Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Concert

When I was in 3rd grade and lived in suburban Maryland, the teacher showed a slideshow of the new subway system that was to be built in Washington, D.C. The year was 1967. The picture, very similar to the one here, looked VERY futuristic to me. I was in awe of how cool it looked. The subway was finished in 1976, and I was a senior in high school. I remember the first day it opened, and how they offered free rides, so people could check it out. :) Little did I know then that I would come to use the Metro often in the future. Without a car, the Metro comes in handy in covering distances fairly quickly. Sometimes though, if there are delays in the system, and adding in transfer times at various stations, I can cover some of those distances on my bike just as fast.

This past weekend, I decided I'd like to go to a Christmas concert in a community theatre in Arlington. It was about 5:20 p.m., and the concert would start at 7:30. Could I make it in time? Well, long story short, it took me about 2 hrs. using both the Metro and biking. If I had ridden my bike only, it may have taken just a little less time.

But sometimes it's nice to make use of the Metro. If I've already done a bit of biking during the day (as I had that day - I had done 30-35 miles), it's nice to have the lift on Metro vs. riding (as much as I love to ride!!). I take a book along and get some reading in, which I rarely seem to have time for. I can chat with friends/family on my cell phone while waiting for the train to come.

When I arrived at the theatre for the concert, there was a bike rack outside. I was going to lock my bike up there, but after buying my concert ticket, I saw that the lobby atrium was large. I inquired if I could just bring my bike inside and put it over in a corner. They said that would be fine, so I brought it in and locked it to a long fold-up table. When I gave my ticket to the lady usher, she looked at me and said I was a "brave" person to be out there riding in the 30-degree temps. :) Really, if you're dressed right, you warm up in a few miles, and you are fine and toasty for riding...I hardly notice the cold (unless the wind chill is really low). :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Year Two - Car-Free!

Well, here's to being car-free for Year Two! :) In looking back over the year, I was curious to see how often I had used Zipcar (and other rental cars). For Zipcar, I had used them 4 times, for a total of $281. I also had rented cars from Enterprise for two weekends away, for a total of about $400. I took my folding bike on Amtrak to Richmond and Baltimore, for a total of about $70. So that's not too bad. I did, however, have to spend a bit on bike repair through the year - a couple of my bikes are about 5 years old. I didn't keep a running log of those expenses, but they did include new tires, a brake shifter, new drivetrain, new bottom bracket bearings, to name a few. I hope to do a better job of keeping track of these expenses next year. But I'm sure the bike repair expenses were A LOT cheaper than CAR REPAIRS! :) :)

With my late summer move to a new residence, I have a new housemate. Although she has offered to help me whenever I need a ride somewhere, I do try to do my errands on my own. One question people have asked me in the past, is how do I handle getting my groceries. At my previous residence, my friend Melinda, did most of the grocery shopping for both of us, via her car, and I paid my half. I would sometimes, however, stop and get a few things at the store that I wanted or needed. Now, though, I do get groceries on my own. I have found that my two panniers hold A LOT (believe it or not!). With their various zippered compartments, I find room for everything. I make one big food shopping trip a week, and sometimes stop to pick up a few things during the week that I need. It has worked out just fine. I also have my Bike Friday travel suitcase to hook up, to use for larger items or amounts, if need be.

I now live within walking distance to the bike store I frequent. This is VERY handy... I can drop off my bike on the way home, and then walk the 15 minutes to home. The shopping center where the bike store is located, also has a grocery store and a few restaurants that I can pick up carry-out food for dinner or dine in, which is nice. My bank is on the walk home also. And lastly, the subway is only about a 2-mile walk. If ice or snow keeps me off my bike, I can still get to work. So I'm happy with that set-up - it's good to be able to walk to stores and the subway. I did purchase some YakTrax to slip onto my boots/shoes for dealing with icy sidewalks, if I need to walk somewhere.

So, onto Year 3 of being Car-Free! Stay tuned! :)

**** ADDENDUM *****

We received about 20 inches of snow the weekend of Dec. 19th. My thought that I could walk to the subway didn't pan out because the sidewalks were not cleared, and there's not much room on the roads to walk. So I ended up catching rides to the subway with my roommate and/or a nearby friend. I can also walk 15 min. from my house to the main road and catch a bus that takes me to the subway, so that's been helpful. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Got a Light?

I was just reading in the paper today about how there was a huge traffic problem caused yesterday when computers crashed that operate the traffic lights in a nearby Maryland county. They are programmed according to the morning and evening rush hours. But when the computers crashed, the timing of the lights were all off, and caused unbelievable headaches and back-ups for commuters. Evidently, the computers are from the Jimmy Carter era, and are slowly being replaced.

