2/27/15

Rides 2/27: inches and feet

Goodbye, February. You're like the Columbus of months and I am the Roth of local bike bloggers, except not in any way whatsoever. Next commute is March and March is, after April (though before, April, really), one of the cruelest months for bike commuting, so looking back on February, including this morning's ride, I think we can say at least it was consistent. Consistently awful. But at least the month was short. Short like a Roth short story.

Let us record today: Short ride to coffee and from coffee down through FoBo and up through Georgetown and whatever alleged neighborhoods are north of Georgetown. In the most basic typology of DC, everything west of the park (the park being Rock Creek, as if you didn't know) is Georgetown, either Georgetown proper or some variant of Georgetown with a cardinal direction and if it's not Georgetown, it's either Arlington or Maryland as you've found yourself no longer in the District. Factually, this is not a true assertion, but it's much easier to explain DC this way. I think also that Georgetonians would like this, as it's aggrandizing. This morning, riding up Wisco, a street in Georgetown Georgetown (which is what we call the core part of Georgetown) I noticed that opposite the block with the CVS and maybe the half a block before and the half a block after, there are a lot of stores that sell men's suits and I couldn't help but wonder how they fare, given how men don't wear suits as much anymore. It amazes me that so many distinct suit shoppes can remain in business, but perhaps I misunderstand the market for suits and really, it's quite thriving and there's nothing dandies and fops and Beau Brummell-types enjoy more than traipsing up Wisco during business hours frequenting the various suiteries there along. But again, I could be mistaken and it might be just a soon-to-be barren retail strip that valiantly rages against the dying of the light. Beats me. I'm just a bike commuter.

We're nearly in the post-snow phase of winter and it really couldn't come sooner.

Sometimes on 21st Street on the way home, and for reasons I can't explain, a driver will just stop in the middle of the block. It's not at a stop sign or a red light or anything. It's driver catatonia and it's strange. And as a bicyclist, I just ride around him and then I count one Mississippi and two Mississippi but before I get to three Mississippi or maybe just right afterwards is the first honk of the driver stuck behind him, he of the catatonia. It's happened more than once, so I suspect there's some kind of anti-driver nefariousness going on or maybe the people along the block just like calling for Ubers and so the Ubers arrive and so the Ubers wait, blocking as much of the lane as a car can block, but not blocking so much that a bicyclist can't pass.

L to 15th to Penn and there are faster ways home and I should take them, but I don't. I think I like riding past the outskirts of the White House complex and then past the JAWB and tonight, at least, past a wide variety of passive police presence (I suspect some protest was planned for this evening?) and along the few blocks in putative cycletrack instead of along 11th and it's not-so-fun bike lane. The roads were salty.

I didn't go home right away, but to the Argonaut, a restaurant, which is where Benning Road meets H and Maryland Avenue meets 14th Street and I rode up Maryland Avenue, which is a lovely fin-de-siecle century grand boulevard that has been bastardized to meet mid- and late- 20th century LOS, or at least that's how drivers see it and so I saw drivers, more than one, pass me within a foot because WE MUST DRIVE OUR CARS HOME AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE and with little regard to the people on the road not attempting to do the same. At least only one of the few drivers that passed me within a foot was on the phone. Progress, I guess.

Then, after Argo, it was 14th home and then I was home. Bon weekend, everybody. See you in March.

2/26/15

Rides 2/26: hot rain falls up

Snowed this morning and they delayed the start of the work day, but by the time I left, after the first two blocks of my road, the roads were a little wet, but not in any way snowy. There was snow on the paths by the Washington Monument, but the NPS cleared the path by the World Ward II Memorial and I thought 'great! The Park Service is finally getting the hang of clearing snow. They were able to successfully dispatch one inch of fluffy stuff!" And then Rock Creek.



Again, just barely an inch. The inch, however, obscured the patch of ice that wasn't cleared last week. That made for fun. I only slipped once, having spun the back wheel on a patch of ice and then I tumbled towards the railing in the picture, losing balance as the front wheel turned, but I righted myself by holding the rail and didn't fall into the icy river. How very boring of me.

Up Wisco and subjected the various driver impatience. Let's talk, impatient drivers. If it were as easy for me to ride uphill at 35 miles per hour as it is for you to rotate the steering wheel directly in front of you a few degrees allowing you to move over into the otherwise empty left lane, I'd do it. But it's not. So maybe you should try the changing lane thing. I promise it's not that bad. You can even move back once you get around me. I won't even be mad.

