Friday’s ride started late, following a long morning of grading and grading and more grading. It’s simultaneously the best and worst part of the job. It’s a chance to settle in with individual students and see what they’re really thinking about, and a reminder that I’ve just got too many students to do that in the way I’d like. But I muscled through a big stack over fancy coffee and pizza, and I was ready to stretch my legs after. I headed down the hill and around the Inner Harbor, a quick stop at the tourist visitor’s center for some cash (I knew I was going to end up at the casino on payday), and checked out the empty spot where the Constellation used to be. A giant ship is suddenly absent, just its high heels left poking out of the harbor. Turns out the mall on the other side of that ship is an eyesore. And then I was on my way around and under and over and to the left, back onto the Gwynns Falls Trail. The trees are all golden and the parking lot of the Horseshoe Casino, the web of freeway on the other side, and the rising trash incinerator all reminded me that the squeeze of nature here is just a sliver amidst the stuff of city life. I made it out to Middle Branch Park and tried to focus my camera to get the blue sky and water, not the cell tower and yacht parking lot, but what are you going to do? It’s a park in a city, a last gasp park that thankfully puts some green between us and the traffic. It was a good day to be out on a bicycle, and then I rode back the other way, parked my bike, went inside the latest monstrosity, and tossed some money down the hole. By the time I was heading back home it was dark, the streets were emptied of daytime traffic, and I felt like the only bike on the road. Sometimes that’s just the way I like it.