Friday, March 30, 2012

Little Hope to Stay On Schedule (Bicycling vs. Commuting Challenge Update)

It's looking probable that I'm going to end the month of March about 25 hours behind on the bike riding vs. car commuting challenge.

My hope today was to get about 75 minutes of "healthy wellness" riding in at the office, to counterbalance my anticipated commute home, but it is raining right now and thus unlikely I'll go out as I am a pansy wimp and afraid of getting wet.

So I'll strap the bike on the back of the Mighty Corolla for my trip home. When I get there, it's likely that my dear old Dad will be there for a weekend visit, and for that I'm happy.

My remaining hope is that I squeeze in a Saturday morning ride before everyone gets up. This is likely to happen. But still I'll be more behind schedule than I hoped for (My master plan calls for a 7-hour deficit each month, so it was expected to be a 21 hour shortage at the end of March but it'll be more.).

Happiy, April has one fewer commuting day in it than March, plus I'm scheduled for a century ride on the 21st of April. So I'll probably not lose any ground and hopefully gain back a little.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tank 312 - 27 March 2K12 (Good Mileage, Good Miles!)

So I refueled last night at the convenient Fas Mart near my home, and my daughter said, "Dad, this is a Valero."

So at the Fas mart I pumped in 11.597 gallons after driving 447.0 miles, making for a mileage of 38.54 mpg. It was 56 degrees.

Yesterday was also a great day for biking. I took advantage of my office's "healthy wellness" program and rode for close to an hour at the end of my work day, and then drove home, where I picked up aforementioned daughter and took her to soccer practice, where I commenced riding my bike for another 65 minutes.

So over the course of yesterday, I rode my bike over 29 miles and close to two hours. And I spent only about an hour and a half actually commuting to and from work, so it was a net gain for the bike time yesterday. Please enjoy my updated pie chart that includes all biking and car commuting up to and including this morning's arrival at my office.

We still have 2.5 commuting days remaining in the month, and I am 21.5 hours behind in the bicycling. My general estimate to meet my goal of riding my bike more than I commute in my car calls for about a 7-hour deficit per month until my office moves in September. So I have reached that limit for the month already, and thus my mild concern of 2.5 more days of commuting to end the month.

But I ought to also have 2 more happy wellness bike rides, plus a Saturday ride to close out March, so the difference shouldn't be that much greater than 21 hours.

And then in April I am scheduled for a century ride, which should help shave some of the decifit down.

And I learned this week that the contractor is promising to be done with the new office before September and that we may get moved by the beginning of August. If that happens, I'm even more confident I can achieve my goal and it may not even be that close in that case.

But I'll still do my best to ride my bike as much as I can.

Last Sunday I had a Bible Study meeting at our church in the evening. Usually I drive but, being aware of my cycling time deficit this month, I rode my bike to and from the meeting. That bike trip was 8 miles round trip and 36 minutes more in the biking time column for the month. I bet I can do that more often in the future, too.

Overall, things are good. It's springtime.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tank 311 - 19 March 2K12 (I Talk a Lot About Gas, But Would Rather Be Bicycling)

So I refueled early this morning at the convenientest gas station near my house, the locally famous Fas mart.

The Mighty Corolla had only gone 391.1 miles at this point, but my plans for the day include a field trip north after work to meet an old friend for dinner. I know I'd have needed more gas in order to make it there and also get home again this evening, and I also know that gasoline is typically more expensive than the $3.739 per gallon that the Fas mart was selling it for.

Yes, I know I am a big supporter of more expensive gas, because I'm pretty sure it helps traffic flow more smoothly due to a few people who start to drive less severely and more sanely to conserve expensive gas. But that doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to spend more on gas than I have to.

I just won't complain when gas stays above $4.00 a gallon.

Indeed, my choice to gas up at home instead of here where I work saved me about 25 cents a gallon. Which for my 10.049 gallons of gas, works out to about $2.50 that I didn't spend on refilling my gas tank this morning.

So my mileage for the tank was pretty good, at 38.92 miles per gallon.

This was only the third tank of gas where I put more gas in without the low fuel indicator light being turned on. The last time this happened, it was Veterans Day 2009 (11/11/09).

Upon further review of the data, I can't confidently say it was just the third time. I only started keeping track of this data in 2007. I started keeping track of it a couple tanks after my wife refilled the tank without writing down the miles she went, or resetting the trip odometer afterwards. That was a fun time. My data had been perfect up until then, and I think it was the first time my wife had put gas in the Mighty Corolla (Tank 117). She had taken the car on a trip or something and took it because it got better mileage.

But it's all okay.

