Rides 7/31: Chiffonier

I wanted something different, so I did something different. I hang-glided to work! No, not really. I just rode a slightly different way, riding along the National Mall from the east end to the west end and past museums and monuments and reflecting pools and memorials and so many runners. There is, so I've heard, TENSION between runners and cyclists and for much of the ride across the Mall I shared a path with runners I barely noticed any tension as I willfully ran them off the path, cackling, mocking their stupid outfits and telling them to "put this on your race bib and shove it!" [whatever that means]. Actually, it wasn't nearly so bad as we all moved slowly enough and the paths were quiet and nearly empty thanks to summer and morning. I guess I don't understand how we can decide on one hand that DC's mixed-used paths, in which cyclists and others peacefully (for the most part) co-mingle, are precious gems that we ought to treasure, but when the same behavior occurs on sidewalks, it's pandemonium and mayhem and it's basically Stalingrad + The Walking Dead. I guess that people willfully choose to walk on mixed-used paths, whereas they're not exactly choosing sidewalks- they just happen to be between the places they are and where they want to walk. I don't know- it sorta seems like maybe the problem, such as it is, is overblown. I don't know.

New museum

looks like #TENSION to me

I've maybe ridden up the Rock Creek Trail to work 5 times in 5 years and today was one of those times. It was very nice and not nearly as indirect as I remembered it. Every time I looked over to the creek itself, I thought that maybe it'd be more interesting if the creek housed a few crocodiles. "That's a strange and unsavory thought," I thought. Then I looked over to the four lanes of car commuter traffic running down the middle of the sylvan expanse and thought that maybe crocodiles wouldn't be so bad comparatively. I guess I'm just old-fashioned in thinking that urban parks shouldn't be commuter highways, but then again, I also think the creek should have crocodiles, so I'm not really to be trusted on these matters.

Up the hill to Calvert and up Cleveland and up Garfield to Massachusetts and up that too. Oh yeah, this is why I don't ride in the park. Here's a picture of a bridge:

Like I said, a bridge.

I ended up riding over that bridge during the ride home, down into and through Adams Morgan and across town on Euclid, a street with and then without bike lanes. It's fine enough getting over to Sherman, but after that there's Georgia Avenue and then a university and hospital and reservoir and North Capitol and all of those are substantial enough barriers to west-east movement. I ended up riding down 7th to Q and then over to First NW and then up to R and then over and down and through the monstrous cluster that's the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue. That looks like this:

I love the grand and majestic boulevards of the nation's capital.

I stopped for pet foot and people food and rode down First NE and its cycletrack. It gets lots of use considering that both ends sorta fizzle into non-bikey-ness and that's pretty impressive. What would it be like if it actually connected to things on both ends! Maybe we'll find out in a few years.

I've decided that I hate riding between Columbus Circle and Stanton Park on Massachusetts, so I've taken to cutting through the congressional offices and closed streets and security theater to get over to Constitution. It's surprisingly pleasant.

It's basically a parking lot
Obviously this expanse could be made even friendlier to cyclists, but I suspect that this isn't exactly a high priority. Maybe if we convince Congress that immigrant children are speeding through it then there'd be some action on it. Maybe.

Saw a Maserati and it inspired a CRAZY IDEA.  This town and its fancy cars and CRAZY IDEAS.

CRAZY IDEA: index the price of parking permits to the blue book value of the car the permit is for. Use the extra money to pay for better bus service. If you can afford a Maserati, you can afford more than the $35 a year to park it on the street. [Of course, this car is registered in Maryland, so no DC parking permit anyway.]


Rides 7/30: Siege of Malta

Gear Prudence #2, aka "they let me do another one?," went live today and I'm grateful for the reading and the sharing and the commenting and the outright disagreeing with my advice and judgment. I suppose I could've gone into greater depth about why I think the thing I think is rude is rude, but there are only so many words allowed for these things and I spent too many of them most likely pissing off the Brazilian martial arts community and now I can't provide justification because I've had to relocate to a secure location where Brazilians can't go [a World Cup final?] to ensure my continued safety. Just kidding! But back to the "why" part, like anything else with etiquette, it mostly depends on your frame of reference. Maybe you don't think chewing with your moth open is sorta rude. After all, who is it hurting? If the people across from you don't want to see your mastication, they should just look away, right? Or get over it. There's only so much time for lunch and you don't want to spend any of it kowtowing to the delicate sensibilities of those who just can't cope with seeing teeth and gums and all the cud you've built up in there from whatever $5 footlong you've settled for today. Anyway. It's free advice and that means you should totally ignore it if you'd prefer or you could heed it or alternatively ignore and then heed and feel your way into developing an opinion about its rightness or wrongness. You do you. But thanks for reading! And submit questions! 

I need a new way through downtown in the morning. Maybe a way that skips it entirely. It's not that it's boring per se, but it's fatiguing. I'm tiring of the mess that is M Street, especially around Connecticut Avenue. I'm not choosing off-roading, so much as it's choosing me. The pavement is abysmal and random and there are deep furrows and cuts and gashes. I half suspect that DDOT is working on some kind of secret Nazca Lines project and we'll only be able to see the giant potato etched into the landscape from an overhead gondola car someday. And then we'll all be "well, that hardly seems worth all the trouble." 

I also think my desire for greater bucolia has been in no small degree amplified by my riding with MG, of the Chasing Mailboxes blog, Friday Coffee Club and yesterday's blog post, and our relaxed rides down by the river, then along Ohio Drive, and then today, across the neck of Hains Point and over the Washington Channel (CSPAN?). It's been a nice break from the bustlier downtown trips, which hemmed in by the artifices of buildings and cars and people. Commuting on trails is a fundamentally different experience than riding on city streets and while I probably wouldn't want to do it all the time, a respite's a respite. Breaking up the usual routine has been a bit like summer camp. Maybe tomorrow there'll be canoeing. I hope not- that means something has gone horribly wrong. Gear Prudence: should I always pack a snorkel in my pannier? Yes.   


Rides 7/29: Youth Lobby

Yesterday's post was about phones and today's post is about phones and I'm typing it on a phone and I think about phones all the time and especially while bike commuting because I see just so many drivers on their phones. Sometimes they're phoning and other times they're just looking at them, intently and distractedly simultaneously, and other times it's tap-tap-tap typing a message or text or maybe a ransom note of sorts (Repeal the hands-free law or this guy on a bike gets it!). Anyway, phones seem to be an ever-present appendage to far too many drivers and that disappointments me (and probably imperils me) and I'm sure we can try to keep educating or enforcing our way out of this problem, but that seems a little too boring and lacks ambition in its approach to solving such a big problem. So what about this instead: no more gas or brake pedals. Replace them with buttons on the steering wheel. For all cars, everywhere and from this point going forward and maybe even retrofittingly. Some reasons why this is a great idea:

1. With hands occupied in button pressing, and thus being more vitally involved in the going and stopping of the car, no more phone fiddling! Or eating while driving. Or applying makeup. Just driving while driving, which is boring, but I'm ok with that! 

2. Ever get a cramp in your leg on a long drive? Well, this'd help with that, probably. Cramps are the worst! 

3. Feet are kinda gross and using them to make your car go or stop seems kinda weird. What is this, the Flintstones? Yabba dabba don't. And really, are feet known to be such precision instruments? If you went in for surgery and the doctor was like "yeah, I'm gonna remove your appendix with my feet," you'd peace out faster than Fred at the end of his shift at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company. 

4. You know how sometimes after drivers crash into buildings (which is like way too common a thing), they're all like "CONFUSION made me do it." Don't you think a green button and a red button would be a lot clearer than pedals you aren't even looking at? I certainly do. 

5. Maybe re-engineering cars to no longer have pedals would be massively expensive and bankrupt (even more) the car companies. Would that really be the worst thing ever? #waroncars and whatnot. 

