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Summer in Chicago

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Lakefront trail

Lakefront trail

Summer is always my most favorite season in Chicago. Besides all the outdoor concerts, sports venues, and other events, what I like to do most is biking along the lakefront trail or swimming in the Lake.

Biking always starts earlier. This year, I was out on the trail since late April when the air was still chilly and patches of snow were still blocking some segments of the trail. In less than a month, I watched the trees turn color, the leaves emerge, and all of a sudden, the budding flowers cover the entire trees with brilliant yellow, red, white, or pink. The long trail was filled with a sweet, intoxicating fragrance. Depending on the weather, I either rode my Trek hybrid, which has thicker tires, or my Cannondale road bike, light and fast.

Flowers in early spring

Flowers in early spring

I started noticing swimmers with wetsuits in the Lake in early June, at a stretch between Grand and Chicago Avenue. Despite the extra protection, I bet their exposed limbs and face would feel the bite of the icy water, like being stung by jellyfish. I admired and envied them, but stayed away. Then one day in mid June, I saw two men swimming in their regular swim trunks. “Yeah!” I hailed as I sped by on my bike.

I didn’t plunge in until late June. To my pleasant surprise, the water was not as cold as I expected, and I was able to swim for 45 minutes. I felt like kicking myself for not getting into the water earlier. But the warm water didn’t stay for long. The next day when I went back, I felt the change of temperature the moment I stepped in. It must be below 60 degrees. I managed to swim for 30 minutes and rushed back to take a long, hot shower. But I went to swim in the lake every day, enjoying the amazing energy the live water was able to give me. It is definitely worth the challenge of the cold.

For those of you who haven’t tried swimming in the lake, I strongly recommend taking a plunge. It’s magically refreshing and energizing. I hope you’ll love the experience as much as I. So blessed to have the vast lake nearby.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The film was on national PBS in May, 2014.

 

First Bike Ride of the Year

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Chicago_Lakefront View

Spring finally arrives in Chicago, with a sudden leap in temperature from the 50s of yesterday to the mid 80 degrees today. I’ve been waiting for the weather to turn warm and ride my bike again along the lake front trail for months. Finally my chance came this morning, the first ride of the year!

At the 6:30 a.m., the sun was rising from behind a thin layer of clouds. The rain from yesterday left the trail wet, but without puddles of water. It was perfect for a bike ride. Since last October when I  scratched a thick layer of skin and flesh off my left knee from a bad bike fall (not to mention ripping off a patch of fabric, the size of my palm, from my favorite pair of jeans), I haven’t ridden my bike. Today, with the large scar still appearing raw, I was cautious and comprehensive of the trail.

Chicago Lakefront Trail

My slower speed gave me more leisure to enjoy the scene. Lake Michigan was calm this morning, with ripples of water gently rolling toward the shore. The lawn was turning green along the Lake, and the fruit trees, with dried small berries from last year still hanging on the branches, are budding with tender greens. The large elm or poplar trees still looked  dormant, their bare branches revealing the bird nests, some large and some small, in mid air. Only the daffodils stretched out their broad leaves upward, with a bright yellow bloom in the center of each plant, proudly announcing the coming of spring.

There were a few runners and cyclists along the trail. In the distance closer to the Lake, I saw a couple of people walking their dogs. I passed the two mulberry trees at the park at 53rd street, my mulberry trees, and waved to them for their survival of another cold winter. Just them, two professionally dressed cyclists passed me, shouting “On your left.” I didn’t race to keep pace with them, at least for a minute or two, like I used to. I watched them speeding ahead. Their shorts and tops hugged their bodies tightly, revealing their slim torsos. The perspiration on their legs glistened under the rising sun. They looked so fit and healthy. I saluted to them silently before they sprang out of my sight.

I made my stop at the 63rd street park, drank my water, and stretched before turning back. The 15-mile ride took me slightly over an hour, and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

If you live in Chicago, take a run, a bike ride, or a walk along the Lake. You will realize how lucky we are living and enjoying this beautiful and peaceful surroundings!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com or www.moraquest.com for more information.

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