Rides 7/29

Does anyone even remember Friday? I certainly don't. It likely happened, since after all, it's a few days later and we tend not to progress in an orderly fashion throughout the week and not just jump around from one day to the next all willy-nilly. But as far as the bike commuting part went, it went and it probably went fine. I didn't ride to coffee because I got a late start out of the house, but I don't seem to recall anything especially funny or troubling from the morning. The afternoon was about equally boring, except for the sensation of whipping down Cleveland on the Brompton thinking about how much more comfortable I've gotten riding the Brompton "fast" downhill compared to how I was when I first started commuting on it a few weeks ago. Again, important to note that in objective terms that it is not a fast bike, but it does pick up some speed on downhills and its tiny wheels have relatively many more rotations than bigger wheeled bikes, so maybe that gives the sensation of going faster and also, you're lower to the ground, so let's just say all of these factors combine into making it seem like I'm going fast downhill, which is not something I really like exactly. I mean, it's fine, but it's not my thing. I prefer uphill plodding (in bikes and life). But I've gotten a lot more comfortable with it lately and maybe someday I might even come to enjoy it.

Those were the commutes. And that was just one paragraph and I feel like I owe you more, so let me tell you about my weekend leisurely ride out through Maryland to Whites Ferry and then across the river (by ferry, not magic dolphin or whatever) and then back through Leesburg to the W&OD trail and eventually back to DC. The whole thing was about 80 miles. I rode the Pink bike. Two things on this:

1. it's been some time since I've ridden that far. Almost a year. I wasn't worried that I couldn't do it (perhaps foolishly), but I was out of practice.
2. This is the first big ride for the Pink bike, which I purchased in a fit of Blossom Madness earlier in the spring and then promptly placed in a corner to ignore while I tended to other things.

Summary: It was nice. Like with all longish rides, I liked being by myself and hated being by myself. I got into some good rhythms and there were definitely sometimes when I thought to myself 'you know, for someone who doesn't really know how to ride a bike [like, in any kind of real sense, like a racer-type], every so often you don't obviously seem to completely suck at it' and there were definitely other times when I thought to myself 'you are dumb. it's 1000 degrees. why. whyyyyyyy' but there were no times, even during the whyyyyy times, that I thought I shouldn't have been out there. I was glad that I did it. It was nice. The Pink, however, is going to need some slight fit adjustments and I'm dealing a little today with the residual effects of that, but that'll be taken care of soon and then it'll be hopefully less than almost a year before the next biggish ride. Fit aside, the bike is a dream. It's everything I wanted it to be and so much more.


Rides 7/28

Maybe I should start going the long way, which is up Massachusetts, which is the way I used to go to work. It takes about 10 minutes longer on a slow day, but I know it better, but the reason I would really consider it is to escape the bad Connecticut and Calvert intersection. Today I was almost taken out by a left-turning driver, who, thankfully saw me, and stopped. I've had maybe three bad calls there in two weeks and avoiding it, at least for a few days, might be better than risking a fourth.

Crossing guards are great for pedestrians. But are they still crossing guards when they're pretty much only directing car traffic and there's not a pedestrian in sight? I don't know. I have issues with St. Albans. Anyway, it'd be nice if maybe the crossing guard at least sort of tried to kind of not completely block the bike lane on Garfield. Maybe?

I had an event after work and I left it right as the rain began. The rain was accompanied by lightning and then it really picked up and it really came down in buckets. I was wearing my work clothes, which are and forever will be wet until the end of time. That's fine. Once you get a little wet, you might as well get a lot wet and that's what happened. The best part was riding through the few inches of water that had accumulated in the bike lanes of the Duke Ellington Bridge. With each pedal stroke, my shoe was fully submerged. It was like walking in the ocean, but without the sand. So, pretty good, actually.


Rides 7/27

Sometimes your legs just feel good. This morning I felt like I could've gone another dozen miles without thinking and even after another thirty or forty maybe I'd only feel good, though I suppose there'd be some questions about why I wasn't at work yet. I think this means that my legs want me to take a longer ride this weekend and I might very well try that. I haven't been out for anything longer than 20 miles in a few months and haven't gone any real distances since last fall. I feel ready for it. It'll probably rain.

