melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
I spied him -- I assumed it was a him -- when I was a quarter mile from the stoplight at Waxpool and Smiths Switch. Another bike commuter! Riding in the same direction as me! I hoped that the light would stay red long enough for me to catch up to him. Luck was with me and I smoothly pulled up beside the male commuter. We chatted a bit during the remainder of the red light and then I wound up beating him off the line because it took him a few extra seconds to clip into his pedal.

There was, presumably, safety in numbers and cars gave us a wide berth as we rode single file in the right hand lane. He was more daring than I at entering the campus among the turning vehicles while I waited for the cars to clear before I made my own entrance. He cut through a parking lot while I continued on the street and through the garage. I had parked and was locking my bike as he pulled up to the rack. We bid each other adieu and headed to our respective destinations. The chance meeting made up for the unexpected and chilly rain during the first half of the commute.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
I hit the trail thirty minutes later than usual because 1) I stayed up too late reading and wasn't ready to bounce out of bed the third time my alarm went off [I am way too fond of the snooze button] and 2) it took a while for me dig out my cold weather gear and suit up for the commute. I'm good with a light cardigan, scarf, and gloves in the 40s, but once the mercury dips into the 30s, I want my helmuffs, arm warmers, and at least a windbreaker. After bundling up and ensuring that I had all the needed bits and bobs, I took off for work.

As I pulled my bike over the curb separating the neighborhood street and small hill to the W&OD trail, two lightly bundled cyclists in heavily laden bicycles cruised by in my planned direction. I overtook them after half a mile and realized they were on a bike tour. The fully loaded panniers and bedroll each had attached to their rear racks gave it away. I called out for them to enjoy their trip and the woman of the couple assured me, "Oh, we are!"

More joggers were out than I normally see in the morning and fewer commuters/trainers. I'm sure that was due to the lateness of my ride. I was surprised that traffic on Waxpool was lighter at 8:50 than 8:20. It certainly feels heavier when I'm in the car. Crossing two traffic lanes to get into the left turn lane for the campus was a breeze. It was also nice not having to fight for a parking space what with several parking lots and access to one of the garages being closed off for repaving and repair. One of the many perks of riding on two wheels.
melaniesuzanne: (Default)
The deer are back. Despite the broad daylight overcast but still bright skies yesterday afternoon, the first doe of the season jumped onto the trail in front me shortly after Smiths Switch. She stood in the other lane as I slowly approached, and then ambled off to the side of the trail. We eyed each other warily as I passed. I thought about stopping and snapping a photo, but I'm pretty sure she would have dashed away by the time I wrestled my phone from the pannier.

Now that I think about it, I should have quickly looked to my right to ensure that she wasn't a harbinger and several others were lying in wait to ambush me. I'll remember to do that next time.

Today's excitement was caused by a new facilities person who was busy changing out light bulbs along the corridors in the cube farm. He set up his ladder just outside my cube and I turned back to my computer. Seconds later there was the unmistakeable crunch of broken glass and a shattered compact fluorescent bulb lay right behind my chair. He apologized profusely and I scooted out of the way so he could sweep up the broken glass on my desk and carpet. I don't think I'll be hanging out barefoot in my cube for a while.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
The day was bright and chilly when I left the house and I wound up needing both my sweater and gloves when I set off. It was another friendly morning on the trail and most of the passing commuters said "hi" or "good morning". After I passed under Pacific Boulevard, I saw Bike-to-Work-Day guy heading my way, slow down, and wait for me to approach. He said that, if I didn't mind, he'd like to ride with me for a bit. I didn't mind at all.

I apologized and told him that I couldn't remember his name and I'd been calling him Bike-to-Work-Day guy. He reintroduced himself and said that he'd been referring to me as "Flower Girl". Heh. We chatted about our families and bikes and commutes as we rode into a dense fog just past Loudoun County Parkway -- I'm so glad I brought my headlight this morning! -- until he turned around at Smiths Switch to head back towards Reston.

How fun! Definitely not an experience you can get with a car commute.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
Another glorious commute. Oncoming cyclists and pedestrians returned my "good morning"s and Bike-to-Work guy -- I wish I could remember his name! Dave? Doug? Craig? -- hailed me as we crossed Ruritan Circle in opposite directions. Maybe tomorrow I'll holler out "I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name!" Too many syllables, probably.

I remembered to wear wool gloves this morning and my fingers didn't freeze. My chambray shirt, cotton tank, jeans, and boots kept me comfy without overheating me. I'm still working on keeping my speed down when riding Beatrix to work. As I sloooowly approached a jogger, I thought to myself that I could've blown past him on Lily. But Beatrix deserves a gentler pace. I do wish I'd caught up to the cyclist at Waxpool and Smiths Switch, though. I just missed the light.

