Ride Home 7/23: Chaucer's Flying Saucer

Walt Whitman died in 1892, during the height of the bicycle boom of the 1890s. You can bring up this factoid at your next dinner party and thank me for the awkward silence.

I wish General Motors made horns that honked faster than the speed of sound. Maybe then drivers would be satisfied when the light turns green and the driver in front of them doesn't immediately move. I'm perpetually gobsmacked by the amazing reflexes of the average Washington driver. I wish there was a way to put this superpower to good use. Is there some kind of socially useful purpose to which we can deploy the talents of those few who can quickly identify the color green? Frog catcher? Endangered turtle rescuer? Person in a colorblind bull costume in some sort of pseudo-bullfight performance art project?

Before Dupont, I saw a building with the 19XX (I don't remember the actual numbers) Que Street in metallic letters over a doorway. Presumably this means "Q" Street. I imagine this causing consternation for any lost Spanish tourists. "¿Qué Street?" "No, that's six blocks south, Señor." Wikipedia suggests that Q Street is often written Que, Queue or Cue Street, but fails to elucidate why. Perhaps it was due to Benjamin Banneker's deep enjoyment of waiting in line to play billards. Your guess is as good as much better than mine.

I watched a guy riding down the sidewalk, ducking tree branches as he sang some song and kept his hands off the handlebars. He passed me again at the bottom of the hill as I waited patiently in queue behind a bunch of cars and at least one bus. Which side are buses on in the "war on cars"? I can never remember.

Do cities have a "pulse"? Sometimes when I'm riding I think I feel one, but that might just be trash trucks passing by a block over. Sometimes it feels like there's a kind of distinguishable prevailing collective mentality that washes over and embraces its inhabitants and its passers-through, but maybe I've just inhaled too many bus fumes. I think in the 19th century people thought that cities had pulses and suspected that troubles were afoot, perhaps revolution, but that just might be my hazy recollection of Les Miserables. I love the nineteenth century. People just did more back then, like inventing nationalism and the telephone and such. Probably because they didn't have twitter.

Q Street to Florida and then to First NE (cannot wait until the cycle track), which I followed to L. L to 4th, 4th to I and I to 10th NE to H to locking my bike up outside of a bike shop, to walking to a sandwich stop to ordering a sandwich, to getting that sandwich, to riding across H at 11th to riding in the streetcar tracks (I did not fret) to 14th and down the 14th street bike lane to East Capitol. That got me home-ish. I stopped outside my corner store and left my bike unlocked outside while I went in for a quick purchase (slim jims and cigarillos). There's no good place to lock up out front. I'm also very trusting. And foolish.


  1. Q st may be spelled out in various ways because back in the day, street signs used cursive style typefaces. Uppercase Q is often confused with a 2, and hence, gets written out phonetically. You'll sometimes see this with I st as well -- written "eye st" to prevent confusion with the always nearby (but not in D.C.) J st.

    1. +1 to this. When I lived on Q Street, I had to have my grandma start sending letters to Que St, because her letters (written to me in cursive) kept going to O Street or 2nd Street instead.