14 September 2009


Hit Cherokee Park this evening for the first time since back in the early summer. I'd made a round of Seneca Park (they're adjacent) a few weeks ago, but coming home from work tonight, I decided to go for broke.

Cherokee Park has some hills that are - at least to a relative novice like me - somewhat challenging. In fact, the last time I attempted them, they were seriously challenging. In fact... when I rode part of the loop from Seneca the other week, they were still pretty serious. And being under three weeks out from the big 3-day ride, I need serious hills.

So yes, they were still serious tonight. But you know what? I have now done that Maryhurst hill twice. The second time, I didn't even have to shift all the way down. I made the top in 1:4. I rode home that night the long way, up the long hill on Dorsey Lane, through Owl Creek, up Wade to Evergreen, and up that long hill back to LaGrange Road, and I only stopped twice. And had a drink of water and then rode from where I was to the top of the hill.

This evening, I had my route mapped out, but I hadn't visually memorized it. I made it up Baxter to Cherokee, but I missed Alexander somewhere and ended up wandering happily around Cherokee Triangle for some time. Cherokee Triangle is a lovely old neighborhood full of "Aunt Tot" houses - I know, if you're not related on my dad's side, you won't get that, but if you are, you know exactly what I mean! Well-maintained homes, at least 3,000 square feet each, original Mission style or maybe "pseudo-Tudor" from the same general period, with well-tended, gracious lawns and lots of space between houses. After a while, though, I began to notice that it wasn't getting earlier, and that I wasn't entirely sure where I needed to go from where I was. Sadly, I'd ridden those same streets, many of them, a few weeks ago when I branched out from Seneca Park, but in spite of those fairly frequent flashes of "oh, yeah!" I wasn't quite sure how they fit together anymore.

But then I rounded another curve and - oh, yeah! - there was Scenic Loop, which meant that I was officially In The Park. And I rode.

It's roughly five miles from the office to where I realized I was where I wanted to be, except that I'd probably put in an extra three or four exploring the neighborhood. What I'd mapped was a whole lot of Cherokee Parkway and Pee Wee Reese Road, not so much Scenic Loop. I took a wrong turn a couple of times and had to double back, and there were moments when - even when I knew I was in the park - I wasn't sure where in the park. But the really bitchin' hills, I remembered. They were the ones that almost did me in back in June.

Today, I made it to the fountain without ever once getting off to push. I stopped twice halfway or more up a hill and had a long drink of water, then knocked my gears back to where they felt right and took off again. I stopped when my front fender, which had come unhitched on the left, started dragging badly on the right against the tire. Another thing about commuting regularly and paying attention to how your gears feel is that you also learn how your tires should feel - and my front tire was feeling really sluggish. So I stopped at the fountain, checked my 20 with a lovely woman out for a walk, and called my daughter.

To shorten the long story:
  • Nellie Belle is off to the shop again tomorrow, to fix the fender and check the tire and assess her actual, realistic road-worthiness for a three-day ride.
  • If it turns out Nellie Belle is not up to the three-day ride, Plan B is to retrofit Bri's bike - Betty - with the appropriate gears, handlebars, and road wheels and start learning how Betty should feel going uphill.
  • I guess I'm driving tomorrow after all.
  • I now have yet another route home from work.
And I'm hanging in there. My navigation skills are still a bit suspect, but I'm getting a lot better at hills. Beginning with my "driving in Louisville" philosophy - there's always another way to get there - I'm learning my way around some places I'd never see in a car.

I've lived a lot of places. I've loved several of them. I don't think I've known one this well since San Jose - because this is the first time since then that I've navigated on the ground, through the neighborhoods, up and down the streets, learning my city at eye level. Navigating in a car, you watch for traffic, for lights, for street signs. Navigating on a bike, you watch for traffic, for street signs, and for friendly-looking people. For landmarks. For "oh, yeah!" moments.

I'm working on Daddy's trick of knowing what direction he was going depending on the angle of the sun. (The season is slowing me down a bit - the angle seems to have shifted somewhat abruptly a couple of days ago.) In the meantime, I'm learning the hills, and I'm learning Louisville better than anywhere I've lived in over 30 years.

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