Stuck to the seat inside of an Amtrak passenger car sweating out the night before, a young girl began humming and ever so slightly singing along to Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Deep in the belly of 30th Street Station I struggled to find some sort of peace amongst the heat and chaos, the engine of the train had yet to start and the hot stagnate air from the streets above had begun to wraps its filthy hands around my neck. My mind raced, wondering if I should just get up and run as fast I can off the train car but just as the girl muttered “this gun is for hire…” the engine fired up and the air began a cool dance of circulating fans extinguishing any thoughts of escape and ending a week long work-cation in the city of Brotherly Love.
My first visit to Philadelphia coincided with the begging of my love for cycling. I had just bought my first road bike a few months earlier under the assumption that I was going to do some small touring trips and cruising around, but each time I rolled out of the door the rides got a little longer, the routes got more exploratory and my desire to go further, faster began to creep in. The same friend who suggested that I should buy a bike had move to Philadelphia that summer to spend time with his girlfriend also suggested that I should bring my bike out via Amtrak to visit for a few days of riding and exploring a new city. I quickly purchased a train ticket and requested a long weekend off of work and I was off.
A long weekend extended into a week or more and almost losing my job back home when the opportunity to work with my friend in the western suburbs of Philly presented itself a more lucrative alternative than going back home to my job at a deli. Every morning for a week or so we would begin our day riding through Philadelphia towards the west side of town, passing city hall, through the Universities, where an overwhelmingly hot summers heat had yet to break through the early morning shadows. Fueled by the daily visits to the Indian buffet around the corner and the excitement of everything being new, the time spent riding around Philadelphia in the summer of 2002 solidified my love of the bike, and a city with which I would come to visit much more often.
This past Friday I found myself in the Hilton Hotel at Penn’s Landing picking up press credentials and relieving myself after a 5 hour drive across the state, I looked in the mirror while washing my hands unconsciously singing along to “Dancing in the Dark” as it played out of the small speaker above my head. I remembered the young girl from the train car, smiling to myself in the mirror feeling the 14 years between then and now. A lot has changed but a lot has remained the same as it did when I piloted my way from 30th street through rush hour traffic to 3rd and Market. Both cycling and the city of Philadelphia continue have a special place in my heart which made being there for the Philly Cycling Classic this past weekend was all the more special.
Seeing professional cyclists do their thing at the speed and ferocity in which they display is always impressive, from the ease in which they float up Lemon Hill to the explosion up the Manayunk Wall on the last lap. The Philly Cycling Classic is an event that I hope continues for a long time to come, such a great event in a city that is in love with its cycling.