Spring, Kindness, and Shackelton’s Great Grand Daughter

Robin Rides to Work

As it gets warmer and lighter, we begin to see signs of spring. Today I saw my first new bike commuter. I’ll call her “Robin.”

There is a short connector trail that links the Custis Trail along I-66 with the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River. The connector trail starts/ends at the Intersection of Doom. Along side the trail is a little used service road that goes basically nowhere. It is often confused with the connector trail.

As I reached the IoD traffic light on the connector trail, I spotted Robin coming from the Key Bridge toward the IoD. She looked confused and started to turn down the service road. We made eye contact and I shook my head “no.”  Then I motioned with my head “this way.” (My hands were busy braking.) She immediately got the point and veered off the service road. As she rode past me she said, “Thanks. It’s my first bike commute.” Based on her gear – bike with rack and panniers – she was not an inexperienced rider; she was just new to commuting in DC. She would have figured out her mistake so I saved her all of 20 seconds. Nevertheless it felt good to help a fellow traveler.

So here’s a reminder to all #bikedc commuter. Spring is almost here and, with it, many Robins. It doesn’t take much to help them out. Maybe just a nod or a shake of the head. Give them directions or offer to lead the way. Invite them to one of the scads of bike commuter coffee get-togethers. Tell them about upcoming local events like the Vasa Ride.

Be Kind to Clueless Touroids

And while I am on the subject of being kind, we are just a few weeks away from the massive influx of tourists. Tourists in DC think they know where they are and what they are doing because they see DC on TV every night. The truth is most of them are clueless. Be kind to them. (Yes, I admit I lose my cool with five abreast cherry blossom tourists on the trails. I will try to be more patient this year.) Be especially kind to the ones from far away lands, particularly those who do not speak English. If you’ve ever been disoriented in a place far away, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. The people you help will long remember what you did for them.

Enduring Rosslyn

Later in the morning I had to go to CVS for some things. I decided not to bother with a sweater or jacket since it’s only a block away and 45 degrees is tolerable in shirt sleeves. I was totally comfortable. I spotted a woman walking toward me in a cross walk. She had on a heavy winter coat, oversized sunglasses, and big ear muffs. I stifled a laugh and wondered if her last name was Shackleton. Then I realized she was a friend of a friend, the kind you know of but don’t actually know. Derp. I guess it’s not spring for everyone yet.

 

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Bike Commuting Karma

I often write about my bike commuting trance. In fact, people I know in DC bring it up all the time in conversation. Last night I popped a couple Tylenol PMs to help me sleep through Mrs. Rootchopper’s nasty cough. (I swear I did not give this disease to her. Her boss did. Really.)mule-post-sunrise I was still groggy when I headed out for work on The Mule.

I managed to make it nearly all the way to work without incident. I even stopped for a sort- of-sunrise picture. Sorry, readers, but the sunrises a little too early for me now. (This is a good thing for my visibility and my mood, however.)

I was plodding along, comfy with temperatures in the 30s and light winds. Then I rode up the short steep hill to the Intersection of Doom. The IoD is called this because of the number of people on foot and wheel who have been hit there. It is the meeting of North Lynn Street on which north bound traffic heads into Georgetown via the Key Bridge, US 29, and off- and on-ramps to I-66. Does that sound like a mess? Well, add a helluva a lot of impatient car and bike commuters and you have a recipe for disaster.

I was on the connector trail that links up the Custis Trail with the Mount Vernon Trail. Thanks to my drug assisted trance and the effort from the hill, my mind was completely out to lunch. At the IoD I took an immediate left from the connector trail across an I66 off- ramp via a cross walk. I looked up and saw that the WALK signal had a red 10 illuminated. I had 10 seconds. I noted that there was no traffic heading from my right to my left. And for some reason my brain did not register the fact that this meant that the I66 off-ramp cars had a green light. I signaled my left turn, looked left, made eye contact with the driver of the lead car in the first lane of three that I had to cross, and I turned.

