It was cold and I wore gloves and wool socks. Spring sprung in January, but it's since receded, supplanted by an autumn of bluster, misplaced and anachronistic. It hardly deterred bicycling, mine or that of others, and there might have been more people on the road today than any time since October. I tried to do my best to cover my look of fatigued exasperation, because really I'm much happier about the amount of people bicycling than my visage suggests. Really, I am. It's just that, and I don't really know another way to put it, I wish that maybe the norms of bicycling in the city were less "I'm a rugged individualist and I'm make my own way at my own pace come hell or high water or a bicyclist in the other direction" and more "I'm a drone on a bike, which isn't to say that I'm not having fun, but I'm pretty content to follow some basic behavioral restraints and not do things like ride on the wrong side of the cycle track or pass someone on the right." The amount of bike infrastructure the city has can only handle so many rugged individualists.
And while I'm in the meek complaining section of the post (when I get the Sunday Post, I always read the Meek Complaining section after Sports and Local), I can't say I'm particular thrilled about the scowls that I'm getting from the pedestrians I've encountered lately. I used to think it was bad when they looked right through me and pretended I wasn't there. Now, we've entered a weird new phrase where I get these looks that are like "how dare you be on a bike in the street! don't you know there are people driving and walking here!" Maybe I'm just being oversensitive or delusional or both. It wouldn't be the first time- my imaginary therapist was an imaginary giant bunny. He suggested that I see someone else.
I rode through the security bollards at the White House and this convinced bicyclists heading in the opposite direction that they should do the same. It'd be nice if there was a sign that read "Bicycles=Cool" or something to that effect. A lot of bicyclists tend to alter their behavior based on the signaling of other bicyclists, so if I ride through, that normally prompts someone coming in the other direction to do the same. But I can't spend all day riding through the security bollards (that might be suspicious), so a sign would be useful
I saw the license plate CU1EBAY. Still trying to figure that out. Is it "See you on eBay"? Or "Cue 1 eBay"? Because even if that's it, which is a series of discernible English language words, I'm still not sure that means anything. I guess indecipherability is the height of vanity with vanity plates.
And now, for something completely different: a shocking twist! It's an unannounced guest post within a humdrum regular post! I present you, from friends of blog Oddman and Down-on-the-farm (not their real names), a total game-changer wherein they flip the script and they ride my ride! Enjoy.
Riding the Blogger’s Ride
The author of this blog [Ed note: me], since his move to DC, has written tales from his many varied routes to and from work; I became curious on why any one route would be chosen though the beautiful but congested city of DC over another. My choices would be safety and speed, so looked on Gmaps and Google Earth, and created a route that includes mostly bike lanes that avoid the major traffic areas. Oh, also, with as little hills as possible, knowing there has to be a climb somewhere (I have been known in DC riding circles as having a pathological need for avoidance of hills).
So, on a cool but dry Saturday, fellow TFTS reader “down-on-the-farm” and I took the 5A bus from Herndon to 7th and D SW , and began riding towards 15th and A SE to start the route. Great ride, but long story short, I think I chose the slowest route with the steepest hills! But, fun anyway and safe.
Once off the bus, we rode around St. Dominics Church to take 7th to I. One thing I noticed is that DC has so many beautiful churches with great architecture and steeples (well, except for Metropolitan Memorial near AU – wonderful tall buttress-style with slate roof, and they put a horrendous yellow stucco addition onto it. So, how about adding some more Baltimore schist already?).
I Street SE has always been a favorite of mine for travelling between 7th St SW and New Jersey Ave, straight with a bike lane and seemingly little traffic. Crossing under the SE Freeway to E trying and continuing east to get to 15th, the DC quadrant thingy got me confused, and I was trying to go south to get to A. Oops. Fortunately, Bob had a better DC-sense, and turned us around before I got us too lost, and we got to our starting point.
