Just Another Fed Up Boy on the MVT

I rode my inland route to work today. I was going to work from home but the lack of rain in the morning suckered me in. I took this route because the National Park Service refuses to plow my regular route, the Mount Vernon Trail. The inland route makes us of 3 bike trails in Alexandria City as well as a a trail that runs along the edge of Arlington National Cemetery. All of these trails were plowed and are in good shape.

As usual the ride in was fun. I especially like passing the big back ups of cars at traffic lights and stop signs. (I am careful to keep an eye out for opening car doors and abrupt lane changes when I do so.)

A funny thing happened as I waited for a red light at West and Duke Streets in Alexandria. I was on West street facing north. A bike commuter rode to the west on Duke Street through the green light. This exact same bike commuter rode through the light as I was waiting on Monday and Tuesday. What are the odds of that happening?

I made it to work with a smile on my face. I didn’t even mind climbing that last annoying hill near the Netherlands Carillon.

In the evening it was raining. I didn’t feel like fighting traffic in Rosslyn to get to my inland route so I headed to the Mount Vernon Trail. It was finally cl

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The MVT in the Rain

ear all the way home. This is not because the National Park Service, which maintains the trail, shoveled it. It is because nearly all the 20 odd inches of snow melted. This took over a week. Furthermore, one short section of the trail was still clogged with snow except for a narrow path shoveled by a couple of bike commuters.

I made it home without incident but decided that waiting eight days for snow to melt is unacceptable. The Mount Vernon Trail is a major commuter route for hundreds of people. So I wrote to my three members of Congress:

“The Mount Vernon Trail is used by hundreds of bicyclists as a commuter route in the DC area. I have been using it to get to work for over a decade. The National Park Service maintains the trail, but, unlike other local jurisdictions, refuses to plow the trail after snow events. The bicycling community has complained for as long as I can remember and still the Park Service has not lifted a shovel. This past week some bike commuters actually took shovels to the trail to clear spots with particularly large piles of snow. I would like you to please contact the Park Service and tell them to stop making excuses and start maintaining the trail during the winter.

I greatly appreciate the fact that the Park Service does an outstanding job of clearing downed trees and fixing damaged bridges on the trail after non-winter weather events. So it is especially troubling to see the Park Service neglect the trail after snowfalls. Your intervention in this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

Today the Park Service announced that it is willing to sit down with stakeholders and begin discussions on how to clear the trail next winter. I have a better idea: National Park Service get off your asses and clear the trail this winter. Just as you clear the GW Parkway that runs right alongside it. No more excuses. No more delays. The status quo is simply unacceptable.

If you are a bike commuter in DC, especially if you use the Mount Vernon Trail, please write your members of Congress.

 

Not a Bad Start

For all the time I spent shoveling snow, I am surprised that I covered as much ground as I did this January.

  • 10+ hours of snow shoveling, including 15 minutes today to liberate my bikes
  • 1 hike on the Billy Goat B and C trails to start the year right
  • 446 miles of bike riding
    • 10 on Little Nellie
    • 105 on Big Nellie
    • 331 on The Mule
    • The Cross Check took the month off
  • 10 bike commutes for 301 miles
    • 9 on The Mule
    • 1 on Big Nellie

I probably gained 10 pounds because of beer and junk food. It felt like it yesterday when every mile felt like and ordeal, but today’s 26 mile jaunt was much easier.

On my ride today, I found a new pizza and beer place. To celebrate the end of January, Mrs. RC and I will check it out. It’s tough work but somebody has to do it.

 

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Fancy Pants Bike Parking

My office building in Rosslyn has been showing some love to bike commuters. First they removed the dim florescent bulbs in the garage and replaced them with LEDs. Now I can ride into the garage with my sunglasses on. In fact, I might even need them.

This week we got a peek at the new bike parking facility. It’s activated by the same card key security system as the rest of the building. You have to register with building management to get your card upgraded for access to the bike room. It has space for 20 bikes, 18 hanging and two on an inverted U rack on the floor. It also has a bike pump and tools.

The old bike parking was lame. (At my previous job the bike racks were the same as my elementary school’s. I went to that school in the 1960s. I am not entirely sure if the racks at my current office are any better.) A bike commuter had her Cannondale road bike stolen earlier this year. Here’s what it looked like. (That’s Little Nellie on the right.I took the pump off the frame because someone stole a similar pump off The Mule earlier this year.

