip it. But then again, I’m not a big modern art fan.)

Thursday ride:

Friday was a bit more riding around and then taking the subway out to Brooklyn to walk around and get lunch with Shadla and Garin. Then I finished another book in Prospect Park before coming back to Manhattan to get ready for Garin’s reading. The reading was at a building, literally on Broadway in Times Square. I’d also never been to a reading before, so I found it
all pretty cool.

Friday ride:

Saturday was just about hanging in Manhattan until my train left. It was also the only day that was a bit cooler with some rain. But it was still pretty pleasant.

Saturday ride:

Books read:
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan–Loved the book
The World Beyond Your Head by Matthew Crawford–Liked it, but need to read it again to get all the ideas
The Tiger Wife by Téa Obreht–started off pretty good, but thought it was kind of dumb by the end. Only book from the trip that I don’t recommend
Zodiac by Neal Stephenson–Picked up off clearance table at NYC Bookstore for $5. Loved it. Hard time putting it down.
Straphanger by Taras Grescoe–Fascinating book about public transit around the world. Loved it.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough–Loved it, but I am completely fascinated by the Wright Brothers.


Went for a nice bike ride this morning because it’s lovely out. Decided to ride to the bank to deposit a check and then take a ride along the lakefront. Did about 13 miles and felt pretty good. I just noticed on my Cyclemeter app that it tells me how many miles I biked overall last year. It’s close but I know that I don’t always remember to turn it on and I only got the app in April. So it’s probably a bit low. Anyway it says I rode 1131 miles last year. So far this year, I’ve ridden 102 miles. That’s pretty good. I didn’t think that I already rode that much this year. I think I now have a goal for the year. I need to do more than 1131 miles.