Tagged: daily commute

A smattering of stuff

I am so happy for the onset of autumn that I can hardly stand it.  The air smells like burning wood, the night arrives earlier, and I find myself wanting to go to a college football game.  Or at least watch one on TV.  For the purposes of this blog, the weather has gotten so much better for biking it is not even funny.  Instead of being bathed in sweat when I arrive home in the afternoon, I am merely glistening with perspiration.  Quite a difference, I assure you.

Before I get to my day’s rides, I have some good news to share with you.  The League of American Bicyclists has bestowed on our fair city not one but two awards!  We’ve received an Honorable Mention as a bike-friendly city and a Bronze-Level Bicycle Friendly Business Award.  The former is due to the construction of more than 120 miles of cycling facilities in the past 8 years; the latter is due to the installation of bike-commuter facilities, like showers and bike racks, at local businesses.  This is such good news and portends a great future for Memphis as a biking city.

Yesterday was a quite uneventful day on my bike.  I left for work in the morning then came home in the evening.  Now that the beginning of the semester has given way to the realization that we’re not getting out of this until December, my students have become much more docile.  Despair with do that to you.

Here’s a map of my ride yesterday.

Screen shot 2011 09 15 at 7 49 40 AM

See that?  How wonderfully boring.  There and back again, on the same road no less.  Sometimes that’s nice.

Aaaaaannnnnd here’s my map from today.

Screen shot 2011 09 15 at 8 02 00 AM

This is what running an errand at Poplar Plaza does for my ride.

You’ll note the circuitous route I took from campus to the store.  I completely skipped Central and Highland and instead biked down Midland to Greer to Joffree.  Why the extra miles?  It was rush hour when I left my office.  And as short as the bike ride down Central and up Highland would have been, I just did not feel like dealing with traffic.

But I had to ultimately, as I needed to run another errand on Cooper, which meant biking from the end of the Chickasaw Gardens route down to my ‘hood.  It wasn’t so bad until Cooper bottlenecks at Central (coming from the north).  I’m not going to be dramatic and say that I almost got run off the road, but I did choose to wait on the sidewalk next to the nursery at Cooper and Central until the light turned red and I could safely rejoin traffic.

Thursday I’m biking to campus and then Boscos for a beer around 8ish.  Hope your Thursday is good too.

Oh and guess what?  We’re still waiting.

Rides so far this week

I’ve biked two days this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, as I elected to work from home Monday and today.  (BTW, these days are soon to come to an end – classes start next week.)  It’s been a pretty uneventful week thus far although I have had some fun experiences.

Tuesday … wait, actually I worked from home Tuesday as well.  But I had a meeting that afternoon with our local insurance guy about … life insurance.  Gawd.  Just writing that makes me feel old.  But, given the fact that if either my wife or I died, leaving the other to fend for him/herself, the surviving spouse would be pretty much fucked financially, we decided it was a good idea to get insured.  Also, I’m getting disability insurance, in case something bad happens to me while biking.  (And the Oscar for most depressing blog post goes to … )

After an hour or so of listening to the fine points of term life, whole life, universal life, and other things I promptly forgot, I stopped by the house for a minute before heading to the University district for the Peddler’s Tuesday night ride.  I hadn’t ridden one in a long time, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long.  The main reason for my participation was that a friend of mine is considering buying a bike, so I took him to the Peddler to shop for one.  He found a really beautiful bike for not that much; can’t remember the model though.  He had fun on the ride but was rather exhausted by the time we returned.

The best part of the ride was a family of two parents with three kids, two boys and a girl.  The girl slept in a trailer her parents pulled for most of the ride – she was maybe two years old – but her brothers rode the entire distance to Overton Park and most of the way back.  And they were maybe four and six.  Seriously.  They were flying.  It was awesome.

Anyway, here’s a map of the day’s ride.

Screen shot 2011 08 25 at 9 06 41 PM

Wednesday I was in meetings most of the day, but I biked to work and then home nonetheless.  I felt really crappy when I got home, allergies maybe, so I had to bail on a dinner with friends.  But the ride was fun at least.  Here’s a map.