I'm glad that my bike commute isn't dictated by the lights. When a light turns red, I'm at the front of the line, waiting on the side - there's no back-up for me. I can't tell you how nice it is to not have stress from lights and traffic. As long as there is a slim area for me to get by, my bike and I roll on.

There was also another article in the paper about how controversial speed cameras are. How they generate a ton of money for states, but motorists are getting fed up with them - getting speeding tickets all the time. The speed cameras have multiplied, and it's like "Terminator" - humans against machines. When I had my car and drove, I can't tell you how many speeding tickets I have gotten in my life. I couldn't help it - I loved to drive fast - it was fun. I could have been another Danica Patrick. :)

But now I enjoy NOT getting speeding tickets, and when I'm on my bike, I'm always below the speed limit. :) Even if I'm zooming. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

The traffic is often like this on my leftside when I bike to work....traffic backed up for a couple of miles, as people inch slowly along...... Meanwhile, I have this completely free bike path in front of me, with no stress whatsoever. :) I often wonder if people in their cars look over and wish they could be on a bike too.....and whether they think, "I should really try that sometime...." Especially when the weather gets nicer now, as we enter the early Autumn days.... I hope one day, one person will give it a try, and NEVER go back to driving again..... :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

An "Enterprising" Weekend :)

This past weekend, I was invited to spend time with friends at a house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Since I needed a car overnight, I chose to rent a car from Enterprise. You CAN get a Zipcar overnight, but I believe you have to return it in the morning of the following day. I needed to have the car til the late afternoon/evening.

So I rode my bike to the Enterprise location near the airport. I could have ridden to a location closer to home, but their office didn't open til 9 a.m., vs. the one by the airport which opened at 6 a.m. When I was giving the car rental agent my license, he saw my Zipcar in my wallet. He made a comment about Zipcar and thought it was a bit expensive to use, especially with the annual fee they charge. I told him I only have to pay the hourly fee because I had donated my vehicle and had been given a free, lifetime membership. So he thought that was pretty cool. :)

The cost of the two-day rental with Enterprise, gas, insurance and other fees, it was about the same cost if I had gotten a Zipcar for two days. It's just that with Enterprise, you have unlimited miles, vs. the Zipcar limit of 180 miles each day.

The Enterprise car had satellite radio, which was nice, although I had brought CDs along to listen to. It also had leather seats and a sunroof. Not that I really needed those, but it was a nice touch. :) My family and friends were impressed that it was a nice new car. It's not everyday you can ride in a new car. :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Down to Richmond

On Saturday, I had tickets to take Amtrak down to Richmond, Virginia (a two-hour trip) to visit a couple friends of mine whom I hadn't seen in a long time. I woke up early and rode my Tikit bike to the Alexandria train station, about 7 miles from my house. The train arrived on time, and I boarded with my folding bike. I set my pannier down in one seat, and then slowly wheeled my bike down the aisle. The aisles are a little narrow, so I had to take care while wheeling it so I didn't bump against any seats. There were a lot of people sleeping along the way, some laying down and others sitting, with blankets over them. I made my way back to my seat, next to a lady reading a magazine. Riding the train is relaxing and comfortable. The seats are roomy - you've got good leg room compared to airline seats.

On the ride to Richmond, we made a few stops along the way in small towns. Glancing out the window, I thought it'd be fun sometime to get off at one of these towns to bike around for the day. :)

When we arrived in Richmond, I got off the train and unfolded my bike and attached the pannier. The lady train attendant who had unfolded the train stairs for passengers made a comment to me that bikes weren't allowed on Amtrak. I told her that folding bikes specifically were allowed on Amtrak - for her to check the policy that had changed a couple of years ago. So she said she would. She said a guy the previous week had tried to board with a regular size bike and couldn't. You CAN take a full-size bike on the train - ONLY if it's boxed up in an Amtrak bike box ahead of time, and if the stations you are departing from and arriving at have luggage service (where a station attendant unloads bags from the train from the baggage car).

