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.
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.
Monday we even had snow– not a lot, but enough to make a 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.
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.
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.
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.
The National Park Service predicts peak blossoms April 3-6. In the meantime, I will not be on the sidelines. I’m on Blossomwatch!
The city is almost ready for Inauguration Day. Yesterday I tried to capture the final preparations from a perspective slightly higher than ground level.
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.
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.
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 upcoming festivities combined with warmer temperatures (creeping up on 50) and bright sun brought out the people.
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.
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!
Washington, D.C., is a city that loves ceremony.
The bleachers are up.
Port o’potties align the Mall.
Mobile command centers are in position.
The freshly seeded green grass looks pristine and ready to be tromped on.
Can’t wait for Monday.
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.
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.
In addition to the upcoming inauguration, I’ve been noticing that a lost glove epidemic has seized the city.
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.
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.
It’s been a dramatic couple of days here. High winds, rain, and perpetual monitoring of the Weather Channel with one eye while looking apprehensively out the window with the other as tropical storm Sandy pelted our region.
Fortunately, the area where I reside did not lose power and damage to our immediate area does not appear to be too bad.
The District did a good job preparing for the storm by basically shutting the city down and advising residents not to venture out until it passed.
That said, the storm definitely left its mark. I went out today for a short stroll through the neighborhood. Here is some of what I observed during my outing.
I also made a quick stop by the grocery store.
In case you wondered, I did not buy any water or bread.
I hope you made it through the storm unscathed.
Life has been busy and full.
The cherry blossoms in D.C. have prettied up the city so that I’ve been spending as much time as I can indulging in their beauty. Who can sit inside and scribble when it’s so gorgeous outside? Not me!
Instead of narrative, I thought I’d share some text-lite moments from this week with you.
That’s all the news from your local cherry blossom blog station. Next weekend, more utilitaire goodness comes your way. Winners announced!
Did someone say weekend? Why yes, please!
After our miserable Snowtober Saturday, our fall days have taken a dramatic turn for the better. Beautiful brisk morning commutes, a pinch of warmth in the air at midday, and refreshingly cool commutes home.
I’m so happy with the way that fall has lingered. Aren’t you?
Today I received the nicest note. It read:
Thank you for writing about the bike. Although this post was up many months earlier, it was just brought to our attention today by Olek herself. In honor of the discovery of your post, we have put the bike out this afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to write about us, and we hope you will post more about Olek and the Renwick Gallery the closer we get to the opening of 40 Under 40: Craft Futures on July 20, 2012
-Debrah Dunner (the “Someone there who takes care of it”)
Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery
Put outside in my honor? How exciting! I had not seen the little bike for some time so I took a moment out of my afternoon to go over and see how it was doing.
Still looking good! I’m looking forward to the 2012 exhibit.
Even more good news awaited me on my ride home, which took me across the National Mall. I discovered that the renovation of the District of Columbia War Memorial, which has made this beautiful memorial inaccessible to the public for over a year, has been completed. That means the fencing that surrounded the memorial and the surrounding grounds is gone! Yippee!
Even though it was dark, I approached the memorial to enjoy a solitary moment there.
There you have it. Delicious fall weather, little yarn-bombed bicycles, and the reopening of the D.C. War Memorial to the public. A little bit of lovely in Washington, D.C.
I’ve enjoyed commuting in Washington, D.C., because it has helped me learn new things about my country without really trying. Now that I have my National Parks Passport, I’m even more incentivized to learn about the historical landmarks and memorials around town. For example, my ride takes me by this beautiful memorial almost every day.
After passing it about one million times, I finally decided:
In addition, a helpful volunteer from the National Park Service told me that it was one of the go-to spots in my National Parks Service Passport. Perfect! Good brevet training, as I get to ride to a particular place and get a stamp for it!
This memorial, located squarely in the middle of the northern-most part of Ohio Drive, looks particularly stunning in the morning and during the time when the sun is casting afternoon light over the Potomac. Something about the way the sun catches it.
One day in the late afternoon, I popped off the road and rolled up to the memorial to get my touronneuring credit and to learn more about it.
This is the John Ericsson National Memorial. It’s named after I forget who. Ha! John Ericsson, of course.
Ericsson, a Swedish engineer, lived from 1803-1889 and was the inventor of the screw propeller. He also designed an armoured ship called the U.S.S. Monitor, for the Union to use in the Civil War. He later designed other naval vessels and weapons, including a torpedo!
The Ericsson Memorial is made of granite, which I probably should have known, since I did take geography in both high school and college. Like I said, the light catches it so nicely in the morning and afternoon hours.
You should take your bike by there and get picture taken with the great inventor, John Ericsson. It’s a beautiful spot.
Washington, D.C., is an exciting city for bike commuters. Every day we get to navigate our way through cars, potholes, pedestrians, and tourists(who are often also pedestrians). That sounds like lots of other big cities, I suppose. But in Washington, D.C., another aspect distinguishes our commute. Motorcades!
