And People Say I’m Crazy?

Almost without fail, when the weather is bad, a non-bike commuter will look at me in my bike commuting get up and say, “You’re crazy.’ Just like “Watchin’ the Wheels.” I expect them to “give me all kinds of advice to save me from ruin.”

It’s raining today. I drove to work. My mode choice had to do with an after work social commitment in the city. (Irony alert: it’s the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s holiday party.)  It was just me an tens of thousands of other worker bees driving to work alone in their cars. On a Sunday, driving the 15 miles to my office takes between 20 and 25 minutes. Today it took an hour. Mostly I spent the time stopped in traffic looking at the tailgate of a humongous Ford pick up truck. When I got bored with that I looked over at the Mount Vernon Trail and watched the bike commuters go zipping along.

No wonder bicyclists generate so much anger from motorists. How dare they actually enjoy their commute. You should have to sit here like the rest of the world and rage at the traffic gods. (It’s not my fault that there is so much traffic. It’s the other drivers’ fault. If only they’d get out of my way!)

Traffic is a sure sign that Americans are dumb as stumps. How else could so many people be sucked in by such BS as “See the USA in a Chevrolet” and “Zoom, Zoom” and “Farfegnugen” and “Fine German Motorcar?”

My bike has “Farfignewton.” It has “Pedal, Pedal.”

The only advantage to driving to work that I can see is I get to listen to music. Today’s car tunes are Le Vent du Nord’s Les Amants du Saint Laurent and The Notting Hillbillies’ Missing… Presumed Having a Good Time. 

To paraphrase the Beatles: “Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, NO!”




The Office Bike Commuting Matrix

I work in an office of about 25 to 30 people. Several of us ride our bikes to work.

As readers of this blog know, I ride to work nearly full time. I don’t ride with ice on the roads, jet lag, or unavoidable conflicts. So far this year I have ridden one of my bikes to work over 150 times.

My boss is Mohammad. He recently upgraded from a garage sale Schwinn to a Yuba Mundo cargo bike. He uses it to take his kids to school in DC. He’s an everyday commuter.

During her recovery from hip surgery, Kelly needed to get some exercise or she was going to go insane. (Not that anyone would notice.) This summer she began bike commuting. She’s currently on bike commuting hiatus but seems on the verge of starting up again.

Kirk is a fair weather bike commuter. He rides incredibly fast for a man who is retirement eligible. A few years ago a runner on the Mount Vernon Trail did a crazy Ivan maneuver (known in football as a button hook).  He turned right into Kirk’s path. There was blood and pain. He’s now fully recovered from the crash and presumably more careful.

Charlie is a once a week bike commuter. He plans his commute meticulously and avoids riding in the dark. We try not calling him a wuss.

There is a white board outside of Mohammad’s office that has news of the day for staff.  For example, at the top it tells us the day of the week because some of the staff are, well, challenged chronologically.

Every morning a conversation evolves around who rode to work. Invariably somebody complains about something. So Mohammad and Rebecca his administrative assistant cooked up the bike commuter matrix to keep tabs. She is the commissioner.

23529133352_b4ff772f33_z The commissioner adds graphics to make things interesting. That’s actually Mohammad and his kids on the Mundo in the upper right. That’s not Kelly in the lower left. A more recent picture showed Kelly being pursued by a chainsaw murderer. There have been two homicides on her route so she has suspended bike commuting until the killer(s) have been brought to justice. What a wimp.


You either did or didn’t ride and you either did or didn’t complain. I recently was tagged for complaining (see above) after I merely observed that it was foggy. I wasn’t complaining. I was simply stating meteorological fact. Still I was recorded as complaining. I filed an appeal with the commissioner and she ruled against me. I’d appeal to a higher authority (not that there is one) but the commissioner erased that matrix the next day.

You may notice something at the bottom of the frame. It says “D.U.S.T. =   XX days.” This has nothing to do with bike commuting. DUST means Days Until Spring Training. Rebecca looked this up on the Yankees website.  I was going to protest as a member of Red Sox Nation but I felt badly. She grew up in Albany (which I can assure you is punishment enough, says this native Albanian) and hasn’t been sent for proper deprogramming yet. We’re working on it.

