Looking Out over the Potomac River from Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

Blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. A green tree is on the left side, and there are floating green plants in a river.

The weather shifted this week, and it’s still too hot for my precious self, but it is so, so much better than it has been. The timing is perfect for me and my bike. The ladyfriend is out of town touring the UK for three weeks, and she put the bike rack on the car before she left, because neither of us think I can be trusted to wrench the hitch rack on our tiny little car. I’ve got some open days between now and the semester starting, and I plan to spend as many of them as I can driving my bike to ride around new places.

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Cloudy Sky with Patches of Blue at 21st & Guilford

A chain link fence is in the foreground, and the bulk of the picture is of the sky. It is filled with gray clouds, with some blue sky peeking out.

It’s hot in Baltimore, hot and humid. We’re all complaining about it even though this is every summer. Biking in this weather feels like riding inside somebody else’s mouth, and it smells like it, too. My body feels it, heart rate all the way up even on rides I’ve done a zillion times. I was traveling for much of July and the first week of August, though, and missed my bike so much. Plus, it’s how I get around, so I spent the last two days of brutal temperatures on it anyway.

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View from the West End of Herring Run Park

Picture of a stream with lush greenery on both sides, a cloud-streaked sky in the background.

I haven’t ridden my bike in almost a month. I can’t remember the last time I went so long without a ride–probably during chemotherapy. Even then, though, I would occasionally trust my body enough to ride a mile to the new age fitness place to do sound baths and expressive dance. I haven’t been on my bike because I was in Alaska, on a two and a half week vacation. That was the longest vacation of my life, and I can see why people want to be rich and have lots of free time to travel. It was amazing.

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Burned Flag Pole at 31st and Barclay Streets

Looking up at a blue sky and porch roof. There is an empty flag pole on the house. There is a green tree at the right of the picture.

I grabbed my bike on Wednesday morning to pedal up and around to Hampden for a much-needed session with my therapist. I got a text just as I was leaving the house from our neighbor, letting me know the fire down the block had destroyed three houses, and “Word is that it was started because someone set a rainbow flag on fire. It’s terrible.” I called my wife to let her know, got out of the alley, headed down Barclay Street to see what was going on. I ran into S.–he told me the same thing. I was in shock.

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Cloudy Sky Over Greene & Lombard Streets

Picture of a cloudy sky with patches of blue showing through. Tall buildings are in the background.

Monday’s bike ride took me down the hill to my usual bike racks, another multimodal commute out to UMBC. I left my house at 7:46am, and the temperature was a cool 73 degrees. Expect the humidity was at 98%, and yeah, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Even though I was mostly coasting downhill, I was a sweaty mess, completely drenched through and through 23 minutes later as I pulled up on the corner of Shock Trauma, grateful for their aggressive sliding doors that gave me a blast of cool breeze as I walked east to catch the shuttle bus. I looked up as I waited, snapped this pic. That sky, promises of just more damp heat, held in by the clouds.

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Looking South From the Prison at Eager & Fallsway

A barbed wire fence in the foreground, a tree at the left of the picture, and the hint of an old stone building behind the tree. The sky is gray and cloudy, and behind the fence you can just see Baltimore's downtown skyline.

Tuesday’s bike ride was like most of my bike rides these days–to and from downtown to catch the shuttle out to work. I’m on campus most days in June working with a few students on a project in Special Collections, which means great teaching and learning experiences, and also a whole lot of bike commutes. On the way home, though, I took a detour around Baltimore’s many prisons and jails that I ride by on my way to and from several times a week, to take pictures for another project I’m working on.

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Church Square Shopping Center at Caroline & Eager Streets

Picture at an intersection of two streetlights, a fence around a building labeled Church Square Shopping Center, and fancy Johns Hopkins Hospital buildings are rising behind it all. The sky is blue with some wispy clouds.

Thursday’s bike rides went all different directions–first to Hampden for a therapy appointment and then up to the Rotunda for some routine blood work, back home for lunch, and then down to Fells Point for some shopping and back up the hill to Mount Vernon for a drink with N. before almost beating the rain on my ride back home. When you do your errands by bike you get to ride a bike all over pretty much all day long, and oh my, I needed that.

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Baynard Woods Reading at SoWeBo Fest at S. Carlton & W. Baltimore Street

Picture of a white man in salmon pink pants, a blue t-shirt, and a blue button up over the top of it. He's standing at the end of a long platform set up on grass that leads to a stage where string musicians are setting up. There are tents on either side, and a kid standing with a hula hoop. The sky is bright blue with just a few puffy white clouds.

It’s summertime in Baltimore, and SoWeBo Fest is back after a two year covid hiatus. I slathered myself with sunscreen and hopped on the bike to check out the scene and take the new North Avenue cycletrack for the first time. North Ave is generally a death wish on a bike, but the new paint and concrete curb got me feeling all brave. I don’t trust anybody at any intersection, and I doubled down on that for this ride, slowing, stopping, waiting, waving my arms, yelling. I know that being seen is no guarantee, but it’s what I have.

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Lake Montebello on a Misty Day

A metal fence is in the foreground, the middle of the picture is calm gray waters, and the top of the picture is a gray sky, all clouds.

Long time, no blog. I’ve been riding my bike, more than I have in a long time, actually. Up and down the hill, to work, to the gym, up to and around the park, as far east as I can go, as far west, almost every day. And things have been hard. It was a hard academic year, the shortest and longest of my career. There are so many layers of grief, so little time and space to parse through them. This world. I need a chance to catch my breath and exhale, even as there is no “break” for any of us, if we are paying attention and have empathy as part of our experience of being human. I’m fine, and I’m not, and I’m grateful for a bicycle and a circle to ride it around, over and over again, hello fellow humans, hello misty air, hello. We’re still here.

Domino Sugar Factory on Key Hwy E.

A brick factory with steam coming out of several pipes from the roofs.

Wednesday was cool and cloudy, just as I like it, and I had a dentist appointment over in Federal Hill, so it was the perfect reason to ride downtown and afterwards, around Locust Point. I had a vague idea that maybe I could see the Ever Forward stuck in the mud from Fort McHenry, but alas, I’ve got to get out to Pasadena, MD to catch a glimpse. Next week, next week!

I might not have seen the #NeverForward, but it was a lovely day to be on my bike, listening to music on my lil bluetooth speaker the mother-in-law got me for Christmas, and spinning along on my newly-tuned up quiet-as-a-mouse bicycle. I did a turn around the water at Fort McHenry, felt satisfied at all the big ships I could see, muted my speaker as I spun by a guy deep in thought who I didn’t want to disturb, and then rode out of the park, up and down Fort Avenue, headed vaguely home.

I took the long way through Locust Point and around the Under Armour headquarters to ride past the Domino Sugar refinery. They were making sugar that day, and the air had that sweet burning smell. So much sugar, every grain part of such a long and complicated history, but today it was just the background to a ride. Where I put my attention is where my attention goes, thank you for the reminder.

And then it was around the water, ringing my bell as I passed so many people out for a spring stroll. The Inner Harbor is allegedly getting a face lift soon, or a total remodel, and it needs that, for sure. That said, people are down here enjoying the space in spite of the sad shuttered shops down here. And there are still places open–Hooters, the candy place, a space selling Baltimore-made and related stuff. There is life down here, and that was a good reminder. If you just look at Twitter you can forget that the internet just tells one set of stories that gets passed around. If you can, go outside and see for yourself.

I continued my ride around and up and over to home, grateful again for the weather and the bike and the reminders this city gives me, over and over again, to keep that attention bouncing. There’s so much to see.