Favorite Spot: The Manayunk Wall
Address: Begins at Main Street and Levering Street, proceeds on worn cobblestone Cresson Street under the railway, then back on to Levering Street (or so says Wikipedia)
I am: a Philly transplant and proud Temple graduate, I spend my time running, biking, swimming in the Schuylkill, drinking beer, arguing with my dog, and starting new writing projects that I never finish.
Years in Philly: 8
Current Home: Fitler Square
My Love Note
I came out for exercise, gentle exercise, and to notice the scenery and to botanise. And no sooner do I get on that accursed machine than off I go hammer and tongs; I never look to right or left, never notice a flower, never see a view – get hot, juicy, red – like a grilled chop. Get me on that machine and I have to go. I go scorching along the road, and cursing aloud at myself for doing it. –H.G. Wells
Dear Manayunk Wall,
I have the same problem as H. G. Wells. I want to go out on a bike ride that lets me sit up and notice the things I pass. But every time I go, I push myself way too hard, and end up hanging on, trying not to be nauseous, at the end. The ultimate manifestation of my irrational exuberance is the Wall.
The Wall is a half-mile, 8- to 17-percent grade hill up Levering Street in Manayunk. It’s difficult to walk up. Biking it becomes an exercise in gasping raspy breaths, really hoping there’s an easier gear left but knowing there’s not, and trying not to look up the road too far because you know the hill is far from over.
I’ve done the Wall quite a few times, and I’d like to think I’m getting better. But, I’m really a newbie when it comes to this hill. The Philly Cycling Classic takes ten trips up the hill in the process of a 120-mile race, all in the span of a few hours. Many great American cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, suffered up the Wall in their early days. Gasping for air halfway up the hill, his greatness becomes more real, and his downfall more tragic.
I don’t really know why I drag myself up the Wall on so many rides, but I’m glad it’s there. There’s something comforting about a hill that never gets easier, a challenge that’s always difficult. It shows us that we are as addicted to challenge and striving and suffering as we are to comfort and sitting on a couch eating Doritos. Just like the roads beckoned to H. G. Wells to ignore the roses and push just a little harder, the Wall looms over Main Street in Manayunk, whispering, “It’d be really hard to push up this hill right now.” And off I go grinding up the Wall, and cursing aloud at myself for doing it.