Sunday, September 26, 2010

50 States Ride

(The app I use to map out my rides was acting wonky. It missed the last 5 miles of my ride, and didn't record correctly in the beginning. Still, this is the route, more or less.)

It actually ended up being a "46" states ride for me, since I skipped the last 5 miles of the route (and rode the 5 miles home instead).

The day started out perfect. It was warm, but not too warm. Sunny & not humid. I had a good breakfast, filled my water bottle and threw a bag of dried dates in my bag for a snack. Lots of riders gathered at the starting area. Betty received many compliments, and I couldn't wait to get started. We were given our cue sheets, and I probably should have been worried when it was 4 pages (double-sided) long!

The first 2 hours were a lovely breeze. The course was relatively flat and scenic, winding downtown and around the monuments. There were a few places I narrowly missed a turning, but I managed to get back on track. I even caught a quick history lesson from a fellow rider around the Tidal Basin area. I never caught her name, but she was a walking riding encyclopedia of DC knowledge! I arrived at the first pit stop optimistic.

Oh, if only I could have bottled that feeling!

The next segment of the ride was more challenging. Whoever designed this part of the route is a masochist, because there were some pretty long and steep hills back to back! Betty was not happy. She can do steep hills (slowly) and she can do long hills, but steep AND long? Nope. At one point I had to walk her up the last part of a hill because no matter how hard I mashed down on the pedals, the cranks wouldn't turn. Being a 50lbs 3-speeder has its drawbacks.

It also didn't help that the temperature was quickly rising. According to the weather report, it reached a high of 93 degrees. At the end of September, that's insane! This part of the ride became a blur in my memory of miserably climbing hills and fun downhills. Before I knew it, the lunch stop at Eastern Market was before me! I was super thirsty, but not very hungry. I refilled my water bottle and grabbed an ice-cold lemonade to go. I had a few bites of my lunch burrito (which was delicious), but I was getting too hot to feel hungry. I didn't want to end up throwing it up on the route.

The next segment of the ride was much slower for me. I was really feeling the heat and it was a *long* way before the next rest stop.  There was a small group of riders that seemed to stop and wait for me every so often. I'm not sure if they did that on purpose or not, but I'm still grateful to have had some company at that point.

Right around the 50 mile mark, I began to fall apart. I was nauseous, over-heated and beginning to become disoriented. I could feel the salt on my skin. I knew I was losing too much sodium, and fears of hyponatremia* began to take root in my mind.

I barely made it to the final rest stop (which was packed up and gone by the time I got there). I had to stop several times and sit to avoid vomiting along the way. I knew I was in bad shape. I kept taking wrong turns and by the time I got to the rest stop area, I knew it would be stupid to try and finish the route. I was 5 miles short.

Instead, I turned Betty towards home and rode (very slowly) the 5 miles back to my place. Once I cooled off in some air-conditioning and gulped down some gatorade, I started to feel better. I took a quick cat nap and had a giant burger & fries as a celebratory meal (riding for 7 hours will make a girl hungry!)

So, even though I didn't officially hit all 50 states, I still consider it a success. My cyclometer read 66.6 miles rode that day!

Next year I think I will either use Betty to do the 13 Colonies ride, or use a "regular" bicycle for the full 50 states ride. I will also pack more snacks and water/gatorade! The water stops were spaced very far apart, and despite being in DC, the ride went through mostly residential areas and there was little opportunity to buy additional water & food on the ride. Also, hopefully the temperature will be more comfortable too.

Thank you, WABA, for another fun bike event!

* A friend died 5 years ago from hyponatremia while on a bike ride. Hyponatremia was a condition that was still relatively unheard of, and his fellow riders mistook it for dehydration and encouraged him to drink more water. By the time they recognized he was in severe distress and an ambulance was called, he was already slipping into a coma. I am keenly aware of the dangers of hyponatremia and how quickly it can set in. It's just as important to get that sodium in as it is water! That's why I was getting worried when I could feel the salt on my skin. It meant I was losing sodium at a rapid rate.


