Category Archives: DC Commute Scenes

Cherry Blossom Farewell: Petals, Puddles, and Pavement


Surly LHT and cherry trees

One of my favorite times in Washington, D.C., is when the cherry blossoms reach out to say hello to all of us. Another is when these delicate petals fall, leaving a textured pink layer over grass and pavement.

D.C. residents knew the blossoms were preparing to take their leave. The downed magnolia petals gave us warning, as did emerging redbud, and the green leaves that began to eclipse the presence of pink on the cherry trees.

Magnolias and Surly LHT

Despite the steady rainfall this morning, I departed for work by bike, hoping for quiet streets and a glimpse of the petals’ farewell to the city.

The rain cleared the roads of tourists and left only the most dedicated of bike commuters to contemplate the quiet, warm, damp of the morning.

I steadily pedaled toward the Tidal Basin and Ohio Drive, seeking out a special spot. I didn’t know where it was, only that I would know it when I came upon it.

I passed over petals, puddles and pavement until my bike steered me toward a tree peppered in tiny pink ovals. My special spot.

Propping my bike against the tree’s solid base, I soaked in the morning. Yes, like that.

Surly and cherry blossom trees

As I was taking photos, my friend Chris rode by. I said hello, thinking he would simply continue on his way, given the rainy morning.

Chris on Ohio Drive

 

To my surprise, Chris turned around. We exchanged photos, chatted a little, and contemplated the morning rain by the Potomac River.

Chris's Instagram of me

 

I took a few more photos, Chris pushed off, and I hopped on my bike to bid Ohio Drive goodbye. Suddenly the wind rushed, clouds fused, angry waves licked the shore of the Potomac, and the previously steady rain morphed into a pounding downpour.

My feet squished in my socks and shoes, and I wondered what the hell I’d been doing, pausing my commute to grasp that moment. I imagined Chris crossing the 14th Street Bridge. What were we thinking?

But the stormy beauty of the day brought an unrepentant smile to my face. Morning’s warmth and a peaceful moment with a friend and fellow bike commuter. My immediate view of the storm’s intense rising over the river, the swaying of trees, and the flurry of pink petals intersecting my path.

The intense pre-work soaking was well worth it. Farewell, dear blossoms.

Flow Like Water

The fleeting pink and white blossoms cover the city. Sun shines and spring breezes blow. Families and field trips congregate on our sidewalks. And hey, how about those tour buses! Yes, it’s cherry blossompalooza in Washington, D.C.

Hains Point, cherry blossoms, and the Surly LHT

In previous years I dreaded this scenario. But thanks to my regular midday runs that have exposed me to this sudden, yet annual, increase in activity I figured out a system to keep me moving (mostly) calmly.

As a self-confessed rule follower and righteous city dweller, I have held tightly to the believe that we all should follow certain rules. Walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Don’t run or walk in the bike lanes. Walk two abreast at most and single file in crowded zones.

Personally, I think these are really good rules. However, while I have not done any studies of the issue, few others seem to agree with me. Groups crowd the entire sidewalk, moving like schools of fish from point A to point B. Small children, and even grown ups, love walking at odd angles. They’re like human lightning bolts.

Photographers at the Tidal Basin

One day I was out on a run, weaving through the midday chaos, when I realized the rules I thought everyone should follow were maybe nice ideas, but mostly unrealistic.

I let go of my rigid views about space. I sidled in and out and around. I paused. I flowed like water.

Learning to move like this slowed my frustrations at those around me not adhering to what I perceived as the rules of the road and sidewalk.

Now I try to flow like water every time I step outside, be it on my bike or on my two feet. It’s totally changed how I look at my environment.

While more people than not make a half-hearted effort to operate in a predictable manner based on the rules of the road and sidewalk, it cannot be expected to occur all the time.

People may drift inadvertently into your path. Somebody might shoal you at a light. A tour bus may stop to unload all of its passengers at the exact moment that you are trying to pass it.

Cherry Blossoms, Surly, on the Potomac

Flow like water.

Touch the brakes, dodge where need be, and if someone gets in your space, slow down or change course. Try not to sweat it. As Felkerino likes to say, it’s all just pavement.

Sounds obvious, no? Not for me. It’s taken 10 years of commuting and more than a year of weekday runs on the National Mall to finally begin to relax my stance on the rules I was sure we all should follow. Finally, I’m unlocking the mysteries of how to flow like water.

