9/27/14

Rides 9/26: postage stamp

This will be the last post for the next two weeks. I'm going on holiday. See you all in October 13!

To celebrate my time off of work, I decided to take the long way home. I ambled along the Capital Crescent Trail and then followed the Potomac past the Lincoln Memorial and down Ohio Drive and decided to take a celebratory lap around Hains Point, leaving thereafter to continue along the Eastern Branch on the permanently-interim Anacostia Riverwalk Trail along Water Street and past Fort McNair and then past the baseball stadium, from where streams of cyclists flowed after the day game of the double-header. Yards Park gave way to the Navy Yard Riverwalk and from there I turned inland, riding up 11th, north and east on Potomac to 16th and then home.

There's something special about a Friday afternoon commute and even more so when it's once before two weeks off. I like that you can take an extra 20 minutes on the ride home and for this minimal investment in time, you yield massive returns in good feeling. I highly recommend it.

In the morning, I rode through the city and it seemed quiet and empty. There wasn't much traffic along Wisconsin, though enough for a driver to honk at me for not going as soon as the light turned green. From M to Calvert, you might wish to know, a stretch that's all uphill, it's possible to go as fast as someone driver a car (and much faster when the traffic is less sparse). I beat the honker at the line right as we crossed Calvert and I felt pretty damn good about it. Take that, honker. (I don't think he cared or probably even noticed. Most drivers that you 'race' with don't even know you're racing. That's probably for the best, for a lot of reasons.)


9/25/14

Rides 9/25: Style Icon

This morning it was raining. There were few cyclists. It felt like fall. It is fall. There were also fewer runners. There even seemed to be fewer cars on the road. Where was everyone? Where were you? Was everyone on the bus? Was there some kind of bus party and everyone was invited except me? Did the bus party have seven layer dip? Oh man. You all had seven layer dip and I was out riding in the rain. If this bus party had Bugles, I'll never be ok with my having missed it. Never. Catered bus parties are the best, even if they're not a real thing. Yet. 

I rode a bike without fenders. I have become the cyclist that I used to chide. Was I wrong then or am I wrong now? Or both? I got wet, but I was going to get wet anyway. Actually, much of the reason I rode the bike without fenders in the rain was to cleaning the accumulated dirt from the previous few days' rides. I'm so clever. 

I'm going to miss warm weather, but mostly because I'm going to miss open car windows and the radio sounds eminating through them. The ambience. The atmospherics. Listening first and then looking in to have your suspicions about the occupant confirmed or totally up-ended. I don't think drivers think of themselves as scenery (people, regardless of mode, tend not to), but their car radios provide a sonic backdrop that I have come to miss when it gets colder and the windows are rolled up. Then you just hear the low guttural chug of the engines. And the piercing honks. And there's nothing that distracts or up-ends. And you need to guess if the burly man inside is rocking out to AC/DC or Katy Perry and from which chuckle bunch morning show exactly the guffaws are prompted. The mystery is somehow less satisfying. 

I rode home through Glover and Georgetown and across M Street to L Street and then across town thataway. A big truck was parked next to, but not blocking, the cycletrack and that constitutes a victory. It really does. Make of that what you will. Narrower lanes work! (Sort of!) 

9/24/14

Rides 9/23 & 9/24: the bike commutes I did on those days

For a few years, I rode a Surly Cross Check to work and if you asked me what kind of bike you should buy if you didn't have a bike and wanted a bike that you could ride to work and/or also do pretty much anything else with, I'd say to you 'why are you asking me? and why are you hiding in the bushes outside of my house?' but then before going back inside and phoning the authorities I'd say 'buy a Surly Cross Check because it's the kind of bike that you can ride to work and/or also pretty much do anything else with it' because I'm a polite person who answers questions, even when asked from the bushes, and also because it's my genuine and true opinion. I've had the pleasure of riding the Cross Check again for the past few days and I've taken it on the C & O Canal path and it's been a blast. I've temporarily removed the fenders and put on knobbier tires and I'm having an altogether wonderful time pretend I'm riding fast and with verve and adventuresomely, none of which is true, but in any case, at the end of the day, the thin chalky patina of kicked up dirt that clings to the black frame serves to belie the truth, allowing me to substitute my preferred, false version of 'extreme' off-road riding for the more banal truth of plodding along a glorified dirt path most frequented by the senior citizens  Ward 3 and their walking sticks and Irish Setters.

