So, one of the two major roads in Oxford has been perpetually under construction since I arrived in town. Literally, on my first day in Oxford, one of the first things that I did was walk down High Street and be greeted with hideous, temporary, chain-link fences, and big holes in the asphalt. I am ashamed to admit that my mood was spoiled by a lack of sleep and a sense of being a bit overwhelmed and I was frustrated to be confronted with construction. Surely, I thought, such an old and beautiful city should have moved beyond the need for construction (either because it was so advanced or because it gave up trying to be modern). Well, despite my own personal opinions, the construction has gone on. For my Des Moines people, think construction on I-235--it never ends and just when you think it is over and your life can be convenient again, it just moves. (Can I get an Amen?)
Well, it is February and the construction is still going. The difference between this and a major city is that we are talking about less than half a mile of construction. This is insanely slow progress (glad one thing is proceeding as expected) and I think part of the reason for this is the grand inefficiency and lack of planning associated with the project. For example, rather than do the work during off-peak hours, I think they wait until the street gets busy and then start the work. After all, they can't be bothered to work over-time. Then, there was a least an entire day where I think they hit a water main and just spend the rest of the day blocking the geyser with heavy machinery. Furtermore, while you never see anyone working on the road (there are just areas marked off for work), there are at least four people at each end of the one-lane section "directing traffic" aka, watching cars in neon yellow jackets.
There had been a few days where the work areas had been cleared and it appeared that the work had been completed. I could bike down High without allowing extra time or weaving onto the sidewalks to the chagrin of the pedestrians. Just when I started to enjoy my freedom of movement, the construction returned, this time, right where I enter High Street when coming from my college. I made a mental note to bike around the area, but old habits die hard and the next time I left for practice I biked straight to High Street and straight to the new mess that has been created there. This time, I couldn't be bothered to wait 5 minutes for my turn, nor was there any safe way to get into the one-way cue. Fortunately, I know my way around Oxford a bit better and devised a detour.
I headed down towards Merton College, rumored to be the oldest college in Oxford and one of my favorite parts of the city. The reason why I like it so much is because of the cobbled streets; the area just seems so untouched by modernization of any kind. Essentially it is exactly what I pictured Oxford to be--far from the crowded masses on Corn Market street and far enough from the construction of High Street. However, there are times when what we love about something is what we hate about it. No sooner had I hit the cobblestones than I realized that this route was a REALLY bad idea.
Words cannot describe what the bike-ride was like. But I will say this, when I refer to "cobblestone", you should not picture a smooth stone path. You should imagine that rocks were dumped out of a wheelbarrow, made level, and then the cracks were filled with cement. You should imagine a path that hurts your feet through your shoes. And then you should remember that I chose to ride my squeaky street bike on this terrain. I will say that I had to firmly close my mouth because I would afraid that one bad bounce would cause me to choke on my tongue. My next thought was that cartoon style, my bike would fall apart one piece at a time and I would eventually tip over, wheelless. The good news is that my bike is still in tack (for now), though I am not sure how many years I removed from its likely short life-expectancy with the taxing travel.
I think next time I'll just suck it up and wait in line.