Rides 4/29 and Rides 4/30: No More April

Yesterday in: Pennsylvania Avenue across town to 27th through parts to East Georgetown where I don't normally go and then up over through the parts of East Georgetown where I normally go. And then I went beyond because I can't just stop in East Georgetown and knock on the door of some stately mansion and ask if I can check my work email from their home computer or, at worst, just use their wifi so I can do it from my phone without eating into my data plan. I mean, I can't just stop at do that until my probation from doing it the last times ends. See you in three years!

Today in: Normally when I ride along the Mall to Rock Creek, I give up around K Street, but today I kept on the trail for much longer, riding north through the city and up the bitch of the short hill to Calvert Street and from there up more streets and eventually to work, though before that to the place where I sometimes buy a bagel and cream cheese. They don't put the cream cheese on the bagel. They put the cream cheese in a little plastic container and they slice and toast the bagel and then they put the sliced and toasted bagel into a bag with the container of cream cheese and a plastic knife. This isn't upon request either. It's just how they do it. It seems a bit wasteful (here, sir, have some plastic stuff that you'll throw out!) and also it shifts the labor of schmearing onto me. Is this so I can choose not use the entire tiny container of cream cheese? Is it because the guy who slices the bagels has it in his contract that he only has to slice and doesn't have to schmear? Is it because I asked for a 'bagel with cream cheese' and not a 'bagel with cream cheese on it, like right now, as in, put their by you (presuming you are not contractually bound to not do it).

Yesterday home: I think I took the normal way home. I noticed more than in the previous days the changing of the timing of the lights on Pennsylvania Avenue. Over the course of bike commuting for a number of years along pretty much the same route, you get used to the sequencing of the lights. But more than that, you just get used to stopping at traffic lights in general. It's a thing that happens. It's fine. As much as maybe I cared towards the beginning of my bike commuting life about 'beating lights' and 'trying to go fast,' I've long since given up on caring about this. Frankly, it makes for a much more pleasurable commute and it comes at the low, low cost of maybe 3 minutes. 3 minutes! I would take this deal every day of the week, but I only take it Monday through Friday because that's when I ride to work.

Today home: It rained. Thoroughly. There were big puddles and I rode through them. Then it stopped raining and I thought the rain was over. Then the rain came back. Then the rain ended again. My shoes are still very wet. It's not summer enough yet for summer rain, so I still had to wear my rain jacket. The net effect of that is that one more item of clothing I wore became thoroughly soaked.

Gear Prudence.


got stuck behind this guy

The pole is undercover

After you press the button to cross the street, you have enough time before the light changes to pose your bike for a picture, take the picture, and get back on your bike and then wait another 10 seconds, then cross the street when the WALK comes on. 

"Let's reserve a bunch of nature in the middle of the city!"
"Great plan! Sounds totally idyllic"
"Yes, and then we can turn it into a major commuter highway"
"Great- wait, what?'

This sign mocks you because you've already climbed up at least half the hill and by the time you pass, you're more than very well acquainted with the steepness of the grade. Put it at the bottom of the hill!


Rides 4/28: bundles of bindles

[Tales from the Sharrows theme music plays over the end of the Tales from the Sharrows opening credit sequence

the Professor and Mary Ann-

Here on Tales from the Sharrows!

[screen fades to black, mundane blog post begins]

It's getting to be such that the weather deities no longer hate us. Perhaps they have been sated by our offerings, burnt and otherwise. Or maybe it's just the rotation of the Earth about the sun. No way to know really. "Life is a mystery"- some lady.


The highest court in the land (you'd think they'd put it in Colorado or something) was meeting today to jurisprude on marriage, opposite and otherwise. If I were a proponent of 'traditional' marriage, I definitely would've sought a change of venue. Hard to imagine that that viewpoint would get a fair hearing at a court named after the group of gay icon Diana Ross. Huge tactical blunder.

Then I rode down the Hill and along past the Mall and up past the river and down under the highway and then up the hill again through the fancy part of town. I felt good on the bike, which felt light under me and also springy. Maybe the bike was lighter because I rode a lighter bike this morning, leaving the tankish Ogre at home for a day of rest. Whether the rest was for the bike or for me, I don't know. BUT, I heartily recommend commuting on a heavy bike (most days). The mental and physical payoff you feel when you ever get to ride a lighter bike is immense. It feels like cheating.

My ride home:

This was true. I got some guff for it. Maybe it wasn't guff. Maybe it was just "SAY WHAT? You're normally such a misanthropic jerk? Did someone put happy pills in your coffee?" But no, no one put happy pills in my coffee (so far as I know). I just felt great and I felt great because I could look at people bicycling- all kinds of people on all kinds of bicycles- for hours and it always, without a doubt, brings me great joy. Because people are super fascinating! And sometimes when the weather is just right, there's something in the air that makes people on bicycles look even that much happier. And happy people are great! We should have more of them! And so far as a bicycle is an incidental tool for the advancement of happiness, it should be highlighted. Yeah, you can complain about every other bicyclist on the road and I've complained about my fair share. But, can you do that everyday? It's hard, even for a misanthrope. Some days you just see people enjoying themselves on bicycles and you can't help but think "yes, I am glad to be seeing this. Not just glad, but lucky too."

The way home was Mass to 21st to L to 11th to Penn to East Capitol. It took as long as it took, but it could've taken longer and I would've been just fine with that.


Rides 4/24 and 4/27: dial up

I've gotten quite bad at writing these Friday posts. I mean to do them on Saturday and then after Saturday elapses, I mean to get around to it on Sunday and then Monday just sneaks up on me and then it's Monday night and I open up the blogging machine and I see that Friday's post was never written. But before I pretend like I'm going to write cogently about bike commutes that are lost forever in the fog of memory, let me pull back the curtain a little and tell you how the Friday post was intended to be made. On Friday night, I did nothing. I mean, at least as far as blogging was concerned. But on Saturday night, I sent myself an email called "notes." That email (8:37 PM) said this:

speed camera
Check Twitter 

And my response at 8:38 to myself was:

3 feet

So, yeah, that was Friday. It's somewhat fitting that I forgot to write this post since the first topic 'speed camera' has been something I have been meaning to write about for, I don't know, a year. I pass this speed camera on Mass Ave almost every single day and every single day I think to myself, right as I pass it, "today's the day I write about this speed camera" and then every day I don't. BUT NOT TODAY. What's the thing I always forget to write? It's this:

(actually, before I write this, I sorta wonder if I haven't already written about it. If I have and you remember, I apologize both for that and for this big run-up, which would be insanely anti-climatic.)

Every day I ride past the speed camera and I'm in one lane and there's a driver heading down the hill in the other lane and I'm between him and the speed camera and we're both heading downhill though maybe him faster than me and I think "what if I'm blocking the speed camera from being this speeding speeder a ticket? WHAT IF THAT?"

