Rides 1/29 and 1/30 and Four Years of Something Called Tales from the Sharrows

There are no bad bike commutes, just good bike commutes that you're not having at the moment. I don't know. I think about this a lot. When things are shit, when drivers are WTF-ing every which way, where it's cold and you inhale salty smog and there's rain and you ride through mud and muck and when your legs disagree with you and when you leave the house without lunch or your lunch container isn't closed and you get soup on your work shirt and when a bus driver honks at you for no reason at all and when there's yet still more driver WTFs and another bicyclist cuts you off for no reason and you say 'dick' and he turns around and you avert his glance because you don't want to deal with the repercussions of calling someone a dick and thankfully he lets it go, maybe because you mumbled it quietly enough and he heard you say something but didn't know what, or when you're cut off by some driver trying to change lanes only to realize halfway through that the lane ahead is blocked by a parked car and there's no way to get by that car and yet he's still blocking your way and you put your left foot down and tilt your heard to the right and give a quizzical look that only barely masks the exasperated 'come onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn' you're thinking and when things are like this all at once and all in the period of fifty something minutes and eight something miles, just remember that there are no bad bike commutes, just a good bike commute that you're not having at the moment. Yeah, that works. Sure.

Yesterday was one of those good bike commutes I wasn't having, but this was today. Today was better. Today was great, actually. It was a little cold and the afternoon was a little gusty, but those are hardly things to complain about. It was Friday and there's a lot to like about that.  One of the top few days of the week. There was coffee and I shared the ride most of the way from coffee to work with Rudi (thanks Rudi! Sorry for dropping you with my blinding speed! After all, I was riding a Brompton) and on the way home, I saw not a single person throw any rotten vegetables at me so that's some good news. Truth be told, I'm not sure anyone has every thrown rotting foodstuffs at me during a bike commute and for that I'm immensely grateful. I just hate to see food wasted, you know? (As someone in a 1980s sitcom might have said 'there are kids in Africa who would just love to throw that food at bike commuters, so eat your dinner." 1980s sitcoms were, and are, to a large extent, deeply problematic. As are 70s and 90s sitcoms. And ones from both before and after those decades. It's just a troubling format.)

So that's that.


Tomorrow marks four years since the beginning of this blog in this format. Prior to 1/31/11, it wasn't called Tales From The Sharrows and it wasn't about bike commuting. It was a blog about tea cups, in which I would rank tea cups on a scale of daintiness. It was a very popular blog and remunerative, but after a while, I just had to do something different. It was just too much pressure and the daily struggle of finding new ways to qualify the daintiness of tea cups ("very dainty," "rather dainty," "exorbitantly dainty," "suspiciously dainty"- I'm not even through a week and I'm nearly out of adverbs) was simply to much to bear, so I shucked it off and tried something new. And that was four years ago and while I've on more than one occasion heard the siren song of once more assessing the daintiness of tea cups and writing about my justification for that assessment at some length, I've yet to manage to shuck off the bike commuter blog thing and I don't plan to shuck it off for a little while yet.

For anyone who has been around since the beginning, I'm sorry. I should've intervened a long time ago. If you're new here, please look for the scratching from former inmates on the prison walls. Check behind the movie posters- there might be an escape tunnel. No promises though.

I sincerely thank everyone and anyone who has ever read Tales From The Sharrows. I've been fortunate to meet many of you and even more fortunate to avoid the lot of you. I will reply to your angry letters in the order received. Yours first, Mom. I promise.


Rides 1/26, 1/27, 1/28: ketchup

I'm behind. Let's truncate. 

Monday- I was expecting snow (wrongly) and there wasn't any. There might have been rain or ice rain. I took the Ogre, which is a perfect bike, for commuting and presumably other things that I don't ever do with it. What would only make it more perfect is a SON dynamo hub up front and a Rohloff in the back, but then I'd need to drop out of life for two years and ride around the world like the people sometimes featured on the Brooks (saddlery of Birmingham) blog. And who has the time to take two years to ride around the world? I have tv to catch up on! 

Tuesday- I rode Bikeshare. I had to report to jury duty. I was not selected to serve on a jury (I wasn't even asked. I was called into a room, say there, sent away, returned, sat again, was sent to lunch, returned and then was sent home. Others, presumably less partial than me [or at least with less fortunate seating arrangements], were chose and they'll have the opportunity to take Bikeshare back to the courthouse for the next few weeks. This was my first jury service in DC (or anywhere) and for what it was, I quite enjoyed it. 

Today- Cross Check on the canal towpath. I was hoping to shred some snow, but was gifted intermittent ice patches instead. I avoided some and cracked others and skidded but once. It was a good time, about which my enthusiasm was only tempered when realizing upon taking a sip from the thermos that sat in my bottle cage during the ride, that sand from the path had formed a nice patina about the rim and was transferred, along with coffee, to my lips upon first sip. 

