Last weekend I rode the 50 States Ride in DC for the 5th time. Today I took on it’s cousin the Tour du Port in Baltimore. I first did this ride with my son many years ago when he was riding his 20-inch one-gear cyclecross bike. He worked his butt off on a cold day to finish 20 tough miles.
Since then the Tour du Port has grown and routes have changed. The route today was supposed to be 63 miles. I managed to chop that down to 60 through distracted riding.
The tour starts in the Canton neighborhood southeast of downtown Baltimore. We rode north on a ten mile loop that included the Jones Fall cycle track. This is a pretty nifty piece of bike infrastructure but needs some work. The storm drains were oriented in line with bike tires, which can make for a nasty fall if tire meets drain opening. And there were ramps made of tar that stuck out from the curb. These look like remnants from an earlier use. They, too, would make for a nasty crash.
Along the way back to the Inner Harbor, a cyclists pulled up beside me and asked if I was from DC. I said I was and asked why they asked. It turns out that my inquisitor knows Brian from whom I bought a Sharrows pin which Brian sells in support of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. My inquisitor was Alex Baca, an assistant editor of the Washington City Paper, whose tweets I have seen occasionally. She was riding with her friend Bec Rindler.
After taking a breather at the aquarium rest stop, we continued around the Inner Harbor. On the far side of the Inner Harbor we were supposed to ride toward Fort McHenry. We missed the turn, probably because we were gabbing and generally having a good time. This chopped 3 miles from the route. I have already ridden to Fort McHenry several times. It’s an interesting fort with great views of the water, but the ride to and from it is somewhat tedious.
We came into downtown and headed west and then south along the water. We followed the Gwynns Falls Trail which is a curious route. In parts it is over grown with trees and bushes, tree routes span the trail in other parts and bollards pop up at the strangest places. Let’s just say it has potential.
After climbing up to Bay Brook Park we headed right back toward Federal Hill where our route was cut off by a block party. We improvised and Alex, Bec and I became separated. I got back on course on Baltimore Street which has an impressive array of strip joints. After crossing downtown we headed down the eastern side of the Harbor through scenic Dundalk and other blue color neighborhoods. My thoughts turned to Henrietta Lacks, who lived and died in the harsher neighborhoods nearby and whose cancer cells are the subject of an excellent book about poverty, bioethics, and race.
|Pre-ride sunrise over Balmer|
|Heading north into tree lined neighborhood|
|Bec has some chocolate covered espresso beans|
|And I thought DC bollards are bad|
|Running zombies. Be afraid.|
|Chimney sweep bike helmet|
|Road to North Point|
|View from Stansbury Park|
|Blue skies over Dundalk|
Our trip south took us to North Point Park which overlooks the waters that lead to the Chesapeake Bay. Signs indicated that a significant battle of the War of 1812 took place here. Shots were fired, people died, the Brits eventually went home to abuse my Irish ancestors and to inbreed. At the Park I ran into Alex and Bec as I was leaving and they were arriving.
The return trip was little more than a reverse of our outbound course but into a head wind. I arrived at the after party to eat rather drab after party food. (There’s something about eating food at these things that doesn’t work. No knock on the organizers.) The three piece band played blues and R&B and was very entertaining. The bass player looked like he was all of 15 years old. (He reminded me of Liam Finn playing in his father Neil’s band 15 years ago). He played like he was born to it. The guitarist/lead singer and drummer were also top notch.
Baltimore has cycle tracks, bike lanes, sharrows, and bike trails. Most of them need a lot of work. At one point we hit a series of tree roots that was bone jarring.
We joked that the ride should be called Tour du Parking Lot because we cut through several on the way. We also rode on some narrow sidewalks that were just not appropriate for a long ride such as this.
The cue sheet was screwed up but not half as much as the last 20 miles of the course. We were supposed to take a right on a bike path over a highway on our way to North Point Park. This bike bridge was closed so the organizers improvised another route.
Much of the second half of the ride was on highways with ramps getting on or off other highways. Maneuvering through these intersections was not a lot of fun.
The course to North Point Park took us on a old road that had been closed to car traffic. Gates across the road at every intersection meant we had to ride a quick curve around the end of the gate.
The old road to North Point was strewn with glass for about a mile. I am shocked I didn’t get a flat. Speaking of flats, I have never seen so many bicyclists fixing flats in my life. This happened all along the route.
I was disappointed that we didn’t stop at the Paterson Park pagoda. This is truly one of the best parts of previous rides.
I only had a decent rhythm for about a tenth of the ride. I just couldn’t get my legs spinning.
I think I am retired from the Tour du Port. I recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of riding. Baltimore’s many neighborhoods make for an interesting ride.