Screen shot 2011 08 25 at 9 08 19 PM

I had to run an errand at Poplar Plaza, hence the funny route home.

So, Tuesday’s ride was 17.4 miles and Wednesday’s was 9.11.  Not bad for a slow week.  I’m sure cycling and writing will pick up next week, when I’ll have to go to the office almost every day.  Seriously.  I know.

Until then, happy biking, and be safe.

Friday’s Ride [UPDATED]

I’m happy to report that, having misplaced it for a week or so in early July, I have found my productivity.  This is good, because for the week after we returned our niece, who had visited with us for most of June, safely to her mom in Atlanta, I didn’t really do a damn thing other than show up.  Looking back at my calendar for that week, I can see that I had numerous appointments and meetings, even a conference call, but I don’t really remember doing much else.  I did bike that week, I remember that.  Oh, and I mowed the yard.  That was fun.

It is good to have my productivity back for several reasons, which are, in no particular order, as follows:

  1. Earlier this year I initiated a research project concerned with the effectiveness of the academic early intervention program that U of M uses to improve the performance of at-risk students. Basically how it works is this: faculty report to the University their students who are under-performing relative to their peers.  The University then contacts these students and encourages them to seek help, tutoring, and so on.  This is kind of a big deal, as the program is part of the University’s overall effort to improve its retention and graduation rates.  I generated my first round of results last week, and while the results are very preliminary, it appears that being reported for intervention actually lowers student’s grades, rather than raising them.  I imagine that this is not what U of M would like to hear.  Perhaps some additional analysis will change the results.  Of course, the upside of finding shocking conclusions is that my chances of getting this paper published just went way up.
  2. I have yet another semester staring me in the face.  Classes don’t start until the very end of August, but if I don’t preparations now, it will bite me in the ass later.
  3. Oh yeah, and I’m about to get a great big promotion at work.  Starting in the spring I will take over as the Director of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Memphis.  The Center was started about ten years ago by my colleague Julie Heath and in that time has grown to reach nearly every corner of the state.  The mission of the Center is to promote education in financial literacy and economics to children from kindergarden through high school.  I’m really excited and honored to have been chosen as the new Center director.  I have some ideas for new programs I’d like to try and I’m eager to get started.  Julie will also be facing new challenges, as she will be taking over the Center for Economic Education at the University of Cincinnati.  You can read more about the Center at U of M here.  (First order of business: revamp the website.)

So as you can see, I have a lot on my plate right now.  Normally at the end of each semester I spend a day or two watching the Lord of Rings Trilogy in its entirety, but it’s now late July and I still haven’t done so this summer.  Maybe the week after next I’ll do so, but for now I am content to spend my days reading, writing, and working.  Not a bad existence.

OK, enough about me.  My ride on Friday was pretty uneventful, and by that I mean it was ridiculously hot.  Broiling, boiling, searing, baking … whatever descriptors you can conjure up, it was hot.  As I’ve written before, this is the first year that I’ve been an all-seasons cyclist.  Biking around town in the winter wasn’t that bad; as long as I wore enough layers of clothes, I was fine.  Biking in the more-comfortable seasons is a joy, but biking in the summer heat is something else entirely.  Not to gross anyone out, but normally I shower around every other day.  It just seems like a waste of water to shower every day, even if I bike to work daily.  Once I arrive home, drink some water and cool off, I don’t feel particularly dirty, nor do I stink.  (At least, my wife doesn’t complain if I do.)  And considering that unless I teach, I really don’t interact with anyone at the office, so a little sweat is no big deal.

Those days are gone for now at least.  I’ve been taking up to two showers a day lately, especially if I do yard work in the morning then bike to work in the afternoon.  Gone also are the days of wearing the same cycling shirt for more than one day.  Man I can’t wait for fall to get here.