When I greeted my friends, one of the first questions they asked me was whether I missed having a car! :) I told them that I really didn't miss having a car - that I can get around lots of places with my bike, the subway, buses, Zipcar, and Amtrak. I think some people just can't imagine NOT having a car and think that it would be so limiting. I can understand that in an area that doesn't have good public transportation. Richmond doesn't have a subway, but I'm sure they have a decent bus system. But, of course, the bus doesn't go everywhere you want to. And suburban sprawl makes it difficult to get to different locations, when things are so spread out. A lot of people, also, aren't into exercising and can't imagine biking miles to get to places they need to get to. Roads, also, aren't helpful when they are either high-speed highways or narrow winding roads, where some people would not feel safe or comfortable biking. So, it does depend on your local area and what it has available...being car-free doesn't work in every situation, I admit. But in a number of situations, it CAN work if you put some effort into it.

I've learned from the number of times I've taken Amtrak, that the return trip home is usually delayed. And this trip was no different - the train was delayed by a half hour - which isn't too much, fortunately. When it arrived, I got a good seat by the baggage area, so I didn't have to wheel my bike down the aisle. On the next stop, a lady got on and sat next to me and immediately started to chat, which was kind of nice. She offered me some chocolate she had on hand and we talked about the books we were reading that were in our laps. It turns out she lives in McLean, not too far from where I used to live, and her daughter graduated from the same high school as I had. :)

When I arrived back at the Alexandria train station, I unfolded my bike and set it against a bench while I got out my night-time riding gear of lights, reflective vest, etc. One of the train attendants working on the platform came over to me, and saw my bike. It was kind of funny - he just took the bike and went for a spin on the platform! He was calling out to different attendants that were working, for them to see his new bike. :) He got a kick out of riding it. :)

So it was a fun-filled day trip to Richmond! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A New Crossing

Earlier this month, a new way for bicycles to cross the Potomac River opened up. :) The original Wilson Bridge was built in 1961 with 3 lanes in each direction. It was demolished and 8 years later a new 12 lane bridge was built in its place. Any time I crossed the bridge in a car, I would anxiously look at the bike path being built, and couldn't WAIT to finally be able to cross it on my bike. One draw to crossing it was to enjoy the newly built National Harbor on the Maryland side. It's a development containing housing, restaurants, shops, and the largest convention center on the East coast.

So, finally, on June 6, the new path opened up, and HUNDREDS of bicyclists showed up to enjoy it! :) You can see my brother in the foreground of this picture, as he joined me on the bike ride across. :) Everyone had smiles on their faces as the states of Virginia and Maryland met via biking and walking. There are 3 bump-outs on the bridge that have benches, a place to lock your bike, and binocular stands to take in the great views. On the Maryland side, a very nice promenade had been built, with lovely landscape, and plaques describing the history of the area. There are interesting descriptions of all the different kinds of fish that are in the Potomac.

Some people I know couldn't understand why I was so happy and excited to have this new path open up. Afterall, there are 3 other bridges that bicyclists can cross the Potomac. But, for 40 years, motorists ONLY have been able to cross the Potomac River on this bridge. June 6, 2009 was finally the day for Virginia and Maryland bikers and pedestrians to cross the bridge and enjoy what each state has to offer. It was a GREAT day! :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hybrids Make Your Wallet Happy

I just got an email from Zipcar, announcing that their hybrid Zipcars will be offered at a lower price ($7-$8/hr.) compared to their regular cars ($9-$10/hr.) :) That's nice to know, plus it's more kind to the environment. So I'll keep it mind when I have to rent a Zipcar in the future. Hopefully the hybrid cars will continue to stay at a lower hourly fee - it would definitely encourage Zipsters to choose a hybrid.

This Friday is the annual Bike to Work Day. :) People wonder why I get excited about this event. They say, "But EVERY DAY is Bike to Work Day for you!" That's kind of true - however, it's not everyday that there are pitstops set up with coffee/donuts/bananas, vendor booths (Zipcar is always represented there!), raffle prizes given away, etc. So I like to stop by, see some of my bike commuter friends, check out the booths, pick up various brochures and talk to people, see bikers coming and going - it's quite the festive atmosphere - especially when the weather is favorable. :) Good weather is helpful to encourage new bike commuters to give it a try.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Go Amtrak!

Well, isn't it interesting that the day before I get ready to hop on Amtrak to go up to visit my brother and sister in Baltimore, that President Obama has unveiled his vision for high-speed rail in the U.S.! I think it's great that there is this vision, and I hope it won't take too long to become reality. When I told my brother I'd be taking Amtrak up to visit him for the weekend, I think he thought that's just silly. He offered to drive the hour down, and pick me up and bring me up to Baltimore, and then I could take Amtrak back home. Now to me, THAT'S silly - it's a waste of time and gas (even though he has an economical car). For me, taking Amtrak is HALF the price of getting a Zipcar (a day's use is about $80). Yes, when you consider $40 to get up and back to Baltimore, it DOES seem kind of expensive. BUT, when you add up my yearly total transportation costs, it's inexpensive. I have been keeping track, and so far this year, I have probably only spent about $100 for transportation costs. I bet my brother has spent more than that for gas and other maintenance for his car since January 1.

