Saturday, December 06, 2008

It's in the Bag!

I was biking to work yesterday, and had just started riding up onto the 14th Street Bridge, when I looked ahead and saw a black pannier on the sidewalk. It must have popped off someone's bike rack. I stopped and picked it up and took a peek inside. It looked like the owner was a guy - there was a towel, anti-perspirant, and a guy's belt. So I put it on my rack and brought it to work. When I got to the garage, I took a closer peek and saw there was a wallet inside. So when I got to my desk, I checked through the wallet to hopefully see some identification and/or a telephone number somewhere. The driver's license showed he lived in Alexandria, so we had that in common. :) I found a State Farm Insurance card, with a phone number listed. I wasn't sure if it'd be a home number for this guy or to State Farm. Turns out it was to State Farm - so I told them I found this guy's wallet and bag, and could they contact him as soon as possible, and I gave them my name and number. I knew that the guy would already be starting the process of quickly cancelling cards, etc., and I hoped I would catch him before he got too far. We all know how that goes.

Wihtin a few minutes he called and told me he loved me that I had found his wallet. :) He had been telling his wife that he had been needing to replace this pannier bag because it wasn't staying on his rack very well and that it was too loose. He works not too far from me in downtown, so he said he'd bike over (since he didn't have money to take a cab!). So within a half hour, I met him in my office lobby and he was happy to get his pannier. :) He said, "You must not have been too far behind me on the bridge, because I got to work just about 10 minutes before you, and had realized I didn't have my bag." So, I was happy to be able to return his pannier to him and that he hadn't been too inconvenience. He said he had just cancelled the Smart Trip (subway) card, and was getting ready to cancel his credit cards when State Farm had called. He offered me a reward - and of course, I declined, but did tell him to go buy a new pannier bike bag! :)

A similar situation happened another time when I was biking into work. I had just started biking through Georgetown, and I looked ahead and saw a lady's purse on the street. I brought it to work with me and called the phone number that I found inside. I had reached the lady's husband who worked in Bethesda. At first, he couldn't understand why I had his wife's purse. I told him I was a bicycle commuter and had found her purse in the street in Georgetown. He said his wife had taken a cab that morning to a breakfast on Capitol Hill, and perhaps she dropped her purse in the haste of getting into the cab. He said she would be traveling to Charlottesville afterwards, so she'd definitely would need her purse. So he was quite happy to come and get it after his morning meeting, to then bring to his wife before she left town.

Sure wish whoever had found MY purse in a parking lot near home a couple years ago, would have returned it to me... :( It was soon after Christmas, and I had just gone to the bank to get $300 I had Christmas gift cards in there. So, someone definitely had a fun after-Christmas shopping time on my account! :(

But at least I was able to return these people's belongings, and make their day a better one. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Flurry of Cold Weather

Yesterday, parts of the area got some snow flurries. I didn't see any in D.C., but my roommate was out running some errands and called to say there were heavy but brief snow showers. I always like to see the first snowfall - it's so magical. :)

This morning the wind chill was 17, when I headed out to ride to work. This weather is more like January! I was expecting it to be pretty cold - but it really wasn't. I saw ice along the shores of the Potomac River.

As I entered Old Town Alexandria, I came alongside a guy on his bike and we chatted while the policeman was directing traffic at a school intersection. The guy said, "It gets a little lonely out on the bike path this time of year - just the hardy and foolhardy are out, huh?" :) He said he's been doing his bike commute over 15 years and had gotten rid of their second car, and is saving a ton of money. I told him I went car-free last year, and he thought that was good as well. :) He said he would like to go car-free, but they had to have a car to tote the kids around in. He asked where I was headed, and I replied D.C. He said he was riding to the Pentagon. So I wished him a good ride as he took off.

