Monday, April 03, 2006

Grocery Run

Sometimes life just works out. On a beautiful Saturday, I found myself on a grocery run with 2 extra hours to burn. I must have had a hunch, since I had half of a Clif Bar, a bag of GORC (good ol' raisins and cashews), and an extra layer in my pack. A warm tailwind blew me past the grocery store, and blue skies drew me into the South Hills.

For some reason, I had never climbed the steepest route into the hills. It doesn't come with bragging rights, but the first half mile is a sustained 10% grade. I fumbled with the shifters, but they just made the climb longer. I kept rolling forward up the hill, but I think I'm sliding back toward a single gear in my mind.

After winding through the hills, I came to the rapidly spreading edge of developed Missoula. What used to be empty fields that caught light for local painters now looks--in Rachel's words--"just like southern California." Houses sprout mushroom-like from these hills. There is pressure from developers to build a new bridge over the Bitterroot River to provide an outlet. I think only windows will be left to reflect the light if the bridge comes. I enjoy exploring the edges of town, but I wonder if there will come a time when there are no more edges?

I sail down the north side of the hills, descending to the valley, and follow another road up into the next hills south. Here, newly finished luxury homes perch on a once lonely ridge. Across from them, a construction equipment yard provides an eerie foreground to the peaks of the Rattlesnake Wilderness. The hills are for sale.

I finally crest and follow a twisting descent down to a dirt road that stops 50 feet from the river (Private Road. Keep Out!). I stop to watch the river and eat my snacks before the climb back out. Two sets of hills, a dozen miles, and worlds away from the city, this is the paradox of urban sprawl to me. These houses wouldn't be here without the city, but the city would be here without these houses. New development gets the diversity of jobs and services that only a city can provide, but what does the city get from new development?

It's good to have tough questions to ponder on a long climb. My spirits rise with the ascent, and this time I'm able to focus past the foreground and onto the wilderness beyond. Some edges aren't going anywhere, and as long as I can pedal to them, I'll be happy. After all, this was just a trip to the grocery store.


Blogger George said...

That's a nice basket, where did you get that?

4:19 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Hi George,

It's a Wald rear basket (zip-tied to the front rack). Mine came from

They have the nets also, and so does REI.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what missoula looked like before it was missoula? and was it once for sale?

3:05 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Well, before Missoula the town was Missoula the (glacial) lake. Then it was "Place of the cool waters," a seasonal hunting ground. People haven't actually been living here too long, in the grand scheme of things. It's a tough climate without modern technology.

I'm certainly glad to live here and glad for others to live here, too. I just hope we maintain a sense of community and common goals as we grow. So far, Missoula is doing better than most, but we always worry about things we love, I think.

3:21 PM  
Blogger scott said...

"I enjoy exploring the edges of town, but I wonder if there will come a time when there are no more edges?"

I think a lot about the same sorts of things. Distant edges change a lot, from habitat to the experience of (sub)urban living.

But even for the smaller world of cycling--what happens when it takes longer and longer to get to the quiet places to ride?

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

My copy and paste skills are fantastic. Speaking of fantastic, that is one great looking water bottle!

2:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home