Friday, December 29, 2006
I hung around for a little bit and said hello to a couple of my favorites from last week (though Larry was out for a walk when I stopped by to see him) and checked to see if I could take a coulple out while I was there. Another volunteer said they had all the parks filled at the moment so I settled for my quick doggie condo greetings and then took off for the ride to the metro. Got to Columbia Heights pretty quickly for the short ride home and actually ran across Swan who was walking home from the gym on Columbia Ave.
Tonight Swan and I are going to check out another fixie down at Pentagon City that a guy is selling. I am getting to the point that I feel a little bad, like I am putting a lot of pressure on Swan to get a fixie. I keep finding her bikes on Craigslist and ebay and stuff and then contacting the sellers and things like that and though I don't mean to add pressure (I just really enjoy doing it) I feel like it is probably a little overwhelming for her). I guess I should try and back off at least a little bit...
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Got tossed off the back of the group on about the third or fourth lap and joined up with two others for another two relatively easy laps. Had one nice really strong pull on the straightaway coming back and the rest was basically the three of us riding abreast and chatting. Overall it was a pretty nice ride though I’m not sure how many Thursdays I’ll be out riding again after that; at least not until I can cling to the back of the group for the completely fanned out stuff.
Actually heard from Scott that soon to be mayor Fenty made it out for today’s ride and was flying up with the pack. It’s good to see that he really is an avid cyclist and doesn’t just claim it. Plus he was out there hanging with this pack that was riding consistently in the upper 30 mph range. Man is a beast of a cyclist for hanging out in there; someday I’ll get there. Hopefully if I ever end up riding and chatting with him I can come up with something more intelligent then my comments the last time I ran into him…
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Thankfully he convinced me to get out and we went for a nice 45 minute run up to the National Cathedral and then to Vann Ness and back; perfect route for today. Uphill the whole way up and an easier downhill fast run back down Connecticut. Feel great now and though we didn't really run hard, we kept a steady easy conversation going on the entire run, my legs feel great; good sign for for the 12 or so mile run I need to get in on Sunday to get back on track for my training.
After we got back I met my sister's fiance, B for some hookah and tea over a heated game of dominoes. So glad he is a good guy and we can hang out; the last one was a bit of a tool, and a useless one at that.Last year B and I went to LA for the Rose Bowl to root on the Trojans in their heartbreaking defeat where Vince Dung ran the winning TD into the end zone directly into the corner that we were sitting in. Now there is a tool; although he's at least a pretty damn useful one.
No it's time for some shut eye, got a big day ahead of me including a long lunch ride, another animal shelter related training before I can get started and lots of work on a rejuvinated project at work that I've been stuck on for a little while. Oh and on a side note; as I was walking home from the hookah place down the street a group of girls were heading into the Falafel place on 18th and one was saying how it was really cheap so I said oh and it's really good too! As I walked away I heard one of them say something along the lines of oh he's cute! Hey, maybe there is hope for me yet!
He was working the desk when I walked in and after a few second he recognized me. We started talking and catching up and he showed me around to where all the real sweet rides are in the store. He hooked me up with some deals on some new winter riding gloves and chain lube and then gave me his email address so we could arrange to go mountain biking in January. Definitely looking forward to that although I’m a bit nervous about it since I have not been for at least 1 ½ years. Hopefully he doesn’t leave me in the dust and I don’t make a complete fool of myself either.
It’s good to know people around the city; it’s a good feeling when you are recognized and it makes you feel like you actually live there and that it is an actual community. When I first moved here I didn’t know anyone and for a long time didn’t feel like I really belonged here. Now I can walk down the street and recognize people and all that; I’m not quite to the point where I’m friends with the clerks at the market and all yet it is getting closer to the case.
Actually that brings me to something that Adam and I spoke about today which is how unfriendly bike shop workers can be sometimes. That brought me back to a post I wrote a while ago about how unfriendly the guys at city bikes could seem when I first started going there. Lately after having been going there and finally beginning to at least sound like I know what I am talking about I feel much more comfortable when I go in. It seems like a bunch of the workers there recognize me and I feel much better about walking in there now.
