Cal-Sag Cycles - Blue Island

We make a video.

When the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail posted the map of the Cal-Sag Trail we knew one thing: we had to ride it. More importantly, we had to be the FIRST to ride it!

So a little over a week later we were on the road to Lemont with Steve from Trails for Illinois to test this thing out. Verdict: this trail is AMAZING! Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges right now - it isn’t officially “built” yet (you can change that with a DONATION to the Cal-Sag Trail, ya know)… but the mix of experiences, from rural fire road, forgotten bridges, on-road daring, little seen views of the Cal-Sag Channel, urban exploration, historic architecture and roadside Americana is not to be beat. Heck, we don’t know anything that can even rival this. Cal-Sag Trail, we love you!

So the next time someone asks you: “When will the Cal-Sag Trail be built?” Simply answer, “it’s there for you to find.”

Photos from Momma Henry’s Trek welcome party in BI. MHT is riding across the US raising funds for LLS. You can donate here.

The SouthtownStar captured the event in their story, Cross country cyclists brake for hometown of Blue Island.

Momma Henry’s Trek Celebration

Traveling cross country by bike, 4 Eisenhower grads are raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Momma Henry passed away in November 2011, and in honor of her fight and to help other families supported by the LLS, they have already raised $10,000 with their trek. Let’s help them raise more.

On Friday, July 27, Blue Islanders are hosting a welcome party for the trekkers: David, Jonathan, Guadalupe, and Carlos. To say we’re proud of them is an understatement. This crew is inspiring. And we’re ready to party.

So give them the welcome they deserve Uptown at Central Park, NE corner of York and Western in Blue Island. Party from 6p - 9p. We’ll hear road stories, there’s a band, food and other fun planned. See you there!

History ‘n Hollywood Bike Ride

Flags of Our Fathers on Highland Ave in Blue IslandThis Friday, June 15 we’ll be hosting another bike ride in Blue Island: History n Hollywood!  We’ll be stopping at sites featured in movies and television while exploring local history… and ending with a special sneak-peak screening at THE LYRIC THEATER!  The screening will be open just for bike riders, so you won’t want to miss it!

Active Transportation Alliance will be meeting commuters at the Vermont Street Station on Friday evening.  We’ll gather at Uptown Park (NE corner of York and Western Ave) between 5:30 and 6:30pm.  The patio will be open at Tenochtitlan and we encourage everyone to grab a bite to eat!  We’ll begin and end here, so we can hang out with Eli after the ride as well.

The ride pushes off from the Park at 6:30pm.  Our route will take us past sites seen in Early Edition, Flags of Our Fathers, The Express, and The Rite (see it on google maps).  We cruise at an easy pace, stopping at each site.  The route is a little over a mile-and-a-half, so even part-time riders will be comfortable and are encouraged to come!  Heck, bring the whole family!  We will be riding as a group on Western Avenue in Uptown, so please be safe and considerate to your fellow cyclists and others that we share the road with.  Brush up on safety tips from Active Trans. 

If you missed out last year, pics are here on flickr.  Looks like fun, right?!  Don’t miss out on this unique ride and special tour of The Lyric Theater.  As an added bonus, the first 50 riders get a Bike Commuter Challenge goodie bag courtesy of Active Trans.

Grid Gives Island Delights a Try

We were pleased as can be to host John Greenfield in BI. A rock solid guy and well-known bike champion, John came down to the Island at Jane Healy’s invitation and we got to tour around with him and show off a few things that make us Love Blue Island.

Read his report here - thanks much John for spending an evening in BI. Anyone else want the tour?!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24858199@N00/7337294650/

Looks like JJ is grabbing his brake! You have not conquered Dead Man’s Gulch quite yet!!

Cal Sag Cycles visits Major Taylor mural (by bikinmom)

Cal Sag Cycles visits Major Taylor mural (by bikinmom)

Curve of the fender on Flickr.Requiyah, the granddaughter of Cal-Sag Cycles instructor Steve Millsaps, couldn’t stand the unadorned matte-black bike helmet—standard Cal-Sag Cycles issue—sitting on top of her cool granddad’s noggin. Not when granddad drives a screaming yellow ‘87 Vette. So she borrowed it—the helmet—for a weekend and pimped it out. 
There you go, granddad—now you can go out and play!

Curve of the fender on Flickr.

Requiyah, the granddaughter of Cal-Sag Cycles instructor Steve Millsaps, couldn’t stand the unadorned matte-black bike helmet—standard Cal-Sag Cycles issue—sitting on top of her cool granddad’s noggin. Not when granddad drives a screaming yellow ‘87 Vette. So she borrowed it—the helmet—for a weekend and pimped it out.

There you go, granddad—now you can go out and play!

