SOMETIMES A RIDE IS NOT JUST A RIDE, IT’S BETTER. I started to ride into the One Spark festival this past Sunday morning, but it was so dense with pedestrians that I decided not to enter the zone. (It consumed 20 square blocks right behind that tallest building in the photo, and had 260,000 visitors by its end. More on One Spark.
So, my ride turned random. I rode around town, from the South Bank to the North Bank, trying to avoid all the construction zones in this city, which is no easy task. As I was going through one rather ominous and shabby neighborhood, I came across a pretty, young, blonde woman who stood on the side of the street amid heavy construction vehicles. She looked entirely out-of-place--like a fashion model standing in a war zone. She was well dressed, and had a pink beach cruiser leaning against her hip. She was focused on a sheet of paper in her hands. I stopped and asked if I couild help her in any way. She looked up at me, smiled, and blurted out, in a strong foreign accent, Oh, yes! Thank you, for stopping. I can’t figure out where I am. She handed me the paper, which was one of those cartoonish maps the Chamber of Commerce often hands out. It had markings on it that I couldn’t make out.
She told me she was looking for a certain record store to buy some American rock albums for her boyfriend back in Germany. The person who gave her the map told her the store was in Five Points. The trouble was she had gotten off course and was about two miles away from Five Points--bewildered and a little nervous about her surroundings.
Me: You’re from Germany?
She: Yes, Berlin.
Me: That’s interesting. I just came from a festival downtown called One Spark. They’re going to have their next festival in Berlin in September.
She: Yes I know! That’s why I’m here. I’m doing research for my company back home, so that we can get the most from One Spark before it comes to Berlin. I’ve been at the festival for three days, but today I was doing a little exploring. I’ve been to the Riverside Arts Market and San Marco, but this map is confusing. Right now I need breakfast, I’m starved! And I’d like to find the record store.
I pointed down the road, and tried to explain how she could get to Five Points, but the look on her face wasn’t too reassuring. I didn’t want to leave her alone in that neighborhood, so I rode with her to Five Points. She seemed relieved. We chatted as we rode.
She: This is so wonderful! I feel like I’m getting a bicycle escort. Thank you so much!
Me: Oh, you're welcome! I’m happy to do it. I was just out doing a little exploring myself.
We talked about the festival and her travel adventure. She remarked how wide open and big Jacksonville was--how it seemed everyone had a car and there were few bikes. She told me that in her neighborhood the streets were cramped and few people owned cars. I told her to be very careful riding in the city, because Jacksonville wasn’t exactly bike-friendly. We stopped for a few red lights--me all sweaty in my standard cycling gear, riding my road bike, and she in her very feminine pink and yellow tourist clothing, riding a pink beach cruiser.
Yes, we got a few looks.
We talked some more, exchanged pleasantries, and I introduced her to Five Points. I pointed out some restaurants, places she could ask the whereabouts of the record store, she thanked me again, and then we said goodbye.
It was truly the most enjoyable part of my two hour ride. It always make me feel good when helping out another bike rider. Berlin girl made a great ride even better.
My ride: Join me on Garmin