TROY, NY, Mar 28 - 2012 - Covering a conference leaves little time for exercise, much less sightseeing. So I often combine the two: sightseeing while running. And on this Saturday (really, who has the nerve to schedule a full day of conference on the weekend!) I make time by getting up early. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "you can rest when you are dead."
I imagine running along the lush Hudson River valley, as the sun rises over the river, farmers markets, verdant hills, small towns with quaint bakeries, coffee shops. I need some inspiration because at 5:20AM, it's quite dark and cold.
The streets are understandably deserted. I run downhill on Hoosick Avenue until it hits the river and turn left towards South Troy and look for a running path. Isn't there a law that your city has to have a multi-use path and a pretty park if it has a waterfront? I see nothing of the sort. I settle for a sidewalks so rough and uneven that they seemto have heaved and crashed.
Speed is suffering as I pick my way around broken beer bottles. Throwing empties out of the car on Friday nights must be a local custom. Wait. Don't make snap judgments. Troy can't be all bad. It can't all be broken down, with everyone drinking and no one recycling. Maybe the next mile. So many auto parts stores. At least there cars are in good shape.
It's starting to get light. I see the cherry trees were in bloom. The few people that were out wished me good morning.
But every block brings more boarded up shops and business and houses in disrepair. A few convenience stores are open, their signs advertising lottery tickets shine like beacons in the emerging light. By the time I cross the Hudson into Waterford, I've sunk into depressing thoughts about dying small towns and cities, a malaise that has taken over, starting from my bike ride across the country, seeing boarded up America main streets in town after town. That was years ago. Before the recession. What hope is there now?
I manage to to eke out 11 miles, clean up. I am only too happy to be bussed to Rensaeller Polytechnic Institute. Its exquisitely manicured campus, the ethereal $30 million EMPAC center, the whimsical structures from imaginative minds that will never grace the local waterfront, conversations of rich kids from better off places...all of it helps to fade the images of what lurks out there.
Can we all stay here forever?