Lots on mansions in the woodsier hollows behind Loughboro Road. Grand houses make for great distractions on bike commutes and in some ways make the trip seem faster. "Only 3 houses to the top of the hill!" whereas in paltrier neighborhoods, where the millionaires are only petit millionaires, there would be 8.

The ride home was through Georgetown. A clickbait-y headline would tell you about this one weird trick to pass 50 cars stuck in traffic, but then the article would just be a picture of a guy on a bike. The traffic remained nutso (a technical term) on Pennsylvania through Washington Circle and then until 17. Each intersection was blocked by other drivers who had failed to get through on account of other drivers who couldn't get through the following intersection on account of other drivers blocked by other drivers blocked by other drivers all the way to Chantilly or wherever these unfortunate people who choose to engage in this daily madness live. I regularly make bad decisions, but I'm glad that trying to commute by car through DC isn't one of them. 


Rides 1/23: The First Few Friday Coffee Clubs

Yesterday was the third birthday (anniversary?) of Friday Coffee Club, the informal weekly gathering of #bikeDC types at M.E. Swing Coffee Company, a shop and roastery in the parlance of terrible newswriting everywhere 'just blocks from the White House.' (It actually is just a block from the White House, so unlike most of the times when this geographical construction is deployed, this description is actually accurate). It's to remember the beginnings of Friday Coffee Club, but a past version of me happened to have been around during those beginnings and that past version of me happened to be writing the 19th best local bike commuter blog at the time (it's slipped 18 places since in a much more competitive marketplace) and so here are some links to those first few meetings, including the first time I met in person MG, the coffeneur.

Proto-coffee club

"I really like the idea of a bicycle commuter morning coffee club. It seems so civilized."

FCC 1 (which I actually didn't write about, but here's the official 'it happened' tweet by Felkerino)  

FCC 2. And this explanation
Friday has come to mean one thing recently. Well, one thing other than riding to work in jeans. It's #bikeDCcommutercofeemeetupfuntimebreakfastifyouwantbecausetheyalsoservesomepastriesbutivenevergottenoneohyeahforgottomentionthatthisisatswingscoffeeandyoushouldcomenextweektoo (we're still working on the official hashtag). Anyway, I was alerted to this Friday "tradition" by friends of the blog and #bikeDC stalwarts Ed and Mary. Here's how it works: bike (or walk or take the bus or drive, but definitely don't pogo) to Swing's Coffee around 8. Go inside, order coffee, drink coffee and talk other people who have biked (or walked) there. It's not very complicated. Today's very special guest was none other than local businessman and bike shop owner, Erik from Bicycle Space (There's not like an actual guest list or a booker or anything. It's just kinda who shows up, but still, cool people show up). Also, it was very nice to meet Zoe this morning and previously Lisa and previously-er Eric and Lane, in case I haven't mentioned that I had met them through Friday morning coffee club or whatever we want to call this.
FCC 3, by which the gathering already had 'usuals'

And so on and so on for three years. I could sing the praises of bikes and coffee all day- that's pretty easy. But I tend to be kind of a introvert and a bit of homebody and not especially social, so for me Friday Coffee Club has become so much more than just about bikes and coffee. It's about friendship. And yes, that's hokey as all get out but I don't care. Also, every year on the anniversary, there's cake, so it's about friendship and yearly cake. And that's nothing to hold your nose up at. Not at all.


Rides were fine. Frozen rain on the way home. It stings your face, but otherwise, it didn't mess up the roads and you can deal with a slightly stinging face better than you can impassable roads. That's pretty much all I've got. Have a great weekend.


Rides 1/22: Thursday All Day

Pretty standard day. This is default winter. This is baseline winter.  It's fine now, with the memory of far worse days barely faded, but come March, when these kinds of days linger, I'll be quite sick of default winter and desperately craving default spring. Default spring is the best. Default spring is also the name of a generic Slinky you can buy at the dollar store. This is not a good investment. It will break the first time you send it down the stairs. You will cry. You shouldn't cry because you should've known that this is what you were getting when you bought a generic Slinky at the dollar store. Do not send your generic slinky from the dollar store down the stairs. I repeat: do not do this. It will not work out well. Also, there's no equivalent of the Slinky song for default spring. I'm also realizing now that a slinky isn't really a spring but I'm not deleting anything I've written so far. I'm going to own it.

As you might've gleaned from the opening paragraph, not too much special in this bike commute. I took the Mall route and it was fine. Fineness is the default state of commutes on default winter days. Nothing wrong with fineness.

Ever think you're going to catch up to another bike commuter, but instead he just pulls further and further away and you look down at your legs and then again up at him and then down at your legs again and then back up at him and he's just a dot on the horizon and then you don't even bother looking down at your legs again because what's even the point? This happened on the hill up Massachusetts between Wisco and Ward Circle. Goodbye, dot on the horizon. I barely knew thee.

[This is the part of the blog post where I've run out of thing to write and am now checking my phone for pictures I might've taken. Hey look, here's one. Oh yeah, I remember this. Funny. Well, sort of]

Hey look at this guy's license plate:

the official porshe of the canadian ambassador to the united states? 
I spent much of the ride uphill trying to think of a dumb joke and this is the dumbest one I could muster: Those who can, uck. That's who can't... don't uck?

