Did you make it to the Chicago Bike Swap today? Of course, I didn't have to tell you that the best time to go would have been right when it opened. Sleeping until noon would not have been a wise move. I can personally assure you of that. And keep in mind that when you arrive at noon for a weekend event, parking is...
But sometimes, not finding parking is not just not finding parking. Sometimes, if you take a deep breath, and drive on, it can lead to adventure and serendipity. This can easily happen in Chicago. Every so often, in this series, Chicago Insider, I'm going to share those moments of discovery with you.
Not losing sight of the goal - to buy a bike: Finding no parking within a 1/2 mile radius of the Chicago Bike Swap today, we continued driving along Western Avenue with the hope of finding (honestly) just a quick cup of coffee before heading home. And minutes before turning away from this failed quest, we spotted a big old warehouse building, a sign reading 'Working Bikes', 2434 S Western Ave ((at 25th St). 'Giving Old Bikes New Homes' is the simple motto on the brochure but this doesn't begin to tell the story.
"Working Bikes gives new life to old bikes and independence to those who ride them, in the underserved communities of Chicago, Africa and Central & South America ... " Walk into a warehouse full of bikes; used bikes, well used bikes, somewhat new bikes, old Sears models (my companion was looking for a retro bike), commuter bikes (mine), all makes and models and the bikes just kept coming in.
James came up to talk to us about how bikes were always being donated and that this was actually the slow period. There are seven actual bike mechanics, employees who work on the bikes. Every bike that comes in the door receives a thorough checkup and a ticket listing what repairs were made so that the buyer knows everything about every bike on the floor. Prices vary, but the bikes are fairly priced; average price $80 - $100 and up. As the mechanics are working, there are volunteers hanging around to show you what to look for in a bike, how to choose the perfect bike for you, or just to talk bikes. There's a 30 day guarantee on every bike sold which means if you change your mind, you can come in and exchange the bike you bought for one that's a better fit for you. There's even a dead end street behind the warehouse, where you are welcome to test drive your bike before purchase.
I must admit that I am not a bike person but my companion is. We were both impressed. And maybe the best part of this is that I didn't just learn a lot about bikes, buy a bike for a good price and enjoy a Saturday afternoon. Begun by a group of volunteers in 1999, the Working Bikes Cooperative is a not-for-profit organization dedicated not only to recycling bikes and supporting bike culture, but to helping local and international projects. "Since its inception Working Bikes has recovered tens of thousands of discarded and donated bicycles from Chicago and the Midwest. More than 38,000 bicycles have been distributed worldwide." Read more here.
Our bikes firmly tied onto the back of the car, once again, the goal was to head home and continue with Saturday 'do lists' but going home hungry? Heading south on Western Avenue, Donald's Famous Hot Dogs, 2325 S Western Ave (Btwn W 23rd & W 24th St) caught our attention. Just another hot dog place? Don't think that for a minute. A sign on the door states the mission here.
1. The owner is the fussiest eater alive.
2. Our beef is cooked here daily with our own recipe. (We know it's the best in Chicago).
3. Our burgers are 100% pure beef chuck meat. (nothing else)
4. Our hot dogs and polish dogs are pure 100% Vienna beef.
5. Our soups are made daily from scratch using only the freshest ingredients.
6. Our fries are Idaho potatoes, cooked in 100% pure vegetable oil.
7. We prepare & cook everything to order.
8. We prepare all of our sauces from scratch. (Gyro sauce is made from 100% pure sour cream)
Nuff said. We had the Italian beef and sausage combo with extra hot and extra (homemade) sweet peppers. It was the best this Chicagoan has ever eaten.