They say you don't know what you have until it's gone. In my case, it's more like I didn't know what a great state (Minnesota) I had until I was biking on a six-inch sidewalk, sucking face with a pine tree as giant garbage trucks whizzed by left side and spewed nasty pebbles on my face.
In other words: I miss you, Minnesota. Particularly when biking. Particularly today, as I set out on a Grand Journey to do one of the routes listed on bikeforums.net
for my area, to a nature reservation about 7 miles away from me. Perfect, I thought. It might be sort of painful to get there, but once I get there, it'll be sublime! I saw your endless roads and barren "highways" in my head, Minnesota, and your wind turbines and straight paths for miles and miles, and no cars except once in a while... and I set off.
I should have known that New Jersey has nothing
on you, Minnesota, particularly in the biking department. Sure, I belittled you, Minnesota, when it came to your cultural coolness, maybe, or your lack of cities like New Yawk, or maybe your lackluster showing of bagels and/or sushi. But when it came to open, bike-friendly roads, Minnesota, you always did please.
And that was no clearer than today. As I set pedaling off, I was nearly thrown into the gutter by a zooming school bus that clearly had no loyalty for its alumni. Then, slightly panting from the shock of it all, I went onward to my next street, which was, of course
a really narrow bridge up a steep hill without a sidewalk. Sort of like up being up the creek without a paddle,
minus the idiom plus reality. This was less than ideal, and I was about thisclose
to getting sideswiped by several mean-looking Jersey drivers, but I kept on keepin' on, with my mind firmly planted on the lovely reservation to where I was headed.
I'm getting close to the Reservation now, and while I'm hot and sweaty and sticky and all-around nassssty, I'm all, "Whatever. Once I get to the reservation, we're golden." Except for the highway between me and the Reservation, which was basically a glorified interstate, with LOTS of loving drivers who were SO! EXCITED! to wait for a little 20-year-old in a helmet on a bike to sprint across the highway. (That would be me, hi guys!) Anyway, so I run across this to dozens of glares, and finally, bike the big, mean hill up to the Reservation. Finally I'm there. I take a celebratory swig of my water bottle. I'm jazzed. Freeeedom! I start singing Melissa Ferrick to myself, and grinning at the nature around me. La la la freeeedooooom---
---and that's when I almost get side-swiped again. In the fucking RESERVATION. For REAL, New Jersey? It turns out that the road on this nature reserve is actually a shortcut out of the major highway. And, because it was designed, I suppose, not with this in mind, it has no shoulder
I guess I don't need to detail anymore of my "adventure," except to say that Minnesota: you're real swell. The days when I used to complain about road lines or little bumps in the pavement seem silly, childish, when compared to the X-Treme Riding that is going out for any bike ride in NJ. Road bumps? Psssh, please, if you can feel that after the trucks have almost slammed you into the curb, you should be exalted.
So Minnesota, when it comes to, ya know, not being the most densely populated state in the country
, you make good on that. It's just that the facts are facts. So it's not that I don't love New Jersey-- tomatoes! Springsteen! Bon Jovi! The Shore!-- but being the most densely populated does have its low points.
...like ending up halfway immersed in a pine tree because a truck has almost touched the handlebar of your bike (I have the scratches as proof, to boot) as the result of Sideswipe Encounter #7.
Yours in open roads and fond memories,