Three good friends of mine were all recently buying/looking at bikes and all of them asked me to go along since they felt somewhat uneasy going alone. One of them expressed that they were uncomfortable because they think the workers at bike shops in general are not all that friendly, while the other two wanted me to go so I could help them find the right bike. The guys there that day were actually extremely helpful with all of us and the time was well spent there. I’m beginning to wonder now if the perceived “attitude” that I thought I was picking up was just my own lack of self assuredness in the situation. Either way, I now feel much more comfortable walking into most bike shops that I have visited in the past couple of months and of course find City Bikes to be the favorite spot I knew it would be.
I actually thought about getting some bonus point with the guys there (read: the mechanics) by stopping by on Christmas Eve with a case of beer but unfortunately they were closed. I guess maybe I’m just not cut out for the whole brown nosing thing…
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Had a great weekend this past weekend including a nice quite Christmas day and some quality time with friends and my parents. My family has always spent our Christmas' together and rarely ever even leave the house on Christmas day. This year my sister and her fiance were out in Ohio with his family so it was just my parents and I. Not that they drove me out or anything (kidding, I love my folks and enjoy almost every moment spent with them), but on Christmas day this year around noon I took off for a quick bike ride just to get out and get in some cycling.
I had used my fixie to get out to the Columbia Heights metro stop on Saturday on my way to college park so Sunday after I picked up my flexcar I grabbed the bike from the bike rack and headed up to my folks house. With presents and bike in tow. Didn't have time to get out on Sunday (and really was hoping for some sweet winter gear for Christmas and didn't bring enough anyway) so naturally despite the rain, Sunday was the day. When I left their place there was a light drizzle but I wasn't too worried about it since I was decked out in a new long sleeve base layer shirt, a new wool jersey, a thermal jersey on top of that and a new Louis Garneau water proof shell on top of that. I also wore an older pair of shorts underneath a new pair of tights with a chamois on top. Unfortunately for me, I am still figuring out how to properly dress under different weather conditions and temperatures.
My upper body was extremely warm and I was contemplating taking off a layer soon after leaving the neighborhood. My legs were a little bit chilly from the start but I figured on the fixie out there they would warm up quickly and my feet with just two layers of socks on under my shoes I knew would get cold but figured that would just be like normal. For a little while the rain stopped for me and I spun along with the only worry being how much more hilly the damn roads were then I ever realized while driving a car around. I immediately went down a large relatively steep (when on a fixie and coasting is not an option) hill, across a bridge and up an even steeper hill and then back down a similar one. Right about there I realized just how fun this ride was going to be.
I found an excellent 'flat' road which I rode down for a while before turning off down another nice 'flat' country road. At some point on this road I decided I could take a left on one of the residential streets there and come back out and manage to have looped around and start to head back home however after climbing to the top of another ridiculous hill I realized that I was entirely wrong about that and had to turn around and spin like an out of control locomotive down another hill. About this time the rain started to pick up on me as well.
My upper body was still perfect with the jacket keeping me completely dry and the warm layers still making me a little over heated. The lower half of my body however was not so comfortable. First of all my feet always get cold when I ride, just bad circulation which is made that much worse when the rest of my body gets cold. Now my feet and legs were basically soaked through and that mixed with the screaming cold air from flying down the hills despite the fact that I was always pedaling was causing frostbite like conditions (not really, but really). Ah well, I guess ofr my birthday I ask for some heavier duty thermal tights and some sort of water proof pants or something. I should have brought along my neoprene booties but of course rain is the last thing you think about for Christmas day; I mean c'mon, whatever happened to a white Christmas?