Cal-Sag Cycles kids taking it to the streets! on Flickr.Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail board member Rich Ferrin took this picture today: “Sitting in my car at 135th St. & Cicero Ave. And what do I see but Jane Healy and group of mostly young cyclists riding new Fuji bicycles. I stopped my car in the middle of the intersection and took a picture. People were honking at me as they should, dumb move. Great job to those kids and all the people that made Cal/ Sag Cycles a hit!!!”

Cal-Sag Cycles kids taking it to the streets! on Flickr.

Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail board member Rich Ferrin took this picture today: “Sitting in my car at 135th St. & Cicero Ave. And what do I see but Jane Healy and group of mostly young cyclists riding new Fuji bicycles. I stopped my car in the middle of the intersection and took a picture. People were honking at me as they should, dumb move. Great job to those kids and all the people that made Cal/ Sag Cycles a hit!!!”

Build a Better Bike Shop

Cal-Sag Cycles started with the opportunity to give kids a bike, teach them how to wrench, and get them riding. But what we set out to prove didn’t stop there.

It’s no secret we’re inspired by Build a Better Block and wanted to bring some vitality back to Uptown - Blue Island’s historic central business district. Uptown is rich with old buildings… some historic, some just, well, old. Which is great for what we wanted to accomplish. As Jane Jacobs famously put it: “New ideas must use old buildings.”

We knew right where to start. This forlorn stretch of Western Avenue:

The building on the left was once an auto dealership, and probably quite handsome in its day. It still boasts huge windows, larger than the aluminum-framed systems used today. Unfortunately, its transom lights were covered when the drop ceiling went in. Around the same time the space was carved into multiple units. The shingled mansard roof was the 1970s backdrop for a splashy sign for a beauty school, which has since moved on, leaving behind this beauty school drop out.

But all was not lost. A scooter shop recently reoccupied the corner unit. The owners are a local family who played a strong role in Uptown’s mid-century boom. And while the market may have left for more suburban pastures, they continued to own these great old buildings, ripe for new ideas, and were eager to help.

It began with a pop-up. Local artists approached the building owners, and last winter two pop-up art galleries were born. One for student artists from the local grade-school district, the other dubbed 12840 Gallery. The owners have told us that the pop-up has been great for attracting potential tenants, and they have already leased one of the vacant spaces. A win for the arts!

When the chance to do Cal-Sag Cycles came our way, we approached the building owner and 12840 Gallery with an idea: can we share this space? An art gallery / bike shop mash-up was born, and we started to imagine our Pop-Up Local Bike Shop (PULBS).

Our goal was to do more than bring people to our shop - we wanted to breathe life back into Western Avenue. And with it, remind the community of what was lost was not forgotten… heck, it wasn’t even lost! It’s right there, in our old buildings, just waiting for us.

We had something on our side: an idea you couldn’t say no to. What Scrooge would turn down a program that gave bikes to at-risk youths, opened its doors to the community for free bike repair, provided access to the arts, AND built a better bike shop, right there in the heart of Uptown. We couldn’t lose! So the bike shop got underway. This is where we started:

And this is where we finished on Day 1:

We were now ready for the kids. They moved in two days later and started setting up bike stands and getting to work

all we had to now was get ready for our Grand, One-Day Only Opening on June 11.

What do the best blocks share? An inviting landscape, a reason to linger, and a place to rest and take it all in. We called a friend that works at a local landscape firm and asked if we could borrow plants for the day. Wow, did they ever say yes! We loaded up with trees, shrubs, roses, perennials, flats of annuals, and even a veggie garden!

And headed, carefully, slowly, down Western Ave:

The results were incredible! Benches, tables and chairs were brought in, bike racks replaced cars on the street

as Western Ave sprouted trees!

We even nabbed a grill to create our own pop-up food cart. What block can’t be better with food!

That lonely, unfriendly stretch at the top of this post had been transformed:

The energy inside matched what we had going outside. Our better block pulled in plenty of folks driving by, eager to see what was going on.

The results don’t lie: Cal-Sag Cycles serviced 90 BIKES! We were open 4 hours, and helped 90 bikes get back on the road. Hundreds of people stopped by, with or without bicycles, to support the kids and check out the art gallery, which was open to the public for the first time. And given a chance, they stuck around, chatted with friends and neighbors, enjoyed a hot dog, sat on a bench or at a cafe table, and just enjoyed the day, right there on Western Avenue. 

From start to finish, this took less than a month to pull off. It wasn’t hard, but it was hard work. For the enthusiasm and good will it brought to Uptown, it was worth every minute, every penny, and every drop of sweat. We hope we’ve inspired a town to think small, think local, think old, and start building better blocks everywhere.

(thanks to J. Aguilar for a bunch of pics, including the one above. Please follow him on tumblr - check out his photo set from our Grand Opening here.)