I ride roughly the same route as the 96 bus for most of my route (this is the bus my ANC commissioner takes to work) and I passed it today. I think even with all the uphill sections of this route, it's still faster to bike than bus. I mean, the bus would be faster if it didn't have to stop, but stopping to pick up and let off passengers is one of the really great things a bus does, so it's likely that the bus will continue to stop along the way and I'll continue to not stop and we'll just have to go at different speeds. Anyway, BREAKING: buses and bikes are different.

Got honked at. Turns out that I should've made a left turn in front of a car that I wasn't sure would come to a stop at a yellow-turning-red light. The funny thing about loud horn noises is that they don't cancel out my self-preservation instinct. So, yeah, sorry. Anyway, this led me to wonder if the future of robot cars is going to be any quieter or much, much louder. The argument for quieter is that by removing the noisemaker from the dickholes inside, you won't have nearly as much 'pique honking.' The argument for louder is that every single piece of technology invented in the last 25 years has involved superfluous beeping. Like, a shit ton of superfluous beeping. And frankly, if we have it that buses make announcements warning pedestrians that they're going to be run over and we find this to be socially acceptable (and maybe even useful!), it's hard to imagine that we won't continue this in the future. Anyway, buy earplugs.

First ride home in a few days when I didn't stop at the bike shop. Didn't stop anywhere really. Got stuck behind a bus that belched some hot fumes at me. That was unpleasant. I mean, I love me some hot fumes (fondue is delicious!) but it was entirely unnecessary on such a hot day. It almost made me sweatier, except for the fact that that would've been impossible

Next Thurday I'm hosting pub trivia sponsored by our good friends at REI. Sign up. One of the answers is going to be 'you don't need to buy a kayak. you live in a city. come on.' So, you've got one point already. So you're all tied. For last. But also first. Cool!


Rides 7/26

One of the things about my old commute is that for about half it, I was riding on my way downtown and then on half, I was riding from downtown. This allowed me to have elements of the standard commute and elements of a reverse commute and I liked experiencing both. Now, I pretty much only get the reverse commute, but it seems that, for whatever reason, I'm picking up more cyclists heading in the same direction than I almost ever did riding out of downtown and up through Georgetown. I wonder where everyone is going when they ride up and through AdMo. Maybe I'll have to follow someone someday. Yes, that would be sort of creepy and bad and curiosity killed the cat and all that, but the demands of being DC's 78th favorite bike commute blogger (hiatus killed my ranking, but I'm clawing my way back) are what they are and I just have to know. Maybe these reverse commuters are going to my workplace. That be convenient for the whole following them to work thing. And way less stalkery.

Before work, I stopped and bought a muffin at the grocery store. Morning grocery shopping = great. Morning grocery shoppers = less great. It's not '12 items or fewer unless it's before 9AM and then it's just however many things you want,' madam. Oh hey, maybe I'm a little grumpy in the morning.

This morning was the last ride with the busted grips and they didn't disappoint by further unraveling. I don't think I'll much miss them. Bike stuff and I have a weird relationship right now. I really enjoy having a lot of it and I enjoy the things that I've purchased along the way...for the most part. But sometimes I've gotten it wrong and I've been left with stuff that just isn't right. I don't think this is a unique problem to me (hello, facebook used bike marketplace) and I don't think it's a unique problem to bicyclists, but I find this problem to be more problematic than other problems I have because I really hate the idea of 'wasting' stuff. I guess it's not really wasting if you sell it along and send it to a new home, but it seems a little wasteful of money, I guess. Anyway, these grips lived their life and they ended up destroyed at the bike shop as two mechanics diligently worked to remove them with a hammer and a wrench and some screwdrivers used as ice picks and a fuck ton of gumption and gone they went, into the dustbin of history/regular bike shop dustbin. Could have they been salvaged? I don't know. Like 30% maybe. But they're gone now and I've got new ones. They're blue.

Blue and foamy. Like the ocean.

Rode home again in work clothes. This would be madness if I were going any more than 15 minutes. After the bike shop, I stopped for bread. I also bought cheese. The worker at the register said 'Nice. Bread and cheese.' And I was like 'Yes.' It's good that she could successfully identify those items. Otherwise I'd worry about her future in the grocery industry. Really, though, bread and cheese are great. Glad I finally got to blog that. It's been on my mind for years.


