Weekend in Champaign-Urbana; Market at the Square and the Bike Project

23 Aug

I woke up early for the market on Saturday, but not early enough – by the time I got there, things were bustling and busy. I found a spot next to the Muffin Man, and there was a steady stream of people for the next 2 ½ hours. It was a fantastic morning; people were genuinely interested, and curious. I met a journalist from the local paper, and an alternative transportation planner who loved my cart, and plenty of people who had made yogurt before and just as many who had no idea where to start.

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, since I do it myself, but nonetheless I was humored by how many people just walked by slowly, obviously curious, but too timid to stop and ask what I was doing – afraid to make the commitment, perhaps afraid I was trying to sell something, strange yogurt products or ideas, plrothelytizing about some radical new food movement. Someone at the Bike Project later that night suggested I hold a sign that says “ask me about yogurt” and I think I’m going to do just that for next weekend’s market in Indianapolis.

Once the heat descended with full force, and even my straw hat was doing little to keep me warm and sane, I moved just next to the market to the Common Ground Food Co-op, a popular Chambana source for local and organic produce, groceries, and prepared foods. I stood out front, right next to a big poster for Kilgus Farms milk, and next to Becca, who was leading a children’s activity to promote the daycare she’s starting. I don’t remember how I found out about Common Ground, but I remember expecting it to be something like Open Produce, considering how often we are compared to Logan Square’s Dill Pickle co-op. But when I walked in, I realized how much Open Produce’s dedication to affordable, dependable, everyday groceries really is a guiding principle in stocking the store. Common Ground was beautiful, and the produce and drygoods were all appealing and ethical, and of course I was jealous of their deli counter, but I did miss OP’s uneven yellow shelves of cheap Indian meals and stacks of dollar cans of beans.

The crowds at Common Ground were much more focused on shopping, so I got much less traffic. Becca and her son Joshua were great at attracting attention, steering all of the families that stopped for melon over to my much smaller cart for some yogurt.

Kilgus Farms milk on the shelves!!

Once the market had cleared out, traffic at Common Ground also completely died off, so I got some lunch and packed everything up. I headed straight for the post office, unloaded everything, and stuffed two boxes full to send back to Chicago. One hour later and 15 lbs lighter, I took off for the UIllinois campus, in search of a busy quad where I could attract new students and their parents on move-in weekend. No such luck. Especially compared to Kenyon, UIllinois is enormous, and I never even found a quad that had traffic; everyone seemed to be crowded around the front doors of dorms, which I suppose also made sense.

After a while, I decided to try again the next day, and I headed to Emily’s house, my host for the night. She wasn’t home, but I walked in and immediately felt like this was going to be a good night. She was out helping host an alley cat ride with her local bike co-op, the Bike Project, her house was full of bikes and cameras and tomatoes and records, and this magnet was on the fridge:

That evening was spent at the Mustache Ride after-party, hosted by the Bike Project at their awesome space underneath the old post office in downtown Urbana. I met some great people, and I was totally jealous of how clean their shop was.

And while they did have some cool bikes to play with, I’ve also got to admit that Blackstone’s kids give them some real competition.

check out the most human sign I've ever seen - click for sizes

AND someone showed up with just the hitching mechanism I dream of for my bike, to rid me of phantom jerks and springs when I’m off my bike for the day:

We headed home at the end of the night, and I was so excited to sleep in on Sunday morning. Up at 8, I spent nearly the entire day writing and researching routes and contacts for the rest of the trip. I was so focused, I missed the Quad Day event I had planned to visit, and I only noticed when the library closed that it was already 5:00.

I had more bikes to wrench on, though, and I headed over to the Campus Bike Project shop on the south side of town.

It was crowded with new students searching for bike and asking questions about the co-op, but Carl and Joel found time to help me come up with an idea to protect my spokes and panniers from warring with each other. (Now that I have less in my panniers, and it’s not flat, Bill Lang’s ingenious string solution from New Lenox isn’t so reliable.) Here’s what we came up with:

They’ll be ready for a Tweed Ride in Urbana, no doubt. I left a handful of cards and tore myself away from the Bike Project. Thanks, guys, for welcoming me and showing me such a great organization and good people.

My flat tire on the way to Faye and Joyce’s didn’t deter me, and I trudged on to dinner and an early bedtime.

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One Response to “Weekend in Champaign-Urbana; Market at the Square and the Bike Project”

  1. Deb Stewart-Pettengill September 3, 2010 at 4:50 am #

    Hey Annie, just found your site this AM! What an adventure! WE’ll keep up with your journey! give your dad a hug for us this weekend.XOXO- Deb

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