Easing into my pre-pandemic social life is something I am doing slowly and mindfully now that I am fully vaccinated. I miss live music the most – the first live gig in town is going to be truly special. I don’t think any of us thought a global pandemic would shake the world and our everyday lives as much as it has. I suppose that is because we haven’t lived through one before now.
Due to the extended downtime, certain things have become second nature to me, and I still do them (even with the vaccine), such as wearing a mask in every store I go into. When the pandemic first hit, and Buffalo seemingly shut down, I made sure to spend some time every single day outside in nature. I used the phrase ‘mandatory outdoors time’ in a lighthearted sense with friends and family over Facetime, but getting outside to move my body and escape my apartment sparked a lot of joy and reaffirmed my deep love for Buffalo.
One thing I found to be a lot of fun with my close bubble of friends last year (and ever since) is taking bike rides around the city. My cycling skills place me firmly in the ‘novice’ category, where I will probably stay forever. If you think I am being too hard on myself, I will let you know that my bike costs about sixty dollars, and the only reason I chose it is because of its fun aqua blue color. Much like running, taking bike rides around town allows me to enjoy the gorgeous architecture that Buffalo has to offer. It’s a great way to learn about all of the various neighborhoods.
I live on the West Side, so there is no shortage of fun bike rides from my apartment. Last summer, a friend and I took our first pandemic bike ride of the season to LaSalle Park. FYI, there is a “huge” hill on Porter Avenue that leads you into LaSalle Park, and I told my friend about halfway up it that I would just meet her there. That hill haunts my nightmares, but the payoff is huge.
LaSalle Park is a diamond in the rough (and will one day be a gleaming diamond) in Buffalo that not enough people take advantage of. It overlooks Lake Erie and the source of the Niagara River – the serene nature of the waterfront views are well worth the sweat (and in my case, tears) of getting over that hill on my bike.
There is no better way to experience a city than on foot or cycling. I have found this to be true when I am traveling and when I am home in Buffalo. A car might get you to your destination faster (in certain cases), but the intricate details you pick up on when you are on a bike ride make it worth the effort you are exerting. For instance, taking Porter Avenue all the way down to LaSalle Park lets you experience more obscure architectural bounty like the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum and Holy Angels Church. Then there’s the Connecticut Street Armory. When it is ‘Golden Hour’ in Buffalo, the light bouncing off of the Armory is enough to make anyone stop in their tracks.
Bike rides around Buffalo provide quality time with my friends and a good workout. As a reward, I often make it a point to ride to places like Custard Corner or Remedy House to stop for rations such as ice cream or a whole milk latte, and/or a croissant from Butter Block. There’s less of a reason to feel bad about calories when you are on your bike, right? Plus, you are supporting local businesses in your community, which is paramount to keeping my West Side hood so unique and fun.
Sometimes we set out to see specific sights, while other times we simply make loops around various neighborhoods in search of Victorian homes that are painted in every color combination imaginable. We also enjoy taking water breaks at the lush gardens that we come across.
I am still in acclimation-mode, as we ease back into more of the social outings that the pandemic took from us. One thing is for certain: keeping ‘mandatory outdoors time’ a priority is good for my mental health and strengthening the bonds of friendship.
I’m always looking for new rides – with each passing year there are more bike lanes that open more access routes to places that I want to visit. Some day, the biking options to and from LaSalle Park (and throughout the West Side) will be virtually limitless, as the Greenway Nature Trail and the Shoreline Trail unfold along Niagara Street and beyond (to the Empire State Trail). I might not be ready for that quite yet, but there are a lot of people out there who have been waiting long enough.
Lead image: A beautiful little park setting in the Five Points neighborhood (directly next to Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market)