Sunday, October 18, 2009

Steady Rollin'

First, a few pics, since formatting pics with blogger is a giant pain in the ass. I only have these four because my camera kept getting wet and fingers went numb.

This is one of the rest areas. This one was on the GW parkway. They had a nice selection of slightly damp pastries, which you can see one rider enjoying. Or regurgitating. Hard to tell.

This is a view off the GW parkway. Normally its gorgeous. Today it was just soggy.

My warrior bike.

The registration area. Everyone is bundled up and excited. And dry. That will soon change.

It was a very cold, rainy morning when I woke up at 6am yesterday, which is pretty much what I expected. I don't own any fancy rain-gear. My commute is only a little over a mile so I'm never in the rain for more than 15 minutes or so. I don't mind getting a little wet, especially since I change into dry clothes when I get to work anyway. My usual outfit is a few layers plus a sweatjacket when its cold/wet. This is what I wore yesterday. Big mistake.

This is what I wore:
Base layer: Underarmor long-sleeve shirt, cycling tights, wool socks.
Next: blue jean capri's, t-shirt, another pair of socks.
Top: Doc Marten boots, sweat jacket, scarf, hat (w/ear flaps), helmet, gloves.

When I rode to the registration area I was nice & warm, if a little damp. It was a gray, dreary day and it kept many people away. There was still a good number of riders though. I saw all kinds of bikes: tandems, recumbents, trikes. No tall bikes though. I got my t-shirt & bib. This is the only part that was a little disappointing. Usually at races/events, sponsors have a good amount of free stuff to give away. There was nothing here. Not even some coffee/donuts, or any food at all. There were a few booths, but they just offered some bike maintenance help (air, lube, etc). I know that this event had to cost alot for the sponsors (they shut down quite a few major arteries in DC for 4 hours, and that required ALOT of police officers on OT), but it still would have been nice to get something besides a t-shirt that I paid for.

The kick off started off on time. And since there weren't so many riders, there wasn't much of a wait.

We started off by going around the Capitol building, then to the White House, and then over to Mass Ave to ride up Embassy row. It was right around here that we had our first taste of the hills they had planned in the route. We ended up taking some small back street, and it was a pretty steep climb. I actually had to stop and walk part of it because by this time my jeans were soaked and I couldn't bend my knees that well. I was still warm though. I got to the top of that hill, turned the corner and....another hill. Rode up that one, and then was directed by the volunteers that the rest stop would be to the right....up another hill. ACK. What kind of cruel joke was that? But I got to the top and was greeted by water, bananas & soggy fortune cookies. I happily gulped down a banana, and got on the bike again.

I want to take a moment and tell you how impressed I was with the volunteers. They had the hardest job of all. They had to stand out there on the course, in freezing rain, and BE CHEERFUL. And they were. I couldn't have done it. They must have been miserable, but they didn't let it show. And they were out there for hours. Just standing. We at least were moving, so we kept the warm blood moving. I was highly impressed.

Anyway, the course went back towards G-town and the Key Bridge. Pretty views of the Potomac and Rossyln in the background. Or it would have been if it weren't so dreary & gray. We got onto the GW Parkway, and that's when the cold started to kick in, especially in my feet. Doc Martens are supposed to be waterproof. They lie. Then again, *everything* was soaked. My bag was soaked, my socks were soaked, I was convinced my iphone had croaked by now (I use the mapmyride app on my iphone to record the course). My gloves were soaked. My hair had started to freeze.

The GW Parkway is beautiful in the fall. Unfortunately, the weather made what would have been a pleasant, scenic ride into a cold, hard slog. All I could think of was to keep wiggling my toes in my boots, and how nice it will be to sink into a nice warm bath at home.

We rode up to Ft. Marcy, and turned around and came back. Then it was off to the Iwo Jima (hurry hurry hurry, cold cold cold), the Air Force Memorial (nice, I've never seen this before. Wish I wasn't so cold so I could take a moment to appreciate it), and then by the Pentagon to head down 395 to Crystal City, our final destination.