Good to meet people like him - I'm not the only "wild and crazy" person out there riding in the cold! :) People wonder how you stay warm outside in the cold weather. It's really not TOO hard. The first few miles are cold - your eyes tear up from the cold air, and your fingers hurt. But by constantly pedaling, you warm up and stay warm the rest of the ride. I wear 10 essentials to keep warm and ward off the cold:

1. Fleece lined jacket
2. Balaclava over my head
3. Fleece neck gaitor
4. Ski liner gloves under my short-fingered bike gloves
5. Winter jersey
6. Long underwear
7. Tights
8. Wool socks
9. Toe warmers
10. Insulated winter boots by Merrell

This combination works well for me through winter. Sometimes I wear rain pants over my tights, etc., to block fierce cold winds, but otherwise, I'm fine. :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Like A Lion!

Though Autumn arrived on the calendar in late September, it roared into town last night. There were wind gusts up to 45 mph - and it sure felt like that when I biked across the 14th Street Bridge! It was incredibly strong - I had to gear down to one of my low gears (that I rarely have to use when crossing the bridge). The wind was blowing so strongly against my wheels, that it made me feel like I had a flat tire! I looked down at my tires, but they were fine. Weird sensation! Then, I thought I'd have a great tailwind on the way home - since the wind was out of the Northwest, and I'm headed South. Well, it was for a little bit, but then it also buffeted me from other directions as well. So you might say I was a bit "winded" by the time I got home!

A cool thing I've been thinking of getting is a handheld anemometer that I can whip out when I'm on the bridge and get a real measurement of the wind as it's howling through the railings on the bridge. It'd be neat to see the actual figures pop up on the screen for proof. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bridging the Gap(s)

I mentioned in an earlier post how the National Park Service takes care of the Mt. Vernon Trail that I commute on. This summer, they have been working on replacing various boardwalks, as shown in this photo. Some they are replacing, I'm wondering why, as the bridges seem to be in good shape, but I don't know how old the boardwalks are, and maybe it's time. They do a good and thorough job. There's a long curvy boardwalk near Old Town, though, that they have put a coat of grey/bluish paint. This is a bridge that is pretty slick when it gets wet. I have seen and heard of bikers going down hard on it due to the slippery conditions. One of my bike commuter friends said he knows a biker that was PARALYZED due to a nasty fall he had! So I've always slowed down on it. Maybe this coat of paint has an anti-slippery agent to it? One thing a lady biking friend mentioned to me this week, was that when it gets colder, and frost gets on the boardwalk, we won't be able to SEE the frost, due to the paint. So, just another reason to SLOW WAY DOWN on it.

In a few weeks, the area will be awashed with the golden colors of Autumn. I took this picture last Autumn, as I got near the World War II Memorial. It's a pretty time of year - but wet leaves present another slippery condition - similar to frost and ice. Never fun to fall - which I've done a number of times....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Summer is about done, with Labor Day Weekend right around the corner. Actually, we haven't had many hot days this summer, which is unusual, but fine with me. :) I saw this guy walking all these dogs on my way home recently - it's amazing they don't get all tangled up!

This is a neat bike called a Catrike, owned by a fellow bike commuter, Bob. He loves this bike. I've test-ridden these and they are great - like a little race car! I've asked Bob if he feels more vulnerable in traffic while riding his Catrike, since he is so low to the ground, but he said no. If anything, he said, they are more cautious and give him more room, which is nice.

Bob carries a telescoping fishing pole with him on his Catrike and often stops to throw a line into the water and catch fish. :) What a nice relaxing thing to do on your way to work! :) Try doing that from your car commute! :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Good and the Bad (Sad) News

The Good News is that there are some neat and clever bike posters up at bus stops in D.C. that I've come across. I don't know if they are also at bus stops in Virginia and Maryland, but it'd give people something to consider while waiting on the bus.

