“I guess I’ll just power through the weekend and get this P-set done,” I said to myself. This was a common refrain during the first year of my PhD program in Chemical Engineering. An endless stream of assignments from courses and self-imposed research deadlines meant that I ended up spending most weekends at home trying to get work done (a classic case of getting hosed1). Even after the summer break started, I continued to stay cooped up at home during weekends, mostly watching videos, reading books, and moping around. It was not out of a lack of interest to go outdoors. Exploring the Greater Boston Area was always on my bucket list, but I kept putting it off. Lyft and Uber were my crutches for rare travel ventures during the weekends. Bluebikes were a good option for short trips, but were not comfortable for any trip longer than 20 minutes.
During a fine Sunday morning walk along the Charles, I realized the reason for my weekend lethargy. It was the inertia inherited from a stressful first year along with the absence of a comfortable, inexpensive, personal mobility option that had made me lazy. I reasoned that addressing the second issue might help me shake off the apathy, so I finally decided to get my own bike. And that made a big difference!
I felt liberated riding back home, realizing that I now had a tool to travel around whenever I fancied. During the first week, I decided to take a new route every day when commuting home. As my commute back home is usually just 5 minutes, I planned routes that were intentionally convoluted to help me explore more of the surroundings. For a person whose life was constrained between the MIT campus and Albany Street for a year, this was new and exciting! I started to discover new roads, new buildings, new restaurants to try out, and some little known gems hidden in the area. Do you know where Cambridge’s freshwater supply comes from?2 Do you know where you can experience some of the best fall colors?3 Do you know where to find one of the best views of the Boston-Cambridge skyline along with the Greater Boston Area thrown in for good measure, all from the same spot (no, it’s not the Prudential!)?4 Do you know where to get the best South Indian food in the Greater Boston Area?5 Get a bike and explore!
I have now settled into a routine of deliberately taking a longer route of 4 miles when I bike back home. This helps me work out, acts as a good stress-buster at the end of my day, and helps me discover new places. I can now find my way around most of Boston and Cambridge without a GPS. It also helps me stay green by avoiding taking a car to places that are reasonably close by. Getting out of the house on a bike during weekends provides me the much needed break away from work, which helps me stay more focused and productive during workdays. That’s the story of why I got my bike, and maybe why you should too!
Stay tuned for my next article on where to get a bike in Cambridge, some cool biking routes to try out, and bikes on MBTA trains.
1MIT slang for being busy or overwhelmed with work.
2Fresh pond is Cambridge’s freshwater source. It is surrounded by a tree-lined pathway that is suitable for joggers and bikers. There is also a dog beach right next to it where joyful canines run around free of a leash!
3The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University has incredibly pretty fall colors. The trees paint the Arboretum orange!
4One of the best views of the Boston-Cambridge Skyline is from Washington Tower in Mount Auburn Cemetery. It is quite verdant with lots of biking paths and walking trails. There is also the occasional perk of stumbling upon an important Civil War figure or a famous person from New England. To members of Edgerton house, see if you can spot Harold “Doc” Edgerton’s grave!
5The best South Indian food in the Greater Boston Area can be had at the Lakshmi Temple at Ashland and a nearby restaurant called Dosa Temple. Both places are close to the Framingham Station on MBTA commuter rail. If you’re wondering how I got there by bike, the MBTA allows bikes on most trains during non-rush hours!