Normally when I ride this way, I end up taking a certain road up a certain hill and I can get to work with minimal incident because the hill that way isn't so bad. Yesterday, I tried a different road from normal and today I tried a different road from that because you start doing things to spice things up when you've bike commuted a long time in mild acts of rebellion against monotony and repetition. Lowell Street (no, not the Lowell Street by the Cathedral and not the Lowell Street in Wesley Heights, but the one over in the Palisades, between MacArthur and Loughboro) is a nasty stinger of a hill that was far more than I wanted, but these are the costs you pay when you decide to mix things up. Don't ride Lowell Street. Actually, strike that. Ride Lowell Street. Ride every hill. Just go up every hill once. Just to remind hills who's the boss. Oh man, now I'm thinking of a The Hills/Who's the Boss anachronistic crossover episode and I can't help but wonder if Mona would've steered Heidi clear of Spencer, but we'll never know because 1) those shows didn't have a crossover episode because they were on at different times and 2) one of those shows was totally fictional. The other starred Judith Light.

Oh, I'm going to interrupt whatever the hell that just was to wish a L'shana Tovah to any and all Jewish readers! Thanks for reading!

Yesterday on the way home, under the Whitehurst Freetway, I saw Chris and we chatted for a little bit. We also noticed that there was a police officer standing at the corner and he looked like he might be there to give tickets to bicyclists who declined to stop at the stop sign. There were many bicyclists who declined to stop at the stop sign and while I didn't see him issue any tickets, apparently he did after I left and that's the story about how declining to stop at stop signs directly in front of a police officer might get you a $25 ticket. Now, I'm not necessarily of the opinion that cyclists failing to stop and stop signs necessarily creates a clear and present danger and obviously a cyclist not following traffic laws (per physics) is objectively less dangerous than a driving doing so, though that doesn't mean it is entirely without consequence where there to be a collision. And secondly, I don't necessarily think it's the best use of police resources to deploy an officer to ticket bicyclists. But, with these caveats asides, I think I can safely safe that I've probably seen thousands of cyclists decline to stop at tens of thousands of stop signs and decline to stop at red lights and I think out of all of these people, I've seen one get a ticket. Because she did it directly in front of a police officer. So, in conclusion, even if you think it's really dumb for police to be ticketing bicyclists and even if you think that the idea of cyclists having to stop at stop signs is really dumb and even if you think OMG DRIVERS ARE SO MUCH MORE DANGEROUS AND YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS (fun fact: Chris and I heard a cyclist scream as she stopped short to avoid a driver who pulled out of the parking garage without looking. He was not ticketed), if you don't want to risk getting a $25 ticket, you probably shouldn't decline to stop at a stop sign directly in front of a police officer.

I guess they're selling Sting tickets somewhere around here?
Today I rode Pennsylvania Avenue past the double-fenced White House to G Street and then eventually to the C & O. On the way home, I rode down Massachusetts to Q Street to 7th to E and eventually near and around Union Station to the Hill and then home. It started to rain on the way home and this was comeuppance for my fenderless lifestyle.

9/22/14

Rides 9/22: Quinine with lime

I wrote a long thing at lunch (you can read it) and it's unlikely that I have enough good word arrows left in my word quiver (for example, see the phrase "word arrows left in my word quiver") to make this post anything other than a truncation, so here it goes: 

I rode, both to and from work, on the C & O towpath, which is unpaved. It looked like this: 





I think I've commuted on the C & O fewer than a dozen times in the years I've been riding to work and it remains a novel experience. It was pretty fun, but I definitely understand why humankind invented paving. 'Twas bumpy. Maybe that's the allure. 

I thought I could take the canal towpath to the Chain Bridge and scamper up through the woods to the Capital a Crescent Trail, but when met with this


I declined to scamper. This might actually be the overgrown path, which I assumed it was, and instead might just be what we like to call "woods" and maybe there was a clearer path a few dozen yards down the road, but I gave up and returned to the trail rather than searching for it and that's the story of how I wasn't eaten by a Sasquatch. 

I took the C & O on the way home to Warer Street to Rock Creek to Ohio Drive and then over the Francis Case Bridge (what was the Francis Case? Was it a lawsuit about stigmata?) and down to G Street to eventually a different grocery store than the one I normally go. Thereafter it was I Street SE into where that stops and eventually over and up the hill and wended home, free and clear and with groceries to turn into dinner. 


