Wheel Life: Like bikes? Join NOLA Social Ride.
Founded in 2010, NOLA Social Ride has a simple goal: offer more opportunities for local bicyclists to enjoy the ride. “NOLA Social Ride has a ride for everyone, and the number of rides changes every month,” explains Rachael Johnson, an “involved enthusiast” and volunteer organizer. “Some rides are more fitness-based, but all are definitely social. We have set rides four days out of the week.”
It’s New Orleans, so naturally, costumes and libations abound — and people of all cycling skill levels can join in the fun. “Whenever you come out, you feel welcomed,” Johnson says. “We have people from all walks of life riding. You can start on the slower rides and work your way up, or, if you don’t feel comfortable, we have the resources to help you.”
NOLA Social Ride is run collectively, with fresh ideas constantly cycling through the organization. “There are not really any defined roles for the people that help with NOLA Social Ride,” Johnson says. “We work as a group. Everyone within the ride helps in their own way.” The group supports local bike culture by fundraising and promoting awareness of cycling safety. “I’d have to say our most successful event has been the fundraiser we did for a bicycle corral on Frenchman through [Young Leadership Council’s] Where Ya’ Rack program,” Johnson says. “We’re in the process of another raffle and fundraiser right now that I hope will end with just as much success and fun. The goal is to install New Orleans’ first ever public bicycle repair station.”
Along with weekly set rides, NOLA Social Ride plans special events around New Orleans and is even arranging rides in neighboring cities. “NOLA Social Ride isn’t just an organization — we’re a family,” Johnson says. “Cyclists have to look out for each other. The more butts on bikes, the better.” nolasocialride.org
Hot Dog! Dreamy Weenies sticks to its buns.
Ahmad Shakir, co-owner of gourmet hot dog destination Dreamy Weenies, believes that no matter your dietary restrictions, you shouldn’t have to worry about what goes into your food. “What makes us uniquely different starts with our pots,” Shakir says. “One of the things that we’re pretty proud of is that we don’t do cross-contamination.”
Shakir and business partner Nasr Nance opened Dreamy Weenies in July 2012, appealing to kosher, halal and vegan eaters who just want a great hot dog. The partners quickly expanded their offerings to include a range of delectable vegan sides, including bean chili, grits, and red beans and rice. Toppings range from standard condiments to curry sauce, barbeque shrimp sauce and vegan Dream’oulade remoulade. Shakir says even more specialty hot dogs are forthcoming, but he doesn’t want to overwhelm customers. “Some people are excited by all the toppings we have; some people are a little consumed by them,” he laughs. “We have a couple new items — New Orleans specialty dogs that we’re just holding on to.”
Dreamy Weenies’ mission was motivated in part by Shakir’s own dietary restrictions. “I don’t eat pork, and I go places, and I’m looking behind the counter and seeing what’s going together,” he says. “Next thing I know, I’m trying to figure out why my stomach is balling up.” The Dreamy Weenies kitchen looks a little strange to new cooks, who quickly learn how to be discrete with their ingredients. “There are three separate grills and three separate fryers,” Shakir explains. “The placement is extremely strategic.”
The hot dog hotspot has garnered enthusiastic feedback from local devotees. “We didn’t expect for the vegan feedback in New Orleans to be so strong,” Shakir says. He notes that since Hurricane Katrina, the city has experienced an influx of residents with a “diversified diet.” Along with catering to those eaters through its ever-changing menu, Dreamy Weenies is also “the only hot dog place in the country that delivers,” he says. dreamyweenies.com
Maria’s Pick: Audubon Park Meditation Area: Our publisher seeks peace and quiet at an idyllic spot.
Anyone who’s walked the meandering loop of Audubon Park has witnessed landscape architect John Charles Olmsted’s masterful park design, which highlights the landscape’s natural beauty in subtle ways. Olmsted’s plan for the park came to fruition in 1915 — the same year that Stanley W. Ray Jr. was born.
Ray is the namesake of Audubon’s simple, peaceful Meditation Area, which includes a green-and-white gazebo in the same open, elegant style as those indicated by Olmsted’s original plans. In 2008, The Stanley W. Ray Jr. Philanthropic and Civic Trust paid to rebuild the run-down gazebo overlooking the lagoon, honoring the memory of this lifelong New Orleanian who loved children, and whose endowment has supported local kids through the creation of playgrounds and the provision of scholarships.
Here, park visitors can take a seat to gaze out over the duck-filled lagoon, meditate or simply sit. During her visits to this serene spot, New Orleans Living publisher Maria Muro focuses on her breathing. “Being close to nature and breathing in the air expands my mind and increases my energy,” she says. “This is one of my favorite places to relax and recharge.” auduboninstitute.org