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Category: washington, dc (Page 1 of 30)

getting locally (and not-so-locally) political: nov 2014 elections

As I did before the April 1 primary, I’m delving into local political endorsements. For my #projectfemur, cycling, skiing, coffeeneuring, and random post fans, I’ll post something a bit more to your liking later this week.

To carry on with the political stuff, go below the fold…

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ten on tuesday: the great outdoors (#projectfemur)

Carole’s prompt this week is “ten things I like to do outside.”

This is a tough one for me, especially as spring is finally arriving in DC. There are so many outdoor activities that I love, but I can’t do them because of… well, y’know. But I’m happy to say what I love to do in the out-of-doors, if only to remind myself why I’m doing all of the tough-as-nails physical therapy, pain and all.

  1. Ride my bicycle. This should be obvious: I love to ride my bike, and can’t really stand indoor riding. That said, this summer will be full of such activity.
  2. Ski. My first sporting love, and I’ll be back on those slopes this coming November.
  3. Camp. sprite and I really enjoyed camping in New Hampshire last fall, and I always like to sleep outdoors – it re-centers me.
  4. Picnic. My favorite Friday night activity is to gather with friends for a picnic at The Yards Park.
  5. Go to concerts. I love going to shows at outdoor venues, like Merriweather Post Pavilion or Wolf Trap.
  6. Read. Most progress I make in books is done at parks and cafés.
  7. Eat at cafés. DC has many wonderful cafés with outdoor seating.
  8. Go to the beach. And it has to be a real beach – i.e. one with ocean water and real waves for body surfing (which I won’t be able to do ’til mid-August due to my anticoagulant meds). Still: sun, surf, sand, I love it!
  9. Drink. A cold beer, a glass of wine or sangria, an icy daiquiri or margarita – all are wonderful and perfect for outdoor imbibing.
  10. Hike. I love hiking, and don’t do it often enough. And it’s something I will be able to do this summer, once the leg is strong again.

Do you have favorite things to do outdoors? Share ’em in the comments!

Yards Park picnic

Camping at Mt. Monadnock State Park

getting locally political

I was once a more active political creature in DC. These days, I pick my battles a bit more judiciously, preferring to expend my energy toward things that keep me interested, where the frustrations can lead to progress.

But this current Democratic primary season (yes, I’m a Democrat, though one who’s seldom in lock-step with the local or national party systems), I’ve heard a lot of people try and bend ears with their endorsements. And now, it’s my time to do the same.

(For those looking for #projectfemur updates, more are forthcoming.)

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people of dc: shovel and treat your sidewalks!

DC is going to get hit hard by a storm, starting Sunday night and continuing all day Monday. Given it’s still winter, that’s great – it’s pretty snow!

What isn’t great? DC residents’ collective ineptitude at clearing their sidewalks. As a person who is limited to getting around on crutches, I implore the people of DC:

SHOVEL YOUR SIDEWALKS! TREAT THEM WITH ICE MELT! AND CLEAR THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE WALK!

Seriously, it’s as if DC people think that snow magically clears itself (hint: if it’s cold for days after a storm, it doesn’t!), or that doing the bare minimum of “clearing” – i.e. sort of shoveling/pushing aside a 10-inch-wide “path” – is acceptable. These people are just plain rude, and are also in violation of DC law (see below). For folks on crutches (like me), using canes, reliant on walkers, or riding in wheelchairs, these “goat paths” are often completely impassible.

So, DC: it’s time to cowboy up and shovel your walks!

As a person who grew up in snow country (20 years in Utah, 10 in New England), here are the basic rules when it comes to shoveling:

  • Before the snow falls, treat the sidewalk with halite, rock salt, or a pet-friendly ice melter. Note that rain transitioning to snow calls for this to happen once the snow appears -otherwise, the salt dissolves.
  • Shovel the complete width of the sidewalk, from lawn/planter box/retaining wall/foundation of house to the curb/tree box.
  • If you live on a corner, it is your responsibility to keep the ADA curb cuts clean, including a path to where the street is clear.
  • Clear all paths to the house, including stairs, and clean the full width.
  • In trying to place shoveled snow, do not block storm drains. This can cause flooding of your house or icing of the sidewalk when melting starts. Likewise, if you see these dams, break ’em up with your shovel.
  • If you have neighbors who are elderly, infirm, or mobility challenged, please pay it forward and clear their sidewalks.
  • If there are vacant properties or absentee property owners, be nice and clear the walks, but contact the property owner and remind them they are legally responsible to keep their walks and curb cuts clear.
  • A note about DC law: legally, all sidewalks must be cleared and fully passable within 8 daylight hours of the cessation of snowfall. That said, it’s totally OK to shovel anytime, day or night.
  • If you live in a tony neighborhood and offload the shoveling to your gardener or landscaping service, note that they could be snowbound and unable to get to you in a timely manner. Shit happens. So be brave (and responsible) and shovel your own walks – it’s the neighborly thing to do (and if I see you are home and haven’t shoveled, I’ll come knocking… if I can get to your front door, that is).

