The View from Peter’s Hill at Arnold Arboretum in Boston

Green grasses in the foreground, green leafy trees in the midground, and a blue sky with puffy clouds in the background. Downtown Boston skyscrapers are just peeping up from the trees.

Oh, it feels so, so good to be back on my bike! I’ve taken lots of rides in the past week or two, acclimating to the heat and reacquainting myself with riding on the street with cars. I spent most of Quarantine Times running, especially since my commute vanished and with it my guaranteed daily bike ride. Now it’s hot and humid, running feels awful and sometimes dangerous, and I have remembered that I am happy as a clam to ride around in this weather instead, even though it feels like riding inside somebody’s mouth, especially on trash pickup day.

Last week I took the Surly on a little adventure. We hadn’t spent much time together just out exploring a new place, so I booked us tickets on Amtrak, a tiny little room in Boston, and three days of no plans, just riding. And it was such a fantastic vacation. I feel most like myself when I’m biking around and learning new things, and Boston’s infrastructure made that super easy to do. I visited a couple of museums, but other than that I was just finding a bike lane and riding it to the end, only two reminders that drivers don’t seem to see us, no matter how many lanes and stripes we get. Thankfully I’m a slow and safety-minded rider, so while I was shook up by that driver who right-turned into me, I wasn’t in real danger. But please, drivers, slow down and look for bikes and pedestrians! We are out here!

My first full day in Boston was spent first at the Museum of African American History in Boston. It wasn’t the greatest docent-led tour I’ve been on, but I must say, when I sat on one of the original benches inside the African Meeting House, tears sprung. How many amazing people have sat in this very seat, I thought. How much work toward abolition must have happened in that room–the debates, the joy, the sorrow, the plans, so many plans, and now I get to sit there? I don’t normally get blown away by objects–the end of the aura in the age of mechanical reproduction and everything–but when I do, I do. And I did.

And then I was back on my bike, riding toward Harvard because I figured they’d have good bike lanes, and they did. I tooled around, stopped for coffee, logged into a work event from my phone, and then had some amazing dumplings before heading to Boston University to meet a very old friend who promised to bike me to some good ice cream.

I hadn’t seen S. in years and years, and oh, it was so good to see him again. He and his gf fed me an amazing dinner the night before at their place, and this afternoon we spent a couple hours riding bikes together, just like we had a zillion years ago when we were both anxious postdoc teaching fellows at Tulane University. We biked along park paths and then did a little walking to safely make it into the Arboretum for a lovely pedal in trees and flowers. We’re going to take one of the biggest hills in the city, he said, and I got nervous. Can I still ride this bike up hills? I know I can ride it up Baltimore hills, but are Boston’s different? Slow and steady, I reminded myself. Just lower your shoulders, drop it into an easy gear, and keep pedaling.

Which I did, and at the top of the hill–which was not really a hill to write home about, though I’m writing about it here–we sat on a rock looking over the city, all green trees and blue skies. Are we happy with where we are now, all these years later? Are we the same people we were back then? Yes and no to both.

And then we headed back down the hill and over to the ice cream shop where two other friends joined us, and then the new friends and I shared nachos and cocktails before I raced home to beat the downpour that suddenly appeared on the radar. It was a perfect day, nearly all absolute pleasure. I am so lucky that I have the time, resources, and body to spend a Wednesday like this.

I spent the next day biking around, first to a museum (that included a water taxi ride to east Boston!) and then out to the Minuteman Trail, a Hall of Fame Rail Trail. I just rode and rode and rode, and it was so much fun. I ended the afternoon with more ice cream with a friend from Twitter, who was just like her Twitter self in real life. And then the radar showed more rain, so I got back on my bike and rushed to the hotel and mostly beat it, because I am a lucky duck.

Friday found me riding to the train station in the rain, but before the true deluge. I milled around the train station, hearing the stories from several other bike tour types who saw my bike and knew I’d be willing to listen. I boarded early, hung my bike up, and settled in for the ride back to Baltimore, a quick ride up from Penn Station to home. What a fun summer vacation.

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