Traffic was again gentle on the two lane surface road section of my commute and heavy but considerate on the four lane section. I've been too chicken to dive into the left turn lane into the campus ahead of cars and have instead turned right onto a dead end and then dashed across all four lanes when there's a break in traffic, which is something I've rarely done on Lily or Circe. I guess the less aggressive posture of Beatrix makes my riding in traffic less aggressive.

Something else I've been doing is whipping off my helmet once I enter the campus so that my hair will dry some while I still have a bit of a breeze before parking in the garage. So far, so good, and I feel like a rebel. Rawr.
melaniesuzanne: (Old Spice: Horse)
I'm a little high on life this morning. It's a welcome change from how I've been feeling over the past month or so. Here are the good things from this morning's commute:



  • The weather! Blue skies with wispy clouds, bright sunshine, and a temperature of 55F when I left the house.
  • Polite cyclists! Every person who rode around me called "on your left!" as they approached. Plus, a guy I met at the Sterling Bike to Work stop in May waved and yelled "Hi, Melanie!" as we passed in opposite directions. Luckily, I was smiling as we approached each other and he won't think I was a jerk for not yelling "hi" back. I was too surprised and he was already too far behind me to have heard a reply. See Melanie rationalize. Rationalize, Melanie, rationalize.
  • My new pedals. Last month, the delightful Dottie of Let's Go Ride a Bike reviewed Dimension Curved Pedals and has been very happy with their grippiness when she wears heels while riding. The stock pedals that came with Beatrix the C8 are slippery as all get out if I wear anything other than sneakers. I swapped out the pedals yesterday and enjoyed a slip-free ride in my heels today.
  • My outfit. Sleeveless purple with cream polka dots knee-length, A-line dress; gold chain and big honking pearls necklace; dark red, faux gator Mary-jane heels. Oh, and a thigh-length, cream, open-weave cardigan for when I cool off and start freezing because of the AC vent blowing on my neck and shoulders.
  • My make-up. Benefit They're Real mascara and Too Faced Vanilla Glow (because I am glow-in-the-dark pale) Beauty Balm. I have searched high and low for a mascara that a) doesn't smudge because of my oily eyelids, and b) doesn't flake into my eyeballs. This is my Holy Grail mascara. It survived last week's humidity and this morning's commute like a champ. The BB is great because it didn't smear and run despite my sweaty, sweaty face.
  • And last, but certainly not least, Beatrix the Public Bikes C8. She is finally set up so that function is just as beautiful as form. Granted, I had to change out a lot of stock parts to get to that point, but I can now ride like a lady when the inspiration strikes.


I hope that you have as wonderful a day as my morning has been.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: C8)
Still love the new bike. Still working on a name for her. Still writing sentences without a subject.

I realized during yesterday's commutes that I'm sliding into off the saddle towards the handlebar. This won't do, especially since it's exacerbating pressure on my wrists and causing my hands to go numb. Scott helped me with testing new saddle angles last night, but this morning's commute showed more fiddling is required. I think I need to raise the handlebar a skosh so I can sit just a bit more upright and not lean on my hands so much. Of course, I'm going to get everything just so and then the new saddle -- I decided upon the Selle Royal -- will arrive. What a difficult life I lead.

The other adjustment is mental. I tried not to race the other commuters going the same direction as me, and I failed. I mean, I failed at not racing: I totally flew past them, skirt billowing in the wind gust. Sigh. I could chalk it up to being overly excited that I'm no longer the only west bound commuter in the morning, but it's really because I'm too competitive for my own good. Just ask Scott about my mother's and my full-contact Scrabble games.

Huh, I just realized something. I'm only competitive on my "underdog" bikes and when I'm on the road bike, I peacefully accept that I'm going to get left in the dust.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: C8)
There's something about the loop frame that makes me appreciate the world around me more than I ever did on the hybrid. I haven't decided if it's the upright posture, the lady-like step-through mounting, or something entirely different. And aside from a short bout of Cat 6 racing -- there were commuters riding in the same direction as me: I was morally obligated! (And I won.) -- I kept my ride at an relaxed pace and arrived at my destination barely glowing from the exertion. Aaahhh.


Loaded down for this morning's commute.

Scott asked me, just before her maiden voyage, if I was going to get a cycling computer for the C8. No, I don't think so. He said that he was mostly kidding. I replied that I'd given serious thought to it and eventually decided that I wouldn't because, to me, it would ruin the experience of such a lovely ride. I don't need to be so analytical and goal-oriented on my commutes and leisure rides.

