When you're climbing on the bike – absolutely grinding it out – your legs are just like metronomes. Your mind centers on the pain you're enduring but it also wanders onto other topics….but that's somewhat like a dream: you don't always remember what you're thinking about. Legs tapping out a steady rhythm, shoulders rocking slightly and a steady stream of sweat dripping from the helmet strap…usually onto your legs or the top tube of your bike. Right at your limit. Any faster and you'll pop. Any slower and it just ain't hard work and that's one of the rules of cycling: love the work baby. The first rule of training is that it never gets easier, you just go faster.
A strange thing can happen while you are in that other world of endurance and work: somewhere deep in that meat between your ears the gears are grinding away on a problem and *pop* a solution squirts through to the front of your brain. You sit up and and experience a very short, sharp epiphany…without the exposition necessary for such a result. One moment you're trying to distract your mind from the acid burning in your thighs and the next you're like "holy crap!!!!". Why didn't that occur to me before? It's just that simple.
Natch, I'm not going to spend 2 paragraphs talking about such a thing and not have it happened to me. I'm far too lazy to spend that much mental energy as a throwaway exposition to my real topic. As I've mentioned previously to the assembled mob, Bike Virginia was in Lexington this year. Lexington reminds me a lot of Manassas from my childhood. They have a baker, newspaper, men's clothing store and a coffee roaster: stores where you can buy actual stuff. I mourn the departure of these sorts of businesses from the Manassas area. When I was a kid we had our own bakery. I went to school with the kids from that family. We had our own newspaper. It was printed on Center Street. You could go and watch the presses spin. To me, the loss of those businesses reeks of a loss of self-determination and a collapse of our collective vision and identity. A grey, crappy, post-modern Manassas whose future is determined the same way everyone else's is: the quality of the retail opportunities.
There's only one problem with my baked-in hometown fugue: it occurs to me about 25 miles into the second days ride, halfway up a 4 mile climb that this way of thinking, this assessment of reality is all wrong. Indeed, it's a misconception that dogs the entire community and we're all better off if we forget the damn thing and move on. Our problem isn't that we don't have fancy stores or even more stores. Our problem is that we are still trying to solve urban problems with suburban thinking.
In the face of advancing chain stores and a titanic demographic shift, no.bod.ee. has doped out what Manassas needs to look like. In the absence of that vision, the reapers toll has been high amongst local business and long-time residents have been leaving the City. We're in a decline and we can't seem to get out. To be sure, a livelier economy has been helpful and it is masking some of the weakness here in river city but we still have unresolved problems.
When this article continues, I'll talk a bit about what we've done. The third article will cover possible answers.
Next: The City's response over the past several years….