Taking the Back Way by Bike

One thing I love about biking is that you don’t have to go where the road goes: you can take off in directions that are closed to cars. Down the alley, through the woods, across the fields, around the back. If there is a chain across the road, no problem. If the road is washed out, no problem. You are good to go if you’re on a bike. In fact, often these back ways provide a safer way to get from one place to another than the front way.

I had to bike a couple of errands today and I discovered a couple of neat spots. One was behind a shopping plaza when I was cutting a corner to get home. I found I was able to get from one shopping plaza to another by going across a muddy wooded stretch. It was another world back there, an exquisitely depressing world full of trash and decay and cigarette butts and weird discarded machinery. And yet it was a world more real in a way than the clean commercialized world created by the stores at the front of the shopping center.

I found another cool spot in Cayuga Heights, the fancy neighborhood in Ithaca. I’ve been meeting some friends there on Saturdays to go running, and I noticed on the map that there were two streets that almost connected but did not. Almost-connected streets on a map almost always indicates a cool place accessible only to pedestrians and bicyclists. I went to investigate. I tentatively headed down a parking lot. Sure enough the pavement stopped but an alluring path continued. I started down the path and I suddenly looked up: all the trees along the path were lined up for a hundred yards! It was magical! I have come across several other tree-lined spots like this in Ithaca, relics from a time when people grew tree-lined drives to their mansions. To accommodate the age of the automobile people had to widen their driveways. They were forced to either cut down their trees or make an alternate driveway. The few driveways I’ve seen must have survived because an alternate was possible.

This little tree-lined discovery did not disappoint. I am definitely adding this place to my route when I go to meet my friends on subsequent Saturdays. This is a good example of how I gradually develop a commute over time: I try different ways, see which ones connect, see which ones are pleasant, and over time I can get to most places by bike paths, back roads, back alleys and scenic drives. So can you. Happy trails!