But really, biking in the heat hasn’t been that bad.  As long as I keep moving, I’m generally not that uncomfortable.  My rides tend to be about 12 M.P.H. on average, and a nice breeze like that will substantially cool down the hottest day.  It’s when I have to stop for more than a minute, especially outside of the shade, that the weather is really uncomfortable.

This happened on Friday afternoon at about the hottest part of the day.  I had biked to campus in the morning on my normal route, Southern Avenue, and left campus around 4:30 PM to run some errands on the way home.  I needed to stop at a package store, and rather than visit that store at the corner of Madison and McLean, I decided to bike to the one at Union and Kimbrough.  Mostly I did so because I wanted to spend some time biking before my weekend began.  I left campus and took the Chickasaw Gardens route west, and just as I turned north from Lombardy onto Humes, I heard the whistle of a train approaching the crossing at Garden Lane.  I sped up a bit to try to beat the train, but just as I turned left on Garden, I looked ahead to see the crossing guards descend and the train enter the crossing.  Sigh.

Normally I would have biked south on Plainview, to Higbee, Lombardy, then Central, scooted underneath the railroad overpass, then biked north again on Flicker.  But that day I decided to wait and see how long it took for the train to pass.  I figured it would take five minutes tops.

Seven minutes later the train finally cleared the crossing.  It wasn’t that bad of a wait, except that I had the full force of a late-July afternoon sun pounding down on me.  Drinking water helped, but it was still pretty miserable.  I did wait for a minute with another commuter cyclist, a guy about my age that I didn’t recognize.  Normally I would have chatted with a fellow cyclist for a bit about bike commuting, but it was so hot I wasn’t feeling chatty.  After the train left we both continued on our ways, me heading into the welcome shade of Midtown’s residential streets.

Several times in my ride, I felt water dripping from my face onto my arms and legs.  By the time I got home, after the package store, Black Lodge, and the quickie mart across the street, my clothes were pretty well soaked.  Normally I like to relax and have some water before I hit the showers, but sitting in a chair and feeling my clothes clinging to me was not terribly comfortable, so I showered right after getting home.

Here’s a screenshot of my ride.

Screen shot 2011 07 24 at 11 59 40 AM

And here’s a clickable link you can explore.

I’ll probably bike 3-4 days this week, depending on how much I need to be at the office.  My wife is going out of town this coming weekend, so if anyone is up for a Saturday night beer and bike ride, let me know in the comments.

Have a good week Memphis, and try to stay cool.  It ain’t easy, I know.

HOLY CRAP I just realized this is my 100th post!!!  Woo hoo!!!  Break out the champagne, yo!

A new record

Today, like so many lately, was a really great day to bike.  A bit chilly this morning, but once the day warmed up the weather was positively gorgeous.  I biked to school this morning then rode with the Tuesday night crowd at the Peddler. We followed the standard Tuesday night route: from the bike shop to Overton Park and back.  I ducked out at the end to head home and get some work done (which I am clearly not doing now).

But the record in question was not my travel distance today: about 11 miles.  A good ride, but nothing record-shattering.  No, the record in question is that today I broke the record for most visits to my blog.  The previous record, 60, was set yesterday, and today I had a grand total of 61 visits.  Hooray for shameless self-promotion!

Without going into too much detail, I think my readership will be increasing markedly in the near future.  You’ll have to wait and see what I mean until it happens though.  In the meantime, please leave a comment if you feel inclined.  I hope I see you biking in Memphis in the near future.

Today’s ride

Today was a great day to be biking in Memphis.  The weather is nearly perfect for biking: not too cool, a nice breeze (a.k.a. headwind), low humidity, and the pollen is tolerable.  I biked from home to Otherlands this morning for my regular coffee and bagel with an enormous pile of hummus, then to campus through Chickasaw Gardens, which was looking particularly resplendent in its spring colors.  Then from campus I biked to the liquor store on Poplar (can’t remember the name) for a bottle of vino, then home.  It was a really great ride.  Here’s a map.

