Rides 3/30: Pollen

It's taken all winter, but it's finally spring. That's pretty much like every year, I guess.

I decided to ride through the city, following Pennsylvania and 15th Street and M Street and the other cyclists who were doing the same, and I found it to be an oddly relaxing experience, in spite of the fact that circumstances ("circumstances" is what I call things that block the bike lane) were abundant and that very easily could have bothered me, but I tried not to let it bother me because what good is being bothered going to do? Being bothered by little stuff doesn't get you to work any faster and it certainly doesn't make you feel better about anything. Like everything else, it's an expectations game. If you're a driver and you expect to be able to drive your car at 60 mph directly from you house directly to your office and get a free up-close parking spot as soon as you get there, of course, you're going to be disappointed by reality. And if you're a bicyclist who expects that there won't be detritus in the bike lane or an occasional jerk impeding it, that'll probably miff you too. But if the government is going to try to assuage these bothers, which do you think is more achievable? We've tried to build highways and tons of parking and all that and I'm not sure it's actually done very much to alleviate the stresses of car commuting. Maybe some things can't be unbothered.

 I rode up 28th Street in Georgetown, which is a lovely old street through a quiet residential fancy townhouse neighborhood and it's exactly the kind of place a bicyclist shouldn't feel like an interloper. It's not an 'arterial' and it's not wide and got parking on both sides and stop signs at every block. It's got a gentle incline from M to R, where the street stops at the cemetery gates. And yet, every time I ride on this street, I feel like I don't belong there because more often that not, some guy in a giant car is inches off my bumper (an honking!), as the street is too narrow to allow for passing me. It's an unpleasant feeling, made more unpleasant by my otherwise completely pleasant surroundings. If a person can't feel comfortable bicycling on a street like this, or, rather, if the expectation on a street like this isn't that it's a nice quiet place for bicyclists who want to avoid main roads and everyone else should get over it, then I don't know what to do. I've commuted by bike long enough to develop a relatively thick outer layer of 'fuck off,' but I don't think this should be a prerequisite or an expectation. I guess it just makes me sad how ingrained the expectation is that cars are the number one most important thing on every street, irrespective of whether it makes sense for that street.

Rode down New Mexico towards home, with a quick stop at the grocery store to buy soybeans and wine. I took 34th street, a residential street in west Georgetown, that has a bike lane and also serves as a pipeline for drivers heading from [I'm not entirely sure. points north?] over the Key Bridge. Car traffic backs up regularly, but the bike lane allows cyclists to get by just fine. I've counted cars stuck in traffic before, but rarely have I ever counted people in them. I counted 53 cars. They held a total of 57 people. That's 57 people spread out over 6 blocks. That's fewer than 10 people a block. Road space is precious, they tell us. How precious could it be if we give a whole block of road over to 10 people?

After the store, it was L to 11th. On 11th, I stopped behind a bus and a car, having no room to squeeze through. A superbiker in full kit then squeezed between me, the car, and the bus. Oh superbikers.

Farther down 11th, I rode behind a very hesitant bike commuter. I think he was new. Hello new bike commuter! Welcome!

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"- Upton Sinclair, on taxi drivers and bike lanes

This was a nice sight:

It's spring. 


Rides 3/27: Tip Time

It's possible I've written about this before, but even if I have, it's worth repeating, because repeating is pretty much what I'm writing about. There are only so many different kinds of bad weather you can bike in and once you've biked in that bad weather more than once, you've pretty much biked in it all that you can and so when you're faced with it once again (in this case, the bad weather is a cold March rain), you just say to yourself that you've already been through this crap before and you shrug it off and you just do it again. Because you've done it before. I think we're two Marches now past the March when I rode everyday in the same exact weather: cold and raining. I don't know if bike commuting inures you to coping with bad weather (I certainly don't like it) but it at least familiarizes you with it to the point where you just put your head down and your hat on and you deal with it, much in the same way that a regular car commuter 'deals' with the perpetual traffic and other ills that beset him. It's just the way it is.

All that said, today was a day that I wished my office was closer. About 5 miles in to the ride, I wished I could Samantha Stevens my situation and with a nose crinkle, find myself at my desk without undergoing the pedaling needed to get me there. But then I'd probably have associated Endora problems and who wants that? DID YOU KNOW that Agnes Moorehead was the mother in Citizen Kane? I learned that in high school! Why yes, I was exorbitantly popular and well-adjusted back then, why do you ask?

Mostly the same way home as normal, except more time on L Street than usual to 11th and then from there on K Street, illegally until the Carnegie Library (it's one way and not the way I went. P.S.- DDOT, if you're reading, add a contraflow bike lane on K from 9th to 10th NW. The road is sufficiently wide and untrafficked to handle it) and then around the square and down K Street NW across town into NoMa, which is a place. I don't think there's a more incongruous street that K Street NW from 7th eastward, as it's been home to a significant amount of dense, tall-for-DC development and it's still treated like a 4-lane get-the-fuck-outta-town-ASAP arterial when it really could be something else entirely. My three favorite (and by favorite, I mean worst) streets that no longer come anywhere close to matching the kinds of streets they could be are K, NJ Avenue and Florida Avenue NE. Reality has yet to impinge upon these overbuilt roads and they remain host to far too many speeding cars at the expense of the many other ways that people might choose to use them. On K, though not today, I've had more than my fair share of close calls. Even if we don't rip out a lane (which we should), we could at least narrow them some. No one needs to drive that fast so close to that many people. But, you know, #waroncars and all that.

From there I took the contraflow bike lane on G NE over to the Argonaut, where I spent some time refreshing twitter and drinking a beer, then it was home down 14th Street. Both G and 14th were so full of potholes that perhaps it was instead the potholes that were full of 14th and G Street. Wear and tear. Where and tear? Everywhere.


Rides 3/26: Transition

I'm a few of these behind, but I don't think I'm going to catch up. I'll write about today, because it was warm and that somehow seems to validate the ink, whereas I've written about the cold days enough already. But I haven't written about warm days for months now and I feel I should mention that I wore shorts today. Shorts! I feel that I should also mention that tomorrow will be cold again, so this one spring-y day will recede back into the many winter days. So it goes.

