It has been a brutal February, not just cold, which I can deal with, but snowy and icy–pretty much my least favorite riding conditions. Riding on ice is the worst because eventually you have to stop or turn, and doing either of those things means risking a fall. I ride with such trepidation in those conditions, body all seized up, gripping everything too tightly to function, and it just isn’t fun to ride a bike that way. Spring can’t come soon enough, but it’s taking it’s own sweet time, and that’s the thing about weather–you just have to do what it’s going to do, and sometimes that means taking the bus. Continue reading
I left my bike at home this past weekend when I went to New York City to watch E. run the marathon. Last time she ran a big race, I took Brompty and leapfrogged her for the entire course of the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and I got to ride the race route all by myself, without cars, and it was magical. I mean, how often do you get to ride on the streets–much less the streets of a major city–and never even have to think about cars? The NYC Marathon is a different beast, though, and I was expecting huge crowds–a million people line the route–and I didn’t want to get boxed out because I was carrying a bicycle with me. If you know me, you know how hard it is for me to travel without a bicycle, but alas, the priority was really to watch my sister complete this truly epic event, and I got to do that. It was all about the subway on Sunday, and the tears, because everyone who runs the marathon has a story of deciding to do this thing that really shouldn’t be done, and they’ve got their training plans and their injuries, and their best laid plans and their cheer sections, and it all happens, 50,000 times over. It was so cool to watch, and when she ran up to me around mile 21.5, hands in fists raised in the air, almost weeping as she said, “I’m doing it! I’m doing it!” well, I was pretty much cooked. Best ever. And then it was time for a few more subway rides back to the train back home, up first thing in the morning to head to work. I got to take my bike, and as soon as I was on there and pedaling, I remembered that how good it is to be home. That was four days off the bike, way, way too long. Next year I’m definitely taking my bike to the marathon, crowds be damned. I met my meetings, taught my classes, and then it was time to head home. It’s dark now, and that’s a whole different experience of riding, one that makes me feel like I’m alone on the roads. When cooler, darker weather sets in, lots of cyclists pack in their bikes for the seasons, and everything just feels quieter and lonelier, in a way I really like. Just me, the bike, and this dark sky with the pale blot of clouds. Thanks for the subway rides, NYC, but I’ll take my bike in Baltimore any day.
I know, I know, I could let some air out of my tires, get snow tires, ride slowly, and do fine on roads with some ice and snow remaining on them, but I could also just not ride the few days a year when there’s ice on the roads in Baltimore. Yeah, that’ll work, but I’m still not going to drive if I can help it, so I layered up and walked up and over to Waverly to meet O. and R. on Saturday. Yeah, I might rethink that decision next time, because the streets, especially the better-travelled ones, were mostly clear–wet, but not icy. The sidewalks, on the other hand, were treacherous ice sheets, glistening their evil eyes up at me as I made my way slowly and carefully, making sure of each footing before lifting another foot. The sidewalks were iced over because unlike the public property of the streets, sidewalks are the responsibility of individual homeowners, and apparently either individual homeowners don’t know that, or don’t care. The sidewalk in front of my house was iced up because I guess I was waiting for the landlord to deal with it. By the time I slid my way home that evening, though, I realized I had better remove enough ice for folks to pass easily. I chipped away, slowly but surely, and this morning it is starting to melt enough to make way. As I was chipping away, though, I wondered why we have individualized this particular collective infrastructral issue and not decided instead to spend our social wage to make easy passage for everyone, not just drivers. Because walking was truly dangerous yesterday, and how can it be that we make passage so dangerous, especially for those for whom walking is challenging in the first place? But hey, at least the roads are clear.
Sometimes I’m in the mood for an exploratory ride, one where I get lost, or found in one of those neighborhoods I don’t go to unless I’m getting lost on a bicycle–the rides where I end up in Middle East, usually. I never seem to make it west…something to think about in the new year. But some days I just want to ride without negotiating cars or newness, the simple pleasures of well-trod paths that are off limits to cars. Today was that latter day, so I took the bike up and around to Druid Hill Park for a lap or two and to check out the Jones Falls Trail behind the zoo.
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