I will get in a nice bike ride on my Bike Friday Tikit to Union Station in D.C., and the travel time up to Baltimore is about 45 min. Not bad at all. Plus, I get to spend two full days with my brother and sister, vs. just one day (when I get a Zipcar). I'll get some good reading done along the way, vs. dealing with any traffic. Plus, I haven't actually been in Baltimore's Penn Station, so that'll be a new experience. I was reading online that the station is the 8th busiest station in the U.S.

I'll look forward to the future of high speed rail, which, according to an illustrated map (, will cover a lot of the East coast! Lucky for me! :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm NOT Lovin' It!

McDonald's current motto is "I'm Lovin' It"...meaning, I guess, that people love their food. I don't eat there often, but it does hit the spot from time to time. Anyway, I was riding the Metro subway yesterday to work, due to the 3 inches of snow we got. There are various ads on the subway car, and McDonald's had one - - showing a tall bubbly cup of Coke and a juicy hamburger next to it. Yum...!

Metro has a VERY strict rule of NO food or drink. It helps to keep the system clear of trash, rats, bugs, etc. Once in a while though, and I don't know if they are tourists, but people come on the subway cars with their drinks and/or food (usually on a weekend). I'm not sure how they get by the Metro officials when going through the fare gates... In the past, people have been arrested and/or fined by even consuming food as they go down the escalators into the subways.

Anyone who knows me, knows that images or commercials about food REALLY get my senses going, and I can't look at or listen to food commercial ads. I'm definitely not one of those people who can watch a cooking show! So there I am on the subway, and my eyes are fixed on this McDonald's mouth is watering....what torture! :) Cruel and unusual punishment. :) Why would Metro put an ad like that up, when they don't allow food on the train?! Seems a little contradictory.

Nevertheless, I AM happy to have the subway available to get to work in inclement weather. It always is running, though once in a while, when we get A LOT of snow, they can't service the above-ground stations. But that only lasts a little while, til they can get the snow off the tracks. The Metro is more reliable than a bus line at least!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Easy Parking

My roommate is leaving town this afternoon for a long weekend, and she's parked her car at the airport nearby. After I get off work, I'll ride to the airport to find the car and put my Tikit in the back of it to drive home, so there won't be unnecessary parking costs over the weekend. Come Monday morning, I'll drive it back to the airport garage and leave for my friend to get when she gets off the plane. She said I can use her car over the weekend, if I want or need it. This is a nice offer, and I thought of various places I could go, and shopping/errands to take care of.

I could go to the PetSmart to buy a heavy, large bag of cat litter; go to Nordstroms at the Mall, and see about getting a new pair of shoes; go to the lamp store and get a certain replacement light bulbs...

But as I considered the process of getting these things, I had second thoughts. For the cat litter, instead, I could just hook up the Bike Friday trailer suitcase, and put the cat litter in there to bring it home. As for the shoes at the Mall, when I'm on my bike, I usually just pull up and lock my bike right near the door of the store, and be in and out very quickly. With a car, you have to park in the garage, which is located on the OTHER side of the mall, walk a long way around to get to the store, and, of course, PAY to park the car. It seemed foreign and odd to me to have to PAY to park, since I'm so used to biking places and parking for free.

Plus, I thought, I'd be missing out on getting some exercise and fresh air while taking care of these errands and more....

You know what? I think I'll just ride my bike - it's more fun and easier! :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Administration - Less Cars?

As mentioned in my Bicycling to Work blog - I biked into D.C. on Inauguration Day - it was the best and easist way to get to and fro! :) People who tried to drive in the area were met with many closed highways, roads, bridges, etc. On the other hand, thousands of people biked into DC for the Inauguration, which is great! There were two free bike valets set up by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and about 2,000 bikers took advantage of that option. Many others, like myself, just locked up our bikes to posts, etc. nearby, and then walked to the festivities on the Mall. Perhaps some of the people who gave biking a chance that day, will continue to use the bike in getting to and from work, or running errands locally. That'd be great, and in fact, is mentioned on the "Urban Policy" page of The White House's website:

Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities:
Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. President Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.

Hopefully the new Administration will help to bring about this change, and help to change people's thinking as to how they get around town! We'd all be better off!