Military Vehicle Parked Along Dundalk Avenue

The thing about training for a century is that every week your long ride gets longer, and if you don’t want to haul your bike out to the airport to do circles around BWI or go to and from Annapolis, you have to figure out how to get all those miles on city streets with their hills, stoplights, drivers, and pedestrians zipping in and out of the street without warning. It’s like that Paperboy game we used to play at the Brass Lamp back in Boise. I looked at the 25 miles on my calendar for Wednesday and decided that yes, I was going to do this in the city because I don’t want to get in the car to ride my bike. Dundalk, I thought. If I zig and zag enough, that’ll get me to 25.

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Power Lines Near Orchard Ridge

Power lines against a cloudy sky with bare trees in the background.

I don’t do new year’s resolutions, but I do like to set a few intentions. They are never about how much I eat or weigh, though the internet sure thinks that’s what I care about. I did set a resolution in 2014 to floss every day, and I have only missed one day since then–on a trip to Jackpot, Nevada with my mom. I am so used to partners packing the toiletries (thanks, PK, E., and N. over the years) that it didn’t even occur to me to pack my own. I remember walking the casino floors as panic set in (there’s nowhere to buy floss in Jackpot, NV after 10pm) interrupting slot players to beg for floss. The looks I got let me know I was going to have to wait until morning, when I ran across the street to the general store and then stood outside their door flossing with relief.

So yeah, I can be a bit compulsive. It means I need to be very careful with my intentions. For 2023 I want to continue my meditation practice, because nothing comes close to meditation for training my anxious self to tolerate anxiety. I want to keep my gratitude journal–corny, I know, but I love it. And I want to ride my bike and cultivate my bike friendships, so I signed up to the century ride for Moveable Feast. The ride is in May, and I’m already training. I could probably ride 100 miles today if my life depended on it, but I want to ride that 100 miles and still want to ride again. That means I have to train. It has been a long time since I had a plan or a goal related to my bike, and I’m excited to be back to that. And I get to be on a team with R. and R., neighbors who are just so freaking cool. If you want to donate to support our fundraiser to bring nutritious meals to people with chronic illnesses experiencing food insecurity, please do so here!

This week’s long ride was 20 miles, and I was apprehensive about being able to do it, especially since it has been so windy. The only way to know if you can do it is to do it, so I headed out on Tuesday afternoon with those miles on my mind, no real plan how to get them in. I headed east toward Lake Montebello, where emergency construction has closed the loop. The loop has been closed at Druid Hill Park for so long I barely remember it, so now there’s nowhere to go to bike mindlessly in a circle. It’s such a drag.

But I did my half circle before heading down the new path to the Herring Run Trail, my favorite place in Baltimore these days. Sure, you have to cross some busy streets, but if you keep your eyeballs straight ahead, you can feel like you are in a bit of wilderness. The loop from my place to the trail and back again is ten miles, but I didn’t want to do it twice, so I decided to bike north and south of the trail near the end, to see what I could see.

And then I crossed Sinclair Lane and ended up zooming around the Orchard Ridge community. The houses are the candy colors and styles I associate with Habitat for Humanity, or the mixed income public housing developments that replaced–displaced?–neighborhoods in New Orleans and Baltimore. Orchard Ridge appears to be neither. And I was so glad to be in a neighborhood I don’t know and had to find out about.

Red-Gold Tree Near the UMMC Commercial Ambulance Bay

A street with a car and ambulance parked to the right, a walled-off sidewalk to the left. There's a big orange tree at the end of the block on the left. In the background is UMMC Commercial Ambulance parking.

This week was mostly the same ride down and up the hill to my favorite bike racks–the ones just left of the University of Maryland Medical Center Shock Trauma/ER entry doors. I have been parking here for years, and I have my preferred U–one of the two closest to the building, the right side so I can swing my bike around to face out and still have access to my bag on my rear rack. I pull up, grab my spot, lock my bike, take off anything that can be taken off, toss those things in my bag, unzip the back flap of my bag, make it into a backpack, hoist it on, and head east on Lombard to my bus stop at Greene Street.

