TO CORDOVA FROM OTHERLANDS: Memphis Gets Smaller Via the Greenline
It started, like any trip into “uncharted” territory, with a Google Maps inquiry. I had to get to a clinic that relocated from Bartlett to Cordova- a nominal difference by car, a potential logistics nightmare by bike. Looking at all of the route options presented by the master cartographers at Google, I found that the Shelby Farms Greenline was a common denominator. That was the best news.
The Greenline is hands down the my favorite east/west corridor in the city, as well as a source of recreation, exercise, meditation, basically whatever I need it to be while riding on it. That part of the ride would be Easy Street, so to speak. My greater concerns lie in the rougher edges of the ride out east, the parts that bookend the Greenline. The directions that may still be “in beta”.
I’m lucky enough to reside in a very bike friendly part of town, near the U of M. Just south of home base is Southern Ave., one of the flagship bike-laned streets in Memphis. I live right off Central, which just got a relatively new, bike-shaped seal of approval and is pretty safe route, save for that tight squeeze between Hollywood and East Parkway. A quick ride north will place you right on the greenline, if not very close. And my place (situated near Reese/Central) is equidistant between Midtown and East Memphis. My front porch would be just fine as a point A for my ride.
But life and errands… I started my day at the FedEx Kinkos on Poplar/Holmes making copies of documents that I needed, including things for my visit to the clinic. I also had a work related stop to make off Cooper, so I was gonna end up heading to Cordova from Midtown. Getting from Kinkos to Central was pretty simple; it’s off Holmes, which is part of a series of parallel north to south streets that run through the Joffre neighborhood, between Central and Poplar. These little roadlets are handy for reaching keys points on Poplar without having to ride on Poplar, which can be daunting, even for veteran commuters.
The ride down Central to Cooper was pretty straightforward, but in the aforementioned tight squeeze, the one between Hollywood and Parkway, I got carhorned by an “assertive” motorist. As annoying as that can be, years of cycling with traffic has desensitized me to that kind of harassment. Also, that kind of thing is kind of exceptional occurrence for me. I couldn’t give a solid answer as to why that stretch of road carries such a heightened sense of tension… I make my stop on Cooper, near the I ❤ Memphis mural, and then go to Otherlands to kill a bit of time before I have to ride out east.
Like I said before, getting to greenline from my place is pretty simple, but staring from Midtown is a different story. I know that the Hampline is in development, and the end result will be that route to the Shelby Farms park will be more accessible from Midtown via Overton Park.
However, that’s future tense. I had to adopt a contingency plan, which involved me going in the basic cardinal direction of the right path, then refining my route as I moved along. From Otherlands, I took Harbert, which is right off Cooper, towards East Parkway. This is a VERY handy route to use to get to the U of M area. It’s very unassuming, so much so that I only learned about it last year (to put that in context, I’ve been biking for over five years).
Once I got to East Parkway, it was a one-two crossing past the median and a quick turn to Avery, which took me (carefully!) across some train tracks, past Hollywood, a number of administration buildings and up to Flicker Street. From there, I make a left on a street whose name always eludes me, and make a left on Humes towards Poplar. That puts me smack in front of the nightclub Senses.
I bear a right on Poplar, and I make it a point to spend the least amount of time on that street as possible- I’m on for all of 15 seconds before I make a quick left on Racine, which takes me past Republic Coffee, which is near Tillman, which is the beginning of…
THE SHELBY FARMS GREENLINE! This part of the ride is a welcome break from the improvisation, and lends itself to a wonderful kind of mental autopilot- you can ponder about dinner plans, your favorite color, whether you retrospectively disliked the series finale of Breaking Bad. Whatever strikes you. You’ve got the time for it.
I stop at the visitor’s center at the park in Shelby Farms to plan ot the rest of my trip and double check my phone’s map. I would have to travel to a connecting path that would bring me to the Wolf River Greenway, which I somehow managed to overlook until today, a major no-duh moment. That path took me further east alongside the river all the way to Wolf River Blvd., which is where the ride returned to the improvisation that I enjoyed earlier.
Wolf River Blvd. seemed incredibly busy, and since this road was unfamiliar, I will admit to being intimidated. Consequently, I was left sidewalk cruising until I got to Germantown Parkway. After navigating a few crosswalks, I was able to exploit the wide shoulders of the road to get to Walnut Bend, which marked the successful end of my ride.
After revealing that I arrived by bike from Midtown, the nurses at the clinic seemed very surprised, their reactions priceless. “I couldn’t even think about doing that,” one remarked, then adding, “And you’re wearing jeans too?!”
Having completed the trip out to Cordova, the return trip was far more relaxed.
I’m typing this from the Shelby Farms Visitor, where I’m enjoying the A/C and some much needed water.
I still have the ride back through the greenline back to my neighborhood. It’s technically rush hour right now. I, and forgive the humblebrag here, can rest easy knowing that I don’t have to deal with ANY of that on the way home.