It’s winter, and that means if the weather report includes snow, I try to get in a bike ride before the ice makes the streets scary for me to bike on. Snow was coming Friday afternoon, and I had a break between meetings from 1:45-3:00, so I put on a whole lot of fleece-lined and wool clothing, my windproof jacket, my tiny hat, and some gloves, and I headed out for a ride around the neighborhood.
I ride on the street with cars all the time because that’s what you do when you commute and travel by bike. I can be in protected bike lanes for a small portion of my rides, but even then I’m still dealing with cars, especially at intersections. I do so much yelling. And on Friday, I didn’t feel like yelling, so I rode over to Lake Montebello to just do some mindless laps. There has been plenty of thinking lately, too.
This was my first ride to the lake since my post-COVID ride where some surly teenager tried to take my bike from me in a halfhearted but still scary attempt. Instead of the usual route I take to the lake that lets me zig and zag a little bit around the Ednor Gardens-Lakeside neighborhood, which is where we had our run in, before doing my laps, I stuck to Lakeside Avenue. As I pedaled down that street I thought about this choice. I’ve ridden those same streets at least a hundred times in the past decade, and that was my first uncomfortable interaction. And it wasn’t about the street I was on, I’m sure. Honestly, that whole thing felt like we were both just bored. I don’t need to avoid that or any street, but on Friday, fine, just this once.
I got to Lake Montebello on the lil bike lane there on Hillen that leads to the brightly painted safety crossing. I love those small changes and how much easier and safer it feels to get to the lake. At the lake, there aren’t any cars anymore, and that is a permanent change to celebrate. I squeezed through the barriers and started riding. I said my how-you-doings to the three guys working out on the equipment just north of the entrance, the teenagers taking their time strolling around, the guy all bundled up in leather everything, the two people pushing what was likely a baby under all those piles, and the woman running at almost my bicycling pace. There weren’t a lot of us out on this cold day as the flurries were starting, but I was just happy to see and greet others. Anonymous sociality is what I miss most since COVID, and I love getting a little hit of it at local parks.
I stopped my bike on my second lap to snap this picture of geese and other birds gathering on the lake. Some were standing or sitting on the ice, others swimming around, and one was doing some deep diving, lots of bird butt on display. On my third lap a bunch of them flew away all at the same time. I loved the sound of their wings flapping in unison. The birds have a whole life I know nothing about. No idea why they all decided to chill here, or where they go when the go, or how they know to go there then. Surely some bird people know this, but it was enough for me on this Friday afternoon to be reminded that they’ve got a whole life going on that I know nothing about, but all of us are happy this lake is here. Same for all the people I passed–we don’t know each other, but we all know we need this space to stretch our legs and get some peace from the relentless traffic everywhere else.
But I get bored easily, so after three laps I made my exit, retraced my steps back to Waverly, and then did a ride up and around Sherwood Gardens, a really, really different kind of park. There were no how-you-doings up there, and the flurries were turning to snow, so I raced down the hill to home, tucked into my desk/dining room table five minutes before the next meeting started. I love how much you can do and think about in an hour on a bike in Baltimore City. Total gift.