On the other hand, here's the bad (sad) news:

This past Tuesday morning, a 22-yr. old lady, Alice Swanson, was cycling the couple of miles from home to work in D.C., and approached an odd intersection, of R Street and 20th. A garbage truck traveling in the same direction approached that intersection. I believe Alice was attempting to continue onward, across busy Connecticut Avenue, the next intersection, a few feet away. But, unfortunately, the truck made a right turn onto 20th Street (which is a difficult turn to make in a car, let alone a truck!), and Alice Swanson was run over, and killed instantly. :( A Secret Service agent who was getting coffee right nearby, ran to pull her out from under the truck and administer CPR, but it was too late. Traffic was closed in that area for a couple of hours, as police conducted its investigation. The truck driver said he "never saw the bicyclist", as apparently, she was in his blind spot. But he would have had to pass her beforehand...didn't he see her then? There is a designated bike lane on R Street, that Alice was riding on. When bicycling, you tend to feel a little "safer" riding in bike lanes, but I don't think car drivers think that way, though they ought to. To them, perhaps it's just another set of white lines....

News articles about cyclists getting hurt or killed always grab my attention. I want to know when, where and what happened. I try to learn from this incident, and apply it to my own city commute. The fact is that Alice was attractive, vivacious, wanting to make a difference in the world, and could light up the room with her smile. It seemed such a shame to lose someone in the world like this. This tragic accident really affected cyclists in this area, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association put up a "ghost bicycle" by the intersection where she was killed. They held a press conference and a dedication for "ghost bicycle" in Alice's name. Friends and co-workers of Alice, and bicyclists who didn't even know her, came and tearfully said their goodbyes and left flowers. I don't think anyone will forget Alice and what happened that day... Hopefully drivers and bicyclists will learn from it and be careful where they travel. I know I have.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Calm Days

It's been a relatively quiet summer so far. I definitely like the calm weather days, even though the heat and humidity can be difficult to get through. I took this picture last week on my way home - the air was still and so was the water, at this marina I passed.

The Tour de France starts July 5 - and every year at this time, there are always the "Lance A Lots" and "Lance Wannabees" that are on the bike path - zooming past in the obnoxiously colorful racing biking attire - shoes that match their shorts, that match their jerseys, that match their gloves, that match their helmets. It's a bit much. They get all inspired by the Tour, and then re-enact it on the path, zooming past other bikers, as if they were on the Tour themselves. It's sort of a dangerous time on the path, because these Zoomers are taking chances, passing people and pedestrians, cutting it way too close. I've seen a couple of "head-on" collisions on the path and it's not pretty. I keep an eye out for them in my helmet mirror and ahead of me and try to stay out of their personal race. I only "race" like that when there's a nasty thunderstorm coming or a dog chasing me. :) But otherwise, I take it at an easy pace and look around me to enjoy the surroundings that the Racers miss.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Root of the Problem! :)

Recently, over a period of 4 days, we had A LOT of rain - probably about 8" in Alexandria! When I rode in on Monday, there were a few trees that had come down across the path or uprooted near it - like the picture above. It took the edge of the path as well. Fortunately, the path is maintained by the National Park Service, since it runs alongside the George Washington Memorial Parkway. So, thankfully, the Park Service sends out workers to cut up trees and branches that block the path. There are a lot of people that use the path, so we greatly appreciate this service! :)

Back in 2003, Hurricane Isabel came to town, and the storm surge from the Potomac River flooded various parts of the path, including pushing up a certain long boardwalk that is near Belle Haven. When I rode into work after the storm, and came to the end of this boardwalk, I was pretty surprised to see the water had pushed up the boardwalk about 5 feet from the ground! I had to stop and jump off the boardwalk, and hoist my bike down! Wish I had my camera that day to capture the boardwalk in that condition! The Park Service came and pounded the boardwalk back into place.

Right after this boardwalk, for years, the waters often flooded over the path, when there were heavy rains. It was fairly deep, though I could get through it slowly on my bike, but joggers had to walk way around it to get by. Finally the Park Service decided to re-route the bike path and make it run closer to the Parkway and built up the land slightly to keep the path away from any flooding. This has worked great, and again, we appreciate it. Thank you, Park Service!

One other area that was re-done was near National Airport. Years ago, the path used to cross a busy exit from the airport. There had been a number of cyclists/pedestrians hit by cars. So they built a nice long overpass, and now we sail over the traffic safely. I am lucky to have such a nice route to work, and am always thankful for it. I know a lady bike commuter who commutes about the same miles as I do, but her commute is along a VERY busy road, lots of lights and traffic. Her commute is much more difficult than mine, for sure, and I admire her for it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wonderful Wisteria :)

I was riding to work last week, down Royal Street in Old Town Alexandria. There are some nice historic houses dating back to the late 1700's and 1800's on Royal Street. There are lovely brick houses, including this one, that has overflowing wisteria along its walls.

