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A Sunday Ride

By Rev Mark Pautler

A Sunday Ride

The corona curve. As I write the July column during the third week of May, some COVID-19 statistics: 1,543,519 confirmed cases in the United States, 91,600 deaths. On May 18, 622 deaths. The same day, 17 of the first 20 articles in the Washington Post were about the virus.

Let’s change the topic. I’ll try, but the pandemic is still the context.

Sunday has been my day for longer (in both time and distance) cycling ventures. On May 3, I rode east into Spokane Valley. Traffic is lighter on Sunday. Nonetheless, one is surprised by the number of vehicles on the interstate and arterials. But let’s face it, doesn’t getting away from home to save one’s sanity constitute “essential travel”? After some maneuvering, I reach the “Hartson Hill.” The steep grade of hard-packed gravel dead ends at a serpentine sidewalk connecting the south hill to Liberty Park. The biggest surprise of the whole ride was a campsite at the Hartson dead end. It’s not unusual to find refuse at the location, but the campsite was a first. Why there? Maybe it is accessible, but sufficiently off the grid to avoid attention. Three days later, it was gone.

The serpentine path crosses the Ben Burr Trail. I ride that trail east and eventually descend to Fifth Avenue. Continuing east, traffic thins out beyond the Thor-Freya couplet. Despite the pleasant weather, I see few people either on the streets or in their yards. There are none of the customary yard sales during shelter-at-home. The elegant dome of the little Russian Orthodox Church, Our Lady of Kazan, is one of my landmarks. At that point, I typically turn north, cross over Interstate 90 and shop at Walmart. But today I continue east, eventually merging onto the big eastbound arterial, Appleway. Fortunately, there is a bike lane. Appleway leads directly to another bike path, the Appleway Trail. This gem has been under construction for awhile, but I only discovered it a year ago. Rather than a plain vanilla route, the grade is designed with gentle curves and plenty of benches for walkers and bikers.

I begin my return on the bike trail just east of Sullivan Road, pick up a few groceries at Rosauers, then cross to the bike lane on Sprague Avenue. There I am greeted by my friend, Westie Wind. Her arms wrapped around me, she lovingly retards my return. I break off of Sprague to lightly travelled Pacific Avenue, eventually crossing the Freya-Thor couplet, this time on the north side of I-90. Now I ride through the mystery mile that includes approximately 3X3 blocks of overgrown flat, nearly vacant land. One boarded-up house and one dwelling with a menagerie of vehicles must be the remnant of the time when more was here.

What comes down must go up. My oval route avoids the killer Hartson Hill in favor of the longer but gentler climb up Sherman Avenue. Where it crosses 9th, I sometimes see Porky (or Miss Piggy) grazing in the yard. This jolt of mirth gets me over the top. And then I’m home. Total distance – 25 miles.

A couple more coronavirus statistics: 36 million applications for unemployment, and a $1,200 economic stimulus payment that appeared in my bank account in mid-April. I am certain that most of those 36 million need that money far more than I, and so three checks immediately went out to local charities. Was this payment a stimulus for you?