Still recovering from the 'race' last night, my legs felt a bit gummy, which is to say languorous which isn't to say much of all. I took the city route down Pennsylvania and past the White House and out Pennsylvania on the other side. It's one of the more direct ways to go and except for the parts that are trafficky (namely Washington Circle), it's really not quite bad. There were potholes, but there are potholes sometimes. I gave up on Wisconsin at Volta, gave up on Volta when Volta ran out at 35th and eventually gave up riding the rest of the way to work when I finally got to work. At the driveway entrance to the parking garage where I park my bike, I did battle with a Lyft driver who found himself in the wrong lane before cutting back over to cut me off to stop short right in front of me to let out his passenger. Driving for a living, or even a part-time living, is a hard job and on a human level, I have nothing but sympathy. On a different level, the level that has to contend with being a bicyclist who has to deal with wayward drivers, it's frustrating. The more I think about the future of cars (whatever that is) and the future is car hailing services (whatever those are) the more I think that our built environment is completely unable to deal with addressing those demands. For example, the driveway to the parking garage is built with the idea that a driver will drive into it and then leave his car for the day, not the idea that a driver will drop off a passenger and then turn around. It's a different need entirely. So, in the future, whenever that is, maybe we should build driveways that make for better in and out and less in and stay.

We should also build more bike parking. Enough that it's not a big deal if people want to leave their bikes there forever. And maybe in the future, jerk bike advice columnists will cut people some more slack.

When is there a good time to mention that the song I was singing to myself this morning was 'Come Dancing' by The Kinks? Never? I see. Too late.

I took the trail home today, but not quite home first, as I had a lap to do. The trail runs downhill, but the headwind ran against me and it was a slog. Along the way, I saw spindly children- the skinny skinny types that even the narrowest of lycra hangs from their bones- in bicycle racing costume. RVC was on their kit. I know not from where they came or to where they were headed, but there was many of them, more than a dozen, and they were scattered out about the trail, stretching from tip to tail about a quarter of a mile. Bon voyage, spindly bike children.

I felt bonky on Rock Creek, but I was buoyed by Rudi, who pulled up alongside me past the volleyball courts on our mutual way to Hains Point, where we were to meet others to ride a lap of East Potomac Park in celebration of the sun and circles. (HP is not a circle, but 'laps' make me think of circles regardless.) We rode into the wind and away from it, but honestly, I can't tell you which direction was which. I begged off after one loop and took to the exit as Dave entered to catch the group and take my place. One out, one in. I headed to the fish market, but didn't buy any fish. I headed down Maine Avenue, a main avenue in SW and the surface, haven't been recently destroyed in the name of being soon-to-be repaved proved itself lunar and lumpy. It turned into M Street, which was better and that, via 11th and Potomac, more or less found me home.

Goodbye warm day. It was nice to have seen you. We'll meet again/Don't know how/Don't know when/But I'll know we'll meet again/

some sunny day

Crystal City Wednesday Night Spin on March 26, 2015

Alternative titles:

Note from the Underground
A Day at the Races
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
Spin City

I went down fast, but I sprung up fast too. I only skidded for a little, but it was for enough time for me to realize that I had in fact fallen, though not with much of a thud, and I was back on my feet and clipped in before I fulled assessed whether there was anything wrong with me and the bike. No time for that. I was falling behind. I think.

Stock markets crash for the same reasons bicyclists do. An asset becomes overvalued relative to its intrinsic worth. You get comfortable thinking that things can only go up. And then the bottom drops out. And you end up on the bottom. Recovery can come quick, but there are always lagging indicators.

When I fell I was maybe a few laps in. I had done the course a couple of times and was reasonably well acquainted with the layout of the underground parking garage that served as the setting for the fourth in the series of four Cystal City Wednesday Night Spins, a production put on by the Crosshairs Cycling Team and the Crystal City Business Improvement District. I had attended the first one, but only as a spectated. I spectated and speculated that I should return and after a two week absence, I came back, this time intending to race. It would be the first time in my adult life that I would pin a bib to myself with the aim of competing. My goal was to not brake any bones. At least, none of my own bones.

I handed over twenty bones to the registration table about 2 minutes before the race would start. Andrew Jackson- kill the bank, Trail of Tears. I didn't register in advance, so the process of signing up with frenetic, mostly because I hemmed and hawed when I got there, unsure of whether I'd actually muster the facsimile of courage and extroversion needed to actually go through with it. When the B race ended, and the course was opened, I took a few practice spins. I took them slowly. They seemed ok or at least ok enough for me to go through with what I had set out to go through with, competing in the C race (categories 4/5, novice, children, commuters, bike advice columnists). I frantically filled out the registration form/waiver and my handwriting proved even more illegible than normal. But they typed my name in the computer and they give me a bib and one of the guys there helped me with the safety pins. Safety first.

I use the term 'competing' loosely. I certainly didn't set out to win anything or really to beat anyone. That's for the best because I didn't win and I'm not entirely sure I beat anyone either. I don't think I'm an especially fast bicyclist, nor an athlete who really trains for things. By virtue of bike commuting, I do benefit from spending a lot of time on the bike, so I had that going for me. I wasn't looking to break any records and even surpass any personal goals. But I did race and it went something like this:

pedal, pedal, pedal, brake, turn, pedal, brake, brake brake BRAKE, pedal, pedal, breathe, breathe, pedal PEDAL PEDAL repeat

The falling down part was extra. The course had at least two long straightaways, one by the start line and one by the finish line. I wiped out when turning (or trying) to turn onto the finish line straightaway. But then I popped back up. Recovery. But I could tell I bumped my knee some and there was at least some road rash, if not blood. I didn't look down to see if there was any blood. There wasn't any blood. There's only a little bump and not even any bruising, so all things considered, I would recommend that if you must crash in an underground parking garage criterium style bike race, to do it that way.

