Potholes in DC: A Success Story

Along the Seagull Century RouteDC has somewhat of a reputation for having poorly maintained roads. This has actually been getting significantly better in the last few years, but there are still some areas that leave something to be desired.

Everyday on my morning commute, I bike up toward my office, and along the way for the last few months has been a huge pothole in my path. I knew it was there, and was fortunate enough to never fall victim to its presence, but I had a few close calls and decided on Wednesday that I would call the Mayor's call center to report the pothole. The DC Government had been advertising their war on potholes recently, so with my report of this rather large hole in the pavement I got to see first hand how they have been handling the situation.

On Wednesday around 11 AM, I made my call to the call center and within a minute or so was on the phone with an operator who took my report and gave me a tracking number. The operator was courteous and polite and didn't even ask for my name. All in all, it was a painless process.

As I rode into work this morning (less than 48 hours later) the pavement was repaired. Now that's what I call responsive government. So, if you see a pothole in DC, call 202-727-1000 or 311. They listen, and they fix it.

Upcoming Ride: 2008 Tour de Cure in Reston, VA

Me in front of Cherry Blossoms in DC 2008Hello once again. It has definitely been a while since I last put finger to key here. As is to be expected, I continued to commute during the winter and I'm very happy to have Spring upon us. As of this writing I'm about 920 miles into my riding since the start of the year and I'm excited about the opportunities to ride the warming weather brings.

On June 8th I'll be participating in the Tour de Cure out in Reston, VA. The tour benefits the American Diabetes Association, and I'll be part of a team. This time I'll be doing the metric century -- that's 100 kilometers, or about 63 miles. It will be a good indicator of how the winter season of riding primarily for commuting (about 15 miles a day) has impacted my ability to do longer rides -- and also a good test of my knees, which gave me trouble in last year's Seagull Century. Since then I have been injury free -- but I haven't done a lot of really long rides, so this will be very informative. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Of course, the Tour de Cure is a charity ride -- and the American Diabetes Association is a worthy cause. I'm not someone who enjoys pumping people for money, and since my team is picking up the cost of all the minimum contributions, I don't need to do so. In fact, that's why I have only done the Seagull Century in the past -- it doesn't require fund raising -- they charge you a fee and it goes to charity, but you don't have to bother others. I prefer doing things that way -- I'm happy to donate, but I don't like to tell others what to do. That being said, if you are feeling charitable and want to contribute a few bucks to a worthy cause, you can check out my page on the Tour de Cure site where you can see another snazzy photo of me, read some boilerplate text, and sponsor me as I ride. No pressure, no worries -- I'll still love you either way.

Of course, I'll be posting a full write-up afterward, so keep an eye out for that. I'll also be enjoying this fabulous weather we have been having. I hope you're enjoying it too. Now get off your computer and go for a ride.


2,500 Miles in 2007

Me after reaching The first pitstop on the Seagull CenturyAs the year 2007 started, I decided to keep a log of how many miles I biked on each day of the year. At first it was just a curiousity, but as time went by it was pretty incredible how many miles were starting to add up. In total, I biked 2,500 miles last year -- which, for me, is a record. I'm continuing to log my mileage, although starting this year I've decided to do it on this site. In the (hopefully) not too distant future you'll be able to see some live statistics on my mileage using the Mileage Tracker link above.

Until then, here are some interesting facts about my 2007:

Month

Number of Miles

January

195

February

45

March

265

April

140

May

265

June

250

July

420

August

170

September

285

October

315

November

150

December

100

Day of Week

Number of Days Biked

Monday

27

Tuesday

25

Wednesday

33

Thursday

25

Friday

21

Saturday

13

Sunday

6

In all 58% of all weekdays were biked when accounting for an average holiday load. Part of the reason for this low number is that I frequently had air-travel on Mondays and Fridays. All in all it was a productive year, mileage wise and so far this year I'm on pace to beat it.

One thing to leave you with -- at the end of last year I decided to dress up my bike in the spirit of the season with some battery operated lights. The quality isn't the best (this was taken with a cell phone camera) but you'll get the point.

My Bike Lighted for the Season


A Dogfish Head Brew Pub Ride

Dogfish Head Brew Pub in Falls Church

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of good beer. One of the more interesting breweries out there is Dogfish Head. They make beers that are more on the extreme side of things -- hoppy beers, fruity beers, strong beers, and surprising beers. They also have their own set of brew pubs where they team good beer with good food.

