Monday, July 30, 2012

Tank 326 - 27 July 2K12 (Car - 39, Bicycle - 101)

I had the opportunity to refuel the Mighty Corolla on Friday morning, filling it with 12.038 gallons after driving 475.9 miles.

This was the farthest distance ever driven on one tank in this car.

So my mileage worked out to be a great 39.53 miles per gallon. I think this is due to my fortunate commutes behind tractor trailers doing 70 miles an hour. I had several of those on this tank.

And I had a three-day weekend, in which I was able to go out for three pretty good bike rides. I totaled 101 miles over the three days, which made me feel good, and due to lots of odd irritants I had to drive the Corolla around town on mindless errands, going 39 miles on the same three days.

So happily I can report I rode my bike more than I drove my car over the weekend.

The month of July is ending, and unless a miracle happens, I'll be ending the month with about a 38 hour deficit on my quest to ride my bike for more time than I commute in my car. According to my January projections, I would be about 49 hours short at this point, so I'm pretty happy.

Coming up in August, the office move will finally be happening, and I should be able to start hacking away at this gap. My "healthy wellness" rides should be able to resume on a more frequent basis, plus I aim to implement my "drive halfway and ride the bike from the commuter lot" plan, which could have a major impact on my stats.

Plus the fall and winter holidays with no work commutes will help my commuting time not grow as quickly, too.

This has been an interesting year, and I have been enjoying keeping track of all the data of my commutes and bike rides. My pie chart has been a pretty steady 56/44 split between riding and commuting, and I'm looking forward to the last 4 months of the year to see the green part grow and hopefully become larger than the red part.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tank 325 - 19 July 2K12 (Not Just Any Thursday...)

Early this morning I refilled at the Fas Mart near my home. 417.5 miles, 10.887 gallons, 38.35 miles per gallon.

Gas was $3.249/gallon, which is nine cents more than it was last time I filled up nine days ago.

It was 78 degrees and 5:55 am.

The news is reporting about this increase in gas prices again, like it's a bad thing that's going to put us all in the poorhouse (if we're not already there). But to put things in perspective, two weeks ago when it was still nine cents cheaper per gallon, my whole tank of gas would have been about 99 cents less expensive. I'd have spent $34.00 on it instead of $34.99.

If I drove a larger car and had to put in 16 gallons, then the difference in cost would have been about $1.50. One dollar and fifty cents. For one tank. If I refill twice a week (which I don't), that'd be about three dollars a week difference for a nine-cent-per-gallon jump in gas prices. Or about twelve dollars in a month.

As I've said before, if your budget can't absorb a twelve dollar expense in a month, you probably need to reassess your life priorities.

It's like people didn't realize that they'd ever be buying gas for the cars they bought. Gas is not free.

Indeed, I believe car window stickers now have an estimated annual fuel cost printed right there on the label, so if you can't understand the mileage number (hint: higher mileage means you'll spend relatively less on gas!), you can look at the estimated annual fuel cost (hint: higher is more!) and get some information to help you make up your mind.

If you don't think you want to spend $2,500 on gas each year, maybe you should reconsider the purchase of a 6,000 pound 4x4 SUV with a 400-horsepower V8 engine.

"But I use it to tow my boat to the marina in the spring and then to the storage unit in the fall!"

I can't even respond to that logic without going off on a cuss-filled rant on stupid people and their stupid priorities, so I'll end here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Don't Ride to Make a Statement.

About two years ago, I started riding my bicycle again. Since then, I've ridden over 7,000 miles on three different bicycles, and enjoyed every minute of it. It's not just exercise, it's fun and interesting.

I began riding again because I needed some sort of exercise to help keep my back muscles toned to help reduce lower back pain. I found that the riding posture helped stretch out the trouble spots in my back, and riding the bike also helped to gently exercise the back muscles.

So it's my exercise regimen as well as a source of fun and entertainment. But riding my bike quickly grew into something that couldn't properly be done in a neighborhood. Running is great exercise, but generally it is done in neighborhood streets, on sidewalks, and in parks. Bike riding can be done in neighborhoods as well, but there are stop signs to mind, and (my neighborhood, at least) the neighborhood is generally too small to go out on a one-hour ride without repeating the same small loop over and over and over. So I go out on my bike and leave my neighborhood and see the town.

At that point, my personal exercise becomes a public event. My private activity is occurring in public places. Yes, my neighborhood is a public place, but my rides take me across neighborhoods to other subdivisions and on other connecting roads. It just happens that way. I like to ride my bike for exercise purposes, and doing that puts me out there where lots of people can see me.

Yes, I frequently wear a bicycling costume: tight shorts and a vibrant-colored shirt. At first I was against such foolishness, but soon realized that the costume has a few purposes. First, the tight shorts make hours of pedaling much more tolerable because there's less friction and chafing due to loose shorts moving around as my legs spin on the pedals. And the bright, obnoxious bicycling shirts I have concluded are that way so that other people in cars can see me more easily. I'm riding on the right side of the road, along with traffic, so it's hard to make eye contact with drivers to verify they see me. So I wear ugly shirts that are bright and highly visible. My shirt makes eye contact because I can't.