The rest of the course, aside from the straightaways, were a series of turns, demarcated by the concrete support poles and red tape. Red tape is very Washington. These were the parts that gave me the most worry, as my bike handing lacks the level of confidence you need to really whip through these parts on a smart line. Over the course of the 20 laps or so, I tried to take inside lines and I tried to take outside lines and I tried different approaches and I tried pedaling through and I tried braking and I tried pedaling and braking simultaneously. I shifted my weight, as I could, or left it alone- really, whatever seemed right. I wished I had kept a notebook of my various approaches. I don't know how long the circuit was or how long each lap took. A few minutes? Time is a construct.

There was a level of self-preserving conviviality on the course. Racers would call out 'inside' or 'outside' depending on how they planned to pass. I appreciated that and I mimicked it. Imitation is the sincerest form of the flattery.

There were spectators. They cheered and loudly. There was some cowbell. There was exactly as much cowbell as there should have been. Calls for excess cowbell would have been rebuffed. Some spectators, those who knew me, would scream 'SHAAAAARRRRRROOOOOWWS!" as I rode by. I appreciated that. It is no small thing to be associated with the world's least effect bike markings.

I wore bib number 33. That's Larry Bird's number. The Hick from French Lick. He was sycamore and I'm equally wooden. Before the start of the race, when Taylor was adjusting my bib, I expressed to him my desire to not die. He assured me that I wouldn't die. Before the race, I had thought of Dante and his descent. Dante went down seven circles in the Inferno. I went down four levels in a parking garage and rode twenty circles. He had Virgil. I had a Surly Cross Check.

There were other racers on the course that I remember and many more that I don't, either because our encounters were so fleeting or because I was thinking of other things, like staying upright and pedaling with aplomb. I think everyone had fun, or at least I hope they did. I'm not sure the results of posted yet, but I don't think that really matters to anyone, or at least I don't they don't.

There were photographers. Grit your teeth before the flash. Give him the action shot he's looking for. Snap. Look. Delete. Probably.

I think if I had to do it again, I would. I don't know if I'm committed to the idea of signing up for more bicycle races, either in underground parking garages or outside of them, but I can definitely see the allure, even if your goal isn't really to win or even prove your fortitude, physical, mental or otherwise. A race is a closed system and there's not much really going on outside of it. What matters most is hitting that turn or sticking to the wheel of rider in front of you or turning over the pedals with as much ferocity of you can muster and time truncates to a series of segments. One segment done, move to the next. Next one done, do one more. Keep it up until they let you stop. There is not outside beyond the segments. There's especially no outside when you're not outside. The interiority is the draw. And this, for me, is diametrically the opposite of how I normally approach bicycling. As a commuter and a sometimes flaneur (french for someone who wears flannel), for me, riding a bicycle is primarily a tool for engaging with the world around me- its novelties, its quirks, its changes. During the race, the bicycle became the means of tuning it out. That has a certain kind of appeal.

I didn't sleep great last night because my legs hurt. Not from falling, but from excessive use. I still rode to work this morning, taking again the bike that served me well last night. I plan to put the fenders back on tonight. I don't want the bike to get any ideas.

I would like to reiterate my gratitude to those who made this series of races possible. The bike guys and the parking garage buys and the guys who were there selling wine and the guys who were there selling pie and all of the people who raced and all the people who watched. Robert Putnam may say that we're all bowling alone, but I don't think he's ever been to a bike race in an underground parking garage in Crystal City. Unless he was that old guy who passed me that one time. Not going to rule that possibility out.


Rides 3/23: Shillelagh at the Donnybrook

Moths. They can eat your winter clothes. So, really, when you think about it, it's just great that the winter weather persists, as does having to keep wearing heavy wool well into March. It keeps away the moths. How's that for some positive spin? Unconvincing? Yes, I thought so too.

I spent a goodly time this past weekend cleaning the Ogre, thereby freeing it from the salt, dirt, gunk and grime that clung to its parts. Some of the parts so freed are the parts on the bike that move and in so moving, help give the bike its movement. That these parts are now clean plays no small part in the bike's better functioning overall. Cleanliness is next to go-liness. Some people are quite good at keeping their bikes clean, and therefore go-ly, but I lack such persuasion, convincing myself instead that a thin coating of dirt dissuades thieves and/or Tusken Raiders from absconding with my steed. Also, I am dreadfully lazy. And a bit hydrophobic. Perhaps it is I who is the Tusken Raider.

I took advantage of the bicycle's improved performance by taking a route that afforded a greater amount of open road and steady pedaling, which is to say, having a few blocks without a stop light. I pedaled away. I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled. And a man on a hybrid bike pedaled right past me, as if to express his disapproval is my earlier having pedaled past him. Or maybe he just liked pedaling even more than I did.

I met up with the Official Wife at 23rd and E, having to make an exchange of something she left at home for a toasted coconut donut. Quid pro donut. I suppose quid pro cronut would have also been acceptable.

Thereafter, it was the usual way to work. There were some inconsiderate people on bikes, on foot and driving cars. There were also some considerate ones. On the way home, there was also a mix of considerate and inconsiderate people and others among them who were neither considerate nor inconsiderate, but somehow on the cusp of both. A lot of it is situational, but it also comes down to decisions. There are always choices. And it's people who make them. Like the bicyclist who rode through the red light, only to stop before the crosswalk and the other bicyclist, who instead of just riding in front of her, rode behind her and then said something, maybe in response to something she said, but maybe not, to the effect of 'well, you ran the red light' and then she definitely said something in response, though I didn't hear it and they might have jabbered still, but I missed all that too because who has time to stop and listen to strangers argue. Other than me normally because I'm quite nosy and conflagrations, no matter how petty, pierce the mundane. It's really quite early in the season for bike commuters to be jabbering at each other over infractions both real and imagined, so I suppose you could say that #bikeDC is really performing above average. Or you could say that maybe everyone should just relax a little and be a little less willing to engage in pointless bickering. EVEN WHEN SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING WRONG. Like, even then. Even when you see someone do something really obviously wrong and bad, shrugging away a minor inconvenience is really expurgative (might not be a word) and maybe even good for the soul. He who rides a glass bike shouldn't throw stones and all that. And if you do ride a glass bike, that sounds fucking sweet.

