Greetings from the Windy City!
Bike the Drive is a Memorial Day tradition here.
Before the accident, I always flew to Chicago the last weekend of May. With my cycling buddy Shelley, I rose early and buckled my helmet. We hopped on our bikes (mine, rented) and joined 20,000 riders to pedal a loop around the famous -- and windy -- Lake Shore Drive.
This year, even HALF the ride will be a challenge.
I've packed carefully: biking shoes, bike pedal, power belt, crutches... even my water leg. Still, I can't shake the feeling that something's MISSING.
The night before the bike ride, we shift into high gear -- We've got a crisis on our hands.
Shelley borrowed a bike for me, but the seat won’t go down low enough. I can't even climb on. I can't imagine trying to stop or start, let alone ride 15 miles!
I'm in a panic. Everyone's here to ride with me. And now I might not ride at all.
We call the local bike shop – Bobby’s Bike Hike. When the guy picks up, I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Also...um... I wear a prosthesis, so I'll need to attach my own pedal.”
Early the next morning, the sun glimmers off Lake Michigan. In our hotel room, it feels like any other Bike the Drive day...
But as we start off, there's another 'technical problem.' It's 49 degrees. My prosthesis comes loose each time I lift my leg.
|Finally at the starting line --|
Flanked by my Secret Service :)
Illinois is flat, but Lake Shore Drive runs hilly along the coast. On this upright bike, I can't lean forward to propel myself. In the first few miles, I learn to lower the gears. Rock at the waist and heave with my shoulders. The hills get progressively easier.
|That's Rocco up ahead!|
|Vickie and Shelley|
|Susan, always by my side :)|
I touch my foot to the ground. My right leg's quivering. And I can't even feel my left.
|It's all downhill from here!|
When the morning ends, we've covered almost 20 MILES.
The weekend rolls on...
|Chocolate dipped bacon...|
not quite as good as it sounds.
There's an outdoor music festival starring Andy's School of Rock kids.
And Nina's first visit to "The Bean."
We're so busy having fun, I don't think about what's missing.
But I notice a few things. I used to visit my friends in the suburbs. This year, they all come to me. I used to walk the Magnificent Mile. This year, I take cabs everywhere.
And what's with all the multi-level streets and open-tiered stairways? Where are the ramps and elevators? Why is everything so far apart??
Chicago is my home away from home, yet it's different this year. It's really ME -- not the city -- that's changed.
Mile Marker 1113:
On our last morning, the hotel doorman hails us a cab. "Where to?" he asks.
I glance down at my metallic aqua-blue leg. "The BEACH, of course!"
He looks skeptical. It's 55 and rainy. But it's the perfect day to try out my new water leg "Sandy."
The Secret Service gives me a hand as we climb slick steps and cross muddy pavement. At Ohio Street Beach, a workman is churning up sand with a mini-bulldozer.
He stops and looks on with interest. The wind's blowing and the fog's rolling in. Our bright jackets stand out against the gray sky.
"My first time on the beach!" I call out, waving to him.
The workman nods his head. "My dad too," he says, pointing to my leg. We share a smile.
I sit down on a concrete jetty to take off my sandals.
The ground is cold, but the beach is alive.
As I step into the waves, my eyes cloud over with tears.
I squeeze the wet sand between my toes.
My LEFT LEG can't feel it, but somehow it does.
On that hazy beach, the answer becomes crystal clear.
I know exactly what's missing. And all I still have.
From Chicago, with love.
Wish you were here.
A video of Sandy's first dip, with Secret Service of course! (Awesome cinematography by Shelley!)