I need to be seen so I don't get hit. I don't watch behind me, so I'm trusting that each and every driver is paying attention enough to see me on the edge of the road and gives me enough space as they pass. The bicycling costume helps achieve that goal.

Plus, the bicycling shirts generally have pockets in the back that are handy to hold snacks and things.

Since I'm well aware that my chosen method of exercise is out there on the roads that are used by everyone who drives, I do my best to be a considerate bicyclist and I try to go out there when there are fewer cars on the road, like on early weekend mornings. And when I am out there when lots of cars are out, I try to avoid major roads that have a lot of car traffic. My purpose is to go on a ride and enjoy myself, not to go out there and be a rolling road block for people driving in cars.

Of course, there seems to always be a few "enthusiasts" who make it their mission to ATTRACT UNNECESSARY ATTENTION TO THEMSELVES WHILE RIDING BIKES, who ride in the center of the lane even when there's a shoulder on the road because CYCLISTS HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO THE ENTIRE LANE, TOO, and otherwise just seem to go out of their way to treat their rides like a parade that commands everyone's attention, respect, and praise.

These people brag about how their bikes cost as much as some economy cars (yes, even more than certain Mighty Corollas!), and their shorts cost $100 a pair because they're made from the silken threads of rare Malaysian spiders. While expensive bikes and clothes look nice, it's still the motor that needs to do the work. I say, if your bicycle's motor can't keep up with traffic, get yourself along over to the shoulder. The stack of cars piled up behind you has no idea how much your bike costs, and probably doesn't care, either, so stop being a jerk and let them by.

Just because you "can" occupy the whole lane, doesn't mean you "should" occupy the whole lane. Your ignorance and arrogance only makes it harder for other people who ride bikes. Do the right thing. Stay at the side of the road as much as you can and don't be a turd and take up more than your necessary space, and definitely don't get all aggressive and conceited when those cars honk their horn at you in anger when you are only managing 13 miles an hour on your $12,000 carbon fiber tri-bike with deep-section aero wheels.

I ride because I like to ride. I go out for long rides today so I can go out for longer rides tomorrow, and next week, and next year. I don't mean to be in your way on the roads, it's just that I must use them as I'm out there enjoying my private exercise activity. I'll do my best to not be a nuisance to you. Please don't lump me in with the other middle-aged white guys who spend more time polishing their bikes than they do riding them. I ride a bike like they do, but I'm not a part of their fraternity.

//steps off soapbox//

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tank 324 - 10 July 2K12 (I'm Ahead of You, Because I left Home Ten Seconds Before You!)

Refueled this morning at the convenient Fas Mart near my home, after driving the Mighty Corolla 414.0 miles in 11 days. My heart sank as I pumped in 11.448 gallons, which made for a pitiful mileage of 36.16 mpg. I should be happy, I suppose, since the government estimated the car should only ger 34 mpg on the highway.

Still, since we bought this car, I've achieved a lifetime fuel economy of 37.19 miles per gallon, so I'm disappointed that I didn't even achieve the average here.

* * * * *

I've been bothered recently on the road by people who drive erratically and/or aggressively. I tend to stay in the slow lane going about the posted speed limit. I try to let people merge at the onramps if I can't get over to the middle lane to open up the slow lane as they merge. I think that in general I'm a fairly conscientious and predictable driver.

On a regular basis, as I sit there commuting in the slow lane in my car, I see other cars speeding up feom behind, weaving in and out of the lanes in an effort to get past the immediate "obstacles" of other cars, only to reveal even more of the same "obstacles" ahead to keep them from speeding along at whatever top speed they thing they're entitled to drive.

Sometimes there's a perfect storm of coincidences where the slow lane is wide open behind me, and the aggressive speeder sees the wide open lane from across the road, and he sweeps across two lanes to the slow lane and lays the hammer down in an impressive display of acceleration to get past the slow people impeding his progress.

So this guy quickly sees that the slow lane is not entirely empty, but instead has a car in it (mine) that's being driven at a slow speed (by me), although "slow" must be relative because 65-70 mph is still pretty fast to me.

So the guy's faced with the embarrassing prospect of slamming on his brakes and waiting for a gap to open up amongst the people he just sped around.

If only he looked around at his surroundings, a little ahead of himself on the road, he would have seen that I was there. But no, he doesn't see me until he's committed to the move and zoomed past other cars in an aggressive fury of right-foot-stomping.

Sheesh. If you're in that big of a rush, LEAVE HOME SOONER!

And STOP THINKING YOU IMPRESS ME WITH YOUR SPEED!

I drive a freaking Corolla and the speedometer goes up to 110! If I want to go fast, all I need to do is push down my right foot a little bit more, just like you.

A fast car does not make you a stronger person.

A fast car does not make you a better person.

A fast car does not make you a happier person.

A fast car does not make you better than anybody else.

A fast car only means you can push your right foot down a little bit more than normal people.

