8/30/14

Rides 8/29: Negotiations


One is faced with limited options upon encountering pasta and broken glass strewn about the inside of a bike bag, and even fewer when not armed with a parmesan grater and a comically oversized pepper mill. The scene:



This was the aftermath of a fall earlier in the ride, a fall that I though had solely resulted in minor embarrassment and not a major loss of lunch and the besaucement of what I had planned to wear to work. At a red light on Pennsylvania, I had realized that I had strayed too far into the crosswalk and as I tried to scoot myself backward, I lost my balance and down I went. I laughed. It was kinda funny. Slow motion falling down on your bike bears virtually no resemblance to slow motion as depicted in Brian DePalma or John Woo movies. It's undramatic. I didn't realize at then that the fall liberated my rotini. In fact, it was hours after the discovery of my pasta mishap that I recalled my falling down again (prior to getting to work, I told some people about it, laughed and promptly forgot) and finally put it all together. Initially, I had thought it was my u-lock, also in the bag, that broke the container after riding over a pothole. That seemed dubious at the time, but it was my working theory for a number of hours. Anyway, think twice about the following things: 

1. Using glass containers 
2. Bringing lunch to work
3. Falling down
4. Riding a bicycle 
5. Leaving your house ever/preparing and eating food

I think this is the first time in years of bike commuting that I've dirtied work clothes with food, much preferring to soil them with coffee. That's just so much more efficient. Ultimately, this really wasn't the biggest deal. I was able to get most of the glass and food out of the bag fairly easily and had a back-up shirt in the office ["in case of emergency break glass" is more like "in case of broken glass energency"] and had yet another "funny" happening in my bike commuting life to turn into a blog post. If next week's posts are lean, I'm thinking about "unintentionally" exploding something with a cream sauce. You don't get to be DC's 37th most popular bike commute blogger without resorting to gimmicks occasionally. That's just the biz. You can either try to consistently write something interesting or spill your lunch with hilarious results. BRB- gotta stir my bolognese. 

Friday's commute, aside from the falling down part and the pasta surprise, was one that I shared for a small part with friend-of-the-blog Rudi, who was off his bike due to injury for a long while, but now back and we rode G to Virginia Ave and up through Georgetown to around Wisconsin. It's been a long recovery for him and it's no small joy to see that he's riding again. I don't know how well I would cope if injury kept me away from bike commuting for a prolonged amount of time, but I can tell you one thing: it'd be good for my glassware budget. 

Riding home was probably fine. I can't really remember any details, salient or otherwise. Oh yeah, I stopped at the bike shop and looked around for a little while and bought a bike tool that I needed (a spaghetti strainer) and some new brake pads and I rode home on E Street past The United States Tax Court, which is probably just like the 80s sitcom Neight a Court except during the day and only about tax law issues and maybe without as much Markie Post, but I haven't checked her IMDB or anything, so maybe she's some kind of Tax Judge now, so who knows really. 

8/28/14

Rides 8/28: Fax number on your business card: weird or not?

Is it still Thursday? It's been Thursday forever or so it seems. Thursday is, without a doubt, the (second) worst day. It's not the end of the week yet, but tantalizingly close. It's enough days into the week to solidify a judgment (a negative judgment perhaps) on the week's overall tenor (Pavorotti stars in the Green Acres opera?) without yet being able to fully escape that week, so you have to sit through the whole day knowing that the week has been, on the whole, not a great one, but you've still got enough of it left that you can't really do anything about it except muddle through, knowing no matter how good the next few days might go, the week will still be, on average, what Monday through Wednesday rendered it already. Thursday is the day you envy people taking even longer long weekends. Thursday is the day you want to be Friday, but isn't Friday. Thursday taunts. Thursday is fake accomplishment, like a perfect attendance award or Miss Congeniality or a Master's degree they give you when you drop out of a Ph. D program. Today was Thursday and still is. 

I got stuck behind a man today who refused to take his turn at a flashing red light. He was on a folding bike and I suppose I can understand his trepidation, but driver after driver tired to wave him on and he demured, but cyclists behind us rode through and we just both waited. He waited because that's what he felt was necessary to do, probably because of safety (or perhaps a misunderstanding of the law) and I waited because I will, in virtually every case, defer to the judgment of the cyclist in front of me, even when he's wrong. A man must have a code, and all that. Eventually he went and I went and the past was history, as the past tends to be. Anyway, my general advice at flashing red lights is to turn turns, but with care. That's my story. 