I love riding over bridges

The Big Chair

66.6 miles...

I have a video of the ride too, but I'm still editing it. I will post it as soon as its done.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Yards Park Moonlight Ride

(full post to follow soon)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hey You! Have you made the pledge yet?

Tomorrow (September 22nd) is Car Free Day!

Have you made the pledge yet?

Well, hurry up. You could win some sweet prizes too.

Do it. Now.

Rent a Capital Bikeshare bicycle.

Take the day off, and Bike and Roll the sights!

Take the Metro.

Ride the bus.

(Wait, do buses count as cars?)




Just leave that car in the driveway!

(Even if you are already car-free, you can till take the pledge and be eligible to win prizes!)

Is 30 minutes enough?

Generally, yes. Even with obeying all traffic regulations, I was able to go from the Waterfront area to Columbia Heights in about 30 minutes, without breaking too much of a sweat. And that included stops to take photos along the way.

This is the route that I took today. The "end" sign is where I stopped to dock the bike at 5th and K and take photos.

As long as you return your bike to a docking station, rather than locking it up elsewhere while you run an errand, I don't think that keeping within the 30 minute timeframe should be a problem at all. Even if you take up to an hour to get somewhere, its just a $1.50. That's a total of $6.50 for a single one-hour trip if you purchase a day-membership ($5 membership fee plus $1.50 trip fee). How much would it cost to take a cab for an hour? A heck of a lot more. And given the choice between walking 10 blocks from a metro stop to my destination, and riding 10 blocks, I'd take the ride.

Do you think the bikeshare program is affordable and convenient?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Capital Bikeshare launch

The Capital Bikeshare system launched today with an event at Tingey Plaza. I volunteered, along with hundreds of other folks, to ride a Capital Bikeshare bicycle to a bike station. So much fun!

At the ungodly hour of 9am, I blearily contemplated how I was going to travel to the event. Normally I would just ride my trusty bicycle to the event and back. However since this event involved riding a separate bicycle once I arrived to Tingey Plaza to a bike station at 5th and K St. NW, this presented a bit of a conundrum. I would have had to find a way back to Tingey Plaza once I docked the bike at the station at 5th and K St. NW.  Hmmm....if only there were some sort of bicycle borrowing system that I could use to get from point A to point B without worrying about....oh wait. Right.

In the end, I decided to park Betty at the DCUSA Mall parking garage (it's good for something, at least), hop on the metro to Navy Yard and walk a short bit to the Plaza.

I was greeted by 200 shiny red bikes!

There were a few times they got accidentally knocked over like dominoes...

There was a lot of standing around, waiting and picture taking. I met quite a few interesting folks. Unfortunately I've already forgotten most of their names, ha! Everyone was geeking about bikes though.

After the press event (Eleanor Norton Holmes, Fenty and other illustrious folks spoke at length about the present/future of cycling in DC), it was time to roll out. I found my trusty steed...

Mine was special, just like everyone else's...

After a few minutes of seat height adjusting, we were a wobbly start. And why does my butt hurt? I will say that these bikes do not have the most comfortable saddle. The seat post can be adjusted, but not the angle. And that led to some interesting sensations of slipping off of it at times. The bike rides pretty well. It's an upright bike, and it has 3 speeds (just like Betty).  Lights are already installed, and it has a basket w/ bungee cords in the front. It's not a bike you would want to take out for a leisurely ride around the monuments. It isn't that comfortable (besides, that's what Bike and Roll is for!). But if you want to get to an appointment without having to hail a cab, wait for a bus, or walk 15 blocks from the nearest metro station, this system will come in handy. It's designed for quick trips, not sight-seeing.

After a nice ride along the Penn Ave bike lanes, my group (go 11!) arrived at 5th and K to dock our bikes at the station. Docking proved simple. Just push the front tire of the bike into the docking station until the light turns green. Done!  A very anti-climatic end to a big event. 

