Volunteer Weekend is like Vampire Weekend but with volunteers in place of vampires and it's also not a band

If I've learned anything from Duck Dynasty, a show I've never watched (I'm not a big Joan Collins fan), it's that you can make a call for pretty much anything. They make calls for ducks (to shoot them, I guess?), but sometimes you can make calls for volunteers (not to shoot them) and so in that spirit, I shall call to your attention the flyer (wasn't shooting flyers the point of Duck Hunt?) posted below:

The good people at MORE (that's what they call it when you just smoosh together the chocolate and marshmallow and skip the graham cracker entirely) kindly request your voluntarily assistance this weekend! You could even say that they need you, but you don't have to say that since WE NEED YOU is featured pretty prominently on that flyer. You have three chances to volunteer this weekend and you would have three  wishes from a genie if you found a magical lamp (Wait, Larry Hagman was on that other 80s prime time soap, wasn't he? Nevermind.) If you like libations (!), event t-shirts (!!!) and Club Enduro Hours (not totally sure what those are, but they sure sound cool), now's your chance to earn them!

Let me tell you a little story about the volunteers at Tour de Fat. Last year I went to this event and some volunteers were there and they really helped me. Voluntarily. I believe they operated the bike valet and that was a really great service! The service was epic, even. But, much like they say on PBS, none of this could happen without people like you to support them! Or be them. Will MORE give you a tote bag? I don't know. Maybe one full of libations. Will MORE continue to air Ken Burns' documentaries? That's a bit out of their scope, but maybe they would if Ken Burns made one about local off-road bike trails. Anyway, help these guys out so they can keep helping us out.


Did you know that the NOVA EPIC is not a David Lean movie about the production and release of the Chevy Nova? I certainly didn't. It's not a car thing at all- it's a bike thing! With an epic flyer!

It's on June 2nd, which is the epic anniversary of the day that the Vandals sacked Rome! That's the badass 455 sacking of Rome, not the lameass 410 sacking of Rome by the lameass Visigoths. In any case, if riding epically across the trails and dales of Northern Virginia is your thing (and why shouldn't it be?), you really ought to sign up! It will also support MORE, which I believe is an organization predicated on the moon hitting the sky like a big pizza pie. Or maybe that's something else. In any case, ride your bike in the manner that was Logan and Veronica's story! Summer's almost here. SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAE, but only if you stop for ice cream afterwards. You'll earn it.

Bikes, Beer, Bemusement


Bike to Work Day Primer

Bike to Work Day is this Friday (May 17) and you can still sign up here. If you don't sign up, you can still bike to work, but then you can't wait in line to pick up a t-shirt that you'll almost never wear, except for maybe on next year's Bike to Work Day. I would encourage longtime participants in Bike to Work Day to wear all of their collected t-shirts on Friday, one atop the other, thereby forming a mille-feuille of fluorescent cotton and sweat. Or you could alternatively wear whatever you'd like because sartorial decisions are best handled by the individual who must deal with the repercussions of those decisions. I don't think it'd be fair for you to have weather the criticism of my fashion choices (bolo tie, jorts, wingtips) just because we both happen to be riding bicycles. My decisions of comportment are my own and yours and yours and it would be both fallacious and wrong to judge the fashion sense of you or the entirety of the group of participants of Bike to Work Day based the silly outfit I might choose to wear. Certainly, the aesthetic offensiveness of my clothing choices would reflect poorly on me, but I bet you'd be greatly offended if someone suggested that there couldn't be snappy dressers among us due to my garishness. Bike to Work Day riders, after all, are a rather multifarious group and drawing conclusions about all of them based on the wacky outfits of one of them wouldn't seem to be sound. Would it be reasonable to suggest that my clothes are giving all cyclists a bad name (in eyes of Beau Brummell and Mr. Blackwell)? Does it make us all look terrible? Or just me?

In totally unrelated news, this was written and so was this.

