It was a beautiful sunny summer weekend, the ladyfriend was on a much-needed out of town adventure with herself, and I had absolutely no plans. That’s some perfection right there, and I spent the Sunday of it riding my bike around. I left my house at high noon, all lotioned up with sunscreen and nowhere in particular to go. I had it my mind to maybe hit SoWeBo Fest, so I rode south and west and west to avoid my regular work commute route but to be heading in generally that direction. And then I was pedaling through west Baltimore on an old commuting route I used to take when I first moved to Baltimore. I decided to see if that bridge on Old Frederick Road had been replaced, and once I got there and saw that yes, it had been, I was on the Gwynns Falls Trail, so why not take it to the end?
N. asked me a few weeks ago to plan a weekend getaway to wherever, and right away I knew we’d be going to Assateague Island National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. First, there’s the obvious drive to visit all the national seashores–I’ve only been to Gulf Islands and Point Reyes, and I was excited to add another to the list. More, though, there’s the part where I just love seashores, especially the barrier island kind where a spit of land makes that magical liminal space, woodland forest on one side, sandy beach on the other, salty marshes in between. Continue reading
Wednesday saw the return of Brompty to the bike lineup as we headed back to campus after a month-long hiatus. I love the world the folding bike opens up for me, but this girl doesn’t have the gearing to do hills with ease, and the new commute adds two hills. That isn’t a lot, but it was enough to make me nervous about how much time I’d be adding to the commute with the move, and I was happy to have a chance to get that first go out of the way. I aired up the tires, unfolded the pieces, dusted off the seat, and was on my way, reminding myself–out loud–that I was not in a hurry. As long as I remember that I’ve got time and can sit myself in the easiest gear I need my knees can take whatever hills are there. Turns out the added mile and a half was just an extra mile and a half of flowers and how-you-doin’s and neighbors and then I was back on Saint Paul, flying down the hill to the train station in maybe 10 more minutes than from the old place–that’ll work, especially with the added bonus of taking the left lane on 33rd for a turn onto Barclay. There’s something about vehicular cycling that really gets me going, especially when I’m on Brompty. Continue reading
The website said there was a 12 mile auto tour route out at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Reserve, so I was guessing that meant a 12 mile bicycle route, too. The website didn’t say anything about bikes, though, and I actually thought about calling ahead to see if bikes were allowed, since it seemed the perfect stop on Friday’s drive home from my tour of the Harriet Tubman Byway. I’m glad I didn’t call (and I didn’t because I didn’t want them to say something silly like “no bikes”), though, because they probably would have said sure, bring your bike, but be warned the road is crushed stone–and sometimes just loose rock–so it might not be the most comfortable riding surface. And oh, it wasn’t. Continue reading
I spent most of Wednesday in the car, driving from site to site along the Harriet Tubman Byway, trading off between the excellent audiotour (it didn’t go off the rails with reconciliation rhetoric until three stops from the Delaware border) and the rental car’s satellite radio–a Springsteen-only station? Be still my roadtrip heart! It was a dreary rainy day, and I was all complicated feelings and quiet as I passed through the heart of Caroline County’s Underground Railroad territory and the place where the Still’s had to decide which children to leave in slavery because they couldn’t all make it to freedom at the same time. I drove to the Choptank River, the site of Tubman’s first escape, but I had to pass a house draped in Confederate flags to get there. I learned about the Caroline County Courthouse where slave auctions were held, and just down the block, the local jail’s intake center. The sign out front told the story of voting for a state constitutional amendment banning slavery, since the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to Union states. Apparently Caroline County voters protested their disenfranchisement, claiming their votes against the amendment were destroyed. Voter disenfranchisement, right. I got lost over and over again, because there aren’t a lot of signs out here, and I wonder the backstory, what kinds of resistances have been thrown up at every stage of remembrance. And then I made it to stop 31, Adkins Arboretum. Oh, it was worth the trip, a walk through an upland forest and an audiotour that described the role the natural environment played in enabling and hindering flights to freedom. Each track trailed off with different names of freedom seekers, and I wanted to know them all. William Still kept a book of all who passed through his Philadelphia office. Two of them turned out to be the brothers his parents had had to leave behind. They’d been sold to Kentucky, but 27 years later, they were free, too. The sun had come out, and it was hot and sticky and the bugs, oh the bugs. In a car you. Don’t feel it. It’s different on a bike, too. Today was a good day to take a bit, slow down, walk, and listen.
Tuesday was hot. Humid and hot, and I woke up kind of dreading the thought of a bike ride, to be honest, so I left the hotel early so I could get some miles in before the heat really laid in. Oh, I’m so glad I did. I drove the bike out to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and followed the signs for the bike route. I took my right onto Wildlife Road, paid my one dollar entry fee, and then I was at the edges of the earth, which is how wetlands feel to me, both land and water, and the road set precariously and temporarily between the two. Dragonflies zipped all around me, and red-winged blackbirds were everywhere. I saw more herons and egrets than I could count, and the smell–the smell!–was so *clean*. I snapped this picture from an overlook, but if I’d taken the picture facing the other way, there would have been more water, and a stand of trees in the foreground. That’s the thing with wetlands–you have to be there to see it all, and what you see will be different in a heartbeat. I rode away from this lookout, took my left back out on the main road, and was joined by flapping herons and young eagles just barely above my head (or that’s how it felt anyway) and it was all so fantastic I heard myself actually say out loud, “this is magic,” because it was. I extended my ride as long as I could, relearning, again, that if you’re traveling fast and easy, you just might have a tailwind, and you’re going to have to pay it back going the other way. I spent the rest of my day in the car, following ghosts down back roads and getting myself good and lost trying to find the end of Hoopersville Road. So many lives lived and being lived on the same shifting ground.
Friday morning was so, so much rain, pouring out of the sky, waking up the cats, and actually necessitating the closing of two whole windows in order to keep the bed and the record player dry–we’ve got our priorities in line over here. I had the luxury of hibernating inside, so I did that until the rain stopped, the clouds cleared out, and it was all blue sky and clean air, our city given a good shower to rinse off our pretend summer from the previous week. Yep, time for a bike ride. I started up the hill for a lunch date with myself and then back down, the vague idea that I could maybe get an ice cream cone in Canton and still make it back to Harbor East for Godzilla–these are the hard choices of the first day of summer vacation. And then I remembered I am a member at the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture–why not stop on my way and see what’s new? Continue reading