Monday, August 25, 2008

And I'm out

If you've stumbled upon this blog, you may have realised that it hasn't been updated in — well, in a long time. That's for several reasons:

1. The outfit for which I was working, which was pretty much run by a crook (for the record, I did get paid — six months late), left our Davis Square office and worked out of meeting rooms at HBS (seriously), one of the employees' homes, and then pretty much didn't work at all. My commute became much more sporadic and boring, and never again would I get to race time to get to Davis much faster than I could by car or the T.

2. Once I didn't have a job, I wasn't commuting. Sure, from time to time I had reason to bike through Boston, but not generally with the conviction (and adrenaline) I was able to work up at 7:45 a.m.

3. I almost resurrected this when I finally got two job offers in November. One was with a local start-up in the Seaport district east of Downtown. That would have meant a pretty fun ride through Downtown each day (Comm Av to Beacon St [Trolley tracks!] to Comm Av [Kenmore!] through Chinatown [!] over 10.7 miles) with a few bits of excitement [!]. Alas, it was not to be, as I got a job in the Twin Cities, where cycling is much flatter and easier and probably safer.

So it goes, the posting here ends. I am still very proud of my 27 minute ride to Davis through no fewer than thirty traffic lights. On a mountain bike. At rush hour. Yeah, that was pretty sweet. And, yes, especially here in the flat, flat midwest, I want a fixed-gear bike.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday, July 20

I almost didn't ride today. I am going up to New Hampshire with my uncle this evening (the same one who picked me up in the rain yesterday) and it would have been slightly easier to not have a bike with. However, when push came to shove, I had not sent my helmet along with him, and the prospect of a long and costly ($4) express bus and Red Line commute was disheartening, to I took to the streets.

And boy was I glad. I threaded the needle at Commonwealth and Washington (what I mean is, while the Commonwealth left turn lanes were turning, I went between the two diagonally across the intersection) and then sped, traffic-free through West Newton's runnable lights. From there, my next slow-down was past Watertown Square, and I was going gangbusters: 5 minutes to Albemarle, 8 minutes through the lake, 11 minutes through Watertown. It was shaping up to be an epic ride.

I did hit a couple lights requiring a slowdown, but was generally able to speed through to Aberdeen before I had to come to my first (and only) full and complete stop at Fresh Pond Parkway. After that, it was a rather uneventful (except for a guy who took a left and plugged up the intersection at Walden and Sherman) to Raymond, where I went left and through the tunnel, having to pass a group of kids necessitating a slow down, before I hammered under the tracks at over 20 mph, which was interesting on the undulating surface going up. After that it was an easy ride across Mass Ave and then up Hollis, which had no traffic thanks to the construction blocking it in Davis. Simple and easy. And fast.

Very fast. I thought the 28:03 ride was about as fast as possible, but today I made it in 27:03, 8.13 miles, 18.0 mph. I'll need a new bike (perhaps a fixed gear) to drop some weight and go much faster. I guess the next goal is to break 27:00. Although we might be moving offices next week. Ah, the life of the start-up.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday, July 19

I know it is going to rain. The morning trip in was rather uneventful, but after an inauspicious start it clocked in at under 30 minutes elapsed (29:53, 16.2 mph). This was mainly because I was able to find a slightly shorter route. Instead of taking a left on Sherman from Walden, I went one light further, took a left on Raymond, went by the projects, and then ducked under the train tracks in a wide, well-paved underpass, which put me right on to Yerxa, which I took right across Mass Ave and, after going the wrong way on Hollis and passing a couple of cops (flee to Somerville!), to Davis.

The start, however, was not good, and I was surprised with my sub-30 time (30-31 total). I had to wait for a light at Comm and Wash, and then at the Watertown Street left, so by the time I hit Watertown Street I felt like I had been sitting at lights for half an hour. Further along, however, I hit no lights, which is how my time improved so dramatically, despite taking it relatively easy on Mount Auburn Street. I got a competitive fire back when I got to pass and drop a couple other riders (stay focused; realize it's a race) and that propelled me to the finish.

