Saturday, June 16, 2012

Baby steps toward conquering the big(ger) city

On Thursday, I participated in a group bike ride led by a bike enthusiast employee of West Des Moines Scheels.

I've run fairly frequently since moving into my new apartment, first on the sidewalks in my neighborhood and later, once I spotted it, on the Jordan Creek Trail. This paid off Thursday, when I was both too lazy and too late to put my bike rack on my car and the bike on the rack; my exploration-by-foot of the Jordan Creek Trail led me straight to the mall that houses Scheels.

One of the bridges of Polk County. I took this picture heading back home from my first excursion on the Jordan Creek Trail.
EDIT: I think this is actually in Dallas County.

So I felt both efficient (what stop-and-go traffic?) and fit (what, you drive to workouts?) as I whizzed over to the meeting point. Once we started biking, from 60th to the Clive Greenbelt Trail, that sense of fitness began to dissipate, but that's besides the point.

I knew where I was all the way to the intersection of 60th and University Avenue — and then for the next 10 to 15 miles, I had no idea whatsoever. Around curves, through woods, down hills we whirred, and then at some point I saw the sign: Grays Lake, one mile. For a brief moment, I was oriented again, but then it passed, and we were winding all over the south side of town again.

When we reached the Valley Junction area, it began clicking. There was the farmers market, there was Furry Friends Refuge (from whom I adopted my cat), there was my veterinarian ... everything I recognized, I identified out loud with much glee.

Finally, as we reached the eastern stretch of the Jordan Creek Trail, our guide mentioned that we weren't far from where we began: "Oh, so we're not far from the underpass, then. It's I-35, right?"

The guide, a West Des Moines native, replied with some surprise: "Yep, exactly." He paused. "You sure know your way around for only being here two weeks."

I puffed up with pride. No one has ever before (and no one probably ever will again) praised my navigational skills — because I have none. I'd passed as a competent adult for years by living in my midsized hometown. However, I'd been determined since Day 2, when my head had finally cleared from the sleep-deprivation and tiny homesickness cloud, to achieve Des Moines fluency.

My strategy includes several components, one of which is running. It's easier to pay attention when you're safely on a sidewalk, it's a healthy, free, green way to roam the area ... and it's apparently a successful one. Hooray for discovering another fringe benefit to running!

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