We'll see how long this zen attitude lasts.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
Happy Bike to Work Day or, as a lot of bike bloggers I read would call it, "Friday". There were SO MANY new-to-me commuters on the trail. And everyone seemed to be in high spirits exchanging smiles and nods and "good morning"s. The Sterling pit stop outside of the Orbital exit on the W&OD was a happenin' spot with Spokes mechanics checking over peoples' bikes, a Bike Loudoun representative, and Bike to Work Day sponsors handing out tees and little first aid kids and water bottles. (I swear, Scott and I are going to need to build a cabinet to house all the free water bottles we score.) A couple of commuters chatted me up because they recognized my bike basket. That was unexpected fun.


Lots of smiles at 8am.

A peloton of fellow employees met up in Reston and I declined adding an extra nine-ish miles to my morning commute, instead hoping to join up when they reached Sterling. I saw what I assumed was them as I prepared to continue on to work -- someone at the pit stop alerted folks: "Look out, serious bikers coming through!" -- but was unable to catch up until getting the parking garage closest to the entrance for the campus' fitness center. Ah well. I waved and said, "Good morning" and continued on to the next garage where I lock up my bike.

I'm wearing my free t-shirt now. I wore the "vintage" Bike DC 2008 shirt for the ride in not considering that sweat + thin white t-shirt = inappropriate office wear even in a super casual office. Thank goodness I had something else to wear. :)

melaniesuzanne: (Summer)
The honeysuckle along the W&OD is in bloom. Well, to be honest, it started blooming in late April due to the early summer, but today the flowers filled the air with their unmistakeable perfume. I do love that scent and the memories it stirs.

My paternal grandparents lived about three-quarters of a mile from our home when I was a child. My sister and I spent many a summer afternoon playing in their yard and lots of evenings in their screened-in back porch watching thunderstorms light up the sky. They had an old shed in the backyard which had a dog pen attached to it from the days that my grandfather had a dog to accompany him when he drove around his farms to check the crops. I don't remember when Jodie died, but there were no more dogs after her and the dog pen was eventually swallowed by honeysuckle vines. Mimi and I were terrified of the bees surrounding the shed, but we couldn't help being drawn to flowers. Our grandmother showed us the nectar at the base of the petals and we plucked as many flowers as we could and greedily lapped up the nectar.

I don't remember the nectar's taste, but the scent of honeysuckle transports me straight to my grandparents' yard in Heth, Arkansas.

May Day

May. 1st, 2012 11:35 am
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
It's the first of May (NSFW for language), my eighth wedding anniversary, and the start of National Bike Month. Whoo hoo! I've signed up for the WABA-sponsored Bike to Work Day -- yay, free food and swag en route to work -- and am anxiously awaiting to see what activities the fitness center at work will provide on May 18.

In other news, I -- well, the staff at my LBS -- have made some upgrades to Circe and Lily. Circe got a new stem Friday afternoon and that change has made my road bike so much easier to ride. My hands usually went numb a few miles into a ride; on Saturday, I completed a thirty-two mile ride with no numbness or discomfort. I even felt comfortable enough to ride in the drops a few times and I didn't feel like I would take a header over the handlebar. The new stem has me riding in a slightly higher position which is a lot more comfortable on my overdeveloped ab and my back. As my core strength improves, I'll probably go back to the shorter stem.

Lily got a thorough bath on Sunday. And I do mean thorough. It was a two and a half hour ordeal, but I got every bit of road grime off the frame and out of the cogs and sprockets. Her rims, cassette, chain wheel, and chain practically sparkle. She's not showroom clean, but she's the cleanest I've seen her since taking possession. Unfortunately, when I put her in the two highest/hardest gears, there was some grinding in the chain wheel. I could have monkeyed with the front derailleur, but I let the professionals handle that and I had the mechanic change out the spiky pedals for the combo platform/spds I purchased a few weeks ago. It's going to take a little getting used to riding with pedals that aren't grippy, but I'm happy to have the option of riding clipless while commuting.
melaniesuzanne: (Oooh. Aaah. Ohhh.)
I was pouty that the space shuttle Discovery's final flight would happen too far east and south for me to see since my office campus is directly north of Dulles International Airport. As it turned out, we got a fly-by when Discovery reached Dulles airspace and flew over the airport before continuing to DC proper. After Discovery flew around DC, it did a final fly-by of Dulles and flew RIGHT OVER my building. Goosebumps.

