Biking Stanford

After finishing breakfast at Napa Institute yesterday morning and huddling with Bobby Schindler, I decided to drive south to Palo Alto to work on some writing. Strategically, this meant that I was able to visit Stanford’s campus and spent about 90 minutes biking it on a Lime-E bike like I did in Seattle with the University of Washington last Sunday. I ate a late lunch at Kirk’s Steakburger’s and got to work. By the time I got onto the campus, the shadows were growing long in the fading hours of daylight—but this made it all the more special, and the great numbers of young, old, and very young alike across campus, enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon in July, made it great.

Afterwards, I docked the Lime-E and parked my rental car in a parking garage in Palo Alto at University Avenue and Bryant Street, walked University Avenue, enjoyed the vibe of the somewhat chilly downtown, had some pizza, and checked into Hotel Keen just off University at High Street for the night.

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Seattle, by electric bike

I landed in Seattle late last night; first time back since I was here in May 2011 at the tail-end of my first cross-country Amtrak trip on their “Empire Builder” line.

After a full day yesterday biking Washington, I didn’t expect to do the same today. In travel, however, energy can be unpredictable, and I felt like getting outside again to enjoy as much of Seattle as I could during my limited time here. (I leave for San Francisco on Tuesday morning.)

Started out on a Limebike in Pioneer Square, which is a beautiful neighborhood architecturally, but has been ravaged by an elevated waterfront highway on one side, and massive stadiums on another. The result is lots of dead space and “no man’s land” zones, and the consequence is that Pioneer Square is home to much of Seattle’s population of homeless persons.

The “Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” had old and new posters up in various places. I remembered some of this communist-chic from my 2011 visit, but am nonetheless amazed that allegedly humane and progressive-minded people have married into a communist intellectual family, whose first cousin is national socialism, with a straight face. These are political ideologies which together have led to the intentional and brutal destruction of 100 million+ human lives in the past century across Russia, Germany, China, Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam, etc. That’s a conservative estimate.

Struggled to get my Limebike up major hills, eventually making it to First Hill and St. James Cathedral. Switched to a Lime-E bike (Lime’s electric assist bikes), and everything became as smooth as yesterday’s Washington/JUMP bike experience.

After scanning the map of Seattle, decided to head toward University of Washington to check out the campus, and along the way passed Broadway and picturesque Roanoke Park and its neighborhood’s beautiful view of Portage Bay. Crossed University Bridge just as it was being raised to allow a tall boat to pass and lingered to admire Portage Bay a bit more. Shortly thereafter made it to University of Washington, which is one of the most naturally beautiful campuses I’ve visited, particularly with its view of Mount Rainier in the distance. After about an hour there, I made my way toward Fremont and along the Lake Union waterfront path there after stopping in Solsticio cafe for a water and yogurt. Rode past the Adobe, Google, etc. corporate buildings along the water for a bit, and past a street fair, before heading back toward the city across Fremont Bridge.

Largely downhill for a while, through Westlake, down to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle, then along the waterfront past the Maritime Discovery Center where the enormous Norwegian Pear was docked, along past Belltown (where I had stayed seven years ago), and eventually down along the bike path and train tracks by Pioneer Square, and the docks and shipping containers that nourish America’s needs across the Pacific Northwest and beyond from distant shore. As I reached the 20 mile mark, I realized I was tired and that it was past time to check into the Silver Cloud Hotel, so I locked the Lime-E across from Safeco Field just as the Mariners/Rockies game was letting out.

Later made my way back to Belltown for dinner at the 5 Point Cafe, where I sat and read a bit of Roger Williams’s “Evan Pugh’s Penn State: America’s Model Agricultural College” while bearing the dilettantish service of a place whose cliquish aura left little to recommend it.

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Washington, by JUMP bike

Explored Washington today by bike. Walked from the Meridien in Arlington over to Fort Myer Heights to pick up the nearest Limebike. Rode it past Arlington National Cemetery and eventually across Key Bridge to Georgetown, which was as lively as I’ve ever seen it. Rode over to a friend’s old place on T Street for nostalgia’s sake, and along the way passed one of Uber’s JUMP bikes.

Since I was already sweating on the standard Limebike, I switched to the JUMP bike, which has an electric-assist motor. I think this was my first time riding an electric bike; it was incredible. The slightest pedaling effort is rewarded with assistance from the electric motor. I don’t think I broke a sweat again for the remainder of what turned out to be a 25 mile ride over the next few hours.

