Biking Out The Past


So…..I keep a list of bike activities. I like lists. Some are from trips, rides, and adventures that I have completed, and others are ideas I would like to do in the future. Some are grand, and others very simplistic. I don’t like using the expression “bucket list” because, to me, it seems to indicate that it’s a task in my life that I have ignored, missed, or overlooked, and “somehow” my life will seem incomplete unless I have to complete that task before I die, or I have “failed” myself. I know that sounds dramatic, and the world has too much drama already.

Two of the simple bike adventures have appeared in this space before. The first one is to put my bike on a city bus using the bus bike rack and go “somewhere,” and the second one is to ride my bike over “A Bridge Too Far.”

It’s been a tough bike year. I am so far out of prime bike shape and worn down from recent work projects, not to mention that due to the global pandemic (yeah it’s real), that the thought of long-range rides or grand adventures are out of the question. Perfect! Let’s go for a small bike ride. 

My plan was to ride over four houses, wait for the city bus (RIPTA- Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, “Rip-ta”), and load my bike on and ride the bus to downtown Providence. There, I would bike along the river to the bridge that was prohibiting cyclists from “biking over the bridge.” I had put this ride off a few times with concerns about COVID-19, but in the chance of a calculated risk, and so not to let a vacation day escape me, I decided to proceed. 

I completed both tasks and enjoyed them. I have waited for millions; maybe trillions of buses (maybe), but I was excited and apprehensive waiting for the bus and hoping I would complete the simple loading process without having the bus wait on me too long, or damaging my bike due to incorrect loading. Neither happened. It was a beautiful day and I completed the short (5-mile) ride home from downtown.

Going to high school, I basically rode 4 city buses a day to and from school for 4 years. As you could imagine, It wasn’t always so glamorous, but it was a wide world of education, skill, adventure, unique characters, pretty girls, and an opportunity to read a lot of great books.

I have driven from my present house to downtown billions, trillions, ba-gillons of times, but I’m not sure I have ever taken that same partial route I took in those days, on the bus, and so I picked that route today.

As the bus drove along, I re-imagined all the sites and people I had seen in “those days.” 

My first bus stop I attended 3 streets over from my old house. The former Colonial Hilton Hotel that I walked by with my head down, only to look up and see President Jimmy Carter standing on the sidewalk laughing with other politicians. The stop at the corner of Armington and Narragansett Boulevard where Katie the gorgeous Catholic School Girl wearing the shortest of the short plaid girl-school skirts and swearing like a drunk AND sober Sailor graced our presence. The many jewelry factories that so many bus riders worked at. The 3 Ghosts of the 3 old Portuguese women who got on at New York Avenue every weekday morning for 4 years dressed in all black; mourning their husbands who had died. The bus stop at O’Connell Ave where Russel the “always under the influence of alcohol” bridge painter and constant source of amusement and stories used to dis-embark. The old long-gone Howard Johnson’s restaurant where Lisa Murphy; the beautiful older sister of my friend Vinny Murphy and a financial whiz at Textron Corporation convinced me to exit the city bus Downtown and hike home during the Blizzard of ’78. We stopped at the restaurant to get warm and she bought me dinner. The Manchester Street Power Station, where the Narragansett Electric Company employees walked the picket lines on strike, including Marita Duffy’s father, who she would ask us to pray for at the beginning of Catechism class on Monday nights. Muldoon’s pub, where I was always shocked and confused by how crowded the place was with people drinking at 7am on a weekday morning; never grasping at the time how many people worked the 3rd shift in the industrial manufacturing plants, and for them, this was just an “after work get together.” The Providence Gas Company; the only place before “everywhere” that you could actually purchase an outdoor gas grill. 10 Dorrance Street where the radio station JB105 was located, and I visited, to pick up a Blues Brothers Album and tickets to see the movie, that I won for being the 12th caller. Finally, the shell of the old Bonanza Bus Station, across the street from where I would get the transfer for my second bus going “up to Smith and Academy Ave,” all the while staring at the “travel buses” wishing I was going anywhere on anyone of those buses except high school. 

I don’t wish for the day I am taking public transportation every day to work, but recalling the past in the middle of a short, and fun bike adventure isn’t so bad either. 



7 thoughts on “Biking Out The Past

  1. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 28, and I still hate it. So I used to choose my apartment by whether I could walk to work downtown. Benefit Street, then Governor Street. When I moved to Pawtucket, I broke down, got my license and a car. But I’m like you, ZD – I’d rather be a passenger. Nice memories of downtown.

    Liked by 1 person

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