Space shuttle Discovery
If you squint, you can see Discovery's nose and tail.


One of the jokers upstairs said, "Wow. Working for Verizon finally paid off." Heh.

And here I thought that the most exciting thing I'd see today was the tortoise that crossed the W&OD as I rode to work. The shuttle was cool, but I'm still pretty jazzed about the tortoise. It startled and hissed after I snapped the photo and I backed of quickly as it retreated into its shell. Didn't mean to disturb you, little guy.

Tortoise, and no hare
It wasn't much bigger than my foot.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
The incredible humidity over the past couple of days has provided spectacularly foggy mornings. Visibility in my neighborhood wasn't too bad but the W&OD was completely shrouded in the white gloom. Can gloom be white? Maybe it was more of a dingy white; that's kind of gloomy, I guess. I couldn't see pedestrians until I was almost on top of them and other cyclists were dim shapes as we approached each other. Even my usual landmarks were hard to see. )

Where's the golf course?
Where's the golf course?

Believe it or not, I spotted a couple of golfers passing by on a cart. I hope they counted the fog as a substantial handicap.

Despite my fear of arachnids, I love the artistry of (small) spiderwebs. After snapping the golf course photo, I noticed this peculiar web amongst the flora. I couldn't get the right angle to actually show the funnel; it kept appearing as the black dot in the center of the web. You'll have to trust me that the web is funnel-shaped.

Funnel web
Funnel web!

My ride through the fog made me feel like I was in a horror movie or a fairy tale. I suppose that when you don't Disney-fy fairy tales, though, they're one and the same. Thankfully, my trusty steed carried me through to the sunny path to the campus.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
Special weather alert for Loudoun County, VA:

WINDY CONDITIONS EXPECTED TODAY...

...SOUTHWEST WINDS WILL INCREASE TO BETWEEN 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 40 MPH AND WILL PERSIST THROUGH THE AFTERNOON HOURS.

My commute home is mostly north and east. I may not have to pedal with a tailwind like that!

Thank you

Mar. 8th, 2012 09:54 am
melaniesuzanne: (hearts)
My friends are the most wonderful and best people in the world. Many, many thanks to reedrover, dwildchil, bittibuddha, and thisoldgrouse for your donations to my fundraising efforts for the American Diabetes Association. You've put me at 18% of my goal. THANK YOU!

In other news, today's commute was another glorious one. There was a light, warm breeze for most of the trip and birdsong filled the air. I even stopped to listen to a robin perched on the branch of a bare tree. At first I though he was a cardinal because I could see only bright red, but then he turned and I saw the definitive robin profile and brown wings. A couple of commuters smiled at my floral basket (or maybe my bare knees when my skirt hiked up a bit).

Speaking of the skirt, I noticed absolutely no Mary Poppins effect on Smith Switch and Waxpool. In fact, I got more crowded and squished against the curb than usual with vehicles accelerating and passing aggressively. I get more space in jeans and a windbreaker! Hmph. And I am NOT going helmetless to see if that "helps".

And I've decided to rename the Ariel as "Lily". I find it rolls off the tongue more easily, and I'm pretty fond of liles. I'll refrain from renaming her "Tulip" or "Hydrangea" in the future. Maybe.

melaniesuzanne: (Default)
I saw fellow bike commuter at the Smith Switch/Waxpool/Farmwell intersection. Last summer there was a gent in a recumbant I passed a couple of times along Smith Switch, but this is the first commuter I've seen off the trail. Yay!

I need to ask the Women's Cycling Forum for a recommendation of a sports bra with enough padding in the cups so that my body doesn't announce to the world when I'm chilled. It's a fact of life, sure, but it's a fact of life that mortifies me beyond belief. I wear regular bras on casual and group rides, but I don't like sweating so much in them and ruining them for regular use. I suppose I could designate a couple of them as bike bras, but there's got to be a sports bra out there SOMEWHERE that will do what I want it to do.

In non-bikey news, I'm going to test drive a Jeep Patriot this weekend. I've whined and whined about how much I dislike my Highlander and how much I miss Jeepfink. Well, I checked out Kelly Blue Book and checked the payoff amount for the Highlander and discovered that I am well above water: the truck is worth way more than what I owe. The payments, though, are putting a serious cramp on my life. A Patriot with the options I want will cost significantly less than what I purchased the Highlander for AND will have lower monthly payments even if I accelerate the loan as 36 or 48 months.