North on 15th, W on C, N on 6th SE, W on K to cross into NW to 5th St NW, N to R and then W on R. Pretty uneventful; really nice neighborhoods, bikelanes all the way and respectful drivers. (Perhaps it was because it was a Saturday afternoon?) We were just cruising, but I would think that a dedicated commuter clipped in could make really good speed through here, safely, and barely stopping if the lights are timed right. We got through 3 or 4 easily before having to stop (but oh thank goodness for the stops – us geezers need the rest). Not too many bike sights on this section to report, but saw 2 fantastic classic Buick Rivieras- one a gorgeous 66 with the hidden headlights and a 72 boattail. My dreamcars when I first got my license.
R street has a nice bike lane, but I think it crosses too many major routes with long traffic lights to make good time for a commuter. Great architecture, though and oddly named rooming houses: the Chastleton (what, misspelled Charleston somewhere along the way, or already was a “Charleston”); The Rodney (so what’s next, The Sam, The Beulah? My twin aunts’ names were Doma and Oma [yes, I grew up in West Virginia] – how about “I live at the Doma and Oma”). This section gave me a bike-related observation. We came up to one young miss on the narrow Q street with bike lane, and she was riding slowly. Having learning societal rules from TFTS that passing isn’t always polite, I slowed down. Gads, she was talking on her phone all the way! Bike, Camry, I guess it doesn’t matter, paying more attention to the call than the ride. Also, she was riding oddly; I watch the super-racers ride on the W&OD, and the faster ones seem to have their legs close to the frame - this young lady was riding with her knees so close together I thought she was practicing the Republican-approved method of birth control.
We rode R to Mass, turned south at Sheridan Circle for a block and turned west on Q, taking the Buffalo Bridge over Rock Creek Park and then continuing up Q to 28th St NW. When we crossed the bridge, we stopped so I could be in awe of the height. I love this town. I wonder if I qualify for the Georgetown Retirement Residence right by there? Up Q a little climb until a steep climb at 28th, connecting to a long climb on R again. Did I say “climb” enough times (and even more to come)? Three nice parks and the old cemetery in a row on R and such a genteel street. I saw one fellow standing in a parking spot near Dumbarton Oaks, saving a space for his party’s car.
Crossed Wisconsin and then N on 37th, more climbing to Tunlaw – about gave up there but “in a for a penny, in for a pound”. Dangerous intersection here as all northbound traffic has to veer left across the path of any southbound traffic, and they didn’t want to slow down. More up hill on Tunlaw, and then it veers left and plunges. Normally, a downhill is a relief, but I already knew that another climb was in store at New Mexico and I didn’t want to see that. New Mexico, up, and up and more up. Signs say “AU - .8 miles; AU .4 miles”, and then at the crest a parking lot. Saw a lost soccer ball slowly rolling down the hill, almost got caught up in a grassy triangle but kept rolling down until a pedestrian stopped it.
Finally at AU, Bob and I looked for a Student Union or a coffee shop. A couple of kids (I mean, students) gave me direction; I noticed they eyed the TFTS button [Ed. note: more available soon!] I have on the front of the bike. Great coffee shop with great espresso and we sat viewing the beautiful quad.
So, how to get back? I thought down Foxhall might be OK, but Bob thought it might not be all downhill, and we didn’t want any more climbs, so we went to Wisconsin to speed down to the Potomac. This was real easy, and Bob observed that, except for the rush-hour traffic being a possible problem, the climb up Wisconsin to AU would be a lot easier than the path I chose. Very little traffic down Wisconsin, weaving around parked cars, when OMG JAYWALKERS! Good thing we both have good brakes.
All downhill, cross M and down to the river, then east all the way to the monuments (Lincoln and Washington), to get back to the bus stop, the wind finally became cool. All-in-all, a fun and peaceful ride, with great sights and good company. I had fun on the climbs, and maybe should subdue my terrors of them (or, an A frame bike is better suited than a recumbent or a folder). I leave with the thought that commuting must be a lonely ride with no one to talk with on the way.