Bikeshare riders asking for directions. I don't mind, but maybe that means we need more signs.

When I got out of the grocery store, I saw Will, who was with his son, Martin. Will had previously inquired about the Ogre, he needing to replace a bike that was damaged, and I had meant to meet up with him to let him take it for a ride, but failed in this, and so Martin and I stood together on the sidewalk as Will tooled around the Safeway parking lot, putting the Ogre through the paces one puts a bike through when test riding it in a grocery store parking lot. We will, Will and I, but maybe not Martin, who is quite young, get a beer some time. We will in spring.


Rides 3/20: The Return of the Snowgre: Snowgre Rides Again, Part II- Snowgre's Last Ride

Snow. It's not unheard of to have snow in March around these parts and in some ways, the fluffy white stuff is more agreeable to bike commuting than a steady cold rain. But that's like saying brussel sprouts are preferable to kale when all you really want is pizza. I want pizza. Both in the metaphorical sense where pizza is a stand-in for delightful spring weather and in the more literal sense where pizza is a delicious food and I'm writing towards dinner time.

There weren't many bike commuters about, but the usual bunch (well, as to whether they're usual or unusual, I've leave to you) were at coffee and from coffee was a trip with Rootchopper down G Street before we parted ways and he rode back into the Commonwealth and I remained steadfastly in the District. At least, I tried to remain steadfast, but more likely than not, I was steadslow. I don't have a speedometer. I remember riding up Wisco, but don't remember much in the way of details. I remember riding down Massachusetts and screaming 'GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" as the snowflakes, no longer fluffy but somehow prickly instead, snuck under the brim on my cap and over the top of my coat, to find landing places on my bare face. I wanted to look down, so as to create a less accommodating angle and deny the snow prickers their prey, but in so doing I would've taken my eyes off the road in front of me and generally speaking, one ought not do that. That is, one ought not do that if he doesn't wish to ride into the back of a parked car. Which I didn't want to do, having already done that once on a very cold day in a previous winter along the same stretch of road. Snow. I'm over it.

The way home saw me riding through Glover Park and Georgetown (and Burleith. I didn't forget you, Burleith.) and down to M Street and over to L Street and eventually down to 15th. I really wish the transition from Pennsylvania to L was a bit easier for bicyclists, but it's pretty much just a matter of getting over into one of the left lanes, which would be fine if you didn't have to cross two or three travel lanes from the right side in order to do it. This is why I normally do some kind of maneuver that involves waiting for the light to change red and making a left turn in the crosswalk, but it's suboptimal and also maybe sometimes I don't always wait for the light to 'technically' turn red and end up doing something wonky that might involve riding on the wrong side of the street towards oncoming traffic. Admittedly, this is bad. I don't worry so much about it from a safety perspective (it's pretty predictable and the sight lines are pretty good), but it's a pretty egregious bit of lawbreaking on my part and sometimes I feel pangs of guilt, not so much about the lawbreaking as the egregiousness. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there should be a bike flyover ramp over Washington Circle, so I could be spared on making this left turn. Put it out to bid, pay the $50 million. That's the only practical solution.

I don't really remember any details about the rest of the way home, except for its lack of flyover ramps. It might have been cold. I believe I was wearing a gray sweater. I remember being in a bit of rush, for all the good that ever does. You barely even notice getting home two minutes earlier and you can easily make up for the time if you get home two minutes later. What are two minutes? Barely no time at all.


Rides 3/18 and Rides 3/19: sameness

It's been cold the past two mornings. Not cold for March, but still colder than I want it to be. It might even snow tomorrow, but let's keep tomorrow's problems in the future and dwell on the problems of the past few days, which, conveniently, are already over. Problems included:

- the aforementioned cold

- the lack of bike parking at Stachowskis, where I stopped to pick up sandwiches for dinner (and, as it turns out, today's lunch). I locked up to the bus stop sign and that's fine in that it gets the job done, but I always feel unwelcome at businesses that don't have actual bike parking. This didn't stop me from buying a giant meatball sandwich, but it also didn't stop me from mentioning to the person that sold me that sandwich that the shop should have bike parking. I will continue to mention it to them each time I purchase a sandwich there. In fact, if I have to buy a giant delicious meatball sandwich every single day for the next three months and thereby mention that they should get a bike rack each day for three months, I am willing to fully commit myself to this cause.

-I ended up on 14th Street after L Street on a stretch through downtown that doesn't have a bike lane. It is essentially pointless to try to ride a bicycle on 14th Street through downtown during rush hour. This is because we've given over the entirety of the road space to cars and then at rush hour, we fill the entirety of that space with cars, and then we have six lanes of cars and nowhere for a bicyclist to fit. So, I ended up waiting in line and/or riding illegally on the sidewalk where I thought I could do it without being too much of a jerk. Long story short: convert all of the roadway to six lanes for cars, fill with six lanes of cars, and then you not only have impeded the way for drivers, but also for bicyclists. I think there's an obvious solution: a seventh lane for cars!

- "I'm not here to make friends" is the cri de couer of the reality show contestant, but it's also my mantra in the morning, especially as it relates to when a bike commute pulls up right next to me and we're like 3 inches away and I refuse to look over because I fear that if I turn my head, even a fraction, our noses will touch, that's how close we are. I love bike commuters. But I will start eating garlic for breakfast if you don't back off a little, ok?

