Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bike to Work+ Day

I approach Bike to Work Day with some trepidation much like W. C. Fields approached New Years Eve. When asked why he doesn't go out on New Years Eve, he said "I don't like to drink with amateurs."  And so I am not thrilled about the prospect of interacting with hundreds of newbie bike commuters.  At the same time, I am really thrilled to see so many people out and about, discovering how you can turn your commute from an expensive hassle into an inexpensive fun time.

On Bike to Work Day organizations set up pit stops for bike commuters where there is music, food, and free stuff.  I left my house at 6:15, 45 minutes early to allow time for hanging out at the Rosslyn pit stop which is only two blocks from my office.  The weather could not have been better.

I was expecting to see bad biking behavior, broken down bikes and other un-fun stuff and I was not disappointed.  At 3 miles, just before jumping on the Mount Vernon Trail (MVT) I saw a bike commuter with a thrown chain. I would have stopped to help but I figured he could get chain lube all over himself just as easily as I could so I rolled on.
Cyclist Approaches New Wilson Bridge Detour

At the Woodrow Wilson Bridge I encountered a work crew. They are working on the renovation of the adjacent Jones Point Park. They are constantly installing detours in the MVT. Not one of them has been safe for riding.  Guess what. These knuckleheads pick Bike to Work Day to install another detour. This one a sharp "S" curve at the base of a hill. To make things even more interesting they used stone and dirt for the surface. I wanted to hit them on the head with my frame pump but the workers are not at fault. The contractor and the City of Alexandria (a certified Bicycle Friendly City, no less) are to blame.

I made it through the detour and rode down South Royal Street..   I stopped at the Alexandria pit stop in front of City Hall. After chatting with some volunteers I rode on. Only hours later did I realize that I could have filled my panniers with free stuff (you can never have enough water bottles, you know).
Old Town Pit Stop

The MVT was busy but not too crazy. It was, after all, still before 7 a.m.  As I approached the airport, I saw a man walking his racing bike with a flat front tire. Dude, bring a tube and a pump. A couple of minutes later, for the second day in a row, I was passing someone when a bike rider came up behind me really fast and yelled "BIKE LEFT!!!"  To which I loudly responded, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!" with all the sarcasm I could muster.  Note to Lance Armstrong Jr.: it's not a velodrome. I do not care if you kill yourself, but I'll be damned if you are taking me with you. If you want to ride your bike recklessly at 20+ miles per hour get off the path and out on the road with the big dogs. If you ever do that again to me, I will do to you what the Cinzano team did to Dave Stoller. I have an extra frame pump so its no skin off my nose.

End of screed.

I arrived in Rosslyn and did a full sweep of the swag fest scoring a t-shirt (my umpteenth BTWD model), 2 water bottles, a bell, some sun screen, a bike pin, a super nice reflective vest, and a banana and half a bagel.  There was no coffee. (I did get a 3-ounce cup an hour later.)  Note to organizers: coffee is to bikes as money is to politicians.  We need lots and lots or we don't run.
Vuvuzula and Paparazza

I ran into Ed and Mary who stopped in Rosslyn because they regard it as the best put stop. They live in Southwest DC and work downtown so it's almost comically out of their way. They have a tendency to ride their bikes a lot.  Ed was wearing his Paris-Brest-Paris reflective vest which he earned by riding a tandem with Mary over 700 miles in 3 1/2 days.  This is what happens when they eliminate funding for nervous hospitals.  Seriously, they are very nice people; you'd never know they are cycling and coffee addicts.
Ed and Mary in Caps from Nervous Hospital

Speaking of politicians, they never let a gather of constituents go by without grabbing a microphone and making a speech. Jim Moran, my Congressman, rode to the pit stop and made a speech about how cool it would be if the MVT was widened and extended to Chain Bridge. Sadly, the Tea Party austerity fanatics are cutting all bicycle-related funding from the transportation bill.  Better MVT, not bloody likely,
Ed Getting His 1,000 Bicycling T-shirt

There were all kinds of people milling about. Photographers taking pictures of each other, a guy with a Penny Farthing, three guys dress up as superheroes riding unicycles and a miniature bike through the crowd.
Here Mary, bagel in hand, is stalked by paparazzas

