Diorama of the Pratt Street Riot at the Baltimore Civil War History Museum on President Street

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I had one of those frustrating days where you are on hold for 45 minutes to no avail after being tranferred multiple times, getting more teary with every subsequent operator. Hint: Verizon’s on strike, cancel, but give yourself a couple hours to do it.  Anyway, it was finally time for me to flee the house, so I tossed my National Parks Passport in my bike bag and flew down the hill to the Baltimore Civil War History Museum, because there’s nothing like a little popular history to take my mind off the Kafka-esque world of telephonery. Half of the museum is devoted to remembering the Pratt Street riots, which happened as the Union sent troops south through Baltimore at the very start of the war. The city was full of Confederate sympathizers, and they attacked the soldiers as they transferred trains, shedding the first blood of the war. I snapped this picture of their diorama of the events while standing under the sound umbrella-thingy with its gunshots and crowd noises. Then there was the display about the Underground Railroad (not really a railroad) and Henry “Box” Brown who shipped himself to freedom (get in this box and see how it might feel!–that part was creepy). It’s an odd nostalgia. Later, when I was reading about the 1968 uprisings in Baltimore at the bookstore, I wondered if we’ll ever have a museum to that, reenactments, nostalgia that at least reminds us of the ways the social, political, and economic choices made that led to the riots continue to shape our everyday. And then I rode over to the stadium to watch Ravens fans pour in for the preseason, the beat goes on, the beat goes on.

Shame On The Cordish Company on Pratt Street

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After a quick ride to the coffee shop to avail myself of coffee and the internet while finishing up a few quick revisions on an article, I rode down to the Inner Harbor to meet the new colleagues for a get-to-know-you lunch. Baltimore is a hilly place, as I may have mentioned, so the ride down is just that, and it’s speedy. I whipped around to the bike lane on Pratt, only to be stopped by a truck in my bike lane, and it wasn’t the only one. Sigh. I snapped a picture of a couple of men guarding a sign and stopped to ask them about the Cordish Company and what they are up to that is so shameful. Turns out they are developers who are developing lots of properties in the harbor area and around the city. They subcontract to nonunion labor, undercutting wages for everybody. Then the guy had to throw in a comment about “illegals,” and I thought to myself, hey, eyes on the prize. The trouble’s obviously this Cordish fellow, though theguy also said the man himself is a good guy, it’s what he does that sucks. Well, ok. I took a right on President where folks were protesting the labor practices of another company. this whole economic downturn is used far too often as an alibi to further erode labor rights. Why are the same people always being asked to tighten their belts, when they barely have any holes left on the thing? It’s immoral. Oh, and the chances you are going to stop to ask a follow up question when driving a car are about zero–another good reason to ride a bike, even if it is uphill to get home.

View of Hampden & Charles Village From the Reservoir at Druid Hill Park

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Today’s ride took me over to Hampden–the long way, because I never know where I am in a new city–to meet B., a friend of a friend, for coffee and a chat. It was lovely. He is all full of civic pride and boosterism, and he sounds like a terribly engaged teacher. We have a date on the weekend to visit a museum. Perfect. He left me with a bag of tomatoes from his local community garden and vague directions to Druid Hill Park. I followed the signs, and then the other signs, and then I was pedaling around a reservoir and staring at a foxy blue sky and Baltimore’s impressive urban tree canopy. I snapped this picture looking out over my new neighborhoods, feeling like yes, ithis place works for me. I continued my ride through the park, arguing with gears, getting lost, only to discover it’s just a loop, passing mansions and burnt out shells of old lives, because this is Baltimore. I pedaled home with that good feeling that for me only comes from a bike ride. Yep, that was exactly what I needed.

Patched Asphalt at 26th and N. Charles

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Many New Orleans streets are paved in only the most technical sense, but I knew my potholes, and I knew to keep my eyes partially on the ground at all times. So far, Baltimore streets seem to be better, but they are also seriously wrecked. Riding as far to the right as practicable puts you in serious pothole territory, and in sinkholes and grooves and weird ripples. I stopped on my ride home from drinks with V. to snap this picture of some patched asphalt with a divot and the spray-painted lines that suggest work will be done here soon, Building a Better Baltimore. We have to pay for our infrastructure, people.

Episcopal Church at Cathedral & Read

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Finally the rain stopped falling this afternoon and I got to take the Surly out for an inaugural ride in Baltimore. I headed up a few blocks to grab lunch, then over to the coffee shoppe for some work–yes,  I do have things to do besides unpack–and then to Mt. Vernon to meet V., my new colleague and future drinking buddy, for a large iced tea and some conversation. Man, the bike going downhill is a trip! I was seriously flying, and it felt fantastic, if a bit scary. I’m just not used to hills, but I won’t be saying that for long. Just being on the bike made me feel more at home, and I am seriously pumped to spend the next however many years doing laps, using gears, yelling on the inside for the Bolt bus to get out of my bike lane, it’s all I have. I was early to our date–the downhill ride took about three minutes, and I sat outside, looking up at the cloudy sky, thinking this church is awfully old and pretty, knowing that in the not-too-distant future I will take myself on a tour of the thing. So much new! I rode back on the uphill, grateful for my many gears and the part where I am not at all in a hurry.

The Surly in a Baltimore Row House Stairwell

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I haven’t ridden my bike in an entire week. A week. That’s what moving will do to you–sitting in the car for days and then all the busy that comes with moving all your stuff to your third floor walkup,  unpacking, painting, shopping, painting, giving up, starting over, etc. But the bike has a spot, in the hallway, between the stairwell and the wall, with the ladder. We will ride again tomorrow. Patience, patience, moving is an exercise in it.

The Surly in a La Quinta Hotel Room in Chattanooga, TN

Well, no bike ride for me today. I woke up early, ran this errand and that packed up the last of my things, shoved the bitter and suspicious cats in their cages, and for my last trick, strapped the Surly on the back of my tiny clown car and was finally off to Baltimore. I picked up S. from her place and we drove and drove and drove, one cat being all sweet and quiet, the other singing her songs, soothed only by early 90s rap and emo pop. We meant to stop in Birmingham, but why not keep driving? We pulled in to the pet-friendly La Quinta Inn and I locked my bike to a sign while unloading the cats. But I can’t leave my bike outside like that, not alone in a strange town. So here we all are, on our way to new rides, and with sweet new reflectors on my seat and pedals to boot.