On Saturday morning I packed the Brompton into its suitcase, headed to the airport (thanks for the ride, ladyfriend!), and flew to Detroit for a few days of bicycling and learning about how another postindustrial city is doing its public memory. It’s pretty much a dream vacation for me–bikes, cities, history, bikes, waterfronts, history, beer in the afternoon–magic. I spent my Sunday getting my bearings. I first walked around in circles for almost a full half hour before finding my way to the coffee shop and bakery that was two blocks away. Then I went a couple miles out of my way trying to find my first stop: the Detroit Historical Society. Eventually I found it, and I locked up Brompty to a well-designed bike rack, and headed inside.
Ever since they started running the shuttle from downtown Baltimore out to UMBC I’ve just been taking that commute rather than taking the Brompton on the MARC train like I did last year–the shuttle’s free and easy, and I get to stretch my legs on the Surly, still my very favorite ride. It’s strange–I used to take that bike out almost every day, but now she sits quietly in the dining room collecting dust in between rides. But then it’s a Friday during October baseball, and the last thing I want to do is get caught in downtown traffic–the shuttle may feel like magic, but it’s just as prone to get caught in the cars as any other vehicle. Solution? Take Brompty on MARC like the good old days, so that’s what I did–easy peasy, the bike getting her own seat at the front of the train. Multimodal commute options FTW! And coming back into Penn Station in the afternoon made it easy for N. to pick us all up and take us home. I really never ever miss having a car–there are so many options out there that make owning my own car unnecessary. Lucky me. Could that be you too?
N. texted to say she wished she was riding her bike today, a most excellent sign for a happy future on a bicycle, and I agreed, but she had to work, and so did I, so there you go. Fortunately, I bike to work, so I *did* get to ride on this blustery day. I zipped down the hill, folded up the bike, and got on the afternoon train. It’s a different train then. The commuters are already where they’re going, so this was all tourists and first timers, and I felt myself getting all superior and get-it-together-people like a real jerk. I took a deep breath, put down my Candy Crush machine, and looked around, wondering what we’re all missing now that we’re staring at our screens instead of idly chatting while we wait. And then it was my stop, a quick unfold and I was on my way, stopping to snap a picture of this corner that’s got itself all blinged out for spring. This is my first spring biking past this corner, and I made a note to myself to watch it this year for a full season of changes. So much new right now, so much new.
Friday was the last day at school before spring break, and oh my, did that put me in a good mood. I dressed for spring on the bottom and winter on top, and rode to the station with chilly legs and a sweaty back–oh well, what are you gonna do? It was a quick zip around campus for errands and one last meeting, and then I was zipping back to the station to meet the train for a much-needed break from all this commuting nonsense. I took my left onto the outer circle and ran into another Brompton, this one ridden by A., who teaches in the Information Systems department. Continue reading
Monday was another snow day, this one covering up a layer of ice, so that meant no biking for me and a whole lot of hoping that all road surfaces would miraculously melt and dry for Tuesday’s commute to campus. Sure, I could grab a ride with a friend, ask a student for a ride home, but I want to ride my bike and use my train pass and be in some control of my own movement–plus I’m really stubborn–so I layered up and left early so it I had to walk or wait for a bus, I’d have to time to do so. The ride down the hill was fine, though I could feel (and hear–quit honking your horns people, there’s nowhere for me to go!) the irritation of drivers as I took a whole lane in morning traffic because the bike lane was filled with plowed remains. Continue reading
I checked the weather reports before I left for work on Wednesday, even broke it out into 15 minute intervals, and the rain wasn’t necessarily going to fall, and if it did, maybe not until 10 at the earliest, and I was catching the 9:25 train. I did a little online shopping for the rain pants I wished I had and then rode under threatening skies to the train station. And then those skies opened up and I rethought that “I’ll get them later” moment at the bike shoppe when they asked me if I wanted to add fenders to the Brompty. Continue reading
You know what’s worse than forgetting your hat on a chilly bike-riding morning? Forgetting your gloves. It’s less than a mile downhill to Penn Station, but oh boy, my fingers were icicles when I got there.Sometimes I can’t believe what a rookie I am at dressing myself. Anyway, I got there nice and early, spent some bucks to get some tickets for the rest of the month’s rides–wow, this is cheaper than car ownership–and settled in to watch the crowds gather. Continue reading
Thursday’s ride was a repeat of Wednesday’s, but with an earlier start for a stop at the mechanic’s to move my car from the lot to the street to wait for its final ride over the Rainbow Bridge. It was freezing, and the guy said I must be “Ravens Strong” to ride my bike this morning. Well, sir, you just might be right. Now, if you were actually me, standing there wearing twelve layers of everything and knowing the sweat was going to start about 5 minutes into this little project, you might not be impressed, but hey, I’ll take it. The rest of the commute went smoothly, and the bike got me some good conversation with some MARC workers on the way home. The pedal up the hill from the station was a slow one, especially as I navigated the thick sand-like piles of salt at Charles and North. (Go on, go bike through sand. It’s a slow and wobbly go!) A water main burst the previous night, and that is not the first one, not by a long shot. We travel these streets without thinking about what’s underneath, but what’s underneath is clearly in a whole lot of trouble. But hey, they’d fixed it by mid-afternoon and covered it over with a big black rectangle of asphalt, so I guess we are good to go. I kept riding and stopped to take this picture at Charles and 25th, another patch job over another broken something. This project’s been going on for awhile, and I’m not sure what’s going on, but it is another of the many signs around here that what we don’t see beneath our feet is in serious trouble. The complaints are always about traffic, not about our crumbling infrastrucre, for which traffic is barely even canary yellow, much less the canary coal mine. And then I was home, stowing Brompty in the basement, kicking off my shoes and filling my water bottle from the tap and settling in to forget it all with some low quality television. Nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see here.
Day two of the multimodal commute was so much easier than day one–isn’t that always the way? I loaded up my bag with work stuff, lugged Brompty downstairs, unfolded it in a jiff, and zipped down the hill. It was the kind of cold that makes your eyes blur dangerously. Oh, wintertime. The conductor from yesterday’s train recognized me and pointed me to a train car that would open at the Halethorpe station, and when it did it was just a quick unfold and pedal up the hill and down and up again to campus. Continue reading