5th and K St. NW bikestation

I was planning on hopping on the metro at Mt. Vernon and taking it back up to Columbia Heights to pick up Betty, but then I figured I might as well give the bike sharing system a try. I could ride up to the station at 14th and Park and that would put me right at DCUSA Mall. I inserted my bikeshare key (which I had already activated) and watched the little light go (GREEN!). Time to go!

20 minutes later I arrived at the bikeshare station in front of The Giant on Park Rd. NW. I even managed to beat the group of riders that were assigned to ride to that station (but only by a minute). Even though the bike only has 3 speeds, it was plenty to get me up the hills, albeit very slowly. Then again, I'm used to riding a 3 speed upright cruiser bike. I docked my bike at the station, went across the street to Sticky Fingers and grabbed lunch, then walked over to the parking garage and picked up Betty to ride home.

All in all, a very fun morning! I definitely see myself using this system in the future.

(I don't know why my camera filmed in that weird format)

Sign up for a discounted membership at the Capital Bikeshare website today! And don't forget to download the app that lets you know how many bikes are available at each station, in real time!

Is anyone doing the 50 States ride on Saturday? I can't wait!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September is for biking.

Today was my very last day of vacation. Even though I came back to DC on Saturday, I took some extra days off to slowly get used to the idea that vacation is over...Tomorrow, it's back to work and the daily grind.

I did a lovely 20 mile ride on Monday on the Mt. Vernon Trail. My plan was to bike out to Alexandria, find a nice cafe/casual restaurant and have lunch, then bike back. Instead I managed to make it all the way to Alexandria only to discover I had grabbed The Boy's keys instead of mine. His bike lock key does NOT fit my bike lock, no matter how hard I tried to make them fit. Grrrrr. Instead of being able to refuel, and more importantly, rehydrate, I rode back to DC a very hungry and thirsty girl. Oh well. It was still a very pleasant ride and reminded me of what a beautiful city DC can be. I rode past the Washington Monument, stopped at the Jefferson Memorial for a quick hot dog, rode over the bridge and got a lovely view of the Potomac, paused at Gravelly Point to watch the planes swoop in, and then rode a leisurely pace along the river & marina's. I can't wait to do it again. One of these days I will plan enough time to do the entire trail length.

The White House

(part of) The Washington Monument

The Jefferson Memorial

The Duck Tour!!

Betty, at Gravelly Point.

It almost landed on me!

This guy was just chillin' out on his sailboat.

I spent all day today cleaning up la casa. It was a mess from the packing/unpacking and living out of suitcases for the last 4 days. Now I feel better that everything is where its supposed to be.

As I mentioned in the last blog, there are quite a few exciting developments coming up this month. First, Capital Bikeshare will launch on September 20th! They are looking for volunteers to help stock the stations with bikes. If you want to be a part of the inaugural ride, you must be a Capital Bikeshare member (and you'll need to bring your helmet). I'll be there! More details here.

Car Free Day is September 22nd! Make the pledge today (kinda handy that Capital Bikeshare will open and ready for business by that time, right?) and be entered to win raffle prizes. You can even make the pledge if you are already car free (like me). Also, check out some of the events that will be going on and stop by!

WABA wants you to know about some awesome rides that are coming up!

  • Moonlight Bike Ride at Yards Park: Celebrate the Harvest Full Moon and the opening of Yards park with a nighttime bike ride following the Nats game. Follow the link for more info! (You can even score a ticket to the game at Nationals Stadium). September 23rd.
  • 50 States and 13 Colonies Ride. Register for either the 64 mile ride through DC's 8 wards and 50 state streets, or the 15 mile ride through the 13 Colonies. This sounds awesome and I will be begging my boss for time off that day! (Note, this event is self-supported. Roads will NOT be closed to vehicular traffic. Register with a friend and support each other!)  September 25th.
  • The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Challenge. I admit that I wish I had planned ahead of time to enter this event. It sounds like a powerful, fun, event. Next year I will register ahead of time. October 23rd.
DDOT has new plans for the 15th St. contraflow lane. For one thing, it will apparently no longer be a contraflow lane in the traditional sense, but rather will become a two-way "cycle track". It will also be extended up to Euclid St. NW down to E St. NW. You can see their proposal for this new plan here and here. It also looks like they plan on "greening" the bike lane, like the lanes in NYC. This should be a very interesting project, and is something I look forward to trying out once its finished.