When I got home numb legs and all I jumped in the shower threw the clothes in the wash and learned how to prepare and cook a turkey. My folkshave started getting their turkeys from a local fresh turkey farm and they really have been coming out nice. I feel confident that if necessary I could prepare a full Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade gravey and whatever else is necessary for my family. We'll see how much I remember next year when they ask for my help with dinner again.
Friday, December 22, 2006
After arriving as I was standing in awe at the amazing facilities this shelter provides I was introduced to the volunteer who would be ‘teaching’ the dog walking ‘course’ and being the only ‘student’ for the day we set off into the shelter to see how things worked. The dog “kennel” area is absolutely amazing; the individual spaces for the dogs all include a good sized area for the animals to move around in, a bed that flips down or up for more space, a heated floor (half heated half not for if a dog has lots of fur or is a short hair dog that gets cold easily), double opening doors so it is easy to open the top half to say hello and socialize without letting them out, another door in the back to allow dogs to enter a center ‘runway’ area where the dog can socialize with a dog back behind them and finally the most extravagant part, flowing water over a glass top over all of the kennels which is meant to act as a calming device for the dogs. While some of this seems at first thought over the top I think over all it really makes a difference and if nothing else shows that this shelter strays from the norm and really honestly cares about the animals it brings in to care for.
I think the end result really is positive for both the animals and the people adopting since the love and affection the dogs receive while in this shelter will help them to be better pets then if they were in the typical kennel set up, both cold and unfriendly in my previous experiences. Anyway, we went through the shelter while she told me how everything works and what needed to be done when coming in to walk the dogs as I peered into the doggie ‘condos’ you might call them at the cute and hopeful eyes staring back out at us. I think this may be even harder then I ever imagined possible; the dogs in this shelter are some of the sweetest I have seen certainly ever in a shelter and I’m never going to want to leave without at least two or three of them in tow.
About half way thru the ‘class’ two other people showed up for the ‘training’ and they joined us for the real ‘hands-on training’. We took a couple of tremendously sweet dogs out named Stacey and Violet to the large dog park outside and played ball and just generally had a nice time with them. Stacey was great and would go and jump up on anything she could get onto. She especially liked on of the taller planters which had some dead grass like plant that she would walk around and sit down right on top of. When you would pet her she would kind of roll her body to the side and was just the sweetest little puppy; she’ll be long gone before too long here; I would scoop her up in a heartbeat if only I could.
We then walked a group of three small/medium sized dogs on of which was named Alfredo and was the fluffiest and softest dog I’ve ever seen. He would just kind of fall over on you while you petted him and was a blast as well; apparently he is also big into giving hugs. He however was next to impossible to get a leash on; it sort of seemed like he might be scared of it though I think he may have just been playing. Next we walked the biggest looking dog in the kennel, a 95 pound German Shepard that if you stood up straight would probably be about 6 feet tall. This guy was a sweet heart too; his name is Mars and he is the epitome of a gentle giant. He played with a couple kids for the whole time we were out there and never once even appeared in the slightest a threat to any of them. Plus he walked like a dream, never pulling even once on the leash.
The next dog I walked was probably the hyper dog I’ve ever seen but you could tell he just wanted to play with not a bad or mean bone in his goofy lab body. The volunteer that was training me told me that she refused to walk this dog just because he was so hyper and pulled so hard on the leash that she could not handle him; apparently she was testing me. When I went to put on the leash Larry (that’s the dog’s name) started jumping up and down probably about 4 feet off the ground and it took me a good couple of minutes to get the leash around his neck. Finally I got him lassoed up and off he went dragging me behind him. In Larry’s eyes my sole purpose in life was to throw his tennis ball. Too much fun, especially when he would stuff three of them into his mouth and still try to catch the next one you threw without dropping the others.
Walked a couple more dogs before it was time to go; two more sweet ones that reminded me of the first two we walked and it was time for us to leave. I haven’t had that good of a time for quite a while and really enjoyed the time I spent with each dog there. I think one of the other hardest things I’ll have to deal with is not spending too much time with each dog. The goal is to get as many outside as possible though I know I’m just going to want to keep playing with and getting to know them all so it’ll be tough not to be able to spend the extended QT with each one. That said it will probably be much better if I don’t; then the whole leaving thing. I’m sure watching them get adopted will be a little easier as well.
