From March 2014 to May 2015, we lived in an apartment that was practically right on the East Bay Bike Path. I didn’t own a bicycle for any of that time. In fact, I didn’t acquire a bike until more than a month after moving out of that apartment and into one in Providence, where I now bike to and from work every single day. Since July, I’ve poured a lot of time into riding my bike around the city and I’ve come to love every second of it. I’ve gotten a lot better at it since my first post about biking! I’m still learning every day, but I feel confident every time I ride, which is great.
Today, I decided to venture outside of Providence, which was kind of a big step for me. I wanted to stop by my tattoo artist’s shop to say hello and discuss some future sessions, and I sincerely considered taking the bus so I wouldn’t have to ride my bike so far. The weather was beautiful, though, and I had the entire day off with nowhere to be (other than at home, organizing the pantry), so I decided to take the plunge and go for a ride.
The bike path I mentioned earlier just so happens to connect Providence to Warren, the town where my tattoo artist’s shop resides. It follows an abandoned railroad line and most of it extends along or near the shore of Naragansett Bay, which makes it a ridiculously beautiful ride, especially with all the fall colors everywhere. The distance from my apartment to the shop is 13 miles, according to Google Maps. Nearly all of that is on the bike path, making it a safe, straight shot ride. The only problem is that because I’ve never ridden it before, I got completely lost trying to find its entrance in Providence! I rode a few miles out of the way, doubled back, and eventually figured it out, then kicked myself when I realized my mistake on the ride home. I was on the wrong side of the park where the labeled entrance to the bike path starts. Silly, silly me.
Anyway, I made the ride with my phone tucked into the pocket of my jacket, Google Maps activated and the volume turned all the way up so I could hear the directions in case I got really, really lost. That mostly worked — it helped me navigate successfully through Providence on streets with which I’m unfamiliar, and kept me on track with time each time I stopped to take photos, drink water, or just take a break. I average 4-5 miles a day riding to and from work, or to the grocery store, or wherever. A 13 mile ride is a lot for me, and even though it was primarily on the bike path, I had to take quite a few breaks. (Admittedly, many of those were to take photos, but some of them were 100 percent necessary to replenish fluids and eventually, to snack.)
I set off for Warren at around 12:30 p.m. I didn’t check the exact time, but I knew that Google Maps said the ride should take me about an hour and 20 minutes. It ended up taking me about two hours, between getting lost and then taking breaks. In my opinion, that’s not bad! I didn’t panic the way I’ve always been prone to do when I get lost, and I took my time figuring out where I was going and how best to get there. It made it all the more satisfying when I finally found the bike path, and set off down it feeling the wind in my face and seeing all the incredible, beautiful scenery.
At a certain point, I knew exactly where I was. I drove that route to and from Providence all last year and listened to my partner talk about how great the bike path was on many of those drives. I always hmm’ed and hah’ed at the right moments but never thought, “someday I’ll ride that bike path and it will be one of the best days I’ve had all year”. Alas, today I did, and it absolutely was. Recognizing where I was along the bike path from brief walks when we lived near it made me feel a lot more comfortable than I would have expected, even if it was strange to be back in that place after so many months away from it.
I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I knew where I was for the majority of the ride once I passed our old apartment, even if it was parts of the bike path we’d never walked and that I’d never really seen from the car on my drives to the tattoo shop. Gaining a sense of direction is cool, and it’s something that’s mostly happened for me since I started riding a bike in the city.
I conquered a lot of fears on this ride. I rode alone, which is something I struggled to do when I first started commuting via bike (though it’s now something I relish, because it gives me some space to clear my head). I set off with only a vague idea of where I was going, and I didn’t break down when it wasn’t as easy to get out of the city as I thought. (It is that easy, I realize now. But how was I to know when I’d only driven past that part of town in a car, and only once or twice at that?) I rode down hills without death-gripping my breaks and safely weaved around pedestrians, motorized scooters (!), and other cyclists. I RODE MY BIKE OVER WOODEN BRIDGES, SOMETHING I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD DO EVER.
I’m absolutely petrified of bridges, as the fear of falling relates directly to my intense fear of heights. I’ve worked my whole life to be less afraid of bridges, and driving over them for several years has helped but hasn’t made the fear completely go away. I can’t walk on foot bridges without panicking about somehow flipping over the side and falling into the water below. Today, when I hit the first bridge on the bike path — over the Barrington River, photographed above — I slowed down significantly because my heart skipped a beat inside my chest. Then I realized how beautiful it was, and how neat it was to be riding my bike through that kind of view, and I stopped to take some pictures and just watch the waves for a bit. It ended up being a very serene, calming experience. When I hit the second bridge on the bike path, I flew right over it without a care in the world. It felt so good.
I arrived in Warren around 2:20 p.m. and discovered that the artist I sought wasn’t even at the studio today. However, the other artist I wanted to speak to about a new tattoo was there, and she and I set up an appointment for November. The piece is one I’ve been thinking about all summer, and my adventure today solidified why I want to get it done. I’m very, very excited about it. (I promise I’ll post pictures when I get it done, but for now I’m going to keep it a secret from the World Wide Web.)
On the ride home, I conquered even more fears. I rode part of the ride with my hands on the bottom of my drop bars (something I never do, but did primarily to ease some of the strain in my shoulders today — it only kind of worked. I’m sore!) and took some pictures on my bike while riding my bike (like the one at the beginning of this post). I rode on a proper bridge road with actual traffic and was totally calm about the whole experience. I figured out where I needed to be based on the city grid and streets I knew when my maps app got confused at a handful of intersections. Basically, I kicked ass. All in all, I probably rode around 30 miles with all the times I got lost or ended up taking unintentional detours through the city (and stopping at work for a massive latte that I drank in about three minutes flat before I rode home), and when I got home I wanted to fall on the couch and die.
Instead of doing that, I drank a lot of water, had a small snack, took a shower, and set to work organizing my pantry.