Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Rides, Happy Weekend, Happy Monday

So I totally rode my bike 32 miles home last Friday.

As I passed the IKEA right near my office, I waited at a traffic light next to a gold pickup truck with Georgia license plates and a large "G" in the rear window (for Georgia Bulldogs, I concluded, after seeing the matching bumper sticker).

18 miles later, near the Stafford County Courthouse, I saw the same truck.


So my two-hour ride home was fun on my bike, and although it would have taken the same amount of time in my car, no doubt I'd have been clenching my butt cheeks and gnashing my teeth the entire time. Indeed, for a couple of miles (not in a row, but spread over the length of Route 1) I found myself pedaling faster than the stopped/walking speed cars.

It was great.

And then early Saturday morning, I rode my bike back up to the office to I could retrieve the Mighty Corolla. So I got another long ride in as well!

So I had some good rides over the weekend, and as of this moment, I am a shade under 33 hours short in my goal of riding my bike more time than commuting in my car this year.

Full disclosure: on Saturday morning as I neared my office, traffic was increasing and since it was early, the cars were speeding along Route 1 at a high rate of speed, and some of them seemed not to see me, or maybe just wanted to give me a wake up call and pass by me very closely. At those moments, I did wonder to myself why exactly I was doing such a thing.

But then I got close to my office and meandered around the large empty parking lot of Potomac Mills Mall, weaving and swerving to feel the bike swoop around curvy turns, and I remembered: THIS IS WHY. IT'S FUN.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Forget This, I'm Riding My Bike Home Again! (also, tank 319 - 24 May 2K12)

I'm mega-fed-up with spending 90 minutes in the Mighty Corolla just to get home from work. It's boring and dull and I don't like how other drivers seems to think the lane they picked isn't the right one.

Just pick a lane and stay in it already! I camp out in the slow lane and generally keep pace with you all who weave in and out of the other lanes!

This week has generally been a bad week to drive home, with an average commute of 73 minutes. This takes into account one day that I actually left for home from a meeting that was about 9 miles closer to home than normal. My average commute home from the actual office has been 84 minutes.

I expect that this afternoon's rush will be massive, with people leaving work and home early to drive south to experience their rightfully-deserved first vacation of a lifetime for the year, and since they'll all want to leave early, the main roads will be packed with cars.

Because I'm riding my bike home again today!

So take that, everyone!

And then I'll wake up early tomorrow morning (Saturday) and ride my bike back up here to my office and drive the Mighty Corolla home in the cool of the early morning! It's totally a win-win situation: I miss out on the torture of sitting in my car this afternoon, plus I get two good bike rides to chip away at my (too large) deficit of almost 40 hours between commuting and bike riding.

So although I'll probably end this month with a deficit of more than my hoped-for 35 hours, I think it's all still looking good- I've got a pile of use-or-lose vacation that I'll start using in June and July, and maybe I can do this bike ride home trick a couple more times as well.

Oh, and also I put gas in the Corolla yesterday afternoon and got 37.72 miles per gallon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rode the Bike Home Last Thursday (and Most Every Day Since)

By the Numbers:
Miles: 33.11
Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Average Speed: 18.4 miles per hour
Top Speed: 39.7 miles per hour

I am pretty okay with my decision to ride US Route 1 all the way home last Thursday. (Friday was a scheduled day off for me, so I did not officially take part in any "ride your bike to work" events, although I did ride my bike.) There were more places than I expected where there was no hard shoulder to the outside of the white line, but mostly those pesky cars left me alone. There were a few that stood their ground and refused to grant me any more space than minimally possible, and a couple who appeared to swerve into the shoulder lane after they passed me, for whatever reason I don't know, perhaps to show me they could take the shoulder too, I guess.

It was a fun and speedy ride home. The draft provided by the drivers who buzzed past me really helped to suck me along at a good speed.

General car traffic wasn't as bad as I hoped it would be for a Thursday. Maybe it's because all the accidents and related mayhem the day before, so drivers were hyper-aware of their surroundings so as to avoid getting stuck in it for a second day. Riding my bike got me home faster on Thursday than driving home in my car the day before.

Adding my weekend bike rides, I am now about 32.5 hours short for the month. It's set to rain most of the week, so it's looking like I won't take many "healthy wellness" rides at work. But we have a three-day weekend coming up, and this entire month has the most scheduled working days of the remainder of our planned time in my work building. The move is set for 14 August. All these factors lead me to conclude that even if I end this month with a greater than 35-hour deficit, I'll be able to add a smaller deficit for the next couple of months and get back on my predicted schedule, which will result in planned activities that will ship away at the deficit for the remaining 4.5 months of the year so as to end 2012 with me having ridden my bicycle for more hours than I spent commuting to and from work in the Mighty Corolla.

(As I wrote that previous sentence, I couldn't help but wonder if that sort of confusing logic is what's behind the general budget formulation and execution process our country goes through each year.)

As I got closer to home, I managed to snap this great picture of a sign that's near the local hospital. Those pedestrians there are just too fast and must be slowed down.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tank 318 - 16 May 2K12 (Was It The Coasting?)

Refueled early this morning at the Fas Mart near my house for the fourth consecutive time in a row. The Mighty Corolla had gone 442.3 miles, which is pretty far for a tank of gas, and I put in 10.943 gallons of gas.

