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May came and went and now October is here

The warmth of May greeted Chicagoans for a couple of days last week but October decided to make an early arrival on Thursday.

A young bicyclist in Logan Square waits for the light to change.

Two guys riding on Milwaukee Avenue stop to chat at Western Avenue.

We went from this…

To this…

Spires above the clouds

I met with a friend of a friend yesterday to talk to them about blogging and some strategies they can use to promote their eBooks.

I told her, “Post on your blog at least once a week and if you don’t have much to write, just post a new photo.”

I’m following my own advice, kind of.

Photo of downtown Chicago by Payton Chung, formerly of Chicago and now of Washington, D.C.

Friday, I try again

Because of severe weather delays in the Midwest (ice and fog), my plane to JFK from ORD arrived almost 4 hours later on Tuesday. That meant I missed to Rome Fiumicino before I even left Chicago.

In a situation like that, one’s options are poor and limited.

I much prefer Midway to O’Hare. Weather delays are less of an issue there (mainly because there’re fewer flights) and it is 4x closer to my house (in terms of time to get there).

I could choose to take my flight to JFK, arriving there about 10:30 PM (local time). I would then talk to the gate agent in JFK (which gate) or the ticketing agent and ask to be placed on standby for a flight to Rome. The Chicago gate agent was extremely helpful to me but would not place me on standby on any Rome-bound flight from JFK. When I introduced myself to him, he said he had called me on the PA once or twice (which I didn’t hear) seeing that I was not going to make my connection.

He explained there was not an open seat to Rome for days (he was telling the truth, according to the ticket counter agent). I decided that waiting in New York City was less preferable to waiting at home in Chicago. He had a ground worker pull my bag from “baggage system” (remember, the plane it would be loaded onto hadn’t arrived).

I told him I would attempt rebooking later.

I went to sit down in an empty gate and mulled my options. It was extremely difficult. My friend in Rome was expecting to meet me at Stazioni Termini di Roma at noon (local time). There’s no free wifi in O’Hare (nor Midway) so I couldn’t email him without paying $9 for the privilege – I’d have to wait until I got home. And I had no idea when I would be getting home.

I got my bag from the “lost bags area” near the baggage claim and headed up to the ticket counter. Wow, there was not a single person in line. Much different than 3 hours ago when I was in line for 30 minutes just to drop off my bag (I’ve since rearranged my bag situation so that I can just carry it on). The ticket counter agent (“Alexis” – not her real name) sighed many times during our conversation as she searched for an alternate itinerary. She complained several times that my fare class made this harder, as the airline limits the amount of seats available on an airplane in any fare class. She was still helpful and found a workable alternative for me. I told her I had to think about it.

I sat down and just stared at my calendar. How would this work? How is it interrupting my trip? In the end, I realized that the new trip meant I only had to skip Rome and that everything else was intact. I went back to see Alexis and she booked me on the flight. Done, and done.

Fast forward to Thursday. I’ve repacked my things, but this time into a rollaboard (roll on, whatever). I was able to put back some things I was going to leave (like my heavy SLR camera) because of the different luggage dimensions (I originally was taking a Jansport hiking backpack). I checked in for my flight, and Delta gave me the option of changing my flight plan (again) at no charge. Weird! So I found a better flight than Alexis booked me on. It goes through Atlanta instead of JFK but cuts my layover in half (now 3 hours instead of 6).

Looking at tomorrow’s weather forecast, it’s supposed to be snowing when I’m riding the Blue Line at 8 AM to ORD.

Please follow my Flickr for trip updates.

Note: This is an unedited chronology of events I experienced on Tuesday. It was one of the most stressful days I’ve encountered. I was at the airport for almost 5 hours, and, including transit time, away from home for 8 hours (getting nothing accomplished, it turned out!).

It’s 13°F right now in Chicago – what that means for bicycling

It’s very cold right now. I had to state the obvious. But what does that mean for bicycling in Chicago, Illinois, and other Midwestern cities?

A bicyclist rides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Read more about winter biking in the coldest of the Bike Friendly Cities: iciclebicycle, or MnBicycleCommuter.

You may have heard that the bike commuting rate in Copenhagen during the winter only decreases by 30%, and that 400,000 Copenhageners ride each day. Except it’s 35°F there now, and will be in February, too (when Chicago experiences some of its coldest, harshest days). We’re having the kind of weather that demands you cover your face. Thankfully, this conversation has already been had, twice.

So if you biked today, I salute you. I cycled today to my last class of graduate school on my slowly deteriorating cargo bike. That means I’ve mostly graduated – I deferred my final project by one semester but my goal is to submit it by New Year’s Day (although I have until May, 2010).

If you’re interested in biking through the winter, I have developed a simple message. The key to winter biking is held in a four-letter acronym: SARF. Continues after the jump. Continue reading

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