Rode the JUMP bike through Whitehaven Park, visited Washington National Cathedral, rode near the Naval Observatory and passed the Vatican’s embassy and the Islamic center, rode through Normanstone Park and back through Woodley Park before heading downtown along Connecticut, eventually passing Dupont Circle and Farragut Square and the Army Navy Club to the mall where I sat under the shade of a Constitution Gardens willow tree. After water and a quick bite to eat, rode on past the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and on to the MLK Memorial. Rested again for a bit under a tree at the Tidal Basin, watching the swan-pedal boats and other revelers enjoying a picture-perfect afternoon on the water. Then to East Potomac Park where I watched planes arriving and departing from Washington National Airport. Circled back to the Jefferson Memorial, then made my way slowly back northwest past Watergate before getting a bit turned around and eventually finding my way back toward Georgetown.

Rode past Holy Trinity just as a wife and husband were emerging, newly married with family and friends smiling. Locked my JUMP bike to a signpost in front of Wisemiller’s Deli and almost immediately encountered an older neighborhood man who asked why I looked familiar, and on spotting my Penn State baseball cap proceeded to ask me why Joe Paterno was scapegoated by Penn State’s trustees, etc. Eventually extricated myself from conversation and walked down into Tombs for an ale and early dinner where we caught the closing minutes of the Russia-Croatia World Cup semifinals.

After finishing the ale, hailed an Uber back to Arlington where I picked up my bag and headed to Reagan for my flight to Seattle.

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Ducklings at St. Joseph’s Lake

During our lunchtime break yesterday at the Vita Institute, I hopped onto a Limebike and rode from South Dining Hall to the Knute Rockne Memorial Building, through some of the dormitories, and down past the Grotto to the lakes.

It had been drizzling a bit, and was a bit chilly and damp from the rain. I pulled the bike off the trail as I got to St. Joseph’s Lake when I saw a little huddle of ducklings keeping warm, and filmed them a bit. I was able to get much closer than I thought I would—they didn’t seem to mind the closeness and no hissing parents appeared to shoo me away.

After admiring those beautiful little ducklings, I rode on to Saint Mary’s Lake and past its little beachfront. Eventually I made my way back to the Eck Law building for our afternoon sessions.

Vita Institute was been an incredible experience. Our closing dinner took place in South Dining Hall’s Oak Room, and after that a group of us walked down to the Grotto and around much of St. Joseph’s Lake before closing out the night at Murph’s (Rohr’s) at Morris Inn. Notre Dame in the summertime is just as great as Penn State in the summertime, but it really has been so many good people, new friends, and companionship of this week that has made it so great.

I woke up after three hours sleep to catch my flight from South Bend Airport to Charlotte, where I’m now waiting for my connection to Philadelphia.

Notre Dame’s new (old) neighborhood

Since Sunday was our rest day at Notre Dame, during an otherwise intensive Vita Institute, I left my room at Ryan Hall and hopped onto a nearby Limebike for a ride down to Eddy Commons for lunch.

I’ve been to Eddy Commons a number of times before; it’s a compact “downtown” in miniature adjacent to Notre Dame’s campus that was built something like a decade ago. But on this bike ride, I pushed past that compact downtown area and discovered an incredible, growing neighborhood behind it. I rode through it for about an hour taking the photos below, and generally admiring the aesthetics, the walkability, and just how pre-World War II and traditional the entire neighborhood is.

At one point I rode past a guy who had pulled over to retrieve his mail from the neighborhood’s mailboxes, and he explained that the whole neighborhood had been transformed starting about a decade ago into what it is now: a place with intentionally and appropriately narrow streets, a place made for walking or biking just as much as driving, a place where mail is delivered not to each house but to one set of mailboxes, a place where (as a result) neighbors have the chance to bump into one another and catch up, a place where every home has a porch of some size to encourage community feeling and create spaces for gathering and resting, a place where garages are accessible only by alleys running behind the homes rather than facing the primary streets, etc.

Later I looked this neighborhood up and discovered the vision and history behind it:

The Northeast Neighborhood (NEN) of South Bend is located immediately south of campus at the University’s “front door.” While the NEN historically offered both desirable housing and a variety of commercial businesses, the neighborhood deteriorated badly over a period of decades. Family homes were converted to student rental properties as families moved out and there were no buyers to take their place; the housing stock deteriorated and housing values declined, and commercial businesses closed down or moved away.