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Waiting on the Train at St. Claude and Homer Plessy Way

A train stalled on the tracks in the dark.

Ok, so this isn’t what I saw riding my bike around today, but I’ve been in a writing funk that I’m climbing out of, so I’m going to write about some past bike rides as I get back in the habit of biking and writing about it. This picture is from a ride I took back in early November. I was in New Orleans for the American Studies Association annual conference, the first in person since my last trip in November 2019. It was so, so good to be there, to see so many old friends, to be all sweaty and hot in November. I was going for the intellectual community, the colleagues and friends, but if I’m being real, I was going there for the biking.

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Two Bikes Along the Western Maryland Rail Trail

Two bikes on grass against a backdrop of trees with leaves just turning to yellow. There are also remnants of an old stone structure in the background.

So, this is a bit of a late post, but I didn’t want to not write about the glory that is the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The ladyfriend told me to mark out an October weekend on my calendar, she was planning a little surprise getaway. She is so good at the surprise getaway. Like the time she took me to a reenactment of a Civil War era baseball game because I love baseball and Civil War history. Or the time she led me to believe we were going on a hot air balloon ride and then it turned out we were going behind the scenes at QVC. I may be the only soul on the planet who would rather go to QVC than up in a hot air balloon, but the part where she knows that is what makes her getaways so great. I am seen by her, and nothing feels better than recognition.

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Looking Down at My Wet Self After a Bike Ride in the Rain

Looking down at a a bike handlebar and my wet skirt and dirty leg from biking in the rain.

I watch the weather, but what I’m looking for changes with the season. It’s bike riding time, so now the only weather I pay attention to is rain and sometimes wind. I kept hoping the Thursday forecast would change because I had an 8am dentist appointment over in Hamilton, and I didn’t want to ride my bike in the rain during rush hour, especially on busy streets like Walther, Echodale, and Harford Road.

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Cloudy Sky with a Bit of Blue Peeking Through at Lombard & MLK

Lookin up at a cloudy sky with a bit of blue poking through. The left side is framed by trees, the right side by a large building.

My bike riding these days has been mostly commuting to and from work. And then the rain started, and I hate riding my bike in the rain. My brakes don’t work as well, my glasses get so wet I can’t see, and it is just generally unsafe. No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, my dad and many others would say, but I gotta be honest–sometimes it is bad weather for biking. And that is what we had for almost a week.

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Blue Sky and Greenery Along the Herring Run Trail Near Shannon Drive

Blue sky dotted with white clouds behind some water and a whole bunch of greenery--trees, vines, etc.

I had scheduled my COVID vaccine booster shot for Friday morning, but I had some time Thursday and decided I’d see if I could just get the vaccine then so if I felt sick afterward, it’d be on Friday and I could feel good again for the weekend. I’ll be sick during Friday’s WebEx meetings, I thought, not during a bike ride on Saturday or at the neighborhood street fair on Sunday. Priorities.

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Green Trees and Grass and Blue Skies Dotted with Puffy Clouds at Druid Hill Park

Picture of green trees and grass with a blue sky dotted with white clouds as the background.

School is back in session which means less time to bike around aimlessly, but also more time to multimodally commute. Both are great, but I already miss the first. That said, one of the glories of being an academic and off the tenure track is that sometimes I have a Thursday morning that is just me reading whatever I want to read, riding my bike to therapy, and then riding around Druid Hill Park afterwards. And yesterday was one of those Thursdays.

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Looking Down the Ashokan Rail Trail

Bike handlebars are in the foreground and the rest of the scene is a long trail with skinny green trees on either side.

The ladyfriend is on a three week tour of the UK by herself, and before she left I asked her to put the ol’ bike rack on the car hitch so I could spend my three weeks driving my bike around to different rail trails to experience the true and, for me, rare glory of riding a bike without even thinking about cars. I thought I’d mostly ride around the airport or on the trail near my brother’s house in Riverdale, MD, but then friends were unexpectedly in the Middle Hudson Valley. I checked the rail trail app, popped my bike on the car, reserved a glamping cabin, and headed north.

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