Mr. President: it's time to move

A man climbed over a fence and the Secret Service caught him and no actual harm came to anyone and that man will now go to jail for a very long time. But, because of this and because of the 'never can be too safe' zeigeist, the Secret Service is considering a plan to set up security checkpoints blocks from the White House to ensure that tourists and visitors and whoever else might come close enough to eventually jump over a fence doesn't have any weapons or explosives. It it unclear whether the Secret Service will set up a rock wall to test the climbing and scampering abilities of those who wish to enter or whether that assessment will be done merely through visual means. I have, almost daily, for the past few years ridden my bicycle through the White House grounds (the 15th Street cycletrack actually directs its users along Pennsylvania Avenue and past Lafayette Park), and almost weekly, on Fridays, ridden my bike in front of the White House to get to Friday Coffee Club at 17th and G. It's a rather neat experience riding by early in the morning when there aren't too many tourists about and I'd be lying if I told you I haven't ever stopped on occasion to take a glamour shot of my bicycle leaned against the fence, White House in the background, in a sort of triumphal 'isn't it so cool I get to ride my bike in Washington, DC?' self-aggrandizing-by-association sort of way. There are many more people than me who use this bike route with as much or more frequency than I do and I think we'd all miss it were we diverted. I can't speak for other members of #bikeDC, but I probably wouldn't want to have my panniers searched daily by the Secret Service because it would be inconvenient and slowing and I'd also worry that they'd cast judgment on my lunch. "Funyuns again? Seriously?" There'd be other ways to get around the area, but not too many good ones, but life would go on and bicyclists, who for the most part are nearly always asked to make compromises to their preferred route in the name of their own safety, would now be asked to make compromises to their route in the name of someone else's safety, namely that of the President of the United States of America.

But I'm not sure how fair this is and I think it's time to really consider whether the current location of the Executive Mansion is one that's conducive to a world in which the threats to it are so multifarious and the fence climbing abilities of men far exceed what they once were, thanks to modern fence climbing techniques and the widespread diffusion of superior fence climbing technology. In short, it's time for the President to move.

While the President has historically resided in and worked from the White House, we live in uncertain times and traditional approaches are no longer appropriate to modern threats. The urban setting of the White House keeps the President far too close to far too many people about whom we know far too little. Are they spry? Do they have mad hops? What of their wrist strength and ability to hoist their legs over wrought-iron? We simply don't know. In addition, the White House is a tantalizing target for those who have evil intentions and the potential collateral damage to civilians is great. Rather than make the White House a fortress and impose more invasive security measures farther and farther away from its entrance, the President can make himself, his family, his key government officials and all of us safer by decamping to a more secure location.

This secure location can be built somewhere much safer. Maybe inside of a mountain or in the middle of a desert surrounded by rattlesnakes. It's been nice having the President in Washington DC, but mordern technologies obviate the need for him to be here. Surely he has Skype. It's not like it's olden times and he's parking his horse outside the Capitol for the State of the Union. Physical proximity is wholly unnecessary. Nostalgia alone cannot be reason to justify staying put. It's not 1820 anymore. Times change and we need to change with them.

But what of the building itself? I say we make it a museum. We can keep whatever fancy stuff the President doesn't want in the super-secure White House 2.0 and open it to tourists with the same level of perfunctory bag checks as at any Smithsonian branch. I doubt that visitors would mind that the President technically no longer lives there. I mean, it's not like they're bumping it him on the tour. They're there to see the historic building where a bunch of things from history related to liberty and democracy and freedom happened but can no longer happen because it's not safe for anyone for those things to keep happening there. It'll be like going to Hearst Castle or Newport, but with a more patriotic flair. Heck, you could still keep it really nice and if the President wanted to hold a State Dinner or something, he could use it for the night (they could probably keep some of the fancy china there so they don't need to schlep it back and forth from White House 2.0. I'd hate to see it break in transport and the budgetary implications of spending all that money on bubble-wrap would not be insignificant).

While it would be expensive to build White House 2.0 (hollowing out mountains isn't cheap, to say nothing of the escalating costs of rattlesnakes), we can put no price on safety. So long as the President continues to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it will remain fraught, both for him and for us. If the post-9/11 experience has taught Washington, DC anything, it's that the needs of the modern security state are incompatible with the needs of good urbanism and and open and free society. The residents of and visitors to the District of Columbia have, out of a commitment to tradition and also because they've to this point had no say in the matter, continued to abide by the government's attempts at the former while allowing the latter to continue to erode. Rather than one more compromise, one more checkpoint, one more metal detector, one more body scanner in a city that has been asked to function around it, the President needs to do the unselfish thing and move away. We'd miss you, but it'd be for the best.