Any time I say, 'I'll never x,' I condemn myself immediately to doing the very thing I've just said I'll never do. For example, not that long ago, as I'm sure I've mentioned, I was one of those people who insist that they will never, ever wear Lycra (at least, not without something on top of it).
Now, I pretty much live in my lycra cycling shorts, and I'm okay with that. Whether or not everyone else is — well, that's another story, but nobody's complained yet. I get to occasional perplexed look, and once got a very strange smile in the grocery store (hmmm...), but for the most part, nobody bats an eye (probably because Louisville is full of roadies). Indeed, one of the very best things about being a cyclist is the fact that not only can you go out for lunch more or less in your underwear (or pajamas, if that analogy is more comfortable for you), but once you arrive at the restaurant in question, you can eat as much as you want. Unless it's so hot you can't eat, but that's another problem entirely.
So when I say, 'I never ride my bike on the sidwalk,' what I mean, more accurately speaking, is that I never ride my bike on the sidewalk, except when I do.
Take Wednesday night's trek out to school, for instance.
Now, Louisville has, historically, not been known for its gridlock — but as our downtown business district grows denser, it draws more cars — and more cars mean it's more likely that somebody's going to misjudge the available space across the intersection, or just decide to be a self-important schmuck.
Imagine, if you will, three or for such unfortunate souls and/or self-important schmucks clogging up the core of a small city with small 19th-century blocks.
Now imagine me, already 15 minutes behind schedule, confidently riding out into the fray*.
As I roll merrily down Market Street, I soon realize that traffic is moving at a snail's pace — and I'm not talking about a carbon-fiber-shelled Road Snail with STI (that's Slime Trail Integration, for those of you not in the know), either. The snail I'm picturing is more like one of those swoopy, brightly-colored single-speed ones you see cruising down the boardwalk in Florida.** Also, the snail I'm picturing is often not moving at all, and when he is moving, he's often busy trying to make his shell occupy the same space as somebody else's shell while talking on his shell phone (forgive me), causing the other snails to honk at him as they drop their shell phones in their coffee.
Perhaps I've now hyper-extended my metaphor? I may need to see someone about that.
After about 10 minutes sitting within 3.5 blocks of my office, I realize there is absolutely no way I am ever going to get to school at this rate — so I zip down the turn lane on between Fourth and Third Streets (don't worry, I do know which way the counting numbers go — it's west, of course, and I was headed east) and hop on the super-wide sidewalk underneath the Convention Center (which straddles Third Street).
A quick right at Jefferson — well, technically, a really slow right, because riding on the sidewalk makes me paranoid — takes me to Second Street, where I cross pedestrian-stylie, then find a good spot to merge back into the traffic headed for the Clark Memorial Bridge into Indiana.
There, I also find that road construction is exacerbating the traffic problem — so the drivers aren't entirely to blame.
It takes maybe another ten minutes to make it to the bridge, sitting through a couple of cycles at each of the two intervening lights — and then I'm upon it, the Bridge of Doom widely feared and reviled by Kentuckiana cyclists of all calibres and classes.
On the bridge, however, I find that the drivers play nicely. I find myself wondering if it's the sharrows, with their riderless phantom bikes, or if it's just a good day. Moreover, about a third of the way across, I come upon a police officer sitting in the right-hand lane. A nice lady in a truck lets me in so I can go around him, and then I have the whole right-hand lane entirely to myself for the rest of the crossing — woooohooooooooooo! The sweeping descent into Injianer sure is fun when you have a whole lane to yourself.
Once across the river, of course, my troubles begin. I realize that I have read my directions as far as "Turn right on Court Ave." Since I know where that is, there is little point in having read them that far. I also realize I can't remember the name of the street where I'm supposed to turn. Is it Spring Street? Kentucky? 10th Street? Wait, I'm on 10th Street.
So I spot Kentucky Ave, panic, and turn left.
I then proceed to make a giant, ridiculous loop that brings me back almost the the point where I turned left, only to pause and realize that I made said left turn approximately one half block before reaching the street I should be on. D'oh!
So, there it is, Spring Street. This time, I have the sense to read more than one turn ahead: in fact, I read two whole turns ahead — but I totally misread the distances.
After tooling up Spring Street past the hospital, I come to Eastern Avenue. This, I think to myself, Is a piece of cake! I head onto Eastern, confident that I can find my way to Triangle, even though I have never so much as heard of Triangle Drive before today. How hard can it be, right? It's just a right-hand turn off of Eastern. No biggie.
So I descend a steepish little hill through a double railway underpass (in the mini-tunnel, I realize that my taillight is off -- D'oh again!), climb a steepish little hill back up to the Interstate-64, wait patiently for the green light, stop at the red light halfway across the overpass, wait politely for the green light ... and then I sail back down into a mostly-commercial area that I know from previous journeys.
This little stretch should be fun — but it's riddled with terrible pavement, randomly narrowing-and-widening road surface, giant and terrifying potholes, and really poor lane markings. Oh, and the double stoplight at the top of the second climb isn't so hot, either. Instead of a fun stretch, it's stressful and irritating.