Rides 7/25

The main advantage of living much closer to work now is that I can leave the house later and I like that plenty. But if I leave a little earlier than later, I can stop at the grocery store on the way to work, which I did this morning. Admittedly, it would've gone better had I remembered to bring a lock with me, but I threw the Bromtpon into the cart and pushed it around a little as I shopped. I bought a few things and threw them in my bag and I was happy to use some of the things I bought to supplement my lunch and to leave the rest of the things in the mini-fridge in my office until the end of the day when back into the bag they went. I like to shop everyday, but shopping in the morning is a new thing for me and I think I like it. The store is emptier and also being able to grab some lunch on the way in is pretty nice and useful too.

It's gotten to be that the time I'm the happiest on the bike is when I'm riding (slowly) uphill. It just feels...calm. It's not exactly zen, but it's something quite good and I'm quite coming to savor it.

I'm still having grip problems, so I stopped at the bike shop on the way home to buy new grips and thought that I'd try to install them when I got home, but I couldn't find the right tool and so maybe I'll drop the bike and grips back off at the shop tomorrow and have them do it. Getting the current grips off is going to be maybe more of a hassle than I want to deal with and I still have $20 worth of bike commuter benefits and I'd be happy to exchange that money for labor, as we sometimes do in modern society. I mean, I'd try to use sea shells or whatever, but I'm pretty sure the shop doesn't take those. Oh also, funny, I managed to briefly lose the grips and freaked out a little, but then I found them and all was right with the world again. Did I mention that they're blue? They're blue.

Didn't think it was the hottest day, but soon proved myself wrong by staying out in the heat for more than a few minutes. Rode home in my work clothes thinking that would be a good idea and for the first 5 minutes of the ride, I rode faster than I could sweat. However, riding so fast only hastened the sweat. You can't outride sweat. It will catch you. It always catches you.


Rides: Last week (sorry)

I didn't really intend for this blog to go into digest format, nor do I really intend for it to be that in a future, but I had a lot of things going on last week and I'm still out of habit of doing this daily, so excuse excuse excuse apology apology apology etc. etc. I did ride to work every day last week, except for the day I didn't work and on that day, I rode Bikeshare from the house (which is now not mine) to Judiciary Square (or thereabouts), so huzzah for all that. It was my intention to ride this weekend, but aside from two rides to and from donuts (the first ride to donuts was an hour too early for the donut shop to be open), I spent the heat indoors like a normal/sane person.

A few observations from this week:

- 18th Street through Adams Morgan is sort of a bike highway. Pity it only has sharrows. It makes sense that there are so many cyclists who take it and it's a fine route (even with sharrows), but it'd be nicer if it were something more.

- Connecticut and Calvert remains the worst. At it's best, it's a bad intersection and at it's worst, it's the worst intersection.

- I can't remember when or why, but at some point during the week, I was on the Met Branch Trail and I didn't know if I was supposed to take the wide angle on the ramp down to M Street or whether I was supposed to take the narrow approach and I had an awkward, but comical and lighthearted, intersection with a cyclist riding up the ramp and it was all very haha. I think the case could be made for either wide or narrow, but I'll defer to those of you who do this more than I do and then I'll make take your wisdom and pass it off as my own in a future GP.

- Heat it hot. Humidity is humid. It's July. These things happen. It'll be August soon and then these things'll happen in August too. Seems like we have summer every year these days.

- A few years ago I bought Brooks grips for the Brompton. I wanted grips to match my saddle because I am somewhat vain and somewhat fastidious and must've also had somewhat too much money sitting around or something. I had a terrible time getting them on the bars and even after that, the ends of the grips kept falling off. This might have something to do with poor installation or it might have to do with my knocking off the Brompton a bunch, but either way, it's kind of annoying. I glued them on once, but that still doesn't seem to have done the job. Now the leather on the grips is starting to come off (it's a one inch strip of leather rolled diagonally around the barrel) and I've more or less reached the point where I'm going to have declared them as having achieved their usefulness and switch back to the standard foamy grips that came with the bike. I feel like maybe they should've lasted longer, but then again, I kind of treat the bike like crap, so I'm willing to maybe say that a few years is a good life for grips. In the mean time, I'm going to keep riding the bike and keep getting annoyed by them.

