Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I Bike - Perfect Commuting Weather

All winter long I ride to work in the cold.  It's still way better than sitting in a car, getting frustrated with delays.  I have to admit that by about mid-January I am ready for a warm day without snow or ice.  You know, the kind of day when you don't have to struggle with boots over your bike shoes, with three or four layers of clothing on your top and two on your bottom.  The kind of day when you can put on your stuff in 3 minutes and be out the door and on the road. The last couple of days have been just those kinds of days.

As bike commuting weather goes, today was damn near perfect.  It was about 60 degrees with low humidity and a pleasant wind from the northwest.  The sun was shining and the puffy clouds were cruising across the sky.  I headed out on the Sequoia totally psyched about the ride ahead.

In the winter, I tend to ride slowly to keep the wind chill from freezing me.  On a day like today, I slowed my roll just to soak the glorious weather in.  About 4 miles into my commute, I came across a man painting a piece of heaven along the Potomac River at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.  He said he loved the spot for the view and the fact that the trail bumped out, allowing him to paint without fear of being hit by a passing bike.  He seemed every bit as content with the day as I was.

The rest of the ride in was picture pretty. The cars in Old Town waved me along through intersections. Everyone I passed seemed to have a big smile on his face.  I thought about taking pictures but they wouldn't come close to capturing the comfort and calm I was feeling as I cruised along.  About a half mile from work, I crossed the Washington Channel on the Case Bridge.  The boats bobbing in the water below made me envy those folks aboard (except for the fact that I get sea sick on even the calmest of waters),  So I stopped and took another picture, lingering a few minutes to let it all soak in and delaying my arrival at the ginormous government cubical farm where I would spent the next nine hours.

After doing my public servant thing, I hopped back on the Sequoia for the ride home. Some big clouds had rolled in but they were dropping only a few sprinkles here and there. The morning's headwind was now a 15 mile per hour tailwind.  I found myself pushed along with little effort at around 20 miles per hour.  I rarely ride this fast during my commutes so this was a nice change of pace from my usual evening slog,

I was barely breaking a sweat. The humidity that makes Washington such a suffocating place in the summer had taken the day off.  As I rode through Gravelly Point, a 737 taking off from National Airport rose high over the trail. At this point the trail is several hundred yards from the end of the runway.  About 1/4 mile later, the trail passes within 50 yards of the end of a second runway.  As I approached this point, a commuter jet took off over the trail.  Right there.  Just a few feet over my head. Massively cool.

At the beaver pond south of Daingerfield Island the water seemed exceptionally low. I saw the duckings that I photographed last week paddling away in the trickle of water that remained. The ducklings were nearly twice as big as before.  I thought to stop and take a picture but my legs refused to give up the tailwind. On I rode. 

After leaving Belle Haven Park I heard the sound of emergency vehicles approaching from the rear.  This inevitably means there is an accident on the Parkway next to the bike trail. Sure enough a car had run off the road.  The airbags had deployed which usually means some part of the car hit something. The police blocked off a lane of traffic. The car commuters would have a long ride home.
 It seems weird that the car ended up perpendicular to the highway.   I decided to let the police figure it out and headed back down the trail.

Just before the trail crosses over the Parkway it connects with Northdown Road, a small lane along the edge of a very pricey neighborhood of houses along the river.  Someone was having a party with a sizable guest list.There is no on-street parking on Northdown Road, probably to discourage trail users from cluttering up the neighborhood.  The party crowd didn't seem to care. They parked on both sides of the road. Since signs prohibited parking on the street, a few drivers parked their cars on the Mount Vernon Trail. Lovely.  I wonder if these are the same folks who bitch up a storm when cyclists use their roads.

On a hot and muggy day, this sort of thing would probably piss me off. Today, I'll give these folks a pass. None of the road users seemed to care. We all slowed down and shared the narrowed pavement.  Maybe tomorrow if it's hot and muggy I can all get indignant about something like this. Not today. Let's hope it was a good party.  As for me, I still had two and a half miles to go. And it was perfect outside. June beats January any day. Today, it wasn't even close.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT blog entry, John! :) You described everything so well! :) :) Glad you enjoyed the ride home. It did rain for a few min. in D.C. when I got off work, but that was it. I kept thinking it would rain more, but instead, it cleared up, amazingly. :) I agree, a June day beats a January day anytime! :)