I was reading online today about Alexandria - that it's actually 50 years older than Washington, D.C., and is America's most historic communities. In fact, in 1796, a visitor, the Duc de La Rochfoucauld Liancourt, commented that: "Alexandria is beyond all comparison the handsomest town in Virginia--indeed is among the finest in the United States." I always enjoy riding through Old Town. There are a few cobble-stoned streets - years ago, I tried riding my bike down one of those, and found that it's not a good idea!! :) I read that a lot of the streets from the waterfront area to Washington Street used to be cobblestoned until the mid-1920's, when most of them were paved over. Evidently, the cobblestone streets were put there by the Hessian prisoners from the Battle of Saratoga. They didn't know what to do with the prisoners and they were cheap labor, so the British had these paid troops from Germany—Hessians —and they sent them down here, put them to work laying the streets of Alexandria. Interesting! Lots of history!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tikit to Ride! :)

Last Friday night, I received my new Bike Friday Tikit bicycle. It's the fastest folding bike made....folding in about 5-10 seconds. This bike is different from my other Bike Friday bicycle, in that the wheels are smaller (16" vs. 20") and it folds fast without having to take the bike apart. I bought it mainly because, since I'm car-free, it would come in real handy if I wanted to take Greyhound or Amtrak to other places. :)

I rode it to work yesterday. I noticed the gears skipped a little bit - so it needs some adjustment...but other than that, it rode fine. I got to work, folding the bike up and brought it up to my desk, as I wanted to show various people in the office my new bike. I was showing a partner in the office (who is a biker), and he straddled the bike, and then to my big surprise, TOOK OFF DOWN THE HALLWAY -- and kept going around the WHOLE FLOOR!!! You should have seen people's faces as he went pedaling by!! It was priceless!! He got back to my desk with the biggest smile on his face! :) He said that it was definitely a cool bike. :)

I brought it to another floor, to show other friends, and another partner came out of his office to take a look. I don't know the partner - but just had heard of his name. He said, "That's a neat bike..." - straddling the bike and then HE TOOK OFF DOWN THE HALL AND AROUND THE WHOLE FLOOR!! :) I don't think he's a biker - so he sort of wobbled his way down, but managed to make it all the way around. Secretaries were so surprised, they grabbed their phones to take pictures and video! :) Pretty wild! :)

I showed it to yet another partner (who is probably his his late 60's) - and he hopped on the Tikit too and rode it, but just to the end of the hallway (almost wiping out as he tried to turn the corner!). Anyway, everyone I showed it to (which was probably about 20 people) thought it was a very cool bike and were amazed that it could fold so fast and so compactly. :) Maybe it'll inspire some to buy a bike (like this one or otherwise). :)

After work, I rode to meet a friend for dinner. I folded the bike up and brought it into the restaurant and put it next to our booth. Fortunately, it was a roomy restaurant, and tables aren't close to each other like some restaurants. One worker did stop by to ask what the pile of metal was sitting by our booth - I told him it was a folding bike. :) He was surprised to hear that. :) It did feel kind of funny rolling my bike in, and I tried to act like it was just a normal, everyday occurrence. :)

After dinner, as I was outside, putting on my riding gear, a couple noticed my Tikit and stopped to chat - the guy recognized it was a folding bike. As I got a few blocks down the way, some bicyclists stopped at the light near me and said, "Hey, Bike Friday Tikit!!" :) They said they had Bike Fridays at home also. :)

So the Tikit got QUITE the show yesterday, for sure!! :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Iceman Cometh!

