The last couple summers, I’ve become infatuated with an event in my city called Slow Roll. It’s a weekly evening bike ride through the bedeviled and beautiful streets of Detroit, and now it is being duplicated in other cities and countries.
I’m writing about a bike ride in a widowhood blog because it has helped me deal with widowhood — and my periodic bouts of melancholy — like nothing else. This party on bikes, as some describe it, is the feel-good activity of the week. It makes Monday nights from April to October fun. Imagine that.
So why does this bike ride help? It gives me a slight connection to Tom, who would have loved it, both because he loved to bike and he loved Detroit. Sometimes when I’m riding, I feel his presence, but not in a creepy way. I feel like he is riding with me, providing witty commentary (My husband had a great wit.) about the skinny tattooed guys in front of me or the heavy-set woman biking nearby in high heels and a short, spandex skirt.
Slow Roll was founded in 2010 in Detroit by Jason Hall and Mike MacKool for the purpose of promoting bike riding, bringing people of every stripe together for a fun activity and exposing suburbanites and out-of-towners to a considerably decayed but re-gentrifying Detroit. It has accomplished that and much more. It provides this degree of good will I have never seen before.
I wasn’t aware of it the first couple years but I started going religiously last summer with a neighbor couple, who also think it’s a ball. I ride my bike a few blocks to their house, and they graciously hoist my bike on their rack. We head downtown and converge with 3,000 or 4,000 other bike riders to a part of the city that the Slow Roll leaders post on a web site each week.
The ride is 10 or so miles and, like happy lemmings, we follow the leaders who plan out the course in advance. Along the whole route, for the first time this year, we have Detroit Police blocking intersections and briskly patrolling along the route.
As we wind our way through the city’s maze of streets – too many of them desolate and decimated — dozens of bikes sporting snazzy stereo systems crank out R&B, hip hop, rap, funk, classical and pop to the delight (or dismay) of many of the riders. My favorite is when I’ve got Lil Wayne blasting on one side of me and Barry Manilow just up ahead. We also ring our bike bells at residents, particularly children, lining the streets waving and smiling.
Some riders drink beers out of paper bags and others covertly pass joints to fellow riders. Bikes range from the 1960s to the trendiest new bikes on the market today. And then there’s the wild-ass custom bikes and their owners who sometimes sport outfits that match their wheels.
I rode bikes for years with Tom, when few were doing it around here, but it was periodic. Lately, I’ve become enamored with bike riding and have stepped up my weekly mileage. My contentedness on a bike this summer has escalated. I feel unburdened, alive, part of something. I feel like a kid, and I know Tom would like that.