Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dickcissels are back! And planning my car-less adventure

Today I was going to be very green and bike downtown to the farmer's market but at the last minute I realized that I had forgotten an essential ingredient: cash. So, alas, we had to take the car and swing by the bank on our way to the market, and then the morning turned into errand day. Well, at least I got some fresh local produce. Next week I will have to plan it better because our Car Less Adventure is scheduled for June 1-June 15. It will suck not being able to drive out of town for my birding fun for those two weeks, but I have already limited my trips to save the gas.

Today as we were driving past a field along College Ave by Meijer's (one of the few natural spaces left in Bloomington--I swear the city motto is No Green Space Left Behind)I heard dickcissels calling from the grasses! How I love the Birds of Summer. It made me want to run out that very minute binoculars in hand but at least I am going out tomorrow and Monday. Only a week or so without any birding and I start to feel deprived.

I think that will be my greatest challenge during the Car Less fortnight, no driving out to bird. I will have to challenge myself to be an Urban (or suburban--where I live is in town, almost equidistant between the downtown area on one side and the start of the sprawl on the other, so I can easily observe both "habitats") and at least there are some places within walking/biking distance with some trees and/or water.

The other big challenge is that I will have to bike to work -- it's three miles, so not quite in timely walking distance -- and I have two choices of route. The fast route takes me along a couple of busy roads, especially so at rush hour, and makes me cross one of the city's busiest: Veteran's parkway, the dividing line between city and sprawlsville. And I am not brave in heavy traffic. Cars whizzing right by me, turning in and out of parking lots, everyone so impatient to hurry home (the traffic's much worse going home than to work, I find), all of this makes me a nervous wreck, kind of the opposite effect than what exercise is supposed to have. The other route is much more relaxing, because if I go out of my way (doubling the distance) I can take the Constitution Trail most of the way, which is a recreational walking/running/rollerblading/biking venue that goes through a lot of Bloomington and Normal. That is much preferable, only fighting with cars at a few crossings, and the trail goes under or over the busier roads. This is only an option during the warmer months -- the downtown portion of the trail is not somewhere I'd feel safe after dark -- and like I said, it doubles the time it takes to get there.

I read with envy about green, progressive cities that make it easier for bikers, because I don't feel that Bloomington makes it especially easy. The Constitution trail is great, one of the best things about the town, but it is limited, and away from it the cyclist is on her own: no bike lanes, few bike racks (no place I've worked here has one -- at my current office, I chain my bike to a tree); downtown is relatively easy to get to (along C. Trail) and then chain the bike and stroll around, but the majority of shopping places are big box style stores with huge parking lots, lots of traffic, no bike lanes, and no bike racks.

The June issue of Body + Soul Magazine has an article about "swapping your car for a bike every once in a while," in which a woman from San Francisco is quoted as saying, "It wasn't long ago that a woman who showed up at work with a bicycle would be looked at as a total weirdo. That's no longer the case." I would say that here in Bloomington the reaction I get when I bike is semi-weirdo...a step up from total weirdo, I guess. That reaction is achieved whenever I WALK somewhere.


  1. Oh, dickcissels! May I suggest that you ride your bike where Dad used to work, State Farm South, when you do in-town birding. The grassland birds (the sweetnesses) like it there. Constitution Trail goes out there. I read on Fox News that over a million people a day are watching BP's oilgusher cam, and many are asking your question, "What can I do about it?"

  2. I watched the live feed cam for a while today. I'd read that some people find it disturbing and hypnotic and that was true for me. It's like nothing's happening but gunk coming out of a hole but for some reason it's hard to look away...with my sci-fi imagination I thought it looked like something evil, a physical manifestation of our greed and carelessness.