September is for biking! If you haven't heard about it already, join a bunch of your fellow cyclists for "30 days of Biking" during the month of September. Go to the site, sign up, and start tweeting your rides! Spread the word and let's see how many people will join up!

Speaking of innovative ideas, a non-profit in B.C. are trying out a new idea to get motorists to slow down...

That is a 3D drawing of young child chasing a ball in the street. It's an optical illusion designed to look like a real, live, child. The Community Against Preventable Injuries thinks this awareness campaign will serve to reduce traffic accidents. I think this is a terrible idea. At worst, it could create a traffic hazard from vehicles slamming on brakes or swerving to avoid the "child", at best it encourages running down children because someone will just assume its another drawing...

Watch the video to see what this would look like to a driver:

What do you think? Good idea or bad idea?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I spent the last glorious week in Avon, NC (part of the Outer Banks) relaxing, enjoying the weather and unwinding. It was wonderful. I debated whether or not to bring Betty with me (after all, she IS a beach cruiser...) but decided at the last minute to leave her since I was still uncertain what the weather would be like while driving down there. Hurricane Earl was still in the area. I ultimately regretted that decision because the weather was fantastic every single day. Next year she is definitely coming with me.

I did end up renting a beach cruiser from a local bike shop (Island Cycles) that was nearby. It was just under $40 for the entire week. I also opted for a $5 bike lock rental, which turned out to be unnecessary. Bikes are pretty much left lying around all over the island, and no one seems tempted to steal them. They gave me a cable lock, which would have taken a determined thief all of 3 seconds to cut through. The cruiser they gave me wasn't as glamorous as I'm used to, but it did the job.
Beach rental

Biking on the island is an interesting experience. There are very few dedicated "bike trails" or paths. With the abundance of sand dunes, most of which are off-limits (it is a barrier island and the dunes protect it from being eroded away), biking is pretty much limited to streets, which is fine on the small side streets. However if you want to actually *go* somewhere, there is only one highway (2-lane) that connects the towns. I checked the local regs online, and bicycles are allowed on any publicly maintained thoroughfare, which I presumed included the highway. I saw plenty of cyclists riding on the shoulder of the highway, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt apprehensive about riding on it:
  • It is a beach town, and it draws a lot of tourists who want to have fun. And by "have fun", I mean "drink some cold brews on the beach". Which is great. Except that they usually need to drive BACK from the beach at some point. Sometimes they are doing both at the same time. Beer + driving on a highway + cyclists = BAD IDEA.
  • People speed on the highway, and being passed by a speeding car is not fun.
  • I hate riding on the shoulder
So, I mostly just stayed on the little side roads near our beach house and had a few pleasant sunset rides looking at the really nice houses.

Nice little shop that not only rents & sells bicycles, but other sports equipment (scooters, kayaks, surf boards, etc). They also have a bike repair area as well. We rented some beach chairs & an umbrella from them as well. The staff is very friendly, but I could see the $$ in their eyes when we walked in. I bet they do a ton of business off of tourists from rentals, but not so much from sales. I don't recall exactly why The Boy happened to end up in the bike shop, but I do recall him coming back to the beach house and raving about a cruiser they let him test-ride. The Boy rarely ever admits to liking a bike, especially a cruiser. When I brought up the idea of him getting a cruiser previously, he just laughed at me. But he couldn't stop talking about this bike. I had to go see it myself to see what the fuss was about.