- Chainsaws. There's a thought experiment I do sometimes and it goes like this: what if instead of a driving a car, you were walking, but you were carrying a chainsaw. And that chainsaw was on. Would you round the corner without looking? Would you go so fast that you couldn't stop in time if something unexpected happened? Would a non-chainsaw holder be expected to wear a reflective vest to alert you to his presence? Or would the expectation be that since you're the one holding a chainsaw, you'd kinda be responsible for not just wildly flailing it around and losing control of it. Sure, a chainsaw is powerful. Sure, a chainsaw is a useful tool with a valid and important purpose. I wouldn't begrudge anyone chainsaw use. But if someone's chainsaw 'jumped the curb' and 'accidentally' cut off someone else's limb, would we all just like 'yup, chainsaws. what can you do?' Or might we think that the operator of the chainsaw bears some responsibility for ensuring that this doesn't happen? And if and when it does, might we say 'hey, this is a real problem!'

So, those were the problems. They weren't that bad, even for problems. Bike commuting remains the best.


Rides 3/27: slanted

I don't have much to offer. It was St. Patrick's Day, but nothing especially eventful happened. You know when eventful stuff with saints did happen? Late antiquity! So, if you want eventful saintly happenings don't waste your time reading bike blogs and go read some Peter Brown. Some assorted thoughts about Peter Brown:

1. His biography of Augustine of Hippo is amazing, even though it fails to mention how hungry, hungry he was. If Octavian found Rome brick and left it marble, Augustine gobbled up those marbles and that's pretty much how the classical period ended. Though really a lot of kid's games could be used to describe the fall of the western Roman empire. There's Sorry. There's Trouble. There's Chutes and Visigoths. Anyway. 

2. Cult of the Saints is better and smarter and more right about things than nearly all of the other things I've ever read. And so writerly. And pretty challenging. (I recommend reading the article first, then the book if you're inclined). It is deeply unlikely that you will be inclined. 

3. "Late Anitquity" isn't really a time period, but everyone says it is because Peter Brown said it is. That's influence! 

4. I heard Peter Brown speak once and he has a really delightful Irish accent. And today is St. Patrick's Day. So this whole digression makes sense and wasn't just a random flight of fancy. Sure. 

Regular way along the Mall and the river in and the 8 man sculls were out on the river, getting yelled at from motorboats by men with megaphones. The rowers were also being yelled at by someone in the boat, who like the man with the megaphone, also wasn't rowing. Basically, the takeaway is this: the yellers have a way better deal. 

Could there be a parking protected bike lane on Thomas Jefferson from K Street to the Canal? If DDOT still did these kinds of things, maybe! It'd only be halfway up to M, so I don't know if it'd really be 'worth' it. But, like RFK says, some people see the world of bike infrastructure as it is and ask why, but I see the world of bike infrastructure as it could be and sob gently realizing that it's still so far away. 

On the way home, I stopped at the fancy Safeway in Georgetown. It's a vastly better Safeway than my local Safeway. It has some kind of gourmet nut bar and not a gourmet nut bat like a Pay Day, but I gourmet nut bar where a professional nut monger can select for you, presumably with specialty legume tongs, from an assortment of gourmets nuts. It's truly a wonderful and I should stop there more often. 

Then it was East Georgetown to Pennsylvania to L to 15th and the regular way home, past lots of bicyclists out enjoying the mild March weather, the kind of mild March weather that's about to be subsumed into the crappy March weather that makes March the worst. I guess everyone will be out on bikes again in April. 


Rides 3/16: unchained

I try not to have routines. Routines make you predictable and predictability means that, in all likelihood, a band of ninjas will try to intercept you and who wants to deal with fending of ninjas? Certainly not me. But I do have a Monday morning routine of checking whatever bike I plan to ride that day. I see if the tires need air (generally they do) and see if the chain needs lube (sometimes it does- today it needed a lot and also some chain links needed to be rassled free, having gotten themselves stuck on account of some gunk) and also to make sure that the bike still has at least two wheels (it did), brakes (yup) and one seat (thankfully, yes). It's not a bad habit, though I never remember to leave myself enough time to do the full check so that I'm not delayed in getting out of the house. Maybe it's my reticence to leave home on the first morning after the weekend, and not diligence, that prompts the bike check in the first place. If every workday were Monday, I'd probably have an immaculately running bicycle. In any case, the Ogre was in bad shape, as I last rode it maybe two weeks ago and put it away muddy and wet and covered in grime and salt. FUN FACT: this is not the best thing to do. In fact, it's one of the worst things you can do, unless you like spending money on all new components for your bike. Allegedly, you can extend the life on your chain and your cogs if you treat them better and clean them regularly and keep them in good working order, but this also might be an urban legend. Instead I just say "clean chain" 5 times while looking in a mirror and then turn off the lights and hope that some kind of mystical bike maintenance hobgoblin takes care of it. It rarely yields positive results.

Oh yeah, Friday. I rode to and from work on Friday, but I didn't blog about it. Assume it all went well, even the parts that didn't, because even the parts that didn't go well were still on a bicycle, so how bad could they have been?

Back to this morning and the Ogre. It felt slow. This might have been because I was riding slowly. It might have been because I was riding comparatively slowly to the pace that I've been making recently on the lighter Cross Check. It might have something to do with the only half-assed maintenance job I performed in the 15 minutes before leaving. It might have had to do with carryover fatigue from the Vasa Ride the day before, when I rode my bike to Sweden or maybe just the wilds of not-too-far-out Montgomery County. (By the way, the Vasa Ride was great, as was seeing so many people that good fortune, the internet, and bicycling has allowed me to come to know.) Or maybe it was something else, like hindsight.

You see, I didn't think I was actually going that slowly. I think it was just comparison to the SPRINGTIME CAT 6 RACERS who appear in bike lanes this time of year, looking to demonstrate their rightfulness in those lanes by riding faster than others. I've long since given up caring that other people bike commute faster than I do, but the first sign of the SPRINGTIME CAT 6 RACERS is always met with something of a wistful sigh. Winter bike commuting is over and so is its solitude. When you sing aloud weird songs to yourself, springtime means that other bike commuters will hear you and they'll probably think you're weird. And I guess it gets 'crowded.' But bike lane 'crowded' isn't like car crowded, which dictates lives to the point that the local news has to report on it every 10 minutes. Bike lane crowded is just like 5 other people on bikes. It doesn't really dictate lives at all and especially if you're not afraid of singing in front of those people.