Being limited to walking with crutches these days, it amazes me how many in DC (especially in Dupont, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, West End, and Logan Circle) do a bare minimum of cleaning, if any. The “goat paths” are really slick, and get even more icy after multiple days of freeze/thaw cycles. This is especially the case for sidewalks on the south side of east-west running streets.

Again, people of DC: please think of those of us for whom snow and ice are a dangerous challenge to everyday mobility. We are your neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

Thank you!

P.S. – a note to DDOT and DCDPW: please properly plow the bike lanes and cycletracks as you plow the car lanes. There are a lot of four-season, everyday cyclists in this town who would appreciate the respect from your offices.

decembery thoughts: trees and snow

Now that December is here, thoughts turn to the seasonal celebrations.

This weekend, sprite and I cut a tree for our little Burrow. It’s a Norway spruce, a real beauty. Friends came over on Sunday night to help decorate it, and it looks great.

And now The Burrow is starting to smell of coniferous forests, a soothing scent to this mountain boy.

Today was a snow day for much of DC. The storm packed a lot of punch, albeit decidedly not for the District. We received maybe half and inch of snow before a brief period of rain and then… nothing. The streets were passable, and even with tonight’s re-freeze, things aren’t that slick in town.

While I wish there had been snow, it was nice to have the day off to catch up on housework and sleep. The sinus gunk I last reported on has been tenacious, though it’s s-l-o-w-l-y starting to clear. The dry air in the area, in The Burrow, and in my office isn’t helping, but I’m drinking a lot of water to keep hydrated and help reclaim my nose. Luckily, it hasn’t “migrated south” into my lungs.

Still, I would have liked some accumulating snow. That’s one of the biggest gripes I have against DC: winters here are so anti-climactic. Sure, there were decent snow events in 2003, and the 2009-10 three-blizzard-wallop was something else. But the typical winter here is increasingly snow-free and, frankly, a bit depressing. My psyche needs snowy winters, and it may end up being a breaking point for me and my relationship with the District of Columbia.

Otherwise, there’s not a lot of excitement right now, but that’s bound to change, given Christmas is so close at hand. So… we’ll see.

Thank snow.

what a difference a week makes

Fall foliage’s fleeting foray into our lives is worth capturing.

And you need to be quick, because from one week (17 November)…

to another (24 November)…

things can, and do, change.

a question for the dc (and other) bicyclists

There has been a lot of discussion about bicycles and their place in the greater streetscape. I certainly have a lot to say about it, but don’t have a lot of time to write about it just now – gotta get a post up before midnight, y’know – so I ask for some discussion in the comments of this post (try and keep it there, as not all of my followers are on Facebook).

When I ride my bike in DC, I tend to take the lane, toward the center, and ride like a car should drive – i.e. I am a vehicular cyclist. I realize that not everybody can manage that pace, or is that confident on a bike where traffic abounds, much of it not entirely friendly toward cyclists.

Because of that, I’m not always a fan of bike lanes, cycletracks, and the like, as I feel most of these things don’t provide cyclists the exposure they need to develop their skills and to allow motorists to adapt to the presence of bicycles in the roadway. Yes, I will use some bike lanes and cycletracks, but just as often I’ll ride in the general traffic lanes, as I can make better time, ride faster, etc.

I realize this flies in the face of many of the bicycle advocates and activists in DC, who pine for more lanes, more sharrows, more cycletracks. I realize that these facilities provide a sense of safety to the hesitant, beginner, or ultra-casual cyclist, and that they can help build a vibrant cycling community.

But I seldom see them done correctly, as I’ve seen in Europe and other U.S. cities. Instead, things are done with compromised designs. For example, the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack is far too easily crossed by drivers, who make U-turns with little chance of penalty. The zebra barriers, installed on one block of this track, were installed so far out of spec that it’s comically easy for cars to U-turn over them without incident. Another example is the L Street cycletrack, with bollards that allow cars and delivery trucks to block it with ease.

Not to mention the 15th Street cycletrack that is seldom cleaned, or the multi-use path in Rock Creek Park that is so narrow and poorly paved that its safety is compromised to the point where there’s no safety advantage to using it along most of its length. These are bicycle facilities that are lacking in complete execution, compromised in many respects and doing a disservice to cyclists (and in the case of Rock Creek, pedestrians and equestrians).

And the bike lanes on narrower, one-way streets put the cyclist right in the “door zone” of parked cars. I recently found myself doored because of this – it’s not fun.

So I posit this: why build more of these half-baked facilities that send a mixed message to all road use communities? Isn’t it all just good money gone to waste?

My stance: either build bike facilities properly (e.g. install the zebra barriers on Penn to manufacturer’s specifications, build a curb to create a proper cycletrack on L Street), or concentrate on consistent enforcement of traffic laws for all road use groups.

