Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pittsburgh Thankful Vol. 1: Biking Down and Up Penn Ave

(For the month of November, I'll be thankful for a Pittsburgh thing every Thursday, leading up to the day when I eat my weight in mashed potatoes. Today is installment #1.)

I'm thankful for having to (deciding to) bike down and up Penn Ave every weekday.

In May of this year I decided I was going to attempt to ride my bike 300 miles. Maybe this isn't an impressive thing. Maybe it is. Either way, I decided to make a commitment to riding my bike throughout the month, which meant I was going to ride my bike to and from work every weekday, regardless of weather. Before this I would play a game of bike roulette. If the weather said it was going to rain later, I probably wouldn't ride in. If it said it wouldn't rain until like 7 or 8 p.m., I would ride, but sometimes the rain happened sooner and I would get stuck in it. But, starting in May, I started riding my bike to work every weekday, regardless of the weather.

My daily route to work.

My weekday mornings since then have been a straight shot down Penn Ave into the city. It's a great way to wake up: speeding down Penn Ave on my bike, hoping the 88 bus doesn't run me off the road, or - worse - over. There have been mornings when the city is covered in a fog. Yesterday morning I rode in and couldn't even see the city until I was in it. If I leave my apartment by 8:10, I'm at work by 8:30. (Most mornings, when I waited for the bus at Friendship & Gross, I'd wait at least that long for a bus to come by.)

Now, biking into the city for work means that at the end of the day I have to bike home. Biking in is all downhill, which means that biking home - well... it's an uphill battle. The first part of the ride is fine through the Strip down Smallman. Once I get past the 31st Street Bridge, it's a climb back into Bloomfield up Penn. When I started biking to and from work (back in November 2010) I really struggled getting up Penn Ave. I had to stop every now and then and catch my breath. I was in an insanely low gear all the way up. But, as time went by I felt myself getting stronger and the ride getting easier. Now I get up Penn Ave in no time at all.

In the past year I've gotten in the best shape of my life. I haven't stepped foot into a Pittsburgh gym. I attribute my physical wellness completely to transitioning to using my bike as my main mode of transportation. It's fun and freeing, and it's made me a lot braver and confident. And for that, I am thankful.

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