Robot cars are coming. But until we have robot cars, we can't sit idly by and allow the scourge of distracted driving to continue to plague our communities. Buttons, not pedals. Let's make this happen. Somehow. 

People can't put their phones down while they're driving because they crave connectivity. They can't stand to be disconnected. And human connectivity is great! I was lucky enough to connect with MG, of the Chasing Mailboxes blog and also of Friday Coffee Club, and we rode together on roads and trails and roads and a bridge and on roads and a trail again and we talked and decompressed and bandied around the idea of a podcast in which we ride and talk and comment of the random things and people we see along the way, like the 3 (!) people on drum kits drumming al fresco. [Is this a thing?] And maybe people in cars would listen to this podcast in lieu of fiddling with their phones and wouldn't that make for a tidy way to connect the first part of this blog post to this part. 

It's great to ride with a buddy, even if you're not recording a podcast. It adds a social element to a normally solitary task and while I tend to like the quiet time to myself to "think," getting to think aloud isn't so bad either. Thanks, MG! 


Rides 7/28: Edwardian Zorro

We live in a magnificent age of wondrous technology. We also live in an age in which the transportation modes of the end of the 19th century (bicycles, streetcars, jumping off roofs with canvas wings) appear to be once more in ascendency. So, in the interest pretending these two proximate sentences are perchance related, allow me to suggest some apps that would better bike commutes: 

Inflatr: this app would be useful because it would tell me when to inflate my tires. It would replace the act of squeezing the tires with my fingers because using your fingers to do stuff is soooooo last century. Except using them to activate the app that would tell you when to inflate your tires. How zeitgeisty. 

Brickr: this app would explode the phones of drivers using them while driving anywhere near me. It would shock me to see how prevalent phone use remains in spite of various LAWS against it if I didn't see so much of it every damn day. I guess I just have this crazy irrational fear that someone looking down and fiddling with his mobile device isn't paying attention to what's going on around him and this secondary crazy irrational fear that that this inattentiveness might potentially cause me harm. Crazy! Irrational! 

Strava'r: like Strava, but it would lie and tell me I'm about 10 minutes faster than I actually am and also that I'm KOM on all sorts of sections. [side note: someone invent this and make all of the money] 

Fulminatr: would send angry tweets to the public agency of your choosing when that agency fails to take appropriate steps to keep bike lanes unblocked by parked cars, trucks, taxis, dumpsters, construction equipment, pedestrians, gravel, fences, and whatever else so might impede it. Fulminatr would save you thousands of angry tweets a day. Unfortunately, its counterpart, Ignorerer, just responds with pro-bike lip service while not taking any action to address your actual concerns. Stasis! 

Puppr: this app would just show pictures of cute puppies. I'd look at it at red lights. 

Anyway, good ride in and good ride home. It was the first day of the Silver Line, but I elected not to ride 30 miles out of my way to take it back to town to take another metro line to work. I did the usual biking thing instead. While the diversion would've been welcome, it seemed a tad unnecessary. Maybe tomorrow. (Nope.) Nevertheless, I think it's nice that it's there. Will it be good for bicycling in Northern Virginia? Beats me. Maybe, maybe not. But "good for bicycling" is hardly the only rubric by which to judge something. (Funyuns: good for bicycling?) But if we were to judge it based on that criteria, I might suggest that anything that leads to denser development is good for bicycling. It's unreasonable to suggest that people commute by bike for 30 miles, though some people do. But bike 3 miles? That seems much more attainable. Maybe people could bike 3 miles. Maybe they'd want to? If things were just closer together? Maybe? 


Rides 7/25: Pisco

On the way home, I was riding in the right lane downhill on Massachusetts Avenue and somewhere between Ward Circle and the intersection with Idaho Ave, a driver passed me in the next lane over at what I would have estimated to be about 60 miles per hour. I can't say for sure- it's just a guess and my handlebar mounted radar gun/net launcher (never ride your bike without a net launcher! What if another red panda escapes the zoo? Do you not want to be the hero whose handlebar net launcher returns the escaped animal to its proper and natural place, caged human captivity?)- but it seemed that he was driving very, very fast and far faster than the 'normal' 35 to 40 miles per hour that the speeding drivers go. He didn't pass me especially closely and I think there was at least three feet between us, but it was jarring and unpleasant nevertheless. I didn't say anything or even look over when I rode past him in my lane when he was stopped at the red light a few hundred feet up the road. What's there to say?

Really. Do I have any grounds to complain? Didn't I sign up for this? I mean, I'm the one who chose to ride his bike to work and I'm the one who should be well aware enough of how some people drive their cars. Shouldn't I just get over it because he gave me three feet and didn't crash into me and nothing really even happened?

I don't know. The thing about the current state of bike commuting, I guess, is that bicyclists who choose to ride to work are being asked to sign off on a social contract that desperately needs changing. There's a lot of "well, what did you expect?" to bicyclists who have the temerity to suggest that current conditions are less than ideal. Especially to those of us who are bicycling more by choice and not from a lack of other viable transportation options. You signed up for this. No one made you do it. Don't whine. If you can't handle it, don't do it. [This attitude doesn't just come from drivers. It's sadly the viewpoint of plenty of cyclists as well.]

Bicycling in DC is mostly fine and mostly boring and most of the conditions are safe enough and accommodating, even if not always deliberately so. It's get safer every year as more of us do it and as we slowly lurch to more bicycle friendly infrastructure. But a lot of the time, you're asked to ride three feet away from some drivers willing to go 60 and much like caged red panda, it doesn't feel natural and it certainly doesn't seem like it's in your best interest. I know that you can't always control for the actions of self-absorbed maniacs, but am I really supposed to be ok with road conditions that say, in effect, 'yup, you're gonna have to get over it"? You chose this. Did I?


East Capitol to Pennsylvania Avenue and wrong way through the parking lot that is the hyper-securitized Ellipse. Thereafter it was 17th to G. After coffee, I rode with friend of blog Jacques down G up then Water Street to Thomas Jefferson to M to Wisconsin and up the hill and eventually to work. The ride home was Massachusetts to 21st to L to 15th and then Pennsylvania and up another hill, through the Capitol grounds and down East Capitol. Tide goes in, tide goes out.

Have a great weekend everyone. I'm going to try to ride my bike, perhaps to tacos. Delicious, delicious tacos. Or what might pass for delicious tacos on the East Coast, a land of admittedly subpar tacos. Or maybe this is taco snobbery or maybe it's unwarranted taco humility. When did this become a taco blog? When was it not a taco blog?


Rides 7/24: The party wants a win

A brief and welcome respite from the summer heat and summer sun. The weather was March-y, but if March weather were put in the microwave for 45 seconds. You can have too much summer and it's nice to have a brief break before August strikes.

Anyone who has bicycled in DC for any amount of time knows to be true that David Plotz put into writing about a year ago: BMW drivers are not the best around bicyclists. As I rode down the hill, my head swiveled to see four BMWs menacingly (?) arranged at the base of the Capitol. And there was a man taking pictures, talking to the cars, beseeching them to look good in the crummy cloudy day.

Either this is a Bavarian motoring enthusiast's idea of "das beste" family vacation ever or this was some kind of weird advertorial photo shoot. As I circled around, I noticed that the license plates said something like "proud to be made in South Carolina." You can tell that a bicyclist didn't write the license plates because then they probably would've said something like "BMWs: Compared to the Civil War, not that bad!"

Not an awful on Pennsylvania and 15th and M, but not a great one either. I saw a bicyclist and a taxi driver and a few police officers and their police car and taxi cab and bicycle gathered by the side of the road by the National Gallery, but I didn't see an ambulance and I didn't stop to inquire as to what that all might've been about. We're someday soon going to get additional barriers along Pennsylvania and if the result of this is fewer u-turns and fewer conversations between bicyclists, drivers and police officers, we'll be the better off for it. Sometimes I wonder if the center-running cycletrack is really worth it and if maybe we'd be better off pushing it off to one side of the other. It might just swap out the u-turns for right- or left-hooks and maybe it'd create fewer conflicts with pedestrians, but there is something really special about riding down the center of a grand avenue with a great view (at least at one end). But would I trade the view for a more functional piece of bike infrastructure? Maybe.

