Thursday, November 21, 2013

Post #17: Bikeography Part XII -- A Capital Bikeist

First off:  no fewer than two loyal readers have cited this blog as an inspiration to them this week.  I apologize.  I never had any intention to inspire anybody.  The whole point of this blog is to make millions!  Can't wait for that big Holiday Bonus check from Mr. Google!  Wonder if being inspirational will add to my take . . .

OK, I lied -- it's not really about all the millions I'm about to rake in.  You guys figured me out -- the real point of this blog is, in fact, to inspire people to dust off the bikes they ALL have hanging in their garages, sheds, etc., and re-experience the closest sensation to flying without (usually) leaving the ground.  I accept and applaud your inspiration, and, in turn, am inspired to keep on inspiring . . . .  Thank you.

Speaking of inspiration, check this out:

Yes, that is, indeed, a brand new Brooks, C17 Cambium mounted on my do-everything, Red Cannondale urban assault bike.  I have always coveted a Brooks saddle, but the whole maintenance thing (tension bolts) and the need to keep the leather from ever getting wet (really folks, aren't they made in bloody England?) were major drawbacks for me.  The C17's, though -- modeled after the iconic Brooks B17, are crafted from vulcanized rubber with a waterproof, canvas, seat (and, of course, those gorgeous rivets!).  So, with a little birthday cash in hand (thanks, mom!), I couldn't resist when I walked into Holland's and, literally, saw Jacob pulling the demo models out of the crate they had just received.  A review is forthcoming, but I couldn't resist posting a teaser . . .

When we left off, I was still in the throes of my chance encounter with an errant jackrabbit (still haven't quite shaken, or figured out, that experience - and am pretty sure the rabbit feels about the same).  That collision, of course, came during my tour on USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76).  My last six months on board that magnificent ship were spent on a deployment in support of OIF where my biking was limited to the three spin bikes we had stashed in an aft compartment and a wonderful day on the east coast of Singapore spent on a nice, dedicated bike path.  The reward for that tour, though, was a year at the University of San Diego for a Navy funded advanced degree in Environmental Law.  Great school - great program, but, best of all, a great bike commute!  I was back on the ferry again every morning, and had a perfect ten miles along the Emabracadero, up Nimitz, up the San Diego River Path, and then up the STEEP hill to the main campus and the Law School.  What a great year! 

After USD, it was off to the Pentagon to utilize my new-found knowledge, and re-acquaint myself with biking in real weather.  Thankfully, Google Earth had been invented by this time, so finding a place to live was a cinch -- I just followed the Mount Vernon Trail south from the Pentagon until I found an adjacent neighborhood with a convenient elementary school for my little bikeists.  The one we found was exactly 14 miles from the Pentagon (I highly recommend the linked book - reads like an architectural/engineering thriller, if there is such a thing) -- ideal commuting distance.  What a joy to ride up and down the Potomac every day to go work in a historic, iconic, structure!  The path was maintained by the National Park Service, so it was always in fantastic condition, and I was surprised how quickly I re-adjusted to biking in cold, wet conditions.  The LL Bean XC-skiing gear came back out of the storage bins, and I actually looked forward to the shorter, colder days in fall and winter because I, pretty much, had the path to myself that time of year.  The colder it got, the clearer my path to and from work.  For icy and snowy days I pressed the old red Cannondale back into service with some Schwalbe carbide studded tires I picked up.  Those tires were awesome!  They gripped the black ice on the wooden bridges along the path and were tremendous on the handful of snowy days we had in those two years.  People thought I was crazy for biking in those conditions, but, I saw it as the equivalent exertion of going out and skiing in the same weather, which nobody would have questioned.  In fact, DC winters pretty much hover in the 40's, which is fine for biking if you're dressed right.  My biggest challenge was actually trying not to over-heat, since the resulting perspiration made me colder than the air or wind ever could.

Believe it or not, DC is a veritable Bikeist paradise.  Commuting to the Pentagon or M. Le'Enfant's master-planned metropolis on the Potomac can be easily accomplished through a substantial network of dedicated bike paths that spread out like spokes from a hub.  Besides my beloved Mount Vernon Trail, there was the Capital Crescent Trail that came in from Bethesda, the C&O towpath (explored further in my next post) that heads all the way from Georgetown, through West Virginia, to Cumberland, Maryland, and the W&OD Trail that heads west to the Leesburg countryside.  Right before I transferred, they even finished hanging a brand new path off the side of the Woodrow Wilson bridge, providing connectivity between the Southern Maryland countryside and Old Town Alexandria (and, of course, Crystal/Pentagon Cities and the Pentagon).  I, of course, missed my beloved San Diego the whole time I was there, but, thanks to NEVER having to experience Beltway rush-hour traffic, I was probably the happiest (or only happy) person in DC -- which is most likely why they made me leave . . .

Next up:  A Passage to Pittsburgh

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