6/10/14

Ride In 6/10: Shale from the Tarots

Friend of the blog and America's most beloved randonneuse, MG, wrote something I found to be especially resonant about riding and writing and that reminded me that I have a bicycling blog and that I used to write quite a lot about riding my bicycle, though I haven't of late. But as of now (before the pernicious fiduciary influence of auto manufacturers leads internet service providers to strangle the bandwidth of marginally popular local bike commute bloggers), there's nothing from stopping me from taking it up again. Though my blogging muscles have atrophied somewhat, I'm going to do my best to (temporarily) revive the old format. The blog and I are going to the Poconos to see if we can get our relationship back on track. We're going to sit in a heart-shaped hot tub together and see if we feel that old spark. Maybe I'll surprise the blog with flowers. Maybe the blog will make my favorite supper. Maybe the blog and I, after some time apart, will look deeply into each other's eyes and remember what it was that drew us together in the first place oh so many years ago. (Well, that was weird. Anyway.)

For the past two days, and against my better inclination, I've pressed to go button on the Strava app that I almost never use on my phone that I use quite a lot. I don't know why I did it. I'm not a Strava (STRAAAAAVVAAAAAAA!) devotee and I don't exactly care about my mileage or time or calories burned. I don't track my miles the same way I don't take a picture of myself in the mirror every morning. I feel relatively confident in my belief that my bike ride existed regardless of an app telling me as much. But for the past two days, I pressed the go button and then I went. I don't know know what revelation I was looking for (or what, if any I've found), but maybe it had something to do with my riding a new bicycle and wanting to quantify (in some rudimentary way) how this new bicycle compares to the old one. Though I don't really need an app to tell me that the new bicycle is performing to my liking and I'm finally happy with the seat height, position and angle. I've fiddled with the seat plenty in the hope of "dialing it in" and this morning, I think it's safe to finally call it dialed. So dialed. More than the soap. More than the M for Murder. It's just really, really dialed. FUN FACT: adjusting a bike seat is one of the few things I can do with a wrench that doesn't totally mess up the proper functioning of my bike and maybe that's why I spend so much time futzing around with it. Also, maybe because a maladjusted bike seat is really bothersome. I am a delicate flower.

Have you noticed that it's summer? One of the clues is the preposterous humidity. It's an urban legend that DC was built on top of a swamp, but not an urban legend that DC was built of top of a giant humidifier, buried by the Freemasons and the Founding Fathers to ward off foreign invaders from naturally dry climates. To this date, America has not been overrun by Bedouins and you can thank the prescience of George Washington and 18th century surreptitious humidification technology.  A lot of people don't know that, but I'm pretty sure I some an exhibit about it once at a museum or maybe it was just a subplot in a Tom Hanks movie. Another clue that it's summer is that there are many bicyclists out and much more than there were in the winter. Perhaps you bemoan these other bicyclists. I know that I get used to having fewer people on bikes around in the winter and I find this somewhat freeing. It's more likely that in the winter I'll be able to set my own pace rather than falling in behind someone, having not enough room to politely pass and enough social grace to recognize that. And then in the summer, there are more other people and it's more likely that my pace will be dictated (at least temporarily) by the person in front of me. And you know what? I'm totally ok with this! Is having to slow down and ride behind someone for a little time something to be very upset about? Not really. Boo hoo, I have to ride my bicycle a little longer than I would have had I been able to go at my preferred speed. Riding at the pace of the bicyclist in front of you, rather than passing them, is like a vacation. Or walking in someone else's shoes. Or getting the wrong luggage at the airport and then wearing someone else's shoes for your vacation (I do not advise this. They might not fit or you might get a fungus.) I think I'd be lying if I suggested that you can learn a lot about someone from riding behind them for a little while. I mean, you can learn if they have cowlicks or if they've stepped in gum or the kinds of things they like to have written on the backs of their tee shirts, but I don't think these sorts of things are very substantive or revealing. [Though the gum thing might reveal that they are careless about where they walk.] What I am trying to suggest, however, is that it's not wholly necessary to try to dictate your own pace all of the time. Especially if you're in no rush or if doing so makes you act rudely. A supple reed blows in the wind or something.

The addition of the cycletrack to M Street has completely altered my route and now I ride across town a few blocks south from where I used to and take Wisconsin Avenue uptown instead of Massachusetts Avenue. I like mixing up my bike routes ("Dialed in and Mixed up: the @sharrowsDC story"), but I also like riding on good bicycle infrastructure and the M Street cycletrack is vastly superior to the stripe of white paint bike lane on R Street. I don't know if it takes me much more time, but I'm happy to make the trade for an overall less stressful ride. M Street in Georgetown, the part that doesn't have the cycletrack, isn't so bad in the morning if you don't mind an occasional bus or unloading truck parked in the farthest right lane. There's a bike lane on 33rd, but most of the time, I ride up Wisconsin Avenue. It goes like this:

M Street to O Street: pretty ok!

O Street to Q Street: less ok! (the left-turn only lane at Q turns the right lane from a haven for slower moving traffic and bicycles to the MUST GET PAST THESE LEFT-TURNING DRIVERS AT ALL COSTS lane, which can be a bit harrowing)

Q Street to R Street: maybe ok! (this depends on whether there is a trafficky cluster at Reservoir and/or whether drivers pretend this street of street is two lanes or just one. If they want to pretend it's two, then I ride on the sidewalk. And I don't feel bad about this at all! And you can't make me! When there are people walking, I go slowly and pass with warning and room. When there aren't people, I go a little faster. But in both cases, it's totally legal and once again, I'm totally fine with riding on the sidewalk. Part of the reason I ride a bicycle is to not be held hostage by car traffic. So I don't hold myself hostage to car traffic. I ride around it and will use the sidewalk [where legal and always politely] where need be. And it's great and I would recommend that you do it too! Please feel free to tell me in the comments how I'm history's greatest monster)

R Street to Safeway: mostly ok!

Safeway to Whitehaven: ok provided that someone doesn't zoom past you and cut you off with a right turn!

Whitehaven to Calvert: pretty darn ok for the most part! It will vary depending on the car parking situation and the road work situation.

Calvert to where the right lane turns into car parking: probably the least ok on account of the steepness and the drivers trying to pass other drivers on the right. Today, I had the distinct pleasure of trying to keep pace with a guy on a time trial bike up this part of the hill. I almost did! (read: did not). But I tried! (read: kind of). When he passed me before Calvert, he said "hey now." I still don't know what to make of that. I almost stayed on his wheel until where the car parking started, then the light at Edmunds turned red and I will never ever pedal harder than I absolutely have to to get to a red light and that's where he opened up a nice big gap and I was like "seeya, dude" and then he stayed well out in front for rest of the way and I was ok with that.

Edmunds to Massachusetts: ok if you don't mind riding in the door zone!

I turned down Mass and saw the time trial bike guy and pondered the idea of giving chase, but I was thoroughly beat and such an exercise would have been thoroughly pointless. Take that, stranger! I was able to bicycle at a speed that closed the gap between us from very far to not as far! Where is my laurel? There is no laurel.

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