Hill's not long enough, I guess.

I saw this on the ride home:

It's the bike rack out front of the Bike Rack. It's actually a bike corral. A bike corral reef? Anyway, this is a big deal because they removed two (2!) whole car parking spaces to accommodate a bunch of bike parking spaces and basically, how dare they! This is worse than ______________________ [insert worst thing ever]. Expect massive disinvestment from the 14th Street/Logan Circle area. Neighborhood's ruined. Game's over.

I did ride down 14th Street, which was a pleasure. Haven't wanted to ride it lately, but now that I've got stupid big (41) tires on the Cross Check, I finally feel equipped for extreme riding on difficult terrain. This difficult terrain includes mud, sand, rocks, gravel and 14th Street.

L to 11th and the traffic was mighty bad. June level tour buses in July. There was a march today and a crucial element of marching in DC is getting back on your bus afterwards because walking places without political purposes is just the worst.

I'll probably blog about the litter (the trash kind, not the kitten kind) tomorrow, so I'll spare you of that tonight. Quick up the hill and then I ran into Dave at Lincoln Park and we shared a few blocks as I "rudolph-ed" him (whose front light burnt out). We talked. It was nice to catch up.


Rides 1/21: some way, but then a different way

I thought that maybe I'd be working from home today, but that didn't happen and I found myself riding to work maybe an hour later than normal and I took the long way by Union Station and up First Street and the Met Branch Trail. First Street, a work in progress, but with much promise upon completion, hasn't quite progressed to the part where it's noticeably different from bicyclists. There are some no parking signs and that kinda makes the road more passable, or would, were not the lane in the opposite direction blocked by construction equipment. Anyway, I shouldn't be surprised (or even bummed about this) because it's a 6 month project and we're maybe even barely over with month one.

Another promising work in progress (since 1970 something, I think) is the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the infill along the trail continues with the construction of more buildings, most of which are housing. This one, by New York Avenue, was finished recently.

And this building has next to it some kind of semi-private-but-maybe-public dog park!

What I like about this is that dogs have a place to play and also dogs can provide vital 'eyes on the street' that Jane Jacobs wrote about, though maybe not in reference to dogs. I can't remember. Any more activity along the trail front is better and while I'm not sure that it will ever be a really active and dynamic area ('Hey Fido, let's hang out by the railroad tracks!'), this is a massive improvement. What I also really, really, really liked is that access to the trail (or access to the dog park from the trail) was unimpeded by any gate, latch or door. There was just a gap in the fence and a walkway through it. So much of the tension in the city is over what's public and what's private and making things private that should be public (or insisting that they are, when they aren't) and it's nice to see the dismantling of any #CONFUSION that could arise from a gate blocking the walkway to the dog park from the trail.

I took R Street across town to Dupont and rode Massachusetts up the hill to work. Here's a picture of a statue of Nelson Mandela that someone saw fit to adorn with a scarf.

you can't spell scarf without r.s.a. 
I like the gesture. There was no scarf on the Winston Churchill statue across the way, nor any kind of neck wear, perhaps on account of his lack of neck, on the Khalil Gibran 'bust?' in the park next to the South African embassy.

 During the day, this happened:

some snow, but not a lot
But it was all gone from the roads by the time I rode home. They were wet, but there wasn't any ice or even slush. Just wet roads and there was very little issue in managing them, aside from the usual inattentive driver and bus driver without good spatial reasoning. I followed a driver who's pickup truck had at least 6 (that I saw) Carolina Panthers decals on its rear. You don't expect to see a lot of amazing things on your bike commute, but encountering the world's most virulent Carolina Panthers fan is something I'll remember for a really long time. You don't put 6 Carolina Panthers stickers on the back of your pickup truck in order to be forgotten.

I feel like I've been riding with a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders lately. Really have to cut back on the shrugging.


Rides 1/20: mud

Let's talk about sounds. Listen. 

The whirring of the new tires on the pavement. The low dull hum. 

Pea gravel depressed and then flung and then landing inches away on other undisturbed pea gravel. 

The sound of the tire crunching through the thin layer of ice atop the barely there puddle in the middle of the trail. 

The pulse at your temples. 

Does mud have a sound? It doesn't sound like riding through a puddle, though it's wet like water. It doesn't sound like dirt, whatever dirt sounds like. I don't know the sound it makes, but I had great fun riding through it on the towpath on the way home. Riding through mud is, prima facie, fun. But it was also fun because I have close to no aptitude for it. It was a struggle and I nearly fell down a bunch. But there's something fun about doing something you have no aptitude for (why do you think I keep blogging?) and if nothing else, I'll probably be better at it next time and there's a lot of fun to be had in improvement, even if only marginal. I muddied my bike and pants and coat and put two of those things in the washing machine. I guess I'll find another way to clean off my pants. 