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Epic

I haven’t yet developed the terminology necessary to describe my biking goals, but I’m getting there.  As I was biking home tonight from a meeting downtown, I thought of the phrase “replacement miles.”  This refers to the miles I spend on my bike that replace miles I would otherwise spend in my car.  (In addition, this would include miles my wife might spend in her car.)  From my perspective as a bike commuter, one who does little in the way of recreational cycling, the best miles I accumulate are replacement miles.  Do I love biking the Greenline?  Yes.  Do I love seeing so many other people taking advantage of the Greenline?  You bet.  But do the miles I accumulate riding the Greenline mean as much to me as the miles I accumulate biking to work?  Not at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate and embrace all types of cycling.  But I’m most interested in seeing how far I can go in replacing my car with my bike.  So far I’m doing pretty well: I haven’t driven to school in almost two months, and since early February (when that monster snowstorm hit Memphis, rendering my daily commute non-bikable), I’ve driven my car on exactly one trip where I could have biked.  Only one.  Not too shabby, I think.

So today’s commute can best be described as epic.  In total I accumulated another 18 replacement miles, beginning with my commute from home to campus this morning (3.25 miles, roughly).  After a few meetings and some papers graded, I left for the aforementioned meeting in downtown Memphis.  Fifty minutes later, I had racked up another eight miles on my bike.  I then biked from downtown home, completing my journey with another six or so miles. Here’s a map of my travels.

And here’s a link to a map of my ride, if you’d like a closer look.

Just to the left of the middle of my route is when my path headed to downtown crossed my path going home.  From home I took Southern to campus, taking a detour on Midway, which I took when I left campus.  I followed the Chickasaw Gardens route from campus to Midtown, then Harbert to Cleveland to Peabody/Vance downtown. Heading home, I followed Linden to Rozelle to Harbert, then Belvedere, then Central to Cooper to home.

Why was I heading downtown, you might ask?  Well, I’m not at privy to release that information, but suffice to say that good things are in store for Memphis.

Ridiculous

My people, I present to you a pictorial representation of bike commuting in Memphis in the 21st century.  Behold …


That big stack of papers on the right?  That was my Spring Break.  I didn’t actually grade all of them: my graduate assistant did most of the grading and preparation for my intro-level economics class (that’s the two folders in the middle).  But I did have to sort them, staple scantrons to exams, and enter the grades online.  Plus all the grading, sorting, and recording scores for my two upper-division courses (those are the two stacks of Blue Books you see).  I didn’t actually measure or weigh the stack, although I’d put it at around 20 pounds.  Maybe 30.

But I’m not here to write about my grading duties, overwhelming though they are sometimes.  I just wanted to post the picture and mention that I managed to carry all of those papers, plus my lunch, coffee, laptop and power cable to work in my panniers.  And it really wasn’t that bad.  My bike felt light as a damn feather coming home though, I can tell you that.

Two days, two rides

I don’t know if it’s writer’s block or a lack of a theme for this post, but I want to write about my experiences commuting around Memphis today and yesterday, and yet I’m having a devil of a time getting started on this.  Were my rides frustrating?  Exhilarating?  Fulfilling?  Lacking?  What’s the through line?

Well, like almost any commute I’ve made in the past few years I’ve been biking around Memphis, my rides were both frustrating and exhilarating and fulfilling and lacking.  Everything, all rolled into one giant burrito of what it means to be a commuter cyclist.

So what was frustrating about my rides?  First, let’s have a look at the routes.  Very similar, the two of them.  For both rides, I started out at my home in the south-east corner of Cooper Young, headed north to the main intersection of the neighborhood, then went on from there.  On Friday I stopped by my favorite local bookstore to pick up a book I had recently ordered, then biked over to my favorite local video store to pick up some movies for the weekend.  From there I sallied forth to the nearest package store to pick up a bottle of vino, then home.

On Saturday my ride was nearly identical.  To the video store to return one of the DVDs, then to the nearest drug store to pick up a few items for my ailing wife, then back by the liquor store for another bottle of wine, then home.  Sounds nice, yes?