I have a few suggestions for the initiated and uninitiated participants in Bike to Work Day and I'd like to share them with you. They are in no particular order:

  • Cycling is dangerous and miserable and should be avoided at all costs. Consider driving instead.
  • Don't ever trust the first tip in a list of tips. It's normally a joke and you should wait until at least the third tip before the more serious stuff starts, assuming that the serious stuff won't actually just be "serious"
  • Have fun. But, make sure your fun allows everyone else to have fun too. One of the surest ways to preclude someone else's fun is by riding like a jerk. That normally means riding too fast or passing too closely. Of the many, many, many days when you can really "drop the hammer" or "other sporty-sounding thing for go real fast," Bike to Work Day isn't one of them. So take a moderate pace and have a good time. Also, if your version of fun involves racing other bike commuters, make sure that it's their version of fun as well. I suspect it frequently won't be. 
  • Join a convoy- they're not just for truckers! CB radios totally optional. 
  • Stop at a pit stop for pitting and such! Pit stops are also where you can pick up your Bike to Work Day loot. Have you given thought to how you'll carry that loot? Will you bring a bag? Will you bury it and return later, perhaps with the help of a treasure map? THESE ARE THE THINGS YOU NEED TO BE THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW. 
  • Don't overplan. It's just biking to work. 
  • Get political? All politics, like all bike to work days, is local, so they say. 
  • Use a bike! If you don't have a bike, you can rent a bike FREE OF CHARGE from our good friends at Bike and Roll
  • Reconsider Bikeshare. It might work out or it might not. Some docks are empty (or full) on normal days and the increased usage on Bike to Work Day might result in your being sorely disappointed. Use your own bike (or rent one for free from Bike and Roll). 
  • Take a lot of pictures and use Instagram to make them look all dramatic. It's important to document the day for future historians. Always think about the future historians. 
  • Get through it and think about Monday. If you're new the bike commuting game, see how Friday goes and think about how you might want to (or not) continue to incorporate bike commuting in your quiver of commuting arrows. Also, think about how archery metaphors could be used in future bike commuting blog posts. 
  • Have fun. I said that, but it's worth repeating. If you want to be a dour and miserable, I suggest traveling by other means. 
So, that's that. I'll probably be at Freedom Plaza on Friday, so maybe you'll see me there. Have a great few days and remember to put out cookies and lugs for Grant-a Claus on Bike to Work Day eve. 


On the Bike Commuter Code

My friend Mary, of the world-renowned Chasing Mailboxes blog, has written a great post on the Bike Commuter Code, which I will excerpt at length (ok, in full) and annotate because that seems kind of like a fun thing to do:

1. Everyone who bike commutes is special and righteous, no matter whether they ride 10 miles or 2 miles, or whether they’ve commuted for 15 years or seven months.
It takes a lot of gumption to bike in the city and it also takes a bicycle and some people lack gumption and bicycles and there is not yet Capital Gumptionshare through which short-term gumption rentals be may accommodated. 

2. All commute cyclists have one common goal: to get to where they’re going. 
This isn't totally true. Some of us are trying to get away from where we've come. Or bears. 

3. You can wear whatever clothing you want to bike commute. 
Indeed. You can be a snappy dresser (like me- I don a tuxedo each trip and a change into a fresh tuxedo for the ride home) or you can be a slouchy dresser (like me when I wear a wrinkly and unclean tuxedo) and you can wear work clothes (like me- I'm a maitre d/ orchestra conductor/tuxedo model) or you can wear bikey clothes made of space-age fabrics like wool and tweed or bike clothes made of space-age fabrics like lycra. You oughtn't wear clothes that obstruct the free movement of your legs such as petticoats or Jason-style hockey masks that limit your field of vision. But if that's your thing and you're the guy in the petticoat and the slasher mask on a CaBi downtown, more power to you. 

4. You can ride whatever bike you like to bike commute.
Yes. You don't need a special kind of bike to be a bike commuter. Sure, some bikes have advantages over others that might prove beneficial for the task at hand, but you can ride to work on any bike and shouldn't let your not having the "perfect" commuter bike get in the way of your choosing to ride. That said, I'd recommend commuting on a bike with a rack for carrying stuff and fenders for keeping road wet and grime off you, your bike and your fellow commuters. Or you could be like one of those people who doesn't cover his mouth when he sneezes. 