Last night we had a nasty ice storm.
:( When I listened to the weather forecast that morning, they did mention there'd be some sleet/wintry mix, but they said it would turn to all rain by evening. So, I decided to ride my road bike. Unfortunately, it was the wrong choice... I was fine til I got to the 14th St. Bridge. I got a little ways across (maybe a fourth) and saw a guy walking towards me with his bike. I asked him if it was icy, and he said "Oh yea!" - about 30 seconds later, I went down! OUCH. Of course, thank God for having a helmet on - 'cuz my head snapped back and hit the pavement. It was enough force that it ripped off my visor and helmet mirror. :( I ended up walking ALL the way across the bridge, because it was totally iced over. When I got to the bike path, it wasn't icy. I decided to just catch the Metro at the airport and take it to the Huntington Station. When I got there, I hoped to catch a cab - but no such luck - there were none to be had. I tried to put my bike on the bus bike rack when it came, but I think it was frozen over and the bus driver didn't know how to work it (believe it or not!). So I ended up calling my roommate to come and get me. I was concerned that the Ft. Hunt Road would be bad, but it turned out it was fine and I finally got home at 9 p.m.

This morning I decided to ride my mountain bike, since it has the studded tires. I did fine - though the 14th St. bridge had a layer of ice, but I rode slowly and talked myself across. I looked for my visor and helmet mirror that had come off in the fall...but no sight of them. :( I gotta get a new helmet anyway since I had that fall.

So, I learned a lesson and next time will just ride the mountain bike so I don't have any trouble!

Friday, January 18, 2008

TV Interview! :)

On Tuesday afternoon, I checked my e-mail and was surprised to see an e-mail from a reporter from Fox 5 News! He said he had seen my Living Car-Free blog, and wanted to come and interview me! I was skeptical at first - I mean, anyone can send an e-mail like looked official, but how can you be sure? I called the business number he listed and left a message, and then called his cell phone. He answered, and we spoke a little while - they wanted to come by my office after I got off work (within an hour!). I said alright - - I figured I'd know it was the "real thing" if they showed up in a news truck. :) However, they didn't - they evidently were in a car, and parked nearby, so they walked up to the building. But when I saw the big video camera, I guess I was convinced then! :)

They spent the next hour or two, filming me in and outside the office, then strapped on a small video camera to my bike and filmed my commute home - while they drove to my house to meet me and videotape me pulling up in the driveway. :) So it was an interesting way to spend an evening! :) Enjoy the video! :)

Maybe it'll get some people interested in taking up biking when Spring rolls around!

We got an e-mail at work today saying that the parking rates for our office building will be going up to $250 a month!! Wow! How do people afford that?? That's like $3000 a year!! You could buy a REAL nice bike for that!!! :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Singing in the Rain!

One thing that has sort of "plagued" my bike commute, especially in the Fall and Winter, is trying to keep my feet warm and dry when it rains. It's not a problem in the Summer - I wear Keen sandals, and the warm water runs through them, and it feels good. Cold rain, however, isn't as nice. I have bought various types of rain boots, some high-tech and expensive, but the problem persists. Even though the boots SAY they are waterproof or water-resistant. What I have discovered is that I needed to have boots that are tall - that reach up to my knees. The reason being that, if the boots are mid-length, my rain pants don't cover over the tops of the boots when I ride, and rain gets into the boots. Plus, the material NEEDS to be RUBBER, which is totally waterproof.

Last night, I stopped by Nordstroms to check on some rain boots I saw on their website. It said the height of the boot was 13". I thought that might be high enough...but when I saw the boots in person, I decided they wouldn't be tall enough. Near these boots were knee-high rubber rain boots. They were kind of wild, because they have a Chinese tiger painted on both sides of the boots. But my rain pants would cover that - not that I minded, as I like tigers. :) They fit, and I wore them out of the store.

I got about halfway home, and it started to rain heavily. I cycled along, mentally checking to see if everything stayed dry and NO water leaked in. Ahhh......results AT LAST!!! :) Though my feet were a little cold (even though I had toe warmers on), I figured I could wear two pairs of socks the next time, and see if that helped. Anyway, I was singing in the rain on my ride home, very happy that finally I found boots that worked! I should have gotten boots like this a long time ago...but we live and learn! :)