Summer in the City – It’s Not All Bad News in Baltimore

From all the recent bad news coming out of Baltimore these days, you’d think the city was going to change its name to Baltiless. Days like today belie the news reports. Sure Baltimore still has plenty of problems, but it has so much going for it.

I had thought about driving up for the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race which my friend Charmiane has raved about. There was also a well regarded bike ride called the Tour Dem Parks. And an Orioles game. And a celebration of the Hampden neighborhood. Baltimore was feeling its oats today.

After doing my physical therapy and reading the paper I had dithered away too much time to do the Parks ride. My friend Linel had managed to dither less and made it to the ride. (I’m jealous.)  I still wanted to see the race so I hopped in the Millenium Falcon and drove north.

If I had my act together I would have tossed Little Nellie in the trunk of the car, but the prospect of walking aronud in bike shoes put me off. I regretted my decision. Parking in downtown Baltimore on a Sunday is a tad pricey, $30 for the day. I drove to Patterson Park and parked for free on the street. I was now more than a mile from the Race, Fells Point or anything else I wanted to see. Dumb. Bikes are good. Folding bikes are gooder.

I walked into the park and my favorite Baltimore building, the Patterson Park Pagoda was open. I climbed the stairs to the top and enjoyed the fantastic 360 degree view of the city and a cooling breeze. I stayed up there a good 20 minutes watching the Parks riders climb the hill to the 25-mile rest stop at the base of the Pagoda. I was using Instagram and I noticed that Paris, whom I had met at the Cookie Ride earlier this year, had just taken a selfie with the Pagoda in the background.

Me inside the Pagoda
Me inside the Pagoda

I climbed down and found her. We talked for a few minutes and she headed out for ten hot, muggy miles of bike riding. I hoofed it to the Canton neighborhood to check out the race. People were all headed east on Boston Street, the main drag in Canton. I didn’t see any race so I left the street for the much prettier waterfront promenade. I don’t do boats but it would be sweet to live along the water here.

After 10 minutes I spotted on of the race participants heading east on Boston so I went back to Boston to check it out. The “sculptures” came in ones and twos. They are really sculptures they are more like human powered parade floats. As I watched I was tweeting my friend John Roche who was coming to what he referred to as the splash zone. It turns out the sculptures also have to go into the water and sail (if that’s the word) around a buoy. Yes, they were parade floats in every sense of the word.

#balmer kinetic

Huge dogs (one with a sock monkey on its back), a black birthday cake, a dinosaur, a space shuttle, a giraffe. The designs were whimsical and creative. The crowds watching the floats floating were festive. It was hard to see the actual action because the crowds were several people deep. Everybody was in a good mood, including John and his wife Kate. Kate is pregnant and overdue. Despite the heat and being on her feet for what must have been over an hour, she looked fantastic and was in a great mood.

Kate wasn’t alone. I saw half a dozen pregnant women in attendance. And one mom with a brand new baby. What’s in the water, hon?

I left the splash zone with John and Kate. They headed home and I hoofed it back to my car through a neighborhood of row houses. Many of these row houses were three stories tall with roof top decks for views of the water. It just looks like the kind of place that would be a blast to live in. And these homes are only a short walk or bike ride from downtown.

I know it has its problems, but from what I can see, Baltimore is looking good.

Except for the Orioles, of course.

Paris’s account of the day is here. A few more pix of the race here.