I haven't ridden my bike since Sunday. It's only Tuesday morning, and my body can feel the lack of exercise in that my feet are going a little numb and my lower back is hurting a little bit. I think the bike riding position helps stretch out my lower back and release pressure on the nerves around there that make my lower legs and feet numb.

In the back of my mind, I remember hearing the doctor's words from four years ago. He said "look at this X-ray. See these grey blotches? These are your old failing discs in your back. Thise nice white creamy ones are okay, but these six- three down here, and three in your neck, are going bad. I'm fixing this one here (points to the one he was going to fix). I'll see you in about 15 years when the next one blows out.

"And also, your spinal cord is about three sizes smaller and skinnier than the typical man's. Good luck with that."

So every bike ride is special, because of these ticking time bomb discs in my back that are deteriorating each day. While I'm still probably ten years out from another "disc blowout" experience that cripples me to the point of immobility, the dark spectre of pain and incapacitation looms over my head, a shadow of dispair waiting to rip open and rain agony and depression upon me at any moment.

Have a great day!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Bike vs. Commute Update: March Hasn't Been Good So Far

One of my established goals for 2012 is to spend more time riding my bike than I do commuting to and from work in my car.

My general plan for success includes running at a deficit of about 7 hours per month for the first 8 months of the year, and then in September my office is moving to a new location that will reduce my commuting time by (hopefully) about 50 minutes per day. The reduced commuting time combined with keeping the bike riding time the same appears to swing the deficit the other way for the rest of the year, and it's likely this will result in success (defined as more time riding my bike than commuting in my car for the year).

But I'm already 21 hours short on the bike riding with two weeks left in March.

The only solution I can think of now is to take a couple days off from work. But that's not likely.

I'll continue to track this data and trust that perhaps April will be surprising and this trend will reverse and stabilize.

I think that as the office move gets closer, I'll be attending site visits, which would count as work, and going home from those site visits would thus be a shorter than normal commute home on those days. That will help.

A final nugget of hope is that there's a commuter parking lot about 13 miles from my home and about 6.7 miles from where the office will likely be moving to. I'm mildly confident that I can park the car there and ride my bike the rest of the way a couple days a week. That plan would make those days bike time heavy, by a lot, and help close the gap swiftly.

It's wrong that I think so much about how I can ride my bike more. I ought to be working.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tank 310 - 12 March 2K12 ($3.659 per gallon)

So over the weekend we drove to Charlottesville in the Mighty Corolla, so it used up a couple three days worth of commutes, so yesterday I refueled after just six days.

But the Mighty Corolla had gone 435.3 miles and I stopped at the Sheetz and put in 11.233 gallons of gas there. According to the math, that meant a mileage of 38.75 miles per gallon.

But of course we all suspect that the gas pumps at Sheets turn off sooner than the pumps at the Fas mart we tend to use more frequently, so there's a chance that my mileage wasn't really that good.

But then again, we blame Sheetz for the whole "37.23 mpg" debacle of last week, so it seems to be all leveling out over time.

The last time gas was this expensive was last May, when I paid $3.929 and $3.859 per gallon over the course of two consecutive tanks. Probably it was last May then that I did the math and determined that for someone of my commute distance, gas prices going up so much made for an additional cost of $6-$10 per week for gas, depending on whether you drove a Mighty Corolla or Ford Valdez.

My conclusion then was that if you can't absorb an additional cost of $10 a week for gas, you might want to reconsider some of your life choices.

My addendum to that conclusion is that there's no law requiring you to drive alone to and from work in a gigantic 12-mile-per-gallon behemoth of a monster truck. I'm sure there was no actual gun to your head to force you into buying a truck with sucky mileage.

Big cars and fast cars have one thing in common: they each get stuck in traffic alongside me in my economy car.

It doesn't make sense to me to spend my money on more gas than I absolutely have to use. So I drive slow like a granny and drive a car that gets good mileage.

You can do the same, too. You all have the choice.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tank 309 - 6 March 2K12 (14th farthest Ever on a Tank)

Refueled yesterday on my way home. I drove through the Wawa gas pumps because they were entirely filled with gas-buying patrons, and then the traffic lights were on my side and I managed to go through two lights and turn left across a busy street without stopping and ended up at the moderately notable Fas mart near my home, where I put in 12.041 gallons of gas.

So it was the 14th farthest I'd ever driven on one tank of gas (448.3 miles), and the 7th most gas I'd ever put into the Mighty Corolla (12.041 gallons), making for a fuel economy of 37.23 miles per gallon.

I was expecting better mileage, but then remembered my last tank refill was at Sheetz and it's probable that the pump there put in a little less gas than the Fas Mart pump did, so the mileage this tank may be falsely reduced since I replaced the used gas with more than I would have used had I gone to the same pump at Sheetz again.