It was only as I was directly in front of the car that I realized that the car had a green light. Ack! I was saved by the simple fact that a recent change to the traffic signals prohibited a right hand turn while the WALK light was not in steady red hand STOP mode.

But I still had two lanes to go. For some reason, the bike commuting gods had blocked off the center lane with traffic cones so I actually had a place to stop in the middle of this godforsaken crossing. I was about to stop when I noticed that no cars were coming up the last of the three lanes. I quickly pedaled across it to the safety of the sidewalk beyond. Dang.

I am one lucky mule driver.

I was a lot more attentive on the ride home. Good thing too. The Mount Vernon Trail goes uphill from Jones Point Park to get to South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. At South Washington the trail takes a left across South Street and continues along the river. I had a white WALK signal for my left-hand turn. A car was waiting at the red light. I aimed my helmet light at the driver and slowed down. Despite the fact that there were 500 lumens of my headlight beam in her eyes, the driver took a right on red, WALK signal be damned. Dang again.

I yelled at her but my heart really wasn’t into it. There was some kind of bike commuting karma going on today.

Funny thing was, that within a mile I was back in my trance. I rode up a long gradual incline and got that “how did I get here” feeling.

Just lucky I guess.

 

Joyful

I don’t know what has gotten into me. Maybe it’s the contrast with feeling so depressed over the last two months. This morning when I left for work it was 26 degrees. That would have had me looking at the car with just a month ago. Now I was eager to start pedalling.

So I did.

I was a bit cold for a couple of miles. I went by the site of yesterday’s downed tree. It had been removed. but somebody’s probably without cable service as the cables were still lying on the ground.

I made it down to the river without apparent effort. It’s been a long time since I was able to ride four days in a row without feeling tired. No problem today, though.  When I arrived at the Dyke Marsh bridge the sun was rising so I had to stop for a photo and just to admire the beauty. No two sunrises are alike, I suppose. My hat’s off to the man in the sky. You paint awesome pictures.

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Once again I was in mediation mode. Miles whizzed by and I have no recollection of them. Just the cold air going in and out of my lungs, the cold breeze chilling my face.

At the troll bridge, I spotted the great blue heron again. It was perched in the low hanging branch of a tree about 15 feet from the edge of the trail. I stopped to admire it and take a picture. I feared that the squeak of my brakes and the sight of me fumbling around with the phone would scare it off, but it waited patiently. I am ready for my close-up, Mr. Rootchopper.

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My morning photography complete, I rode up the switchback to Rosslyn. The hill didn’t bother me at all. What is going on?  I never smile while climbing.

I went to turn left onto the Lynn Street sidewalk as I do every morning. A car in the nearest lane was rolling forward toward the red light. I guessed that it wasn’t going to stop. And it didn’t. If I had simply followed the law I would have been hit. Instead I yelled at the driver, who was conversing on his cell phone as he turned, oblivious to me or the pedestrains crossing from the opposite side. He looked over at me, shrugged, and drove on. Police were getting set up for traffic enforcement just a few yards up the road. Too bad they weren’t quite ready for him. A walker coming from the opposite side of the crosswalk shook his head and said, “What a jerk.”

Despite Mr. Shrug I maintained my good humor and was rewarded with an invisible cloud of donut aroma. It got stronger as I approached the entrance to my building. A donut truck was parked there, pumping donut essences into the cold air. What a perfect capstone to a bike commute. (I resisted the urge to purchase as the aroma of a donut far exceeds the eating.)

As I parked my bike, I took a drink from my water bottle. Yesterday morning, it was solid ice. Today, it took a little doing to free up the valve but I managed to get cold, cold water from it and it was better than the finest wine.

The ride home featured a headwind. Ack! The gods are messing with my commute bliss. It also featured a temperature of 54 degrees. I could ride without my clumsy overshoes. Headwind? Who cares?  This was great. And it was light out for ten of the 15 miles of my trip.

I could get used to this.