Three feet to pass is a minimum. Just saying.

Ride home was a quiet one with only a few points of interest and inconvenience. One was in the L Street Cycletrack, blocked by a BID pickup, parked by an employee set about the empty trash cans. Honestly, it's kind of hard to get too upset about someone parking close to the trash cans they're about to empty. But, it's equally not great to be allegedly given one lane on one street for comparatively safe travel by bicycle and then forced to vacate it because someone couldn't just park around the corner.

"Setting the gold standard." I'm glad FDR abandoned it. The only thing worse than hard money is running into the back of a hard pickup truck. The Golden Triangle BID is pretty good about bike stuff and this is the first time I've ever had this happen, so it's definitely more an aberration than the (Golden?) rule.

They didn't drop of copies of the newspaper near my office, so I rode an extra block looking to pick up a hard copy of the newspaper that foolishly decided to print what I wrote. I plan to sign a number of copies and hide them around the city. And then I'll tweet clues to their location and people can look for them and then when they find them, they can try to sell these limited edition, autographed copies on eBay or use them to line the bottom of parakeet cages or stuff them in their shoes after a rainstorm. Either way, really. I'm just happy to be providing a useful public service.

14th to I to 15th to Pennsylvania and back home the way I came, almost exactly. On East Capitol, I passed some people on CaBis and the first one yelled back to the next two: "Stay on the inside of the lines!" There was a sense of immediacy, but it's not like the lines are electrocuted or anything. They're just painted white lines. Maybe that's why there was such urgency. They're just white lines.


Gear Prudence

Read any good bike advice columns in any local alt weeklies lately? Me neither. But I did read the one that I happen to be writing for Washington City Paper under the title "Gear Prudence." Read it! Tell your friends to read it! Tell your acquaintances to read it! Shout "read Dear Prudence!" to every passing cyclist! There's nothing cyclists love me than being yelled at by strangers. And more importantly, write in questions. Please. I could make up fake questions, but who wants to read about how bicyclists can  peacefully coexist with pogo commuters every single week? I certainly wouldn't. Many thanks to the many of you who have thus far said kind things about this and even more thanks to the some of you who have already written in some great questions. To respond to the ones I've received so far, the answers are yes, no, yes, spaghetti (but not where you expect), Thursday and Dr. Octopus.

Having just read the above paragraph, you're probably wondering how I landed this column anyway. That's a great question! Maybe it has something to do with being the 37th most popular local bike blogger (polls don't lie) and you can believe that if you'd like. But maybe the story is a little grander. Maybe, after high school, I was a listless townie, resisting the urge to go to college, but also not drawn to a life working in the quarries. Maybe I became overly interested in Italian cycling culture and I, along with a ragtag group of compatriots, decided to enter the local big bicycle race against all of the fancy educated boys of the local newspapers. And maybe my training and my love of bicycles and some brief assistance by Dennis Quaid allowed me to best these snooty Washington City Paper riders in this bicycle race and maybe the bike advice column was my prize. Or maybe that's just a bastardized version of the plot of Breaking Away. Bellissima. In reality, the origin of the story in much more mundane. Each of the 12 Districts submitted two tributes... wait, that's not it either. In any case, I'm thrilled and honored and will do my best to continue to try not to do a terrible job.

But I have to admit, those first two responses did not come easily. In fact, I had to comb through dozens of totally real questions to get two that I could answer. So, in the interest of complete transparency, here are some of the questions and answers that didn't make it.

Q. Gear Prudence: I love pogo sticks!
A. Go to hell.

Q. Gear Prudence: I love bicycling in the city, but I'd like to find a way to get to work without sweating through all of my clothes. Does the all powerful Bike Lobby have a weather machine?
A. Nope. Just the ability to surreptitiously replace American flags atop New York bridges. Or not.

Q. Gear Prudence: Do you have any expertise on bicycles whatsoever? Aren't you kind of a fraud?
A. [sobs gently]

Q. Gear Prudence: You didn't answer my question about your qualifications. What if someone actually asks something sort of technical? You just going to make something up?
A. [deletes email, pretends not to have gotten it]

So, yeah. Once again, thank you all in advance for submitting some great questions
(email gearprudence@washingtoncitypaper.com) and thank you to the nine of you who read this blog and who will hopefully also read Gear Prudence. You're the best. Regular bike commute blogging will resume tomorrow.


Rides 7/22: The Great Gazoo and The Great Gatsby

Later than usual start today and I was surprised to see as many bike commuters riding well to work well after 9. At least I think they were riding to work. Maybe they were riding to buy new alarm clocks, having smashed in frustration the one they found to be broken minutes before and well after the time they normally awake. I very much doubt this as there seemed nothing especially frenetic in their pace and also, you'd probably just buy a new alarm clock from Amazon and have FedEx or UPS deliver it, the driver blocking the bike lane as he bounds to your step to drop the package. I'm sure there was a time of mom and pop alarm clock stores on every corner, but those days are long gone, but a feint [insert horrible alarm clock noise sound] of a bygone era.

Most of the way up Wisconsin, I remembered to live the fiction to which I aspire and pretend that I'm the kind of colleague who buys pastries to bring into the office for his close coworkers. Doing nice things for people is the worst kind of self-regard. Stopping for pastries has everything to do with my trying to be a nice person and nothing to do with my debilitating croissant addiction. I stopped at Patisserie Poupon where the women behind the counter have assuredly never, ever been dad-joked about pardoning and mustard. The sign outside looked like this:

Preferred patisserie of Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog 
The pastries looked like this:

In other news, I really should get a cargo bike.

The ride home was the usual throughout downtown, but at the base of Capitol Hill, I decided to take a wending route, aiming for a different grocery store from my usual one and I rode through real Capitol Hill on streets on D Street and E Street and then maybe G Street, but never F Street because, as everyone knows, F Street is bad luck because George F. Washington hated his middle name and that's why you never ever hear anyone refer to him as George F. Washington, both out of respect for the founding father (#ff George Washington) and because of the curse he placed on the street that shares the first letter of his hated middle name that no one ever mentions even though it's totally real.

They've within the last few months added some outdoor parking on Potomac Avenue in front of the Harris Teeter and it's much easier to lock up outside than ride into the parking garage.

Of the two songs I remember having stuck in my head were "Do you really want to hurt me?" and "Someone to watch over me." I guess I was thinking about safety. Or something.


Rides 7/21: Scandalous Cupcakes

"Heroin," he said and that caught my attention. Then it was marijuana and strip club and an incinerator and "$100 million dollars printed by the Federal Reserve." This was at 7th and Pennsylvania and after the rambling man crossed the street in front of us, eyes still locked on us or nowhere in particular, the bearded cyclist, with a beard that looked like that of an Assyrian king, in front of me took out an ear bud and looked back and asked me "what?" I told him that there's drugs and money being burned in an incinerator behind at strip club. He said "ok" and put his ear bud back in. Then from the sidewalk the rambling man said "that's why your taxes are so high."

Otherwise not much of too much excitement on the rest of the way in, except being told to ride on the sidewalk downtown by a construction worker attempting to direct a reversing dump truck into where I would've ridden otherwise. I did ride on the sidewalk, but only for 10 feet. I guess I could've stood my ground and insisted on my rights to the road, but if there's one rule above all to which I assiduously adhere, it's my urban cycling tip #1: don't fuck with dump trucks.

