Construction on the Clifton Mansion in Clifton Park on St. Lo Drive

Construction on the Clifton Mansion in Clifton Park on St. Lo DriveWednesday’s windy bike ride took me up the hill and over to Clifton Park to check out progress on the Clifton Mansion, currently receiving a $7 million face lift. It was originally built as a farmhouse by a merchant who also captained an artillery during the War of 1812 and then converted into an Italianate mansion by Johns Hopkins, who used it as his summer home–if he’d ridden a bicycle, he totally could have moved his summer home farther out, just saying. Continue reading

The Sun Setting Over Federal Hill From the Harbor Connector Between Locust Point & Fells Point

The Sun Setting Over Federal Hill From the Harbor Connector Between Locust Point & Fells PointOh, it is good to be back home in Baltimore, especially after a 14 hour drive from St. Louis–that’s a lot of sitting, which leaves me even more sore than pumping my not-quite-enough-gears Brompty up and down the hills of suburbia. After a lazy morning of recovery and answering work emails I’d left for after the holiday I hopped on the Surly to enjoy this balmy 50 degree day. Continue reading

Small Bench at the End of Kirkey Court in South St. Louis


35 degrees is a whole lot warmer than 25 degrees, so I took advantage of the Christmas Day heatwave for a bike ride around South St. Louis County while the family all took the afternoon naps you have to take when there’s a Christmas morning with an almost-6 year old and an almost-4 year old in the house. I took a left and then every right I could until the No Outlets pushed me left and across the main drag to explore the other side’s subdivisions. It was quiet with few cars and just the occasional kid throwing a holiday football or a grown up taking out the trash (Americans generate something like 68% more trash in Christmas week than a regular week). I said my how-you-doin’s, but this isn’t the same kind of south, so I mostly got the cold shoulder, except for the one lady working ahead of the game and taking down her garland: “Did you get that bike for Christmas?” Good guess, lady, but nope, just out for my Christmas bike ride! Pedal, pedal, pedal, every street looked the same, every cul de sac the same three or five house curve. I snapped this picture in the Kirkey one and wondered if anyone ever sits on this tiny bench, and what would they think if they came out of their house and some stranger was sitting there. I wonder if this is just for show. I popped out at one of this regions many finer strip malls, sat in front of the closed Starbucks in a chair that wasn’t even locked down (we’re not in Baltimore anymore!), and made a phone call while waving away the many folks who hoped to get a cup of coffee out of the house only to be thwarted by holiday closings. Wanting to escape family seems to be a universal response to seeing family, no matter how much we love them. And then I rode home, snaking around one development after another, learning the hard uphill-ride lesson that the developments won’t let you cross over–if you don’t live in Assumption Hills or whatever, you are just going to have the hard pedal up the long hill to get out and take a left again. It took awhile, but I found the house that was full of my set of sleeping grown ups and faking-it kiddos and settled in for more screen-staring, together. Best Christmas ever!

The Budweiser Clyesdales Along Grant’s Trail in St. Louis County


I’m spending my holiday in St. Louis with N. and her family, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sneak in a bike ride with Brompty, who got her own spot in the trunk for the long drive here from Baltimore. Monday started at Family House #2 and on our way to Family House #3, N. pointed out Grant’s Trail, a rail-trail that went from right there to I-didn’t-know-where, and after bundling up and unfolding the bike, I traced the drive backward and then happily pedaled my way along the trail, stopping to learn about one of the first African American public cemeteries in St. Louis (Father Dickson’s), admire a gen-u-ine St. Louis cardinal, and to ogle these clyesdales, who all looked up at my click-click and came over to say hi. And then there was a National Park–Grant’s Farm–and I folded up the bike, stashed her behind the ranger’s desk, and got a private tour about the private life of Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia Dent, and the Dent family farm where Grant hoped to retire before he got suckered into that whole presidency thing. Oh, and he was totally against slavery on moral terms, except that most he thought it was economically inefficient–why not just hire temporary seasonal labor and cut them loose the rest of the year? The interpretive film, though, argued that Grant *had* to use enslaved laborers, even though he kind of thought slavery was wrong. In the house tour, we saw a video reenactment of a dinner where Julia tried to change the subject from the dinnertime arguments between Grant and Daddy Dent as an enslaved woman served the meal. Yep, it’s hard to tell a heroic narrative in the midst of such ugly history, but we’re going to keep trying, it seems. And then I headed back before it got too dark, and oh, it was cold, and then there was a light snow and I got lost and it got dark and I didn’t have lights on my bike and I had to call N. for the rescue. Good thing the bike slides right into the trunk, and good thing I brought her–I really needed the ride.

