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Day 3: Aroma Park to Gilman, IL

17 Aug

Woohoo! I got to my hotel in Gilman today (right next to the train tracks :) at about 1:30 pm! Total hours: 5, total mileage: 34 miles.

I was ready for a relaxed afternoon, though – I’ve ridden 141 miles in the last 3 days. At 4:00 on Sunday I honestly didn’t think I’d make it this far. Now I’m tired but pretty healthy and happy, although I have a sunburned nose (as usual for me during the summer), nasty saddle sore, and a hurting crotch. I’ll bear you the dirty details.

Today was a beautiful ride. Quiet, leisurely, through the cornfields and along the river.

(Oh, and his name isn’t really Malcolm…that’s just what I’d been calling him to myself because of his profile name…and I let it slip while the camera rolled.)

Although there’s not much that’s romantic, really, about this landscape. All of the cornfields are enormous, and at the end of the rows there are signs with some GMO company logo and a mysterious series of numbers. No sign of any people, just fields and fields of corn, some soybeans for good measure, and the shoulders of the road lined with pretty purple wildflowers and swarms of butterflies.

Gilman, by the way, is a shocking sort of place. Granted, the town I rode through on the way to the hotel felt like a town with a community (nice front yards, cobblestone streets, and a nice little main street block with a handful of shops), where I am now is definitely where the traffic is – human and automotive. I can see the overpass over I-57 out my window, past a Shell, BP and Marathon gas station, a McDonald’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Monical’s Pizza (where I ate dinner), and a couple of gas station “travel plaza” restaurants. I suppose it’s what people need when they’re driving down the interstate, but it’s such a shame that this is normal traveling fare. After a day riding through farm fields, communing with deer and a couple of dogs and lots of birds and butterflies – and I’ve only been on the road 3 days, two days in really rural areas – it’s somewhat jarring to have to walk to dinner on the street with tractor trailer trucks because there’s no shoulder or sidewalk, and to feel so incredibly tiny next to the huge scale of the vehicles that pass me and the big fluorescent signs and oversized gas station plazas that I pass.

My yogurt cart seems miniscule, totally forgettable, in this car-centric environment. When I’m on a street that’s two lanes instead of five, things are on a human scale, people without cars around them pass by me and are at an approachable distance – literally and figuratively – to interact. This Gilman interstate exit, however, just makes this project seem like a needle in a haystack, buried deep, deep deep down, invisible and unreachable.

But then I think of the kindness of all of the people I’ve met, and really it’s the human scale of social relationships that I’m targeting anyways, and my heart is warmed. My fantastic hosts from last night are, as I write this, on their way to my hotel to return the clothes I forgot in their dryer this morning when I hit the road. I’m so inspired to return all of the generosity that I’ve encountered on this trip, I can’t wait to get back to Chicago and welcome people myself, and I also can’t wait for the years ahead when I am truly in a position to return their generosity for other new friends.

61st Street Farmers Market

14 Aug

My first day on the street was great! I ran out of yogurt in less than 2 hours, and people were oh so kind and enthusiastic. I met another woman who’s had success for years with the hot water method, much to my astonishment, and I forgot my slick business cards and a trash bag, which really isn’t so bad at all.

Experimental Station and this market are really such wonderful places.
Thanks for taking the photos, Becca!

61st Street Farmers Market

13 Aug

My first demonstration is happening tomorrow! (For better or for worse – those of you who have been following my incubation experiments will understand my anxiety…)

Come see me at the 61st Street Farmers Market (at E 61st St and S Dorchester, in Woodlawn, just south of the Midway Plaisance, Chicago). I’ll be hanging out at the Market School from 10 am – 1 pm, teaching people to make yogurt and talking about the project. Come by and say hi, and I hope to see you there!

p.s. I’ll have flashy new business cards, some cool printed lessons you can take home, and some awesome hand-screenprinted stickers designed by Lina Moe and printed by Stefan Gunn for you to check out. So in case a street full of delicious farm-fresh produce and homemade yogurt weren’t enough to tempt you, now you definitely have no excuse to sleep the morning away.

Culture Caravan beta version

2 May

I inaugurated my Culture Caravan on May Day, heading to the VERS10N Festival’s Chicago Art Parade. It took a lot longer than expected to get the bike and trailer all the way to the West Loop.  I was really lucky the wind was at my back, but I was still completely exhausted by the time we got to the intersection of Green and Wayman, where the Chicago May Day Art Parade had finished…over two hours before.  I gave out some yogurt to a little crowd standing around anyway, though, and it was a great first test run!

photo by Cristina Bejarano

photo by Erin Watson

Erin and Nick showed up for support and we pedaled up Milwaukee to the Polish Triangle, where I plan to hang out for a bit tomorrow on my way back down to Hyde Park.

photo by Erin Watson