A Secret Service guy told me I couldn't take a picture of the White Houee because I wasn't "allowed" to stop on the Ellipse. Or maybe I was allowed but I would've likely been run over by a driver using the Ellipse. The only people allowed to drive on the Ellipse have to be let in by the Sevret Service, so this guy probably knows the quality of the drivers they let in. Or maybe it had nothing to do with my safety at all and I'm just supposed to keep moving because security state. 

A bunch of other bike commuters and I stormed a fence by the Capitol after no one would answer us about whether we were allowed through. A good test of whether something is restricted access or "restricted access" is whether they stop bicyclists from going through. Because bicyclists will always try to get through. This is the nature of the bicyclist.

Some pictures: 



Rides 1/16: do I even remember?

Based on the true story of a Friday bike commute, the details about which I cannot mostly recall after a three day weekend. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. 

Yeah, I've got nothing. I mean, these rides definitely happened on Friday, but only the faintest of details remain accessible. I remember locking my bike to a chain link fence, the u-lock tethering the fence to my rear rack in a most insecure manner. I remember tarrying at coffee, not really wanting to head into the office. I remember G Street at 23rd and trying to decide if I should move forward to allow the driver behind me to make a right turn at the red light or if I should continue to pretend not noticing he was there. I don't remember what I did. I remember riding up Wisconsin and seeing a store that had a silly name and that I thought about tweeting a dumb joke about that store's name and then declining because it wouldn't have been that funny, but not I can remember neither the name of the store (it sold furniture maybe?) nor the dumb joke I came up with. I remember how drivers (erstwhile drivers?) had parked their cars in the right lane even before the 9:30 AM time when that action would become legal. Do I remember something about a bus? I don't.

Remember: there was a Gear Prudence column last week. FUN FACT: I've been to Frederick but have never biked there. Maybe in the spring?

What do I forget from the ride home? I don't forget the route I took, which was the normal route down Massachusetts Avenue to 21st Street NW to L Street, but I do mostly forget how many other cyclists there were, thought I do recall that there were more than I expected. It's hard to forget how the many bicyclists and pedestrians had to squeeze between cars and buses, the drivers of which couldn't quite ensure that their vehicles didn't block the crosswalk and crosswalk-adjacent spaces that we all flooded into when the crosswalk white turned white. If you're going to walk or bike in the city, it's important to forget your dignity or any sense that your movement should be as unimpeded as those traveling in motor-powered vehicles. I would've forgotten that the White House plaza was closed, except that the inconvenience of riding down H and then down 15th really scars. It burrows deep, the inconvenience.

I've checked my phone. There seem to be no pictures from Friday worth remembering or forgetting. That's not to say there aren't any.

Tomorrow starts the week anew. I've got some new tires I'm quite happy about, but let's not despoil the memories of a future that haven't happened yet with predictions.


Kidical Mass Arlington Ride- 1/18/15

Please see the message below from friends of the blog Kidical Mass Arlington. First you ride bikes, then you go ice skating. Please do not ride your bike wearing skates. That could really mess up the pedals. 

That's right, we're doing a January ride in honor of ice, delayed openings and snow days! The forecast for Sunday looks acceptable (high of 50!), so we're going to ride -- meeting at 4pm at the Pentagon Row Starbucks. After a little time to grab a toasty beverage and chat, we'll roll out (4:15pm) and around the awesomely flat neighborhood of Aurora Highlands, coming back to Pentagon Row in time for a little ice skating and/or an early dinner.

Events at Pentagon Row
When: Sunday, January 18, 2015 4pm (roll out 4:15pm)

Meet: Starbucks at Pentagon Row (probably inside)

Parking: Street parking (should be free on Sunday); surface lot at Pentagon Row (free for the first hour); garage under Pentagon Row (not free, but I believe Harris Teeter validates for an hour, if you need groceries)

End: Pentagon Row Ice Skating Rink (basically the same place as the start)

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6794277

We'll roll out and (almost) immediately enjoy Arlington's new protected bike lanes (on Hayes and Eads). Then we'll turn into the neighborhood and enjoy the mostly flat neighborhood streets of Aurora Highlands, brushing by the very cool playgrounds and sprayground of Virginia Highlands Park (where we can dream of summer)...

After the ride, families are encouraged to enjoy ice skating at the rink, or to join together for dinner - there are plenty of options in Pentagon Row.

The ride itself will take place before sunset, but if you're planning on riding home after, you'll probably need lights. Given weather reports, we expect the road to be ice and snow free, but please keep an eye out and be sure to dress appropriately (we might need rain gear). This page will be updated in the case of inclement weather.

Happy Winter!