Still, 37 miles per gallon isn't too shabby. Indeed, I'm pretty sure the way I drive the Mighty Corolla gets better mileage than all other non-hybrid cars.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to re-think my conclusion that men who drive BMW-3-Series are the worst drivers out there. It may in fact be all Hyundai drivers (particularly Sonatas) and Honda Civic Hybrid drivers. But that's another topic.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Of COURSE You Get Home Faster After A Snowstorm! What Was I Thinking?

I take back everything I wrote yesterday.

Had I actually spent a minute to think about things, I should have predicted a swift commute home.

After all, my two fastest commutes home (34 and 35 minutes) were on the "earthquake day" last year, and on a day where it was blizzarding in the morning.

So clearly if I had remembered this, I'd have made the connection that my trip home would likely be faster than avarage. And it was. I got home in 42 minutes yesterday, which is 12 minutes faster than my average Monday trip home.

So that was a happy surprise.

And then an added happy bonus was that I got new pedals in the mail yesterday, and my daughter was having a friend over after dinner to bake a cake, so all the girls were doing cooking-like things and I was able to switch out the pedals.

My secret evil plan is working out quite nicely. I moved my current pedals from the "white bike" to the "yellow bike." The yellow bike had the original 1970s pedals with straps and toe clips, but now it has Shimano SPD pedals, one side clip-in and the other side a flat pedal. They are lighter than the original pedals, so score!

And the white bike now has new one-sided entry SPD "road pedals," which work with my current shoes and now I can use my bicycle shoes on both bikes. The new pedals are smaller and lighter than the Shimano ones, so score!

I'm slowly making the 1972 Yellow Atala into a second back up all-weather spare bike, and at the same time am making the newer white Windsor a little better with small incremental improvements.

Overall it was an happy day!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Snow On Ground = Long Trip Home Today

I woke up this morning and the weatherman reported perhaps 2 inches of snow at home, with perhaps a dusting at my office today. It wasn't precipitating at all so the trip in was fine, only a couple people doing the "pre-emptive park on the shoulder" move to hinder my progress.

So as the morning progressed, snow started at home. One local school closed for the day but my kids got on the bus and school was on.

Now it looks like there might be about four inches of snow at home.

Happily, it doesn't appear to be sticking to the roads, and it also looks like it will remain above freezing for the rest of the day.

Sadly, this won't stop the general public from freaking out and either drive way slower than normal, to show everyone else how nervous they are, or way faster than normal, to show everyone else that it's no big deal.

Unfortunately, slow and fast people still can't coexist in peace on the highway. In theory, three lanes on the interstate equals one left lane for speed demons, one middle lane for speed limiters, and one right lane for slow grannies.

In practice, there's onramp and exits and people mixing it up in all three lanes. The worst danger is the slow granny who camps in the fast lane, but that's common knowledge and I won't beat that dead horse.

But the blended traffic and probable wet roads will likely result in one or two unanticipated but not unexpected meetings of cars on the road. So the remaining drivers will generally slow down to see if it's anyone they know (it won't be).

And it's supposed to be nice weather suitable for shorts and T-shirts in just a couple more days. March is living up to its lion/lamb reputation this year, for sure!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time on Bike v. Time Commuting in Car: An Update

I spent about 21.5 hours riding my bike in February, and about 29 hours commuting to and from work.

For the year, I have commuted in my car about 13.5 hours more than ridden on my bike. It appears that it's looking favorable that my biking habit will be able to catch up and pass the car commuting by the end of the year, if my office move happens according to plan in early September.

Last Monday, my boss asked me to meet him at a location that closely simulated my potential new commute to the office, and at the end of the day things happened such that he agreed my work day didn't end until I left from about the same location. So I have one day's worth of data to simulate my estimated commute times when the office moves to a new location later this year.

I got to this location (near my boss' house) in 26 minutes, which is 15 minutes faster than my current average of 40 minutes to work each morning. My trip home from about this location was 30 minutes, which was about 24 minutes faster than my average trip home so far this year.

This was pretty close to my guess that the new location would save me about 40 minutes of driving per day.

There's a commuter parking lot about 2/3 of the way between my house and the new building, which I am thinking I could use to park my car in the morning, ride my bike the remaining distance (about 4 or 5 miles), and come home the opposite way. There are shower facilities (probably) at the new building, for what that's worth. If I can do this "a couple three times a week," my goal to ride my bike more than I commute in my car should be achievable with little trouble!

So I think things will really get exciting in September, as the bike riding time should see a relative jump as the commuting time sees a dramatic decrease.