That’s a bit of an oversimplification. I will explain more in the future – deadlines, y’know…

wednesday random ten: a change is in the air

Over the past week, DC has had its first proper cold snap. It’s refreshing to me, as winter is my favorite season, bar none. DC isn’t noted for its winters – save for January 2003 (when I first moved here) and the winter of 2009-2010 (the season of “Snowpocalypse,” “Snowmageddon,” and “SnOMG”/”Snoverkill”), I haven’t seen any real winter weather around here.

I still embrace winter as much as possible, given the limitations. That’s why I go ice skating at DC’s outdoor rinks, skiing at the nearby molehills, and chuckle at how under-prepared most DC locals are for true cold weather (any culture that dresses in full winter coats once the temperatures dip below 55 degrees is, well, a bit unclear on the concept of legitimately cold weather).

Let’s see how this winter unfolds. It may be grand in terms of snow. It may be another letdown. But it’ll be winter, and that’s OK by me.

With that, 10 random songs from my iPod:

  1. “Helpless” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  2. “Fanfare for the Common Man” – Zubin Mehta & the National Philharmonic
  3. “Lodi” – Credence Clearwater Revival
  4. “Ladyflash” – The Go! Team
  5. “Beautiful Day” – U2
  6. “I Know What Boys Like” – The Waitresses
  7. “Mornings Eleven” – The Magic Numbers
  8. “Purple Haze” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  9. “Oh! Darling” – The Beatles
  10. “Siamese Cat” – Steve Martin & Edie Brickell

Care to comment on winter, or share your random 10 songs? Comments are open!

so, about those more powerful bike lights…

One week ago, I talked about the problem of “bike ninjas.” And while I’m seeing more and more DC area cyclists starting to use lights, some of them could use something beyond the “bare minimum” lights: the low-power “be-seen” lights that are small and unobtrusive.

But it’s the same unobtrusiveness that makes them less capable for real utility. They have tiny beam patterns that don’t light up the tarmac – and, to be honest, they don’t make most cyclists truly visible to fellow road users.

Last year I graduated from a basic blinker to a more powerful bike light. That light (a CygoLite Pace 400, FYI) is small, self-contained, and has a powerful CREE LED to provide a maximum 400 lumens of light. It can blink, it has multiple brightness modes, has a long battery life, can be recharged via USB, and its electronics don’t interfere with my tiny Cateye Wireless bike computer.

This light has been quite good over the past year. Its battery life at maximum power is about 2 hours, but at lower intensity I’ve managed to get over 6 hours of constant burn. The lower power modes are good for urban cycling and areas where ambient light is somewhat plentiful. The high power lights up the road in an even pattern, showing all of the holes, debris, and other anomalies that could cause me trouble. The beam pattern also adheres to modern European standards – i.e. if set up properly, it won’t blind oncoming motorists.

It’s not without faults. The cover on the USB port isn’t easy to seat. The mount isn’t always stable without really wrenching down the thumbscrew. But that’s about it.

I like this light so much that I bought a CygoLite Urban 500 as a complementary light for my commutes. It is a simple light, with fewer modes and a non-changeable rechargeable battery, but it’s a little bit lighter in weight, has similar battery life, has a better USB port cover, and has a wonderful “steady-blink” setting that mixes a 400 lumen steady beam with an intermittent blink to make me more visible to motorists. I’ve only had this new light for a couple weeks, but I’m quite happy with it.

Note that I’ve tried neither of these lights as helmet-mounted units, though there is a helmet mount available for each. Right now, they mount on my handlebar. However, I’m exploring a helmet mount, as the increased utility of illuminating where you plan to ride is well worth consideration.

There are similar offerings from NiteRider, Light & Motion, Cateye, Lezyne, Serfas, and others. I love my CygoLites, but the others have their good points, too. The comprehensive comparison reviews from MTBR (2013 | 2014) are a good place to start, and the road.cc light guide has a wonderful side-by-side comparison tool.

So if you plan to ride a lot at night – especially where streetlights are scarce – invest in a high-quality headlight. And be sure to match it with a high-quality taillight, too. You can thank me later…

the buck stops… right in front of me

Tonight I came face-to-face with a four-point buck.

I was leaving the parking lot at my office, on my trusty bicycle. As I rolled up the ramp into the chilly night air, everything seemed at peace. My bike’s drivetrain whirred as I ascended the ramp, no creaks or noises from the chain, cogs, seat, or anything else. The stars were out, traffic was light enough to not be able to hear the drone of Wisconsin Avenue.

As I crest the top of the ramp, I look up and there, right in my face, is a deer.

This young buck had a decent rack: four points, no fuzz on his antlers. He even smelled slightly musky.

Our eyes met.

He moved out of my way – not with a lot of expediency, but still not wanting to hang out with me.

I stopped my bike, and the buck walked to a safer distance, maybe 20 feet away, then looked back at me.

It was a nice way to end my work week.

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