I've lived in DC this go round for 8 years and I've visited Baltimore twice. This is in no way a reflection of that city, but rather my own negligence (and perhaps myopia). It's close enough to pretend that we have a baseball rivalry with the Orioles and close enough that half the would be Washington Football Team fans choose instead to support the Ravens, but it's not DC and it's certainly not what I would consider to be within the constellation of DC things, even though it's geographically closer than a lot of places that are. It's its own place and that's what makes riding there so tantalizing. But for some reason, it seems to be a place that people don't visit by bike from here. Or if they do, they keep it quiet. Or maybe I just don't run in the right circle. Either way, I wanted to ride there and last Saturday and I did and here's how it went.
I decided before I left that I didn't want to ride there and back. It would've been a century and that's laudable, but I wasn't really up for it. Instead, I'd take the MARC back and that worked splendidly. It's $8 one way, there's a bike car on weekends and bikes ride free, and the trip is under and hour. If you plan to tackle this ride, I really recommend it. One thing you might want to be smarter about it not locking your bike up at the train station. I had a pump nicked, but the bike itself was left one. Still, I miss that pump and maybe should've thought about a less prone place to leave my bike when I wandered around. Oh well. Live and learn.
The Ogre was the bike of choice and even on the heavy bike, the miles rolled by pretty well. Some of the ride involved riding on shoulders and the wider tires and sturdier frame ate up the road before the road could eat me first. I wasn't going for any kind of blazing pace, which is could since I'm incapable of one anyway, but the miles went by pretty easily. There are scarcely any hills, or at least none that made any big impression,and my relatively chill pace was more abetted by the big bike than hindered by it. Also, I'm doing some upgrades to the Ogre (right now!) so was sort of a last hurrah of sorts. I'm excited about the first hurrah for the upgraded Ogre, but there'll be other blog posts for that maybe.
The first part of the ride was mostly trails to Greenbelt. Then in Greenbelt, it was suburban-y roads that varied from 'I am ok with this' to 'This is not ok, but this is what it is.' I realized after the fact that I could've avoided some of the worser bits by taking a different route (be careful with the directions you download from the internet- you don't know if the person who made them is crazier than you), but I got through them. At one point, I turned off a highway-esque road into a suburban neighborhood and never had I been so relieved to be riding through a subdivision. The middle section of the ride saw more of what I would call 'country' roads, which is to say that they were two lanes and there was woods some times. Then there were sections through various stages of industrial parks, from destitute to stumbling along. This might have been Laurel. There were train tracks, often to the side, and there were container train cars, often idle. In Jessup, I stopped for Dunkin Donuts. I think this was right around the halfway mark.
After the industrial parts, it was back to woodsiness. The roads were quiet and the traffic was light. I followed River Road along the Patapsco, but then I started crossing highways and beltways and knew the idyll would soon be over. I approached the city from the south and west and rode through Landsdowne. I suspect there might have been a nicer approach with fewer stop lights and without having to wait 20 minutes for a train to pass. I'm an urban cyclist and have done it for awhile, so I was mostly unbothered by the traffic and the compromises one must make to ride through it, but a nicer and quieter way into the city would have been good. At some point, in the inner outskirts, there were signs for "Bike Route" and then there was the football stadium and the casino and marked paths and at that point, I was virtually there. I don't really know when "Baltimore" becomes "Baltimore" but once I saw a bikesharing station, I figured I was there.
I had never ridden in downtown Baltimore and from an outsider's perspective, it seems like the kind of urban place where one should be able to bike. There was a two way cycletrack by the Inner Harbor and that seems like a nice investment (and I saw another one on Maryland Avenue later), but I came to learn this about downtown Baltimore: seemingly all of the streets are one-way and multi-laned. And if that means anything, that means speeding cars and if there's anything inimical to good and safe cycling, it's too many too fast cars. So that was an experience. I wended my way up a few blocks and over a few blocks to take myself to Attmans, which is a deli and sanwich place and there I ate a reuben. After that, I again risked life and limb riding on high-speed one-way streets (maybe there was an alternative? I don't know) to get to the train station, where I left my bike.
In conclusion, yes, you should ride to Baltimore. You should bring a friend. You should probably even ride around Baltimore a little, but maybe do some more research about which streets are less terrible for bicycling. I think next time, I'd take a different approach and take my bike up by train and then ride back. That'll probably be spring.