Little Nellie Turns 16

For the first two years after buying this bike, it made my back ache. I finally got it dialed in and it’s been a blast to ride ever since. It’s now 8 years old and tonight it crossed the 16,000 mark on the way home. One of these days I’m going to put it on a plane and go somewhere with it. In the meantime, the little wheels make me feel like I did when I was a kid.


What This Town Needs Is Later Sunsets

And that’s exactly what we are getting. The tilt of the earth and some other astronomical BS means that, although we are still losing daylight, the sun is setting later. Don’t the gods care about symmetry, goddamit?

I mean this really messes up everything. I am firing my shaman and getting a new jungle drug. My consciousness is in retrograde.

One consequence of all this cosmic buffoonery is I am leaving for work later. Subconsciously my brain says “get ready to leave” in the morning only when a certain amount of daylight is evident. I tend to leave a few minutes later each week as a result.

Sunrise at Dyke Marsh seems to be on schedule. I leave home ten minutes before sunrise and arrive Dyke Marsh just after the sun has cleared the trees on the other side of the river. My brain says, “You’re right on schedule.”


This trickery doesn’t seem to be affecting others though. Running Mom was heading north, back to Old Town this morning. All I saw was her back. Usually I see her front as she heads south along the trail. Swivel Light, a southbound woman bike commuter with a red blinky light on a pivot on the top of her helmet, was nearly in Old Town when I saw her. Normally I see her up at the airport, some 3 or 4 miles closer to DC.

Too bad Trump isn’t president. He’d declare war on Argentina to get our daylight back. They’d fold like a cheap suit by March.

On a somewhat more serious note:

I saw some surveyors doing measurements on and near the Dyke Marsh bridge. This bridge was damaged by several storms over the last ten years. The surface twists and turns a bit as a result. Most of the other bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail have been replaced over the last five years. This bridge and the beaver bridge (just north of the Slaters Lane turn off) are past their sell date. Let’s hope an upgrade is coming this spring.



To Be or To Document

One of the things I struggle with when doing this blog or when doing life in general is when to just experience the moment and when to document it. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen something that intrigued me and thought a minute afterwards “I should have taken a picture.” Had I actually taken the picture I might have missed the moment.  Perhaps the Kodak moment is inferior to the moment  of the mind.

Should I be selfish and enjoy the experience in all its spontaneity and freshness or should I stare through a view finder to bring it home?

A few months ago I was in Rotorua, New Zealand attending a Maori cultural ceremony. Members of a local Maori tribe were performing songs and dances. Mostly all I could see were cell phones and tablets held up so that the people in the ten rows between the stage and us could record the moment for re-viewing. Were they even experiencing it in the first place, in the moment that it was happening?

I think of so many moments that are pictures and movies in my head, perhaps to be lost someday to senility or some other impairment. Like the time President Reagan, rolled  by my sister, my wife, and me, in his limo, interior lights illuminated. He spotted my sister, her first time in DC, waving like an imbecile as we stood alone on the curb of Constitution Avenue only a few blocks from the White House. Reagan, forever the showman, looked our way, pointed at my sister, gave an ear to ear smile, and waved to her. There are no pictures or videos of this moment in time but it was a bona fide OMeffingG moment.

I think of running my first marathon in 1981. The wind blowing off Rhode Island sound as we made our way on Ocean Drive in Newport. It was November and I was a poor grad student running in a cotton t-shirt and shorts. I can close my eyes and smell the salt air. I can feel the chill of the ocean breeze as I ducked behind other runners for shelter. The voice of the old track coach on the side of the road “Keep it smooth. You look great.” The crashing of the waves. The subtle crown of the asphalt road that would cause me so much leg pain in the weeks after. I have this movie in my head 34 years later. So much better than seeing it on the screen. Like yesterday. The pictures are still fresh, not faded with the passage of time.

Riding on the Erie Canal towpath in 2004. The packet boats gliding by in the morning fog. People on the boats saying “Good morning” as I pedaled by at a lazy 10 miles per hour. The crunch of my tires on the unpaved path.  The serene quiet.