Sure, except for nearly getting cut off by a driver who turned right in front of me off Cooper.  And encountering more than a few drivers for whom the three-feet rule is unknown.  [sigh]

But I don’t let it get me down.  In the past week I’ve biked every day and haven’t used my car once.  To me, that’s a good week.

Snowy ride

Today was a first in my time as a commuter cyclist in Memphis: I biked to work in the snow!  Granted, there was little accumulation on the ground at the time, maybe an inch or two, and the roads were mostly clear, just a little slush on the shoulders.  But still, nothing I’ve experienced as a commuter cyclist compares to biking into driving snow.  By the time I got to school, after about 20 minutes on my bike, the lenses of my glasses were almost completely covered in snow and ice.  I should have wiped them off before I got to my office but I wanted to take a picture of the full accumulation.  You can see that picture and a few others below.

What makes me laugh a bit is how days like today create an ever-widening gap between how I see myself and how others see me.  I’ve never been particularly athletic or competitive with others.  The last time I played a team sports was in middle school.  The sporadic exercise that happened in the interim years was largely voluntary and solitary.  For me, biking around town is not a way of proving my manhood or testing myself against Mother Nature – it’s just what I do.

And yet, after I posted the picture of me at the end of my ride on my facebook profile, the responses were overwhelming. “Impressive” read one.  “You are an inspiration” claimed another.  A former student went so far as to say that he will never be the man I am.  OK, well … maybe, maybe not.  I’m not sure how to quantitatively measure manliness, but I guess biking in the snow bumps me up a bit on that scale.

Whatever the case, here are those pictures.  Enjoy.

[slickr-flickr id="57760946@N03" tag="snowy ride" type="gallery"]

Slow and steady

I didn’t bike to work today but I did yesterday, the second time this week I’ve biked in.  It feels really great to be back on my bike, but I’m taking it easy on the ol’ knee.  I hate this feeling of having to ease back into my riding routine in order to avoid injury – it just makes me feel old.  But I understand that if I push it too hard now, I’ll never fully recover from the injury.

One of my students stopped me on the way into class today and asked if I biked in today.  I told him no but that I did yesterday.  He was a bit incredulous about biking in such cold weather – it was 28º F this morning, as it was yesterday when I left the house – and I had to remind him that I’ve been in 18º F weather.  We had a laugh over it.

I am planning to bike tonight when I go out for my weekly night of beers with friends.  Four miles round trip should be no problem.  Tomorrow I will need to log some miles as I’m planning to have a proper day on my bike Saturday.  I’m biking to a meeting in the morning at the Teaching/Learning Academy, then to the Bicycle Swap Meet at Odessa, then to Shelby Farms on the Greenline.  That should be around 20 miles round trip.  Let’s hope the knee holds up.

Also, I’m really digging MotionX GPS, which I wrote about earlier this week.  The interface leaves a bit to be desired, but that’s just an extension of my personal preferences about design.  But as you can see here, it it produces a really great map of my route.  I can imagine that this feature would be really handy for someone biking or hiking off-road, something I probably won’t do much of, but I like it for helping me track the stats about my commute.

For example, my total commute yesterday was 6.88 miles, my average speed was 8.7 MPH (rather low, but probably because I had to stop a few times and adjust the bike), my top speed was 14.4 MPH (going downhill, I assume), and my total commute time was 47 minutes and 18 seconds.  Not bad, but in the past I’ve been able to bike home in under 15 minutes, so I clearly have room for improvement.

So for now I’ll keep toddling around like a grandpa on a beach cruiser, and hopefully by Spring Break I’ll be fully healed.  Good news in the meantime: I made it through another commute with practically no pain in my knee.  And I pushed it a bit harder than on Monday.  Progress is as progress does.

Final thought – my infatuation with MotionX GPS has made me want to turn my iPhone into a bike computer, as my old one crapped out on me.  This would mean that I need one of these.  Sigh … how I love buying new gear.