And this is the thing I think everyday and always seem to manage to forget to write except for today (finally) and perhaps another time, though if I did, I forgot that I had. 

Today's morning scuttlebutt was that DDOT began the processing of retiming many of the downtown traffic lights. If you've ever attended a public meeting of any sort, you'll have had from lay members of the community who certainly know what they're talking about that the traffic light timing is ALWAYS WRONG and if 'they' just reoptimized all the traffic light timing, all the traffic would go away. Signal timing, after all, is an uncomplicated thing that lacks many variables and if those dopes would JUST LISTEN all the traffic would be gone in a flash. So, I'm sure that those members of the community will be grateful that these steps have been undertaken and not, at the first experience of a red light when they had to this point not formerly found themselves waiting at one, angrily fulminate to those morons at DDOT that their changes SCREWED IT UP because it was perfect before. tl;dr: you can't win. 

I took M to 31st and up the hill and up Wisco to work. On the way home, I took Mass and then backtracked a scoach on the Buffalo Bridge back into Georgetown and then down 27th to P to and through Rose Park. Now, I am generally of the opinion that bicyclists should ride wherever they aren't prohibited (and even if they are prohibited, perhaps there too?), but I found the path through Rose Park to be suboptimal to the point that maybe bicyclists should just skip it. There are lots of people walking and people with dogs and kids at playgrounds and just a bunch of other ensloweners (not a word) that might make the parallel street a vastly better experience. But ride where you want. 

After the grocery store, I took L to 15th and then headed south and east on the normal route home. Clumps of bicyclists clumped at newly optimized red lights. I suppose these clumps would have clumped at unoptimized red lights too- clumps do tend to clump- but the point that I'm failing to make is not so much about the red lights as the clumps of bicyclists- there were many of them. What do you call a mode of transport that's bigger than niche? 

Up Jenkins Hill, I felt a bogey on my tail. That is a stupid way to say that I could tell someone was riding closely behind me and I decided that in spite on my stupid heavy bike and the stupid heavy contents of my pannier that I would hustle myself up the hill at a pace that would aim to assure that I would stay in front of that person behind me. I could and I would! I was determined! And I did! (Though it was likely less to do with my uphill burst of speed than the 8 feet across very wide handlebars at the front of my bike. Or perhaps it was just pity). And at the top of the hill, alongside me rode up the rider that I thought was behind me (but I can't say for sure because, as taught to us by the philosopher bard in her work on adolescent oneirology 'don't look back/don't ever look back') and it was no other than Unflappable Salsa Gentleman! That he deigned to speak with me (and compliment the Ogre no less!) was immediate karmic reward for my commitment to trying to get up the hill unreasonably quickly. That this flapped him, I have no words. It's really one of the best things that has happened to me in the course of a million bike commutes. And yes, that's a weird thing to say. But it's also a weird thing to think. But it's also true. 


Rides 4/22 and 4/23: Click Bait

IF you've got more than one bike, which is a dubious proposition, I might say, you might feel behooved to alternate the one you take to work. You might not, but I did, and so I've been riding the Cross Check the past couple of days. It's been all right and it's given me a reason to fiddle around with an otherwise fallow bike. Yesterday I adjusted the brakes and lubed the chain. Today, I monkeyed around with the seat pitch and angle. Was this necessary? Not in any strict sense. The bike would've gone about its business just fine without my messing about with it. But who wants a bike to go about its business just fine? You want your bike to go about just great! And this is exactly why you shouldn't monkey with and wrench it and fiddle about, especially first thing in the morning before coffee makes your brain work and even more especially if you have the wrenching skills of someone as inept (or more inept, if this is possible) as me. Takeaways:

1. mucking about with mechanical things = fun
2. consequences of said mucking = potentially/likely unfun
3. results of unfun consequences = pretense for additional mucking

If there's one consistent theme of this blog (some say I am the Samuel Pepys of the velosphere. Actually, not one single person says this), it's that every day is different and every day is the same. One day bleeds into the next and the day after is completely distinct from the one before it, except not in any substantive way.  And so its the same with the wrenching. You do it so you can do it again. And you do it again because you did it (wrong) the first time.

I rode through Washington Circle yesterday morning (though not this morning, since I took the tried and true method along the river) but unlike the other times I rode through the circle, this time I rode through the circle and not around it. Would bicyclists be better served with some kind of flyover ramp directly over the mounted George Washington statue? No probably not. Was it any faster to ride through the circle than around it? Probably not. Was it marginally less annoying and slightly safe? I guess, but not in any real way. Is there a reason why I don't normally come this way? It's because I like going the other way, the way that doesn't come this way, much more. The other way is the Mall way and this morning, I saw this:

This is the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. It's still under construction. It doesn't just have awesome cherry picker parking. But it's getting closer to done and these bronze-y panels will make for a really interesting and arresting exterior.

There's a PBS documentary about the National Mall and I watched some of it last night. I didn't find it especially, well, anything, really. I mean, public monumental and ceremonial spaces are what they are and thinking about them can be an interesting exercise, but I found the show to be more about back-patting than actual thinking. Maybe its impression is dulled by familiarity. I don't know. I mean, the Mall is nice. I like it. It's scenic. A pretty great bike route, especially in the quiet morning. But I'm not sure that there's anything about it that's a particular embodiment of a national character or even if the space is used in a distinctly American kind of way. There was a brief discussion of 'Mall as protest space' and I guess that's kinda something, but even that seems more like something about a history than a present way of conceptualizing it. 1963 was 52 years ago. I don't know. I'm probably not being fair. Anyway, woo public television.

On to the next thing: 31st Street NW. It's a Georgetown street and a special one. Some things I think about when I ride on it:

1. Interloping in someone else's neighborhood is so much more intimate when you do it by bike
2. No two buildings on the street are the same. There is no symmetry.
3. The buildings are all very tall. How tall? I don't know. I am terrible at guessing the heights of things. 50 feet? Is that it? If a giant woman was attacking and I was asked to title a movie about it, I'd probably call it "Attack of the Really, Really Tall but Maybe not Like the Tallest but still Tall Woman." It's currently in fashion in DC in some quarters to be *very concerned* about the height of buildings, but I don't know how much improvement would be gained if these buildings were lopped off at the top of the second story.
4. There are no gates. I mean, there are some gates (like at the entrance to Tudor House), but there are no gates on the street. It's a public street. These people who live here, who are most likely irredeemably fancy and well-off, still live in a city and they live in it and not apart from it. And I think that's important. If i learned anything from a brief foray into medieval archaeology, you put walls around the outside of your town, not down the middle of it.  There's no reason (at least economically, I suppose) that these people couldn't live out of town in a community with gates and a guardhouse and utterly cut off from the community around them. But they don't and even if they're the hoity-toitiest people in the whole of town, they still live on a public street that any only schlub on a bike can pedal past and this makes me feel better. What kind of sympathy can you feel for your community if everyone else lives on the other side of gates? What feelings do you feel for your fellow travelers when they're on the other side of a windshield? I don't know.

