Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The "I" in "Inner City"

(left, Night conceals the revolving supply of broken glass on Berkley Bridge in downtown Norfolk. Photo by Bill Gilmer.)

Beautiful day Monday. It was in the 70’s, though stubborn 20 mph winds reminded us that January stood closely, just holding out for the day, holding out for the holiday. Holding out for the most reluctant of federal holidays, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Sally, Susan, Carol, Sharon and I set off from Conte’s Norfolk at 3pm, heading to Ipswich trails. Berkley Bridge to Indian River, Sparrow to College Park. We shared pulls and said how nice it would be to ride Ipswich trails in daytime rather than at night as our work schedules usually dictate.

Ipswich at night is narrow single track, artificial light. Cateye, NiteRider, never seeing past rooty trail, lots of dips. It’s a meditation of Sigma light in quick turns, watching the line of blinky in front, calling out holes in immediate view. The bigger picture is perceived only when blinkies speed into the distance, into an open wooded expanse I know is there but can’t see for sh--.

Ipswich exposed to holiday sunlight showed me ground, the ground around that, and the ground around that. I saw all the corollaries from our regular loops, some new, others well worn. A car dealership on Military Highway was blight through bare January trees, and kids called out from the adjoining residential yards and apartments.

I could not quite decide if the businesses and yards encroached on the woods or the woods encroached on them. Unlike deep forests, Ipswich does not have that holy feeling. Its veneer reminded me more of wearing the same nice clothes for a second day in a row.

Rusted car parts lay in the bottom of most of the waterways. We passed tossed bottled waters, the occasional beer can, paper trash, all interrupting hope that retired leaves could just rest and be a forest carpet. There were even a couple of sections where it looked as if someone had emptied entire garbage cans in the middle of the woods. It’s not even the trash, really, it’s what the trash says. We don’t care about you, and worse yet, we don’t think you care about us. Gilmer called. Naturally there was cell reception in this not-so-remote place:

Where are y’all, Gilmer asked. He had worked until 3:30 and rode to meet us.

We just did low-high, I said.

I just crossed the bridge where I

We can meet you at the causeway.

Are you going new way or old way, he asked.

New way, go backwards, I said.

I commented to Sally that only a regular on our night rides would understand the conversation Gilmer and I just had. I said in almost the same breath that I know why the Peninsula mountain bikers call Ipswich “inner city mountain biking.” But wait, am I the inner city since I am so familiar with this place? With the twists, the perfect lines, the personality of each bridge? With the endo ruts, the places to get vined, the reflectors Wes placed on the trees? I don't ride in it. I am it.

We passed the BMX’ers flaunting cigarettes and doing impressive jumps, the dog walkers, that one strange dude, the paint gun army in camouflage. They held fire as we sped past in a practiced, talkative paceline. All out there enjoying a Tidewater winter day. We all need to join together and clean up our inner city soon.


Kevin said...

what am I looking at?

Liz Schleeper said...

Ok, look now. It took a while to finish this post. That is my meager attempt at descriptive writing.

Kevin said...

ah, a very Dirt Rag ish article on our ghetto trail!
I wanted to join ya'll but could'nt.
The swich is prettier at night!

Marco said...

It was Dirt Ragish!

I enjoyed it Liz :-)

Anonymous said...

the swich look finre 2 me....

Liz Schleeper said...

Thanks guys! I want to talk to Larry (EVMA) about all of us getting a clean up going.

Kevin said...

I wanna talk to Larry also...

Anonymous said...

good blog, liz!