I was never so happy to see a Finish Line in my life (except when I ran the Marine Corps marathon. Now that was an exercise in misery!). I was so cold & numb by now. They had a whole festival set-up, which was a pity because most of the riders just wanted to huddle inside the restaurants & coffee shops. There was barely anyone outside to enjoy everything they had set up. They had the traveling bicycle museum, a DJ, and lots of vendors (selling more crap. Can't I just get a free decal or something???). I dropped by bike off with the bike valet (a great service that WABA puts on), and wandered into the shops looking for someplace to warm up. I found a Carribou coffee and settled in with a hot chai tea latte. Heaven. I slowly peeled as many soaked layers off as I could to see if I could get them to dry at least a little before I headed back home.

My original plan to get back home was to bike it. I could take the Mt. Vernon trail back. If it had been a nice day, I would have. But I was just too cold. I decided to metro back. Luckily the station was only a few blocks away.

Anyway, I sat in Carribou coffee and thought about what I would have done differently. First, I probably would have skipped the ride if I didn't have any appropriate rain/cold gear. If I had a decent rain jacket/pants, I probably would have enjoyed it much more. So I either need to invest in some rain gear or skip riding for long periods in the rain. Second, I would have brought a change of dry clothes with me, especially socks and gloves. My messenger bag turned out to NOT be waterproof, by the way. I should have wrapped everything in plastic. Oh well.

Other than that, it was a blast.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bike DC.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Biking DC

Tire pressure? Check.
Chain lubed? Check.
New batteries in camera? Check.
Clothes ready for tomorrow? Check.
Helmet/gloves? Check.
Registration proof? Check.

Tomorrow morning I'll be up bright and early to participate in Bike DC. I promise to take lots of pictures.

It's going to be cold & wet, which is unfortunate. It would be nice to have a sunny, fall day.

I managed to not buy a pack of cigarettes today, but I did bum a few from some coworkers. That's not going to work for very long. I have a box of patches that I picked up a few months back, but I hate using them. Maybe after being away from work for 3 days this weekend will make it a bit easier.

Unfortunately I did have to spend a few bucks today on lunch. I ended up on an assignment with a coworker and I wasn't able to stop at home like I usually do. So it was lunch on the go. He also convinced me to pick up a box of Reese's pieces cereal, so I got that too.

Lunch: $10.77 (sandwich + soup)
Cereal: $3.79

Bike Miles:

Obviously, I need to bring my own sandwiches and soup to work!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cold Wet & Rainy.

I get asked many times, 'what do you do when it rains'? The answer is, I get wet. I don't mind getting a little wet & muddy. It's not the worst thing in the world. The problem with riding in the rain isn't getting wet, it's the unpredictability of car drivers. For some reason, bad weather brings out the bad driving.

I didn't get to do any work-related riding today, so instead I watched the drivers on the road. It's amazing how unwilling people are to just Slow Down, even a little bit. So many people have zero patience. I watched one driver lay on his horn for 15 seconds continuously because he was annoyed at having to spend that 15 seconds waiting for a taxi-cab discharge his passenger. (By the way, what is it with car drivers and their horns? Do they not understand that honking will not magically clear up traffic jams, and it only serves to further grate on the nerves of those that are probably already annoyed by the jam?) A whole 15 seconds. Mind you, he then had to wait for a full two minutes at the end of the road anyway to clear the intersection at a stop sign. Was it worth it? I'm sure those 15 seconds it took to rush to the stop sign were very important.

Why is everyone in such a rush?

In yesterday's post I mentioned a quick list of expenses. Today, I'd like to explore ways of cutting back on costs (and consumption).

The first to go are cigarettes. I don't even like smoking, but I'm an addict. I really do want to quit, and not just for the cost. Today I bought a pack of cigarettes. They cost $7.49. That's $52.43 a week (assuming I buy just one pack a day, which is not always the case.). $224.70 a month. $2,733.85 a year. Yikes. So no more cigarette buying from now on.

The second area I need to look at is dining out. This includes snacks & meals at work, beer at the bar, and pizza delivery at home. I want to limit my dining out options to no more that $40 a week. I think that's do-able.

This starts tomorrow.

The rest of the stuff I'll work on later.

Today's costs:
$7.49 pack of cigarettes (goodbye!)
$23.35 pizza delivery (plus tip)

Total: $30.84

Bike Miles:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I'm not anti-car. I'm really not. I don't hate drivers, automobiles, or the "car culture".

