I’ve really been a slouch when it comes to riding my bike. It’s been at least two years, and probably more, since I’ve straddled the Schwinn Caliente and pedaled off. My bike has been needing new tires and some basic maintenance, and the bumpy brick roadways of German Village aren’t exactly conducive to a thin-wheeled bike, anyway.
This past week, though, Kish got our bikes fixed, and this morning I got up early and decided to take a ride. By staying on Third and Whittier I could stick to smooth asphalt roadways, and that worked out well because my destination was the Scioto Trail bike path on the Whittier peninsula. It’s a nice, shaded ride along the river, winding past the Audubon Center and under the I-71 bridges, that emerges from the woods at the southern point of downtown Columbus. If you’ve got the energy and desire you can then head north, past the Scioto Mile park, and join the Olentangy bike path that rolls past Upper Arlington and the campus area.
It was a beautiful morning and I rode for a few miles, turning around when I read the Main Street bridge. I quickly realized, however, that my years of non-biking had taken their toll. I can walk forever without a problem, but cycling uses different muscles, and on the way back my thighs were screaming as I labored up the very gentle incline that takes you over the railroad tracks on Whittier. I desperately fought the urge to hop off and walk my bike up the hill — which would be a horrible embarrassment and egregious confession of failure — downshifted repeatedly to the lowest gear, and kept going at a snail’s pace until I finally made it to the top and could blessedly start coasting again. Fortunately, I wasn’t passed by any elderly joggers or children on tricycles.
When I acknowledge that biking uses different muscles, I can’t ignore the hindquarters, either. My keister hasn’t had to deal with a bicycle seat in a while, and it clearly needs some toughening up.
The government worker who deftly placed this sign in downtown Columbus that I walked past this morning sure picked a brilliant spot for a “wrong way” sign.
Wrong way, indeed!
Recently I was walking past one of those planters you see on the sidewalks in urban areas. You know what I mean — the large concrete boxes where generic plants can be found that might look good for a week or so, but then wither after not being regularly watered, with the planters often ending up as repositories for cigarette butts. They’re supposed to make the surroundings look better, but normally you pass them by without a second glance.
This planter, though, featured a naked doll figure that had been carefully buried thigh-deep in the dirt. The doll seemed to be making an intentional, kind of stick-it gesture to the world. As I walked by, I wondered: is the doll in fact supposed to be conveying some kind of message? What’s the back story here?
Such random, everyday weirdness helps to make the world a richer place.
The umbrella girl fountain is a favorite spot in Schiller Park for many German Villagers. Water drips from the umbrella into the basin, making a pleasant splashing sound, and the fountain is ringed by benches and large shade trees that make the area cool even on hot summer days.
But there’s apparently a problem: kids and dogs want to get into the water to cool off even more. That’s not good for the fountain. So the solution was to add a sign — in English for the parents of the kids, and in dog language for our canine friends.
Kasey apparently is a good reader, because she’s never tried to climb into the fountain to share space with the umbrella girl. Good dog, Kasey!
On our vacation I admittedly let myself go a bit in the grooming department. Sure, I took care of the basics, with showering and shampooing, but I decided not to shave the not-already-bearded parts of my face and neck.
Somehow, shaving seemed incompatible with towering mountains and wild rivers and hiking and bears and deer every time you turn around. It’s not just the northern mountains that bring out the non-shaving urge, though — I often don’t shave on beach vacations, either. In fact, I grew my current beard in 1997 on a family vacation to Florida. When you’re on a vacation where you hope to get away from it all, scraping your face every day with a sharp blade is one of the things you want to get away from.
But now we’re back to reality in Columbus, Ohio, where there are no mountains to be seen and the only whitewater is found in the jacuzzi at the nearest health club. And when you’re returning to the real world, it’s time to clean up your act and brace yourself for the rigors of everyday life. So this morning I lathered up with soap and scraped off those vacation hairs that had been happily growing on my cheeks and neck for the last week or so, and then I trimmed my beard, which was starting to look as overgrown as the old growth forest on the hiking trail to Avalanche Lake. It was kind of sad, though, to see those vacation whiskers wash down the drain and mark an official end to our holiday at Glacier National Park.
So now I’m properly neat and trim once more. I’m ready to head to the office.
Yesterday we moved over to the east side of Glacier National Park because I wanted to see the famous Many Glacier Hotel, a sprawling wooden lodge located on the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake and facing glaciers in the surrounding mountains. It’s a decidedly, wonderfully rustic place.
And yet, attached to an old-fashioned claw-footed bathtub with a shower curtain you need to tug around, you will find the world’s most complicated shower. This gizmo with five separately identified buttons and handles and knobs needed an explanatory sign that listed the eight steps needed to be followed sequentially to get it working and regulate the heat of the water.
That’s expecting a lot from a traveler just roused from peaceful, mountain air sleep. I couldn’t quite figure it out, so I took a shower that featured water that felt like it just melted off one of the many glaciers.
I love driving, and I love mountains. So why did driving the Going-To-The-Sun Road through Glacier National Park, heading west to east, leave me in an adrenalin-addled, heavy breathing, teeth-grinding frenzy by the time we finally got up to the Continental Divide at Logan Pass?
In short, why did the G-T-T-S Road kick my ass?
Well, perhaps it was the fact that the west to east trip leaves you a few feet from sheer drops into vast, yawning nothingness off the side of the road. Perhaps it was the constant 6-degree grade that takes you thousands of feet up, up, up, from the river’s edge to an elevation where you’re scraping the clouds. Perhaps it was the point after the Loop, where you look ahead and see only a narrow, ever-ascending two-lane road that is somehow carved into the sheer face of a mountain. Perhaps it was the absurdly short stone retaining walls that look like they might — might — stop a tricycle moving at a slow rate of speed. Or perhaps it was the oversized SUVs and pick-up trucks hogging the center line and squeezing you ever closer to the edge of calamity.
Whatever! I took the vacation challenge, and I can confidently say that the G-T-T-S Road ranks with Mount Washington and the Amalfi coast as one of my top three white-knuckle driving experiences. When we reached Logan Pass, and the stress eased off, I felt like kissing the snowy ground.
The Road, which was dedicated in 1933, is an architectural marvel, and the views it provides are fabulous, but take my advice — take a Red Bus Tour and let someone else do the driving. You might actually enjoy the scenery!