One of the (many) great things about bicycling is that it changes the way you experience the world. When I’m behind the wheel of a car I curse the other fools and go-go-go like everyone else. On a bike, though, time loses some of its urgency. When you choose to cycle, you understand you’re not going to get there fast. The journey becomes the destination. And because you’re out in the open, you’re open to new things.
Speaking of new things, the city of Topeka has finally opened the north extension of the Shunga Trail. A couple of weeks ago, on a cold and blustery day, I rode east to explore the new route. While the west end of the Shunga is narrow, winding, and crowded, the east side unkinks and relaxes to a comfortable width. Almost no one walks there because it passes through an industrial area before exiting into the great wide-open. It ain’t pretty, but it’s good for riding.
So I rode the new Shunga alone a couple of weekends ago, on a mission to find a little Mexican bakery in the East End. Panaderia Monterrey has a quiet but growing reputation. It wasn’t particularly difficult to locate and the ride was so enjoyable that I convinced Mr. Spoked to join me on a second trip this past weekend. I wanted him to taste the Monterrey’s pastries, and also for us to ride past the end of the trail together and see where the road led.
It was another cold and blustery day–officially, the first day of spring–and Mr. Spoked hadn’t been on a bike since last September. The thing about the new eastern Shunga Trail is that you’re totally out in the open, with nothing to shelter you from the wind. It tested our legs, lungs, and stamina and felt like what my mechanic father used to call “knocking the carbon out of the pistons.” We quickly reached the eastern trail terminus, then turned left onto SE 2nd Street to see how far the pavement lasted.
2nd Street is gently rolling, with only limited local traffic. The ride was enjoyable despite the late-March brown grass and bare branches. We turned around after several miles without reaching the pavement’s end because Mr. Spoked’s legs began to give out, and rode back to Panaderia Monterrey where the pastries were fresh and tasty. Cycling out of the east Topeka neighborhood, we saw a Mexican flag snapping in the wind and heard Tejano music playing in an open garage. We rode almost 20 miles total, half of them into a stiff wind, and were rewarded with churros and a part of Topeka we’d overlooked for years.
It’s easy to find Panaderia Monterrey on your bicycle. Head east on the Shunga Trail almost to the eastern terminus. You can either take the trail’s Golden Avenue exit and dogleg your way southeast to Tefft Street, or you can roll your bike across the shallow ditch and over 2nd Street at Tefft. Head south. Just before 6th street, turn left into the parking lot of the old Falley’s supermarket. Roll past the boarded up windows and the Tortilla factory until you see the Panaderia Monterrey sign. Inside the little mercado are open shelves decorated with Mexican pastries costing about $1 each. Grab some tongs and a tray and load it up. Pay at the counter.
Goals update: Three commutes and one delicious trip to Panaderia Monterrey.