Monday, June 25, 2012

Saving Muffy and Chad

Big Nellie was awoken from her three-day slumber a little after seven this morning.  She was ready to rumble but three days off the bent had robbed my legs of their bent energy.  The ride in was a bit of a slog as a result.  Not that it was boring. The good folks at VDOT saw to that.

A detour blocked the ramp that I normally take to the bollard farm at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge underpass.  Instead, I rode down the apartment access road that runs parallel to the ramp.  This used to be a named South Street before the new bridge was built. The first step in that process was to take down one of the three apartment buildings and knock out South Street. This seems like it happened a lifetime ago, but it was only 13 years ago.

When I reached the bottom. my only choice to access the underpass was a dirt transition back to the base of the ramp.  Curiously, this very transition had been removed late last week.  The previous version was tamped down and rideable. Transition 2.0 was an accident waiting to happen, especially for my recumbent the front wheel of which is lightly weighted and prone to sliding out.  The construction crew had neglected to tamp the dirt down so that it wouldn't support the weight of a bicycle. Having been treated to many, many other incompetent detours in the past, I slowed to a stop and then walked the transition.  I wonder if VDOT would ever consider doing this sort of thing on a roadway.  I'd love to see motorcyclists pushing their bikes through loose dirt, say, on the Beltway. 

Anybody care to crash?
Having survived the detour, I made it under the bridge and encountered an electric sign. The sign was aligned toward the underside of the bridge at the end of South Royal Street so that no car driver could see it. It was intended only for bicyclists. "Stop at All Stop Signs" it said in two alternating flashes. Thanks for the update and the insult.

I rode through Old Town with its typically light summer morning traffic.  Pedestrians quivered with fear as I approached stop signs at my usual 10 miles per hour or less.  "Run for it, Muffy!" Chad called as he cowered behind his Volvo in his plaid shorts, button down Oxford shirt and sockless Docksiders.  "Oh, Chad!  That bike looks fearsome. Pour me a Dewars!"

I was really tempted to turn this sign around.
I managed not to hit any of the high and mighty denizens of Old Town. but I did manage to watch about 90 percent of the cars roll through stop signs from one end of Old Town to the other. I suck at physics, but I am pretty sure that a Mercedes SUV at 8 miles per hour will exert a whole lot more hurtin' than a bike at 10 miles per hour.   I do believe the difference in force is 6 or 7 fold.  So, maybe they should move the sign to King Street, the main drag of Old Town, for the remainder of the week to even things out. Sadly, this would probably slow Chad and Muffy down as they both drove their matching Mercedes SUVs to their environmental law offices two miles away.

Nothing else pissed me off on the way to work.  In fact, just north of the airport, the Park Service was removing the remains of the tree they cut down late last week. I would hate to be in bicycle advocacy around here. Some jurisdictions are pretty bike friendly. Others are downright hostile. And within the National Park Service there are small groups that are complete neanderthals (some of our Park Police officers could star in  a Geico commercial) and others are downright enlightended (the tree crew cleared the tree that fell across the path within hours).

On the way home, karma ruled as I was treated to low humidity (mighty rare here in Camp Swampy) and a blustery tailwind.  Bicyclists blew by me (most of them calling out their passes for a change) and I just cruised along breathing as if I was sitting in my office.  The fairing on Big Nellie was catching the wind and propelling me along nicely. At one point as I was cruising along at 18 miles per hour, I could hear the theme music from Jonny Quest all around me.  Okay, maybe it was a rogue earworm, but wasn't that Race Banner on a Trek that just went by? When I reached the Wilson Bridge an additional detour was available and I avoided the dirt transition altogether. Maybe the construction crew has finally given up trying to kill me. Or maybe tomorrow they'll just attack me and eat my flesh. Stay tuned.  

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