“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” – Ernest Hemingway
I left the house yesterday morning with no particular destination in mind. I just wanted to get in thirty miles or so…two hours more or less. Because there’s very little auto or truck traffic, roads that might be suspect at other times are fair game on Sunday mornings.
I headed down the big hill off of the East Bench and took Valley Drive down to the entrance to Ogden Canyon. The winds were howling through the canyon’s narrow mouth and I was buffeted, but I knew from experience that when I turned and headed downtown that they would die quickly.
I’ve only been in Ogden for seven weeks but because I ride a bicycle I feel like I know every little nook and cranny of this interesting and still exotic (to me, at least) city. Yesterday, I headed north into Marriott-Slaterville, Farr West, Pleasant View and North Ogden before wrapping around and heading back into town.
I didn’t have my full 30 miles in and still felt like riding so I picked up Washington Street at 700 N and stayed on it all the way to 25th. From there I drifted southeast towards Weber State University. My ride took me through Oak Den, a “troubled” neighborhood in the heart of the city.
According to city officials, more than 70% of the homes in Oak Den are deficient in some way or another. Many are rentals with extensive deferred maintenance, but they’re still standing and they’re still (mostly) occupied. There’s none of the wholesale abandonment so prevalent other places. There’s still hope. Truth be told, Oak Den isn’t that bad. Many cities would love to have troubled neighborhoods this nice.
But good enough is not good enough here and so Ogden City is a driving force in lifting this neighborhood higher. They’re tapping funding sources and working with private developers to build new infill homes. I like how they’ve worked to fit these new homes into the fabric of the neighborhood. They are architecturally consistent and there are plans to make the neighborhood more active transportation friendly.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve ridden through Oak Den. I find that I ride here a lot, and because I do I know it in a way that people who drive a car and fret about what they’ve heard on the nightly news or read in the newspaper never will. There may not be a lot of money in OakDen, but there’s a lot of life. There seems to be a desire on the part of most people who live here, I think, for a better tomorrow. I’d never know that if not for my bicycle.