Patriotic Soul Chooses Alternative Holiday Activity

My Sunday began with a glance out my front window to see a woman politely waiting for a squirrel to cross the street. She had been driving down the street when the squirrel appeared, and stopped to allow it to pass unharmed.

The squirrel almost made it across but was frightened back by a truck passing in the opposite direction that had no intention of stopping for said squirrel. The woman in the car was very patient with the squirrel’s indecision, while the squirrel seemed at one point to pause and walk toward her to get a closer look. It made me laugh, and it also made me happy to live in a town where such seemingly non-important things are likely to occur.

Perhaps that’s what made me decide to do what I did that day. I thought about it for a few moments, whether to attend the big parade at noon or not … and then finally chose to trade hot asphalt and the sound of whiny children begging for free candy for the shimmering whisper of blue water, cool breezes and the occasional chipmunk crossing my path along a big, beautiful river.

Not that parades aren’t lovely, but I think I’ve enough of them under my belt at this point and some interaction with Ma Nature was much more sorely needed that day.

So I headed off on my bike to do the southern half of the Green Circle. The first thing I had to do though, was alter my course. A train was parked on the tracks, and we all know that when you want one to move, it never does. So I circled back to pass beneath it, and followed my way back to the trail.

With half the city’s population downtown, the trail was peaceful and quiet, but not abandoned. There were plenty of people out with the same idea, some more friendly than others. Quite a few dad-and-daughter teams, and one of them that I came across had an excited little girl pointing to some carp feeding on the surface of the river. Her dad was explaining it all to her, and she wanted everyone on the trail to stop and enjoy the moment with her.

A note to couples. If you’re going to stop and have a water break, it’s a good idea to pull off to the side of the trail, and please not on a curve. I almost ended up in your lap trying to react, and I’m not even pedaling that fast. I’m guessing you’re the same kind of people who stop in doorways too. We all think you’re very annoying, so let’s be a bit more considerate, hmm? Thanks.

The southern half of the Green Circle was not made for tall people, that’s for sure. Perhaps shorter people live along that part of the trail, but I found myself ducking the branches a whole lot more often than when I did the northern half a few weeks ago.

As I wound through the wooded trail, I was excited to hear a nearby train horn, but by the time I got to the crossing it was long gone. Scaling the very steep hills of this part of the trail, I ended up spooking a very big buck. Boy was he gorgeous!

Speaking of steep hills in the woods, again – if traveling as a couple, you might want to reconsider barreling down those hills as a pair. Yeah, romance is great, but side-by-side is a real no-no here if you don’t want to have any near head-on collisions. My annoyance with this was short-lived though, as the view from the bridge over the Plover River was spectacular, as usual. I stopped to take a few photos and continued on, passing Millie the Trolley somewhere on Tommy’s Turnpike.

Butterflies were everywhere, adding to the pleasure of the pedal that morning. When I got to the crossing at McDill Avenue, I was delighted by the idyllic sight of yellow flowers dotting the grassy field alongside the road. It was immediately spoiled though, by the incredible number of ugly orange barrels in the roadway, making crossing the road very difficult and confusing for both motorist and bicyclist.

Considering the way the highway officials decided against repainting the road to include fewer car lanes and adding two bike lanes, I’m thinking not many of them travel on their bike or on the Green Circle very often.

I think it might be a good policy going forward to ask the voting members to ride the street in question several times during peak traffic periods before making their final vote. The counts might be quite different. The city is changing, and we shouldn’t be afraid to try new ideas to accommodate the increasing number of people who choose bikes as their primary mode of transportation.

Continuing through the neighborhoods, I was almost knocked down by a speed demon hellbent on getting somewhere fast. He wasn’t a kid either, and should have known better. The narrow, curving trails in some areas can’t accommodate the racetrack mentality, guys. If you want to do mountain biking, go find a freakin’ mountain for goodness’ sake.

Out of the woods and along Parkway Drive, I burst out laughing. There’s a big sign alongside the road that reads, “POISON IVY” in large, capital letters. It made me laugh since apparently there have been enough riders stopping in that area to have not realized it and paid the price, necessitating the sign. Man, there’s nothing I love better than cheap entertainment.

The Green Circle is lovely with many moods, so it’s difficult to choose a favorite part. However, I think one of my favorites might be the Iverson segment, simply because it goes around and beneath the train yards, and I do love me a big ol’ train. In fact, I stopped there to enjoy a few moments of train therapy during my ride. There’s a sign that warns of electronic surveillance, but I just make a silly face at the camera and admire the trains anyway.

I didn’t see a conductor, but if I had, I would have waved. I could probably spend an entire afternoon watching the trains, but that’s another column for another day.

My ride ended in one of the most beautiful, oldest and largest parks in the city. I took a moment to stop and enjoy it along with many other patrons, sitting on a bench, taking a drink of water, making a few notes for this column and finally heading for home, feeling no less patriotic than those who were sweating it out downtown, in the heat and heart of the city.

Originally published July 8, 2016.

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