Today was an absolutely amazing day to ride. Â Temperatures in the mid-70s, clear skies, a nice stiff breeze (the occasional brutal headwind aside), and a long list of errands to run.
I’ve long believed that the best biking is the kind that takes you out of your car and puts you on a bike. Obviously, not all trips are equally easy to be done on a bike. Â Visits to the bulk-buyers mecca known as Sam’s Wholesale Club are just going to be more difficult on a bike, unless you have a cargo trailer, which even the most dedicated cyclist often doesn’t own. Â But many trips are completely feasible on a bike, including a sizable weekly trip to the grocery store, which I accomplished today. Â Given that something like 75% of trips under two miles in length are made in a car, I think we all have a little room for improvement. Â And that was my goal today.
I left my house around 2:30 PM with a long list of groceries to buy and places to visit. Â First up was my office, about three miles from home, where I needed to drop off some papers and get a few things done. My ride to work was great: an average speed of around 12 MPH and a total trip length of just over 15 minutes. Â I was pleased.
I then left the office to bike to Whole Foods, about 2.5 miles east. Â It is fortunate for cyclists that Whole Foods, while located on Poplar Ave., one of the most bike-hostile roads in Memphis, is quite easily accessible from the much more bike-friendly Southern Ave., presently the only road in Memphis with striped bike lanes. Â Given the fact that Southern runs right by my house AND right by campus, my trip to Whole Foods was made quite a bit easier. Â Also much appreciated: Whole Foods has a bike rack outside, making secure parking so much easier. Â Kudos to them for that.
After dropping off a large bag of #5 plastics into the recycling bin in Whole Foods, I set out to do some shopping. Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon can be rather crowded, so after endless “excuse me”s and “pardon me”s, I made my way to the check-out line, coming in just under the 15-item limit for the express lane (score!). Â The charming young lady behind the cash register saw my helmet and oversized Ikea shopping bag and asked, with a noticeable hint of incredulity in her voice, if I was going to fit all of this stuff on my bike. Â I told her briefly about my expansive panniers but that I would soon be headed to Target for even more stuff. Â Even then, I wasn’t sure if I would have enough room in my bags to fit all the stuff on my list.
Target is just a short jog from Whole Foods and I made the trip in about 10 minutes. Â After locking up my bike outside – thanks also to Target for bike racks – I sauntered inside for more consumer gorging. Â Just near the checkout lanes I ran into a former student of mine and we chatted on about music and biking and so on for a few minutes before saying our goodbyes and continuing on our respective ways. Â I was disappointed to find that Target didn’t have washing soda, a crucial ingredient in the homemade dishwasher detergent my wife and I make (because we’re hippies like that). Â In fact, Whole Foods also let me down: they were out of fake chicken bouillon cubes that we like (because we’re vegetarian hippies like that). Â So after finishing my trip to Target, I decided to make an unplanned stop at Kroger to pick the items I couldn’t find elsewhere.
Sadly, Kroger is nowhere near a bike lane, but it is remarkably easy for cyclists to access, at least from the south. Â From Southern I turned north on one of the lovely, tree-lined streets in the East Buntyn neighborhood, crossed Central, then continued north on Reese to Poplar. Â Then I cut through the Walgreens’ parking lot and biked up to Poplar Plaza on Prescott. Â I then locked up my bike for the third (and final) time today and entered Kroger. Â Because I had a few items in my messenger bag from Target and Whole Foods I elected to check my bag at the Customer Service desk and then went on to find my stuff. Â Fortunately, both of the items I couldn’t find earlier were available at Kroger, so after checking out and getting back my bag, I left the store.
By this point my panniers were positively groaning under the weight and volume of the goods I had bought, but I managed to find enough room for my final two items and then set out home.
My road home was really amazing. Â I had more energy than I’ve had in a long time, pedaling uphill at speeds I would have blanched at when I first starting biking. Â The ride down Southern was made a bit more difficult by a stout headwind, but that just gave me more motivation to push even harder. Â So after a quick stop at the local quickie mart for a $1 lottery ticket – what can I say, I was feeling lucky – I finally arrived home.
The total trip time was around three hours, about 1:15 of which was spent on my bike. Â I logged around 16 miles altogether with an average speed of just over 12 MPH, a pretty decent clip considering all the weight I was dragging around (and the headwinds). Â Upon arriving at home, I enlisted my wife in arranging the goods I had purchased on our kitchen table and took this picture.
As you see, I’m kind of proud of my loot. Â Here’s a complete list of everything I bought today.
- 1 quart of yogurt
- 1 Clif bar (devoured in the Whole Foods parking lot)
- 1 1/2 gallon of OJ
- 1 1/2 gallon of soymilk
- 1 baguette
- 3 boxes of cereal
- 1 bag of granola
- 1 pound of coffee beans
- I jar of peanut butter
- 1 tub of shredded asiago cheese
- 2 boxes of bouillon cubes
- 2 boxes of Alka Seltzer
- 1 large box of Borax
- 1 large box of washing soda
- 1 storage container (for the aforementioned homemade dishwasher detergent)
- 1 three-pack of Puffs
Not bad for an afternoon’s biking, right?
Here’s a picture of my route today.
You can see an interactive map of my route here. Â Just a few comments on the image. Â The dark blue line on the bottom is Southern Ave., where I logged most of my miles. Â The longer route north from Southern is from my trip to Kroger. The shorter one is my stop at the office.
Also, notice how direct most of my ride was. Â The vast majority of the 16 miles I logged today was on Southern, and as I’ve said before, those bike lanes make so much of a difference in getting around town it isn’t even funny. Â I practically hop up and down on my bike when I ride those lanes.
But my larger point is this: what we have here is proof positive that almost anyone can be a bike commuter in Memphis. Â Yes, there are start-up costs: buying a bike, some safety gear, bike bags, and other fun biking toys. Â And there is the barrier-to-entry of concerns over safety and fear of biking on car-infested streets. Â But I’m living proof that it can be done and, I believe, should be done.
The feeling of accomplishment I have over my ride today is great, but it pales in comparison to the excitement over what I will attempt in the future. Â I can’t wait to try something even more ridiculous than what I did today … well, actually, we do need to get more dog food for our lovely and sweet St. Bernard mix. Â To Petco … on my bike!
P.S. Â Below is the full set of pictures I took on my ride today. Â Enjoy.
[slickr-flickr id=”57760946@N03″ tag=”Biking to the store” type=”gallery”]