Now, where Reservoir crosses Vassal and becomes Walden in Cambridge there is supposedly a rotary. There is a rotary sign, even though Vassal has a stop sign, and a yellow circle painted on the street. Which doesn't work. This is Boston, for crying out loud. If you want a rotary, you better build a rotary (and not one of those pansy roundabouts they have in the Midwest). Still, with Vassal drivers blowing through the stop sign a lot, it is one of the scarier points on the ride.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday, July 18

It was supposed to rain...

The radar in the morning showed a swath of rain on our doorstep. Resigned to driving, I was met with rain drops when I walked out the door.

Now, let me explain. I really like to bike. It is the fastest feasible method of commuting I have (if I were to drive, and hit zero traffic, I could probably make the trip in 25 minutes, but then I'd have to find parking in Davis, which is hellish. Plus, I'd have to either sit in the Alewife traffic (which sucks) or go down Lake Street and try to get across the Alewife Brook Parkway, which is slightly better. I could take the T, but my options are the Express Bus in to the city, which sits in traffic anyway and costs $4 and the the Red Line to Davis, of the Green Line, which is more cost effective ($1.70) but is a nightmare with the summer construction. No way am I going to spend 1:30 to get in. So what I do is drive down Route 2 to Lake Street, park in Arlington (generally no parking restrictions and take the 87 bus to Davis. (I can also walk to Clarendon Hill and take the 88). If I time it right, the bus comes about three minutes after I get to Arlington and generally gets to Davis by 9. It is a tolerable rainy day option, at least this summer, and if all the connections work takes as little as 32 minutes. Plus, parking is free. Now, as to the cost of driving...

So I did the latter today. And the rain never hit. Sure, it rained, but from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., right when I wasn't biking. Blast. By the time I got out, it was drying up, and just cool and foggy. At least I had brought my rollerskis and was able to head out for 15k on the Rail Trail. Tomorrow, I won't let the rain scare me. And, with my luck, I'll pay dearly.

I did get the T experience today. When you drive alone, you miss all the human interaction which makes commuting somewhat enjoyable. When you bike, you can rarely, if ever, have a conversation. But today I got to wait for the bus with Arlington Townies (the ones always walking four abreast on the rail trail, although when I passed them today their reaction was "word").

The scene: three Joeys sitting on a stoop, waiting for the bus, and an aging, domestic car pulls up with a local woman at the wheel:

Woman: What are you guys doing this morning
Townie [excitedly]: Going to court!
Woman: Oooh. Have fun.
— pause —
hey did you get your, uh, probation?
Townie: nah I gotta go talk to my PO today.

Brilliant. As my mom said "someone's gotta live there."

Tuesday, July 17

Today started rather inconspicuously but wound up great. I had to wait at Comm and Wash for the Commonwealth cross traffic for a bit, and only then got to tear down Washington Street. Still, the traffic caught up before Auburn comes in, which was kind of a shame. I got through the Pike bottleneck (my dad says this really sucks when there is more traffic in the non-summer) and then made it through West Newton with no trouble.

I hit Watertown Street and found my rhythm. I pounded along at about 20 mph, but did have to stop at Walnut for a second, but then gained time when I was the only one able to get around a left-turning truck at Crafts. I zoomed through The Lake and on the hill in to Watertown found myself not too far behind a rather serious looking cyclist. At the bridge bottleneck in Watertown, I took the sidewalk and he chose to get stuck in traffic in the street, so by the time we both sprinted through the green light at Main Street we were neck in neck.

He was on a fixed-gear road bike (well, single speed at least, I am pretty sure it has no freewheel), the kind I want to get if I have a long-term flat bike ride. He led up the Mount Auburn Hill, and I grabbed his draft. We drifted along at about 20 mph and made every light (and I mean every light) until Aberdeen where we both had to clip out for the first time since the square. We made some small talk before the light changed and we both darted in front of the oncoming traffic on to the Aberdeen Bike Lane. I stayed with him on to Huron as we passed a slower cyclist and then he went left on to the Fresh Pond path.