It seemed like maybe I could've gotten to work faster than I did, but I definitely don't think I could've made it home any faster. Not because I was going particularly fast, but because I didn't feel great and I don't think I really could've ridden with any more effort than the minimal effort that I mustered. I might have a little head cold or maybe I was just a #ugh from a long day at work, but it was definitely slow going and I was definitely subprime. I thought about stopping for a Snickers at a CVS, having been so a won over by lifetime of advertisements from Big Candy Bar and the alleged palliative powers of the product, but I pushed through the urge finding myself halfway home and most of the way home soon enough.

It seems strange that pedestrians continue to not die gruesome deaths under the wheels of cyclists in the plaza in front of the White House, where there's not markings or sidewalks or any semblance of traffic laws, but just a big mix of people on bikes and on foot all going a million different directions. It's almost as if the likelihood of a cyclist causing harm to a pedestrian, while certainly real and certainly having had occurred in  instances, is overstated and while perhaps annoying, maybe people on bikes just aren't as dangerous as people in cars and maybe this doesn't have anything to do with the people themselves but maybe the fact that one is 20 pounds and goes 15 miles per hour and one is multiple tons and goes much faster. Sometimes I wonder if we can 'pay attention' our way to an end of people get hurt by car drivers and I definitely think that more attentiveness be a huge boon to safety, but I just don't know if you can ever put things that big and fast and powerful so close to people in an urban environment. Maybe some thing just aren't meant to go together, like peanut butter and sardines.

Some bigwigs get to park their cars on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 14th and because of this buses can't turn from the right lane and have to turn from the next lane over and then drivers in the next lane over get blocked by the outswinging bus and then always somehow a taxi ends up driving in the bike lane. If you introduce a taxi in Act I, it's driving in a bike lane before the play's over. That's just the way it goes.

Rode up the House side of the Capitol. That was different. DC is still not a State, so that's the same. Though the President is 'for it'  nowadays and I'm sure once he closes Guantanamo and passes comprehensive gun control, we're next. Now might be a good time to segue into my sometimes calls for you to sign the Tim Krepp for Congress ballot nominating petition, which I will bike to you on my bicycle or your bicycle if you lend me your bicycle. I will not steal someone else's bicycle and ride it to you on that pilfered bicycle because stealing bicycles is wrong and it most likely also won't meet my Very High Standards as far as bicycles go.

East Capitol is the opposite of a slog. It might be the best street in town. It's flat and the houses are pretty and there are trees and bike lanes. It's like drinking some lemonade after housing some Funyuns. If you swish it around a little, it can clean your teeth. In a way, at least.


Rides 7/18: Arbogast

Two prevailing thoughts, one of which I've temporarily forgotten but hope to remember and rally back to before I finish typing up the first bit:

1. How much are out bike commutes shaped by the exact bicycles we ride? I used to think not so much and that it was all larger ambient and environmental factors, but given the disparity in experience between my ride yesterday on the Brompton and my ride today on the Ogre, I'm beginning to reconsider. If you ride a squirrely, agile, and lithe fixed gear bicycle, your perceptions of "bike commuting" must surely be different if you ride a beefy Dutch bike or a beater Schwinn or a new Trek hybrid you plan to sell on Craig's List when you and your girlfriend move from one apartment in Clarendon to a slightly different apartment in Clarendon when your lease expires next October. Bike commuting might not actually be one thing at all, but many things and these many things and many experiences might be so disparate and might so shape our perception of the ambient things that the ambient things (the jerk drivers, the sense of exposure, the lack of connected infrastructure, the freedom, the road itself) are just incidental. I'm having a sort of 12 Monkeys experience with this and I've lost all sense of reality and my bearings within it. It's been real folks. I'm on the other side of the looking glass.

2. I've temporarily remained forgetful of what my second point was, but it might have something to do with never bicycling in denim in the summer in Washington. Few things are as immiserating.  If you must wear denim in the summer, have the good sense to wear jorts and this marks the first time in the history of written communication that the phrase "good sense" and the word "jorts" have been juxtaposed.

3. Ah yes, it was chaos that I wanted to write about and not KAOS from Get Smart, though I'm sure they're equally worth a few words. But that's for another time. Ride your bicycle in enough situations in the city and you're bound to ride your way into utterly chaotic situations in which the rule of law has broken down and the rule of good sense and courtesy remains never to have existed. Such is the situation sometimes at rush hour near and in Washington Circle, where whatever guidance and mandate is given to travelers is met with haughty laughter because valar morghulis and whatnot. There's no especially good way to face a traffic situation in which there are no good options for someone on a bicycle. You could ride timidly and law-abidingly and maybe you'll only get a little bit wrecked. You could ride with recklessness and abandon and it's totally conceivable that you won't instantly be torn asunder. You could fashion a trebuchet and launch yourself and your bicycle from 23rd to 21st street, but would you be able to stick the landing? That's the thing about chaos: you simply don't know how it's going to work out or even if it's going to work out. It's terrifying. It's exhilarating. It's pointless. It's what we've been left with. In conclusion, try not to ride in or through Washington Circle. Just take the L Street cycletrack as it's mostly unworse for bicyclists, but as you ride along it's many blocks of sometimes protection, give some thought to chaos because chaos is certainly given some thought to you.


Rides 7/17: Bithynia

First Brompton commute in a few weeks. That looked like this:

I've been riding the Ogre almost exclusively and it is about as different from the Brompton as a bike can be. I got used to the folder's handling fairly quickly, but I just think it's sort of weird that DDOT re-installed all the potholes and bumps they took out when I started to ride the Ogre. I mean, I'm not crazy about the outcome, but I'm pretty impressed they were able to get so much work done between yesterday evening and this morning. Speedy!

I saw these girls at Vermont and R:

I didn't have the heart to tell them that they're at the center of an increasing #TENSION between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. It would probably be really dispiriting for them to learn that they're bullies and terrorists. They probably just think that they're little kids innocently riding bikes. To which I'd say "read a newspaper!" (in related news, they seemed kind of adorable)

Per the terms of #kreppmentum2014 and  #sharrowsgimmick2014, I met up with besuited friend of the blog Michael Forster (of the WaPo protest ride) and added one more signature to the ballot bandwagon.

Democracy in action. Crumply, crumply democracy. 
We also had some coffee and a nice talk, so it wasn't all just the shady politics of the smoked-filled rooms of the smoke-free coffee shops of the corridors of power of the avenue of change that is the street numbered 14. But, to be honest, it was mostly machinations as are all conversations in DC as you've doubtlessly learned from true-to-life television programming like House of Cards. Just glad we met at Peregrine and not the Cathedral Heights Metro.

Perfect weather for the ride home. There simply aren't enough of these. I've noticed more bicyclists that usual lately and it's hard to not ascribe this to the weather. Goldilocks weather and the porridge goes down easy. At least until the bears come home. Speaking of bears, I've noticed that drivers with license plates from the non-local jurisdictions tend to do worse around me than those from the states nearby. There's probably a lot of reasons why this might be (general lack of familiarity with the local roads), but instead I'll just decide that bicycle diffusion in the District has given drivers enough experience with driving around cyclists that they've learned to take due good care. Sure, let's go with that.

L Street to 15th to Pennsylvania Avenue, a street some say is moribund. I tend to agree (especially about the street-deadening effects of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building), but I think that everyone has misunderstood the whole concept of "America's Main Street." It's actually supposed to be America's Maine Street and thereby cold, distant, and a little alienating. Just kidding, Maine! You're definitely one of Northern New England's top few states! And your lobster is totally a delicious food and treasure and not just a scary looking red sea bug.

I've been meaning to write a post on the fine art of the tourist photo bomb and I should get around to doing that soon. I think in the era of digital cameras (that make phone calls and play Angry Birds) the photo bomb is lower stakes than ever and as a bicyclist who rides through touristy places, you might have a civic duty to try to enhance someone's vacation memory. Anyway, look for that post some week/month soon. I didn't specifically try to ride through anyone's photos of the Capitol today, but I'm not saying that it didn't unintentionally happen. At least I was on a ridiculous looking bike and that'll be something goofy to point out to Grandma when she tells you that she saw the already saw that dome way back during the Truman administration and tells you that it hasn't improved any while yawning at your vacation pics. I do it for the ornery grandmas.