Rides 1/14 and 1/15: two days of rides


Late start because of...snow? Ice? I don't know. It wasn't bad. It put me on the road two hours than normal and there's a funny thing that happens when drivers are free from the peer pressure that is RUSH hour. They just leave their cars wherever. Need to unload a passenger? Double park with the flashers to run in for a coffee? Drop off a package? Whatever dude, just leave your car wherever. Given the nature of bike lane construction, frequently the wherever overlaps with the exact place I'm intended to ride my bike, but the strewing of stray cars is hardly confined there alone. Now, let me preface my complaint with something of a caveat. You see, I'm a bit of a sock strewer. I have been known on occasion to remove a sock or two and leave it/them on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper or sock incinerator (fun fact: if it were up to me and if money were no object and sustainability concerns weren't so top of mind, I'd never wear the same pair of socks twice. I know that's idiosyncratic, but, yes, this would be my hypothetical champagne wish and caviar dream). Anyway, so sometimes I leave socks around and that's a bit messy of me and maybe I should do a better job putting them away. But here's the thing: a sock doesn't really take up a ton of space.. Even Kareem Abdul Jabbar's knee socks wouldn't even take up a ton of space if left on the floor. So, not exactly a huge deal when you just kinda leave them around from an impediment perspective. And this is where socks and cars differ somewhat. CARS TAKE UP A LOT OF SPACE. And when you just kinda leave one around, half-parked or idling or whatever, it's no small thing. Like, it has the potential to be massively inconvenient and disruptive to everyone else. And this is the thing about cars, strewn and otherwise. Like, it's not some complicated and fraught moral issue. It's a math problem. You can't fit as many big things as you can fit small things. That's just sorta how it works. 

On the ride home yesterday, I was able to bike past a bunch of stopped cars, unable to fit in a space that was too narrow on account of some other cars, which were parked. I wasn't able to do this because of some kind of moral superiority or because a bike is a magica, but just because small things can fit where big things can't. That's just sorta how it works. 

Salty roads and I could taste the salt on my tongue. Why, oh why did I have to lick the road? Just kidding- it was atmospheric salt. Road salt: 


This morning was a commute at a regular time and it was mostly uneventful. I was briefly held up by some protestors on Pennsylvania Avenue. I wasn't held up because they were actually impeding me (because see lessons learned above), but because I wanted to take a picture and I fumbled around with my gloves and phone, so that took awhile. On top of that, the picture isn't even very good: 

Later in the trip, I found myself thinking about how biking through a red light is a little bit like running across the street with a hot cup of coffee. It might turn out ok if you're cautious or you might scald yourself. 

The ride home was very trafficky. But not so much for me because [see recurring theme.] Lots of sirens and flashing lights tonight. Given everything that's happened this week, I think the city really is done with emergencies. Anyway, hug a first responder. That can't be an easy job. Please ask the first responder of you can hug them first. Don't just launch into the hug. I mean, if you have a pre-existing hugging relationship with them, then it might be ok, but just generally speaking, maybe don't hug strangers. Especially if they're busy doing other stuff, like responding to emergencies. On second though, maybe skip the hug and just doff a cap. That would be ok, I bet. 


Rides 1/13: it's still winter

Another cold one. No, not a colloquialism for 'one more beer, barkeep.' Just one more day in a string of days called winter. No rain or snow, but we might get that tomorrow. Just another cold one.

Usual route to work, except I left the Ogre at home. I took the sometimes stealthy and fenderless Cross Check, equipped with fun cream tires, a pair that helps give the bike an aura of earnest goofiness that I really enjoy. Earnest goofiness might as well be written in Latin on my personal crest. Or in pig latin.

Came up to a law enforcement officer sternly telling a taxi driver to not park in the 15th street cycletrack and this stern warning meant that the cab driver couldn't leave the cycletrack that he shouldn't have been parked in and so at least 3 bicyclists in the other direction and me had to ride in the road, around both the taxi and the law enforcement vehicle and while I appreciated the effort to sternly scold the taxi driver for driving and parking where he ought not, doing so exacerbated the situation by prolonging his infraction. I'm happy that the cab driver was being scolded. I'm unhappy that the scolding meant that he kept blocking the lane. But maybe it's best to think of it as an investment. 2 minutes extra of a lane blocked in the context of learning the lesson to never block the bike lane again doesn't seem so bad. Let's just hope it pays dividends.

M Street across town and over the creek into Georgetown and rather than taking M to Wisco, I turned up 28th street, a quiet residential street with stop signs at each corner that's barely wide enough for the passing of two cars (since there's parking on both sides. Minus the parking, it'd be amply wide for the passing of three cars, but I don't even know how that would work). It's not bad for a cyclist, though it's uphill, but this is the part of town that has hills and there's no real getting around that. I rode up the hill stop sign to stop sign and for a couple of blocks I was behind another guy on a bike until he turned. The block before he turned the driver who was in front of me but behind him turned left in a manner that seemed both hasty and exasperated. I was passed more than once and more than once too closely by drivers who couldn't be bothered to wait until there was room to pass me with more room or who simply didn't care to. And I guess this is the paradox of cycling on quiet residential streets like 28th. They aren't main roads meant to be plied with lots of car traffic, so in that way you'd think they'd be perfect for the pokey bike commuter. But because they're not main roads, they draw to them like moths to flame the kinds of drivers who think 'SHORT CUT!' or "BACK WAY!' or 'CUT THROUGH!' and that they've 'discovered' some kind of clever way of "beating traffic" by going off the beaten path. And these drivers, convinced of their own cleverness and committed to the notion that they are outsmarting the suckers who stuck to the main routes, are quite an impatient lot. "Don't you know, Mr. Bicyclist, that this is my cut-through, my secret passage, my way to get ahead of all of those drones, those suckers, those chumps who aren't as clever as I am? And you're in my way! And you're ruining my plan!" Quiet residential streets are great for cycling so long as they're empty. But that's true of big commercial streets too.

