This is the second installment of a week-long cycling series. Read the first installment here.
Admittedly, it took me a while to hop on a bike after my fall at Critical Mass. My knee — the reason why I had a hard time getting to Levy Park during my public transit series — was acting up throughout the week, giving me even more of an excuse to not get on a bike and finish my challenges in a timely manner.
I procrastinated. I made excuses. And then I procrastinated more until I realized this series needed to be completed or it would be a bust. I figured I would start out easy: a ride around the bayou seemed innocent enough and allowed me the capability to stop just in case my knee decided to give out, as it had been doing most days since Critical Mass.
I decided on the bike trails along Buffalo Bayou. Some of the most notable in the city, the trails would allow me to burn some calories while catching a view of the city along the way. Win win. I packed a water bottle, helmet and my newly-purchased bike into my car and headed off down Kirby Drive toward downtown.
I parked in a lot off of Allen Parkway and Dunlavy under a sign that read "PUBLIC PARKING: EVERYDAY. 6 A.M. TO 6 P.M." I looked at my watch. 5:12 p.m. I had about 45 minutes to get a good workout in before possibly being towed. I mounted my bike and rode west toward Shepherd. I've driven past this intersection plenty of times, and I'd come to know of it as the end of Montrose and the start of River Oaks, lined with a rickety looking bridge off to the right side. I rode toward that bridge (it's not as rickety as it looks) and made my way to the north side of the trail, passing along other cyclists, most of them riding on bikes rented from BCycle or the Bike Barn. I only saw a few people who appeared to be riding bikes they owned.
The route ended up being hillier than I expected. Houston isn't known for its variety in elevation but at some points, I thought the elevation changes were either added in on purpose, or I really needed to get out of my car more. My bike tracker indicated my elevation changed by 162 feet throughout my entire ride, so, from my perspective, the change was significant.
I zipped in and around runners and walkers on the smooth pavement and liked how the bike route explored parts of the park you can't necessarily see from the street. It's always exciting to see Houston from a new point of view and this was a nice way to do it. Sometimes, I'd forget I was in a city center, thinking that I was in the middle of a state park far away from civilization. It was that tranquil, even on a balmy Sunday afternoon. I biked past the Glenwood Cemetery and Eleanor Tinsley Park, reminiscing about the memories of a washed-out Free Press Summer Fest, and rode on toward downtown.
I looped around when downtown came into my sight; I didn't want to risk the chance that I would be towed and have to face my fear of riding my bike on a city street sooner than I intended to. This half of the ride was a bit more crowded than the first half, perhaps because of the parking spots that lined Allen Parkway. I passed tourists taking pictures, a group of women attending some sort of fitness class and families taking their dogs to the dog park that's tucked away in the shade next to the trails.
I passed under Montrose Boulevard and pedaled back up to sea level before finding my car in the lot where I'd parked, untouched. I let out a sigh of relief, packed my bike up in the car and turned the air conditioning on high. I checked my phone. I'd biked 5.46 miles in about 40 minutes — not bad for a first-timer.