I've never owned a motor vehicle in my life (I'm 30 now). I never needed to. I have a driver's license and I know how to drive. Some parts of my job require me to operate a motor vehicle. But I've never had one of my own.

When I turned 16 and got my driver's license, I simply drove my parent's car. When I turned 18 and moved to an urban area, owning a car would have been prohibitively expensive (car payment + insurance + gas + parking) and pointless since there was a decent mass transit/taxi system. So I didn't.

After college, I stuck with the un-car mentality, since I still didn't need one/couldn't afford it. I looked for jobs that were accessible by mass transit. If I needed to go further, I got rides from my friends or rented a car. A few years down the line, I bought myself a bicycle and now use that as my primary means of transportation. I'm also a zipcar member for those rare errands that would require a vehicle. It never occurred to me that I was making my life more difficult by not having a car. I didn't feel that I was missing out on anything, since I have no knowledge of what I'm missing.

I say all of this only to explain my point of view. As I said, I'm not anti-car. Some of my best friends are car drivers/owners. It's just that I've never had to understand it. When I talk about commuting to and from work on my bike everyday, its not from the mindset that I had to 'give up' something. I'm not choosing between driving to work and riding. I just ride. If I need to run errands, I keep in mind that I can only get what I can carry. It never occurs to me that other people think otherwise. In 2005, when everyone was aghast over the price of gasoline, it rarely made a blip on my radar. I never came from a 'car culture'.

Speaking of 'car culture', I don't see it as a strictly vehicular phenomenon. I assume 'car culture' to mean the behavior of motorists that is entitled, self-involved, dangerous, thoughtless, wasteful, etc. I don't believe this is strictly related to motorists, however. I've encountered plenty of pedestrians & cyclists that also fit that behavior. It's a culture that exceeds that of the motor vehicle.

Tonight, I made the decision to obey all the traffic laws while operating my bicycle. That meant stopping at lights & signs, and riding in a predictable, lawful manner. I will admit that I don't always do this. My justifications for ignoring traffic regulations are myriad: I'm running late, I don't want to lose momentum, there's no traffic, it's raining/snowing, I'm safer than everyone else, blah blah blah. But tonight I decided to see what it would be like to hold myself accountable to the same standard of everyone else on the road.

Note: I don't ride and text/talk on my cellphone, I don't bike salmon (ride the wrong way), I don't drink coffee or other hot beverages while riding, I don't listen to my ipod with both ears. There are some behaviors that even I can't justify.

And you know what? It was fine. I probably wasn't more than 30 seconds later that I normally would have been. And it was cold and rainy and I did not melt or break out in spontaneous hypothermia. It was relaxing.

I realized that I wasn't behaving any better than my 'car culture' counterparts and that I was using the same tired excuses as "they" were. I just believed that I was better because I was a cyclist and the rules didn't apply to me, because I'm the exception to the rule.

Anyway, the whole idea behind this introduction is that I'm not some sort of bike-elitist or snob. I don't automatically believe the motor vehicles are evil, polluting, consumerist symbols along with their drivers. I do believe that we all have a lot of work to do in that regard. BUT, if you do see me start to get anti-car, please understand it's not a judgement, so much as a lack of understanding. I love my bike. I've never been a car owner. My world view is colored by those two things.

The whole reason I'm starting this blog isn't to wax poetical over my bike (I do love it. I love it so much that 90% of my career involves biking). I'm not going to preach the dangers of consumerism or global warming, even though they are noble causes and will probably be touched on here.

No, the reason I'm blogging is that I'm broke, and I need to find ways to live more simply/cheaply. Biking, of course, plays a big part of that. So does recycling/re-using. Living more healthily. Etc.

So were does my money go?

Let me break it down:

Rent: Huge, giant, over-proportioned part of my paycheck.
Cigarettes: It seems like every week they are raising the price.
Eating out: A meal here and there really starts to add up.
Cable: Do I really need HBO on demand?
Phone service: I love my iphone....
Impulse purchases: I know when I went in to the bike shop it was just for some lube, but those lights are pretty, and that water bottle, oh and I need new gloves, and I should get some new tubes......

Tomorrow: what I'm going to start cutting out/back.

Spent today:
$1.39 for a cup of coffee.
$1.50 for a bottle of soda.

Miles Biked: 5.3 (cold rainy day).