Ride Home 7/16: Talking Magazines

Jittery, over-caffeinated bike commute on an emptier stomach and the first few miles of the ride found me with the unpleasant sensations one feels when over-caffeinated, not having eaten in a while, and riding a bicycle in the city in the summer. Maybe there was a headache involved. It wasn't great. I definitely felt sluggish, but the only cost of this sluggishness was going slightly slower than the very slow I normally ride and soon the experience passed and it was mostly back to normal, which is to say fine, if not great. I recommend riding a bike when you don't feel great, just for the comparative experience. I mean, obviously if you have tuberculosis or plague or restless leg syndrome, don't ride a bike because those are serious maladies and might really affect your ability to control your bike in traffic and riding with that level of impairment is never advisable. But riding with a cold? Or a slight stomach ache? Absolutely go for it. See how it goes. It won't be great, but it still might be better than riding the bus. You ever ride the bus sick? That's not exactly a barrel of laughs. Especially if you have restless leg syndrome and your leg just kicks and kicks restlessly and your fellow bus drivers start calling you Mr. Rockette or something. Who wants that? Other than aspiring Rockettes? Exactly. 

Make fun of me all you want, but residential Georgetown has a particular smell and I like that smell very much. I have profound olfactory attachment to this smell. Yes, that's weird. I think it's a smell memory from bygone days or maybe The Ye Olde Georgetowne Boarde pays shop girls with spritzers to mist the alleys with essential oils. I doubt that this is likely, but I wouldn't rule it out. It's probably trees. 

The first and only stop on my trip was Trader Joe's's. Practical tip for becoming a stronger rider? Never buy fewer than 4 bottles of wine at a time, commute by bike, and live on top of a hill. 

I've never seen as many bicyclists in the L Street Cycletrack. Just everywhere. So many. Stacked 10 deep once. I ride it nearly every day and this was definitely a record. Imagine if it were better (and not the home to a few really nasty construction projects. Every time I think it's ridiculous to commute on this ridiculous bike, I face even more ridiculous road conditions and that's even more ridiculous). 

11th Street. Lots of honking. If I drove to work, I'd go insane. Biking might be frustrating, but at least I'm moving. And moving in a way that isn't rocking back and forth in my padded seat (padded room? Padded room with observation windows?) eyes glazed over, mumbling curses and desperately wishing to be anywhere else. 

Saw Jon (@dirteng) in the cycletrack on Penn. I waved. He saw. Nice. 

Ride In 7/16: Special Offer

At 6th Street, I realized I wasn't going the way I wanted and I turned right to head towards F Street NE and its new bike lanes. Here they are:

White stripe

Yellow stripe

I love checking out new bike lanes, even though they pretty much always look almost exactly the same, except when they look somewhat different. The bottom picture shows the contraflow lane between 2nd Street and Union Station. This is designed to allow cyclists to approach the Bikeshare station more directly and without having to ride to the entrance from Columbus Circle, which is a bit of a mess. If you look closely in the picture, you can see a cyclist taking somewhat evasive action to avoid the driving turning across the bike lane towards the parking garage entrance. What you might also see in the picture is my blocking the bike lane to take this picture and this was met with no small amount of consternation from my fellow bike commuters who were forced to ride around me. Sorry!

The only problem I have with this new contraflow lane isn't a problem with the lane itself, but rather how it just kinda stops at the top of the hill past the Bikeshare station and it's mostly unclear where through-riding bicyclists are supposed to go. Met with this #CONFUSION, I abandoned my bike, boarded a train at Union Station and now I'm spending the afternoon in Wilmington. Or, at least I considered that. What I did instead was ride along the taxi pickup lane, which seemed like the best option of a few bad ones to get over to First Street and its cycletrack. So, be aware of that.

First Street to New York Avenue and there I would wait by the world's most inconveniently placed Wendy's for the light to change. Hard to see New York Avenue and not admire the majestic beauty of Washington's grand boulevards.

R Street has speed bumps and aren't speed bumps proof that education and enforcement don't work?

I found myself behind a few bicyclists near New Jersey Avenue and two of them wanted tot take it easy and one wanted to go fast and the one who wanted to go fast just couldn't find the space to get around the two who wanted to take it easy and you could see the frustration building with each pedal stroke. It's rarely worth trying to go fast when so many things and people conspire to make it difficult.

This guy is running for Congress. Seriously. It's my friend and neighbor, Tim Krepp!

Local man holds clipboard
I saw him by the Shaw library, where he was presumably trying to collect signatures so his name can appear on the ballot. Or maybe he was just checking out a book. A book called THE CONSTITUTION. Funnily enough, I also happen to be collecting signatures on his behalf. So, here's the deal:

IF you want to sign this petition and if you're a registered DC voter, please let me know and I will (maybe) be willing to bike the petition RIGHT TO YOUR DOOR (or wherever you might be). That's how much I believe in #kreppmentum. So, tweet at me and let's make this happen.  Is this a monstrously inefficient way to gather signatures? Absolutely! But if he can't embrace monstrous inefficiency, I can't see how he's ever going to make it in Congress.


Rides 7/15: Local Oysters

Why do we ride? We ride because it's Tuesday and we have to get to work somehow. It was bearably hot and I left for work before noon, having veterinary obligations in the morning. FUN SHARROWS TIP: save money on health care costs by skipping the doctor and going to the vet! I haven't gotten distemper yet, so I'd definitely say it's working. Actually, it was one of the pups who had to go the vet for a checkup and we took the car. I've never tried to take a dog by bike, but I can't imagine it would go very well, even for a relatively short trip. She's not that kind of dog. I see people biking with dogs all of the time, but I just don't know if I could do it. Her little poodle legs probably couldn't even reach the pedals.

The people you see on bikes around midday are a different set of people of bikes you see during the morning commute. There's about 5 or 6 different #bikeDCs and they don't always overlap. Or maybe ever overlap. I guess that's what happens when the common denominator for a "community" is "gets around by bike." It's like if there were #hatDC. (Is there a #hatDC?). Anyway, saw some guys by the Capitol in cowboy hats the other day. I suspect they were wayward gauchos. In a way, we're all wayward gauchos. Wayward gauchos on the pampas of life. (I'm still sorted bummed that ARG lost.)

Do you live close enough to the Glover Park Whole Foods to walk there? Well, don't. Because someone will now bike you your stuff.

Ignore the pro-bee message. 
Anyway, it says that the delivery radius is 1.5 miles and initially I was pretty skeptical of how much area this could possibly be (2.25pi?), but according to this, it's not an insignificant chunk of NW, including the Zoo and you know the pandas are all about their organic groceries and/or just bamboo.

Hot on the way home, but I beat the rain. Seemed like a lot of people riding bikes and even more people walking bikes. I'm not very good at walking my bike. I always bump it into things and it just feels so unwieldy and cumbersome. Accordingly, I've developed a great deal of sympathy for people who push around strollers, especially in the more crowded parts of downtown and on narrow sidewalks. There's really no way to do it, I imagine, without feeling like you're totally in the way. I guess that's why it helps to have a cute kid in the stroller, so you could point to it and shrug. And then maybe the kid would do something adorable and yet another minor social inconvenience fails to escalate into a big, Washington Post column ordeal. All you can do with your bike (and presumably, its lack of adorableness) is apologize if it accidentally bumps into someone or trips someone up or just gets in the way. And that's ok and you totally should. So in conclusion, bikes are unlike kids. And also, ride your bike and don't walk it and if you associate with some un-biked person who you happen to want to share your trip with, ditch them and get cool new bike friends and ride side-by-side, holding hands, and into the sunset. Or just be really cautious when walking your bike and embrace that you'll feel a bit like a clod who is in everyone's way because you are. But that's ok.


