Monday, November 21, 2016

Why I Ride

Doug Bowen-Bailey rides his bike.    (Photo submitted)
By Doug Bowen-Bailey
For the Hillsider 

I live on 7th Street right in the middle of the Hillside and have been biking year round as my primary transportation since I moved to Duluth in 1994. No matter where I go from my house, I am faced with significant ups and downs.  When I first arrived in Duluth, I had numerous conversations where people questioned my sanity. With time, those questions have diminished. In part, new trails and bike paths have been created and more cyclists are on the road.  People may have also now made up their minds about my mental stability (or lack thereof).

The question of why I ride is still one I reflect on. Here are my reasons:

Health:  I often say that I ride my bicycle because I love ice cream.  Without the calories that I expend on roads and trails, I’d be in trouble.  When my daughter was born and I became a stay-at-home dad — stopping my 20 mile daily bike commute — I quickly gained 25 pounds.  Now that I am back on the bike more regularly but with a 47 year old metabolism, I try to moderate my food intake which also means keeping my limits on ice cream in moderation.

Learning:  Biking isn’t just about physical health.  It is a time for me to think and reflect.  As an introvert, I need the chance to process experiences.  Also, I have long listened to audiobooks, revelling in how many chapters I can get through on a five hour bike ride.  This summer, I have discovered podcasts — and have been finding excuses to go on longer rides just so I can get through more episodes of NPR’s CodeSwitch, TED Radio Hour and Hidden Brain or the latest discussion of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.  Getting sucked into great ideas and perspectives isn’t necessarily recommended for navigating the traffic in town, but it works well for me on longer rides. 

Connection: In conversations with people from around the city, I am often struck by how little people know about different neighborhoods. Often, people allow the easiest routes for cars to be the limit of their world.  As a cyclist, I try to get off the main roads.  In part, it is safer to avoid traffic.  It is also more interesting seeing the variety of houses and yards all over the city. More than that, not being encased in a car and going a little slower, I am able to engage with people in those neighborhoods — greeting kids out on the sidewalks and adults enjoying the evening out on a porch.  Linguistically, respect has the same root as spectacle and is tied into the notion of being seen.  Biking through neighborhoods allows me to both see and be seen —  a connection that simply does not happen for me when I am encapsulated in my car.

Joy:  For me, biking is also simply fun.  As I write, I have just come back from a job in Superior — traveling over the Bong Bridge.  It’s cool to have commutes that take me across the St. Louis River to be able to look down on the whitecaps that come from the meeting of current and wind.  It’s also great to be able to ride some of the mountain bike trails on my work routes.  I frequently go to Community Action Duluth in Lincoln Park —  and as often as I can — I take the Duluth Traverse that goes from Observation Road to Twin Ponds and then below Enger Park.  This trail has a combination of sweeping curves, beautiful vegetation, creek crossings and vistas of the harbor and the lake.  I will take that over rush hour on I-35 any day of the week.

Humility:  A final reason is that being on a bike puts into perspective my place in the world.  I approach cars with deference because in an accident, I might have the right of way, but I’m the one who will still be dead.  That insight helps me be humble in other relationships as well which helps me be more successful in the world.

I hope that you, too, find this sense of connection and joy as you move through the hillside.

Bowen-Bailey lives in the East Hillside and works as a sign language interpreter and educator. He rides his bike to as many of his assignments as he can —  no matter the weather.

Duluthians travel to Standing Rock to share concerns about water compromise

By Shawn Carr
For the Hillsider

A group of Northlanders who traveled to Standing Rock to share
concerns about the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo submitted)
Fourteen people from Cloquet and Duluth Minnesota met in Cloquet and formed a caravan of five cars and one trailer as they made their way out to Standing Rock, North Dakota on Saturday Sept. 3. The trailer full of donations contained sleeping bags, tents, jackets, batteries, lighters, shovels, food and many other items. Among the group were representatives of All Nations Indigenous, Idle No More /Northwoods Wolf Alliance and a minister from Peace United Church. Eagle Staffs were brought along to honor the people at the camps and were used in a ceremony on Sunday, which was performed next to burial sites that had been disturbed by Dakota Access Pipeline. (DAPL). And of course we went there because we share the concerns of the other tribes that the DAPL will compromise the water quality of a good part of the nation.

We were in Jamestown, North Dakota when we heard the first reports of the pepper spray and dog attacks. This filled us with a greater sense of urgency to get there. The camp is made up of a couple camps. The main camp, Red Warrior, Sacred Stone and we stayed at Rosebud Camp across the river from the main camp. We helped in the camp kitchen with security and helped construct a sweat lodge. Things were peaceful when we got there and we were greeted with hugs and smiles at the supply and food tent. The mood was upbeat.

Once our tents were pitched, we were eager to help out.
Approximately 1500-2000 Native Americans from almost every tribe in the United States participated. The main camp consisted of 5000 people that weekend all peacefully committed to the protection of the water. The driveway to the main camp is lined by the flags of over 150 indigenous nations coming from as far as South America, Alaska and Hawaii. The camp is a constant bustle of activity including a school. Among the teepees and wigwams are horse corrals and tents. Among the drums and traditional singing there was also nightly entertainment by musicians and comedians. When it came time to go home none of us wanted to leave and had all been profoundly affected by our experience.