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Biking — an uphill battle
by Nathan Orme
May 22, 2011 | 773 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For about a decade, I have had conflicting dreams regarding my modes of personal transportation. One of them has been to own a Jeep Wrangler so I could drive around with the top off and enjoy beautiful weather and scenery. My other dream has been to live where I could walk, take the bus or ride a bike everywhere.

While these two things are contradictory in terms of saving gas, money and the environment, they are complimentary in the sense that they both make getting around more fun. A couple of months ago I acquired the Jeep, and last week I got started on the bike/bus/walk part. Last week was National Bike to Work and School Week, part of National Bike Month as declared by the League of American Bicyclists. I didn’t know bicyclists deserved or needed their own league, but apparently they have one and it gives them the right to claim a whole month. In the spirit of this national holiday, I decided to ride my bike to work on Thursday.

My regular readers are probably saying, “Are you some kind of idiot? You live all the way in North Valleys, how are you supposed to ride all the way to Sparks? What’s more, how are you supposed to get home since even cars have to strain to get up the hill coming out of town?” Let me clarify: I celebrated Ride Your Bike to the Bus Stop, Take the Bus Down the Hill and Ride My Bike the Rest of the Way to Work Day. This was still important to me because I was using my own physical power combined with the power of public transportation to get to work. Part of the reason I never fulfilled this goal was I never lived in a city where I felt the public transit system would satisfy the time constraints of my busy life. But I never really had given it a try, either.

So on Wednesday, I checked the schedule for the RTC Ride system’s route 7, which travels from my area to downtown Reno, and bought a one-day bus pass.That night I checked the air pressure in my bike’s tires and packed my work supplies in a backpack suitable for bike travel. I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and went to bed in time to get plenty of sleep.

I got up the next morning ready for my adventure. I had to ride a couple of miles to ride to catch the bus at 7:04 a.m. near North Valleys Regional Park.

I gave myself about 15 minutes to get there but underestimated the slight uphill grade of my route and my physical inadequacies. As a result I arrived about five minutes late and had to wait for the 7:34 a.m. bus.

In the interim, I learned that the city bus stop doubles as a bus stop for students at North Valleys High School. I also learned that high schoolers are a more motley group than I remembered.

When my bus arrived, the driver used a series of hand signals to tell me through the large windshield how to lower the bike rack on the front of the bus. I fumbled around for a minute before figuring it out and then fumbled with my bus pass before the driver grabbed it from me and turned it the correct direction to insert it in the machine to admit my passage. I took a seat at the rear of the nearly full bus and sighed with relief at the idea of resting my legs for a while.

As the bus roared away, I took a few sips of coffee and began to feel better. Our route down North Virginia Street was familiar yet different. Normally I would be focused on the road from the solitude of my own vehicle. Here, I could stare out the window in the company of the diverse people who share my little corner of the world. I felt connected.

At 8 a.m. we arrived at the Fourth Street station in Reno. I hopped off the bus, grabbed my bike, put on my iPod and helmet and started east on Fourth Street. Admittedly, this is not the prettiest route the area has to offer, but there is strange beauty in urban blight. My legs felt good as I pedaled, the result of having music to distract me and a slight downhill ride for the three-plus miles to the Sparks Tribune office.

There isn’t a bike lane down Fourth Street, but the unfinished sidewalk is wide enough to accommodate a bicycle. As I rode over some rough terrain and through the occasional puddle, I felt like I did when I was a kid and depended on my bike to take me everywhere.

When Fourth Street turned into Prater Way, I veered to the right onto Victorian Avenue. A bike lane appeared, which I used for a while before the proximity of the moving cars started to bother me. I traveled the rest of the way on neighborhood streets where I could ride in peace.

I arrived at work with a steadily racing heart and an invigorating soreness in my legs.

After 11 hours at work, I prepared to ride back to the bus station. I wasn’t going to let a long day stop me. The ride to Reno, which seemed so flat earlier in the day, now was an uphill battle. Earlier I had pondered having my girlfriend pick me up but I was determined. In the end, my tired muscles and hungry belly forced a compromise with my brain: I rode to the Denny’s on Wells Avenue near the Interstate 80 exit where I caught a ride home. I had ridden a total of about eight miles, which made me happy. A few hours later, though, my sore backside wasn’t so happy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go exercise my legs so I’m in better shape for next week’s ride to work.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at norme@dailysparkstribune.com.
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