Ride Home 7/14: Wentworth

I rode home and it was ridiculous. I should've waited, but I didn't. The rain wasn't the bad part, at least as far as bad parts go, but the lightning was fairly terrifying and that's why I should've waited. Luckily, I had a few things going for me and some of these few things include disc brakes and others of these few things include tires that are 2+ inches wide. I never felt unsure on the bike and that's a pleasant change from previous rain storms on other bikes. I went through the puddles (puddles which were more like lakes) with relative ease and I'm grateful that everything went more or less ok. But, nevertheless, don't ride in lightning. It's not so much the lightning that's bad but the potential for the lightning to get the tree branches and those tree branches to get you. Also, the lightning, I guess, could get you and as much as I'd like an eBike, I'd prefer not to have that kind of eBike.

I stopped at 15th and L and waited for 10 minutes for the remnants of the storm to pass and then the storm passed and I rode home. I wrung out of my hat and while I waited for the storm to run its course, my front light (a USB charged blinky light) ran out of juice and I felt irresponsible about not having a working light for the second half of my trip. Luckily, it lived through the very bad rainy part and I'm sure that was vaguely useful.

Flowers bloom after rainstorms, but so do runners. Runners running everywhere. Run, runners, run! You will never see as many runner running as you'll see after rain. Post-rain is their catnip. Actual catnip, however, isn't really their thing and they really didn't seem to like it when I kept trying to shove sachets in their faces. Here's more info than you ever might want to know about catnip. You're welcome, America.

Sometimes, I guess, traffic signals fall over and it looks like this:

I'd like to imagine that it was felled by a bolt of lightning, but more likely than not, it was just wind and rain. A bus driver asked me if it was lightning that did it and I was like "uh. well, it was a bike" and this is the kind of wit that ensures that strangers continue to talk to me. I mean, I didn't see a car crash into it, but I also didn't have any more insight than he did. All I did was tweet a picture of it because #millennial.

Easy going after the hill and then on the Hill. It almost started to get hot again, which is the saddest part of all summer rainstorms around here. It's not so much a thermometer as a boomerang. Knock the heat down and it just gets back up. Which isn't exactly how a boomerang works at all. So, yeah. [whistles nonchalantly and steps back from blog slowly hoping no one really notices]

Ride In 7/14: I think it's over

Mice and elephants are both animals, so in that they're the same. It's annoying to have a mouse in your house and having a mouse in your house might startle you. It would be much more problematic to have an elephant in your house. In fact, you might not have much of a house left. The appearance of a mouse might also startle an elephant, but I don't think that means that a mouse is just as powerful as an elephant or as capable of causing as much destruction. Anyway, I bring these things up for absolutely no reason whatsoever and I thoroughly encourage you to never think about them ever again. But if you were to ignore my advice and were to continue to think about this whole mouse-elephant thing, maybe you'd think that it'd be crazy to react to a mouse scurrying across your kitchen floor and an elephant stampeding through your living room in the same way. Because these seem like different things. It's not to say that a mouse scurrying across your kitchen floor is great- and a mouse eating through your wires would also be pretty uncool- but I'm pretty sure if there was a mouse in my kitchen and an elephant in my living room, I probably wouldn't say my bigger problem was the mouse. But, whatever, they're both animals and they're both in your house, so that's pretty much a lot that they've got in common and it's your call because you're the one in the house with these animals and I'm just a guy who finds cumbersome and unwieldy metaphors more beautiful than the plumage of a budgerigar, which is an entirely different kind of animal.

Oppressive weather during the Monday morning commute is worse than oppressive weather on any other day or time. Oppressive weather is always more palatable in the afternoons rather than in the mornings and tends to be more bearable later in the week than at its head. I felt like a hot dog being cooked in a microwave. Nothing about it was natural. Glad I poked a few fork holes in myself before setting off.

My bike has been making an interesting noise lately. It's a high-pitched squeal and it's coming from the front brake. I think I'll be able to fix the problem later and I'll miss the high-pitched squeal if I'm able to rid myself of it. I really grow attached to the weird and unpleasant noises my bike makes and I'm sentimental enough to miss them when they go away. Maybe I should get a budgerigar. Speaking of mysterious things, I finally solved the mystery of the schmutz that would appear on the outside of my bike bag and it's from the security bollards from by the White House. They're greased (or something) or maybe it's just gunk that they accumulate when they go up and down and my bike handling being what it is, I frequently bang my bag against one of these bollards as I ride through and there's schmutz transference. For weeks, I could figure out where the dirtiness was coming from, but I noticed the grimy bollard the other day and finally put it together. Anyway, the security guards were putting up gates there after I rode through today and I'd like to believe it's because they're really looking out for the cleanliness of my bike bag. I heard that the class that WABA offers after City Cycling is called Securitized City Cycling and it teaches you how to navigate through the many obstacles and barriers associated with Protecting Our Freedom. I should maybe sign up.

M to Wisconsin to Volta and through Georgtown and Glover Park. Seemed like a lot fewer cars on the road today, so maybe all of the people who normally drive to work are still on vacation. The amount of car traffic doesn't normally affect me very much, but it's noticeable when it's not there. Like deafening silence.


Rides 7/10: is it dead yet?

And I guess Rides 7/11 too, but there are no rides today (or at least, no commutes) because I'm taking the day off work. I was going to take the opportunity to use the time off work to go on a longer bike ride, but I never quite got going with that plan and fell into the normal Friday morning routine.

Yesterday's commute started late and with a trip to the bike shop, where I swapped out a screw for a slightly larger screw. This larger screw fit into my fenders better and has since served to eliminate the clatter that's been true of my fenders since I installed them. Adios, clatter. I can't say that I'll miss you. From the shop, it was 7th and M and Wisconsin and Massachusetts and the usual route up the hill and to work. I was slow and it was uneventful.

On the ride home, I watched a man on Brompton (a Brompton with eggbeaters!) ride between a few cars and quite wrongly through an obviously red light and into the path of a turning driver coming from the other direction. The driver, cut off, stopped and the man rode the intersection through and the driver stuck his head out the window and called the man on the Bromtpon with the eggbeaters an asshole. I couldn't hear him but I could see the word form by the shape of his mouth. And then life went on.

I can't remember what happened to Brompton man, but he was gone before I ended up at the bottom of the hill on Massachusetts and I can't recall seeing any other bicyclists, at least going the same way I was going, until I got to L Street. There were a few bicyclists there and car traffic was backed up for blocks and blocks and blocks because I think a lane was closed somewhere around Vermont or 12th or a few blocks east of where I would eventually turn on 15th. I didn't call any of the drivers blocking the intersection of 15h and I any bad names, but I thought that it was unfortunate that many bicyclists and pedestrians had to uncofmrtably squeeze themselves through the small gap between the cars just in order to get from one sidewalk to the other. I bet people wish they didn't have to that, but I also bet that drivers wish they didn't have to sit in traffic and block the intersection. Of course, they didn't have to drive into the intersection and block the crosswalk, but they did. And then life went on.


Rides 7/9: Prospero and Miranda

My goodness, there's been a lot of stuff written about bikes today and I think I've read all of it. I don't know if I'm much better for doing that and I have my doubts if I should add more to it. Only so much blood in a turnip after all. Also, it's kind of hard to take seriously something so silly as a jumping off point for a "serious discussion" or "dialogue" about "important" issues. This is to say nothing of the fact that seriousness has never been a feature of the blog and I'm not going to jeopardize its ranking as the 37th most popular local bike commuter blog by dabbling in it now. So here's nothing about bicycling. 