A fast car only gets you stuck in traffic faster.

And that fast car also adds to the accordion slow-down effect that slows down all the other people trying to go in the same direction as you. And that's selfish, really.

How is that supposed to impress other people, especially when it's very likely that these other people are complete strangers?

It's all well and good that you spent $50,000 on your luxury car or SUV, but when I see you driving it like Tony Stewart (which you're not) and getting stuck in the same traffic as me (which you are), I actually feel bad for you. My Corolla was $15,000 and look at me, stuck here on the same road with you.

Was that a good use of your money? Spending three times as much to sit in the same traffic jam as the rest of us unwashed masses? I almost laugh at the situation, if it wasn't so sad, because you probably don't even realize what a fool you are for acting like that.

//steps off soapbox//

Monday, July 9, 2012

15 (or 14) Commute Days Left, 8 (or 9) Riding Days Left in July

I had a good weekend with two good bike rides that totaled about 67 miles and about 4 hours.

With my recent commute times being a little shorter than average (thank you, Thursday afternoon meetings at the new building!), today's updated pie chart of destiny shows a 46-54 split (thank you, rounding!).

The car commute time is still about 31 and a half hours ahead of the bike riding time, which is totally acceptable. Like I have a choice, really. It is what it is.

Coming up the next two Saturdays, though, I have been signed up for an horrible training of some sort on those two days, which means I won't be able to get in a long morning ride on those days. But also coming up, if the weather holds out, is a fun trip with my friend John to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway. That ought to even things up a little bit.

And tomorrow I expect to add more gas to the Mighty Corolla, so I'll have a mileage update to post. I'm not expecting it to be a great result. I think it's because I've spent a lot of little run around town trips over the weekend and holiday. Plus I've been running the air conditioning in that car like nobody's business on account of the heat.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July So Far - 286 Minutes Commuting, 249 Minutes Riding

Thanks to the mid-week holiday and a partial work day yesterday, my bicycling has generally kept pace with my car commuting. There's a difference of less than 40 minutes, which I expect to recover during a long ride on Saturday morning. Expecting a normal commute home this afternoon of perhaps 85 minutes, my anticipated ride tomorrow will make the week end up with the bicycling time winning by perhaps as much as an hour.

I'm not sure what to expect for my drive home this afternoon. It's supposed to be a bajillion degrees outside, plus it's a Friday, so I expect "hilarity will ensue," but also with the Wednesday holiday, I suppose many people are making a long weekend out of it.

But whatever. I don't have much of a say in what the traffic will look like on my way home, so I'll obviously need to manage it regardless of its speediness.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Plans Flushed. Driving Home From Work.

But I'll still be able for a good ride tomorrow morning.

Happy Fourth of July.

Tank 323 - 28 June 2K12

So I actually put more gas in the Mighty Corolla last Thursday afternoon, and just now am getting to report on it. It was super! I filled up at a Wawa in Stafford, and put in 11.311 gallons, after driving 436.3 miles. So my mileage was a solid 38.57 miles per gallon.

Gas was $3.159/gallon at that time.

It was 98 degrees when I refueled there around 3:00 pm.

So that's about it.

This afternoon I am faced with a tricky decision, one that is sort of making itself. We're all allowed to go home 59 minutes early, which would be 3:01 in my case. I am also permitted an hour of healthy wellness exercise time, which I should have started if I seriously wanted to do it today. But I am suspecting traffic will be so bad at 3:01 that it'd make more sense to ride my bike the 34 miles home, as it's the day before a holiday, and sometimes driving home takes about that long anyway on such days.

But today is looking weird.

The Google traffic maps are pretty much showing green stripes on the major roads. I feel much safer on Route 1 when it's yellow and red, because I can ride my bike at those speeds. Green does not make me feel like I want to ride home on Route 1.

It's almost 2:30 and if the traffic reports stay so freaking happy and green for cars, I may be compelled to drive home as well. Rats?

On the other hand, if I do manage to drive home in a not-so-slow manner, I think the rest of my family will be out at the lake for the afternoon, so I may be able to get home, change real quick, and then go out for a ride around the neighborhoods and stuff, which wouldn't be so bad, but it's not like riding home on Route 1 when all those other cars are stuck in stop-and-go traffic.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ended June Ahead - Bicycling Likely to Win

As July begins, I am pleased that the bicycling time for the year is only about 32.6 hours behind my car commuting time. When I ended January with a 7-hour deficit, I had expected that by the end of June it would be about 42 hours that I'd be needing to make up by the end of the year.

Happily, my bike rides have been increasing in duration and I'm going into July with a smaller than anticipated deficit.

With new Thursday afternoon meetings at the new building, my Thursday commutes home will probably remain shorter than average, which may keep the gap from growing as rapidly as it had been for the first several months of the year.

I'm scheduled for 19 work days this month (July), but at least one of those "work days" I will be going in late, so I ought to be able to get a decent bike ride in early in the day.

More and more, I am becoming increasingly confident that I will ride my bike for more time than I spend driving to and from work in my car.