Super smart guy on a CaBi stopped at a red light like 30 feet back from the light, but at the top of a hill, and then when the light turned green, he used gravity to pass all of us suckers.

I rode up M Street towards 34th through commercial Georgetown and I counted 6 lanes for traffic and 6 feet for people. Georgetown has plans to have a plan to have a gondola to carry people over the river from Rosslyn and I wonder if this plan also involves widening sidewalks to accommodate the added foot traffic from ex-gondoliers. I somehow doubt it. I think one of the things I think a lot is 'what would we do with this place if it wasn't set aside for cars? Could we come up with a better use for it?' If you've ever been to M Street on a Saturday, you'd probably say 'let people walk on it as the sidewalks are very crowded.'

You can also tell it's spring because there was another bike commuter on New Mexico Avenue.

I decided to take the Capital Crescent Trail home. It was easy and slightly downhill and uncrowded in the way that I was going. I love having a reverse commute back into DC. I love seeing people on bikes stream out of the city. They all look so happy.

I was happy to see today, in order, Chris and then Kathy and then Kyle at various points on the way home. It becomes much easier to recognize fellow bike commuters in spring, when they're not all bundled up. Kathy and I had a very nice talk as she rode towards taking a lap at Haines's Pointe about tourists and their return and her fairly amazing double bell strategy and I wished I could've kept it up longer, but I had to head back over the Case Bridge to the mainland.

L Street SE might have the gentlest approach back onto Capitol Hill. At least, so far as I've discovered. M might be somewhat milder, but it's traffickier. There might be a way to take one of the number streets (6th perhaps?) and that might barely have any incline at all, but I never remember to do that.


Rides 3/12: No Rides 3/11

(I too am tiring of this titling conceit, but it's what I've got. I rode today, I didn't ride (to work) yesterday and if all goes according to plan, I'll ride again tomorrow and I'll need to come up with a different title. So that's something to look forward to.)

The other day when I didn't ride, I did a bunch of 'spring cleaning' except for the actual cleaning part, which I didn't do until yesterday evening. I decided to clean the bike after I put on new tires, which are Continental Gatorskins of the 32mm persuasion. I like them a lot. I didn't care so much for the processing of removing the other tires, the ones that I struggled so mightily to install the other day, and this prompted me today to stop in at BicycleSpace to by some new tire levers. They are, per their website, 'award winning and universally loved.' (The T in EGOT stands for 'tire lever design awards'). I look forward to not getting any flat tires any time soon, so I hope not to have to use them right quick, but nevertheless, having them on hand provides some sense of insurance anyway. Anyway.

The snow is gone and the temperatures are higher and this means more bike commuters and runners than there has been. Some of them might be new to bike commuting. They'll be less new tomorrow. Yeah, it's 'annoying' to go from empty bike lanes and trails to full ones, but they don't build bike lanes if it's just you using them. And to them, you're just another annoying person taking up space in the bike lane too. I guess what I'm trying to say is just be a nice person.

Really swift ride down the Mall. They're doing some sort of big excavation on the grassy parts and it's either a landscaping project or the archaeologists are finally getting around to unearthing J Street. It's called J Street because it was named after James Smithson. A lot of people don't know that fact because it's made-up.

Do you ever count the number of potholes you narrowly avoid that had you not avoided could have caused your doom? I started, but stopped at 6 because 1) it was getting a little morbid and 2) I was only a few blocks from work and I was confident I knew big enough numbers to keep tabulating the whole route home.

11th Street to E. Both of these streets have bike lanes and are 'on paper,' reasonable bike routes. But you don't bike commute on paper.

I spent some time outside of BicycleSpace adjusting my brake pads on their FixIt stand and then went in and shopped and then fiddled around again and then I left. There was gobs of car traffic in the neighborhood and it didn't really let up until Union Station. With weather like today, it's hard to feel anything other than grateful for the good fortune and felicitous choices that have collaborated to allow to commute by bicycle.

Also, the traffic didn't really let up at Union Station. It kept going, presumably forever. I can't say for sure, since I stopped at home, but I can only assume.


Rides 3/10: No Rides 3/9

No commutes yesterday, but I did take some time in the morning reacquainting my bike with some fenders and those proved useful today in the afternoon wet. In the morning dry (the rain didn't start until later), I didn't wear gloves and regretted that. It's not really spring yet.

I wanted to take a picture of some tree branches and trash and muck floating in the river by the Kennedy Center and caption it "March," but I thought that too dour. Apt, though.

Other than putting fenders on the bike, yesterday I also swapped out the tires. The newer ones are road slicks and they were a bastard to install. The blisters on my thumb still smart. The road tires inspired me to try to catch up to a guy along the Mall who got out two blocks ahead before I managed to reel him almost back before deciding to let slack again and off he went until the light at 14th, where he met up once more. He probably doesn't even know he's a character in a blog post right now. At 14th, at the red light where we all stopped (there was another bike commuter too), I looked up at the new museum, which is nearly all built on the outside. Does the Smithsonian and the National Parks Service have a pedestrian plan in place for when it's done? In related news, LOL. It was a hilarious practical joke to put the monuments and museums between the downtown core and the highway bridges that are meant to take drivers swiftly away from it. Huge oversight by L'Enfant for not recommending a 14th street tunnel.

I don't think there's been a time since I've been consistently riding up Wisco when there hasn't been some kind of construction project in Glover Park. This was both before and after the brief period of TRAFFIC DOOM that occurred when the name of lanes was reduced. Anyway, there are more lanes now, which is great because it gives the construction crews a place to park their big trucks. Doesn't seem to help traffic much, but what can you do?

Ride home was in the rain and the new brake pads (another success of yesterday's effort) managed nicely. They might have managed a bit too nicely. I think one pad might have rubbed against the rim for much of the way home.

Riddle: what kind of bike is faster than a Porsche 911?
Answer: pretty much any kind of bike when the Porsche 911 is stuck in traffic.
But what about when it's not stuck in traffic?
You must be new here.

