1/24/15

Rides 1/23: The First Few Friday Coffee Clubs

Yesterday was the third birthday (anniversary?) of Friday Coffee Club, the informal weekly gathering of #bikeDC types at M.E. Swing Coffee Company, a shop and roastery in the parlance of terrible newswriting everywhere 'just blocks from the White House.' (It actually is just a block from the White House, so unlike most of the times when this geographical construction is deployed, this description is actually accurate). It's to remember the beginnings of Friday Coffee Club, but a past version of me happened to have been around during those beginnings and that past version of me happened to be writing the 19th best local bike commuter blog at the time (it's slipped 18 places since in a much more competitive marketplace) and so here are some links to those first few meetings, including the first time I met in person MG, the coffeneur.

Proto-coffee club

"I really like the idea of a bicycle commuter morning coffee club. It seems so civilized."

FCC 1 (which I actually didn't write about, but here's the official 'it happened' tweet by Felkerino)  

FCC 2. And this explanation
Friday has come to mean one thing recently. Well, one thing other than riding to work in jeans. It's #bikeDCcommutercofeemeetupfuntimebreakfastifyouwantbecausetheyalsoservesomepastriesbutivenevergottenoneohyeahforgottomentionthatthisisatswingscoffeeandyoushouldcomenextweektoo (we're still working on the official hashtag). Anyway, I was alerted to this Friday "tradition" by friends of the blog and #bikeDC stalwarts Ed and Mary. Here's how it works: bike (or walk or take the bus or drive, but definitely don't pogo) to Swing's Coffee around 8. Go inside, order coffee, drink coffee and talk other people who have biked (or walked) there. It's not very complicated. Today's very special guest was none other than local businessman and bike shop owner, Erik from Bicycle Space (There's not like an actual guest list or a booker or anything. It's just kinda who shows up, but still, cool people show up). Also, it was very nice to meet Zoe this morning and previously Lisa and previously-er Eric and Lane, in case I haven't mentioned that I had met them through Friday morning coffee club or whatever we want to call this.
FCC 3, by which the gathering already had 'usuals'

And so on and so on for three years. I could sing the praises of bikes and coffee all day- that's pretty easy. But I tend to be kind of a introvert and a bit of homebody and not especially social, so for me Friday Coffee Club has become so much more than just about bikes and coffee. It's about friendship. And yes, that's hokey as all get out but I don't care. Also, every year on the anniversary, there's cake, so it's about friendship and yearly cake. And that's nothing to hold your nose up at. Not at all.
3


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Rides were fine. Frozen rain on the way home. It stings your face, but otherwise, it didn't mess up the roads and you can deal with a slightly stinging face better than you can impassable roads. That's pretty much all I've got. Have a great weekend.

1/22/15

Rides 1/22: Thursday All Day

Pretty standard day. This is default winter. This is baseline winter.  It's fine now, with the memory of far worse days barely faded, but come March, when these kinds of days linger, I'll be quite sick of default winter and desperately craving default spring. Default spring is the best. Default spring is also the name of a generic Slinky you can buy at the dollar store. This is not a good investment. It will break the first time you send it down the stairs. You will cry. You shouldn't cry because you should've known that this is what you were getting when you bought a generic Slinky at the dollar store. Do not send your generic slinky from the dollar store down the stairs. I repeat: do not do this. It will not work out well. Also, there's no equivalent of the Slinky song for default spring. I'm also realizing now that a slinky isn't really a spring but I'm not deleting anything I've written so far. I'm going to own it.

As you might've gleaned from the opening paragraph, not too much special in this bike commute. I took the Mall route and it was fine. Fineness is the default state of commutes on default winter days. Nothing wrong with fineness.

Ever think you're going to catch up to another bike commuter, but instead he just pulls further and further away and you look down at your legs and then again up at him and then down at your legs again and then back up at him and he's just a dot on the horizon and then you don't even bother looking down at your legs again because what's even the point? This happened on the hill up Massachusetts between Wisco and Ward Circle. Goodbye, dot on the horizon. I barely knew thee.

