Tunnel to Nowhere at Herring Run Park

Looking down a tunnel under a bridge that dead ends into nothing.

The last time I trained for a century ride I was ten years younger and hadn’t been through cancer treatment. I had a different body back then. I do, though, have a very similar body to the one that trained and ran a half marathon during the COVID lockdown, though, so I know if I give us some space and time, we’ll get to peak adult onset endurance athletic form together. But that means I have to be patient, which people who know me well know is most assuredly not by strong suit. I am also a compulsive person, so if I have a plan, it is very hard for me to deviate from it. This week, though, I heard my father’s wisdom: listen to your body, not your training plan. My body requested a drop down week in mileage for my long ride instead of upping it by five miles, so on Wednesday I rode 20 miles instead of 35, and my body is thanking me for the rest, I think.

One of the things that makes it hard for me to get mileage in Baltimore is all the stop-and-go of riding in the street with cars. My two favorite circles to ride mindlessly around–Lake Montebello and Druid Hill Park–are no goes at the moment, thanks to long repairs to our water infrastructure. I am pro-repairs, of course, but wow do I wish there was an easy place to go and ride in circles without having to stop at every corner and hope drivers see me. The closest I can get to that is Herring Run Park, so it has become my go-to for relatively safer riding.

After meetings and grading and things on Wednesday I put air in my tires and headed east. I do this ride regularly now, so I didn’t even think as I pedaled north, east, north, east, east, north, east to the lake. I did the half turn both ways, wondered how much salary is currently being paid to the people who sit in vehicles to tell us we can’t go all the way around, and then popped over Harford Road to zip down the hill onto the trail. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, blue skies, wispy clouds, and nearly 70 degrees. I was in short pants (workout pants, not real pants–I haven’t worn real pants in 15 years) and short sleeves, and I was viscerally in spring, even though it’s February.

I pedaled along the trail and then back again, north on Harford, and then up Walther Avenue. This is one of my least favorite bike lanes in the city, because drivers use it to pass other drivers, and it is straight up hill. That means I’m a slow poke as I reach the tops of hills, and I worry drivers won’t see me and will smash into me, and I’ll be the second Drabinski to die by vehicular violence. I carry this concern with me on every ride, which is why I’m such a slow poke and and a scaredy cat out there sometimes. It is a legit fear, and yet it doesn’t keep me from riding my bike, because I just love riding so much. The risk is worth it to me, and I know very well that yes, one could be hit by a truck any time, because that’s what happened to my dad.

Grim, I know, but I still remember the tears of joy that flowed when I took my first ride after a driver killed him. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to ride again like this, and when I could, I was so relieved. I feel most free, most like myself, most in my body and also in the world, when I’m on my bike. For now, it is worth it, though I know the calculus may change at some point.

I stopped on my way out of Herring Run Park to snap this picture of the tunnel to nowhere that was built as part of the new Harford Road bridge and the Herring Run trail entry. It would be amazing to be able to ride under the bridge and back up to Lake Montebello, but alas, different agencies own different parts of the project, the grade from here to Lake Montebello doesn’t work with a plan to just ride straight through, and I will likely spend the rest of my life in Baltimore staring into this beautiful tunnel that serves, for me anyway, no purpose at all. Oh so Baltimore.

I made my way back up to street level and headed north again. I rode up Walther, but stayed to the right of the bike lane, close to the curb, where I could. I looked behind me regularly, took breathers on side streets where I could pick up extra tenths of a mile anyway, and then I headed back down the other way. That way is downhill, and I was speeding. Absolute pleasure.

I got back to Lake Montebello, did my half turns again, and then headed west, up and around Waverly, along Old York Road, a left on 39th into a bike lane filled with wet leaves, gravel, glass, and trash, and then did my usual loops around Guilford. The difference between Old York and, say, Wendover or Juniper, is something you just have to see to understand, and to understand Baltimore. The lives led on different sides of Greenmount are so different from each other.

If I’m being honest, though, I didn’t really think about that on the ride itself. At this point I was almost through the 20 miles and had started the internal negotiations–maybe go five more? Or do 30 like last week? Or maybe just gut it out to 35, since that’s what you should be biking today anyway? You are 20 in–that leaves 15, and to get to 35 you’ll have to do 20, so do you really want to get to 20 again? My brain is busy, all of trying to figure out if I can trust that I’m listening to my body, and not just hearing what I want to hear. 47 years old and still trying to trust my body and rest without deciding that only doing 20 miles makes me a lazy slug looking for a way out of a challenge.

Minds, man. Such a trip.

I finished my circles around Guilford and headed south, enjoying the hard-earned downhill. I had to add a zig and a zag around Charles Village to hit my 20 miles, which happened just as I made the turn into my alley. So yeah, I only did 20, when a few weeks ago I would have been here excitedly shouting I DID 20 MILES! I’m glad I have this writing space for some perspective and a reminder that focusing too much on miles will keep me from seeing the neighborhoods through which those miles run, and I don’t want to miss that part. We’ll give another go on next week’s long ride.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.