The Elkridgean Cyclist - Back in the Saddle

A lovely Christmas ride through Patapsco State Park.

Christmas Day was a sunny and balmy 40 degrees, and I had my dear friend Steve visiting from distant parts, so I decided to give him a tour of Historic Elkridge by bike. It was my first "real" bike ride since I had ligament repair in my thumb in November. I failed to stay in shape during my recovery, only having ridden the indoor bike about 4 times. Torture, my friends, though practicing for the St. Augustine Christmas Concert at the same time (at least mentally) helped reduce the tedium.

My friend Steve grew up in Newport News, as did I, and he spent every Saturday in my home from the time we were 9 or 10 years old, pretty much until he went into the Air Force. My Dad was his "Big Brother" and we had a lot of fun, making fudge, bike-riding, and singing together. When Steve visits, we finally have live music in the house again. I hate it when he leaves! I mean, I sing a lot, but I'm usually shushed. It's hard being an alto. I THINK I'm singing the melody, but really, I'm just kidding myself. The "melody" I learn is really the "harmony" and doesn't sound right alone I guess. I have a piano, but I get stuck on page 22 of "Teaching Little Fingers to Play." Some day I will take lessons. Am I just kidding myself again? Anyway, Steve and his guitar are always a pleasant addition. Last time he came, he brought his bagpipes too.

Luckily, Steve is an easy-going sort of guy, and he was willing to put his guitar down and ride with me. For my part, I was reluctant to have him put down the guitar, but the sun was beckoning. Already having had one 2 mile test ride, I was pretty sure I could manage to ride the mostly flat Gristmill Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park, and from there I would see how my thumb (and legs and heart) felt. It takes some thumb action to go into lower gear, though I used the bike with the grip gear changer thingies, so I had a new reason to dread hills. I was more afraid of undoing the surgery than in actual discomfort. But I felt confident enough to keep going out of Patapsco, onto Levering, across Route 1 to Furnace Avenue, and along Race Road, until we got to Hanover and did a U-turn.

This is a nice low-grade ride for those who are not fans of hill-riding, or those worried about traffic (good on holidays and weekends at least). Here are the details. We parked our car on Ilchester Road near the pedestrian bridge which leads to the Gristmill Trail. We rode the trail until we came to the longer "swinging bridge" a couple miles down. There's a downhill there, starting at the dam, which means you have to come back up, but in my opinion it's an easy hill. I can remember a time when I thought it was hard though. We walked across the swinging bridge, and then turned right to see the fish ladder at the dam from that side. It adds about a mile, round trip, but is a nice easy mile. We turned around, and rode straight out River Road, through the gate, and onto Levering Avenue. We went under the Thomas Viaduct, across Route 1, turned left on Main Street and right on Furnace Ave. I pointed out "Flowers by Gina" which has been there at least 25 years, because she made my wedding flower arrangements. Then I pointed out Goody's Folkart, which has a lot of beautiful hand-painted treasures for sale. We went past Melville Church, and the Elkridge Furnace Inn, and turned right on Race Road, where I pointed out the Hamil Builders office, which has always intrigued me with its long line of skylights where the architects work. We rode by the wetland on Race Road, which is very quiet in the winter, but loud with wildlife (birds, insects, frogs) in the warmer months. As I said, at Hanover, we did a U-Turn, because I was not ready for the big hill back to Elkridge-proper in that direction. On the way back, we took the road bridge across the river in the park, instead of the swinging bridge. That minimizes the hill-riding. (The River Road hills are easier going away from the fish ladder than going toward it.) It was about 15 miles in all, very few cars passed us, and though it was chilly, the sunshine was so pleasant, shining on the river, and through the light brown beech leaves still clinging to the trees. I was tired, but glad that I am finally, at long last, back in the saddle again.

Now, as I watch the snow falling, I whine, "When am I going to be able to ride my bike again?" Patience is not one of my virtues.

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