Next Thursday I go back for my official orientation training and then I’ll officially be a dog walker and can start going in and taking the dogs out. I can’t wait to start, last night was just so much fun and I think this will be one of the greatest stress busters of all time.
Sorry for the novel today, I just had such a great experience and had to share it; I suggest anyone who is an animal lover should go and check this shelter out and consider volunteering; not only can you help out tremendously but you also get so much back from these animals and the people who work and volunteer alongside you.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
This is more sad then interesting…:
Cycling declines in Asia, on rise in Europe - Good for Europe but I certainly wish Asia could learn from the rest of the worlds' mistakes; and I don't mean just about cycling.
Alright, I guess I should change this category to sad or depressing:
NY Times Article - Discusses the ways companies are 'dealing with' the pollution their overseas factories porduce... ie... Asia).
Here we go, this one is interesting in a more uplifting way:
NBC Green News - Talks about a 'green' specialty store downtown DC for holiday gifts this season.
Excellent: After reviewing my post, I've realized that cicle.org does not allow direct links to the full stories they post under their selected headlines sections so for the next three links and the very first link they are all listed under the Handpicked Headlines and Commentary section:
These should be everywhere:
New German Community Models Car-free Living - I think this community has been linked/discussed/praised/desired on almost every bike blog I read in some way.
Hmmm… maybe this means there is still hope for me yet:
Steam in the streets of Milwaukee - Hah, if only.
Now this would be a pretty ideal way to live. I may actually be in the market for a cycling trailer soon for touring rides…:
Ithaca family pedals for sustainability -This is a very promising article, especially when looking at the stats for the community as a whole. I know it is not a large city but its is a start.
A bunch of bloggers I read frequently highlighted by a blogger I read frequently:
Freewheeling Spirit - Excellent Blog by the way.
Two of my favorite things combined:
Charlie Brown Cristmas combined with Scrubs - One of the best comedies on tv mixed with one of the greatest christmas stories of all time.
A little more holiday humor:
Just a couple of Holiday cartoons to get you in the mood, or at least get a little smile.
Merry Holidays All!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Unfortunately the downtown area has never been a big draw like the neighboring areas of South Side and Oakland; the shops that were there would be closed on weekends and early on weeknights. There are no large condo or apartment buildings in the downtown area as most of the high rises there are reserved as office buildings. This leaves people no reason to make a trip downtown other then to visit the park at the point where the Allegheny and the Monongahela meet to form the Ohio River.
As Chris mentioned the development of the North Side shore, where there used to be old run down warehouses and other buildings there now stand beautiful urban condo and apartment complexes, either refurbished within the buildings or rebuilt from the ground up. Pittsburgh is working hard to redefine itself as a center for economic development and a city for young people. It appears to me that they are certainly on the path in the right direction in most of the aspects, though the economic position of the city is still ‘under construction’.
I think reading Chris’ post this morning really just touched off a nerve for me of missing Pittsburgh and the people there. I’m hoping to make it up there relatively soon to visit the many friends I still have there and hopefully this time I’ll get to bring my bike up with me. While I sort of detest hills, there is plenty of practice to be had one them in Pittsburgh.
On a much less-heartening note; China and India are definitely not learning from the problems of the rest of the world as their cities continue to sprawl across the land and the citizens quickly move away from their bicycles and towards cars. It’s so sad that while we’re here fighting for more bike lanes they are turning bike lanes into additional car lanes. China is going to get hit hard very quickly considering their population and they are going to need to do some serious rethinking of their transportation and development policies.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I must admit that I am a huge fan of bicycle shopping; there are always more bikes to look at and lust over and just because I’m out helping my friends shop for them doesn’t mean I can still lust myself. I have however been somewhat guilty of pushing my friends towards the bikes that I would get if I were getting a bike, ie… expensive, fast and specialized bikes that may not be what they are looking for. That said, I still found it hard not to suggest they both look at cyclo cross bikes since they both are looking for bikes that they can ride all over the city streets but can still hop on the C&O Canal from time to time for a pleasant cruise.