- The mean time ends tomorrow. My new route takes me right past the Adams Morgan Bicycle Space. This is dangerous. I have $40 in saved-up commuter checks left, but those won't last much longer. Pray for Sharrows.


Rides 7/14

We makes strange bike commute decisions sometimes and by we, I mean me, but I'm implicating both of us (us, being me and you, the reader) so as to make myself not seem like the only strange one. My decision today was to ride to work (this is the not strange part) and then to ride home (also, not that strange. At this point you might be wondering what strange thing happened? Was I wearing a hat made of banana peels? Did I ride while singing selected arias from La Traviata? No, neither of those) but the strange part (thank you for your patience. We're so close!) was to do the riding home within about an after of the riding in. Faced with a much more open work day than expected and the onerous task of having to (still) keep emptying the house and moving boxes of stuff a few miles across town, I declared an impromptu post-arrival vacation day and set off for home after having barely arrived at work. I have few regrets as far as that decision goes (except for not wearing a banana hat, which sounds quite...appealing) and it was another productive day of schlepping boxes and I'm nearly done with the entire enterprise, like at the end of a Star Trek movie.

The ride in was, what I can now say after four of them, pretty standard and the ride home saw me taking Mass Ave down the hill. That was the old standard and I wondered how it would compare to the new route and it was fine and familiar, but felt longer. I think I won't do that anymore, which is great, because the intersection of Mass and the entrance to Rock Creek remains one of the places I fear most. It's just one of those stretches of road where you feel so *exposed* and where the margin dwindles and one bad twitch from you or someone else can see you very quickly into a spot of bother. It can also see you into the back of a minivan, which was my fate at the intersection a few years back (thankfully with very little harm to me or the bike.) Anyway, five years of harrow is plenty (don't most graduate in four?) and I look forward to the coming years of trepidation and vulnerability at Connecitcut and Calvert, my new favorite least favorite intersection. Huzzah.


Rides 7/13

I didn't really know how long my ride to work is (because knowing this doesn't really change anything), but I mapped it and it's 3.5 miles. It's also 468 feet of climbing, but I don't really know what that means in any quantifiable sense. I mean, I guess I could convert it to meters or fathoms or whatever, but, again, knowing that isn't going to change anything about it. Work is still going to be uphill in the morning and at the top of the hill at the end of the day and it's going to be exactly as far away as it is whether or not I know the distance down to the millimeter or angstrom. Tip: if you are inclined to care about distances, measuring your bike commutes in angstroms make you seem like you're really accomplishing something. Anyway, based on the way I felt about my rides over the past few days (yes, feelings matter more than numbers- come at me quant bros) I thought that the ride might lend itself to the use of the Brompton and so I set off on the folding bike this morning for a lovely jaunt in a mugginess that soon turned to a light drizzle. I decided to follow my normal route until the top of the hill at Cleveland where the traffic light suggested I instead go straight instead of turning and so I ended up going that way a bit. This is generally the route of the 96 bus (kind of?), the bus that my ANC commissioner takes to work and which I took later in the day.

One of the joys of a new bike commute route is the very low stakes but nevertheless thrilling sensation of not exactly knowing every little thing about the roads on which you ride. I knew that I'd be able to get back over the Wisco (we're making this a thing or I'm going to die trying) but I didn't know exactly how or whether the roads would undulate or be trafficky or have potholes or whether the houses would be very fancy or extremely fancy (Ward 3 is so rich it can afford both!) and as the drizzle drizzled, I pedaled forward until finding Macomb and riding up the hill and back to familiar territory. Then it was down the hill on the other side and back up Mass and another successful end to my journey. I was a sweaty mess.

I rode home via Bikeshare at lunchtime to pick up the groom from a long overdue grooming appointment. The weather wasn't unbearably muggy insofar as I bore it. But I didn't much care for it. I took the bus back to work as alluded to (or just told) in the earlier paragraph. I had no regrets about this choice. Even at 3.5 miles, I would've been a mess in my work clothes, which I had kept on for the ride back to the groomers. Generally speaking, it's important to look professional and well kempt when picking up a pet from a grooming appointment, lest your freshly groomed pet become embarrassed. Or something.

