Yesterday was the official opening of phase one of the Vista Greenway, a project that goes in conjunction with the national Rails to Trails vision. Bikers from adjacent neighborhoods in Columbia gathered at various meeting points to take groups down to the opening of the Greenway which is located at the corner of Lady and Lincoln Streets.
This was extra special and exciting to us here at the Blake house because Mayor Elise Partin of the City of Cayce asked Patrick to plan and lead the ride from Cayce because she knows him and his penchant for riding a bicycle as a commuter who is used to the busier highways that we’d be traveling. It was extra exciting for me because this would be my first group bike ride, my first time riding on real, busy roads, and the longest bike ride I’ve ever done. It was just us and our bikes, no cars to bring us back home, nothing! (In that vein, all I had on me was my helmet, my iPhone armband, iPhone, debit card and ID, so all photos were taken with Instagram).
We met at the Bi-Lo on Knox Abbott and found two bicycle cops, one from the CPD and one from protective services who were sent out with their awesome bikes outfitted with blue lights to represent the growing bike cop presence around town. They were really nice and I was very grateful to have them there since they blocked intersections so we could ride through safely. That was a great element to add to the peace of mind for those of us who had never ridden on the highways before.
This is the part that was the scariest to me- the bridge. Surprisingly, the bike lanes felt quite wide once we were on them. I should have known this since I have ran over the bridge before, but it’s different on a bike. Actually, a lot of the perspectives you get on a bike are vastly different from being in a car or even when walking. It’s just amazing and it really reinforces to me why Patrick likes to bike places so much.We met up with the West Columbia group that started at Summit Cycles (great shop in West Columbia, by the way- I bought a helmet from there last weekend and they are nice as they can be!) and we stopped on Lincoln Street in front of World of Beer to give everyone a chance to catch up and regroup. Check out those police bicycle lights!
From here we only had a block left to go before we were at the entrance so we all crossed Gervais and took a cool down and photo op break at the tunnel entrance. The media showed up, we met and got stickers and water from the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, and we waited for the fun to begin. Everyone lined up on their bikes in the tunnel and we endured several speeches from local politicians, the executive directors from the PCF and the Vista Guild, and new Councilman Cameron Runyan. I say endured because it was hot, sunny and were ready to ride and catch some breeze and get in the shade of the tunnel. You can see what I mean in this photo taken by Eva Moore of the Free Times (you can also see Patrick in all black in the foreground and I am in a green tank top off to the left of him. Great shot Eva!). And of course I took some shots of us to commemorate the occasion.
Here’s the entrance to the tunnel. It starts at the corner of Lady and Lincoln Streets and is approximately a half mile ride in the cool, relative darkness of this former train tunnel. It lets out on Taylor Street right to the entrance at Finlay park. This tunnel is not only great because it’s a very cool thing, but because it links the Vista to the park in a way that it never was before. People could get lunch to go in the Vista and take it over to the park to eat, or they could just walk it off afterwards and enjoy the city for a little longer. Now, if the city could make Finlay Park a place that people would want to go by making it less of a homeless hotel that would be even better (but that’s a whole ‘nother rant/post).
After the celebratory ride, we biked back through the tunnel and back down into the Vista for some refreshment in the way of beers and a nibble at the Flying Saucer. Never has a beer tasted so right at 11 a.m. I had the Fire Sale beer, a blueberry wheat named Kinda Blue that’s from Boulder, Colorado. It was delicious and I would order it again. It’s less sweet than Sweetwater 420 in a good way.
After plenty of hydration we geared up to head home back across the bridge. It was much slower this time and only the two of us. Once we rode back up the driveway I pulled off my shoes, socks and iPhone armband and immediately started hosing myself off in the front yard. Nothing has ever felt so good. All said and done, Patrick and I rode 7.5 miles from our house to to and through the Greenway, to the Saucer and back home, all before noon on a Saturday. In July. Thanks to the City of Columbia and all associated parties who made the Greenway possible, to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation for organizing this ride, and to the City of Cayce for bringing us in as a part of the ride!
Please get out there and enjoy the Greenway, it’s a great thing to have the City and local businesses supporting, and it’s only going to expand more, and faster, with more support and enthusiasm from us, the residents!