 

#BikeDC Meets #BikeNYC IRL: Dmitry Gudkov

Dmitry Gudkov

Tuesday, the mighty social networking tool known as Twitter paved the internets to an in real life (IRL) encounter with photographer Dmitry Gudkov.

Among other projects, Dmitry is the photographer behind #BikeNYC, a dynamic series of portraits of the people who ride bikes in New York City. Through it I have learned about the people of the New York City bicycling community and glimpsed various places where they ride.

I initially saw Dmitry’s work via my flickr wanderings, and the people at the flickr blog even interviewed him about how #BikeNYC came to be.

I began my Tuesday in a cranky mood after feeling like a fool for riding my bike into work while road conditions remained questionable or poor for bike riding in so many places after Monday’s snowfall. Probably should have done the run commute, I thought.

I was idly checking my Twitter account to see what was going on in the outside world when I saw a tweet from Dmitry accompanied by the #BikeDC hashtag and a photo of our Capital Bikeshare bikes.

After confirming that he was in D.C., Dmitry asked if I had ridden my bike and I went from feeling duped about riding to work to having an “everything happens for a reason” moment. We arranged to meet later in the afternoon.

The day was cold, probably around 30, but the sun cast its long golden late-afternoon shadows down the National Mall and managed to convey that spring will arrive at some point, just not today.

Even so, the cold was at that level where you step outside and know that when you stop moving the clock will start ticking on when you will shift from comfortable to chilly to hand-throbbing territory.

Fortunately Dmitry and I both arrived around the same time and managed to hang out and happily talk while he shot a few photos as the sun dipped gradually lower in the sky.

It really is a thrill to meet someone whose work you have followed over the years and who you admire.

I was also excited because Dmitry took a portrait of me with my Quickbeam. If I had known it was going to have its picture taken I might have washed it and redone the bar tape, but that scruffiness is what makes it real, man. Or something like that. I do still need to wash it.

Mr. SharrowsDC even happened by so that I could evidence my #BikeDC credentials. Now I owe him $20 plus whatever it cost for him to exceed the 30-minute minimum on Capital Bikeshare for pausing to say hi to me.

As we were about to head our separate ways I awkwardly asked Dmitry for a photo. I always get geeked out asking people who really know how to take photos for a photo.

Fortunately for me, he graciously accepted and this picture, complete with Brompton and his Vision Zero sticker, is the resulting cell phone shot. I only wish I had a photograph of his light blue shoelaces. Next time!

And a few minutes later, I saw this. That’s how the pros do it!

Dmitry's #BikeDC Photo on Instagram. Courtesy of Dmitry Gudkov (@gudphoto)

Dmitry’s #BikeDC Photo on Instagram. Courtesy of Dmitry Gudkov (@gudphoto)

I first “knew” about Dmitry through flickr. I then started reading his blog so I could keep up with his #BikeNYC work, and eventually I connected to him on Twitter and Instagram. I continue to be pleasantly surprised and also grateful for the ways social networking tools can meaningfully connect us.

Many thanks to Dmitry for taking the time to meet and to take a portrait of me. What a privilege to meet you in real life.

Valentine’s Day Run-Commute, in Photos

Jump by Benjamin Banneker Park

 

Ice on the Mall

U.S. Capitol in Snow

Giant snow feet

Valentine's Day Capitol in snow

Selfie with snowman

afternoon run-commute

Sunsets on the Potomac during the run-commute

Winter Run on a D.C. Snow(man) Day!

U.S. Capitol snow sculpture

After yesterday’s dumping of snow over Washington, D.C. many schools and businesses, including my employer, declared a snow day. Yahoo!

I fuel up on espresso, throw on my Gore-Tex Salomons, and hit the road.

Snow days allow me to be a tourist in my own city. This “found time” frees me, and I can pad about on my own schedule.

I'm a tourist!

I’m a tourist!

My feet dip steadily in and out of snow and over patches of plowed sidewalk and road.

As I step I can tell by the snow’s slightly sticky and heavy feel that it is ideal for building snowmen.

I aim my toes toward the National Mall to see who has been there and what treasure they have left behind.

Despite the gray day and the light rain falling, people are out.

Snowman

Adding the final touches

Snowman

Voila!

And as I hoped, snowmen are distributed all around the Mall’s expanse.

Snowman

Building another snowman neighbor

Some of the artists decided to go the basic three-snowball snowman route.

snowman

Almost there…

snowman

Looking good

Actually that’s a pretty popular style. Traditional!