The morning snow had the curious effect of melting some of the ice from last week (it must've been hot snow. Weather is truly mysterious) so the bike lanes I encountered on the way home were clearer than they had been all week. Before I could get to these bike lanes, the ones on L and 15th and Pennsylvania in particular, I had to ride down Massachusetts Avenue, where I found myself stuck behind one of the infrequent N buses and in front of another infrequent N bus. Apparently, they decided to be simultaneously infrequent today. Massachusetts Avenue would probably be called an arterial if you're the kind of person who believes in calling roads such silly things and even though there was a left lane into which I could theoretically try to pass the bus, passing the bus was also the priority of many drivers in their many cars being driven at much speed. Here's my generalization about bicycling in a city: the roads shouldn't allow speeds that scare a bicyclist from changing lanes to get around a stopped bus. I think if we followed that general maxim, we'd have much better cities. Also, I wouldn't have gotten stuck behind that bus.

U-turns or plowing has led the first casualties of the parking stops installed on some blocks of the Pennsylvania Avenue.


They tried. 
I guess I think a lot about the destructive power of cars mostly because I spend a lot of time around them and it's a bit of a preoccupation. Also, because #waroncars, I guess. But maybe you don't think a lot about them as much as I do (or maybe you think about them more), so consider this: think about how much destruction you see on a daily basis that is caused by cars. How many knocked over signs. How many knocked over posts. How many busted curbs. Like, I don't mean the mundane wear and tear, but stuff that's been crushed, trampled, bashed, or otherwise damaged from sheer power and momentum of a misguided metal object. Pay attention next time you go out. Marvel if you dare not quake.

An aside: when we visited Mostar in Bosnia, we got stuck there because the bus from Sarajevo got there after the bus to Dubrovnik already left and we ended up staying the night, though that wasn't the plan. No one in the bus station spoke English and we didn't have any kind of Slavic except for a few stray words, but one woman who worked there spoke French and so does the Official Wife and she called her parents (I think?) or maybe just some friends and we ended up staying in a private room in a house in the hills above the city and I remember sitting on the porch and looking up at one of the wall on the outside of the house and it was pocked with bullet holes, as were many of the other outer walls on many of the other houses nearby. I was shocked, but I doubt the people who lived in any of those houses thought the bullet holes were especially remarkable as it'd been some years since the war had been over. It's easy to become habituated to the mundanities of mild destruction.

2/25/15

Rides 2/25: this is going to autotweet

Strange parabolic commutes that swung wildly from carefree and mundane to oddly tense and fraught and back again. One second it's a dawdle in a wide open lane and nothing but daylight and the next it's a taxi from two lanes over and the next it's a gloved middle finger, extended, and the next it's nothing but room and relaxed pedaling and insouciance. If the relaxing moments weren't so relaxing, the stressful moments would have been too stressful. It was just a weird one, both on the way in and on the way home. All bike commutes have the potential to be really good or really bad and some bike commutes have the potential to be alternatively both.

I rode down the House side of the Capitol. The House is the worst. Their driveway is ok, I guess.

I had hopes that the marginally warmer temperatures would succeed in melting more ice than they did. It snowed on Saturday. I think the efforts to clear the snow ceased on Sunday. The snow remains on Wednesday and will continue to remain for the next couple of days. It's bad in some bike lanes, but where it's worst of all are at the curb ramps. I watched from across a the way a woman with a stroller and two young children walking beside the baby she was trying to push all struggle to get over an ice patch and I thought 'yup, we definitely can't do any better than this.'

It's a really bad thing when you accidentally bump into a driver's sideview mirror. I should've just waited instead of trying to squeeze past to make a right turn. I should've just followed my own advice. I gave a friendly little 'sorry!' wave, but I didn't turn around to make eye contact with the driver. Maybe I should have. It was just the tiniest glance but people really, really, really hate it when you touch their cars. So try not to do that. And be better at not doing it than I am.

******************************************

For the past 48 hours (which is not at all a substantial amount of time, but definitely seemed like it), I haven't been on Twitter. I lack the willpower, wherewithal, and desire to continue my fast. I've learned a few things:

1. I am surprisingly dependent on twitter for learning things about the outside world. Facebook doesn't do as good of a job at that, especially given the singularity of my interests. I pretty much felt totally in the dark and since I really prefer not to be totally in the dark (even when I think that maybe I should be). It's kinda funny because somewhat incidentally, though maybe not really, I took a Strengths Finder career thing (you get desperate for things to do when you don't tweet) and it turns out that my 'strength' is something called "Input," which means something like 'perpetually needs to soak up information or will explode.' And yeah, I think that's about right.

2. I might've kicked twitter, but that didn't stop me from constantly looking at some screen. Admittedly this is a problem, but this is a different problem from constantly being on twitter. And not being on twitter does nothing to fix that.

3. Willpower: I don't really have it. I mean, maybe I have it about other stuff, but I think I don't have it about this. Make of that what you will.