Mass, 21st, L and 15th. Along L, a woman saw that car traffic was stopped and thought it would be a good time to cross the street, in spite of the fact that the bike lane was clear and I had the green light. It's hard to get too upset about this (or even begrudge it: most of the time it's totally fine) but it would've probably been better for both of us had she looked for bicyclists before venturing out, but she didn't. She did look up as my brakes squealed and we made eye contact from about 3 feet away. I never know what kind of facial expression to have in situations like this. I did commit, a long time ago, not to be the first person to say anything in a situation like this. I think that's a fairly sound principle and one I would wholeheartedly endorse. You don't want to come out with 'Hey, fuck you!' if the first thing they're going to say is "I'm so sorry! I should've looked!" So instead, I stopped and I waited and went for a bemused expression. It's unclear if I made it all the way to bemused. We looked at each other for a second and then she sorta made a facial gesture that indicated chagrin and then I rode past her. It was fine. No point flying off the handle at every little thing. I'm just happy we didn't collide.

Speaking of handles, I'm not convinced that either my handlebars or my seat are at right angles. I think this might be a problem. This was not something I addressed yesterday, but likely should have. I feel a little crooked.


Rides 3/6: mixed bag of mixed nuts

There was a 2 hour delay. This allowed for the clearing of ice and snow from some roads (and some parts of roads), but didn't lead to the clearing of ice from all roads. It's March and we're promised warmer temperatures soon and I think the prevailing attitude towards this snowstorm was 'fuck it. why bother?' We have the snow equivalent of Senioritis. When is graduation again? Parts of my route were somewhat bikeable, other parts, including Pennsylvania Avenue, were very bikeable, being completely cleared, and other parts barely bikeable, but not so unbikeable that I would be dissuaded from trying.

Also complicating this bike commute, though really not by much, was my finding my handlebars no longer square, but instead jilted off to one side. This undoubtedly occurred when I wiped out biking home from the ballyhooed illegal sledding on Capitol Hill extravaganza the day before. I didn't noticed that there was anything wrong with the bike then since I managed to fall down only a block or two from home, but I did notice how off the bars were about 5 minutes into my Friday commute. It's a curious sensation to have your handlebars and wheels not align, but not an altogether unpleasant one. Did I necessarily need the extra degree of difficulty when already trying to cope with the snow and ice? Well, no. Did I get the bars adjusted back to square before getting into work? Yes and thank you Bicycle Pro Shop. I guess I could've done it myself, but bike mechanics have a much more precise view of angles than I do and I'm fairly confident that had I tried to relatively minor adjustment, not only would have I failed at righting my bars, but also would have inadvertently set them aflame. I don't know how that would've happened, but it probably would've happened.

There was a three person contingent at a rump Friday Coffee Club at Swings. With school's closed and workplaces starting at varied schedules and the roads remaining an icy mess, that we even achieved a triad was an achievement. After coffee was the usual trip through FoBo and up to Georgetown by making the terrible choice of riding along the unplowed Rock Creek Trail to M Street to the bike shop and then up the mostly incompletely plowed streets to work. Funnily enough, the parts of the street that had been exposed from underneath the ice from the tire tracks of passing cars and trucks included a the outer stripe of the bike lane and the foot right inside that outer stripe. This meant that I was riding in the bike lane and also riding where drivers most wanted to be.

If you can't take 5 minutes to brush all the snow off your car, you are a bad person. I'm pretty ok asserting this way over-generalized bold and judgy assertion. It's just wildly unacceptable.

Ride home down Massachusetts Avenue and it's not so nice to to see so many potholes in bloom. 21st to Pennsylvania Avenue again and then Pennsylvania Avenue again and then up the House side of the Capitol, where kids sledded for a second day in a row. Luckily these children will be saved from a life of crime by the snow melting and once again the grassy hill in front of the Capitol will return to its natural state, a wasted expanse of nothingness made inhospitable to people from a lack of programming and over-securitization to guard against threats wholly unlikely to manifest.

Some pictures and captions:

15th, evening

Ogre, much like India and Yugoslavia, was non-aligned

15th, morning

Pennsylvania Avenue, morning

Criminals on Capitol Hill


Rides 3/4: No Rides 3/5

I don't really remember yesterday morning's ride, as it was washed away from my memory by the waves of a few other more memorable events. The first of which was my mostly unfun ride down the Mount Vernon Trail to get to Crystal City. And then, the second was what happened in Crystal City. (Right here in Crystal City? It's a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands of bicycling. But more on that after this next part)

Anyway, long story short, much of the Mount Vernon Trail was terrible. I think the last time we accumulated any ice was a week ago, but it hasn't been warm enough to melt all of it yet and thanks to the National Parks Service's commitment to CROSS COUNTRY SKIERS, who apparently love to ski on 10 foot ice patches, walk 30 yards, ski on a 4 foot ice patch, watch 40 more yards and ski on a 14 foot ice patch, there was ample hazard. Now, I'm an outdoor recreation enthusiast (I guess) who's part of a pretty niche group who most people think are pretty marginal (winter bike commuters), so I can understand, theoretically at least, wanting to cater to cross country skiers. I guess. But at a certain point, the path is no longer ski-able and refusing to remove the ice then seems downright negligent, lazy, and, frankly, hostile to people who want to bike or run. So, here is my MODEST proposal to NPS, who undoubtedly will read this because NPS reads probably the top 40 most popular local bike blogs and I barely make the cut: when the trail is no longer 50% covered in snow and ice, plow it. See, that's pretty reasonable, right? That way we can pretend that we're throwing XC skiers a bone, but also admitting the reality that there is a far greater number of people who use the trail for non-ski activities than there are who do. This seems both fair and prudent, so naturally, it won't be adopted.

Speaking of prudent... When this question hit my inbox, I sorta dreaded answering it. Because it's kind of a complicated questions and passions tend to run a little bit high about it, especially among wackos. But I think I did a fair enough job. Though feel free to tell me how wrong I am. That's why I do it after all.