I see one with a carrot nose.

Snowman

Carrot noses require pre-planning

Several have faces and limbs crafted from brambles and whatever supplies were available nearby.

This snowman has hair

This snowman has hair

Snowman

Glad to be alive snowman

snowman

Contemplative snowman

This snowman's leaf eyes and snow hair make me want to start a conversation with it.

This snowman’s leaf eyes and snow hair make me want to start a conversation with it.

Disgruntled snowman

Disgruntled snowman

Others have faces etched into them.

Snowman

I love Washington, D.C.!

A snowman of leisure

A snowman of leisure

I’m impressed by how expressive so many of them are.

Snowmen dotting the lawn of the Capitol

Snowmen dotting the lawn of the Capitol. Hi!

Some are not snowmen.

Snowbear

Snowbear

Snowbird. I'd even go so far as to say... a snowduck.

Snowbird. I’d even go so far as to say… a snowduck.

The most elaborate treasure I see is not a snowman. It’s this snowy replica of the U.S. Capitol that two people created.

Snow Capitol in progress

Snow Capitol in progress

I take a photo of them sculpting and shaping. They use brushes. Overachievers!

Snow Capitol

Snow Capitol under construction

I continue on my exploration and loop back after swinging past the Capitol in order to examine their final product.

Photographing the remarkable Snow Capitol

Photographing the remarkable Snow Capitol

Wow! All who pass stop to see the U.S. Capitol in snow. We wonder to each other how long it will last.

It’s made of snow. It isn’t meant to last. None of this will last, and that’s why we revel in the fleeting beauty of this snow day.

D.C. Iced Over

A week of freezing weather fostered some icy ambience in the city.

image

We’ve all been out taking cell phone pictures of the Potomac River’s icy overlay on our bike commutes.

image

Some of us changed up our lunch run routes for a glimpse of the frozen scene in the midday sun.

image

Bold souls tested the thickness of the reflecting pool in front of the U.S. Capitol…. until the police arrived.

image

Unexpected beauty abounds in these frosty days of late.

Blossomwatch 2013: It’s Happening

Finally.

Felkerino and the blossom Canope

Aaron and Felkerino

Group photo by the blossoms

Morning peak blossom lap on Hains Point

Michael and Felkerino

Dave D. and Michael

DSC01101

Lane, Sunset, Surly, and Cherry Blossoms

It’s happening.

Blossomwatch 2013!

First cherry blossoms of the season

On March 20 of last year, the cherry blossoms peaked in Washington, D.C., and by this time of the month only the most stalwart of flowers clung to the trees.

Cherry blossom buds

That is far from the case this time around, where the tourists have arrived in droves to appreciate the blossoms that have yet to cover the Tidal Basin and surrounding areas in their annual wave of pink.

Time to pick up the tourists!

Time to pick up the tourists!

Monday we even had snow– not a lot, but enough to make a snowman.

Spring Snowman

Spring Snowman

Felkerino and I began noticing buds on many of the cherry trees earlier this week. Since then we’ve been on “Blossomwatch,” where we ride around, scrutinize the trees, and guess when they will flower.

We’ve chosen times where the tourists are less likely to be out and have even met up with some BikeDC friends the last two mornings to enjoy the pre-work quiet of Hains Point, where cherry trees align both sides of the street. When those blossoms pop, they will be a sensory delight to ride through.

A tree blooms along Ohio Drive

I love the time between the appearance of buds to full-on flowers. It’s a little mystery. When will they pop? Will it be overnight? Could it happen during my workday? You never know quite when a sea of pink will greet you.

Rodin amid the cherry blossoms = cheesy!

Rodin amid the cherry blossoms = cheesy!

A few flowers have broken through, and just like the tourists do, we stop to take cheesy tourist blossom photos. It’s fun to do touristy things sometimes.

Trying for the perfect blossom shot.

Trying for the perfect blossom shot.

I’ve seen the cherry blossoms each year since I moved to the city, and I never tire of watching their fluffy blooms make their brief stay, until the wind or rain prompts them to fall and they are washed away until next year.

Cherry blossom and a little bit of bike helmet for extra flair

Cherry blossom and a little bit of bike helmet for extra flair

The National Park Service predicts peak blossoms April 3-6. In the meantime, I will not be on the sidelines. I’m on Blossomwatch!