I bought some Turtle Fur to cover my neck. I didn't even know turtle's had fur. I guess they don't anymore. Quite nice. All the warmth of a scarf with none of the wasteful length.

Can you anticipate if the ride that awaits you is going to be fraught? I think you might be able to, but it also be something of a self-fulling prophecy. But even more than that, it's mostly just like Empire Strikes Back. Bike commuting is pretty much like going into that dark side cave on Dagobah. You go in with your lightsaber, you're just going to to end up beheading an evil version of yourself. More wit and wisdom in my forthcoming self-help book " Bike Commuting and Star Wars and You" by J.J. Abrams. (That guy does everything.)

Pulled up next to a driver blasting Alanis Morisette's "Ironic" Was that ironic though? Not really. But "traffic jam when you're already late" seems like a pretty common thing for drivers, so that's something

L, 15th, Pennsylvania and up the hill on the Senate side for half the hill until a driver was coming down the other way (FUN FACT: you can only salmon up the Capitol driveways. Everyone does it anyway), so I bailed to Constitution, taking that to First and then East Capitol. I might have beaten the guy who was to this point in front of me up the hill, but it's also possilble that he beat me. I easily lose track of these sorts of things because they aren't actually very important.


Rides 1/12: cold rain

Taking the night off, mostly. The gist is this: cold rain. 

The day started with a fire in the house down the block and then in the afternoon, there was a tragic death on a smoke-filled train at L'Enfant Plaza. Tragedies both. Life can be sad. But press on. Press on. 

I thought a lot this morning about whether bicycling in the cold rain builds character and I think my answer to this is a combination of yes and no, but mostly who cares? I don't think you should look to your commute for moral lessons. It's just getting back and forth. 


Rides 1/9: barely even icy

Friday was cold, but it was maybe 20 degrees less cold than it had been, and those were an important 20 degrees since it transformed the morning from barely bearable to cold, but almost pleasant. And while there was still ice, there was much less of it. DDOT threw down a lot of salt on the roads (maybe too much?) and it's my hope that by Monday, all of the ice from the last storm will be gone, leaving room for new ice. Such is winter.

My front wheel was making some kind of noise on Thursday and since I took no steps to examine why this was nor make any adjustments so as to mitigate it, it continued to make that noise. I think it has something to do with the brakes. Maybe I should do something about it. (It's unlikely that I will do this before about 5 minutes before I leave on Monday morning. I'm sure this harriedness will result in a thorough investigation that will doubtlessly give me the best shot at resolving whatever issue this might be.)

I can't remember too much about the specifics about either the ride in or ride home, but lately I've developed a pet peeve regarding how drivers pass me. It's not like I begrudge their passing- I get it, I'm pretty slow and maybe it'd be faster to pull around me. (Maybe it wouldn't, but that's a different story.) And most of the roads where this happens have two lanes in each direction, so it's really just a matter of moving out of the right one and into the left one and for the most part, this happens with little drama. But what gets me is when they aren't quite fully out of the right lane before the nose of their car comes into my peripheral vision. Like, would it be so hard to full move over before starting to pull around? Please? I guess I don't like it because it make me think about margins of error and how they really don't work in favor of someone on a bicycle. If you're in a car and you get it wrong by 6 inches and smash into a car, maybe you scrape some paint. But if you screw it up by 6 inches- if you think that maybe your car is located 6 inches away from where it actually is- and rather than another car, it's me on my bike- well, that's rather less forgiving for me than just some scraped paint. So, here's my unsolicited advice for drivers: treat cyclists as if they are lava. Would you be willing to drive within 6 inches of a deadly lava flow knowing that if you're wrong by 6 inches that your car would be consumed by said deadly lava flow? Would you be willing to risk it? Reinforce in your mind the vulnerability of bicyclists by treating them as if they are deadly lava flows. Or scorpions. Or lava-resistant scorpions floating within the deadly lava flow and instead of poision in their scorpion tails, it's even hotter, deadlier lava. Or whatever it is that gets you to give them enough room. It's not that hard. I promise.


Rides 1/8: still some ice

I didn't intend to ride today. I really didn't. I worked from home yesterday and I've been nursing a cold for a a couple of days and since it was roughly -73 degree this morning (ok, it was 12F), I figured that I would just take Metro to work and maybe be better for it. Of course, "taking Metro to work" involves taking Bikeshare to Union Station and then Bikeshare again from Tenleytown to the office, but for some reason, I don't count that as biking to work. Anyway. But it turned out that Metro had other plans and thanks to twitter, I learned that there were serious delays on the Red Line and I spared myself those delays by choosing to bike in the cold.

