10/22/14

Rides 10/21 and 10/22: Imma let you finish, but the "Lake Isle of Innisfree"...

Four rides, one common theme and the common theme was the common weather and the common weather for late October is rain and so it rained, yesterday afternoon and to an even greater extent, this morning, when it rained heavily and unremittingly. But before the rainy commutes, there was one dry one and that was yesterday morning, when a flight of fancy compelled me to ride to work in my work clothes, a rare indulgence of which I hardly ever partake due to obvious reasons, such as wanting to look presentable at work and finding myself less than presentable after my bike ride, even when I ride slowly and with the intention of trying to remain presentable. But, yesterday, given the mild morning temperature and an even more steadfast commitment to trying to remain presentable than usual, I set off in my work clothes to ride to work. Before I left the house, in the pre-commute planning briefing (what? you don't have pre-commute briefings with PowerPoint presentations and whatnot? really?) I had initially laid out my vision to take the folding bike to the Metro, but some late-breaking, albeit highly predictable, information came over the wire (aka twitter) that the Red Line was nearly defunct, so I abandoned that plan, though without abandoning the plan to bike to work in my work clothes and I set off. The ride was fine and I arrived at work as close to presentable as I think I could've been and I would have considered the whole thing a success except for my failure to pay attention to the weather forecast and the rain that it announced and then suddenly my victory of wearing normal people clothes to work turned into the liability of biking home in the rain in my work clothes without a rain jacket or hat and running the risk of dirtying work pants and work shirts which is a thing I don't think to unnecessarily do. Like all professionals, I keep a hooded sweatshirt on the back of my office door and I slung that on and it approximated a jacket and the hood approximated a head covering and I looked approximately like this:


I wasn't altogether unhappy in the rain and the reason for this relates closely to the bicycle I rode and that bicycle is the Ogre, a bicycle I thought was overbuilt and over-the-top for the roads I ride, but it turns out to be exactly the kind of bicycle that is perfect for days that aren't. It hasn't even gotten that bad yet (it will, since it always does) but the Ogre has conquered all that I've thrown it at and with aplomb. The brakes brake brakingly and the wide tires and beefy sturdy frame eat potholes as it potholes were Hostess snack cakes and the bike were someone who really enjoyed and could eat a lot of Hostess snack cakes.* The universe doesn't always give you the bike you want, but it always give you the bike you need and in this case, since I picked out the bike and the universe didn't really have much to do with it, I have both the bike that I want and the bike that I need, though now I also have a hankering for Hostess snack cakes and I don't have any of those at all.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the button from the back of my bag. You find it, it's yours.

This morning, buttonless, I set off to work in the real rain and though I was ready for it, in that I wore a rain jacket, I still got plenty wet because that's what happens when you ride a bicycle to work in the rain. But, as Yogi Berra never said, 99% of bike commuting in the rain is 100% mental and sometimes you have to be 100% mental to ride in the rain, even when you can take the bus or some other covered form of transportation. But still, I didn't need to wear gloves and it's still close enough to shorts weather that I wore shorts, and so, using that as a rubric, it's still not that bad. There are (and will be) worse rains (and sleets and hails and snows) through which I will probably ride to work, but this morning was a nice primer, I could have arrived to worked primmer, but didn't need to because my work clothes were in a waterproof bag and I changed into them when I arrived and packed some extra clothes for the ride home, anticipating, correctly, that the ones I wore in the rain would remain wet even after a workday in which they had time to dry. And then I rode home again tonight and it was, for the most part, totally fine and also dry, for the most part.

Did things happen? Invariably.

*professional writer

10/20/14

Ride 10/20: Brisk Business

First day in long sleeves. We had a good run, short sleeves. It's been real. Something something A Farewell to Arms. Something something winter. Something something the midnight sun. Something something The Sun Also Rises. Something something bullfighting. Something something cold fingers, but didn't wear gloves. Something something Old Man and the Sea. Something something For Whom the Bell Tolls. Something something Don(n)e.