I know they would be fine with getting simple hybrids but c’mon, where’s the fun in that? Not to mention, I’m just not that big a fan of hybrids in the first place. So, I basically pointed out the WSD road bikes and when I saw the Surly Cross Check for only $850 I gawked. The size was about right and the bike itself seemed sturdy and clean. A perfect city bike if I ever saw one (if of course you are into having gears on your city bike).
So, Amanda got on the Surly and Swan got on the Specialized Allez WSD (mainly because they did not have the Surly in a small enough size I think) and we went out a tooled around the streets. Sweet, two more urban cyclists whom I would like to take at least a little tiny bit of credit for. It now looks like the Surly will not be purchases due to an ex-bf bike racer who has some other things in mind and may be able to offer bigger discounts on higher end bikes, but I think her mind is set on the cyclo cross variety.
Swan on the other hand is still up in the air but sent me a craigslist posting (http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/bik/250504598.html I can't get the picture to upload right now for whatever reason) the other day asking for my opinion. My response? “SWEET!” This bike is tight! It is; another perfect example of an urban stallion. My take on it: replace the seat, wheels and tires basically just because they will need to be, throw a single speed rear on there, swap out the front for a single and make it a tight new street bike. Maybe add a little personalization to it; make it fun. I see the new hotness in this bike; that eagle image is just too sweet. Hopefully she doesn’t feel too pressured into getting some ridiculously expensive specialized racing bike after our shopping experience though; now I think I’d rather apply the pressure to get the single speed/fixie variety. Go peer pressure!
On Friday evening we braved the rush hour weekend special of traffic and made it to the Falls Road Running store just after the 6pm cut off time which they informed us was the end all be all but were happy to see them still open and handing out race packets. We picked up our shirts and numbers and headed to Little Italy for dinner. Stayed the night at my folks’ house where my mother made fun of me and my friends were amused by the pictures on the walls. (Yes I had a beard in essentially all of them). Woke at the crack of dawn and headed to Baltimore to find the race and after walking a quarter of the course found the starting line where the race was just about to go off. Just managed to get my chip and hop back up near the front of the line for the starting gun.
The race started off uphill, and when I say uphill I MEAN UPHILL; about 1/3 to ¾ of a mile up a steep hill and then a rolling course the rest of the way other then about a mile loop around a lake. The finish did include going down the big hill and for the first time I seemed to figure out how to run quickly and controlled down a steep hill instead of flailing and practically falling down it. I ended the race with long hard strides and finished in about the same per mile time as my previous race, maybe even slightly lower.
After the race we hang around for a while drinking our water, stretching and eating the boxes of grapes they were practically throwing at us at the food tents. The corner we found was so perfect that we never wanted to leave and actually ended up hearing part of the awards ceremony which I’ve never stayed around long enough to witness before. Afterwards a champions (at least of an eating contest) breakfast was had at a nice little dinner in Silver Spring and on home to recover; more from the eating then the running.
I will be running this race again; oh and the shirts kick ass!
Friday, December 15, 2006
I am really excited about this new trail that is currently being completed basically as an extension of the C & O Canal. I never really even knew about the whole project until recently but I think this is great that people are seeing the value in investing in this kind of infrastructure. For most people I would imagine this will mostly be viewed as a recreational trail and that kind of thing this spring I plan on taking a couple of days off and biking the entire way from DC to Pittsburgh and maybe back though I haven’t decided on that one yet.