I rode to work in normal people clothes, but I overdressed. I wore two pairs of socks. And two coats (a thin down one and my usual wool one). I would've worn two pairs of gloves were I capable of putting another pair of gloves over or under the pair I did wear. I sweated a little, but for a commute, I think I'd rather by more warm than more cold. I'll ride in the cold, but I don't think I'll ever really embrace riding in it. It's just not my thing. I didn't really know this about myself until I started bike commuting, but it turns out I'm more of a summer person than a winter person. I mean, ideally I'm a fall or spring person, but given the less moderate seasons, I'll take the heat over the cold. On the other hand, see if I'm singing that same song in July.

I decided to take 11th (hi Ted!) up to R Street and then ride across town through Dupont Circle. At one point on R, I was the third of three cyclists stopped at a red light. Given how cold it was (and how icy the bike lane remained), I was pretty impressed to see other bike commuters at all. After Dupont and on Mass Ave, I didn't see other cyclists at all. I started riding up Mass on the street and switched to the sidewalk, as is my normal habit on Massachusetts Avenue, but that turned out to be a bad choice. Most of the embassies along the way managed to clear their walks, but across from the Naval Observatory, backing up to some bit of Rock Creek Park, the sidewalk was covered in an inch of ice. My reaction to discovering this was 'let's see if I can ride on this ice without falling down.' And I did! For the first section. But around the bend, the ice slick continued and it stretched much farther than my capacity to endure it. I switched back to the road. Massachusetts Avenue is two lanes and the speed limit is an oft-ignored 35. Normally in the morning there's scant traffic, so the drivers are free to go as far as their hearts and lead feet desire (and this is why I tend to ride on the sidewalk, which is virtually unused in this part of town) and this is only a problem when drivers decline to move over into the left lane, leaving the right lane free for pokey ol' me. I try to ride enough off the curb that it becomes clear that there isn't room enough in this lane for the both of us (perhaps I should wear a cowboy hat and a six shooter?) and for the most part it gets the message across. But it doesn't always work and some drivers decline to move over into the empty left lane to leave me be. The drivers today who didn't move over were: a driver of a white BMW, a driver of an UberX car and a driver of a WMATA bus. Amazing.

On the ride home I was befuddled by a recurring noise I couldn't quite resolve. I think it was a fender scraping against the front tire, but it could also be the front derailleur cage (is that a thing?) scraping against the chain. I mean, it could've been a lot of things, but I didn't really stop to inquire. It was very cold. The ice in the bike lanes somehow seemed even icier. Luckily, it wasn't consistent and there were plenty of patches of clean pavement too.

In the evening, I saw a car with ghostbusters logo stickers on it. In the morning, I saw a car with the Bayern Munchen logo on it and next to that, a Dave Matthews Band sticker. I passed a truck with pictures of wild horses across the back windshield. What do you get when you put of these things together? Something to do with soccer playing marching ants and ghostly palominos? Maybe! But I mostly just reached the conclusion that people put weird stickers on their cars. 'Car as canvas' sounds like an overly grad school way of conceptualizing this. So let's not do that.

L Street, 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. How many people in #bikeDC get to commute on all three cycletracks? Even if each is imperfect in its own special way, I'm still pretty lucky. Of the three, I think I saw the most people on Penn. That's always where I saw the most ice, so I can only conclude that cyclists love riding on ice.


Rides 1/6: snow

It snowed. I biked. Here's what went down:

Not me. I didn't fall. Once my bike did slide out from under me. It was at the top of Capitol Hill, right after the security bollards before riding down the driveway on the Senate side. I took the turn too cavalierly and I found myself standing there with my bike turn on its side resting on the ice covered track beneath me. At that point, a helpful bystander did what all helpful bystanders do. He said 'it's worse at the bottom of the hill.' Thank you, sir. When I got to the bottom of the hill, after a very, very slow descent, I found it not to be appreciably worse. Shows what that guy knows.

Here's Pennsylvania Avenue:

Not so bad

There were other bicyclists:

Folding bike: bold choice

The snow didn't stop accumulating and by M Street, it was much worse:

There were very few drivers out. Rightfully, I think. It certainly gave me a greater piece of mind. When it comes to ice and snow, I prefer to only have to worry about my losing control of my bike and falling down and to not have to worry about scads of drivers losing control of their cars and slip sliding into me did provide some considerable mental relief.

By the other end of M, it was worse still. Here's the entrance to Georgetown:

To this point, there were always bike tire tracks in front of me. Unflappable.