At the end of the day, it was another quick Brompton ride home, which proved little problem. I think I'll keep it up with the folding bike- it's the right tool for the task and also rather fun to ride. It's also easier to manage in the building elevator. I'd never really thought about bike elevator etiquette, but now that I have, I wonder if Gear Prudence will be writing about it. Maybe!


Rides 7/12

The thing about moving house is that you should do it all at once and not stretch it out over multiple weeks the way that I'm doing. I did the big stuff in a UHaul this weekend, but each day this week I've been shuttling back and forth bringing another couple of boxes in the car I have (for now. I'm getting rid of it soon and will be accordingly smug, as per the rules). The benefit of moving things piecemeal is...I'm not entirely sure. But anyway, this is my lot and so I'm doing it and this morning I drove the car over to the house and left it there and grabbed the Brompton, which was at the house, and filled a reusable grocery bag with some shoes and slung the bag over the handlebars and set off on the way back to the new place. I don't know how many more bike commutes I have left on the Hill, but I didn't much mind this one as the weather was pleasant and after habituating myself to repeatedly kicking the bag of shoes, I settled in for an easy ride across the well-known route. At the base of the Capitol, a man complimented my shirt. He was wearing the same shirt. It was a Bike to Work Day shirt. Har har. And here I was thinking that maybe I was just wearing a particularly nice shirt.

I rode up Pennsylvania and 15th and made a left on S and then was more or less home, took the bike inside, folded it up, unfolded the dog, walked her, took her back up and then decided to ride the Ogre to work because whenever you have the opportunity to split your bike commute, you might as well take two different bikes. Very little of consequence occurred on the ride up the hills to work, though it felt faster than it had the day before. I think I'm not going to mind this route to work, but what I really won't mind is the ride home, which takes a scant 15 minutes and seems over before it really begins. I like being home so quickly, but the one downside is losing that decompression time a longer bike ride affords. A bike commute is a great way to slough up the travails of modern office life (insert Dilbert cartoon here) and while a short commute is great for getting home quickly (and reaping the benefits like seeing your poodle sooner), it's not nearly as medicinal. Maybe I'm not using that word correctly. No, I think I am.

At Connecticut and Calvert though an open window a driver said to me and the cyclist in front of me "Guys, watch out. Be careful" as we navigated between her car and the 18 wheeler in front of us. I'm still trying to process my feelings about this. On one hand, she could've just honked and told us to go fuck off and the sentiment of wishing us to take care is vastly better than that. But on the other hand, we're not the ones operating the 2 ton death machine. I think our carefulness is kind of implied. I don't know. Like, physician heal thyself.

Hey Darren. Yeah, you. Here's some Pokemon Go content: I didn't see any driver playing Pokemon on the way home. Just the usual texting. SO IT'S TOTALLY SAFE OUT THERE AND COMPLETELY FINE.

After dropping the Ogre off at the apartment, unfolding the dog (why do I fold the dog? that's so weird and unnecessary because she is already quite small) and walking the dog, I took Bikeshare over to the Hill via T Street and 11th and then eventually Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution and East Capitol. The Capitol grounds were open (there had been a lockdown) and East Capitol was breezy. There were no docks at the Bikeshare station where I had hoped to dock, but there were at the one two blocks away and all was right with the world. I took some time to load up the car with boxes and drove back across the city, which was a truly miserable experience. I'm a bike weirdo, not a car weirdo, but I think I can be reasonably objective when I say that driving a car in this city is awful and parking a car in Dupont in awful and in a week or two when all the moving stuff is down, I will be inordinately happy to rid myself of this car for good. Oh also, and I'm trying to be objective about this as well, my car trip wasn't awful because of bicyclists. Just for the record.


Rides 7/11

So marks the official beginning of the new commute route. The roads themselves aren't new and I've known them for some time now in a bicycling context and though they haven't really been my preferred way to get to work, I've taken them plenty enough to know their strengths and weaknesses. I look forward to really knowing them- the way you really come to know your route through countless repetition. I'll write about them more later, but first I want to dwell a little on the roads I'll no longer ride. I moved north and west and in the direction of my office, which didn't move. As a result, I'll no longer ride past the Capitol or down Pennsylvania Avenue or in front of the White House. I'll no longer traverse the Mall or go up Rock Creek or up through Georgetown. My commute is about 5 miles shorter and it's a pretty Washington-y (you know, the place you see on tv and the place where you visited in middle school) section that I'm lopping off. It'll all still be there- I'll visit on weekends!- but I'll miss seeing it every day. You get used to the scenery- hell, you even get bored of it- but it's some damn good scenery and I'm glad that I got to spend 5 years of bike commutes riding through it.