Bike parkingThe new bike room is more better. Here you can see one half of the hanging bike rack and the U rack on the floor. The pump is on the lower right.

Bike Room

There was an opening day card key problem. Once they activated your card for bike room access, they deactivated it for access to the gym and showers. I’m sure they’ll get it all sorted out soon.

October by the Numbers

I didn’t cover nearly as many miles this month as last. Of course, last month I was on a plane going around the world and rattling about Australia and Asia. This month I rode 594 1/2 miles. 331 1/2 miles were aboard Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. Another 88 1/2 miles covered while riding The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Sequoia touring bike, to and from work three times. The rest of the mileage was from weekend rides aboard my new Cross Check.

I rode to work 14 times and did one 67-mile event ride, the Great Pumpkin ride.

I also did two hikes: one in Great Falls Park in Maryland, the other in Prince William Forrest Park in Virginia.

For the year, I have ridden 6,263 1/2 miles. About half that total was on The Mule. Another 2,500 miles were split between Little Nellie and Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. My Cross Check now has 541 miles on it. I’ve done 135 bike commuted for a total of 4,127 miles.

I’m trying to pace myself. Honestly.

The Sartorial Perils of Bike Commuting

Like everything else in life, bike commuting involves risks. You just don’t know what’s around the corner. It could be a runaway garbage truck, a dog off its leash, a cop with a ticket book, or any number of other dangers. One risk does not present itself until after you arrive at work: the sartorial shortage.

Over the years I have forgotten my underwear, my shirt, my belt and my socks. Today I forgot my socks. Since my biking socks were mostly black and I didn’t have any meetings to look presentable for I just used them. I didn’t have to because I have a sartorial back up plan.

I have stashed a change of clothing in my office. Since I am only going to wear this stuff once or twice a year they are not my finest threads but they’ll do in a pinch. So think ahead. You don’t want to go to that big meeting with your client. She might frown upon your lycra business shorts.

Perils of bike commuting. #forgotmysox

First Freeze for a Buff-less Wonder

I knew the cold was coming. A few days ago I foraged around the house for my cold weather gear. My favorite piece of cold weather clothing is a tube of light-weight fabric called a Buff. The damned things are remarkably versatile and they are perfect for late fall and early spring weather. They also have one annoying characteristic. They disappear like odd socks in the laundry. And so my remaining black buff was nowhere to be found.

So I ordered three of them from Buff world headquarters in ironically warm Santa Rosa, California and hoped the package gods would smile down upon me and get them here before temperatures dipped into the freezing territory.

Hope, as they say, is not a plan.

Today, buffless, I did battle with the first frost of the season. I am happy to report that I emerged victorious. No noo-noos were frozen. The only discomfort came during the first three miles from home as by body heat became trapped in the three layers I wore on my upper body. In fact, the only parts of me that remained at all uncomfortable were the lower half of my face and my neck. This is where the Buff normally does its magic.

Despite my cold face and neck, I fell into a comfortable trance on the way to work, my legs fresh from having not ridden yesterday.

Temperatures rose about 25 degrees during the day making for a more comfortable ride home. There must be something about cool dry air that allows my brain to shut down into a meditative state. Or maybe it’s just the fact that the summer nimrods (who make long stretches of my summer commutes on the Mount Vernon Trail a sort of slow-speed bike slalom) were nestled all snug in their Metrobuses.

Somewhere near the airport someone headed for DC said hello. Being in my trance the voice didn’t register in my brain for several seconds making responding politely futile.

The rest of the ride home happened. I know because when I ca22326715851_78b3e50773_zme to I was putting my bike away. Somewhere in there I lost about 45 minutes of my life. There must be a wormhole just south of the airport.

At my front door was a big envelope. Inside were my three new Buffs. This time I bought them in an array of colors so they won’t blend in with all my other black outerwear (like tights and arm warmers and gloves).

So I suppose you can say my next bike commute will be in the Buff.

They Say It’s Your Earth Day

It’s my Earth Day, too, yeah.

Except I didn’t realize it was Earth Day until I got to work and saw it plastered all over the interwebs. It’s one of the interesting paradoxes of riding a bike to work every day. I don’t listen to the radio much. I’m a bit disconnected from the latest outrage or pop fad. I don’t know what music is popular either. “You’ve heard of [insert popular artist’s name here].” “Nope.”