In 2000, the University of Notre Dame joined with four other area institutions – the City of South Bend, Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, and (later) the South Bend Clinic – to form the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization (NNRO). Working collaboratively with the Northeast Neighborhood Council (NENC) and area residents, the NNRO organized and funded a comprehensive redevelopment plan featuring five residential and two commercial zones, and created a set of comprehensive redevelopment guidelines. This plan laid the foundation for Eddy Street Commons, the Notre Dame Avenue Housing Program (NDAHP), and The Triangle Residential District.

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The Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization (NNRO) is the sponsor of The Triangle Residential District in the area bounded by Eddy Street Commons on the north, Eddy Street on the west, and South Bend Avenue on the south and east.  The Triangle offers buildable lots for owner-occupied, single-family detached residences, with 70% of the lots available to market-rate buyers and 30% of the lots reserved for Affordable Housing buyers.  The homes must be designed and constructed according to guidelines established by the NNRO.  While these guidelines require that new homes honor traditional architectural principles, they still allow for a great deal of individuality.

Aren’t the benefits of a neighborhood like this clear? Why aren’t we building more of these, everywhere? These are the sorts of suburbs worth having, where there is space for everyone, but not so much distance that encountering your neighbors (or even family members) becomes basically the exception rather than the norm. These are the sorts of neighborhoods that continue to make places just outside of Philadelphia across the historic Main Line communities like Narberth and Ardmore and Wynnewood and Bryn Mawr still so desirable.

Overcast, raining, and wet

After a good morning workout in the hotel gym, we checked out of our hotel, parked our rental car on Notre Dame’s campus near the Compton Family Ice Arena, and biked around the campus a bit one more time. It was initially overcast, but eventually (and quickly) turned to rain. Each of us were separated at different points during the rain, taking cover to keep warm with our Limebikes. Eventually we met up at the Morris Inn, left the bikes and Ubered to lunch at the Crooked Ewe, which was excellent. We finished our time at Notre Dame with a short ice skate, and then hit the road back to Chicago for our departures from Midway and O’Hare.

Notre Dame scenes

Today turned out to be much drearier than yesterday, with plenty of wet, chilly, and ultimately rainy weather. Yet despite the stretches of rain, it was a beautiful day in its own way, with Notre Dame’s shootout with Wake Forest leading to a win. (A few hours away in East Lansing, Michigan Penn State’s fortunes turned for the worse in their 27-24 defeat at the Spartans’ hands.) Celebrating mass immediately after home games is a distinctive and appropriate part of the Notre Dame football experience.

Limebike, Notre Dame/South Bend’s bikeshare program, has turned out to be really great. We’ve ridden a few miles on these dockless bikes that can be left anywhere, and work in conjunction with Limebike’s app. Probably the highlight of the day, strangely enough, was the Knights of Columbus-sponsored steak sandwich tent. A BBQ-steak sandwich, in the rain, with a rum and coke isn’t such a bad way to spent an autumn afternoon. Lots of big and little moments in between these.

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This final photo reminded me very much of a contemporary version of Penn State’s historical “Ghost Walk,” a sort of “Lover’s Lane” that used to run through Hort Woods north of the campus. In any event, this little wooded area’s thoughtful and densely planted trees, combined with its well lit fresh green grass and the lingering fog/haze of the rain made it a memorably way to walk back to our hotel for the night.

Trying Indego

I’ve been excited to try Indego bike share since it launched late last month. Within 90 minutes of getting into Old City on Friday night I took my first ride from Independence Mall down to 9th and Christian Streets to 12 Steps Down. It’s one of my favorite bars in the city because it still allows smoking and the place itself has an honesty that most places like it manufacture.

It was great to be able to ride Indego there for $4 (at the non-member rate) rather than paying for an Uber at double. After some good initial reviews, it seems like Indego is doing well despite launching so late compared to peer cities.

My only other experience it Citibike in New York, but between the two Indego is definitely easier to use. The checkout process at the kiosk was simple and took maybe 15 seconds. With Citibike I felt like I practically had to learn a new language the first time I used the system.

Yesterday morning I had planned to grab another Indego from 3rd and Market to the Archdiocese headquarters for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. But after lingering too long at Menagerie over morning coffee I had to grab a cab in order to make it on time. But after the day’s sessions were over I did Indego from LOVE Park back to Old City to grab my bag before catching a train to the suburbs for the night.

The whole experience was without any problems, the streets (including Market in late Saturday afternoon traffic) was easier to navigate than expected, and more than anything else it felt great to arrive at destinations feeling energized and exercised.

Owning (and maintaining) a bike is one of the last things I want to do in the city, but getting around on a bike is so much better than cabs in a city as dense as Philadelphia.