Yesterday evening I had to rush home and I did and I went as fast as my legs and lungs would agree and it was an ok speed. Today on the way home, I was in less of a rush but made it home fast enough anyway. There was some horse shit in bike lanes, but that's what happens when there are horses in bike lanes. There was some kind of motorcade that closed off streets and the nature of one person per one car meant that this slowed things up for a large number of people. How do motorcades work in a self-driving car future? Does POTUS get some kind of button that shuts your car off? Do all police? Will there be no more car chases? Has anyone consulted the tv news about this?

I'm ready for Friday.


Rides 4/21: shifting stones

I've been thinking something lately:

isn't it a shame that the people who lived a thousand years ago didn't realize they were living in the past? they mistakenly thought they were living in the present. how silly of them. 

I'm not sure that this has anything to do with bike commuting, but if you see anything especially germane, please don't hesitate to make that association and feel free to give me credit for being abundantly relevant. Maybe I've been thinking about it because I ride past houses that were built a 100 years ago on a city that was laid out 200 years ago on land that was occupied before then by other people for thousands of years before that. They all lived in the past, but thought they were living in the present. I bet some of them even thought they were living in the future, but if that hasn't happened yet for us, it certainly wasn't the future way back then. 

Mass Avenue down past the train station and up First Street to the MBT. It wasn't unpleasant. Someday it might be better. There were a few people on the MBT, including a man and woman who were a pair and they were both on bikes and both had a casual easygoing way of bicycling that suggested that they're a good pair. I liked riding R Street until about 11th Street, when R Street becomes less fun for reasons that I can't explain. On Massachusetts (the same Mass Avenue, but a different one entirely), I counted cars and car passengers, which is a new thing that I do sometimes. Then I thought about turkey. 

Let's say you worked in an office and there's an office refrigerator and you and your colleagues share the refrigerator and you bring in your lunch and so do they. You bring in a turkey sandwich and your 9 colleagues each bring in a 20 lbs Butterball fully roasted turkey. And then you go to the office fridge and your 9 colleagues are shove in their 20lbs Butterball fully roasted turkeys and you go to put in your turkey sandwich (on wheat, with mustard) and there's no room because the fridge is full of full turkeys already. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that maybe you should just buy lunch. And quit your job. Your office sounds like a terrible place. 

It's remarkable the difference leaving an hour later can make on your commute home. It's so much nicer. The weather was the kindest form of mild. There's only so many of these evenings. It's a joy to savor them. 

Mass/21st/L/15th is my tried-and-true evening combo. I might be in a rut. I might not care. Sometimes ruts are good. Like, if you wanted to get a wagon stuck for some reason. Maybe the wagon is full of bees. And there are kids who are allergic to bees and you're like 'oh crap, better keep this bee wagon away from those kids. oh thank goodness, a rut!' Sounds plausible. 

There sure seem to be a lot more people out on bikes and yet I'm not getting that many more Gear Prudence questions. So, if you're a regular bike commuter and you see someone who's new, politely remind them to email their bikey questions to gearprudence@washingtoncitypaper.com. They'll appreciate your telling them, probably. 


Rides 4/20: stop right there

Rock Creek Parkway (not the trail)
31st Street

L Street
Pennsylvania Avenue
East Capitol

Not too many. The mehness was pretty strong in both directions and I wasn't really feeling too great on either ride, but that's not really the bicycle's fault.

Colin, who rides bikes, wrote about Bike to Work Day, which is right around the corner. You should really his post because it's really good. And by really good, I mean completely wrong in every way. So, I, who also rides bikes, have corrected it. You're welcome, Colin/America!

How to behave on bike to work day: A guide for the seasoned cyclist

I know you at some point in the next four weeks you will be tempted to tweet “Every day is bike to work day” with a picture of yourself braving the snow or the torrential rain or whatever on your noble steed.
Don’t do that. Tweets are too impermanent. Tattoo that shit on your knuckles. Or forehead. People need to know! 
Then, take 19 seconds and do this: Copy and paste this into an email to a coworker: 
“Hey, want to ride to work together on Bike to Work Day? 
But don't write this (even though you want to)
P.S. Because I'm pretty sure I'm faster than you and crushing you on Bike to Work Day will prove for once and for all that I'm better than you. 
Here’s the deal. Bike to work day is about you. 100% completely. It’s a recognition that that thing you do every day, or most days, is pretty awesome and you can and should feel proud about it. Accept your t-shirt and granola bar and ankle strap with magnanimity, then step back and get back in line for another granola bar and ankle strap because you deserve it and some wuss who never ever rides except for one day is not even going to use the ankle strap again until next year and he doesn't even need the granola bar because he probably ate a doughnut for breakfast already. Noob.
I know it’s tempting, but let’s all avoid not being smug, OK? Because, to reiterate, bike to work day is (totally)  about us. It’s about our neighbors and our coworkers and our family and our friends who don’t ride every day, who we can ABSOLUTELY CRUSH because we have trained every fucking day of the year and those layabouts haven't. It’s a chance for them to try out this neat thing called biking to work and learn that it is hardcore* and they will suck at it compared to you, who is awesome. 
So here are some do’s and don’ts to think about:


  1. Enjoy the company of someone who’s new to this. You will enjoy it more because you will be better than them at it. They'll appreciate your pointing that out frequently. 
  2. Be patient. You're going to have to wait for them, as you will be significantly faster. 
  3. Offer to ride with a friend who’s never ridden to work before. He or she will be the easiest person to beat in races. 
  4. Volunteer to work at a pit stop. You'll have plenty of extra time to volunteer because you'll be faster than everyone else and when they finally show up you can be all like 'oh hey, you finally got here? I've been here so long that I volunteered. Here's your shirt (if you feel like you've earned it...) 
  5. Do not give other cyclists three feet of space if you pass. You need to show them that you have masterful control and handling. 
  6. Obey traffic laws. Set a good example for people who are new. Then as soon as the light turns green, AFTERBURNERS and leave them in the dust. 


