January 2011


bridge in the am on wed 1-26-11

damp winter morning

Leaving work earlier this week, the guard in the building said “did you ice skate last week?” I said no, asked if she had. And then I realized – she was talking about the bike. We had a day last week that was slick, so I rode my beater mountain bike that I turned into my crappy weather bike. It has the rack and fenders, and I put my studded tires on it also. It gives me a lot of peace of mind on those relatively rare slick days.

A coworker leaving at the same time commented something along the lines of, “people don’t think the bike can go in bad weather.” And it’s true, the slightest bit of rain and people at work exclaim “you rode in this?”

Meanwhile it’s the wind that gets to me. The wind, the wind!

But yesterday was fairly epic. Not as much as the 7″ of snow I rode in one day a couple years ago, of course, but still noteworthy. I am fairly obsessive about reading the weather reports in the winter – my favorite is a blog-style reporting, and they go into all kinds of technical detail regarding their forecasts. More detail than I’m interested in, but I find it interesting to read anyway. And it leaves me with a much greater understanding of the variables, and the timing, and that helps me make my decisions regarding my riding.

Yesterday I knew it would start out rainy and end up snowy, so I rode my beater to work. I left around 3:30, 30 minutes later than I had intended, and probably 60 minutes later than I ideally would have left. It was sleeting when I left. The roads were wet but not slippery, but that sleet…it’s painful. Little ice shards finding every piece of exposed skin they can!

tunnel on van dorn afternoon 1-26

really wet in the afternoon

And I got soaked. My feet were sloshing in my boots! (I obviously need to do something about those boots…) Every piece of clothing was pretty much getting soaked through. This isn’t a big deal in the summer, but it was worrisome in the winter.

To my surprise, my feet, sloshing in the boots, stayed warm. My feet are what I struggle with on the bike in cold weather, so this was counter to my expectations! My hands, however, were painfully cold. They never get cold! So this was also counter to expectations. I switched gloves at one point a little more than halfway through, but those gloves got soaked very quickly also, and the hand-chill continued. Luckily my trip isn’t that long…

The forecasters had warned that once the snow started it would fall fast and furious. And they were right. The painful sleet started mixing with snow about halfway home. It turned to snow more and more as I went along, and the slushy mess started accumulating a little in the street.

The studded tires are amazing. I didn’t slip at all, and probably had better traction than the cars around me. The snow was so wet that the cars would almost completely displace the slush, so mostly I followed in car tracks and had a pretty easy ride.

All in all, it was more physically challenging — cold hands, more resistance from the studded tires, and the slush — but still not what I’d think of as extreme. No, the people who had truly epic commutes were the ones in cars. Nine hours to get from DC to Herndon?! And that wasn’t even the longest commute I heard about from this storm!

Today is a snow day for me. This means I burn a vacation day, but sometimes I don’t mind.

Three things:
1. Snow day!
2. Studded tires. 🙂
3. This morning I watched a dog across the street run and cavort in the snowy parking lot. So much joy!

This has been a strange week. A fast week that seemed slow. A routine week that was not.

I had Monday off. I had big plans to clear out my cave, which I did only to a small degree. It’s this odd space, carved out of the bedroom. It was either a walk in closet at one point, or simply part of the bedroom, and it was walled off. There’s a doorway with no door, and you can only get to it through my bedroom. No windows, hence “The Cave”. It’s a frustrating space, becomes the destination for all the flotsam I haven’t sorted through. I’ve lived here four years, and I want to finish this space off, so it’s organized, instead of jumbled.

Big plans in that regard last weekend, but all I really did was take the empty boxes out to be recycled.

Then there was the weather – finally we had seasonal temperatures! It felt like spring, we even had a day that hit 50 degrees! Today, and this weekend, completely different story.

Work was boring, right up until the last couple hours today. Finally finally finally I have some consistent work to pass the time. It’s not that interesting on the surface – refactoring existing code to switch from a proprietary framework to an open source commonly used framework. But it’s work, and it’s work I find mostly satisfying, and it’s always good for learning.

Jake is a character, has dominated our shared 700 square feet pretty much from the moment I brought him home. He is such a goofball, but an extremely agile, athletic, curious one, he’s constantly exploring every nook and cranny (and the higher the better), so he gets into things, and I take pictures. So when I say he has dominated, I think I really mean he’s dominated my camera and my facebook stream. I often feel that in the real day-to-day workings of my life with my three cats, that I end up focusing on the other two almost to the exclusion of Jake…except of course when he’s getting into stuff. Which, when he is awake, is a lot.

But anyway, some of my favorite pictures of him are of him sleeping. All of his fans on the internet love, of course, when he’s doing something risky. Playing with his tail on top of the closet door. Climbing into a cabinet full of glassware. Hanging out in the dishwasher. He’s a challenge.