[TFTS behind the scenes: I start each post by typing a  whole screen full of repeating row after row of "something something" and then I replaces those somethings with other words and in the end, I hopefully get rid of all the somethings. It's kind of like decoupage. Sometimes I don't quite make it.]

I rode behind a couple who shared a kiss while stopped at a red light (with each other, not me. That'd've been weird). Cute. They had purchased a pair of panniers and split the pair set between them and the each rode with one blue Ortlieb backroller. Cute.

Mall route to Wisconsin to Volta to 35th to R to 37th to Tunlaw to New Mexico. It was fine. I could've used a few fewer miles. Not because the bike was onerous or unpleasant- it wasn't- but because with the current length and terrain of my commute, I feel like I can't bike in my work clothes without arriving grosser than is generally acceptable and maybe if my commute was shorter, I could, and that would be much better. I guess I could try.

I used to think in buying the Ogre that I was buying a crazy bike that was simply over-the-top for urban bike commuting. And in many ways it is, but in so many others, namely those others that see my riding over (into?) 4 inch potholes and preposterously rough roads, I can't even imagine how poorly I'd fare without it. In conclusion, buy the stupidest bike you can abide to ride. It will pay unexpected dividends.

So many cyclists on L and more on 15th. Even a few coming the other way on Pennsylvania. These are the salad days of bike commuting- the not too cold early fall before daylight savings time- and many luxuriate in it, much like your chopped salad luxuriates in its dressing. And the variety of bike commuters is like a mesclun mix. And bike commuters as salad similes are like soggy croutons. Soggy croutons in the transportation office kitchen refrigerator of the urban landscape that's the Friday lunch of the something something of love. [those something somethings are the cherry tomatoes of something somethings.]

East Capitol, Kentucky Avenue, the grocery store. Some couples are good at working the self-checkout together as an effective tandem and other couples are like the couple that was in front of me. They both wanted to scan. Neither wanted to type in the codes for the vegetables. Their timing on the bagging was all off. Couples counselors should leave business cards where there are normally Life & Styles.

D Street, 16th and home. One more down, as many as it takes left.

10/19/14

Rides 10/17: It's not your dream backyard

Friday was a day of diversions. On the way to work, a stop at a coffee shop. On the way home a stop at a bar. There are worse ways to prolong your bike commute. Instead of a coffee shop, you could have to stop to have a bunion removed. And instead of a bar, you might have to stop at small claim's court to ward off of a frivolous lawsuit from an ex-roommate. Or maybe instead of riding between home and work, you wouldn't even bike commute at all and that would be very sad indeed. Or maybe you could still bike commute, but you're a litigious podiatrist and the light of stopping to remove bunions and sue former roommates is your idea of a good time and drinking coffee and beers and stopping at coffee shops and bars would just be the worst thing ever. I don't know. Anyway, that was my Friday: coffee and friends before work, beer and friends after it, with biking on both sides of both of those things and work in the middle. It was a bike commute-y, work-y, beverage-y, friend-y Thanksgiving in a Bucket and that was my Friday and it was a good time.

It was the usual way in, but I rode across town to Columbia Heights. Columbia Road, while possessing a bike lane, isn't great and whatever pretend bike accommodation there is drops away on Harvard (I think?), so there's a gap, which makes it a somewhat suboptimal eastward route. That's before you even factor in how miserable and angry the drivers were. There was much honking and much cursing. While I'm sure, ma'am, that that motherfucker intentionally wanted to block your turn for some unknown reason, alerting him to the fact that he was a motherfucker was surely superfluous, his motherfuckeringness being, I'm sure, something he knows about himself and therefore the reason that he intentionally chose to put his car temporarily in that place where it momentarily caused you to delay your turn. But then, since you promptly reminded him, and all of us bystanders, that he was a motherfucker (and solely because of this and not because the drivers in front of him were able to move forward at the changing of the light from red to green), he was able to move forward and you were able to move as well. Life is hard for motherfuckers and its harder still for those afflicted by them, but not hard enough to cause enough people to sit out the 'dance of the sugerplum motherfuckers' that is the ballet of the car commute that is driving through Columbia Heights.

