I’ve been wanting to participate in Memphis’ 30 Day Car-Free Challenge. And by participate, I mean that I’ve been wanting to make some of my regular trips by bicycle. Now, the Car-Free Challenge is not specific to bicycling. The City is encouraging all of us to just try a different mode of transport, be it walking, bicycling, riding the bus or car-pooling. But, I already know that I can walk to places in Cooper-Young. And I decided early on in the month that I wasn’t willing to wait on the bus that would take Miss Bean and I to our regular Friday piano at the University of Memphis. And just staying in, and therefore not using the car, doesn’t really seem a true experience of the challenge, though we have done that for several days.
So, this morning, I decided that we had two errands and we could do them by bicycle. This was to be my third solo ride, but the first one where I was doing more than just visiting a friend or going to the park. I’m sure I’m going to get faster at the set-up. But right now, after everyone is potty-ed and diapered, snacks are packed and toddlers are distracted; getting out the bike, trailer, flag, helmets, all the right bags, and us three riders takes me a solid 15 minutes. I only had to go back in the house once after locking the door, to get my own helmet. And we were off.
On our Saturday Wee Ride to La Michoacana, we followed the most scenic route through Tobey Park and then Chickasaw Gardens. But it was super wind-y and after trying to figure out what we did on the map, I decided that I would just stick with something more straightforward. So instead, we crossed Tiger Lane and went behind the Liberty Bowl to cross the railroad tracks and go East on Midland. This runs into the Memphis Country Club, but I thought taking Southern for just a short time would be okay. Of course, as soon as we got behind the Liberty Bowl, a train came. It was super slow-moving, and I was kicking myself for not just figuring out the Chickasaw Gardens route. But the train engineer waved to Miss Bean and we chatted with some guys in a truck who were also waiting on the train. After 10 minutes, we were on our way, again.
The rest of the ride to errand #1, The Peddler Bike Shop was uneventful, except for the part where I also didn’t know exactly where it was on Highland. But after going South when I should have gone North, and then passing it the other way because I was afraid to pull a U-turn on with the trailer, we pulled into the bike rack, locked up and went inside. I was actually really pleased with this errand. I was there to ask Cort Percer, from the Peddler, to do a class for Revolutions in May called “You Can Fix It.” He agreed and is going to teach an in-the-field maintenance class covering topics like fixing a flat or a chain when you are out on the road, like we were, today. This class will be on Monday, May 12, at 6:30 p.m. And if you are not already a member of Revolutions, you should join and then take this class!
After this errand, I felt so good that I decided I could do errand number two which was to go to Benjamin Hooks Central Library. We have not been there in ages, even though it is one of our favorite places in town. I felt a little tired on some of the hills but we arrived just fine. We looked around the Children’s Room for a while and I decided to check the computer to figure out that route through Chickasaw Gardens, because it seemed silly to go all the way South to Southern (and I was too afraid of my novice self pulling the trailer on Central). Have you guessed, already, that I do not have a smart phone? Well I don’t, but I found a map online, drew one out for myself and wrote down directions and thought I was all set.
But then we attempted it. I got completely lost.
That neighborhood is lovely but the streets are ridiculous. And I started thinking how from now on, I think I’m going to approach riding a bike, especially when out by myself with the kids, as though I am in a foreign country. Everything looks so different on the bicycle. Roads seems farther apart. It feels like a lot more work to try one way and then have to turn around. And even though we passed a pretty white lady out for her morning jog who could have probably helped me with directions, I was embarrassed to ask. I’m sure that she spoke English, unlike when I lived in West Africa. But I was hot and sweaty and tired. And I had already passed her twice. But in Senegal, I got really good at speaking French and Wolof, because I made myself ask for help. And I tried out lots of new routes, even though I sometimes got lost. And I got hot and sweaty and tired because I was always walking or hoping on a Car Rapide.
But I figured out how to get most places and I was really proud of that. I know I can get to that place here, on my bicycle, too. Even if I did feel pretty defeated, today. It is a much different thing exploring with kids. Not only is there a lot more stuff to carry, but there is their well-being to consider, too. I’m glad to be doing this hard work while it is still Spring. It was nice to have a breeze. And they were able to snack and nap. Miss Bean cheered me on and waited until I was at least seated in a comfortable chair nursing Mr. Bear, to remind me that we also needed to have some lunch.
I think our next trip out alone will be to the Park. But, today, I accomplished errands. And now that I’ve done it once, I know that I can do it, again.