The other day I posted one of my favorite pictures of him, and got no feedback. This doesn’t bother me, I mention it only because I find it interesting. He’s sleeping in the picture, and what I love about it is the light. It’s sort of delicate and stark all at the same time. It’s a simple picture, yet there are lots of details. There’s not much of a mystery to it, but it’s one I like to go back and look at again and again, which is one of the criteria of a successful picture, for me. Maybe no one else feels that way about the picture – that’s okay, I take them for myself.

Maybe no one else feels that way about the picture because they don’t realize how precious those sleeping moments are for someone living with a troublemaker like Jake! Jake is not especially affectionate. He doesn’t want to be held, though if I hold him in a specific position, he’ll tolerate it for short periods of time. I have trained him, in a way, to rub up against my leg when he wants something, as opposed to going in the kitchen and breaking something. He sleeps curled up between my legs about half the time, otherwise he’s in the living room.

What am I saying? He’s easier to love in pictures, I think, than in reality. He gets into so much trouble! He’s endearing, but manipulative, and our interactions are very often me trying to stop him from doing something. When he’s sleeping, everything is softer, and I can feel all of the love for him that I really do have, but which is usually masked by the immediacy of trying to keep him from “helping” bake cookies, or eat my dinner or break this or that, or get into this or that…

So, all that to say, here’s one of my favorite pictures of Jake:

Now, the 3 things:
1. Having some warmish weather this week was so nice! I’d forgotten how nice that felt.
2. I got my brakes fixed up on the beater bike, the old mountain bike turned alternate commuter that I stuck the studded tires on, and so on Tuesday when we had some sketchy weather (sleet mostly), I was able to ride the studded tire bike and it felt incredibly freeing. Bikes expand my horizons, pure and simple, and something about it being on my own steam makes it mean something…turning the key in the ignition of a car never had that feeling, at least not for me.
3. I really love that picture of Jake!

I tend to hunker down at my desk when I’m at work, getting up only for necessities. There are about 100 people who work in my building, and I probably know only 20 by name. This becomes disconcerting when I realize that many more people than that know me by name. Even most of the people who don’t know me by my given name know me by my other name: The Biker.

I met one of these people in the break room today as I got hot water for my tea. “You bike all winter long!” was his conversation starter. He was amazed that I rode 13.5 miles each way. We talked for a few minutes about the biking and joked about his initial assumption that I get on the Beltway to bike commute (this is a more common belief than you might imagine).

I have no idea who he is. I didn’t even know he worked in the building!

Being The Biker is a great ice-breaker, it’s just not great for learning people’s names!

My three things:
1. Being very pleasantly surprised by the comments on yesterday’s post! To think I didn’t expect anyone to read it!
2. When I arrived at the stream today, the sun was this giant ball of fire. In the past, this frustrated me from a photographic standpoint, today it thrilled me. It looked warm, even though it was still only 26 degrees. I needed that ball of fire, it was food for the soul!
3. I realized while at work that Monday is a holiday. For some reason it wasn’t registering that this weekend is a 3 day weekend. So happy to realize!

I’m taking a class these days. Most Good, Least Harm. It’s been interesting so far. It’s a lot about introspection, reflection, aligning behavior with belief. Right up my ally, and in many ways it becomes challenging because I’ve already thought about so much of what is brought up, I’ve already made so many changes.

When you’re someone who uses cloth handkerchiefs and cloth napkins and cloth everything except toilet paper, it’s hard when you look at your trash for the day to find things you can realistically reduce.

Okay, clif bars, I’m guilty. I will look for a solution/replacement and give up my reliance on clif bars!

Today we talked about joy. I’d had so much joy in the morning – getting out onto icy streets on the bike might not sound like a recipe for joy, but add the studs I was trying out for the first time on the “new” beater I was riding for the first time, and it was pure joy. Horizons expanding, the world at my feet kind of joy.

Work was frustrating though. I even switched to tea, because coffee makes me more irritable, but man…I was irritated all day long today. And then the ride home felt so hard.

It was windy. It happens. And the studs add considerable resistance, only worth riding when the roads are sketchy, and they’d pretty much dried up between this morning and this afternoon, so it was more work for little benefit. But still, the extra work seemed more extra than it should be.

And I found out why when I got home. One of the rear brake pads was flush against the rim of the tire. I don’t know why, it was adjusted just fine this morning. I tried to adjust it after I got home, but it didn’t seem to be working so well. Frustrating. But exhaustion explained!

Still, there was the lingering frustration. And then I sat down to recount my joy-filled-moments for this class, and … magic! I felt the joy all over again! My mood was brightened, I felt free of those frustrations.

I was reminded of the three positive things I used to record on this blog. And in going back to find where that started, I realized something. I kind of like this blog! Maybe I’ll start blogging here again, the random collection of jumbled life experiences…

If nothing else, it’s a place to share my three things:
1. Studded tires on icy roads
2. Vertical slash of sunrise-colored sunlight at the stream
3. Refinding joy by remembering and describing it