Inauguration Weekend & Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lanes

The city is almost ready for Inauguration Day. Yesterday I tried to capture the final preparations from a perspective slightly higher than ground level.

Capitol down the Mall

On my commute home I took the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes in order to see the Art of Weiwei projection on the exterior of the Newseum. This is only on display from January 17th through the 19th in honor of the inauguration so if you are in town, Saturday is your last chance to see it.

Weiwei 2

Weiwei

A cold evening with little traffic, I stood with my bike, absorbed the quiet scene displayed on the First Amendment tablet of the Newseum, and contemplated Weiwei’s images and words.

Pennsylvania Ave Bike Lane

Today (Saturday) Felkerino and I went for an outing that included a lap on Pennsylvania Avenue and a brief stroll across the National Mall.

Signage displayed on various buildings celebrated the upcoming inauguration.

The Willard Intercontinental Salutes America's 44th President

The Willard Intercontinental Salutes America’s 44th President

Newseum Welcomes President Obama

Newseum Welcomes President Obama

Canada Salutes President Obama

Canada Salutes President Obama, Vice President Biden

The upcoming festivities combined with warmer temperatures (creeping up on 50) and bright sun brought out the people.

Pedicabs. Hi!

Pedicabs. Hi!

The result was a downtown mishmosh of gleeful tourists, grumpy locals, excited locals, frazzled families, and haggard motorists who were continually being shunted off some of the main streets due to the inauguration road closures.

Felkerino. Excited local? Disgruntled local? You make the call.

Felkerino. Excited local? Disgruntled local? You make the call.

The ride down Pennsylvania was beautiful, not only weather-wise, but because vehicular access to the street was limited, almost equalizing the number of bicycles to cars on the street for once. And no nasty car U-turns!

Pennsylvania Avenue. It's a bike lane. It's a parade route! It has almost no cars on it today!

Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s a bike lane. It’s a parade route! It has almost no cars on it today!

Washington, D.C., is a city that loves ceremony.

The bleachers are up.

Port o’potties align the Mall.

Port O' Potty closeup by National Archives.

Port O’ Potty closeup by National Archives.

Mobile command centers are in position.

The freshly seeded green grass looks pristine and ready to be tromped on.

DC and USA flags - Inauguration Day

Can’t wait for Monday.

D.C. Commute Scenes: Getting Ready

Commute shadows

It’s been a while since my last “D.C. Commute Scenes” post. Guess everything became routine landscape the past few months. Not lately, though. Right now, big things are happening right here in Washington, D.C. (Insert snide comment here if you feel like doing so.)

The city is rapidly preparing for the presidential inauguration. People are out and about from morning until evening making it happen.

I don’t know exactly where all this stuff comes from or how it gets there, but one day you’re walking along a sidewalk swinging your arms wide in a carefree manner, and the next your having to shrink up your shoulders to scrunch past rows of bleachers, asking yourself if you should walk in the bike lane. (Answer: Don’t walk in the bike lane.)

The temporary White House Plaza structures have left about one-third of the normal walking space. I don’t have a picture of it because every time I ride by that area I’m just trying to get out of the way.

U.S. Capitol and lawn chairs

Save me a spot in the second row, please!

The Capitol lawn is even more blocked off than normal as folding chairs are placed just so. As a person looks west down the Mall, electronics, speakers, wire fencing, and other obstacles mar the landscape. The city is under construction.

I feel a pinch sorry for the tourists. The city looks much nicer without all this extra stuff everywhere. I don’t know anyone who would say that port o’potties make for a better looking city. I’m glad we have them, though. They may not look pretty, but they do make life better in the end. And in the interim, it’s a runner’s dream out there.

Capitol and port o'potties

In addition to the upcoming inauguration, I’ve been noticing that a lost glove epidemic has seized the city.

lost glamour glove

Today alone I came upon three that had become separated from their other half. Take care of your gloves, people. It’s a mean world. Cars run gloves over. People, seeing they have no mate, toss them into trash cans. A single glove = a lost future.

Lost glove

Finally, the fox and raccoons have officially taken over Hains Point for the winter. I rode there late last week and encountered five fox and one raccoon. None of them were riding bikes. Neither was anyone else but me. Hains Point is at its best in the wintertime.

Last year, two eagles regularly hung out in one of the trees at the southern tip of the Point, but I’ve not seem them this year. Anyone know if they are still around?

There you have it, folks. January in D.C. It’s not so bad.