By now, my water is roughly the temperature of the earth's molten core, and I've been going for a while. I realize I'm hungry and that, between my late start, traffic, and my directional SNAFU, I might not make it before the cafeteria closes (I'm not sure when quittin' time is for them, but they were already trying to close the last time I was there, right around 6:00). I pull off and lock up outside a little convenience store, which provides me with water, chocolate milk (recovery drink of champions!), and whatever snack I can find that I think won't be wholly incompatible with a half-numb mouth leftover from the afternoon's dental work.
As I chug my chocolate milk, I pause to check my my cue sheet: surely Triangle Drive can't be too far from here!
And then, alarmingly, I realize that my cue sheet appears to be telling me that Triangle Drive is only 0.2 miles from where I turned on to Eastern. Rats!
...So I down the milk, a cold Smartwater, and a couple sips of regular water and head back up the road: no sign of triangle. Up the little climb to the overpass. Wait for both red lights. Down the little climb. Up the other side (my tail light is now on, so I feel much better). Still no sign of Triangle. Then at last, at the top of the road, in the distance I see...
...The spot where I turned onto Eastern from Spring. What the heck?
Determined not to ride that same little stretch yet again, I decide I'll try a side street: but it turns out that the side streets are arranged in a square that feeds onto a road that connects to Spring at one end and dies at the other. This, I will later surmise, is because of the rail line that lies between me and the rest of Indiana — but at the time, it just seems kind of arbitrary.
Thoroughly irritated, I decide to pull over and re-read the directions (the fact that I read them at all is a minor miracle, by the way, and can be attributed solely to my need to get to class by 7:30 — normally, I just rely on my sense of direction, which is generally excellent, and explore 'til I find a connecting road). Then, an epiphany: that doesn't mean I go 0.2 miles to Triangle Drive — it means I go 0.2 miles ON Triangle Drive***.
Bizarrely, some part of my brain decides at this point that if only we were using the metric system, this whole episode could have been avoided. Some other part of my brain realizes this is terribly irrational. However, I am now too relieved at the resolution of the Great Triangle Drive Mystery to waste time being annoyed about riding that same little segment of road again.
You know the drill: down the hill. Under the rail bridges. Up the hill. Wait for the light. Ride fifty feet. Wait for the light. Over the highway. Down the hill.
This time I proceed straight ahead, hoping against hope that the mystical Triangle Drive will appear — and, eventually, it does.
And I ride 0.2 miles on Triangle Drive, because that is the whole length of Triangle Drive. Then it's on to Blackiston Mill, which starts out commercial, then suddenly becomes Rainbow Drive and decidedly residential in character.
Rainbow drive offers up the unexpected reward of a beautiful waterfall crossing at Silver Creek. Next time, I'll stop and get a picture — that is, after all, why I paid 80 whole dollars for a snazzy new phone with a 2 megapixel camera, after all****.
The rest of the ride is pretty: shaded Rainbow winds through quiet, rolling hills. Soon, I turn onto Klerner, and then I'm pretty much there. A quick shot across Grant Line, and I'm on University Drive, headed towards the Life Sciences building.
I arrive at school at 6:30, with an hour to spare — good time, all things (traffic, snack break, riding the same freaking stretch back and forth a couple of times) considered.
Next time I ride this route, I plan to carry less crap (I forgot to take all the unnecessary stuff out of my backpack), and I won't need a cue sheet. I'll also find a different route to the Second Street Bridge — probably down 8th to the MUP, then back up the little road that runs parallel to the bridge. That will save me a lot of headaches, though it will also mean I start my climb onto the bridge at roughly 0 MPH.
I realized a GPS device would come in handy on this kind of ride — it woudn't misread the distances, and would tell me when to turn, so I wouldn't worry that I'd missed something. Then again, I usually pre-ride routes in areas I don't know very well, if I'm planning to use them as transit. I just didn't get around to it this time. But I still think a GPS device might be fun (and make tracking my rides waaaaay easier).
Tonight I plan on a longish road ride followed by some off-road fun. I think I'm going to go play in Iroquois Park, and I will try to remember that I now have an awesome phone that lets me take pictures. I'm going to leave my backpack at work and retrieve it on the way back.
On Monday, both work and school are closed for Labor Day, and there's a gigantic group ride called 'The Mayor's Healthy Hometown Subway Fresh Fit Hike and Bike.' I'm going to take part. I think it's cool that Subway sponsors our giant biannual everybody-and-their-Uncle-Fred ride, but there is a part of me that believes a ride name that overwrought could only happen in the same state that plays host to the Rough River Lake Dam State Resort Park, which sounds more like a second-grade spelling test than an actual state park.
Notes*I didn't get a round of applause last night, but I did on Monday, which was really weird! I was sprinting to catch a bus, and a crowd waiting to cross the street at the corner of Sixth and Jefferson randomly started cheering. For the record, I do think I know the guy who started them off, though -- maybe that explains it? Anyway, it's possible they were just being ironic, but still, it was kind of cool.)
**Touring snails are highly variable in speed, and a topic for another time.
***Next time I need a cue sheet, I'm going to make a large-print cue sheet with pictures. Maybe that will work better...
****Well, okay. That and the fact that I lost my old phone.