5. You can carry your crap however you prefer when you bike commute. Panniers. Backpack. Messenger bag. Milk crate. Carradice. Whatever works. 
I avoid carrying crap on my bike at all, instead putting my crap in a hot air balloon and hoping the winds carry it to my office or home. This hardly ever works. So, panniers or messenger bags seem slightly more sensible. 

6. Eye contact with other cyclists is rare, even at long stoplights. The dynamics are similar to being in an elevator with other people.
I don't know. Depends on the person who's doing the looking and the person you're looking at. Sometimes I'll make eye contact at someone riding in the opposite direction on a two-way cycle track or a trail, mostly to make sure that they see me and aren't planning to ride into me. I will withhold eye contact from a person riding the wrong way down a one way street. THEY DO NOT DESERVE TO SEE MY BEAUTIFUL BROWN EYES. They are committing a major wrong and deserve ostracism, which I believe means getting beaten up by an ostrich.

7. Verbal greetings are also uncommon, as are conversations with other cyclists. (That’s what Friday Coffee Club is for!) 
I'm more in agreement with this one. Unless it's someone I know, I'm probably not gonna say anything. Sometimes if I'm stopped behind someone and they turn around to look me over (EXTRA TIP: don't look back at the cyclists stopped behind you. It seems judgey) I'll say hi to a stranger because a stranger's just a friend you haven't met and also because it seems like such a look shouldn't go unacknowledged. 

8. If you say hello or attempt to converse with a fellow commuter, do not be surprised if they do not immediately respond. If anything will start a conversation with another cyclist, it’s saying “nice bike.” 
You can be a little surprised. You should be even more surprised in they respond in a foreign language and the most surprised if they respond in a made-up sci-fi or fantasy language like Klingon or Orcish. Because what would that be all about? "Nice bike" is always a good way to start a conversation, but don't be disingenuous. 

9. Shoaling, i.e., budging in front of someone at a light instead of waiting behind them, is a no-no. 
Never do this! Only pass while moving. Wait your turn. First-come, first-go. This isn't hard. Also, stop in such a way that the front of your bike remains fully behind the bike of the person in front of you. Otherwise, it seems kind of lurky. Don't be lurky. 

10. Audible indicators for passing, either with a bell or saying “on your left” are not mandatory, but they are nice gestures and help with predictability. 
It's a really good idea to do this. 

11. Passing another cyclist on the right is not cool, no matter where it happens. Even in the bike lanes! 
Unless you're in England or some Commonwealth country where you should only ever pass on the right. Also, a standard, one-direction bike lane isn't wide enough to accommodate passing. If you want to pass the person in front of you in the bike lane, get out of the bike lane, get around them and get back in. If you can't do this because there are cars in the lane next to you, tough cookies. 

12. Commute racing is undignified, yet fairly common. You never know when it will happen, only that it will. (Well, sometimes you can guess, as certain stretches of road set up well for commute racing. Not that I would know.) The finish line is arbitrary and almost always unknown to the parties involved. If you unwittingly find yourself in the middle of a commute race, you have a choice: do nothing (oddly, sometimes hard to do) or race back (always silly). 
I always have a pretty good idea of when commuter racing is happening and it's when some dudes ride really fast right past me because I'm kinda slow. It's not much of a race. I find it not too difficult to avoid commuter races and don't have an especially difficult time dropping out of them when they start. I guess I'm just not that competitive. On rare occasions, I'll find myself unavoidably mixed up in one and then I'll just make it my business to totally crush that old lady and scream "SUCK IT, GRANDMA!" as I barely beat her to the end of the block. 

13. A slew of new riders join the commute every spring and fall, and year-round commuters should prepare themselves accordingly for these times of year. These newbies do not know yet know the bike commuter code. 
Think of it this way: the newbies have chosen to be more like you. It's validating. At least that's what I tell myself in the mirror over and over and over to feel better about my bike commuting lifestyle choice. And they'll learn the rules and norms eventually, so there's no sense getting worked up about it. 