When we lived in Budapest, I used to take the tram to school and there might be Magyar teen couple who would press in there and then they'd start making out. Lustily. Young love. Pleading, desperate. Sometimes it'd be first thing in the morning and I'd be taking the 2 to the library and there they'd be and you'd get the smell of cigarettes and BO and hormones and stale beer and still warm Princess pékség chocolate croissant and whatever else wafted up from the Danube and and they'd just be so pressed together and one of them, whichever one was closer to me, would always have a Budmil backpack (maybe it was always turquoise) and as they made out and as the tram rounded the curve through the tunnel under the bridgehead, that damn backpack would push into me and I'd hate that because I wanted no part in the smelly sappy face-sucky morning makeout session and I just wanted to be anywhere else and I wasn't even happy about going to the library first thing in the morning anyway because all I was going to was make photocopies of musty art history journals, which I would subsequently crumple and eventually lose. It was an intrusion. 

I was never once on the 15 bus in Denver when the cops forcibly removed someone but I had a few trips on Colfax when the driver threatened somewhere between Colorado Avenue and Broadway to pull over and call them because some clearly addled passengers were getting unruly. I think I once saw meth heads playing craps. Snake eyes. I loved the 15 bus. It was slow and we'd get stuck at Broadway for easily 15 minutes, maybe 20. I could've gotten out and walked, but I never did. You can learn a lot about people by standing amidst then on a crowded bus. Or you can't. 

The first winter after the first summer I started bike commuting in DC, I drove to work. We had a Subaru. It was gray and we named it Beepy because it beeped a lot. We lived out in Arlington and I took Glebe Road to the Chain Bridge each morning  and everyday I'd dutifully get in the correct lane (I think there was construction at the time and one or more lanes were closed) and I'd watch some other drivers stay in the wrong lane until the very last feet as if they were going to go on Military, but  they wouldn't and the turn signal would pop on and whoops, looks like I missed all those signs saying Chain Bridge left lane and how the heck did a these other drivers know to get over anyway.  never tried it, but I wonder if I should've because it seemed to save them a lot of time and my opprobrium never quite seemed to reach them, no matter how frustratedly I'd tap on the steering wheel as I waited impatiently in the queue of cars that lurched only slowly forward. I have nervous habits like rapping on steering wheels and I also crack my knuckles and I bite my fingernails too. I also mutter and I definitely muttered curses at them cutting in line. By muttering, I meant yelled. It was winter and the windows were up and there was probably something on the radio, but I'm alone inside my car, rapping on the steering wheel and audibly cursing at people who can't here me. I never thought to wonder if anyone could have seen me. 

I rode my bike today, to and from work, and it was fine. A little cloudy for summer, but we'll have sun again soon. 


Rides 7/8: not writing about it

I rode to work today and it was great and I rode home and it was even better. Everything was great and I had a great time and I really enjoyed myself, with everything being great and all. I count myself extraordinarily lucky to be able to bicycle to and from work in one of the greatest cities in the world, so what's not great about that? Nothing, that's what. Great times were had by all. Or by me, at least. Great. 

I took the old route in the morning and it was comforting to ride once more on familiar paths made slightly less familiar from a not brief absence. On the way back, I took the normal route and it was comforting to ride along a familiar route made even more familiar from daily repetition. They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but I don't really think that's true. Maybe familiarity breads contempt, perhaps with panko for a kind of contempt tempura. Delicious, but unhealthy, I bet. 

Oh, I'm not going to write about (or even link to) that silly thing that someone wrote in the newspaper (whatever that is), though I will obliquely mention it and so I have. I am, however, going to ride my bike to and from work tomorrow and the next day, but not Friday because I think I might work from home, but then again for the foreseeable future and so long as it remains the cheapest and most convenient way for me to go back and forth. [I'd actually prefer to walk, but it's just too far and would take too long.] Silly things might happen sometimes and  dangerous things might happen other times and maybe I'll get frustrated and maybe I'll frustrate the people around or perhaps it'll just be kinda humdrum and boring and beige. I'd be ok with that. Who hates beige? No one hates beige. Everyone hates beige. 


Rides 7/7: Janissary Commissary

There are lots of things bike commuters can't control (the actions of others, the weather, a soapy poodle* and so on), but there are a few things bike commuters can control and within those few things, there might even be some things worth trying to control. At this point, you might've sketched out a Venn diagram to follow along and if all went according to plan, your Venn diagram should include a few circles and no triangles because if I know anything about Old Man Venn (and I sure don't), it's that he expressly forbad the use of triangles in his namesake diagram and I can always recall this because there's a Venn diagram when one circle is labeled Venn Diagram and the other circle is labeled Triangle and these circles do not overlap, nor are any of the circles in the Venn diagram triangles and so, pictorially speaking (like on Win, Lose or Draw?), the lack of triangles in the Venn diagram also helps reinforce Old Man Venn's "No Triangles Allowed" policy. Granted, it was a different time back then (whenever Old Man Venn lived, that is) and I'm sure we wouldn't stand for such blatant shapeism these days and there's probably even a law that Congress passed called the Fairness in Diagrams Act that makes it illegal to discriminate against the use (or non-use) of any shape in particular in any diagram used for any kind of public purpose within these United States. But I digress. 

Don't rush and don't get stitched up. These are some things you can control and that you might want to control when you commute by bike. Let's look at them each, one at a time, and not diagrammatically, whatever that means. 

Why not rush? What if your favorite band is Rush? What if your favorite AM radio blowhard is Rush? What if your favorite movie and Gutzon Borglum giant president head South Dakotan Rock art is Rushmore? It's not rush less! Why should you listen to me and not Max Fisher (noted film bike commuter) or a Mormon Danish rock artist? (The Mormon Danish a popular pastry in SLC. Other Danish rockers include: mid-century modern furniture.) Anyway, I don't advocate rushing primarily for two reasons: it lessens enjoyment (and your enjoyment while bike commuting should be the size of a giant presidential face blasted into the Badlands) and it leads you to bad (and worse than bad, anti-social) decisions. I see bike commuters every morning who 1) don't look like they're having fun and 2) do impolite things all because they're rushing. So leave yourself enough time. Side note: this isn't railing against going fast. Lots of people like to go fast and I have little issue with that. But there's a difference between a controlled fastness and a dead-eyed, frowning "OMFG I'M RUSHING" and you can see it and you can tell. So go fast if you want, but don't rush. Leave a little earlier. It's worth it. 

And the other thing [scrolling back to remind myself of the other thing. Ah yes. Ok, that. Yeah], don't get stitched up. Getting stitched up is idiomatic (and not diagrammatic) and accordingly means a bunch of things and the one thing I don't mean by "don't get stitched up" is the literal meaning, though getting yarn bombed by rogue knitters while you're simply trying to make your way to work is also something to be avoided, but the meaning I mean the most about not getting stitched up is the one related to guile or savvy or not being the dupe. Know the potential trouble spots. Think ahead. Pay attention. I think that there's a bad way to think about the same idea that involves the word and concept "vigilance" but I like thinking about it not that way. Vigilance sounds like something you do with votive candles and you should never bike with an open flame. Don't get stitched up. Have some forethought. Think ahead. Know where you are. Anticipate. Not in like a mean way or a LIFE AND DEATH way- it's not Darwinism, it's bike commuting- but in a way that might avoid you some inconvenience because you thought two steps ahead or the equivalent number of rolls ahead (this depends on the size of your steps and the size of your wheels). You can't control all things or most things, but you can control how much attention you pay to the world around you and paying some attention in the name of not getting stitched up might be worth it. It might not and that's ok too. Hey, it's free unsolicited advice and in spite of what you might have heard from all of the other people who offer free unsolicited advice, I'm going to further advise you to be critical of free unsolicited advice. But, now we've gotten into some ouroboros (Queens? Staten Island?) or Möbius Strip or whatever. Don't get stitched up. 

*Extrapolating based on personal experience) 


Rides 7/3: But where did the lighter fluid come from?

