Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Commuting Sentences

Today, I commuted by bike. So much for sitting still. And so much for knitting, too -- be warned, there won't be any discussed in this lengthy post.

Last night I got all my work clothes packed into a backpack and made my lunch for today. This morning, I got up at 6:00am (15 minutes earlier than usual), showered, shaved, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, made and ate some oatmeal with a banana in it while reading the paper (gosh, the American-Statesman sucks these days) and headed out the door at 7:00am.

Commuting by bike is a bit of a shock. First of all, it was chilly. And since the first part of the ride is downhill, it was really chilly. I wasn't 20 feet out of my driveway when I saw an armadillo cross the street into a neighbor's yard. It's also generally quiet, despite some traffic noises.

Things went really smoothly. The first part of the trip is in a bike lane through my neighborhood, and then on to the Town Lake Hike & Bike Trail. Then, after crossing Lady Bird Lake and negotiating the corkscrew ramp (picture to follow), comes a nice stretch on part of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, pictured above.

Unfortunately, the way I needed to go was under construction. But not really. It seems that it's just as easy to do potentially dangerous things on a bike as it is to do them in a car -- I rode around the barrier just to see what was up, and realized all I really needed to do was negotiate these stairs. I wheeled the bike up the side of the stairs, crossed Shoal Creek by a really old train trestle, and then wormed my way around another barrier to get to 3rd and Nueces.

Then, a quick jog over to 4th street where I made my way through downtown. Traffic was light to non-existent. I was almost to the Interstate when I remembered that today was a holiday. There is a nice section of the bikeway that's been created by the new light rail station downtown, but after it ended, I continued, going in what turned out to be the wrong way on a one way street -- and riding down the light rail track, to boot. I'm going to have to reconsider that part of the commute.

Once I rode under the Interstate, it was like being in a small town. East 4th and 5th street meander along the tracks for the new light rail system past old gas stations, art supply stores, and many, many coffee shops. I was at work in 40 minutes -- only about 10 minutes longer than my usual commute on a trafficky day. I was a little sweaty, but after half an hour of catching up on the overnight email, I was changed and ready to face the day.

I found out that the fancy-schmancy (but quite rusty) bike racks they have at work don't quite fit my bike. It's a weird combination of the bike's size and the tire and pedal positions. I could never get it just right. But I got it secure, which is what counts. I went outside at 10am, just to make sure it was okay. At that point it had two neighbors, both of which seemed better suited to this particular type of bike rack. I'm going to have to think through this part a bit more, too.

The ride home was fairly uneventful. It was warmer, so I was more comfortable. I stopped on my way back along E. 4th to take a picture of part of a mural that covers a block-long building. I'm not sure what it is, but the art is, well, interesting. I saw that it stretched around the corner as I rode past -- yet more things to check out in the future. It was through this stretch that I saw a lot of other bike commuters, all pedaling along at our leisurely paces.

One of the fun parts of the trip is the corkscrew ramp at the end of the James D. Pfluger Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. Believe it or not, it's sloped just enough that it's almost as fun to ride up as it is to coast down. You kind of have to change your focus a lot, or you could get dizzy. At some point, this pedestrian bridge is planned to be extended to a new development at the site of the power plant in the first picture in this post, but until then it's round and round...

The last part of the commute back is the steepest. The lowest point of the commute, at the level of Lady Bird Lake (around 419 ft. above sea level), and the highest point of my commute, my house (around 560 ft. above sea level) are only about 1.5 miles apart, so there's a bit of climbing to do. 150 ft. isn't that much, but a lot of it takes place in short, steep ascents. It was kind of embarrassing being passed in the bike lane climbing one hill by another bicyclist going much faster and pedaling in a much higher gear. But I've got time to build up some of that strength.

So that was my commute. I don't know that I will do this every day, but weather and meetings permitting, why not?


  1. sounds like a GREAT way to start the day!

  2. I am really impressed and proud of you for doing this! It's sooooo Austin, too. Soon you'll open up a soup business and delivery by bike or something like that...

  3. Lots of people ride their bikes to work here (well, until the snow and ice come - that cuts down the numbers some), but there's no way I would do it. Too many hills!

    and I refrained from laughing at your declaration that the weather was "chilly"....

  4. Wow - that's great! I'm very impressed - and it sounds so nice!

  5. Why would you do this to yourself? Is there something wrong with the car?


    Uncle C