After taking leave of the going away party for the after-this-week erstwhile editor of your favorite (?) bike advice column (Jonathan Fischer- you are the best and I owe you a world of gratitude. Nothing but the best of things to come!), I took 11th downhill and through downtown to Pennsylvania eventually and followed that until the Capitol and then it was the regular way home and a pretty easy time since the weather was nice and the roads were mostly clear. I almost stopped to take a picture of the scaffolded Capitol dome because is this blog is about anything (which it mostly isn't), it's about scaffolding.

10/16/14

Rides 10/16: Estates General

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know that I've recently changed my route to work and no longer go through downtown, but instead skirt it by riding along the National Mall, which is America's Mall, but not the Mall of America, and there are benefits to this route, I guess, since it's a long stretch of normally empty road with few stop lights until 15th street and then a series of sufficiently wide, normally unpeopled paths until the other side of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Mall runs out. It's really not bad, even if you don't like looking at neoclassical buildings and obelisks and whatnot, and normally I take a tree-lined path from 17th Street to the Lincoln Memorial that puts the 'quaint' in 'that's a really quaint path' but today I diverged from my normal route and chose to ride along Constitution Avenue on the very wide sidewalk (path?) there, mostly because I don't think I've ever done this before and because I've seen other bike commuters do it and I thought that maybe they were onto something. I rode past the Federal Reserve. I rode past Constitution Gardens, which is a place that makes me sad. Is it supposed to make people sad? Are we supposed to think 'oh, constitutional governance. and a lake of some sort. what ennui I feel about these things,' because that's sort of the vibe that I get. Maybe it was just too grey today, but it hardly feels like a urban oasis(FUN FACT: Urban Oasis was the Gallagher brothers misguided and ill-received hip-hop album). Anyway, after you ride past that, you can cross 23rd Street and there's another path that goes for a ways and then the path goes up a hill towards Roosevelt Bridge and then becomes a sidewalk on that bridge but then (and I know this because I 1) used to live in the Old Dominion and 2) I tend to pay attention to any potential which way one might be able to ride a bicycle from one place to another) the sidewalk on the other side of the bridge just stops in the midst of some grass on the median between a couple of highways. There is no there there. But we've got a perfectly good path that turns into a sidewalk on a bridge that leads to nothing. And there's no signage anyway to suggest to anyone who might not know this that they shouldn't take the path to the bridge sidewalk because it will strand them. Now, I'm trying to decide which is the bigger 'fuck you': building the path that goes nowhere or not putting up a sign that tells people the path goes nowhere. I think it's the latter. You shouldn't build sidewalks that strand people. It's cruel. A sidewalk is a promise. Or should be.

I walked across some grass and cross the parkway and then took the regular path. Under the Whitehurst Freeway, I saw a police officer maybe writing a bicyclist a ticket for presumably failing to stop at a stop sign. Or maybe she was just writing down a paella recipe and was like 'here, you look like you might enjoy paella. Make sure you buy fresh prawns! I only have my ticket-writing notepad, but it is a really good recipe and I desperately want to share it with you!' Anyway, stop at stop signs if you don't want tickets for not stopping at stop signs. I have no advice on what to do for rebuffing unwanted paella recipes.

I also rode my bicycle home from work. I saw three people that I know from real-life and many other familiar faces that I only know from regularly bike commuting. I wonder if they know me from bike commuting too, or if I'm just overly stare-y at the people I pass. Although then maybe they know me as 'Creepy Overly Stare-y Guy.' What bonds we have forged.

I would really like it if my local grocery store (and all grocery stores) had a separate entrance to the parking lot just for bicyclists. This would uncomplicate my life in so many ways and de-stress my store trips tenfold. You can tell a lot about the character of a person based on how they handle parking their car in a grocery store parking lot. It's not a good scene and I'd like to opt out. If you own a grocery store conglomerate and happen to be reading this, thanks in advance.