I had been to the one in Gaithersburg a few times in the past, but the word was they were opening one a few miles from where I live. Naturally this was great news for me, and I thought it would be a great excuse for a bike ride. My friend Brooks is a huge fan of Dogfish Head, and he agreed to join me on my two wheeled quest for delicious brew and grub.

Me at the Dogfish Head Brew Pub in Falls ChurchWe met up by my place and headed down the Mount Vernon Trail and connected on to the Four Mile Run Trail. From there we made the detour over the bridge over I-395 into Shirlington and met up with the WO&D trail. From there we connected by street over to the new Dogfish Head location.

Man did we have a good time. We went there in the afternoon and stayed until dinnertime. Along the way we befriended many of the wait staff, and even had one of them join us after his shift was over for a couple beers. After we had tried our fill of deliciousness, we headed back home with full stomachs and happy palates.

If you like beer and good food, it is highly recommended.


The Seagull Century 2007

Along the Seagull Century Route

A lot of you have been after me to update the site after a bit of dormancy, so here's the first of a couple posts to get things going again.

Starting out on the Seagull CenturyOn October 6, 2007 I headed out before dawn to Maryland's Eastern Shore for the annual Seagull Century that is held by Salisbury University. Up until that time the highest mileage I had done in a single day was about 70 miles (twice, on two consecutive days) from Alexandria to Harper's Ferry. So, I thought I should be able to make the 100 miles the century had to offer. After a quick registration I put my racing numbers on my bike and shirt and made my way off to the start.

The day was unseasonably pleasant. I had heard horror stories about cold temperatures, strong rains, and fierce headwinds from people who did it the previous year. As I started there was a rather dense fog that made some of the initial navigation a bit tricky, but after the first SAG stop at Millburn Landing State park the fog started to burn off and blue skies prevailed for the rest of the day.

The first pitstop on the Seagull Century

For the first leg of about 23 miles I was feeling strong and was averaging somewhere around 16 miles per hour. I was carrying a lot of gear (probably too much) but at this point, it didn't seem so bad, and I was passing a lot of people. After getting some food and drink at the first SAG stop I continued on, this time a little bit slower, but still fairly energetic. With the fog clearing I was able to see the huge expanses of farmland around me. The Eastern Shore is mostly flat, and that day I was blessed with reasonably calm winds. I made it to the second SAG stop in reasonable time, and this time took a bit more time to rest and chug down some gatorade. At this point I was just shy of the half-way point at 42.1 miles in (a little longer actually, since I had overshot a turn in the fog shortly after the start). And my knee was starting to be a little sore. I was still fairly energetic, and confident that I would have more than enough energy to finish -- but the knee was starting to worry me.

Me on the bridge to Assateague Island during the Seagull Century

I decided to continue on and made my way to the next SAG stop. As I got closer and closer to Assateague Island (the next stop) my knee was getting progressively worse and my speed was starting to slow. I was looking forward to the impending break, and when I got to the island I took some time to relax and stretch out a bit. I also had some food and drink. As I continued to take the break I noticed the crowd thinning a bit, so I decided to press onward.

At the Assateague Island Pit Stop during the Seagull Century

Immediately my knee made its displeasure known, and I felt like I was going quite slow. I missed a turn and ended going several miles out of my way, further adding insult to my injury. Once I got back on track my knee really started to hurt and I was starting to pedal with one foot locked in the clipless bindings allowing my injured knee to dangle free. Slowly and painfully I made my way to the last SAG stop at Adkins Mill Pond.

I was one of the last people to get to this stop and they were in the process of closing things down. I was informed that the last SAG Wagon was leaving in a few minutes and I had a decision to make. My cycling GPS indicated I had gone 88 miles, and I had 16 to go (remember, I overshot a bit there when I missed the turn). I was in a lot of pain, and while I had plenty of energy to complete the course and my muscles weren't very tired at all, my knee was hurting more than ever. So with a heavy heart, I threw in the towel and got a ride for the last 16 miles.

I healed completely within a couple days -- my doctor tells me it was likely an issue with a tendon rubbing against the bones of the knee. With some modifications to my shoes and pedals I should be able to minimize it in the future.

I definitely plan on conquering the century the next time.

140 Miles ... From Alexandria to Harpers Ferry ... and Back

The Trusty Bike Fully Loaded for the Tour of the C&O

On July 21st and July 22nd I took the longest bike ride I have ever taken. I decided to make the ride from Alexandria, Virginia down the Mount Vernon Trail, across the Potomac into DC to the C&O Canal, through Maryland, and back across the Potomac to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. All told the trip was around 140 miles round-trip. The trip was through some of the most beautiful terrain the the DC area has to offer and was both challenging and rewarding.