I think I'm beginning to learn that the new bike works best when I don't stomp on the pedals, but instead try to pedal smoothly and evenly and with measure. Maybe all bikes are like that. Honestly, I know basically nothing about the best practices for the proper riding of bicycles. [Best Practices for the Proper Riding of Bicycles sounds like some positivist instructional pamphlet from the 1890s. Maybe it was?] Everything I've ever learned about riding bicycles either happened when I was 6 or has happened as an incidental result of my choosing to commute by bike. I have taken approximately zero lessons, nor benefited from any taught instruction, professional or amateur. Some days I really feel like I would benefit from it. I mean, not because it's strictly necessary (I practically barely ever crash into things or fall down or catch fire mysteriously), but because sometimes even the most routinized acts can benefit from refinement. Like a Japanese tea ceremony. No one is like "Yoshi, just slam back a Lipton and get on with it." Or maybe they're exactly like that. I now even less about tea ceremonies than I do about bicycling. Is one of the T's in a TT tea? Is the other one?

Gave up on waiting out the storm and rode home in the light rain then no rain (in a bumblebee costume?) and then in the heavy downpour that opened up around the time I was only 2 miles away from the end of my trip. There's nothing about the new bike that I don't love- even its flaws are lovable, like a runty puppy- and I especially loved riding the bike in the post-storm environment and the post-post-storm environment, which was storm once more. Seals and Crofts like a summer breeze, but I prefer the summer rain and like seals, I arf wildly in enjoyment. To be stuck in an unrelenting rain is to be stuck with an irrepressible grin, a grim grin, a grim grin of determination to push through the rain but also savor it. Savory rain mixed with salty sweat and a grimey grim grin and an unimpeded, uninterrupted and unrelenting unrepressed wetter break from the wet hot heat. July is dressed up and playing her tune. 


Ride Home 7/2: A Brief Synopsis of The Music Man

A huckster plans to dupe some naive midwestern American rubes, but instead decides to call off the con in order to shack up with a hot librarian.

This is the music they rehearse by the Capitol for the Fourth of July. Make of that what you will. I heard it from my bike as I rode by. I think a military band played it. Patriotism.

Otherwise, it was very hot. I left even later than I normally would and I was still hot, though not as hot as it could have been. One more day until vacation. Tomorrow might not be terrible.

Ride In 7/2: Remember the Maine

The Bard once asked "What's cooler than cool?" Ice cold. And yes, I've always referred to Andre 3000 as the Bard. Who did you think I meant? But what, pray tell, is hotter than hot? Today. Today is hotter than hot. And muggier than muggy. And grosser than gross. It's like Andre 3000 Kelvin. It would be singularly unpleasant weather if it wasn't so likely that this weather will repeat a few more times over the summer and again next summer and again the summer after that. And so son. Yet, people ride bicycles on days like today and they make the most of it. How did I make the most of it? Well, I put a live lobster in my water bottle and by the time I got to work, I had a lovely meal. FUN FACT: I melted the butter in my other water bottle. This is why you buy a bike with two water bottle cages. Unfortunately, given that my water bottles were full of lobster and butter, I got rather parched on the ride and had no water to drink. Trade-offs, I guess.

I stopped at an Impromptu-ish Wednesday Coffee Club and those of us there who weren't taking the picture of those of the rest of us looked like this:

Impromptu-ish Wednesday Coffee Club. Not pictured Ted, who took the picture. Also not pictured, Frosty the Snowman. RIP. 

Nothing like a hot day to stop for a bit and sit outside and  drink some hot coffee. Not that the coffee had much of a choice. Even iced coffee would be hot coffee on a day like today. Oh, and I guess the kicker is that it's going to be even hotter on the ride home. I think the heat index will be something like 375, which will actually be great because I'm planning on baking some banana bread in my water bottle on the way home.

Be safe. Aside from the heat, there could be severe storms later and those might knock loose your water bottle and you don't want to be scalded by half-baked banana bread. Oh, and the high winds and rain and lightning might be dangerous too.


Ride Home 7/1: Leuven Spoonful

The timing of my ride made it such that I missed all of the goals. I don't really want to talk about it. I could've stuck it out at work until the game was over, but I took the risk that I could make it home for penalty kicks that never happened. I don't really want to talk about it.

Here's the gathering in Freedom Plaza:

Heckuva lot of people for outside in a billion degrees and no (legal) alcohol. I'm not saying that public outdoor drinking is the solution to all of our soccer woes (in fact, it might bring about additional, non-soccer ones), but Freedom Plaza is the definition of "blah" and maybe we could pep it up a bit with some beer and hot dogs. What's more American than that? And what's more Freedom-y than making questionable decisions about cased meats of unknown provenance?  

It was extraordinarily hot and gross and I felt slow on the bike and the bike felt slow under me. Nothing worse than lagging under awful weather. The ride is never long enough when the weather's great and never short enough when the weather's awful. 

Ride In 7/1: Guilt by Association

This is primarily a bike commute blog, but it's also a blog about how the District of Columbia should probably join Belgium if we're not granted Statehood in the United States. There are many, many reasons for this, all of which are very obvious so I won't bore you with them. I'd also like to think that the addition of 600,000 non-Flamand, non-Wallonian, non-adjacent new residents will help break Belgian political gridlock and lead to a brighter future for all, including us, the New World Belgians (which might also be the name of my new ska band). But won't it will be hard to govern this non-contiguous Belgium? Um, isn't that why we have the internet? Anyway, they'd probably also let us be a State or the Belgian equivalent of a state or just give us the full citizenship rights we currently lack, which isn't exactly something the United States is so keen on. In conclusion, for now "Go America!" but if between now and start of the game the District accedes to Belgium, then go "Go Belgium!" If the announcement about us joining Belgium is made at half-time (which is a possibility, in that there is such a thing as half-time), then I hope that we (whoever we are) finish out the game on top. Go us! (and by us, I mean U.S. For now)

Biked to work later than normal. It was really hot and muggy.

Ride Home 6/30: Ionic Bond

Goodbye, June. You weren't the worst.

It was one of those rides where things kept going right. I kept getting green lights and I kept finding the bike lanes free of obstruction and there wasn't even much of a line at the grocery store. There were a few hassles throughout the trip (a dedicated bus lane on I Street through downtown would most likely greatly reduce the incidence of a bus blocking the intersection at I and 15th, for example), but nothing so much to distract from the overall feeling of "fineness" that hung over the ride, like the summer haze itself. When things go right, it's best not to question why they're going overly right and just enjoy the unexpected swing of the pendulum before it swings back and you have one of those bike commutes where not only everything goes wrong, but it goes wrong in such over-the-top and comical wheels that cause you to question whether it's even possible for them to have ever not gone so horribly wrong. I don't know if it's the era we live in or just a particular cultural moment that specifically impacts the social cohort of which I'm a member, but I feel like statistics, averages, regression and the like permeate the air, like the smell of honeysuckle and pollen, and it's become difficult to conceptualize life experience without thinking "do I have a large enough sample size to draw a conclusion about this?" And so it's kind of weird when you're thinking about (and writing about) and trying to draw conclusions about the novel happenings of your daily, idiosyncratic bike commute while also firmly ensconced in the belief that no matter how fluky the ride, it's just one more addition to a larger data set, any analysis of which will reveal that, on average, rides aren't exactly like the fluky one you just had and they're not exactly just as fluky in the opposite direction, but somewhere exactly in the middle, because that's, by definition, how averages work. And I suppose what makes the ride average is what makes the ride interesting. At least in a global, more  comparative sense.

But, I'm not a statistician. Also, yo no soy marinero. Soy capitan. Like a Chicano Abraham Lincoln. (This blog has hard some weird Lincoln digressions lately.) Where was I going with this? I'm not totally sure. I think what I'm trying to say is that while averages are interesting, anomalies are even more interesting. So, yesterday, the anomalous ride where things went overly well, the ride about which I have had nothing substantive or otherwise interesting to write, was more interesting than an average ride, about which I normally have something to say.

Here's a picture of the Supreme Court:

Those guys.