Bare Trees on the Jones Falls Trail in Druid Hill Park

Bare Trees on the Gwynns Falls Trail in Druid Hill ParkSometimes I’m in the mood for an exploratory ride, one where I get lost, or found in one of those neighborhoods I don’t go to unless I’m getting lost on a bicycle–the rides where I end up in Middle East, usually. I never seem to make it west…something to think about in the new year. But some days I  just want to ride without negotiating cars or newness, the simple pleasures of well-trod paths that are off limits to cars. Today was that latter day, so I took the bike up and around to Druid Hill Park for a lap or two and to check out the Jones Falls Trail behind the zoo.
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Birds in a Bush at Barclay & E. 32nd

Birds in a Bush at Barclay & E. 32ndWe were promised snow and sleet on Saturday, so that meant an earlier-than-planned bike ride under chilly gray skies (yes, the sky was chilly, not just the air). My first stop was the Waverly Farmer’s Market for coffee and that special spice mix N. likes to put on everything, the one sold in tiny packets by the lady who also sells all the mushrooms. Continue reading

Mansion Behind Gates at Greenway & Charlcote Place

Mansion Behind Gates at Greenway & Charlcote PlaceThere’s nothing like a few days of sub-freezing temperatures to remind a girl how warm 40 degrees really is, and I was happy for the warmth on my free Friday afternoon. I took the Surly up the hill for a sandwich and with no other plans for the evening, I just kept going straight up the hill with the vague goal of going north and west enough to avoid getting caught in the Loyola parking lot. I know, I know, I could check a map and follow some directions, but where’s the fun in that? Continue reading

Yellow Flowers on Guilford in Charles Village

Yellow Flowers on Guilford in Charles VillageSaturday was crispy cold and Sunday promised snow, so I dragged myself out of a cozy bed for a walk over to Waverly to check out the farmer’s market. I thought about taking the bike, but sometimes you’re in the mood for a slow amble, time to stop and smell the flowers, like these yellow ones resisting winter to their very last petal. The market was almost empty by the time I got there, so I did a quick tour and then hit the local book/music store to shop for records, a new favorite pastime now that N. moved her record player into my place (along with herself). I picked up an array of holiday records for the house–if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and I was never going to beat the mad love of Holiday out of this girl–and then slowly ambled back home. And then it was time for a bike ride. I suited up with all my winter gear and headed over to Hampden and through the main drag to the bottom of that hill on the other side and just to the left for the first holiday craft party of the season, at the Baltimore Free Farm and Bearings Bike Project over on Ash Street. The place was warm and filled with papercuts and homemade cards and jewelry and holiday ornaments made out of twisted bike spokes and I helped myself to a glass of mulled wine mixed with apple cider, caught up with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, felt awfully lucky that even though it’s no Mardi Gras, there’s still the feel of festival in the air, and then got back on the bike for a quick ride home. Sunday is all snow and sleet, but Saturday–Saturday was the perfect day to be outside and catch one last glimpse of the neighborhood flowers. Now let’s hope this snow melts by Tuesday so we can get another ride in.

Bare Trees Against a Blue Sky at the Druid Hill Park Reservoir

Bare Trees Against a Blue Sky at the Druid Hill Park ReservoirIt was a warm and humid Thursday, and I spent the latter part of it in too many clothes, on my bike, riding around Druid Hill Park to check out how the trees are doing. Turns out they’re doing fine, mostly free of leaves and stretching bare branches against the blue sky. The warm day brought a lot of folks out to do their laps, including several road cyclists who easily passed my as a leisurely pedaled in circles, a song on repeat that always reminds me of riding through New Orleans all by myself amidst the varied crowds of a  Mardi Gras Day. Oh, nostalgia, sometimes you are such a treat. Continue reading

Black-Plastic-Covered Pile of White Stuff From the Bridge Over to Fort McHenry on Fort Avenue

Black-Plastic-Covered Pile of White Stuff From the Bridge Over to Fort McHenry on Fort AvenueToday’s ride took me whizzing down the hill, around the circle, and over to Fort McHenry, a brief stop for a sandwich and some froyo, courtesy of a gift card from A. It was surprisingly warm and sunny today, which meant only two layers, no gloves or hat, and an unzipped jacket–it’s practically summer again! But it’s not, so the streets were almost empty, and I only had to dodge the trucks putting up Christmas lights rather than gaggles of clueless pedestrians as I did my ride around the harbor. Continue reading