Category Archives: Commute Reflections

Beauty Through Motion

Like many women, I struggle with notions of beauty and self-acceptance, especially when it comes to physical appearance. I look in the mirror and immediately see all the ways I’m lacking. If I shaved off a few pounds, and toned up this area here, and then put on a little makeup, I’d look so much better.

The rather mean messages my mind regularly communicates led me to start taking fairly regular self-portraits with my cell phone, mostly before and after work. The camera doesn’t have the same critical nature. It just shoots whatever is in front of it. I wondered what the camera would see.

The camera was generally kinder to me than I was. On days when I felt frumpy, a photo captured elegance. Other days when I was criticising my lack of physical condition, the camera showed a fairly lean and fit person.

Me on C&O

There were also a few moments when I felt beautiful from the inside out, and I stopped to take self-portraits then, too. Two times stand out.

The first is a photo I took during a spontaneous trip down the C&O after a full day in a work training. The brevets were in full swing, and my legs felt awesome, like I could ride forever.

The C&O was fairly quiet, except for families of geese with newborn goslings and the occasional commuter. It was a hot day, and my makeup was long melted away. I wore a basic wool t-shirt and pair of shorts. Hair thrown in a ponytail. I felt sexy and beautiful.

The second is a self-portrait snapped in North Fork, during our Idaho tour. Felkerino and I had spent the day following the path of the Salmon River for 82 miles. We were on the third day of our 12-day tour, and I was luxuriating in the terrain we had traveled with our tandem under the bright Idaho sun.

I was proud of us for choosing a different path this year. Instead of a prescribed tour or event, we went to a place we had never ridden before.

I took this photo after we had showered and eaten a dinner that included a delicious piece of cobbler a la mode. Again, I felt beautiful, and like my C&O ride, there was no makeup in sight and I was wearing Sidis.

Felkerino and me, bike tour Idaho

After taking these photos, particular the last two I mention and have shown here, I figured out a couple things. First, I am too mean to myself. I should try being nicer because taking such a critical stance about my appearance does not benefit or motivate me much.

It really only tears me down, and doesn’t allow me to see the good or beautiful inside. And it is there, I’m sure. I just have a lot of resistance to letting myself glimpse it.

My second takeaway from all these self-portraits is that true beauty extends beyond appearance. I would dare to say that true beauty is not appearance.

The times I have experienced beauty are when I have been in motion, physically active. I wear no makeup, no fancy clothes, and my hair is pulled back or falls totally undone. I give no thought to where I’m toned and where I’m not.

I believe I am beautiful when I’m appreciating all that my body can do, and the ways it has shown its endurance, health, and strength. That, I think, is powerful and true beauty.

Unexpected Letdown

Almost two weeks have passed since Felkerino and I were last turning our tandem wheels through Idaho and Montana. This bike tour, combined with my recent work travels, really helped me appreciate my Washington, D.C., home.

The District is bikeable and diverse. Career prospects are good. Over the last decade more and more people have moved into the city proper, and chosen bikes as their main form of transport.

This has led to improved bike infrastructure (not perfect, but better!) and provided opportunities for local businesses and restaurants who can cater to these residents. Travels have taught me that this is not a given in all places.

Capitol

Usually I end our summer bike tours with a sense of sadness or a wish that life on the road would continue, but not this time.  Unlike past trips, I thought our tour lasted just long enough and I welcomed the return to life in the District.

While for some, life inside the Beltway is a subject of constant grousing, I’ve realized that D.C. has become a comfortable home base for Felkerino and me.

The readily available resources within walking and cycling distance spoil me, and sleeping in my own bed and 24-hour access to a washing machine have been a real treat. Life here is good.

Idaho bike tour days, Felkerino and me

I miss aspects of the road, though. My windowless office brings a longing for the outdoors, and the bright sun’s rays on my cheeks and neck. I miss the gradual rise of daily temperatures and the freedom of sweating up and not wearing deodorant.

I love that dusty sweaty odor that builds up on my body and absorbs into my clothing over a full day of riding. It’s refreshing to breathe in the smell of a day outside, the scent of physical effort.

During our bike tour, every site was new. It takes energy to always be wandering through new terrain, but it’s also exciting. We began many days in rural areas. Now it’s a 30-mile ride from the built-up city to the countryside, and almost all of the paths between here and there are familiar.

Idaho bike tour, Felkerino and me

Mostly, I miss riding our tandem on the open road. For now, we’ve ditched our minimalist touring setup for full commute panniers and short rides here and there. We’re tending to business like the flat tire on the Quickbeam that I kept procrastinating (thanks for that, Felkerino).

Oh, and planning future tour. We’re doing that too.  I tend to drift into the post-tour funk, but Felkerino wards it off by thinking ahead. He likes to keep the anticipation of the open road within reach. I married a dreamer, which is a good antidote for the unexpected post-tour letdown.

BikeDC Homebody

Over the last month, I spent many days traveling outside of D.C.– away from Felkerino, the office, and the daily bike commute.

I suppose a change of scenery is a good thing. It’s always interesting to have a brief window into life outside the city. Continue reading BikeDC Homebody

Transformation and Inspiration

It’s surreal to recall it now, but bicycling– even running– were largely absent from my life during my post-college twenties. I worked long hours, drove my car, and attended many a happy hour. Continue reading Transformation and Inspiration

Stillness in the Ruckus of Washington, D.C.