So my mileage was 40.42 mpg. It's only the second time this year that I've gotten over 40 mpg, and the other time I did it, I also got 40.42 miles per gallon. Weird!

Also like last time, my 40.42 mpg mark was preceded by a tank that achieved "bad" mileage of less than 37 miles per gallon (36.84 mpg this time, 36.73 mpg last time). I'm not sure what to make of this piece of information.

I recently bought a new battery for the car. The old one died. I think it may have been the original battery, but not certain, because that would have made for the battery to be about 8 years old, which is pretty old for a car battery I think.

But anyway, with my new battery I feel confident that when I turn off the engine and coast down the long hills during slow rush hour traffic, that the car will re-start when I need it to at the bottom of the hills. I've done that a few times over the course of this last tank, and a couple of those times I coasted for 90 seconds or more with the engine off.

It should be stressed that I only do this not-completely-safe trick while in the far right, or "slow" lane, which affords me a shoulder of road to coast on to in the unlikely event the car won't restart.

Tomorrow is "ride your bike home from work day" for me, because I am not scheduled to work on the official "ride your bike to work day" on Friday. And I'm lazy and don't want to ride my bike both ways tomorrow. That would be like an 80-mile round trip, since I can't ride my bike on the interstate.

So my friend John will pick me up on his way to work and drop me off at my office.

There's an "offsite meeting" scheduled for tomorrow as well. It's less than 10 miles away and on my way home. So my trip home will be broken into two medium-sized rides. I suppose that will work out pretty good for me, as long as there's a place for me to change back into my Friday clothes when I get to the offsite location.

Maybe I can get myself uninvited to the meeting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bike Riding v. Car Commuting Challenge: Mid-May Update

Well, this month started out just great, I was ahead of planned schedule and was optimistic that this whole challenge of riding my bike for more time that I sat in my car driving to and from work would be an easy slam dunk win for the bike, since my office was moving in mid-August and I'd have a much shorter commute for the last third of the year.

Now I'm not so sure.

Last time I rode my bike was last Friday afternoon. Then the family went out for the weekend to graduation ceremonies at Liberty University (highlight of the commencement speakers: S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick Fil-A, whose first words to the crowd after he received an honorary doctorate were: WHO HERE LIKES CHICKEN? And everyone cheered and applauded his wisdom.).

And then Sunday was Mother's Day, so I couldn't go out for a morning ride because of all the festivities and activities necessary to celebrate the day in the manner in which it has become to be expected in my house.

Then it rained. Rained Monday. Raining today. It might stop tomorrow.

Long story short, I'm still on track, but only if today was the last day of May. I'm 35 hours behind on the bike.

This week was looking to get better, as I'm off on Friday and planned to ride my bike home on Thursday. The Thursday bike ride home would have helped in two ways: 1) one less car commute home on a traditionally bad driving day, and 2) at least two hours of bike riding during the week.

But now I get a meeting invitation for an all-day off-site meeting on Thursday, until 5:00pm. If I go to that meeting and still ride my bike home, I'll likely miss the last soccer game of the season for one of my daughters. Maybe I can skip out of it early.

But looking ahead, I'm planning on taking a few days off in June and July, which will prevent some commutes to work and potentially allow an hour or two of riding on some of those days.

There's still hope and the expectation I'll achieve my goal for the year. It's times like these that keep things interesting.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tank 317 - 8 May 2K12 (I Arrived at Work Full of Gas)

I made the rare move of refueling the Mighty Corolla at dawn this morning. The car had only gone 391.3 miles and it's probable that I could have driven the 65 miles to and from work today and not run out of gas, but the low fuel light was on, it took me 75 minutes to get home yesterday in heavy traffic, and it's supposed to rain this afternoon, which caused enough people to FREAK OUT that traffic in general slows considerably.

Thus, my early morning visit to the locally famous Fas Mart. Gas was $3.639 per gallon, and I put in 10.623 gallons, making for a fuel economy of just 36.84 mpg for this tank.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bike Riding vs. Car Commuting Challenge: One-Third Year Update

I finished April with 81 tracked bike rides totaling 96.25 hours, and 150 commuting trips to and from work in my car, totaling 123.0 hours. Due to rounding that happens on my chart posted here, my total difference between riding and driving was 26.84 hours.

Coming into April, the bike riding was about 25 hours short (25.22 hours short on April 4), so losing less than two hours over the course of the month is a good development. Clearly this is due in great part to my 6-hour century ride on 21 April. Ordinarily on a Saturday, I'd ride 2 or 2 and a half hours, so the extra four hours is what really helped this effort to remain on plan.

As we enter into May, the weather report calls for rain each of the next 4 days, so opportunities to ride the bike will be limited. So, my happy situation of being ahead of schedule (running a deficit of 7 hours per month) will probably take a change in the wrong direction. Also in May are a Saturday graduation I will be attending, and Mother's Day that will likely preclude me from a bike ride.

However, I plan on the "ride your bike home from work day" on Thursday 17 May to look forward to, and that ride will probably be more than two hours, plus I will avoid driving home in the car that day, so the commuting by car time will not increase on that day either.

Of course, the official "ride your bike to work day" is that Friday, 18 May, but that's a scheduled day off for me so my little way to participate will be that day before, and since it's more than a 30-mile trip in each direction, I'm cheating a little by just riding my bike home.

But next year, as my office will be in a new location closer to my home, I just may be able to ride my bike both ways on that day. We'll see about that and remain optimistic.