Now I go to and from work up 18th Street through Adams Morgan, which is the morning is rather sedate and almost pleasant. Before 18th, I ride Swann Street, which might be the nicest street in DC. Stately. Dignified. All that crap. After 18th, I ride over the Ellington Bridge on Calvert and there past Connecticut (hey, this is my new least favorite intersection) and then it's more climbing up Cleveland, Garfield and Mass. Then it's work. Door to door took 20 minutes- I was in no special rush or even an unspecial rush. The Ogre felt heavy. I didn't sweat, or at least not very much. My legs felt all right, but they miss the flat warmup that the now missing 5 miles used to provide. It's pretty much all uphill to the office and I don't mind it.

I took the same way home. I stopped in Bicycle Space to buy a pink water bottle cage for the pink bike (they didn't have it) and I managed to avoid buying anything else. I managed to lock my bike to nothing (whoops. don't do this) and was happy to find it still there when I came back out. Then it was down 18th and then across T and then I was pretty much home. The downhill parts were rather nice and I could see myself coming to enjoy this new kind of bike commuting.

And yet, it's still a different thing and I still feel like I miss most of the city and the things and people and sites and buildings and nonsense that might have helped make whatever this blog was whatever this blog was. I'm just going to need the universe to cram in more nonsense along the new route. I have confidence in it.


I should write

I should write.

Has it been a year since I last did this regularly? Longer? I'd look, but the time really doesn't much matter. If it's been a year, it's been a long year. Things have been afoot and they're still afoot in ways. What's afoot exactly? It's the thing with the toes attached to your legs, but that's not important right now. Among other things to happened or are in the process of happening is the completion of another graduate degree (woo?) and the completion of living in the place that I've lived for 5 years. The latter is more relevant than the former (unless the former brings a new job/new workplace) so far as this blog, the blog that once detailed the details of my bike commute, since the details of that commute will change. For one thing, it will get shorter. For another, I'll no longer really be riding downtown. Or on the Mall. Or past the Capitol. In its place, you'll get AdMo. And maybe parts of Dupont. You'll still keep all the good upper NW flavor you've come to know and love, so brace for continued leafiness and/or Volvos. So that's something.

Other bike things of note over the past year is the departure of the Surly Cross Check and the addition of an All City Mr. Pink. I might write my own separate post on the Pink because maybe it deserves a sort of review (in so far as I'm capable to giving one) but I haven't really ridden the bike very much yet. I plan to. I plan to do it this summer or in what's left of this summer, at least. I bought the Pink on a little bit of a whim, as part graduation present to myself and as part of Cherry Blossom Madness, a real disease in the DSM V that afflicts people in these parts every April. Anyway, as part of the decision to get the new bike, which I love very much, I decided to get rid of the Cross Check, which I loved very much. The Cross Check was a great bike and my sort of default recommendation for anyone who asks me what kind of bike they should get. I'll miss it, but we had a good run. We did. It went to a good home. The Pink won't really be used for commuting, but the kind of weekend fun rides that people allegedly do. It's been some time since I've had weekends and I've never cared much for riding distances through nature, but I've definitely seen pictures on Instagram of people doing that and nothing on Instagram is an exaggeration or embellishment.

So that's pretty much it. I'll be fully settled in the new place soon and I'll probably recommence TFTS in the old format some time after that. As always, suggestions for improvement are welcome. For example, you could suggest that someone else write this blog, someone who's better at writing for example. Or you could suggest that TFTS is no longer about biking at all, but instead about ornithology or stained glass. Those would both be interesting topics and an interesting combination, though not for the bird. Sort of depends on how fast it's flying, I guess.

Oh also, somehow Gear Prudence is still going. Like what. Nearly 2 years of that. No, seriously, what. Please keep emailing questions. I know I've solved basically all (none) of your bike problems by now, but part of being a bicyclist, especially a bike commuter, is always coming up with new ones. Certainly if TFTS has had any through-line or any internally consistent message, it's that.