A friend of mine did it I believe a year ago and said it was really nice (though they had to take a lot of detours for where the trail was still being built) and I think it could be a lot of fun with the right crew. Plus I have every reason to go to Pittsburgh to visit friends up there so this will just be a great (and inexpensive) vacation for me next year. All I need to do is invest in some panniers for the old hard tail (though it will be heavy) and camp out one night along the way. It should be an excellent time.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The second and most prevalent obstacle for the new rider is the gear; that crap is expensive! I mean a good jersey costs at least $60 bucks and you can't just survive on one jersey. Unless of course you feel like doing laundry every single night especially as a commuter. Then there are the shorts, where a good pair that actually help on long rides costs around the same as the jerseys. That's not even getting into things like socks, shoes, pedals water bottles, tires, tubes and of course the bike itself. (Oh and those guys have some sweet kit; my little ebay ordered trek team jersey stands out like a sore thumb).
Now to make this all worse it's friggin freezing out there now. This morning for my commute I wore a long sleeve base layer shirt, three short sleeve jersey's and a long sleeve jersey and was an absolute icicle when I got to work. That was almost every single piece of cycling gear I own too! I rode during lunch with just about the same get up on though I added some arm warmers to the mix and so when I went to get dressed for the commute home I realized my base layer long sleeve shirt was still sweaty from lunch; so much for that one. The ride home was cold to say the least, though the fleece lined arm warmers were quite helpfull.
On a slightly different note, this morning on my commute in to work I was riding down 9th St NW right next to the convention center when someone behind me starts honking. I turn around and there is a big Chrysler 300M driving down the center of the road half way in each of the two lanes going south down the road. At first I assumed he was honking for something else but then I realize he's honking at me because I am riding on the street. Now I am almost always very good about taking up only the amount of space I need to be clear of car doors and giving cars plenty of space to get around me and this morning was no different. I throw my arm up as if to ask what he wants and he honks again and speeds around me (I of course respond by giving him the finger and riding on).
The great thing is that he then pulled up behind about four or five other cars at a stop light that he was going to sit at whether I was there or not. I was tempted to stop next to his window and tell him off but thought better or if it and rode up to the light and on my way. He never got any where near me again after that as the traffic around 9th and Mass is always pretty heavy and I breezed through pretty quickly on my bike. That though was prime example of how it seems most people view bikes on the roads which is such a sad thing.
Besides the whole environmental impact aspects of cycing instead of driving cyclists should be considered a blessing by those people who feel they absolutely must take their cars to and from work in the city. That's one less car off the road and lets face it, in no way this morning did I slow a single person down on their way to work. Car traffic on the other hand, now that's another story. People driving cars should be happy to see another cyclist on the road; they don't cause the congestion of cars, they are easy to pass and while cause only the slightest delay when passing is neccessary and we don't take up any parking spaces (unless you count one car space removed for five to ten bikes being parked).
All in all its a win-win situation; unless of course some idiot drivers road rage causes him to hit a cyclist because he might have had to slow down for a couple of seconds before he could get around him.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Today, sniffling aside I came in and have spent a relatively productive, though extremely drowsy day catching up on what I missed yesterday. During lunch instead of attempting to keep up with heavy hitters down at Hains on my fixie I took a short and very slow run down to the national memorial and back. I was pretty surprised by the fact that I was just fine in sleeves, shorts, gloves and fleece hat though it was probably the hat that did the most good for me.
I’ve recently decided to begin another blog to document my progress in teaching myself to become a photographer as inspired by Swan. It will probably be a while (if ever) until I post anything worth looking at but feel free to check in regularly as I will hopefully be posting regularly there. This morning however as I was walking to the metro, I realized I am somewhat self-conscious when it comes to taking random pictures while wondering around this city. As I got to a point where I had wanted to take a picture, someone walked out of their apartment and I decided I didn’t want to take the picture right then. I’m not really sure why I felt this way, I certainly was not embarrassed or anything. It’s probably just because I don’t feel like a photographer and all with my little Casio exelim digital pocket sized camera. Oh well, I guess I’ll get over it soon enough.