I've been riding on paths more lately and there's a certain kind of path user who travels down the center of the path, and not on the right side as is customary. This person is the Marcia Brady if path users. I am Jan. Some other people are Greg, Peter, Bobby and Cindy and you [yes, you!] are Alice. In conclusion, maybe don't travel down the center of the path? 

School's back and the crossing guards are back. That we need them isn't great, but they they're there is. 

Massachuseets Avenue, which I take on the ride home, has been dug up for utility work lately and there are some rather "fun" divots every so often. A smaller tired bike might not fare as well. 

L Street to 15th and then Pennsylvania, where a driver told me she liked my shirt, which is a pocketed Road a Holland bike jersey. I also enjoy its pockets. I keep things in there, like a mama koala. Along with my keys and phone, it's also where I keep my mama koala similes. Ample room in there, like in a kangaroo pouch. 


8/27/14

Rides 8/27: Tiny Top Hat

Another week and another Gear a Prudence. Many thanks to the question writer for writing an amazing question. Some more thoughts on owning more than one bike: 

1. Bikes are like Lay's potato chips. They are greasy and delicious and when you tilt your head back and dump the crumbs into your open mouth, it's best to do it with a door closed. Also, hard to just have one. 

2. Unfortunately, you (generally speaking, unless you're an acrobat) can pretty much only ride one at a time. This will lead some people in your life to ask why you need more than one, since you can pretty much only ride one at one time and aren't all bikes pretty much just the same anyway? The mature response to this question is to shove your fingers in your ears and yell a loudly "I CANT HEAR YOU." Oh, you wanted a mature response? Never mind. The mature response is to fake a knee injury and writhe around in the floor until an ambulance spirits you to safety/superfluous surgery/medical bankruptcy. 

3. There's all kinds of formulae involving N, where N is a number related to the number of bikes your partner might abide before they launch you into the ocean with a trebuchet, but I don't think that's really always the best way to assess the proper number of bikes you ought to have. You might have an overly kind partner whose love for you let's you take ad tante of then and pile bike after bike into your studio apartment, even when you shouldn't. That's really not fair. Take advantage if their love to rent a storage locker! Way better than tripping over a bike on the way to the coffee maker in the morning. 

4. Only buy bikes you love. If you fall out of love with a bike, even a little, sell it. Ask for money and not magic beans! Amateur move that. Sold bikes bring joy to new owners. Don't be a bike hoarder.

On the way home, I ended up behind a fellow bike commuter who apologized to me for not knowing where she was going, but unbeknownst to her, I am a sometimes helpful person, and so I helped her navigate (and led her since I was going that way) from the end of the L Street Cycletrack to the beginning of the Met Branch Trail. Two things: 

1. She might've been a plant. Not a ficus or anything, but it's awfully convenient that I have this whole giving advice to bicyclists gig and then a of the sudden a real-life bicyclist asked me for some advice. 

2. I've written about this before, but it is a MASSIVE problem that there is no good way to bike relatively directly and unfetteredly from downtown to NoMa and parts north and east and amplifying the worstness of this, there aren't even good signs to direct people on the kinda bad ways to get across town. We ended up riding on K (I believe I asked "are you ok riding the wrong way down this street?" Sorry!) and around Mount Vernon Square and K again, but I'm not sure had I not known how to get there, we would've been able to figure out on the fly how to get there. So, yeah, that's a problem. I wish wayfinders would a) know that bicyclists exist and b) assume bicyclists know nothing about anything. I know I certainly do. 

Anyway, she was very nice and it's kinda fun to provide real-time GPing to real-life people. Being unhelpful is overrated. 

I bought milk at Aldi. There's a view of the Capitol from Maryland and 17th NE that's very nice and not a few of the Capitol I've seen very often. 

I bike down 14th and was behind a guy who chatted to some women in a car at a red light. They knew each other and were all going to the same place. He said that it was likely he'd beat them to the BBQ they were all heading towards (even though he had to go pick up his mail at his old place) and then said that he'd beat them there and eat a hot dog before they could eat a hot dog. Then he caveat-ed with the guarantee that he would certainly eat a hot dog before them if they're vegetarians. World-class caveat-ing, sir. 