The Journey BeginsThe first part of this journey was over routes that I have traveled countless times. I entered the C&O Canal National Historic Park by the start of the Capital Crescent trail. This trail parallels the canal for the first couple miles until you reach Fletcher's Cove. Fletcher's CoveAfter that point, it splits off from the canal, making its way to Bethesda. Instead I made my way over to the towpath of the canal, in all of its bumpy glory. The surface of the towpath is, at best, dirt covered in small stones, and at worst, a rutted, bumpy, boulder covered mess that challenges your skeletal fortitude. The further you get away from "civilization" the more it becomes the latter. Thankfully, there had not been a lot of rain, so the bumpiness was not accompanied by muddy sections.Lock 7 After Fletcher's cove I passed by some of the earlier locks along the canal and the lock-keeper's residences beside them. I-495 Over the C&O Canal at Lock 13In the past I had traveled the first twelve miles of the canal into Washington -- just outside the beltway. This time I would keep travelling past Old Angler's Inn and make my way quite a bit further down the canal.

My first new sight was the Widewater section of the trail. When I first biked on the C&O, that section was closed to bike traffic due to a wash-out that had happened many years ago. The C&O Canal at WidewaterNow it was open, and the view from the towpath was absolutely beautiful. Along the path were several benches where you can sit and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Great FallsGreat FallsAfter snapping some photographs, I continued onward toward Great Falls.

I had seen Great Falls from the Virginia side years ago, but the view from the Maryland side is definitely more engaging. There is a walkway that takes you over the boulders and rapids right into the heart of the falls. Kayaker at Great Falls I locked up my bike and took the walk along with a lot of other people to see the swift moving waters of the Potomac. It seemed amazing just how far the walkway continued over the rocks. Finally it ended up at an observation area where we could see the largest part of the falls -- and a lone kayaker who was making his way through the rapids.

Whites FerryAfter Great Falls the number of people on the trail started to drop dramatically. The level of upkeep on the trail also declined, with much less in the way of gravel, and much more grass down the center of the towpath. Thankfully, the conditions were dry, so it wasn't the mudbath that it is sometimes known to be. With fewer pedestrians to dodge, my I got into a comfortable cadence and watched my sylvan surroundings pass me by. Along the way I passed several hiker/biker campsites with chemical toilets, picnic tables, and water pumps. Around mile 35 on I passed by White's Ferry, the only remaining ferry across the Potomac river. I took a break, buying some gatorade and snacks and watching the cars go across the river on the ferry.

Dickerson Power Plant

Nicely rested, I continued on my journey and passed by the Dickerson power plant, with its industrial hum, and large smokestacks seeming to float behind the trees along the canal. Not too long thereafter I came upon the Monocacy AqueductMonocacy Aqueduct which used to carry the canal over the Monocacy river before the Monocacy empties into the Potomac. After sustaining some damage a while back it had to have a scaffolding around it to support the structure, but recently it has been restored to its prior glory and it is a sight to behold.

Once past the Monocacy aqueduct I was on the last leg of my trip, so my pace quickened and I made my way past Point of Rocks, where the train tracks start to parallel the canal quite closely. The next town I passed was Brunswick, which would be the last town before I reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. My destination was in my sights.

Train Tunnel at Harpers FerryFinally, after about 70 miles of riding, I was able to see the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and the mighty train tracks coming right out of the mountain heading across them. I had arrived in Harpers Ferry. After carrying my bike up the stairs and onto the bridge, I crossed the river and entered West Virginia. Mountains Near Harpers FerryAfter a quick spin around the historic town, I made my way to the Secret Six Tavern, and after a brief wait, sat down and hungrily devoured my dinner. From my table I watched the sun set over the valley and reflected on my long journey.

After dinner I had to pull out the HID lamp and make my way back a couple miles to the Harpers Ferry Hostel, where I was to spend the night. It was amazing how dark it was out there. My bright light also seemed to attract every insect within a ten mile radius of me. Thankfully I was wearing my biking goggles. The ride up to the hostel from the towpath added one last insult to the injury with a rather sizeable hill. After having a little trouble finding the place, I checked in, took a much needed shower, talked briefly with some of the other guests, and then went right to sleep. The hostel was quite nice with comfortable accomodations, a friendly staff, ammenities like shampoo, linens, and towels, and a very pleasant atmosphere -- all for $20 a night.