  1. Forget to ding your bell or snap your brakes or sigh loudly at people going slower than you.  If you’re late or bored or just want to go faster, just do it and then make sure to give Armstrongian looks over your shoulder to exhibit your utter domination of the chumps who can't keep up. 
  2. Miss a chance to shoal, or engage in other cat-6ish behavior. This is your chance to dominate and with such a weak field, you're going to be able to beat so many people in impromptu commuter races. This will be a huge self-esteem boost and you should not pass this chance up. THIS IS WHY YOU TRAINED. Take your reward. 
  3. Assume that the person with a flat is clueless. You don't need to assume it because it's completely true. “Do you have the all tools you need?” is a way to point out to them that you know have copious knowledge about fixing flat tires and also that you have an amazing tool collection, which they probably don't. “You look like you need help” or “Do you know what you’re doing?” are rude things to say because they're super obvious. They definitely need help and you shouldn't bother pointing that out. Generally, if you just pass them at blazing fast speed when they're stuck on the side of the road floundering in helplessness, do that instead. It'll save you the awkwardness of them developing a huge unrequited crush on your when you save the day by fixing their flat after their multiple bungled attempts. 
  4. Decline any swag at your pit stop. You deserve it all. In fact, you deserve 365 times as much because you bike all year round. If you don't house like 18 bananas and don't park your SUV around the corner from the pit stop the night before so you can fill it with all the sweet loot you procure, that's a totally lame and a little bit disrespectful to the event. It's there for you, so not taking the stuff is kind of insulting. 
  5. Keep to yourself which components or bike they need to be better at bike commuting. Remember, you do this everyday, so you're smarter and more informed than everyone else. Not sharing with everyone how their bikes are deficient and fail to live up to your expectations is pretty selfish. 
  6. Fail to constantly shout advice at strangers: mechanical diagnoses, bike fit suggestions, clothing tips, whatever. If someone asks your opinion, fine. If someone is in immediate danger of hurting themselves, fine. “Excuse me I can’t help but notice your quick release is open and your rear wheel is about to fall off” is a-ok, but even better than that is getting a bullhorn and a laser pointer and just going absolutely buck wild pointing out all of things that everyone who comes within shouting distances needs to do to stop sucking at bike commuting and/or life. People definitely want to hear your feedback on issues as they relate to: body type and overall appearance, how they should or could be spending money on having better stuff and just overall ways that they could stop being so insultingly embarrassing in the way that they're going about their bike commute. You know better than them, so don't keep mum! They wouldn't be riding on Bike to Work Day if they didn't want help from experts like you! 
Just be patient and nice to everyone ok? It's called noblesse oblige and it's something you're just going to have to do in the presence of so many people who are mostly terrible at bike commuting and definitely aren't as good at it as you are.
*Think about that for a minute and let it sink in. The inevitable consequence of more people biking is that it ceases to become something that sets you apart. That's pretty crummy, but the good thing is that you'll be better than them and you'd probably be better at them even if you commuting by unicycle. 


Rides 4/17: money

Let's talk about money. The marginal cost of a bike commute is barely anything and the marginal costs of other forms of commuting (driving, public transport, Uber) are comparatively higher. Some people commute by bike to save money and others commute by bike because they don't have any money to spend. Some don't commute by bike for other reasons (they like to read or they enjoy driving or they live 40 miles away from work or they don't want to show up at work sweaty), but there are some people who don't commute to work by bike, and otherwise would, because the conditions in their area feel unsafe for bicycling and since more or less everyone has the same primary interest in remaining safe and whole, they have to forego bicycling to work even though they would want to otherwise. I don't know how many people fall into this camp, the would-but-for-fear would-be bike commuters, but it's more than zero people.

And here's where that ties into money: these people are being extorted. Instead of getting to spend marginally no money on their commute, they're forced into bus fare or paying for parking or taking a cab or whatever. Because things have been built in such a way that biking isn't safe. Isn't that messed up? How many people are spending how much on driving bikeable distances because those distances have been made completely inhospitable to biking? Sure, some people can (and do) put aside their fears and get on the bike and get to work that way mostly irrespective of the conditions and some set of that set is probably pretty happy that they've done so. But to have built our society in such a way that a virtually free form of transportation comes with the trade-off that it might be scary as fuck and completely unaccommodated? That's messed up.

Friday was a really nice day weather-wise and I took the Brompton. I stopped for coffee on the way in and groceries on the way home. Circle of life.


Rides 4/15 and Rides 4/16: without pictures

Two days: let's go!

Yesterday morning was marked by coffee, namely free coffee offered to bike commuters by The Bike Rack, which is not the kind of rack that stretched people in Medieval Times. They do it about once a month and I always try to go because you don't turn down free coffee. I watched scads of bike commuters ride by and they didn't even turn their heads when the shop folks said 'free coffee for bike commuters!' Who are you monsters? Maybe you don't drink coffee, but if you do and you can't find time in your life to stop and accept a free cup, I'm not even sure you should be riding a bicycle. I'm not sure it's the mode of travel for you. I'm sorry.

I rode up Massachusetts Avenue for the first time in a while. I used to do it every day and now I don't. It's like seeing a friend from college. "oh hey, remember that time, we like, totally, um, did that thing? yeah? that was cool. so, you married now or whatever? Oh, two kids? that's cool....' [conversation trails off] I mean, as far as that simile in any way resembles what it's like to ride up a hill you used to know. It's not a very good simile. It's not a very good hill.

Funnily enough, I ride down Massachusetts Avenue nearly everyday, including yesterday and today, and though it's the same street, downhill and uphill really seem like two different roads entirely. I guess that's the difference between a two dimensional map and a three dimensional reality. Stupid reality.

I didn't see any gyrocopters on the way home yesterday. Today, I didn't even look.

Parts of Pennsylvania Avenue were closed to cars today to celebrate Emancipation Day with parade and concerts and whantot, but it wasn't really closed to bikes. Is something closed to cars really closed? Is a shopping mall closed because people can't drive from the Build-a-Bear to the Ann Taylor? (honestly, these are the first two mall stores I thought of, so PSYCHOANALYZE THAT) Biking home along Penn was great because the Parade was in full-swing. I love parades, especially super-local ones, but I'm just throwing it out there: what if next year's Emancipation Day was less parade and more of an open-streets event? Could we do that? I think we could and I think maybe people would like it. If we're going to shut the street anyway, maybe we should make the street more open.

I've been bike commuting for a while and I've gotten used to a lot of things, but the one thing that I can't really even get used to is distracted driving. When someone passes you within a few feet and I look over and see the driver utterly besotted by his phone, all I can think is that it's utter coincidence that he didn't drive right into me. That's it. One nudge of the wheel, one abrupt turn of my handlebars, one unexpected bump that shakes either of us off our paths, and I'm toast. You can get used to a lot of things about riding in traffic (and there are a lot of pretty crummy things that we're asked to get used to), but it's hard for me to used to the possibility that it's good fortune that's keeping me safe from people who can't bother to pay attention. And we wonder why more people don't bicycle.

I don't know what else. It was a pretty glorious ride home with gobsmackingly perfect weather. We don't get a ton of days like this, so I hope you got to ride today. Also, I ate a pretty good chicken sandwich for lunch and accompanied that with lemonade, so really, everything's coming up me today.