8/26/14

Rides 8/26: Milestones and Minestrone

At every decision point with my bike commuting lately when the binary choice was either "be more comfortable" or "go faster," I've elected for the former and I think to generally good effect. This works well on most days, as I rarely put more of a premium on the few minutes I might save by trying to go faster, preferring much more to make the time I do spend on the bike to be an overall more pleasant experience. But sometimes I do want to try to go faster, though not necessarily because I'm in any particular rush. Sometimes it just feels good to try to make a bike go fast. Not just for the speed either. I mean, you could go fast by taking Southwest from Baltimore to Kansas City, but the swiftness of commercial air travel rarely evokes the same kind of joy that pushing a bike slightly faster can bring, even though it's orders of magnitude slower in actuality. 

One of the benefits of bike commuting that I sometimes forget amidst my paeans to its practicality and inexpensiveness and all that boring stuff is its physicality. You feel it. And when I mashed my way up the hill tonight and I stood up and I looked a fool because I wanted to outpace 3 cyclists on the other side of the fence (one of whom had a bike polo mallet) and stomped and wheezed, it felt so *right* to be temporarily ensconced in a burst of uncharacteristic effort. 

8/25/14

Rides 8/25: Rotisserie Turkey

I work in education. Today was the first day of school. School is, for the most part, about learning, but the other side of that is teaching, and while I don't teach, I think about teaching and learning a lot since that's the kind of business I'm in, though somewhat obliquely. 

I rode behind a guy on Pennsylvania Avenue and the cycletrack is built in such a way as to precipitate conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians. What cyclists see as the bike lane, pedestrians see as the crosswalk and refuge, and both groups are right and wrong and neither and both and it's all because of the bad design and unclear markings and it's no one's fault in particular, except for the people who designed it and the politicians who compromised a better design and the subsequent people and politicians and inertia that keeps it from getting better. But it's really not the fault of the users- the hand was dealt and we're all just playing the cards. Anyway, I rode behind this guy and as we approached an intersection he saw some guys standing in the bike lane/crosswalk and he yelled. It wasn't a "hey! I'm coming through here so I just want to make sure you see me, so look up so we don't inadvertently collide" (these kinds of yells are pretty common and fairly anodyne and I think I have enough of an ear for them to know what they sound like and what aren't them), but more of a "hey what the hell are you doing you morons! Get out of the way because I'm coming through and you better move or else" (but that's more of a supposition and even if that wasn't the kind of yell this was, I've heard enough of these kinds of yells to know that they are common enough and real and true enough to be sufficient for the basis of this story, even if this is not exactly what exactly happened this morning). In short, the guy on bike was pissed and wanted to clear the way not because of concern for an imminent collision, but because he didn't think those guys should be in his way at all. 

It's a pretty common thing in a crowded city for people to think that your not being somewhere would be better than your being somewhere. Having overly strong opinions (and the means to realize them) about who should and shouldn't be where is basically the story of all of human history. Forget class struggle- it's not liking your neighbors that drives the dialectic. 

You know how when you're a little kid and there's a hot stove and you reach for the hot stove and maybe a parent whacks away your hand or maybe a parent doesn't because the hot stove'll teach you a lesson about curiosity or cookery or something? 

The problem with commuting is that too many people want to be hot stoves. I shall be the conveyor of lessons. I shall teach you not to transgress. I shall be the means by which you learn proper behavior. I will inflict upon you a cost for your misdeed. You will learn by me. 

Truth be told, I don't see a lot of bicyclists doing this. I think the position of relative vulnerability mostly precludes it, but yelling to intimidate a pedestrian and thereby "teach him lesson" about standing in the bike lane is a thing that happens, and that's hot stove-y. More common, unfortunately, is the driver looking to "teach a lesson" to a fellow driver or cyclist or pedestrian by honking or tailgating or passing too closely or giving a "love tap" or doing some other horrible anti-social thing that's meant to both reinforce dominance, but also serve a pedagogical benefit. Learn the lesson, don't repeat the mistake. 

Remember when you were learning your times tables and you thought 7 * 8 was 42, so Mrs. Fogel got into her Hona Accord and angrily honked at you until you got 56 instead? Good times. 

I think what I've learned from working in education, though obliquely, is that there are many paths to learning and barely any of lessons are taught by hot stoves. To want be one, is, I think, to miss a larger point about teaching and learning. But maybe that's the point. 

***

I took the trail home today and rode along the river and then through SW to the store and then up into SE and to the back of a church in an alley where I met my chutney dealer and then I biked about 10 blocks more and was home.