Monthly Archive: December 2013

“Beater Bike”

Mr. M and I were just talking about getting one heavy-duty beater bike for running errands and picking up Zipcars occasionally, or for taking to the train.  Sometimes the Mundo is overkill and the Bianchi’s tires leave much to be desired in our current weather.  Oh boy, we’re adding to the fleet…

So I’m thinking something smaller, but not this small :)  (I loved this GIF)

When your Bike Friday takes up too much room...

When your Bike Friday takes up too much room…

We did manage to get out for a quick ride on Friday- to a book exchange playgroup not too far away.  I was able to load about 40 children’s books in the Go Getter bag and pedal about a mile.  (Try doing that with a stroller!) The Yuba’s tires are fine for Winter, but the wind and precipitation are still an obstacle.   On our way there, we stopped to say hi to Santa and a friend.  “The Tall Guy” as Little Guy called him was also the former owner of a bike shop in Indiana- I was happy to answer his questions about the Yuba while the kids talked with the man in the suit again :)

Today we’re off to do selective enrollment testing for Chicago Public Schools.  It’s been a bit crazy to see this from the parent side, and I’m not sure what our approach is going to be.  We just sold our 400oth mermaid tail this year, and I don’t know if teaching is something I’ll ever want to do again full time- especially in Special Education.  So we’ll see.

Time to browse Craigslist for another bike to add to the family!


The Holiday Train- Santa Rides the CTA

The 2013 Holiday Train.

The 2013 Holiday Train.

Today it was SO COLD we walked one block backwards to avoid having our faces freeze.  It’s been a little rough the past week, between the snow, cold, and wind.  I did get a quick ride in the other day, but we’ve been looking for ways to pass the time while keeping warm and this one was a hit!

Every year the CTA runs a special holiday train, decorated with lights and featuring Old St. Nick himself on a flatbed car.  Inside there are decorations, Christmas themed ads, upholstery, Christmas music, “elves” with candy canes, and a lot of delighted people (as well as a few stressed out ones and crying children.)  You can find this year’s schedule here.

My two were really, really impressed.  We got on at the Roosevelt Orange Line stop, and it was packed.  There were a lot of parents with strollers- double strollers- with kids strapped in and muffed, and it was kind of a mess getting on.  I’d brought our trusty CTA travelin’ stroller and prepared to be all slick as I popped the little guy out and lifted it to fold, and it wouldn’t- so I missed the first great shots of the train.  After we got in and seated about a station down the line, I realized I had a Razr scooter in the bottom.  Oops.

We got settled and admired the inside of the car, sang along to some carols, and enjoyed our candy canes.  Nina asked me, while I was videoing the experience, if the reindeer were real, and I said “Yes, of course.”  Later, I retracted that statement as it was pretty clear they were not. 😉

I decided to bail off at Armitage and go find some cocoa/coffee before heading home, and we ended up standing right next to Santa for a full minute or so.  He was friendly, threw the kids some Holiday Train buttons, and I managed to take a quick picture.  I’m a little surprised that the kids were so blown away by this- though if you think about it, a Santa whooshing along in the cold seems more authentic than any other we’ve encountered…

We stopped for donuts and drinks at Glazed and Infused (very, very good!) and then headed back.  Lack of outside time = lack of activity/excercise = restless kiddos and tired momma.  Hoping to get a nice day soon!

Car Free Game Changer: Getting a Lyft With Kids

Lyft Chicago

Little guy is obsessed with mustaches, and drivers are friendly enough to pose for and take pictures (thank you, Donald!)

I rode in a cab last night- a minivan- and I was terrified.  This post is overdue.  There are times where we need to use a car to get around, though it’s rare… but sometimes kids are sleeping, or it’s sleeting, or really cold, or you forgot you’re supposed to be at the dentist’s office in 15 minutes, and you gotta go.

I promised I’d talk a bit more about Lyft awhile ago.  We strap our kids in using the Ride Safer Travel Vest and the Bubble Bum booster seat, so they are 100% street legal, which is important.  These aren’t the options I’d choose if we were a more regular car-riding family, but they are AWESOME for occasional trips by car combined with walking/biking/transit.

Lyft drivers are paid, but riders don’t pay a fee- they give a suggested donation (or more, or less) so it manages to get around the whole medallion thing.  Taxis are run by only a few large companies in Chicago because the medallions, or licenses, are limited.  The last few conversations and Google searches I did when curious about this a few months ago indicated the average going price of one in our city is $80,000 over $300,000 (OMG!) Independent cab drivers usually rent a car from a larger company since the expense is so great.

With Lyft, people drive their own cars.  Yes, this seems like a major loophole.  I know cab drivers don’t like it- here they are forced to shell out for renting the car, and Lyft drivers are just pocketing “donations.”  I see the issue.  But I can’t help but feel the system needed to evolve.  I know NOTHING about the folks who manage the service and how the money flows through the app, but I do know I prefer ‘Lyfting.’

Experience reserving/calling a cab: I live about a half mile from a pretty reliable pickup point near the train station, and might get lucky on occasion and hail a cab on the street near my house.  I’ve tried Uber, and almost always get a message that there are no cars available, unless I’m getting a town car.  And I don’t like their prices.  I’ve had several occasions where I called for a cab at the last minute, and they never showed up. I’d call the dispatch again to check on their location, and they’d say they were still trying to get one to me. This makes me nuts.

Lyft has an app where you can see the location of the drivers nearby, their picture, and rating.  You reserve your ride then and get their number.  You can watch them on a friendly little map.  I have mixed feelings about the phone in the car thing, but I have twice called a driver on the way to tell them about a “secret shortcut” that was helpful in picking me up…  also, I’ve so far always been able to get a ride.  I haven’t done rush hour, though.



We hailed a minivan last night from Ogilvie to get a few blocks home in the rain at rush hour.  Our driver spun his bald tires at every green light, made sudden stops that threw us forward (in our seatbelts,) cut off other drivers, and nearly hit several pedestrians.  All while talking on his cellphone.  Then he acted annoyed when we asked to use a debit card to pay.  It was just Mr. M and I, thank goodness.

Lyft drivers feel like people you catch a ride with.  I’ve gone this route with and without the kids, and it’s consistently good.  There’s usually a fair amount of conversation, which I always enjoy.  I like hearing what people do otherwise- I’ve met several guys in film/animation, wait staff, teachers, after-school program organizers…  Everyone has been super polite.  They drive like normal, cautious people.  They reassure me that it’s fine to take my time to get the kids buckled into their respective boosters/vests. It feels friendly and relaxed.



Lyft is cheaper.  In my experience, it costs about $5 less even with suggested tip included than I’d pay by cab.  A trip to the zoo sets us back $14 something in a taxi pre-tip, and is $12 with Lyft.  The app saves your payment information, just like Uber, and you get a text and a notification after you’ve been dropped off.  You can tip more or less depending on your experience, and you rate your driver.  They’ll also rate you- though I’m afraid you don’t get to see it (so be nice!)  I LOVE this since for us using a car means we’re in a hurry for something and I’ve been able to settle the tab right after checking in for a Dr’s appointment.


Update: Drafted this post over a week ago on my flight to Boston.  Used Lyft multiple times there over the weekend.  Used again today.  Still awesome, and my little guy is now obsessed with mustaches…  I had to go rescue husband’s bike in the freezing rain tonight at 9:30, as I was supposed to pick it up on my way home from a thing and ran out of phone battery so had to stop at home to ask where the bike was- for the first time ever, got the dreaded “all drivers are busy” message. :(  On the upside, got a very friendly and cautious cabbie, so there you go.