AS for tonight, I'm off to Smith Public Trust in Brookland to hear a talk by Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars. WHAT WERE THEY BUILT FOR? My guess is llamas, but I don't know if Carlton is going to tell us or if we have to buy the book and read to the end. So if you don't come tonight (but really, come!) and you don't buy the book, just take my word for it that it was llamas. But really, try to come tonight if you can.

Pictures without captions:

every word on the sign is good


not llamas

Happy Emancipation Day!

pagan offering and/or lost kids toy



Rides 4/14: Undisclosed Vocation

It rained. I went to the trees. Again. The trees are over.


I mean, the trees are still there, but PEAK BLOOM is over, so what's the point really? Is this a time to contemplate the ephemeral nature of life? No, not really. It was raining and I had to get to work.

Before I went to the trees (on my way there, really) I rode along the Washington Navy Yard Riverwalk, having arrived there via 11th Street, having ridden that underneath the highway bridges and past the highway on-ramp and past the Washington Navy Yard itself, or at least the outer buildings of it and past a coach bus parked in the bike lane. The Riverwalk prohibits bicycles or at least that's what the sign there says. Along the way I passed the Barry, a ship, that they will soon tug away from the yard. Did I stop to contemplate the ephemeral nature of ships? I did not. It was raining.

After you ride past the baseball park, you can take Potomac Avenue into the industrial parts of DC between the now baseball stadium and the still Fort McNair, at least so long as these industrial parts of still there, which likely won't be for much longer. This part of town is called Buzzard Point, presumably named after Apollo XI in honor of Edwin "Buzzard Point" Aldrin, but maybe not. Where they're planning to build the soccer stadium (and then, presumably other things) right now there's an empty lot and there's also a salvage yard where scrap comes to die and be reborn or at least crushed into cubes. Did I stop to contemplate the ephemeral nature of scrap metal? I did.

Ok, not really.

After the trees, it was the usual way, as it usually is.

On the way home, I found myself distracted by big thoughts about cities and free will and responsibility and trying to remember Third Eye Blind lyrics. "Mommy, who is that bike man mumble singing kind of popular songs from the late 90s and is he ok?" might have asked astute small children. When I wasn't incorrectly misremembering song lyrics I was thinking a question that went something like this: would downtown DC be better or worse if it had fewer people driving through it at rush hour? And if the answer is "much better" are we actually going to do something about it? I'm not one for self-improvement (see: my inability to make proper grownup food choices when left to my own devices), but I'd like to think that given the pretty straightforward "better or worse?" choice and having arrived at the verdict of "better," you could at least start making decisions that move you (or in this case, downtown DC) in the "better" direction. No need to complicate it. Do what makes it better.

It rained on the way home too.


Rides 4/13: X-1

I rode on Friday and I took some notes to write a proper post (notes consist of me sending myself an email with words like 'bridge' and 'what happens when you don't push the button. It's a very professional operation) but then I was otherwise occupied over the weekend and so now I'll just mention two things quickly and we'll move on to today (I know you're in a rush):

- a guy on the bike in front of me, the guy was wearing a trench coat, but that's beside the point, had gum in his mouth and then he spat that gum out and it went flying off to the side of the road and didn't come anywhere close to me. But the guy in the trench coat, he turned around and he looked at me and he said "Sorry!" What's wrong with you, #bikeDC? You've gone soft.

-  I wonder how many of the pedestrians I see who freak out and jump back every time a bike comes within 10 feet of them are the same people who think nothing of driving their giant cars within inches of a bicyclist. If vaguely nearby bikes are so terrifying, how do you think someone on a bike feels about a much closer and much larger car? Oh well.

On today:

Trees! Again!

Then it was the usual way uphill and to work slowly and then back up through the quiet streets and generally all things were quiet and good, as morning bike commutes are allowed to be.

On the way home, I wanted to take the longer way as the weather was nice and I didn't want to waste it. I took to the Capital Crescent Trail and had a brisk ride, one brisker than maybe I even intended. Not much good taking the long way when the long way turns out to be even faster.

I took Virginia (ovebuilt) to E (overbuilt) to the Ellipse Parking lot (why?) and got myself stuck behind a bunch of temporary fences and the Secret Service had to let me out. The officer obliged, but he could've equally been like 'no, get out of here' and that would've been a fairly reasonable response. I guess you just used to encountering weird security barriers when you bike around DC and for the most part, provided you're decently polite, things go fairly well, but it is a kind of strange 'normal' if you think about it.

Some drivers think nothing of going straight even when an arrow painted on the ground indicates that the lane is designated for left turns only. Is this a problem of education? If it's education, in what way are we failing to teach arrows? Are arrows confusing? (I don't think it's a problem of education.)

I rode up the hill behind a guy on a fixie. He sorta crushed it. Good for him.


Rides 4/9: recoil from the coil

To the trees once more. It's not that I even love the trees, but the trees are what we have and many people from around the world come to the trees to gawk and with the trees pretty much nearly right on my way from home to work it seems downright wasteful to not take a moment of two to stop to take them in. We are nearly at peak bloom. (Bill Murray's character in Rushmore was Herman Blume. Whether he was peak, I might or might not say.)

sol victus

I don't spend a lot of time around the Tidal Basin. This might be do to my lifelong fear of basins. A lot of people say that the Jefferson Memorial is their favorite and at one time in my life, a time when I didn't know very much about myself, which is to say callow youth, I would have agreed with them, though now I can some with some degree of certainty in callow adulthood that it's very much not my favorite. Lincoln is far better and hands-down. Perhaps because he's sitting and Jefferson stands and why should you trust a man who stands over a man who sits, which is a far superior way of being. I suppose if they ever make a monument to a fully supine president, I'd likely considerate that my favorite, but that's neither here nor there. [But it'd be Clinton, right?] Anyway, a lot of people don't know this, but I read it on one of the plaques by the Tidal Basin that the Founding Fathers so loved the the classical that not only did they attempt to emulate it in their governance and architecture, but they build the tidal basin to stage mock naval battles, just as they did at the flooded Colosseum. I really didn't know that. Learn something new everyday.