But my time was fast. I had gotten to Aberdeen in something like 18 minutes, so I had a chance to break 30 elapsed! My way-off computer clock said it was 7:43 when I left, and I thought I might even have a chance to break 30 overall. I got lucky with the lights, and was able to make the Reservior and Sheldon lefts at full speed. By the time I got to Pemberton, I was stoked. I sprinted down it, beginning to narrate my ride in Phil Liggett's voice (except mainly narrating my string of near-death experiences):

"He takes the left on to Yerxa — oh he'll have to get around the double parked car and he does! Now can he get across Rindge without too much trouble? Indeed! Now on to the under-construction street, can he get around the equipment? Yes he can. He looks to power across Mass Ave and makes it half way across but now is losing precious seconds staring down Hollis through the oncoming traffic.

"Here's a break and he takes it! He is dodging the one way traffic like a pro, sticking near the cars on the narrow street. He gets through the wrong-way stop, and it looks like he might make it. Look at the cadence he has going towards Davis. He makes the left and now has to ride up the curb cut and berm. Oh and across the grass, cutting off the pedestrian! What a move. He looks like he will make it and he is in to the building!"

And his (my) time? 28:03 elapsed (17.5 mph). 29:00 overall (17 mph). That, my friends, is going to be tough to beat, at least on this bike.

The evening was much less exciting but just as pleasurable (for different reasons). I was to meet my mother and aunt in JP, so I got to choose from about sixteen different routes. I took Mass Ave down through Harvard Square (electing to take a phone call on the sidewalk, stopped, through that gauntlet) and then to the River. The path along the river was nice, but narrowed after Western Avenue so that two bikes could barely pass. They really need to fix this. Then it was across the BU Bridge, down to Park Avenue (including a bit of sidewalk along Beacon) and off towards the Riverway. The bike path along the Muddy River is a bit problematic. Crushed limestone is fine, but not when it is not maintained and drained and foot-deep ruts are created. Thank goodness for shocks. I then ducked under the Riverway to Huntington, stuck my bike in the car, and went to dinner.

Monday, July 16

I thought today might be the day. I didn't thread the needle across the Comm and Wash intersection, but made good time down through West Newton (no lights) and on down Watertown Street. Watertown Square did not pose any major issue, but I acutally took the upstream side of the bridge owing to the lights by the Watertown Yard and then cut diagonally across the Main-Mount Auburn intersection. From there it was a relatively simple ride along Mount Auburn although I missed the light at Aberdeen.

Still, I was riding strong. I made it across Fresh Pond Parkway without waiting for the light and on to Walden. I took my left on to Sheldon and the thirty minute ride was definitely within my grasp. I was going gangbusters down Walden when I saw the gates lower at the railroad crossing. I might muck around with traffic lights, but I will not go around crossing gates. I probably could have beaten the train. But not definitely.

The 30 minute ride out, I got to wait for the train to pass by (quickly) and then darted under the rising gate faster than anyone else. It was an easy right on to Pemberton and then an easy ride the rest of the way in to Davis.

31 Minutes, 16.2 mph.

The ride home was fine, too, although I did have a minor, uh, altercation on Huron Street. I was trundling along on the outside line of the bike lane (where I like to sit so I don't get doored) and a woman in a honda or something equally innocuous turned out of a space and cut me off. I threw up my hands and she sped away. A second later she turned to go around a left-turning car and cut me off again. I held up two fingers (as in the number of times she almost ended my life) and then pointed to my eyes. But at the Fresh Pond Parkway, she had to stop and, on the verge of tears, apologized to me as I glided by. No swearing, not anger, and a Honda. If she learned her lesson, I'm fine with it.

From there, it was an easy ride home via Newtonville (bank) although that necessitated climbing up West Newton Hill for fun. An extra mile and probably more climbing than I did the rest of the day.