[This is the part of the blog post where I've run out of thing to write and am now checking my phone for pictures I might've taken. Hey look, here's one. Oh yeah, I remember this. Funny. Well, sort of]

Hey look at this guy's license plate:

the official porshe of the canadian ambassador to the united states? 
I spent much of the ride uphill trying to think of a dumb joke and this is the dumbest one I could muster: Those who can, uck. That's who can't... don't uck?

Hill's not long enough, I guess.

I saw this on the ride home:


It's the bike rack out front of the Bike Rack. It's actually a bike corral. A bike corral reef? Anyway, this is a big deal because they removed two (2!) whole car parking spaces to accommodate a bunch of bike parking spaces and basically, how dare they! This is worse than ______________________ [insert worst thing ever]. Expect massive disinvestment from the 14th Street/Logan Circle area. Neighborhood's ruined. Game's over.

I did ride down 14th Street, which was a pleasure. Haven't wanted to ride it lately, but now that I've got stupid big (41) tires on the Cross Check, I finally feel equipped for extreme riding on difficult terrain. This difficult terrain includes mud, sand, rocks, gravel and 14th Street.

L to 11th and the traffic was mighty bad. June level tour buses in July. There was a march today and a crucial element of marching in DC is getting back on your bus afterwards because walking places without political purposes is just the worst.

I'll probably blog about the litter (the trash kind, not the kitten kind) tomorrow, so I'll spare you of that tonight. Quick up the hill and then I ran into Dave at Lincoln Park and we shared a few blocks as I "rudolph-ed" him (whose front light burnt out). We talked. It was nice to catch up.

1/21/15

Rides 1/21: some way, but then a different way

I thought that maybe I'd be working from home today, but that didn't happen and I found myself riding to work maybe an hour later than normal and I took the long way by Union Station and up First Street and the Met Branch Trail. First Street, a work in progress, but with much promise upon completion, hasn't quite progressed to the part where it's noticeably different from bicyclists. There are some no parking signs and that kinda makes the road more passable, or would, were not the lane in the opposite direction blocked by construction equipment. Anyway, I shouldn't be surprised (or even bummed about this) because it's a 6 month project and we're maybe even barely over with month one.

Another promising work in progress (since 1970 something, I think) is the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the infill along the trail continues with the construction of more buildings, most of which are housing. This one, by New York Avenue, was finished recently.


And this building has next to it some kind of semi-private-but-maybe-public dog park!


What I like about this is that dogs have a place to play and also dogs can provide vital 'eyes on the street' that Jane Jacobs wrote about, though maybe not in reference to dogs. I can't remember. Any more activity along the trail front is better and while I'm not sure that it will ever be a really active and dynamic area ('Hey Fido, let's hang out by the railroad tracks!'), this is a massive improvement. What I also really, really, really liked is that access to the trail (or access to the dog park from the trail) was unimpeded by any gate, latch or door. There was just a gap in the fence and a walkway through it. So much of the tension in the city is over what's public and what's private and making things private that should be public (or insisting that they are, when they aren't) and it's nice to see the dismantling of any #CONFUSION that could arise from a gate blocking the walkway to the dog park from the trail.

I took R Street across town to Dupont and rode Massachusetts up the hill to work. Here's a picture of a statue of Nelson Mandela that someone saw fit to adorn with a scarf.

you can't spell scarf without r.s.a. 
I like the gesture. There was no scarf on the Winston Churchill statue across the way, nor any kind of neck wear, perhaps on account of his lack of neck, on the Khalil Gibran 'bust?' in the park next to the South African embassy.

 During the day, this happened:

some snow, but not a lot
But it was all gone from the roads by the time I rode home. They were wet, but there wasn't any ice or even slush. Just wet roads and there was very little issue in managing them, aside from the usual inattentive driver and bus driver without good spatial reasoning. I followed a driver who's pickup truck had at least 6 (that I saw) Carolina Panthers decals on its rear. You don't expect to see a lot of amazing things on your bike commute, but encountering the world's most virulent Carolina Panthers fan is something I'll remember for a really long time. You don't put 6 Carolina Panthers stickers on the back of your pickup truck in order to be forgotten.

