Saturday, October 10, 2015

Coffeeneuring ride #1

Today I rode to Outbound Station in Conshohocken. The ride was approximately 32 miles, and I had a chai latte, bagel with cream cheese, and banana. Outbound Station is right next to the Conshohocken train station on the Schuylkill River Trail, and is a favorite ride stop for Philadelphian roadies. There are two bike racks outside, and lots (LOTS!) of bike-specific decorations inside.

I'm spoiled. I got into bicycling when I lived in Seattle. Taking the bus everywhere was a drag, and people biking looked like they were having fun. So, I started biking. I got to commute on the Burke Gilman Trail every day, and frequently took the long way home on a series of trails that took me around Elliot Bay. There's a bench near Centennial Park over there that I could always count on as a place to sit and stare at the water, about a mile from my apartment.

Philadelphia...is another story. When the Schuylkill was named the best urban trail in the US, I laughed audibly. I didn't vote for it; I voted for the Burke Gilman. The Schuylkill takes you out of the city; the Burke takes you through it. The Schuylkill is FULL of PEOPLE who don't practice good trail etiquette. Sure, many do, but far too many do not. But there isn't even good signage telling people what to do, or where to go. This is an old story, but Saturday on the Schuylkill is battling kit-clad roadies, people pushing strollers, a regatta, pedal-powered carts that hold entire families and travel at walking speed, lots and lots of joggers, and people out on bikes for an excursion. It's not their fault. It's not my fault. It's not all that well-designed of a trail, and only divides walkers & runners from bicyclists (etc.) in a few very short places. There are several blind curves, and it's not all that wide.

But it's the best we have, and there's a whole lot of us who live here. Even though I mutter under my breath about all the annoying things that go on on that trail, I'm still glad we have it. I realize, I understand that while it is possible to have nice things in Philly, anyone who wants to improve trails, green spaces, bike lanes, or even pavement quality in this town is climbing an uphill battle and fighting against general political will. It's so much harder to get things done here than most people realize. Looking to cities like Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver and demanding that we have their infrastructure (and criticizing local advocacy groups in the process) is misunderstanding the way each city works. We need to celebrate small victories here, because it's just so difficult to get anything done.

Look, we can't all live in Seattle. I surely couldn't. But we take what we can from the environment in which we live. We do the best we can.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A preamble to Coffeeneuring

When Mary posted this year's Coffeeneuring challenge, my first reaction was "oh, I'm too busy to do that this year. Twice was enough." I was comfortable with that decision. I even (finally) met Mary in-person a few weeks ago at BikeDC's famed Friday Coffee Club, and led with the confession that I wouldn't participate this year.

And then things changed.

I started seeing #coffeeneuring posts all over Instagram and Twitter this past weekend, and then today, I saw the only other Philadelphian I know (other than the one with whom I live) who has participated in coffeeneuring post his trip on Instagram, and I got jealous. Not even a FOMO-type jealousy, where there's jealousy for jealousy's sake. But a jealousy of wanting to be out on my bike, riding to coffee shops, and enjoying autumn. And then there was the jealousy of broadcasting it. I got jealous of my former self. I used to write all the time: academic papers, blog posts, journal entries, and the like. Now all I write are emails, and lots of them. When the point of email is to keep it short, unemotional, and impersonal, there's little room for any sort of expression. It's hard to consider anything that I do "writing."

As is typical of folks my age (so I'm told, though it always feels like everyone else has "it" "figured out"), life has been a little transient in recent memory. Since I Mastered Arts (all of them, yup) and moved from Seattle to Philadelphia in June 2014, I:

  • have lived in three homes
  • have had six jobs
...and a whole bunch of other things that are less numerically interesting.

Programming note: one thing that is particularly interesting is how the "thing" that got me started with this blog is no longer meaningful to me. I keep my blog's title as an acknowledgment that things change.

With so much change, it's hard to feel grounded. I think this is common for people in all stages of life, but it feels particularly immediate in this post-college/post-grad school moment. Bicycling is a relatively new part of my life, but it helps keep me grounded. My daily commute through city streets doesn't do that, though. It takes a bit more.

I get a lot out of yoga, but my favorite part right now is toward the beginning of a class, the "set an intention for your practice" part. I'm viewing coffeeneuring as a practice, with the intention of mindfulness and adaptability. If something does not serve my practice, I will get rid of it. If my practice calls out for something else, I will engage in it. There may be weekly ride descriptions, and there may not be. I may give up halfway through the season. But I'm going to try. 

Stay tuned for Coffeeneuring 2015: Mindfulness Edition. Or don't. But I'll probably be here.