4. I could still interact with people through Facebook. I did that. I appreciated having conversations with the same people I interact with on twitter on a different platform. But it didn't feel the same. I don't know why. I think when you're a constant tweeter and a rare FB-er, posting on FB seems so... consequential. Yes, that sounds trite. SO trite that it should be a tweet and not a sentence in a blog post. Also, my Mom told me that my constantly updating Facebook was annoying her. So there's that too.

5. Twitter is great. I like the way I use it and I like what I use it for. It is an abundantly useful tool and there's really no reason not to use it. I think my twitter follower/followee Eric Budd gets it right: Twitter is the city. And I prefer the city.

So, yeah. That's that.

2/24/15

Rides 2/24: melt already

They give bicyclists a smidgen of road and it happens that stretches of that smidgen are still occupied by ice and the pace of ice removal is (what else?) glacial and you could and should feel bad about that. I got the Ogre with the understanding that the only thing that would prevent me from bike commuting would be my decision not to bike commute and not outside factors, such as ice-covered smidgens, and so I set out this morning in my winter get-up and with my rubber winter boots (I stepped in a puddle yesterday and my foot has yet to thaw) and rode through the cold and over and around the ice and for that was that, for the most part.

I took my own advice and stuck to the roads today. My reward for this was impatient drivers. I really do try to be charitable and understanding towards drivers (it's not always easy to understand what your actions look like from the perspective of outside the metal box), but I find that snow and cold makes me less charitable. "Give me a break!" I want to say, but I don't say because I'm more or less just trying to get out of the way. There's less way, to either get out of or get in, thanks to the snow and ice and I tend to feel myself more exposed than I normally do as a result of riding maybe 18 inches farther from the curb than I normally would. Little distances can make for big differences.

What else is there to say? I don't know. Some ice might melt tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that.

Routes:

East Capitol --> Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House --> Pennsylvania Avenue ---> M Street --> Wisconsin --> stopped for an everything bagel with cream cheese at the Open City by the National Cathedral --> Massachusetts

Massachusetts --> 21st --> L --> 15th --> Pennsylvania --> wrong way up the Senate side of the Capitol grounds --> East Capitol

2/23/15

Rides 2/23: vacation over

I suppose I neglected to mention that I would be away for a week and when I was away I failed to mention that I wouldn't be blogging as I'd have no bike commutes to blog, but now I'm back and have bike commutes to blog, or at least today's. It snowed a few days ago and since the snow hasn't all melted, it means that there's still plenty of it in bike lanes and in the other marginal places where one tends to have to ride a bike when there are no bike lanes. Ice itself isn't so bad- I really like it in drinks!- but ice on city streets where one tries to bike isn't really the best and so the rides in and home weren't the best.

I took the Mall route and then made the mistake of riding up the Rock Creek path, when I could've instead ridden on the two empty lanes of the Rock Creek Parkway which are left fallow during the morning commute. From what I know of medieval agricultural practices (surprisingly little given how many stupid empty fields I've had to walk through on the way to monastic ruins or some castle in the middle of a sea of nowhere in the middle of a nothing country), you're supposed to leave lanes fallow that the road has time to regain the nutrients needed to let the traffic grow again. Anyway, Rock Creek Parkway is four lanes from the Mall to the Kennedy Center and the two northbound ones are blocked off to all traffic, but instead of riding on that empty stretch of pavement, I went for this:




One of the times I stopped to take one of these pictures, an oncoming runner stopped to assure me that the ice wasn't as bad once I got to the next intersection. Thanks, helpful runner! Anyway, taking the trail was a foolish idea and I should've known it was a foolish idea because it's always a foolish idea. I wrote a peom about it:

after the snow, ride where cars go
where only bikes, nothing but 'yikes!'

Like all poetry, it's true.

I did stick to the streets on the ride home and on the parts of those streets that weren't set aside for bikes, there was plenty of black top. In the bike lanes, there was plenty of ice. I would've had a hard time blaming any downtown cyclist for riding on the sidewalk, where there was also no ice. Though I don't think I saw anyone riding on the sidewalk.

Less than ideal

In other news, I'm taking a twitter sabbatical. I love twitter. It's pretty much the way I interact with the most people- bikey people, DC people, #bikeDC-y people and otherwise- and it's the way I consume most of my news and information from the outside world. So, in all likelihood, I'll probably miss it and I'll probably miss things. But that's ok. I'm just feeling a bit of fatigue and a whole lot of dependency, so in the spirit of ceasing the exacerbate those feelings, I've deleted the app from my phone and made it so that it doesn't pop up on my browser when I first log in. What I'll do with all my newly found free time (over the next few days?), I don't know. Probably play some Sudoku.