I’m trying to qualify for Boston.  Cross-training, everyone tells me, is the way to build training volume while keeping injuries to a minimum.  Cross-training means biking, and biking means embarrassing myself trying to extract tire from rim, and thorn from tire, by the side of the road.  Well, it also means I get to go a bit further afield, and enjoy more varied scenery, than I can on my own two feet.

I don’t have to bike too far, though, well within running distance, to see a fair bit of demographic diversity.  I’m  just a mile from Atherton, our nation’s reigning “most expensive ZIP code,” while heading ninety degrees east quickly finds me in East Palo Alto, erst “murder capital of the USA.”  (Apparently “erst” is a shorter synonym for “erstwhile.”  Omit needless syllables.)

The change of neighborhoods is what interests me.  It happens so quickly, even unexpectedly.  One block you’re in lovely Palo Alto, lawns beautifully manicured, kids blonde – then cross a little bridge, the length of a couple of Hummers, and now the streets are potholed and littered with broken beer bottles, and everyone looks a lot more like me.

Most intriguing are the neighborhood shifts that are just as real, but less blatant. I wonder how I detect them.  On my ride this afternoon, for instance, I all of a sudden just “knew” that I had crossed into another financial stratum, without a physical cue I can pinpoint.  The houses were nice enough, the closest car in sight was a BMW M5, a standard VC ride, and yet … something had changed.  When at the end of the block a 70s muscle car sat on its owners lawn … I felt … not surprise, but “I told you so.”  How did I know?  It’s a sign:  I need to trust my instincts.


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