I’ve had such a busy summer so far–teaching, writing, learning, walking touring, meeting, editing, etc.–that I haven’t had much of a chance to just ride my bike around. I’d been eyeing this Tuesday for a couple weeks though. I had a few things to do that morning, but the rest of the afternoon was mine to ride wherever, and with a weather report that had us topping out at 80 degrees, I was pretty excited.
I started my ride by heading down to Canton to cash in my birthday groupon for a cryotherapy session. They promised to freeze me for three minutes to promote healing, decrease inflammation, and help with fat drainage. Um, that’s not how bodies work, I thought to myself as I shivered away in nothing but their tube socks and wool gloves, but hey, I’m always up to do something new to my body just to see how it feels.
It felt cold, but I quickly warmed up as I headed over to the Red Robin to redeem my coupon for a free birthday burger and to replace some of the fat that had drained out of me. I had a beer, too, so then I was just sleepy. I wandered around Target drinking a cup of coffee and tried to get excited to get back on the bike. To be honest I mostly felt like riding home and getting back into bed, a surprising turn of events given the vibrancy I’d been promised by the cryotherapist. I’ve never regretted a bike ride, I reminded myself, and instead of heading west and north headed east and south to avail myself of Dundalk Avenue’s ample bike lanes.
I navigated the bullshit car traffic and lack of proper sidewalk until taking my right on Newkirk. I rode between two thick columns of trucks and felt as tiny as I must have looked. I took a left after the tracks, rode past the Amazon Fulfillment Center, wondered where all the new high frequency buses were hiding, and then took a right on Dundalk Avenue. I headed down memory lane–that time I stopped at that one McDonald’s on the first day they served breakfast all day; the time I toured the “oldest community in Dundalk” and ended up at a giant car lot; the rides around Turner Station looking for the ghost of Henrietta Lacks; and the call I made to my dad from the park on the other side of Dundalk Avenue, my last tune up ride before my bike tour. You’re ready, he said, and I believed him.
This day, though, it was more about gutting it out through the fatigue that’s been building for weeks and avoiding the cars hassling me as I made my way to Watersedge Park. It’s right on the water’s edge, and it’s beautiful. On this day it was filled with junior high school kids making out, ribbing each other, and doing tricks on their bikes. I sat on a bench, made a few phone calls, and then got back on my bike as the rain clouds gathered. I heard the kids threatening to “beat the gay” out of one of their friends. Everybody was laughing, but there was also that hard edge of threat: no one wants to be left being “the gay” in this scenario.
I thought about turning around and telling them that I was already gay, I’ll take it, but I felt that tiny bit of fear that is still there, even after all these years of being gay and out and over it. It’s not that I thought these kids would actually beat the gay out of me, but I still wasn’t quite sure what to do, how to handle this next iteration of the rite of passage that is apparently still happening, at least in Dundalk. I snapped this picture of the perfectly teal shipping container against the perfectly green grasses and perfectly blue sky, got on my bike and rode away.
The ride back was a bit of a slog in the winds that a summer storm threat had whipped up, but I made it. I dodged the car backing out and into me, the pedestrian tumbling into my path, and the dirt bike that rode up next to me and cut me off to take a right at the light. I stopped for another round of coffee in East Baltimore and then rode the last hill to home. I was tired, sore, and grateful again that I chose a bike ride. I’ve never regretted one.