Biking and Being
“I feel so alive right now!”
~Kion Chantelle, First-Time Cyclist at Baltimore Bike Party
Last Friday I participated in the Baltimore Bike Party with the Broken Hearts theme. Cyclists were encouraged to dress in either red and pink or in mourning in order to commemorate Valentine’s Day. As soon as I got back from teaching, I raced home and met up with my roommate and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who was visiting me from D.C. We all bundled up in very black outfits, and prepped ourselves for the bike party. The route started at Saint Mary’s Park and wound its way up N Calvert Street, past the University of Baltimore, up Eutaw St. to Druid Hill Park and then wound its way over the W 41st Street bridge that crossed the Jones Falls Expressway and then down through The Avenue (36th Street), past Johns Hopkins University and then ended at Peabody Heights Brewery (401 E 30th Street) near The Book Thing.
It had been a while since I had felt such a rush of excitement at doing something so cool and adventurous. I just felt part of something so much bigger; this crowd of cyclists that only had one thing in common: they liked bicycling. The cyclists spanned all demographics: age, race, bicycle skill set, and sociability. We passed by strangers on the road who cheered us on, police officers who flashed their lights in support of us, and random other cyclists who joined us for a few minutes before going their own way. At one point, we had well over 200 cyclists biking together down these streets.
I’ve heard it said that one action associate with just being is biking. I can empathize with that. Later on Sunday the temperature reached a balmy 60+ degrees Fahrenheit with golden sunshine all around. I decided to go biking throughout the city in order to maximize the feeling of warmth and joy. I biked down Guilford Ave bounding the mural strewn streets near Greenmount Cemetery, down the Fallsway and then stopped by the Baltimore Phoenix Shot Tower (801 E Fayette Street) where I saw tent city in Shot Tower Park. I talked with some of the volunteers there who were helping dole out meals and services to some of the poor and homeless socializing with each other. This one woman shared with me that she was working in conjunction with the Greater Baltimore Section of the National Council of Negro Women and the Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. I liked how it seemed that everyone there knew each other and asked each other about their families and lives.
The neighborhood changed again as we passed into the gentrified areas of Fells Point, Canton, and Highlandtown. I passed out on the warm grass of Patterson Park as the sun warmed my skin and brought a smile to my face after having to deal with wintry weather for so long. My last stops for the day were Brewer’s Hill which used to house the original National Brewery that produces Natty Boh’s, Creative Alliance which is an venue that brings together artists and community organizers together, and Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop which has some of the best cannolis in Little Italy.
Throughout last weekend I kept having to check myself to see if I was actually living this life. It just felt so awesome and cool to be alive, and sometimes I forget about that during the week. At some points I was weaving through afternoon traffic on Boston Street near the waterfront, and felt like there were few things in life that felt better than warm sunlight on skin and a cool breeze through the hair while simply being.