Beans in the BelfryBeans in the BelfryThe following morning, I woke up, took another shower, and then packed my things for my ride back home. The hill that I took the night before made for a very fast ride back down to the canal and I was on my way. This time, I stopped in Brunswick, Maryland for some breakfast at Beans in the Belfry, a cozy little coffee shop in a converted old church. The food was good, the coffee wasn't bad either, and it has to be the first coffee shop I've been in with stained glass windows.

After finishing my coffee and pastry I headed back to the trail for the long ride home. This time I made far fewer stops along the way, doing my best to keep going at a good clip. I stopped again at White's Ferry and grabbed a drink and took a break. Then it was back onto the trail for the remaining 45 miles. I took a break at Widewater with about 25 miles to go and took in the beautiful scenery. Then it was down to the last stretch.

The Capital Crescent Overpass

Finally, I saw one of the sweetest sights of the trip. The Capital Crescent overpass. Not only did this mean I only had about twelve more miles to go until I got home -- it meant I was only a few hundred feed from blessed pavement. Once I got to Fletcher's Cove I transitioned over to the paved portion, and almost instantly I was going almost 4 miles an hour faster than I was on the towpath.

Invigorated with the end of my journey in sight I turned up the gas and flew down the end of the Capital Crescent trail and into the city, making my way down to the Mount Vernon trail. Even though I had 135 miles behind me (and 65 that day) I managed to drop a lot of cyclists and finish my journey with sunlight to spare. When I got home, I hopped in the pool to cool off and enjoyed some celebratory relaxation. Surprisingly, by the end of my journey, I only had mild saddle soreness, and my muscles, while tired, were not hurting. I even biked into work the following day.


And I Would Bike 1000 Miles ...

Me at the Arlington and Alexandria Community Bike Ride

Ever since the beginning of this year, I have been tracking my daily mileage for every ride I do. Since I am a regular bicycle commuter, this starts to add up pretty quickly. Yesterday, I hit a milestone for the year 2007 -- I have biked over 1,000 miles since the beginning of the year. That figure might be slightly higher in reality because I integer round the distance of my daily commute down by around 0.4 miles, but it should be close enough.

I started bicycle commuting in earnest last summer, and for most of that I've kept a GPS unit on my handlebars -- this afternoon, I'll hit another milestone on that of 1,500 miles, however, that should be dramatically lower than reality since when the batteries on the unit die it isn't counting distance, and if I'm in dense cover, I don't always get a good GPS reading. Reality is probably in the 1,750-2,000 mile range. I can't be as sure as I am for 2007, since I didn't keep such detailed logs before the start of the year.

Since I'm a statistics junkie, here are some breakdowns for you. The most mileage heavy week was the week of May 6th when I did 80 miles in a week. There have only been 3 weeks this year when I did not ride at all -- due to snow before I got my studded tires and an injury (87.5% of the weeks in the year so far). The weekday I bike the most is Wednesday (15 times this year), followed by Monday and Tuesday (11 times each), followed by Thursday (10 times -- tomorrow would make 11) and Friday (9 times -- if I bike this week 10). If I end up riding tomorrow and Friday (quite likely) I've averaged 43.75 miles a week. If I drove each of those days I would have paid $130.20 in gas (assuming $3.10 a gallon), paid $928 in parking fees -- or $348 in Metro fees for a grand total (car and parking) of $1,276 -- not to mention wear and tear on the car. The reduced mileage on my car made my car insurance drop by $27 a month since it is now used for "pleasure" which adds another $162 ($324 a year)! If we go on the assumption that I will continue on at the same rate, that is $2,876 projected to be saved this year. If we assume I'd just metro, I'm still saving $1,020 for the year. And using the estimate that every mile biked stops 1 pound of carbon from entering the atmosphere, I will have spared the air 1,050 lbs of carbon (2,100 lbs for the projected year). Not too shabby. A final note ... since I started last summer, I've shed 35 pounds off my own weight and gotten into the best shape I've been in for a long time. I look forward to every single mile.

Kinda makes me want to go for a ride ...


The Arlington and Alexandria Community Bike Ride 2007

Cyclists about to start the Arlington and Alexandria Community Bike Ride

June 3, 2007 brought the very first Arlington and Alexandria Community Bike Ride (up until this year, it was an Arlington-only affair). The weather forecast was pretty miserable -- overcast skies and rainy conditions for the whole day -- but since lightning was absent from that forecast, I decided to put on my quick-drying shirt and shorts and head on over to the Shirlington start point.