Things got worse on M Street. That's where I started noticing drivers incapable of making it up small hills after stopping. I started riding up Wisco, but realized that the street was going to be clogged with car traffic and since my goal of snow riding is STAY AWAY FROM AS MANY CARS AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE OUT OF CONTROL CARS ARE WAY MORE LIKELY HARM YOU WORSE THAN JUST FALLING DOWN, I turned down P (?) Street and worked my way through residential Georgetown on 33rd and Volta and 35th. Here's one of those streets:

No more bike tracks
There was probably a few inches of snow. The bike fishtailed some, but the grip was still pretty good and I made it up through Glover Park without much issue. I got stuck behind a Honda Accord, whose driver was unable to inch it forward uphill after having stopped at a red light on Tunlaw. She decided to throw it in reverse to try to get loose from the snow and with her back windshield covered in snow that she didn't brush off before leaving home and me, invisible through said covered windshield, now behind her reversing car, I soon found myself scampering to get the hell out of the way. I moved around her car and set off again up the hill without any real issue. Bikes >cars, I guess.

On New Mexico Avenue, another stuck car. And then a series of stuck cars. And since there was no room for me to get by on the bike and since I didn't want to get back any other stuck drivers and also because STAY AWAY FROM CARS IN ICE AND SNOW, I moved my bike to the sidewalk and decided to walk it the last quarter mile up the hill. I wanted to explain to the other people on the sidewalk that I totally could've ridden up the hill, that my bike was a far better choice than a car, but because I had no dedicated infrastructure, there was no room for me, but that seems like it maybe would've been extraneous and doth protesting too much. But it's also true! I could've ridden up the hill. It would've been fine. But:

Stuck. Never stop at red lights.
So I made it to work. Here's the bike:

When I bought and outfitted the Ogre over the summer, I was trying to set up a bike that could pretty much handle the entirety of vicissitudes of year-round, all-weather bike commuting. And the Ogre delivered. Yes, it's a preposterous bike for 98% of bike commutes. But for the other 2% it's exactly the bike I'd want.

A word on winter: we don't really have a tough one in DC. It's worse than some places, but it's not horrifically cold and snowy all that often, so my hats off to bike commuters who face these kinds of conditions when they are less novelty and more of an everyday reality. Maybe your roads would be better and maybe your drivers would be better, but riding through the mush and ice and snow is a bear regardless and if you're doing it consistently, you're all right with me.

By the ride home, it was mostly better. The DDOT bike team did the yeoman's work of clearing, as best they could, the cycletracks. Smart of DDOT to hire all those yeoman.

I left before dark. I'm sure it refoze. And I suspect darkness didn't help very much with safety for people who rode home later in the evening.  No rides today. I'll be back at it tomorrow, I think.


Rides 1/5: zany title

Happy New Year! 2015 is definitely going to be "the year of the bike commuter." Just like 2014. And 2013. And 1894. There was a dry spell. But we're back! And so are streetcars! (almost!) And handlebar mustaches (ironically!). Anyway. What's not back, and mostly because I'm out of habit, is my remembering to blog and already I'm kinda late on starting to write tonight, and this will probably be shorter on account of that. But nevertheless, I shall press on. And mostly because Twitter is down. 

This will be a week of bitter cold. This morning started it and between that, the wind, and barely riding over break, it was very slow going. There's also the possibility that the bike was somewhat out of order and I was supposed to have addressed that over break, but didn't, but it's a bad carpenter who blames his tools. I don't know if that bad carpenter also bike commutes. I hope not. His poorly built stereo cabinet and slanted shelves would give all bike commuters a bad name. "It's not that they don't stop at red lights; it's that my spice rack keeps falling down!" says letter to the editor. 

Speaking of the building trades, it looks like the temporary walkway at M and 20th is now open and pedestrians are no longer asked to walk in the cycle track. It only took six months, but at least it only took six months. 

Caption contest: which Aerosmith song title might be an apt thing to write near this picture? [I hope it's the one they used in that asteroid movie.]

40% off everything at Glover Park hardware. It's closing to be replaced by a Rite Aid. I love drugstores as much as the next guy, but a neighborhood hardware store is a tough thing to lose. I shopped in the hardware store once. Bought some kind of screw for my fenders. Not sure if it actually solved what I thought the problem was. Likely not, because as good as a neighborhood hardware store is, I'm not especially useful with anything that can be procured in one. 

Wore a bright orange scarf today. They call that Dutch hi viz. 

Rode behind another cyclist on the way home who was a manic dinger. As we approached people standing in bike lanes, she would just start dinging an just keep singing over and over in the belief that just one more ring might finally clear the way, which it didn't. I've always thought of a bike bell as mostly equivalent to a car horn (though with some key differences in usage protocols, like you don't honk to pass [I hope]) so I equate nob-stop bell ringing with non-stop honking and I associate non-stop honking with the crazy and unhinged drivers who make life miserable for everyone else. Also, I don't care for dinging more that twice because it's not really effective. If they're not catching on with the bell noises after one or two, what about increasingly shrill bell ring number 6 is going to make things better? Switch to using words. Words like "excuse me." Or better yet, just slow down and maybe move outside of the bike lane to get around. Rarely is it that big of a deal, right? Unless you're "I AIN'T FUCKING MOVING GUY." I miss that guy.