PHAT beach cruiser
Wow. I asked him that if we bought the bike, would he actually ride it back in DC? He said yes and so....we decided to purchase it. I figured this was a once in a lifetime chance, so I better grab it! This would be my only negative experience with the bike shop (and by negative, I mean it's more like a pet peeve. I had a great time at the shop). The bikes for sale (at least the ones we pointed out) were WAY overpriced. I understand they are a small shop and that they need to make a profit, but there were some bikes that were priced $100-$200 above MSRP. That's a hefty sum when you are talking about mid-priced bikes. They were open to negotiation (VERY, actually. I don't like haggling much, but if you are good at it you could probably score a pretty good deal here) so we managed to find a price that was more suitable, even though I still wasn't perfectly happy. A friend that was with us expressed interest in a trek bike and the salesperson kept knocking off more and more off the price, to almost halving it! Of course, we had to buy a rack to bring the new cruiser ($$$) so I feel like they made quite enough money off of us, ha!

Like I said, I had a pretty good experience with them. The staff are friendly, they had a really decent selection of cruiser bikes to purchase, lots of equipment to rent. But be prepared to haggle to get a decent price if you plan on buying a bike.

Island Cycles
Lots of stuff!

Standing bike?

Modern Penny Farthing

Pink Scooter!

Now my vacation is over and I'm trying to get used to the fall-ish weather we're (gratefully) experiencing here in DC. Although I was sad to leave, I will admit that I felt like I was "home" when I saw the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial approaching in the distance. I know that in a week or so I will be back to hating the day-to-day drudgeries of DC, but for now I'm glad to be back!

There are some exciting developments coming up in the DC cycling world, and I plan to outline them all in the next blog including the launching of Capital Bikeshare on September 20th, some cool rides & events coming up, a new and improved cycle track on 15th St., Car Free Day on September 22nd and 30 Days of Biking in September.

Until then, here's some vacation photos to make you jealous...

Beach house



Gorgeous sunsets every night...

The menfolk catch some dinner.



Friday, September 3, 2010

DDOT 15th St. Corridor plan

So, DDOT is planning to extend the "cycle track" (the separated contraflow lane) all the way up to Euclid, and they plan to make it a two-way, rather than just a contraflow lane.

This should be interesting. Personally, I don't use the 15th St. contraflow lane that often anyway. I'm not sure why. Usually when I have to go downtown I take 11th or 14th. Maybe now that the lane will be extended to Euclid, I'll be more inclined to take it from there., since its only a block out of my way.

What I did find interesting is that according to DDOT's study, 49% of cyclists surveyed don't feel comfortable riding in the "sharrow" lane northbound on 15th St. NW (which is why I guess they are making the cycle track two-way), whereas 44% of the cyclists surveyed admitted to riding northbound in the contraflow lane (the wrong way).  So....almost half of them don't feel "comfortable" riding the correct and predictable way on a public street, but almost the same number feels just fine running down fellow cyclists by going the wrong way in a one-way lane. Hmmmm...

This is odd because 15th St. is extremely wide at that location, and motor vehicles rarely travel in the sharrow lane anyway. I actually feel claustrophobic in the contraflow lane during rush hour periods because it tends to be clogged with cyclists, and the parked cars and flex-posts feel like they are closing in on me. The sharrow lane is huge and breathable, even with erratic taxi drivers weaving in and out of it.

Anyway, DDOT states that the construction is scheduled through September and October and should take about 4 weeks to complete.

You can peek at DDOT's plan here.

What do you think? Yay or Nay?


I know this is a little off-topic, but I just wanted to mention how awesome fellow blogger SuziStorm is.

Not only did she just publish her 100th blog post, but she has reached the awesome goal of losing 85lbs. That's a huge accomplishment.

This is a girl after my own heart. Not only did she lose 85lbs, but she managed to do it while drinking beer.

(By that I mean she didn't give up beer as part of her diet. Not that she was on a treadmill drinking beer, or washing down rice cakes with beer. Then again, maybe she did. That would still be awesome).

Click on over and show her some support and congrats!

I'm realy not just posting this just to win the food scale. I really am glad that she's reached both goals, and I look forward to the day (in the very near future) when she makes her goal weight, because it is an inspiration for me. I like to keep this blog's focus on cycling in DC, but I identify with the struggle to lose weight and I find Suzi to be very inspirational!

It also doesn't help that she's from Syracuse, which is my old stomping grounds.