Ed and Mary headed out to Swings coffee to top off their commute with caffeine and conversation, a bike commuter together that they started called Friday Coffee Club. I hung out for a while longer. Laura, another Coffee Club regular rolled into the pit stop and I chatted with her and her entourage of male cyclists. I was beginning to think that the Rosslyn thing was just a ruse for the official BTWD Laura Pit Stop.  I admired the mixte Raleigh that she designed and put together. It made the Mule look sadly mule-like and down trodden. As usual I forgot to take a picture of it. The Mule thanked me later.
BTWD Vuvuzula Wake Up Team

I waited a while longer because my friend Florencia had told me she was coming to hang out. She's getting ready to leave the country and is very busy so - as I later learned - she overslept.I will see her tomorrow anyway.
Here Congressman Moran gets my autograph as my stalking paparazza looks on
Not content to stalk me with still cameras, this bloke put me in his video

After a super slow day at work I left for the second leg of my three legged commute. My daughter's high school spring choral concert was at 7 so I rode up (and I do mean up) Wisconsin Avenue to Cathedral Heights.  I love, love, love the National Cathedral. It was extensively damage by an earthquake last August but is now open even as repairs take place. (You can donate to the repairs here.) I stopped there briefly before heading on for some food.  After riding another mile I realized that I really wasn't hungry and doubled back for her concert at the Maret School just east of the cathedral..
The Mule and the Cathdral

The concert was excellent (as usual)  and the crowd was especially exuberant as this was the final concert of the director of the school's  musical department, Jim Erwin. Jim is leaving after 25 years to start a music program at a school for underprivileged kids in New Orleans. What a gutsy thing to do. 

After the concert I grabbed a cookie and rode down into Rock Creek Park  in the dark. I haven't ridden in the dark in a few months and I haven't ridden the goofy Rock Creek trail in the dark in a long, long time. I took my time and made it through the curves and bumps in one piece.

As I approached the Lincoln Memorial two small lights appeared ahead, a fox hanging out on the trail. He walked off and turned to take another look at me.  I think he said, "Dude" but my fox-ese is a little rusty.

On Ohio Drive I had the southbound lane to myself. The northbound lane was filled with in-line skaters gliding along in the dark.  They stretched our for about a half-mile.  The ability to use all this park land at night is another part of DC that I love,  The skaters and I were dodging tourist buses left and right as we passed.  These buses are like lumbering prehistoric beasts.  I'd swear they were feeding off the trees along the road.

I started my day riding along a busy MVT but my day ended with the MVT nearly all to myself.  I passed a few people watching the planes at Gravelley Point.  Blinded by headlights as I approached the George Washington Parkway I heard a blast from a whistle. Out of the headlights came two kids on  small bikes. No lights but a whole lot of noise and enthusiasm.

I worked my way through the crowds in Old Town Alexandria.  It was a beautiful night and the streets were packed.

After making my way through the detour of death at the Wilson Bridge I was back on the MVT for the home stretch.  I nearly ran over a couple dressed in dark clothing walking on the trail near Dyke Marsh.  I saw another fox dart for the underbrush. Then I stopped to check out the Morningside bald eagle nest.  The eaglets were nestled all snug in their nest. I couldn't see any movement so on I rode, spotting a rabbit bounding into the undergrowth along the trail.

A mile from home on the  treet I spotted my third fox of the night, this one a kit scampering into a drainage pipe on the side of the road.  We've noticed a decline in the local rabbit population; my wife thinks the foxes are eating bunnies.

I arrived home after 38 1/2 miles of commuting at 10:30 pm.

I walked in my door and started talking to my wife and daughter. My daughter was late for her 1st period chemistry test this morning.  It took her forever to get through the traffic in Rosslyn because of "all those damned bikers."  I had warned her to leave early but did she listen. NO.

Fortunately for her, her chemistry teacher, Mr. Walker, is one of the many Maret teachers and staff who bikes to work.  Sometimes those damned bikers are pretty understanding.


  1. " cool it would be if the MVT was widened and extended to Chain Bridge..." His mouth to God's ears as they say. Oh, wait. Separation of church state.


    I'll make brownies for the MVT Widening and Extension bake sale.

  2. I think bike to work day is kind of fun, even with all the occasional commuters. It's kind of like a moving look back in time, like "I remember when I was like that". I feel like I've come so far.

  3. Was nice to meet you (I was part of Laura's "entourage"). Didn't realize you were the world famous Rootchopper when we met!

  4. I like the sound of my own official pitstop! ;)