National Bike Month, Week 3: Bike to Work Day
You’d think by now I’d be an old pro at biking to work. I regularly biked to work last year when I was training for the Climate Ride, which doesn’t sound out-of-the-ordinary, except that my bike commute is 20 miles each way. On the other hand, without the training schedule, I hadn’t yet found that motivation to get up early enough this year to bike in. As a result, I was a little nervous about Bike to Work Day. I kept telling myself, “It’s just called Bike to Work Day; no one said anything about biking back.” But whatever I expected Bike to Work Day to be, it was weirder and more joyful than I would have guessed.
Most of my ride into work was in various combination, lovely and exhausting. Because of my long ride, I got to the Rockville stop long before it was open and snagged a banana off of the table as they were setting up. From Rockville to Bethesda (both D.C. suburbs), I was pleasantly surprised to note a substantial increase in the number of cyclists I saw over last year. The first half of last year’s Bike to Work Day seemed about the same as my usual commute, with very few cyclists. This year, I saw a quite a few bicyclists going both directions, which was encouraging. There’s been a bunch of articles about the skyrocketing numbers of D.C. cyclists commuting, but I hadn’t noticed it much in the suburbs until this past Friday.
I stopped at the Bethesda Bike to Work Day stop in the midst of a crowd. I arrived rather late last year, due to a mishap with a flat tire only a block from the stop. This year, I came while the party was in full swing. Despite the national group’s apathetic-at-best attitude towards cyclists, the Mid-Atlantic AAA had a table promoting bicycling and pedestrian safety. Along with a couple of human volunteers, there was a surprising safety advocate – a plastic cartoon car that talked!
Even though I spotted his human narrator quickly, he still made me smile and must enchant kids. Making the rounds, I picked up a bagel, as well as the requisite t-shirt and water bottle. Unfortunately, in trying to cram everything into and onto my bike bag, I managed to lose my good light.
But it was the way home that was far more surprising. During lunch, I checked John Scalzi’s blog for updates, as I’m a regular reader and a fan of his SF novels. Much to my surprise, I saw that he was going to be in nearby Crystal City, Virginia doing an open signing that evening! After fussing about trying to decide the best way to get there, I finally decided that I was just going to bike over from D.C. on my own bike, helmet-hair and all. Looking up the route on Google, I was pleased to see that there’s an excellent multi-use bike path that connects the Jefferson Memorial with Crystal City. I had been on it before, all the way back during my first Climate Ride training session, but hadn’t seen it since. Since the semi-chilly morning, the sky had cleared and it warmed up without being hot. I tooled along the path with other commuters, training racers, and tourists out for a spin. The planes flying out of Reagan National Airport, which the path winds by, added an extra layer of drama to it all.
I also saw this dude – riding an actual velocipede! I haven’t even seen a real one of these on the Seersucker Ride. That takes some serious commitment to being weird.
After 4.5 miles and an awkward change of clothes in the hotel bathroom, I was all set to meet and have my book signed by one of my favorite authors. As I waited in line to buy a book, I spotted another much desired novel – Among Others, by Jo Walton. Since Patrick Nielsen Hayden on Making Light wrote up a wonderful preview/review that described how it perfectly captures the sense of growing up with and because of SF books, I’ve wanted to read it. And now, with the author actually here, able to sign it? Well, of course I just had to have it, actual space in my bag be damned. I’d break the laws of physics to get these books home.
When I walked into the signing hall, I was both surprised and somewhat pleased to see how short the lines were. Even though it was a “public event,” it wasn’t exactly advertised as such outside of Scalzi’s blog, so the lines made sense, but I’m used to huge D.C. events where everything is mobbed. After a big two minutes waiting in line, I finally got up to John Scalzi. As I’ve read so much of his blog, I feel like I know him more than many authors, but also know that’s weird and creepy to say that. Instead, I said that I came over because I saw the event posted on the blog and would like him to sign my book. Instead of doing the rational thing and leaving the pleasant conversation at that, I then tried to take a photo. Never a good idea. I ended up scrambling around in my bag, trying to sort through my biking clothes for my phone, and then taking up half of the photo. Sigh. I tried to be similarly friendly without being creepy to Jo Walton and think I mistakenly insulted her. Double sigh. Despite my social awkwardness, I was still walking around with a stupid grin on my face. Being able to meet awesome authors and get books signed was so unexpectedly lovely.
I finished my day with a ride back to D.C., through the city, and up the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda. By that time, the dark was falling, so I grabbed dinner and hopped on the Metro. Even though I didn’t complete biking home from work, Bike to Work Day was a success.
Did you participate in Bike to Work Day or have you in the past? How did it go?