Biking for fun — and introspectionYou see a different Duluth on a bicycle. A few houses in my neighborhood, unnoticed when driving by, are carbon copies of my own; so much so that I want to time my passing-by to ask the owners what they’ve done with the kitchen.
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune
HAWK RIDGE — You see a different Duluth on a bicycle. A few houses in my neighborhood, unnoticed when driving by, are carbon copies of my own; so much so that I want to time my passing-by to ask the owners what they’ve done with the kitchen. A fawn and doe and what has to be a 10-point buck frolic all summer at the same spot, near the Lakewalk and Scenic Railroad tracks. The way-too-much gravel where the pavement ends on Skyline above Seven Bridges Road grinds away at my tires.
But then you’ve made it and unveiled why we live here: the lake, the landmarks you pick out or guess at, dotted between the foliage, the sky and lake again, Wisconsin miles away yet seemingly close enough to reach out and touch.
Behind you the birders point excitedly. Good for them, you say to yourself, but you can’t help feeling proud; you made it up here under your body’s own power.
For my generation, the inspiration was the space race, concurrent with my own small explorations. Like America, I started late — 10 before I could ride a two-wheeler, my older brother Sputniking ahead. Our orbital flights were battles for Chicago’s first-ring suburbs, 10 or 15 miles from our home. He got some, I others, and it was more on purpose than ironic that on such a trip I watched the moon landing at a friend’s house.
My break out of orbit was 100 miles in a day when I was 13. In my late teens and early 20s, I beat back asthma and came back stronger, now a day’s ride of 150 miles — Chicago to Madison — then 170.
Olympic caliber? Hardly. Stages of the Tour de France run about 100 miles each, with racers easily averaging 24 mph, twice my speed. And at the height of my prowess, a couple of guys pushed 340 miles a day in the “Great American Bike Race.” Again, double my best.
Still, decades out of the saddle, I’m back this summer. Not long into it, a colleague’s crash and broken collarbone warns, like the Apollo 1 launchpad tragedy, of the dangers on the road. It’s a constant reminder the very next day when I set out for my summer goal: round trip to Two Harbors. I make it — 50 miles — and safely. Don’t worry about average speed.
By August, the daily ride is 11 miles, and the speedometer clocks 30 downhill. All Seven Bridges fly by except where the Jersey barriers keep the cars out from the flood damage. Mornings are quietest, with barely a handful of runners, dog-walkers and other cyclists, all exchanging nods and hellos — usually.
“I saw you on your bike. You didn’t say anything,” friends tell me afterward. My bad, especially when it takes 30 seconds to realize who just passed by. But it’s about solitude, letting your mind wander through childhood fantasies, or Amity Creek gurgling to interrupt, or the sun dancing in and out the trees.
It does so earlier in the evenings now, and soon an exercise bike will have to do.
But not yet. Hawk Ridge calls out for one more ride, to survey the beauty and our tiny existence. It calls for one more ride.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.