14. Special rule for those areas with Bikeshare programs! Empathy and patience must also be exhibited when encountering the big red CaBi bikes. You should also slow down for good measure. Anything could happen. The person riding it might be an experienced cyclist or commuter, but they could also be a tourist unfamiliar with the city or an inexperienced rider new to urban cycling. 
An additional tip for the riders of CaBi bikes: they are slow and cumbersome and you might find yourself unable to ride with the panache you normally exhibit on your more speedly bike. You should accept this as true and not fight against it. 

15. A little tolerance goes a long way. Like it or not, we’re all in this together. 
This lesson has been passed down from the great moral philosophers Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. I would advocate for patience more than tolerance. Patience, aside from being a virtue, is just better for your own well-being. There's no sense in turning something that you really enjoy (and is objectively really enjoyable) into something as immiserating as the other ways to get to work. 

That’s the bike commuter code in a nutshell. What do you think? What did I miss?
I think it was great! As far as what you missed, it's that I'm deeply grateful for your writing this post, that I could glom on to it. And always, thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read this. You're all special and righteous too. 


Some Odds and Ends

Alleycats are the cats of the bicycle races, meaning that some people are allergic to them and other people really like them and put pictures of them all over the internet, much like the picture/flyer I've posted below. If you're inclined to participate in this one, a "literary" alleycat named Mashing in FUNdamental  (The naming of alleycats is a difficult matter, it isn't just one of your holiday games) then the only thing that's stopping you is a lack of $5 and the ability to show up vaguely on time in the realm of the National Portrait Gallery between 1 and 2 PM tomorrow, Saturday, May 4. 

Another event of note, including BikeFest, which you can attend this evening (5/3) at Eastern Market. It raises funds for WABA and you probably already new this already (double already for added emphasis) and this announcement is not in any way timely, so my bad. You can buy tickets at the door if you haven't already done so. To the best of my knowledge, alleycats will not be invited, but if you leave out a saucer of milk, they could crash the party. "Whiskers- no!" one might yell as she discovers extended claws ripping through the fringe at the bottom of her flapper dress as she Charlestons across the dance floor.

What else have I been up to? Well, I attended an ANC (not the African National Congress) meeting in which was briefly discussed the addition of a bicycle lane to the east (uphill) side of New Mexico Avenue. It was merely a discussion (and a brief presentation by DDOT) and no vote was held. Some of the commissioners expressed skepticism (as did some audience members) and other commissioners expressed support (as did some audience members) and the next step will be to arrange a site visit in which representatives from DDOT explain that the roadway is in fact wide enough to handle the addition of a white stripe that demarcates some room for slow-moving bicyclists from other room dermarcated for speeding cars. I think that there's a tendency for people who primarily see roads through windshields to think that they are much narrower than they actually are and my hope is that those who are skeptical of the plans (which need not reduce any travel lanes or remove any parking spots) will soon be better able to visualize how a bike lane won't make anything any worse and perhaps be converted from hostile opposition to begrudging ambivalence. I hope my optimism isn't proven too wrong. Here's a picture of the fact sheet given out at the meeting:

Use a telescope to enlarge. 

I've sold some bikes recently. That's kind of weird. I'm taking one of them back tonight, but hope to sell it again tomorrow. This is not a scam- I just want the eventual purchaser to be satisfied and the woman who bought it the first time has some doubts about the sizing and no one should be stuck with a bike that they don't like and doesn't feel comfortable. It's probably also good karma to not be a jerk.

Also, on Monday evening (5/6), you'll have a chance to walk the length of the proposed M Street Cycle Track with Councilmember "Gentleman" Jack Evans (I think. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that he was going, but maybe not) and staff from WABA, who might or might not be men and certainly aren't gentle. It's a 1.3 mile walk, so wear comfortable shoes and a comfortable gorilla costume if you were planning to attend in a gorilla costume. Pogoists not welcome.

Otherwise, it's spring and it's nice out so you should probably enjoy that by taking bike rides if you're into that sort of thing. There are lots of them, organized and disorganized, and if you'd like me to match you up with a bike ride that's prescreened for compatibility, then you'd probably need to fill out a 20 page survey and answer a lot of semi-private questions about your wants, needs and tire size. Since that sounds like it'd take effort (on both your part and mine) I would instead suggest that you be a bit more frivolous and settle, looking not for Mr/Ms Ride, but Mr/Ms Ride Now.