Today’s bike ride took me on my usual route down the hill and to the right to the bike racks next to the ER at University of Maryland Medical Center. I’ve done this ride at least a hundred times, likely more, but today felt a little different. Yesterday I learned that another cyclist was hit and killed by another car. I saw the post on one of my bicycle groups on Facebook, and commented on the link right away. How tragic, I said, because it’s always tragic. I know what it feels like to get the news that a car has taken someone you love. I know that when someone dies, they are gone forever, and you are forever different. I know this, and I also know how resilient we are in the face of grief, as long as we let ourselves feel it all–or as much of it as we can bear–and as long as we stay open to it, and talk about it. I know that a year and a half after my dad was killed by a car, I am ok. I feel joy again, not as often or easily as before, but it’s already back. And it hasn’t even been two years yet. But I’m different now, and it isn’t a difference I’d wish for anyone. It hurts, badly. So when I saw the news, I knew another group of people would now have to tread this far too well trod road, and I hate that.
Monday was my last day of my first summer school class. This one was an experiment, taught in Baltimore about Baltimore, and I only had a handful of students. Getting UMBC students to travel all the way to Baltimore is going to be a trick, but I’m dedicated to figuring out how to pull it off. This first time around might have been a small group, but it was so much fun that I was reluctant to cancel our last in-person meeting of the minimester, even though campus was officially closed. I’m not one to work on holidays or weekends–too many people have worked too hard and sacrificed too much for me to work on those days–but there I was, holding class, because I wanted to.
The heat’s turned back on in Baltimore, which made me all the happier to end my bike ride in Canton for another session in the cryotherapy chamber. The ride down was easy breezy now that I knew where I was going and didn’t have to check my phone for directions. I headed down Guilford, veered left for the protected cycletrack along Fallsway, walked my bike as instructed to the sidewalk just past Fayette before pedaling south and east and south and east until making a couple of wrong turns and ending up at my new favorite summer spot for freezing myself. I was all flush with that feeling of gratitude that I can ride a bicycle–it really is the very best.
I’ve had such a busy summer so far–teaching, writing, learning, walking touring, meeting, editing, etc.–that I haven’t had much of a chance to just ride my bike around. I’d been eyeing this Tuesday for a couple weeks though. I had a few things to do that morning, but the rest of the afternoon was mine to ride wherever, and with a weather report that had us topping out at 80 degrees, I was pretty excited.
Last week was a sweaty one, the first of the summer here in Baltimore. It was just so hot, and I found myself a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike in it. I talked myself through it: you’ve ridden through 8 summers in Baltimore and New Orleans, every single one of them way too hot to ride through. You’ll sweat, but that’s it, so just sweat through it. Go as slow as you need to, it’s not a race, you’ll acclimate. Ultimately, though, since I don’t have a car and the bus is so unreliable, bicycling is my best choice for getting around, and I’ve got places to go.
I was in Austin, Texas all week last week, there to learn some basics of computer programs used in the digital humanities. I was anxious before I left, worried that I’m an old dog that can’t learn new tricks. I’m an impatient bird, and when things get frustrating, I have a tendency to give up. Computers are frustrating; could I hack it, so to speak?
I could, and I did, and I had an amazing week, the most focused and interesting week of learning in memory. I didn’t want to leave, even though by the end of it I wanted nothing more than to be at home. It was hard work, 9-5 in classes, and before and after tending to one or another of my three other jobs at the moment. I didn’t think I’d find time to get in a bike ride, but Austin has a bike share system, and it seemed a shame to pass it up. I choked down a quick lunch on Wednesday and had exactly 40 minutes to get to a bike, ride around, and get back to class.
Tuesday’s ride took me over to Bolton Hill for a morning meeting, and with nothing on the calendar until an afternoon meeting downtown, I got to spend a couple of hours tooling around West Baltimore on my bicycle. I started by heading west on Mosher and decided I’d ride that street until it ended. But then I ran into a small park that I couldn’t bike through, so I went around on Mason Street, then McMechen, then back the other way on Eutaw and then zipped through an alley and over on Madison before going the wrong way down Mosher for a block (sorry, everybody) until I could head west on it again. Bolton Hill has itself blocked off from the rest of West Baltimore by some pretty heavy street-level infrastructure.