Today’s ride was a quick one, just down the hill for a treadmill workout at the gym, up the hill to meet colleagues for lunch, and then up the hill to home. It started like all rides do, in my alleyway.
For the past many weeks, I can’t even tell you how long, I’ve been walking my bike past this dead rat. It’s the glob at the bottom of the picture, and if you didn’t know it was a rat, you might think it’s just a wad of trash.
But it’s a rat. The tail gives it away. I ride over so many rats in this town. Sometimes they are fresh, and I go around to avoid the squishy crush of their bodies under my wheels, but most of the time I’m rolling over flat bodies that I think are trash before I notice the tail, always the tail, sticking up and out like a handle I’ll never grab. A rat’s tail is made of bone, so it’s just not going anywhere.
The ride home was tougher than usual, thanks to strong, cold gusts of wind. Pedal, pedal, pedal, I made it, walked my bike back down the alley, around the rat like I do twice a day, every day, grateful for a Friday with some space and time.
Today’s ride took me down the hill via the Maryland Avenue cycletrack, a right on Lombard to the bike racks at Greene to pick up the shuttle to work. I take this ride all the time, and I know its asphalt really well. it took me a few years to figure out the phantom drop just before Saratoga, but I mostly know it all by heart now. I still keep my eyes down, though, because you never know. And today it was this sad dead rat, looking sleepy but most definitely dead, in the middle of the right lane around 24th Street. I went around it and kept on my way. I locked up my bike, headed to campus, worked and worked and worked, and then turned around, got on the shuttle, walked to my bike, and headed uphill.
Last week was a lot of rainy bike rides and bus rides and happy near-misses of Baltimore landslides, but the sun was out this weekend, and N. wanted to try riding her bike on the street. With cars. Oh, really? You want to learn how to safely get around town by bike, you have come to the right place, my friend! We suited up–put on helmets and lip balm and grabbed some water bottles–and I gave her my best advice: be predictable, ride in a straight line, practice not swerving left when you look behind you over your shoulder, and remember that you belong in the street too. So much of riding with traffic is psychological: cars are actually exceedingly unlikely to hit you if you follow the rules of the road. They might get annoyed, but so what? Cars annoy the shit out of me, but I don’t purposely try to fuck with them. And then we were off, N. following behind me, holding her brakes on the downhills, swerving a bit to the left as she looked behind her and then slightly over-correcting, and we were downtown, a quick sandwich before taking our ride to the Gwynns Falls Trail where we could leave our car cares behind. I was scanning in front of me–another important bike safety strategy–when I swerved to avoid this baby turtle. We got off our bikes to check out our little friend, and N. asked me how I could have noticed it. Just like driving, bicycling gets easier and easier the more you do it, and all that nervous handlebar gripping eventually loosens, leaving you space to see the turtle and the owl I saw later shooting out of a tree in Middle Branch Park after we’d enjoyed a break on a pier, staring at the water, wishing someone would catch a fish or a crab, and watching ducks take off and land. We stopped for frozen yogurt on the way home, and oh, it was just the perfect lazy Sunday–a bike ride to water with a girl who wants to join you, and whom you want to come along. Best life now, I tell you.
Monday was a stunner, so I was even happier than usual to be on bike for appointments that took me to Federal Hill and Locust Point. The ride started early as I made my way down the hill and up the hill to meet O. and R. for a day in the art studio. We had decisions to make on a project we’re working on, so we made them and then made our way to a neighborhood restaurant for a sushi lunch and story swap. If you can get R. to tell you her stories about her trip to Seward, Alaska, do it–oh, what magic! And then we parted ways and I took the lane on Fort Avenue over to Locust Point and the weird mall that I’m inexplicably in love with for a ahircut and grading marathon until it was too much not to be outside and on bike. I rode over to Fort McHenry to do a lap around and see what the other lovers of spring with nowhere to be were doing. There was a bit of a jam on the far side of the park as folks had gathered to pay very close attention to some ducks. I got off my bike to join them–this was clearly a crowd I could relate to. “This is the closest I’ve ever been to a wild duck!” one woman exclaimed. She was right. These ducks were nonplussed at our presence. We chatted together for a good ten minutes about our new feathered friends: Do they mate for life? Are those two “together”? When will we get ducklings? How is it so cute when the wiggle their little duck butts? And the the duucks were in the water and on their way, and so was I, grateful for strangers and the opportunity for friendly exchange with my fellow species. And again happy to be on a bike and in the world instead of blocked off from it, on a freeway where everyone is a faceless threat instead on an open, friendly, interested fellow traveller.
Everything predicted thunderstorms Sunday, but Brompty and I had things to do, and I mistakenly believed my jacket was waterproof, so we headed out between downpours for a ride to Broadmoor to see M. and D.’s new digs, including–so awesome–the baby’s room. It was an easy ride, retracing old steps on new bike lanes. I remember when the very first bike lane was installed in the city, and now the are everywhere. And there’s a new streetcar line, though that one doesn’t make much sense until you remember the Super Bowl was here. Infrastructure’s improved for industry, not residents (and this certainly isn’t just a NOLA thing), and here the industry is tourism. And I’m a tourist now, enough to get lost crossing under the I10 and just avoiding a dead end to the freeway on ramp. I took the bike lane on MLK and smaked left on Galvez, happy to have friends who moved to a neighborhood I never got to explore much. I overshot my right, dead-ended and turned around, and finally got my muddy no-fenders self to their door for breakfast and catch-up. Afterward, and after another downpour, it was back on the bike to Mid City to see R. and her new digs.all the bike lanes and streetcars in the world can’t help with this coty’s lack of drainage, so it was all avoiding puddles and small lakes there and then after back to the Treme. I meant to head straight back to S.’s house, but then I saw the dogs, so many dogs lined up for Barkus, rolling late due to weather. I remember when this was an upstart, and it still is, I guess, even if Bud Light signs welcomed me to it. And you can’t just join the parade; I watched a volunteer close the gates of Louis Armstrong park on a rather stunned gentleman and his pocket pooch. You need a “marching pass” to join a walking parade? Wow. And then the skies opened up again–my luck had run out. 20 minutes standing in the rain and it was time to thow on the towel. I pedaled “home,” a soggy mess, happy to have seen some old friends–people, pets, and problems.
We were promised snow and sleet on Saturday, so that meant an earlier-than-planned bike ride under chilly gray skies (yes, the sky was chilly, not just the air). My first stop was the Waverly Farmer’s Market for coffee and that special spice mix N. likes to put on everything, the one sold in tiny packets by the lady who also sells all the mushrooms. Continue reading
I’m writing this blog the day after this particular ride. Here’s what I remember: I got on my bike earlier than I thought I would, but N. takes L. & J. out to play early, before naptime, and she invited me to join them all at the zoo. I hopped on and pedaled quickly, enjoying that flying turn onto Remington Avenue, pedaling hard up the hill and flying back down, a left into the park where kids were pouring into the pool. I continued on to the reservoir path, going the wrong way, saying my how-you-doin’s to speedwalkers, bicyclists, and that guy with his dog. Continue reading