I feel like I've been riding with a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders lately. Really have to cut back on the shrugging.

1/20/15

Rides 1/20: mud

Let's talk about sounds. Listen. 

The whirring of the new tires on the pavement. The low dull hum. 

Pea gravel depressed and then flung and then landing inches away on other undisturbed pea gravel. 

The sound of the tire crunching through the thin layer of ice atop the barely there puddle in the middle of the trail. 

The pulse at your temples. 

Does mud have a sound? It doesn't sound like riding through a puddle, though it's wet like water. It doesn't sound like dirt, whatever dirt sounds like. I don't know the sound it makes, but I had great fun riding through it on the towpath on the way home. Riding through mud is, prima facie, fun. But it was also fun because I have close to no aptitude for it. It was a struggle and I nearly fell down a bunch. But there's something fun about doing something you have no aptitude for (why do you think I keep blogging?) and if nothing else, I'll probably be better at it next time and there's a lot of fun to be had in improvement, even if only marginal. I muddied my bike and pants and coat and put two of those things in the washing machine. I guess I'll find another way to clean off my pants. 

A Secret Service guy told me I couldn't take a picture of the White Houee because I wasn't "allowed" to stop on the Ellipse. Or maybe I was allowed but I would've likely been run over by a driver using the Ellipse. The only people allowed to drive on the Ellipse have to be let in by the Sevret Service, so this guy probably knows the quality of the drivers they let in. Or maybe it had nothing to do with my safety at all and I'm just supposed to keep moving because security state. 

A bunch of other bike commuters and I stormed a fence by the Capitol after no one would answer us about whether we were allowed through. A good test of whether something is restricted access or "restricted access" is whether they stop bicyclists from going through. Because bicyclists will always try to get through. This is the nature of the bicyclist.

Some pictures: 

  





1/19/15

Rides 1/16: do I even remember?

Based on the true story of a Friday bike commute, the details about which I cannot mostly recall after a three day weekend. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. 

Yeah, I've got nothing. I mean, these rides definitely happened on Friday, but only the faintest of details remain accessible. I remember locking my bike to a chain link fence, the u-lock tethering the fence to my rear rack in a most insecure manner. I remember tarrying at coffee, not really wanting to head into the office. I remember G Street at 23rd and trying to decide if I should move forward to allow the driver behind me to make a right turn at the red light or if I should continue to pretend not noticing he was there. I don't remember what I did. I remember riding up Wisconsin and seeing a store that had a silly name and that I thought about tweeting a dumb joke about that store's name and then declining because it wouldn't have been that funny, but not I can remember neither the name of the store (it sold furniture maybe?) nor the dumb joke I came up with. I remember how drivers (erstwhile drivers?) had parked their cars in the right lane even before the 9:30 AM time when that action would become legal. Do I remember something about a bus? I don't.

Remember: there was a Gear Prudence column last week. FUN FACT: I've been to Frederick but have never biked there. Maybe in the spring?

What do I forget from the ride home? I don't forget the route I took, which was the normal route down Massachusetts Avenue to 21st Street NW to L Street, but I do mostly forget how many other cyclists there were, thought I do recall that there were more than I expected. It's hard to forget how the many bicyclists and pedestrians had to squeeze between cars and buses, the drivers of which couldn't quite ensure that their vehicles didn't block the crosswalk and crosswalk-adjacent spaces that we all flooded into when the crosswalk white turned white. If you're going to walk or bike in the city, it's important to forget your dignity or any sense that your movement should be as unimpeded as those traveling in motor-powered vehicles. I would've forgotten that the White House plaza was closed, except that the inconvenience of riding down H and then down 15th really scars. It burrows deep, the inconvenience.

I've checked my phone. There seem to be no pictures from Friday worth remembering or forgetting. That's not to say there aren't any.

Tomorrow starts the week anew. I've got some new tires I'm quite happy about, but let's not despoil the memories of a future that haven't happened yet with predictions.