Ohio Drive to the usual path along the river, but then I quit the path and moved over to the empty roadway. In order to facilitate morning car traffic (at least that of it heading towards the monumental core), the US Park Police shut down some lanes to allow for more direct zooming. So, you've got two closed-to-cars lanes on a perfectly good road just sitting there, completely empty. Because. So, I accidentally missed seeing the 'road closed' sign and rode on the otherwise empty road past the Kennedy Center and the Watergate to Virginia Avenue. It's perfectly possible that doing this was illegal. But seems UTTERLY CRAZY to leave a road empty to traffic that could use it, namely bicyclists. So I might start doing this everyday. And I'll be sure to write you from the gulag once they catch me. [fun fact: this scofflawism is somewhat brought to you by a Gear Prudence questioner who asked if this was legit. So maybe I can write off my soon-to-be tickets as a business expense. Research!]

daily ciclovia maybe
On the way home, I took Massachusetts to Q Street to 14th, where I locked up my bike and bought some sushi made by robots. Then I went back over to 15th instead of riding in the bike lanes (?) on 14th. Around 15th and K, HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK. I'd hate to know how bad the traffic would've been had not helpful drivers reminded those in front of them to go. Car traffic, really more than anything else, inconveniences bicyclists. This is undeniable. But it's not nearly as bad for bicyclists than it is for other drivers, so for the most part, I don't find it that big of a deal. I do think a lot about drivers and generally what my valence should be towards them when they're blocking an intersection and miserable and ragey and wanting to be moving more than anything else in the world. On one level, I really do sympathize. Like, I've been there. It sucks. But on another level. it's like 'um, driving in downtown DC at evening rush hour. How did you think this was gonna go? Like, did you just move here? from another planet?' Like, drivers had to ahead of time that not only was bad traffic a possibility, but pretty much a guarantee. AND YET, the reaction to it more often than not is shock rather than resignation. I don't know. It's something.


Rides 4/8: this isn't the way to Santa Fe

To meet a bike commuter is to meet a misanthrope. No one is quite as well accustomed to the human failures than those who day in and day out are asked to bear them and so closely. But I contend this: there are no people who trust others more than bike commuters do and if you aren't at heart an optimist, you'll never persist in bike commuting. Because the imbalance, the imbalance in power, the imbalance in responsibility, the imbalance in vulnerability, is rarely so great as when you're on the road a foot from a car piloted at high speed by another (thoroughly fallible) person and though you might not like people, you absolutely 100% must completely trust them because if you didn't trust them, and trust them wholly, there's no way that you'd ever put yourself in this position. So, there you go: bike commuters distrust everyone and trust everyone wholly. Bike commuters are suspicious of all and yet rely on everyone. It's a strange thing, but it's that thing that it is.

This morning I saw Ed and I rode with him for some blocks and then some blocks later I saw Mary and with her I posed for a goofy picture by those trees. Then I rode to work and before I got there I stopped for a bagel at a cafe next to a cathedral and then ate that bagel at work, which was right down the hill from the cathedral.

On the way home, I didn't know the way to go, so I chose the route down New Mexico and through Glover Park and Georgetown. I found myself behind another bike commuter, which is rare enough for these parts. Then there were no bike commuters for some time, though there were lots and lots and lots of car commuters, all of whom absolutely positively needed to be driving at that time because that must be true because why else would they be driving? Then it was M Street through Georgtown, which is one of my more favorite streets in spite of itself. Then it was L Street and 15th and bike commuters on Bikeshare and other bike commuters on other bikes and then scads of gobs of bike commuters waiting at the red light before the turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Some wanted to go fast and others slow and some of the slow ones wanted to go faster and some of the faster ones probably wanted to go even faster still and all I wanted to do was get home at a pace that was appropriate for my demeanor and disposition and hopefully that was what happened.

At the top of the hill and along East Capitol, I saw Taylor, astride his commuter All City and we rode from the parts of Capitol Hill to the parts of Capitol Hill that are still parts of Capitol Hill but maybe parts that those who live in the indisputable parts who prefer to disavow even though that's barely even 11 block later and we chatted and talked bikes and then parted. To commute by bicycle is to be a misanthrope. To commute by bike in a community of bicycle commuters is to never be alone.


Rides 4/7: better than the best

One more morning of looking at trees that weren't much to look at. Not yet at least, but we're getting there. Maybe tomorrow.

This is a map of part of the District of Columbia:

I don't feel strongly about too many things, but I think I feel strongly about the best way to get from the eastern end of Capitol Hill (the far right) to the Jefferson Memorial (the far left) by bicycle. There are other ways to go, and maybe even other ways that are actually better, but the way I go is 14th SE to South Carolina to to E to New Jersey to I SE to 7th to Water to the East Basin Drive. I don't know why I think this is the best way, but I do, and I doubt I could be persuaded from it. (Though really, qualitatively, East Capitol down the Mall to Washington Monument to down those paths and sidewalks towards the Jefferson is probably better, but it's not better for me. Maybe because that feels too usual and not enough 'special out of my way to see trees.')

After the Jefferson I headed over to the MLK memorial and then down Independence, which has a nice wide sidewalk, which if doubled, would be a pretty great cycletrack. I am not holding my breath that this will happen and then I saw Nate and I rode with him for about 25 seconds and then I went one way and he went the other way and then I rode up 23rd Street, which is the worst street. Strangely enough, I think this street would be less worse if it had a streetcar and that streetcar ran down from down by the Lincoln and up to and maybe past Washington Circle and I think this streetcar would be great, especially for the State Department employees who walk from the Metro to HST. There won't be a streetcar just like there won't be a cycletrack and there won't be a story of me stopping for a bagel with cream cheese because I didn't, even though I wanted to. Up Wisconsin I went, where there will also be no streetcar and where there aren't bagels with cream cheese or at least not that many I'd want to stop for.

I got home via Wisconsin too, at least the parts of Wisconsin that went from where I was up past Tenleytown for a post-work gathering to where it meets Massachusetts and my normal route home. It's an inhospitable bike route and that's a shame because that stretch, at least once they knock down Fannie Mae and build up some more mixed-use development, will be the kind of neighborhood that deserve a better boulevard and one that isn't so obsessed with moving drivers through it so quickly. I don't know if it would occur to anyone to make that stretch better for people, but if it ever does, I will be rather grateful.

Massachusetts Avenue gave way to 21st Street, which I took to Pennsylvania Avenue, which I took down and across the White House, through the pedestrian plaza. Each and every time I ride through I ask myself this: if traffic laws are to deliver us and if traffic laws are to keep us safe, how come more people don't die in this space that doesn't have them? I guess it's the same reason that people don't die when they're walking around shopping malls, where there also aren't traffic laws. There aren't cars there either.

A row of bicyclists and me slowly progressed ourselves across town and then eventually up the hill, though I was at the front of the row by then, in something of a rush to get home to feed the dogs since I was a little later home than usual. Generally, you shouldn't rush since rushing makes you make bad decisions, but I didn't rush too much and the bad decisions I made are bad decisions I would've made anyway. At least I'm consistent.


Rides 4/6: mice

A digression of sorts.