Me after the end of the Arlington and Alexandria Community Bike RideUpon registration I was issued a commemorative bike bell along with the cue sheet and a number to wear. I got there around 7 in the morning, and there were only a handful of people there. I started to get the impression that I would be one of the few people to actually show up. I was mistaken. I heard an estimate of over people 500 people ended up joining in the 23 mile ride around Arlington and Alexandria.

The soggy conclusion to the Arlington and Alexandria Community Bike Ride

The pace was as leisurely as you wanted it to be -- I stayed near the front of the pack and got to meet a lot of interesting folks. The ride started out with a police escort down to the Washington and Old Dominion trail which we took down to the Custis Trail and then through Rosslyn to the Mount Vernon Trail to Crystal City and the Four Mile Run trail back to the Mount Vernon trail then through Alexandria and back across to Shirlington. Along the way there were stops for food, drinks, and the occasional giveaway. As the ride progressed the rain got harder and harder, and shortly after arriving in Shirlington for the conclusion the skies erupted in a downpour.

I celebrated the completion of the ride with lunch at the Capital City Brewery with my bike safely under watch at the valet bike parking WABA had set up and then made my way back home to dry off. The picture of me above is from right after the completion of the ride, in all my rain-drenched glory. All in all it was a great time, and I'd like to do it again next year.


Midnight Memorial Ride

Midnight Memorial Ride 2007The day after Bike to Work Day there was a ride scheduled called the "Midnight Memorial Ride". While not actually scheduled for midnight, it was a ride that to be done by the moonlight with a route that passes many of the most popular monuments in DC.

Due to a bit of miscommunication from the WABA web site, I got to the rendezvous point for this particular ride an hour before the scheduled departure time. Luckily there were a lot of other folks in the same boat, so we stood around getting to know each other a bit better. The ride was organized by the folks at College Park/Mount Airy Cycles and they had some food and drink for us to munch on as we waited for the beginning of the ride.

Midnight Memorial Ride 2007A little after 9 PM we departed from the hostel at 11th and K Streets NW and headed down 11th to Pennsylvania Avenue and then over past Union Station to the Capitol Building. After a bumpy descent down Capitol Hill on Independence Avenue we went past the National Botanic Garden and down the National Mall to the Washington Monument.

Midnight Memorial Ride 2007Next up we headed down 15th Street toward the White House, and then looped back around to the World War II Memorial. From there we went along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial, continuing onto Ohio Drive down to Hains Point. We did a complete circuit around Hains Point and then proceeded to the Jefferson Memorlal.Hostel Sponsoring the Midnight Memorial Ride 2007

Finally, we went back by way of the mall up 7th Street and on back to the hostel where snacks and drinks were waiting for us. All in all, it was a fun ride. When the ride started and all of us were riding together, it was amazing how we completely dominated he traffic. There was something really fun about being in control of the road like that. However, in time the lights took their toll and the group got thinned out. Even still, it was a lot of fun.

Posted May 21, 2007 at 11:39 PM

Bike To Work Day 2007

Freedom Plaza, DC Bike to Work Day PitstopEven though the morning of Friday, May 18, 2007 was a damp and dreary one, it couldn't keep back over 6,600 bicyclists from participating in Bike to Work Day. Of course, I commute to work via bike almost every day, so this day wasn't unlike most others -- but the festivities were definitely a lot of fun.

I stopped by two of the pit stop areas. The first one was in Alexandria where there was a small crowd assembled with lots of food and drink. The second was the main stop at Freedom Plaza in downtown DC. The entire plaza was filled with thousands of bikers, lots of free food, drink, t-shirts, and water bottles.

I was joined there by a few of my co-workers, and we enjoyed food, drink, and plenty of speeches from government officials.

Eleanor Holmes Norton Speaking at the Freedom Plaza, DC Bike to Work Day PitstopEleanor Holmes Norton gave what would be the most enthusiastic speech of the day. She talked about how we have to beat the "car culture" and said something along the lines of "The cars and trucks rule the road today ... we're going to take the roads back". She also mentioned how she had won several million dollars in funding for many of the trails in the region, and chastised the DC government for their sluggishness in building the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Adrian Fenty Speaks at Freedom Plaza, DC Bike to Work Day Pitstop

Mayor Adrian Fenty also spoke, bedecked in a spandex racing jersey (with the motto "Taxation Without Representation" on it). He was a bit softer spoken than Delegate Norton, but had a lot of good things to say about cycling in the District. It looks like we'll have bike parking at the new stadium, and it seems like the government will maintain its current commitment to cycling.

All in all it was a great time -- I hope that some of the people who made their first bicycle commutes on this day will bike in more in the future.