Buses align Ohio Drive, one after the other, and block my once-daily view of the Potomac.

Large chatty groups of tourists swarm the National Mall, oblivious to the bike commuters that weave around them. They start the day early, and I fail to wake up any earlier to avoid their field trips.

The sudden influx is an annual jolt. Continue reading Stillness in the Ruckus of Washington, D.C.

Birthday Week Bike Rides in BikeDC

Dear Washington, D.C., my current city of residence,

I discovered a better way to maneuver around you after too many years as a subterranean Metro passenger.

Monday Afternoon at the Monument
Monday Afternoon at the Monument

Your dense pinwheel layout and abundant side streets instilled a belief that I could pedal your roads without too much angst or trouble. Continue reading Birthday Week Bike Rides in BikeDC

The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

If you’ve been around bikes long enough, you’re likely familiar with the “n+1” principle. Velominati describes it as follows:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I became quite caught up in the n + 1 principle in my early days as a bike enthusiast, although I did not know it had a name. My stable quickly grew from one Fuji road bike to a road bike + fixed gear + light touring bike + a commuter/touring bike + folding bike + single speed folding bike + you get the idea. Continue reading The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

Figuring Out How to Speak Bike

Recently Elly Blue put a question out to the Twitterverse, asking people about the things they found difficult when first taking up cycling. Her question took me back to 2003 or so when I began cycling around Washington, D.C., for transportation and fitness. Continue reading Figuring Out How to Speak Bike

Combating Cynicism Through Active Commutes

Today I was reading David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.”  In it, he addresses the theme of selfishness, as well as the tedious aspects of adult life and how we all construct and view our life experiences.

Our challenge, he says, is to step outside ourselves, take an active role in interpreting our surroundings, and not succumb to that everyday tediousness. I call this fighting cynicism. Continue reading Combating Cynicism Through Active Commutes

The Wheelman’s Song

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have noticed that I’ve been perusing old issues of The Wheelman and Good Roads.

Both magazines were publications of the League of American Wheelman, which is now the Bike League, and date back to the late 1800’s, when people’s fascination with the bicycle was just beginning to take hold in the United States.

The excitement and novelty of riding a bicycle permeates these editions. From tour recounts to illustrations and poems, men (mostly men, as women are unfortunately largely absent from these publications) unabashedly adored bike riding.

An example of this appreciation for the bike is found in the poem below, “Wheelman’s Song, ” written by Will Carleton in 1884. It seemed a fitting way to end one year and help inspire the next. Continue reading The Wheelman’s Song

Giving Thanks for Bike Rides

Ten years ago I began life as a daily bike rider, after years of mass transit and more driving than I care to remember.

My bike was my tour guide, encouraging me to explore and familiarize myself with the city.

Because of bike rides, I gained physical strength and confidence. Continue reading Giving Thanks for Bike Rides

Hard Reset

I came over to this computer intending to write a Coffeeneuring Challenge update (entries due this Monday!), but instead I’m pondering other matters– small changes in my own life that have altered my daily routine and energy levels for the past few months.

One month ago– though it feels longer– I completed my second marathon of October, the Marine Corps Marathon. It was a stimulating event that turned out to tip my emotions and fitness into unexpected fatigue. I lost most of my enthusiasm for riding and running, and ate too much during the lull.

I fell out of balance, which sometimes happens to me after a period of intense activity.
Continue reading Hard Reset

Chasing Mailboxes: The Pursuit of Something More

Where does your energy go? What do you choose to pursue? Does each day pass in a blur of routine, or do you save a sliver of time to wonder about the existence of something deeper? You don’t know what the something deeper is, exactly, and you are not convinced it is a thing.

You hold onto an optimistic belief that if you go out in the world, if you work out, read more, eat better, if you try and stretch yourself in some way, eventually you will find it. Your personal pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The sense that your something deeper is out there helps you wake up each day.

Continue reading Chasing Mailboxes: The Pursuit of Something More

Bicycle as Escape

I never seem to tire of writing about bicycles. I love talking about them, dreaming about my next bike trip, figuring out the perfect bike commute setup, pondering the ins and outs of randonneuring… you get the idea.

This love of riding bikes led me to start Chasing Mailboxes. I was searching for an outlet to write more creatively, compared to the technical writing and editing I do in my work, and wanted to focus on a topic that I felt passionately about, but was not overly intimate.

Chasing Mailboxes is a platform to diary the sensations experienced while cycling. These may include moments of discomfort, jubilation, frustration, or even self-doubt. It’s remarkable how the simple act of riding a bicycle can serve as a petri dish for so many physical and emotional states. Continue reading Bicycle as Escape

“Bikes” All The Go: From 1904 to 2014

Two weeks ago, I attended “Pedaling Through History: A Look at Cycling Collections Across the Library of Congress,” a one-day exhibit at the Library of Congress. I learned about it via Rambling Rider so hat tip to her and all those fancy things people say.

Lady Cyclers

“Pedaling Through History” was a compact display full of ye olde treasure. Photos, illustrations, books, letters, sheet music, newspaper articles, trade publications, maps featuring bicycle-friendly routes, and movie clips  were some of the items shown. Continue reading “Bikes” All The Go: From 1904 to 2014