A widow’s escape: Slow Rolling in the D

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.

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About Marti Benedetti

I'm a longtime writer and a widow. I want to share my thoughts and experiences of being single in my 50s and beyond after being married to the same man and raising kids for 28 years. It's not the journey I signed up for, but the one I'm living with. I hope I can offer up some thoughts, chuckles and comfort for those in a similar boat.
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8 Responses to A widow’s escape: Slow Rolling in the D

  1. kevinmckague says:

    Marti, I’m sorry for your loss. I hope that this blog helps you and others navigate through this difficult time. I know that bicycling will help! A friend of mine calls bicycling “cycle-therapy”. When I was divorced about five years ago, I was a zombie for a long time. Then I dusted off my bike and joined whatever cycling groups I could find on Facebook. I started with Critical Mass because it was the one one I had known by name. From there I joined Slow Roll and other smaller groups. I have met many wonderful people, and I feel much better.
    I wish you the best.

  2. Hi Marti. Beautiful post. I too am a widow (five years on September 7) in my 50’s and I have also found fun and solace in Slow Roll. I know my late husband would have absolutely loved Slow Roll and I often feel his presence as we ride along the streets of Detroit. He was an avid biker and loved biking city streets much more than I did. In a few weeks, I’ll be moving to Midtown and starting a new life for myself. I’m excited (for the first time in a long time) to think that I’m starting over in a place that is also starting over. I look forward to many Slow Rolls. I’d love to meet up with you sometime. I haven’t blogged for a while, but did earlier in my journey. You can find my blog here: http://www.widowsapprenticeship.blogspot.com. All best to you.

    • Lori, I’m so glad you sent me a note. We will definitely have to meet; we have so much in common. Now that we are Facebook friends, write me an email once you move to Midtown. Thanks for sending your blog.

  3. Mark Domin says:

    You summed it up perfectly!

  4. Karen Mantyk says:

    Sounds like a fun thing to do. You are really finding neat things to keep you busy and it sounds like you are meeting some new friends along the way which is great. xo

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