An Unfinished Ride

by longformphilly

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Bob Ford | The Philadelphia Inquirer | March 2015

Cyclists looking for a safe, easy entry to downtown Baltimore from north of the city seek out Roland Avenue, a wide, divided road with two lanes in either direction, dedicated bike lanes, and even an often-unoccupied parking lane against the curb.

It was the road Tom Palermo chose on Dec.27 for an afternoon ride on a mild Saturday when the temperature rose to 56 degrees. The holidays had been hectic as always, with a lot going on in the house he shared in the Baltimore County suburb of Anneslie with his wife, Rachel; their children, 6-year-old Sadie and 4-year-old Sam; and Mack Superdog, the snuggling pit bull. Palermo, a software engineer at Johns Hopkins Hospital, had also just completed a hand-built touring bicycle for a customer of the frame-building business he ran on the side, a hobby that sometimes consumed him.

Getting a break to simply enjoy a bike ride was as rare a December gift as the weather. From the time he was old enough to ride, Palermo loved bicycles. The native of Riverton, whose parents still live in Burlington County, was always on a bike or a skateboard, according to the friends from his high school days at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. Riding was an escape, a passion, a sport in which he competed, and was even responsible when Palermo met the love of his life.

As Palermo crossed into the city, he could have taken the parallel options of York Road or North Charles Street, but neither have bike lanes, so he traveled farther west and took Roland. Just south of Lake Avenue, the road rises slightly for a half-mile from the ancient stream bed of Roland Run and crests in the 5700 block. A rider who tops that rise, probably coming out of the saddle to reach it, can see the sweep of the city and possibilities of the day before him. That is what Tom Palermo saw.

It was 2:40 p.m.

Writer bio: Bob Ford, who has been named Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year four times, is a sports columnist for The Inquirer. He wrote for the Delaware County Times for six years before joining the Inky in 1987. He is an alumnus of the University of Maryland.

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