We didn’t take a video when my wife repeated the words “I love you” in a high pitched voice to our infant son. Impossibly, long before he would learn to talk in his own right, responded in a sing-song voice of his own: “I wuv you.”

Are we too obsessed with getting everything for our digital devices?

I am reminded of my oldest brother, a magnificently skilled photographer. He once told me that out of the hundreds of pictures he takes only a handful are “good.” How many good moments did he miss altogether in his quest for a satisfactory picture?

Without a doubt the very best moments of my life in 2015 were not photographed. The essence of these moments were not visible anyway. They happened in my head and in my heart. In my consciousness.



No Worries

So I went to be last night thinking about today’s ride to work. Not having an security ID badge meant that I would get to work and have to deal with the security people while still in my wet biking clothes.  I thought I might as well drive.

Then I repeated to myself. Relax. It’ll work out.

And I rode.

I backtracked my route from yesterday all the while looking for my ID badge. I did a few double takes along the way. Looks like a badge. No, just a business card on the side of the trail. Looks like a badge. No, just some white mushrooms.

On I rode. There were more trail users than yesterday. Running Mom, one of my regulars, was out pushing her toddler in a jogger’s pram. When I saw her coming I thought she’s crazy. As she neared I could see the pram was covered in a rainproof canopy. I smiled and she smiled back. Go Mom!

I forged on in the light rain, constantly looking about for my ID. No luck.

Just south of the TR Bridge, about a half mile from work I spotted something else, a deer carcass right on the edge of the trail. Four or five big crows were having it for breakfast. Gross.

At the Intersection of Doom I had the walk sign so I rode down the Lynn Street sidewalk, all the while looking in the street for my ID. At the intersection of 19th Street I spotted it. About ten feet into the intersection. I waited for the cars to clear and picked it up. The lanyard was demolished but the ID card itself was intact. I soon found out that it’s RFID features still gave me access to the bike room, the elevators, and my office. The picture looked a bit like a relic from an ancient civilization (no old age jokes please).


Of course, now that my picture was messed up, we decided to get me a new badge. Despite several attempts, the new badge would not open the bike room. Lucky for me my boss is a bike commuter and I could sneak in behind him at close of business.




Basic Bike Commute Math

It rained. It was cold-ish. I thought about driving to work. I rode anyway. My thinking was pretty simple. Driving to work in the rain sucks. Riding in the rain is a bit of an adventure. Adventure > suck.

I was totally comfortable for the first ten miles. Around National Airport my gloves became so saturated with water that they were useless. No worries. I had only  4 1/2 miles to go and I had packed a spare pair of gloves.

One benefit of commuting on nasty weather days is that you get the Mount Vernon Trail to yourself. From my home to the airport, I saw one bike commuter. She was one of my regulars, riding from DC to somewhere in Alexandria.  I see her almost every day. She probably thinks adventure > suck too.

From the airport to the office saw about a dozen bike commuters. Nobody looked miserable despite the soaking rain.

My only problem with commuting in the rain is the fact that it takes an additional ten minutes to get cleaned up before going to the office.

My co-worker Kelly took Metro today. I think her choice of footwear was a little bit over the top.


We took my boss out for lunch. In the rain. I was much more uncomfortable walking the three blocks to and from the restaurant than I was on my bike.

The ride home was surprisingly dry. For a day that the weatherman probably gave a 2 out of 10, I’d say the commute was a solid 8.

Except for one thing. About two miles from the office, I noticed a bulge in my rain jacket.  I had forgotten to put my phone, keys and id in my handlebar bag. I reached in and removed my phone and keys but could not find my id. Lost. I need my id to get into the bike room at the office garage tomorrow.

I could just drive in tomorrow, but I’ll probably ride in and retrace my path, in case my id popped out of my rain jacket on the way home tonight. The smart money is on it being in the bike room.

I’d normally be upset about losing my id, but it actually gives me an excuse to turn my bike ride into a search and recovery mission.

Adventure > suck.