Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bike Path Brainiacs

Today, we indulged in one of the wonderful pleasures of living where we live...enjoying the scenic East Bay Bike Path. Only two houses away from it, we have easy access as a result to the lovely Colt State Park, downtown Bristol (summer rides to the new Bristol library are now the norm), and then the towns of Warren, Barrington, and East Providence to the north.

Today, we cycled out around mid-afternoon, forgoing our helmets in favor of our matching "Acadia National Park" baseball hats (yeah, I know, we should always wear helmets but it was such a nice day and we weren't going to be on the streets with cars so comfort was king), and headed north for Warren, the site of the annual Quahog Festival. For those who don't know, a quahog (most often pronounced KWAH-hog or KOH-hog) is a hard shell clam, not to mention the home town of the Family Guy.

Two years go, we explored the festival for the first time, enjoying its artists' tents, crafts displays, bandshell with local musicians, and largely avoiding a variety of Rhode Island "delicacies", most of which are deep fried (I think it's a state law). At that time, Jenn and I wandered our separate routes and when we met up again, each said "oooo I have a piece of art to show you" and we both, without any prior conversation, led the other to the exact same piece of artwork, a stunning photo of a weathered footbridge stretching across a march on Cape Cod. Actually, the whole "we found and liked the same thing independently" happens a lot to us. It's kinda scary.

Anyhow, we elected not to plunk down the many dollars it would have taken to buy the piece as we were leaving only a few days later for an 8-day trip to Maine. The picture eventually did make it home as Jennifer's 40th birthday gift but that's another story of personal perseverance while searching for an art gallery in the face of a torrential downpour in New Bedford.

So, after enjoying it so much then, we elected to spend part of today's lovely weather biking to Warren and wandering this year's festival. Due to lousy weather and long hours of work, this was only the second time we'd been on the bike path since July 4th and oh what a difference it made.

Riding into town and back on the holiday was an exercise in frustration and repeated instances of "what the hell are they doing?" as parade-goers strolled down the path in complete ignorance of the most basic etiquette designed to keep people safe. Families meandered down the path 4 and 5 people abreast, strollers stuck out into the middle of the path, and when we politely asked people to move to the side to allow those of us on bikes to get through, we were rewarded with nasty looks, muttered profanity, or a simple refusal to move.


Ah...that makes me feel better.

There are signs at every intersection and junction illustrating this rule. For those without the synaptic capacity to raise their heads and actually read the signs, there are big honking pictures painted on the asphalt to illustrate that bikes go on the right like cars and walkers go on the left so they can see the people coming toward them and not blunder into the path of a bicyclist coming from behind them. Why this was so hard for people to understand on July 4th, I don't know, but with 100,000 people in our little town that day, the collective IQ on the bike path (present company excluded, of course) could have been scooped up and kept safely in an egg cup.

Not so today. Today was a day when loads of people were on the bike path, folks who use it regularly to walk, bike, and run. Glory of glories, everyone knew how to use the bike path safely! As a result, we could all enjoy it without freaking out about the risk of running over little kids, having to swerve to miss some yahoo with a cell phone, or skidding to a halt to avoid having to swing to the left to miss a stroller and be faced with other oncoming bicyclists.

In the end, it made for a much more pleasant ride -- sunny, a lovely breeze, warm enough to be comfortable but really no humidity, and a fun time at the festival. Sadly, our photographer friend from New Bedford wasn't at the event this year though even if he was, we're in "look but don't buy" mode on art and other stuff right now with adoption costs looming. But in truth, a nice free afternoon at the festival and on the bike path with people who are considerate enough to use it properly was damn near a work of art all by itself.

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