Commute Home: Sunset Edition

Commute Home Sunset

I’ve been back to biking for almost six weeks, since January 18. In that time, darkness, rain, and wind have characterized most of my commutes. But those only serve to heighten the enjoyment of a day like yesterday: Mid-50s, sunny, light breeze, and daylight fading into a brilliant sunset.

I chose to ride across 520 and along Lake Washington Boulevard to fully appreciate the sunset, and I’m sure glad I did.

Waiting Patiently Is Hard

I don’t know how many times I’ve told Benji to please wait and be patient. Probably several times a minute. Thus I can fully appreciate the deep irony of a situation where my patience was stretched to breaking. Here’s the story.

On my morning commute, I ride the bus to Seattle since I don’t feel any need to commute by bike 21 miles twice a day. When I ride the bus, I get off at the first downtown stop, take my bike off the rack, turn, mount my bike, and ride away — directly ahead of the bus. So naturally I try to expedite the unload-and-go process, not wanting to hold up an entire busload of people any longer than necessary. If I use a backpack, I don’t have to worry about hooking a pannier onto my bike before I start riding. I can usually get rolling before the bus has finished loading new passengers. Continue Reading >>

Chilly but Beautiful

Dad and I met up for an extended ride home this evening. By “extended,” I actually mean we added 25 miles to a 20-mile commute. Perfect… and my toes even defrosted in the shower. We didn’t set any land speed records, but I find it difficult to keep up a fast pace when it’s pitch dark and the temperature hovers around freezing. We still had a nice time.

We rode south through Bellevue to Factoria, over Northup Way into Issaquah, and then around the south end of Lake Sammamish. A straight shot north took us directly home. Continue Reading >>

Unlucky

On my commuter bike, I currently run Compass Stampede Pass tires with tan sidewalls. Besides looking pretty slick, they feel and handle great, and 99% of the time I love them.

The big downside: Flats. Because they are supple and light, they are prone to flats. And the tires have a really tight bead with my rims, making it very hard to get them off and on. In fact, the last four times I’ve flatted, I didn’t even try to repair it myself. I just went to the nearest bike shop.

Notice how I said “the last four times”? Well, three of those happened in the last week, and two of them happened yesterday. Continue Reading >>

Light in a Dark Place

Sometimes God gives us opportunities above and beyond our everyday choices, chances to shine as a bright light in a dark place. Yesterday I took one of those opportunities, and I’m still reeling from it.

Thursday, February 21, we pushed out our first release of 2019 at work. With President’s Day on Monday and all the snow the previous weeks, I didn’t feel as comfortable as usual. Every working day that week I put in 10-hour days and still felt less well prepared than I like. But that evening I left work at about 6:25 PM relieved and ready to enjoy a slow, dry, “warm” bike commute home before really nasty weather pummeled us again. Continue Reading >>

Cold, Dark, and Rainy

At last the weather has entered the classic Washington pattern of short, dim days, heavy cloud cover, and copious rain. Not that I prefer these conditions, but as a Washington native, it doesn’t feel like winter until the rain starts.

Well, yesterday the rain certainly started… And didn’t stop. By the time I got home, nary a square inch of me remained dry. That’s no big deal, but it was also quite windy, which I don’t care for.

Because of the wind, and the difficulty of seeing in dark, rainy conditions, I opted to take the Burke-Gilman Trail home from Seattle, rather than going across the 520 bridge and up through Kirkland. Especially lately, I’ve felt really nervous about riding down Market Street. At every intersection, cars turn right across the bike lane, and they never stop or seem to notice me. It’s very anxiety-inducing.

Plus, riding in the dark with car headlights blazing into my eyes, with raindrops refracting their light, it’s nearly impossible to see what’s ahead of me. I have super-powerful lights, but they don’t help when my vision is obscured.

So I took the Burke.

In the summer I don’t care for the Burke: too many other people, too flat, too boring, and a couple miles longer.

But in these conditions, there aren’t many other people, and flat and boring mean predictable, which is exactly what I want. Plus, with no cars, it not only feels safer, but it’s much easier to see.

When I got home, I realized something else: going across 520, I have 14 stoplights from the time I leave the UW to the time I get home. But riding on the Burke, I have only two stoplights.

Here’s a typical across-the-520-bridge commute:

Here’s the on-the-Burke around the north end route:

As a result, when I checked my times at the end, I had the odd experience of having a longer moving time (1:22 for 21.4 miles, versus 1:16 for 19.5 miles… Don’t judge me! It’s December, it’s dark, wet, windy, and nasty. You try riding faster.) but a shorter overall time (1:23 versus 1:29). I spent almost 15 minutes stopped when I went through Kirkland, compared with only one minute stopped going on the Burke.

So that’s interesting. My take-away: I may mix up my commutes more, especially on those dark, wet days when riding in traffic is extra-dangerous.