On to the second thing, the why of being in Crystal City (aside from the charming ambince and ovious touristic draw): it was to watch bicycling racing! Each Wednesday in the month of March, the Crystal City BID along with Team Crosshairs is putting on an indoor criterium-style (I think that means like DVDs that are all fancy) races in the basement of an parking garage. I didn't race (didn't want to embarrass anyone, namely, myself) but I did spectate and it was really awesome. Some bad pictures:

Anyway, I heartily encourage you to come out and give it a go if you're the kind of person who's into this sort of thing. Maybe, just maybe, by the end of March, I'll be able to delude myself into think that racing would be a good idea. And if you don't want to actually race, definitely come out and support the event because it's good for all of us when communities and organizations see bicycling as a social good with which they want to involve themselves. You can find a lot more about the event and more, better pictures last night by searching for #ccwns.

With ice, dark and fog facing me potentially on the ride on the MVT towards home, I decided instead to take the train back:

It wasn't so bad. And today, there was no work on account of SNOW, so that meant no bike commutes. Tomorrow might mean bike commutes, but we'll see.


Rides 3/3: rambouillet

What's the fastest way to get to the point? I hope by bicycle. Here goes:

M Street for the first time this winter since before the first snow. It's still not great. And perhaps more frustrating than the ice were the various drivers (mostly of the working sort) who can't seem to stay out of it. I swear, that bike symbol is like catnip and taxi drivers and delivery drivers are like cats. Cats that drive two ton metal death machines. Meow.

Georgetown on M and Georgetown up Wisconsin and I wanted to stop for some kind of savory breakfast treat and yet I didn't, partly from my deficiency in knowledge of where they might serve such things. I guess I could've knocked on doors and politely asked the inhabitants/housekeepers if they had any sausage biscuits, but it's likely that they wouldn't. Southern efficiency we lack.

Squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak. Lube your chain, kids. And never ride a tandem with mouse.

Tunlaw and New Mexico. And work and work all day and then I rode home in what aspired to be a freezing rain, but wasn't. There are lots of worse weathers than freezing rain, but there are even more weathers that are better than it. Some days you don't mind the bike commute, but aren't crazy about the 45 minutes in the rain. But 75 minutes on a bus aren't better. Unless it was George Clinton's tour bus and we were driving Jon Favreau back to Port Chester University. In hindsight, I'm not sure that movie holds up.

L Street was better than M, but not by much. One letter's worth, I suppose. What do we want? Concrete curbs! When do we want them? Soon-ish? WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. But, then again, so did the Ancient Romans and their bike infrastructure was shit. And yet, they didn't have "Hadrian's white line that we're all just gonna hope the Picts don't cross, ok?" Oh well.

I'd like winter to be over. We're likely to get more snow tomorrow night into Thursday morning. I'm going to file a formal protest with the authorities. March is for spring. We surrender.


Rides 3/2: I bought an eggplant

Late start on account of ice. The iciest part of my commute was walking the bike to the street, which itself, as a result of the rise in temperatures afforded by the delay, was already free of ice entirely. My biggest concern riding in wasn't so much slipping on the street, but finding myself impaled or otherwise laid low by ice flung free from a passing car. Luckily, again, the warmer temperatures later in the day managed to melt whatever ice sheets would have otherwise remained unremoved from car roofs, and I was not impaled or otherwise rendered injured.

[That was a chipper start. "well, I didn't get impaled by a flying ice dagger, so..."]

I really need to stop bothering the Secret Service. In the news again were reports of an intruder (a would-be intruder?) leaping over the lower outer fence in an attempt to maybe leap over the higher inner fence in an attempt to run across the grass to get to a door to get inside the White House. The lower outer fence is called, for "reasons," a bike rack, though it's not a bike rack. I mean, it is. But it isn't. Here's how today's conversation transpired.

Me [pointing to low fence]: it this a bike rack?
Very Patient Secret Service Agent: yeah....
Me: Can I lock my bike to it?
Him [laughs]: no!

What do you call a bike rack that isn't a bike rack? Presidential security! {rimshot}

Anyway, I'm going to stop my tireless crusade (note: actions not tireless, barely a crusade) against trying to get the Secret Service to stop calling these fences bike racks. Apparently, these fences are sometimes called 'bike rack' fences, by the fence manufacturers and I suppose there's a logic to this: nothing is more terrifying to the average American than a bicyclist. Obviously, it's a deliberate counter-measure. Well played, USSS. Well played.

Pennsylvania, M, Wisco, Volta, 35th and eventually over to Tunlaw and New Mexico, whose bike lane was still half-filled with ice and snow. For the reasons it makes sense for drivers to want there to be bike lanes, it makes even more sense to want them to be clear of ice and snow. Because when they're not, I can't ride in them and when I'm not in them, it means that I'm going to be riding over in the travel lane, which generally means that I'm going to be in the space where you'd rather be driving your car. But this attitude doesn't really manifest itself. Oh well.

I was distracted by work thoughts on the ride home (I don't recommend this), so I don't recall much with much detail. There was car traffic on 21st since a part of that street was closed on account of some underground utility work. L Street was fine, as was 15h and so was most of Pennsylvania, except for the part with the police car parked in the cycletrack (there are VIPs in a hotel nearby), but beyond the length of that one police car, the rest of the way was entirely unobstructed.

On the Senate side of the Capitol, there's a gate at the bottom of the driveway and next to that gate are some metal bollards and on good days, a bicyclist can fit between those bollards with no issue. On bad days, there's a pile of snow right around there and it makes the whole matter trickier. The snow melted to more manageable pile so I stopped my bike and spent a few moments kicking that pile of snow in order to disperse it. "TAKE THAT FROSTY. MY DAD'S A MAGICIAN! YOU STOLE HIS HAT!" I said, harnessing my rage. It didn't take much rage. The snow pile was pretty small. I also kept my efforts to a minimum fearing that I would further rupture my relationship with the various armed security officers who guard our nation's most important civic buildings.

East Capitol to the grocery store. I bought an eggplant.