There are two types of people, city people and country people. This is all the types of people. I didn't make the rules, but this is what they are. You're either a city person or a country person. You either marvel at the works of humanity or you marvel of the works of nature. These are the only two things you can marvel at- again, I must apologize as these rules aren't mine, but they are the rules. (You can get quite in trouble when you try to bend the rules and ask for in-between spaces. City people in the country want the amenities of the city, but build half-cities which insult both the works of nature and the works of humanity and their hybrid nature perpetually disappoints. Country people in the city want ever more country in the city, thereby asking the city to be fundamentally different from what it is). I am, unapologetically, a city person. There's nothing wrong with being a country person, but that's not me. [I wandered around an REI yesterday and my confusion/apathy/terror confirmed this.] And this is good because I live in a city.

Aside from being a city person, I am a bike commuter. Maybe I'm a bike commuter because I am a city person. I would think that I would commute by bicycle if I lived in the country, but I don't live in the country, and if I lived in the country, perhaps I would climb on my bicycle each day and take off down some dirt road by a dale and a stream and some wooden fences and I would marvel at the glories of nature and its bounty of trees and flowers and grasses and small woodland creatures and I would make my way through nature, exultant, choosing the bicycle as the means by which I would transcend distance. Or perhaps I'd find that very boring because beautiful things can still be stultifying to one who has the wrong constitution. But the long and short of it is that I live in a city and I ride my bicycle in a city and a city is what has been placed between my home and work.

And I couldn't be luckier.

Circumstance and history and human ingenuity have conspired to put an amazing place between where I start and where I finish everyday. Like nature, it breathes. Like nature, it grows and like nature it dies. But even dying things are alive and the perpetual change, change wrought of intention and change wrought of inertia, is both the setting and the plot of my bicycle commute.

If you're lucky enough to live in a city and lucky enough to commute by bicycle, you know this. And there are maxims by which you should abide:

notice the new
seek diversion
there are no obstacles
go out of your way to go out of your way

When you drive in a city, or at least any city worth the hassle, everything's a hassle and everything's an obstacle. It was Escape From New York, not Escape In New York. Even if you're an avowed city person, driving has a way of circumscribing your trips. Cars mean freedom, until they don't. Many drivers will go off their route to get to work faster. A shortcut. How many will go off their route to feel what the baseball stadium feels like on the morning of opening day? Can you even feel it through a windshield? They don't do it and it's not from a lack of heart or sufficient attachment to baseball- lord knows many more people feel that much more in their hearts than I do- but it's a structural problem. In a city you don't take a car out of the way because it's a hassle and so you just go from point A to point B, even if you're lyrical and sentimental. Maybe you drive by the cherry blossoms and you slow down a little to go 'yup, trees' or maybe you don't because they're only trees after all and there are places to be. Turning a city into an obstacle is a disservice to your soul. "That's deep," says no one.

I think it's a mistake to equate change, which is ambivalent, to progress, which sounds positive. You can stop progress, but you can't really stop change. You can observe both, especially from a bicycle and especially when riding it everyday through a city. And what a perch! At the cost of ten minutes (no cost, really) I went out of the way to see things I wouldn't normally see and at the cost of ten minutes later in the day, I went back, but a different way still. Because I could. Bicycle commuting makes things possible. There are trade- offs; namely, you have to get yourself to where you're going through your own power, but you get used to this after a while and it's faster than walking, so if you use that as a baseline, you're already coming out ahead. I wish I could walk to work, but it would take too long.

I don't really have any good way to wrap up this post. I guess I have to, but I'm allowed to start up again tomorrow with a new one. I might go past the ballpark again or maybe down by the trees or maybe I won't and that's all right too. That's for figuring out tomorrow.


Rides 4/3: a chicken who plays checkers

There was some rain, but it was inconsistent. If it were still March, I would've complained about its lousy Smarchiness, but since the calendar changed and it's April now, this just comes with the territory. A victory for April's branding of its rain as requisite for May's flowers. Back in the day, the corporate honchos at April must've hired a top notch ad agency. It also helped that it's been warmer lately. Rain is typically more tolerable when not paired with coldness.

In the afternoon, the traditional Washington mugginess resumed, the surest sign of spring and summer yet. There are few blossoms upon which to report, though I didn't really go out of my way to find them, sticking the 21st and L and 11th and E, which are all city streets in the middle of a city and not especially verdant or bucolic. There should be more blooms soon and in the mornings of this upcoming week, I'll go out of my way to check them out.

I rode towards Union Station, but bailed before making it the whole way around Columbus Circle, taking one of the mostly closed streets towards the capital. Then, I rode into a fully restricted street, the kind I call a 'security woonerf' except it's totally unintentional. It wouldn't be very difficult for the Architect of the Capitol to change the thinking around the streets/parking lots around the Capitol to make those areas vary better spaces for pedestrians and cyclists that only sometimes need to accommodate cars and drivers rather than treating them like 24/7 car-first places, which they simply aren't. I'm not sure there is either appetite or vision for this, but it would be nice if these 'temporary' permanent security measures could adopt a more pleasing manner. But that, I guess, presupposes that idea that the AOC/Capitol Police et al actually want people to walk/bike/hang out near the Capitol, which they very much might not. Tourists and commuters incidentally traveling the grounds might be seen as a necessary evil and going out of the way to make the experience more palatable might counter the goal of 'keeping it safe.' I don't know.


Rides 4/2: Team Shorts

My day started with coffee. Well, it always starts with coffee. But there was more coffee than usual, as Jesse, who I saw riding to work the other day, and I arranged to meet this morning at a coffee shop named Bourbon, where to the best of my knowledge, they neither serve Bourbon nor rule France in an absolutely monarchical kind of way. I had an americano. I had also bought a doughnut, but I didn't eat the doughnut until after I got to work. The doughnut had sprinkles. This is super hyper-specific doughnut blogging.

After coffee I rode up 22nd street to Massachusetts and as I turned on Massachusetts, I kicked free my chain somehow. I do not recommend this. It's one of more disrupting things you can do during a bike commute, even for as minor an inconvenience it is. The problem in re-chaining isn't so much summoning the technical expertise of putting the chain back on, but coping with the grossness of fingers begrimed (yes, begrimed) from touching the chain and yanking it back into place. I managed, somehow, to get the chain back into place without gunkifying (technical term) my entire hand and really, the bit of besmirchment on what I suppose are the fingers one would use for archery (I've only ever archered once. It was in middle school. I don't recall being especially successful. I can, however, recall many lines from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, though this provides little succor) wasn't nearly as bad as it could've bin. Is it possible that I'm inadvertently keeping a moderately clean chain? Could it be? I'll have to rectify this through serial neglect.

