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Cleveland on Two Wheels

Or

Sometimes I Miss My Car, but Mostly I Miss My Bike

My car was great.  It was a ’95 Saturn SL2.  It had a manual transmission, handled well in the snow, and got 30+ miles to the gallon on a good tank.  It was awesome.  Unfortunately, it was also 16 years old and had 180,000 miles on it when I got into an accident (that was not my fault), so the insurance company totaled it.  I have not owned a car since then, and most days I am totally cool with that.  Cleveland has an OK public transportation system, and since I moved to the east side, closer to downtown, the bus and Rapid scheduling has only gotten more convenient for me.

A couple weeks ago I blogged about Cleveland winters and how rough they can be.  I mentioned that for a solid year I harbored an unhealthy fear of (and possibly hatred toward) winter.  Ultimately, I think that winter and I have made our peace; it doesn’t deprive me of vitamin D until I can’t get out of bed and I don’t…um, shovel snow?  Bash it to all my friends?  (That joke kind of got away from me).  My absolute least favorite thing about the winter, though, is that it deprives me of one of my most beloved pastimes, exercises, and means of transit: bicycling.

I have had the same bike for at least the past fifteen years.  To be honest, I’m not sure how old I was when I got it.  It’s a fifteen speed Huffy Experia.  I had ridden for fun a lot when I was younger, but I really got into using it for transit when I started at Baldwin-Wallace.  When I was on campus it was just a way to make the trek from south campus to north campus take three minutes instead of ten.  Once I moved off campus, and back into Parma, I would get up early and ride the ten miles into Berea, and then I’d ride home at the end of the day.

For those of you who are shaking your heads and feeling a little horrified at the idea of getting up at six or seven to exert yourself for an hour before you start your normal daily routine, I would highly recommend giving it a try.  I had a racquetball class at seven a.m., and I discovered that semester that strenuous physical activity is an absolutely wonderful way to spend the early morning.  Whenever I played racquetball, and whenever I rode my bike to campus, I felt awesome all day.  It easily doubled my energy level, and more often than not it knocked out that unpleasant hour in the afternoon when I normally wanted a nap.  But as I’ve said before, this is not a fitness blog, so I’ll just leave it at that.

The second week of February might seem like an odd time to bring up bicycling.  I cite two reasons for my untimely fixation.  For one, (although this is not a fitness blog), fitness has been on my mind lately.  When I get ready in the morning, I’m not always happy with what I see in the mirror, specifically between my neck and hips.  It’s no surprise, really.  I’ve gotten back into some bad dietary habits.  I’m more likely to eat a cookie, less likely to drink a glass of water, than I have been since before I lost the weight.  And with winter in full swing, it’s difficult to find opportunities to exercise.  When I was biking every day, a cookie or an order of  French fries was not a big deal.

The other reason is that the (strange, cruel) Cleveland weather has been teasing me for the past several days.  When I get ready to leave in the morning, I put on my work clothes, my sweater, my coat, my hat, and my gloves (I don’t like being cold), in preparation for whatever ridiculous combination of snow and ice that the Midwestern weather has to throw at me.  Imagine my surprise when I walk out the front door and there’s no snow, but rather sunshine and warm(ish) air.  So I do a series of mental and internet-based calculations.  How late is it?  Do I have time to bike down to the Rapid station?  Is the temperature going to drop later?  Would I have to go top off the air in my tires?

I have not gotten to bike since the winter started, even once.  Because even when all of the aforementioned calculations have been favorable, and just when I would have gone back inside to get my bike, a blast of icy wind would break me out of my bicycle-traversable fantasy world.  Then I’d get irritated that the difference between the standing air temperature and the wind temperature was so huge.  I’d shake my fist in the air (metaphorically) at the tricky, tricky weather, and continue plodding on down to the bus stop.  This is all coming off a little bit whiny, and for that I’m sorry.  But it’s irritating.  Cleveland is by no means the most bike-friendly city in the country (or even in Ohio, I’d imagine), but we have some very pleasant places to ride.  When I would bike to BW, most of my commute would take me through the Metroparks.

Oh, the Metroparks.  Hiking, scenery, picnic spots, swimming in the summer, tobogganing in the winter, and of course, the ever-present All Purpose Trail.  The All Purpose Trail is sort of like a tiny little two lane road, maybe five feet wide, intended for joggers, cyclists, roller bladers (do people still roller blade?), dog walkers—you get the idea.  It runs, in some form or another, throughout most areas of the Metroparks.  I have such fond memories of mornings spent riding on a road as smooth as any well-maintained street, and yet being surrounded by trees.  It’s so wonderful that it almost feels like cheating.  Not that I’m above off-roading.  I do ride a mountain bike, and taking to the more traditional trails from time to time is always fun (and one hell of a workout).

This was another morning that seemed almost nice enough to ride, and yet as I write this at the Starbucks next to where I work, I look out the window and see the beginnings of a snow shower.  Welcome to Cleveland.  We love it here.  Seriously, though, the winter is almost over, and I’m grateful for the fact that before long I’ll be riding the brake down Cedar Hill in the morning instead of staring out the bus window.

I squandered most of my opportunities to ride this past summer and fall, despite living in such a beautiful and bike-friendly area.  That is not a mistake I’m going to make again.

As always, thank you for reading.  More to follow.

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