Motorcades are a mixed bag. One one hand, I get a little thrill because I know that “someone important” is going to be passing on my commute route, and it’s fun to guess who it might be. The President, a visiting world leader, someone else of import? I like trying to remember who is in town and who might be the special someone that requires me to re-route or delay my ride.
On the other hand, it’s not fun to be yelled at by the Secret Service when I’m just trying to go to my j-o-b, and my route happened to intersect with someone more important than I am. It’s even less fun to be yelled at when I’m running late to my j-o-b and then have to take a circuitous route. That is, unless it’s a really great morning. Say sunny, mid-sixties, low humidity, and a nice light breeze. Then I’m totally fine with being re-routed, though I could still do without the yelling.
Yes, the Secret Service really will yell at you, no matter how nice and friendly you might appear to be. One minute you’re a harmless bike rider on your regular boring commute and the next you’re learning that the road you thought was open to the public is not and you have to scram. These guys have no time for niceties I know; they’re protecting important people. But it still startles me. I don’t like feeling like I got in trouble just for taking a road that happened to coincide with the day’s motorcade.
D.C. loves its pomp and circumstance, and motorcades are integral to that. I have to admit, though, it’s pretty cool to see a motorcade procession, especially when you find out the President is going by. Those are special moments that you share with people for the rest of your life.
If you have ever visited Washington, D.C., you have most likely been to the National Mall (known also as the Mall). It is a large national park (more than 1,000 acres) managed by the National Park Service.
For Washington, D.C.-area cyclists, the Mall is a prime commuting zone. Many local cyclists traverse the area daily, including me. The Mall offers a nice expanse of car-free riding amid the limited green space of the city.
It’s also prime tourist territory. According to the National Park Service website, thousands of people from all over the world go to the National Mall daily. Daily! I guess that makes sense. After all, it is a beautiful national park.
In addition, the Mall is a popular recreational spot, where kickball leagues, ultimate Frisbee teams, soccer players, softball leagues, runners, and others gather to hang out and have a good time. You see? It truly is a park.
While I’m certain bike commuters appreciate the beauty of the Mall, the main impetus for our use of this area is to get from home to our j-o-b’s as quickly as possible without the interference of vehicular traffic. I appreciate that. I’m one of those cyclists.
The recreators? They spend most of their time off the main paths, or if they are out running, they know the walk-on-the-right-side-of-the-path drill.
In contrast, tourists come to the Mall during school trips or vacations to walk the expanse of the park and explore the monuments that commemorate our country’s history. We cyclists might wish that people would all walk around the area single file, hugging the right side of the paved multi-use path, and in a totally straight line, but that is simply not reality. Like I often note, if wishes were horses, then there’d be a lot more poop in the bike lanes. (Has anyone else come across this issue in the 15th Street Bike Lanes? Bleah!)
Multi-use population density on the Mall has become even more exacerbated with the reconstruction of the Reflecting Pool. Cyclists, commuters, and recreators are all funneled onto fewer paths than usual. It’s a real drag.
While people usually find a way to make traffic flow on the Mall fairly smooth, things can take a turn toward the awkward or even perilous when bike commuters forget about the “park” aspect of the Mall and find themselves converging with these other groups.
I’m sorry, cycling friends, but most tourists will walk in clumps, meander all over the path, and possibly turn or stop when you least expect. All the while, they have no clue that we are trying to get by them, let alone exist. It’s best to just accept that fact and plan our movement accordingly.
It will mostly likely not work to screech “Passing!” or repetitively ding a bike bell in the vain hope that some someone will hear you and move right. They won’t. First, they are too distracted by their own issues: map reading; monument-seeing; stroller-pushing; vacation-induced family dynamics; and who knows what else.
Second, many of these groups don’t know the laws of the multi-use path, which include walking on the right and passing on the left. Tourists are generally not that clued in to the Mall dynamics. They’re just trying to make through their vacation unscathed.
If that rare tourist does hear “Passing!” or notice a bell, they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen many a tourist just turn around and look at me, frozen, completely uncertain as to what their move should be. Or worse, my warning only serves to mobilize them into a more immediate collision path with my front wheel.
Me: “Passing on your left!”
Tourist thinks: Which left? OK, this left!
Front wheel comes nearer, calamity approaching!
Tourist realizes: Oh no! My other left.
It’s best to just slow down the pace, use stealth, and quietly pedal around groups when the opportunity arises. The only outcome I see to aggressive cycling behavior is raining on somebody’s vacation. (“Remember our trip to Washington, honey? And those kamikaze cyclists?! I’m never going back there, ever!”) And who wants to do that? Not me, that’s who.
I know it’s easier said than done. While tourists bring kind of a fun energy (and money!) to our city, they can be a frustrating obstacle to the commute when I’m just trying to get somewhere.
And as a cyclist, I always feel at the bottom of the transportation food chain, (Cars, tour buses, people, strollers, dogs, puppies, squirrels, my bike and me), which is an ongoing bummer that I try to mentally rally against.
But I don’t want to be that cyclist that sticks in somebody’s memory as a thoughtless party pooper. If I’m riding on the National Mall, I’m taking it slow. After all, it is a park. I’ll let you know how it goes.