On the way home, I unlocked a lock that was locked to a fence by an ice cream shop and put it in my bag and took it home. This was not nearly as mysterious as I might have made it sound, since the lock, a combination Bordo lock, was left for me to pick up to test out by the very good people District Cycleworks. I had mentioned my curiosity about them on the twitters the other day and Matt saw it and offered me a chance to borrow one and so, now I'm borrowing one. It's pretty great so far. I sort of really love it. Anyway, I put the lock through its paces by locking and unlocking it in a number of different locking situations (30 feet under water, in a volcano, near bears- you know, the usual urban bike commuter situations) and render a verdict that I'm pretty much already ready to render having only used it to lock up by the grocery store, which is, that the lock is pretty neat and I want one.

Were you aware the Washington, DC has a ton of car traffic? I happened to stumble upon this a few years ago and decided to opt out of participating in it by riding my bicycle to work. I am lucky to have been able to have made this choice. Anyway, it's spring and there are tourists and this means TRAFFIC! It seems to really suck for drivers and people in buses and motorcoaches, but they're selfless enough to share some of the suck with those of us stuck on bicycles or just walking by blocking intersections and otherwise taking up a disproportionate amount of space [would you call 1 person taking up a few hundred square feet of space by choosing to travel alone in a motor car proportionate? I'm not sure I would] and generally doing their best to inhibit our movement that we may experience a certain degree of empathy with their plight. Anyway, it's still much faster to travel by bicycle, even in spite of the obstacles, and the irony is that if more people traveled by bicycle, then there'd be fewer people in cars and then drivers would be able to go faster and if drivers could go faster again, maybe then everyone would quit bicycling and get back in cars again where once more they would be stuck in traffic and blocking the movement of bicyclists. It's unfortunate.

Don't look over your shoulder when another bicyclist is right behind you. If you don't do it, maybe he's not really there. If you don't look, he's not there. But he's there and you can't tell if he's trying to keep up or if he's slowed down because he doesn't want to pass you. But don't look back. It's better to not know.


Rides 4/1: Falstaff

Once again to the Post Office, but this time, troublingly untroubled as my package had arrived and I was able to fetch it without much wait or much hassle. It was a bike bag from England. I affixed it to my bike and I think it looks quite dashing. I'm looking forward to filling it with a lot of pointlessly extra stuff. Do I need to bring with me a jazz harmonica? NOPE. But will I have room for it? For now. At least before I fill up the rest of the space in the bag with my tiger's eye collection, a paperback copy of the Maltese Falcon (in Hungarian)*, four spare tubes and whatever other doodads and whatnots I can think to cram in there. Exciting times ahead.

filler up
Got to work much the same way as I did yesterday. Few troubles, or even things that resemble them. I can't say that I'll stick to the city route much longer (the Mall route really is nicer, at least so long as the museums don't start opening earlier), but it hasn't been so bad to dip a wheel back in after a time off. While I still think M Street could probably be better, it's way better than not having anything there.

Can't think that there's too much of note about the ride home, except for the one bike commuter I always see who in some ways I quite admire, but perhaps begrudgingly. He's an older gentleman on a brown Salsa and I can't tell if he's in a rush or just fast. I see him on Pennsylvania Avenue mostly. Today he was wearing wool knickers. He seems very intent. Intent on what, I'm not exactly sure, but he exudes intentness. Intentitude. He doesn't get flustered. He cuts through the air like a knife through butter. I don't know if he's ever biked through butter, but if he has, I bet it was with intent and unflappability. I aspire to such unflappability. I wonder if he knows, or if he's freaking out internally but just exuding intent and unflappability. Maybe it's natural to exude such things when you move so quick. Maybe he can't help it.

At the grocery store, I shopped with my pannier in lieu of a cart or a basket. This is good sense, as it helps me from buying more than I can carry home. Actually, this is no longer true since in my dashing too big bag from England, I have both a cargo net and a drawstring bag and maybe even a mule (it's possible). But anyway, it's not my goal to overstuff myself even though the grocery store is only a few blocks from home and I could probably make something do to get home during the few blocks. [digression: why do I keep interrupting my main point with caveats that undermine it?] So I shop with my pannier and filled it up with necesseties (cake, bacon, etc.) and checked out and the checkout guy started putting my stuff (cake, bacon, etc.) in a plastic bag. I was like 'I have a bag' and he was like 'ok' and took the stuff out of the plastic bag. But why is the default bagging action, a few years after we've enacted the bag fee, to just starting putting groceries in a plastic bag without first asking about my bagging needs? I wonder if this was a one-off (I normally do self-checkout) or if this is a common practice. And that's a whole paragraph about bagging groceries. 37th best local bike commuter blog forever.

This week's Gear Prudence is about becoming a regular (so much as any of us is regular) bike commuter. In further attempt to flog the column later this week, I plan to ask via open-ended tweet how you (yes, you) became a regular bike commuter. So, considered yourself forewarned.

*I actually own this. It's in my nightstand drawer. I do not own any tiger's eye. Yet.

Rides 3/31: Busted

I rode to the post office twice. The first ride was my mistake, having not carefully reviewed the package slip that indicated my package would be ready for pickup at 10. It wasn't when. The second ride, when it was 10, was equally superfluous as the package slip proved not to be a binding contract, but rather a suggestion as to when the package might be available. I declined a third ride to the Post Office (though I plan to go back this morning, once I'm done with writing this) and instead went up Pennsylvania to 6th to East Capitol to the normal way to work. Along the way, I saw Dave and we rode together for a few blocks and later in the ride I saw Jesse and we rode together for a few blocks. I never really expect to see people I know when I'm out riding, but with the frequency that it happens, perhaps I should. In any case, it's nice to pedal and chat for a few blocks.

After Jesse and I parted, I headed up 22nd street, which is one way and a rather haphazard street with hotels on both sides and taxi drivers zigzagging between them. It could host a cycletrack, but I don't expect it that to happen any time. North-south connectivity of the kind that would be beneficial to me doesn't really happen west of 15th street. I guess New Hampshire might count, but it tracks back towards Dupont rather than up towards Sheridan. I guess this is the sometimes cost of having a somewhat idiosyncratic bike commute. Massachusetts Avenue, a street I know well having known it some time, was fine. Even flatter than I remember, though not flat.

 The ride home was gray. There was rain. Whatever, March.

I am an inveterate starer. This is not one of my more winning virtues. In fact, I should probably not do it so much, but I just really, really like looking at faces, especially faces of bicyclists and especially bicyclists in the rain. Facial expressions vary.

"Miserable" is quite common. Second to that is what I call "grit" and then after that is "blah." Occasionally you'll see a "peeved" or "resigned" but almost never do a you a "serene." And with good reason. Serenity it hard. March rain makes it harder.

Another effect of my staring habit is peering intently into the cabs of cars that drivers have parked or idled into bike lanes. Certainly the driver must be having some kind of medical emergency as I can think of no other reason why they would otherwise be there. I would've thought that my concern for their health and well-being would be welcomed, but most of the time my stares don't seem especially appreciated. Huh.