I don’t listen to tunes or podcasts on my bike. For two reasons. If I am listening to tunes or podcasts I might not hear that bus or garbage truck that is about to roll over my two-wheeled ass.  Also, if I listen to tunes or podcasts I’ll miss out on the sounds of the critters, of the rain water gurgling down to the river, to the wind blowing through the treetops, to the self-generated breeze blowing across my ears.

Today was my 42nd bike commute of the year. I stopped to watch the sun reflecting off the river. I stopped to wonder who ate yesterday’s Canada goose carcass leaving only some feathers to remember it by.  (I learned today that bald eagles do eat dead animals so it may be that my top-of-the-food chain friends have started varying their diet away from Potomac River fish.)

Gone goose on the #MVT

I don’t ride to work to save the planet. It’s a nice little bonus but it is way down my to-do list. I ride to work because it’s fun, because it calms my mind and feeds my soul. If you think this sounds nutty then you don’t understand the bigger picture:

Teacher: What do you want to be when you grow up.

John Lennon: Happy

Teacher: You don’t understand the question.

John Lennon: You don’t understand life.

Bike to work. Be happy. Oh, and happy Earth Day to you.

Morning on the #MVT

Dang, It’s Spring

Yesterday was opening day in DC. Other than the fact that the Nationals have a shortstop who can’t field for shit early in the season, it went well. So 0-1 means we’ll just have to settle for a 161-1 record.

I went to a get together last night at a brew pub in DC. I am slowly learning that the concept of craft beer and my enjoyment of craft beer are not in sync. I had two beers and neither did much for me. Also my inability to remember names presented itself. When you can’t remember the last name of the person who invited you you’re in seriously deep social yoghurt. So if you see me at a social event and I call you Kate and you’re female don’t take offense. I figure the odds are about 1:3 that I get your name right. Also, if you give me a fritter I am infinitely more likely to remember your name for some mysterious reason. Dr. Pavlov, phone home.

I drove home from last night’s festivities in a good mood despite the memory glitch. I proceeded to get lost and ended up somehow in Trinidad, which is a DC neighborhood not an island in the Caribbean. This does raise the interesting question: Why isn’t there a DC neighborhood named Tobago? I shouldn’t make Trinidad jokes because one of my bestest bike mechanics is from there (the island, not the city). And one of my favorite #bikedc people whose name I recently forgot is from there too (the neighborhood not the island).

I made it home under a full moon unscathed by the scary drivers on 295.

This morning it looked like I might be dealing with rain so Little Nellie got the call. She was feeling forgotten. We rode briskly as I had fresh legs from not riding on Saturday or Monday. (I am participating in the 25 Days of April riding event. It’s lonely but somebody has to do it.) I spotted a young deer, probably a yearling, trotting through a wooded neighborhood park near home. Trees here and there had blossoms. Birds were making a racket. I wore shorts and t-shirts (still layering in fear of a surprise attack from winter). The ride in was pretty damned splendid.

At Gravelly Point I stopped to help a bike commuter with a flat. He’d been riding on the rim for several hundred yards. If you are a bike commuter and do not look like Kate Upton, you should carry a tube and a pump. (Kate Upton is followed by horny men in lycra who will buy her a new bike if she has a flat or even when she doesn’t.) You might also think about buying a new tire every decade or so. Spring for the kind with a kevlar belt so you get only one or two flats every 5,000 miles. Since Little Nellie’s tires are, well, little and Mr Flat’s tires were big, I didn’t have a tube I could give him. We tried pumping up his tire but the leak was so big that the outflow from the tire exceeded the inflow from the pump. Mr Flat said he only had a half mile to go so I decided not to waste 20 minutes messing with a patch. I hope you had a nice walk, Mr. Flat.

The evening bike ride was pretty darn splendid too. I took the 14th Street bridge into DC to check out the cherry blossoms. They were not yet at peak but a worthwhile show nonetheless. After two laps of the Hains Point circuit I headed for home.

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On the way home I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and take Fort Hunt Road instead. I made a left turn onto Fort Hunt interrupting a steady stream of right hand turning cars. I had no choice really. I was stuck in the intersection when the light turned red. One of the cars that I cut in front of was driven by a nice young lady who gave me the finger. It must suck to be her.

Even such rude behavior could not ruin such a lovely ride home, however. With fresh legs I rode up three hills on the way home with no difficulty at all. Spring will do that to you.