7/22/14

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

7/21/14

Rides 7/21: Scandalous Cupcakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/18/14

Rides 7/18: Arbogast

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

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

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

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

7/17/14

Rides 7/17: Bithynia

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



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

I saw these girls at Vermont and R:


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

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

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

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

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

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

7/16/14

Ride Home 7/16: Talking Magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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