On the other hand, I feel like one of those d-bags who buys a new car every other year. However, I got my first car (it was used) in high school and sold it six years later. My brand spankin' new Jeep was a faithful steed for thirteen years. My two year anniversary with the Highlander comes up next month which means I could still end up with a total of five years of car payments. That is seriously tempting. I have promised Hubbyfink that I will not purchase a Jeep this weekend and ONLY test drive. Next weekend is fair game, though.

Back to semi-bikey news: the Jeep dealership that I've picked for the test drive is just off the W&OD in Leesburg. If I get do get a Jeep and if I like the dealership, that means I could bike to and from there when the vehicle needs maintenance. Heh.

Rawr

Feb. 16th, 2012 03:43 pm
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
Every now and then I talk Hubbyfink into meeting me along the trail as I ride home from work. On Wednesday he decided he didn't want to deal with the gym and said he'd meet me for the ride home. I warned him that I needed to do a little shopping as well, but those stops would be mostly surgical strikes.

I wound up leaving the office later than planned thanks to a last minute IM from the Bossman and met Hubbyfink just before the blind curve on Smiths Switch. He turned around and fell in line behind me before a FedEx truck rumbled up behind us and then passed us with a WIDE berth. Heh heh heh.

Shopping and banking happened. The test run of my Avenir Softside shopping pannier happened (successfully). Not running down pedestrians happened. Seeing another cyclist in the shopping center happened ("He just left Eastern Mountain Sports so that doesn't count," said Hubbyfink). We headed for home and something new and exciting-to-me happened.

We rode up the blasted incline to the Route 28 overpass and I stayed in front of Hubbyfink the entire freaking time. I not only stayed ahead of him, I pulled away from him. Dude! Plus, I was loaded down with shopping bags, a tote, and my purse. I didn't need to gear down: I was in my middle gears the whole way up. I was breathing heavily when we got to the bridge, but I wasn't wheezing or jelly-legged.

There was a small amount of gloating and smugness when we got home. Hee!

Scary

Feb. 15th, 2012 10:57 am
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
It's frightening how quickly the strength goes when one hasn't been on the bike in a couple of weeks. This morning's commute (first bikey one in exactly two weeks) was not the worst ride ever, but it certainly wasn't the best. My legs were cranky, my back was cranky, and my tush must've lost its bike callouses. It must be pretty horrible for those folks who put away the bike at the end of fall and don't pull it back out until spring.

In happier news, the bonus and tax refund fairies have graced my bank account and it's time for the Dolce to come to mama. You don't need to be Carnac the Magnificent to see that I'll be hitting my favorite bike shop in the very near future. I want to splurge on a Dutch bike so badly, but I can't blow all my fun money on bikes. Mama also needs a couple of new kitchen appliances and to finish the basement remodel so she has a fridge that doesn't leak and a place that isn't the dining room to store the stable of bikes. The correct ratio of person to bikes is n+infinity, right?

Pea Soup

Jan. 24th, 2012 03:51 pm
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
This morning's commute was super foggy. The picture above is from the least foggy portion of my ride, perhaps because the heat rising off the parkway warmed the air enough to burn away the murk. I'm not sure if that's even how fog works, but it sounds good to me. Happily, other cyclists were lit up so we could see each other on the trail. Also happily was that both I and the backhoe driving down the trail(!!) were both lit up enough to spot each other before something ugly and perhaps painful could happen. The ninja jogger near the center of the photo, not so much with the being lit up. Maybe just lit.

Foggy W&OD trail at Loudoun County Parkway.
Foggy W&OD trail at Loudoun County Parkway.


I braved the chilly fog so as to enjoy the glorious afternoon and evening promised by prognosticators. They've delivered on the afternoon beauty; let's see how the evening commute goes. Even if it's chilly, Scott will be meeting me along the route and that always makes the trip fun.

View from my cube.
View from my cube.

Muahaha!

Jan. 20th, 2012 09:08 am
melaniesuzanne: (angry)
Hey, guess what! I experienced my first near run-in with an aggressive driver this morning. A FedEx box truck sped up behind me, horn blaring, and wouldn't pass in the clear left lane. I'd drifted over to the far side of the right lane but that, and the aforementioned clear left lane weren't enough. S/he sped past with a foot or two to spare.

Hey, guess what else! My dad has worked for FedEx from the time the company was still located in Little Rock, Arkansas. I made note of the exact time and location of the incident and phoned him with the particulars. Unfortunately, I did not get the license plate number but the powers that be can track exactly which truck (and driver) was on that route at that time.

Oh, how fun!

Update: Received a call from the managing director for this region who says they are investigating the issue and that he appreciated my bringing this to the company's attention. He won't be able to share any disciplinary actions as they are company confidential, but he says they will determine who the driver was and take steps from there.

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