10/15/14

Rides 10/15: Quaking Aspen

I biked a box across to town. In the box was another box and in that box were shoes that were one size too big. It's not the first box I've biked across town. I'll bike others, too. It's not such a bad thing to strap a cardboard box to your rear rack and bike it 8 miles across town, even though there's probably somewhere closer to drop it off, because biking a cardboard box across town teaches you some valuable lessons about how drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists react to someone biking a cardboard box across town. And the valuable lessons about this is that neither drivers, pedestrians or other cyclist seem to care that you've got a cardboard box strapped to the top of your rear rack. No one honks, disapprovingly or otherwise. No jaywalker halts himself agog at the corrugation. Not a single cyclist once stopped and asked me where I got that 'sweet cardboard trunk bag.' It's an utterly unremarkable thing to bike a cardboard box with a shoebox with shoes inside of them 8 miles across the Capital Of The Free World and it will not change your life. It will not teach you a valuable lesson about These Modern Times or instill in you some virtue that you couldn't otherwise. Depending on the cardboard box (if the contents of the box are particularly heavy or if the box is very large and catches the wind in a certain way), it might slow you down a bit, but this particular box was just a regular size box and the shoes were of normal weight for shoes, so I don't think I suffered in any particular way. Sometimes you just have to bike a box across town and you do and it's not a very big deal and living a banal boring life by bicycle is not only conceivable, but likely.

It didn't rain this morning. If it did and if my cardboard box was full of sea monkeys, oh man, that'd've been nuts. Note: if transporting a cardboard box full of sea monkeys by bicycle, please put that box inside of a trash bag or some other kind of waterproof container. Also, who you sending those sea monkeys to? Huh? What's you deal? What's that about? That's kinda weird. People are gonna notice that. Especially if it rains. 

I rode through the city. I took 15th to M Street and there I saw this:
#waroncars and all that.

Hey, do you like asides? Ones that interrupt what little narrative there is during these posts? Well, did you know that Washington City Paper still lets me write Gear Prudence? The new one.

Saw at least two drivers 'misunderstand' red arrows on M. Or perhaps the drivers were bulls and they were like "Oh yeah? Well, I'm definitely gonna charge that way then!" Unlikely, yes, but why do they call it a cattle drive? If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: we need to hire teams of gauchos to patrol our streets and enforce traffic laws. There are worse ideas.

I was expecting torrential rains on the way home, but there weren't. It barely drizzled and I was happy for it. There were puddles (there was torrential rain earlier in the day) and I rode through those puddles because whimsy.

Mass to 21st to L to 15th. This way has become rote and I might want to try something new. It's not bad. The L Street Cycletrack, for its faults, probably has the highest (speed x safety) score of the few different routes across town. Pennsylvania is faster, but there's no bike facilities. Q has a regular bike lane, but is slower and slightly less direct. I guess you have to pick your battles. Choice is great, but paralyzing.

Let's say that you're nearing the top of a hill and there's someone in front of you who's just about to crest that hill and it looks like, if you continue your pace, you're about pass them right before the top of the hill. Should you slow down and let them get to the top first because passing them 'at the line' makes you seem like kind of a jerk? Should you not let the perceived offense of getting to the top of a hill before someone else cause you to alter your behavior because "who cares?" Should you link arms and triumphantly ride to the top of the hill together? Should you wrestle with the etiquette surrounding this issue nearly every day or should you outsource this problem to a local bicycle advice columnist? I find the whole 'politics' of hills complicated. Ironically, this sort of thing happens to me most on Capitol Hill, which might even make the politics even more complicated. In conclusion, take the bus.

There's a segway commuter I see sometimes on East Capitol. I really want to know how she decided to become a segway commuter, if there's some segwayist version of Friday Coffee Club, if it's a special commuting segway, how far she goes, etc. I just have so many questions that I dare not ask. At least not to her. It seems impertinent. I find that there's something very intentional about choosing to commute a certain way and you don't choose to commute by segway without having really thought about it (like bike commuting, for the most part). It's just novel, that's all. But so was bike commuting once not so long ago, so who knows.