Friday, May 20, 2005

Bike to Work Day (long post..)

Today was National Bike to Work Day, and as I've done the past couple years, I served as the VDOT representative at Fairfax Gov't Center, one of the many pit stops around the area. The pit stops have food, coffee, raffles, t-shirts etc. for the commuters, and some stops even have live bands playing. Bike to Work Days for me usually mean a really early start, some extra miles, and an early ride home for the day. This one was slightly more interesting than the others.

Rain had been forecast for today as far back as last Sunday, and it hit right on time. I woke at 0500 to wet roads and wet air, but nothing really coming down. I got quickly out of the house without waking Oliver (always a challenge), and hit the road with lights on. After a mile I remembered I hadn't brushed my teeth. Luckily I also remembered I had my toothbrush/toothpaste still in my pack from last weekend's camping trip, so I pulled off on the side of the empty trail and did what I needed. Back on the bike, riding the trail along New Braddock/Braddock Rd. I had printed out an aerial photo and map from work showing an abandoned road which cut from Braddock Rd. into an old Fairfax neighborhood directly across from the entrance to Gov't Center. Sweet, I thought. Well, that abandoned road was completely gone so I pushed/rode my bike along a powerline cut for about 1/4 mile until hitting the neighborhood street I needed. My pants, socks, and shoes were now soaked through from the wet, tall brush, not to mention the many small hidden water holes I stepped in. Hopefully, I thought, my clothes would dry out some, or I'd be spending the next few hours standing around wet. Oh well, at least I'll be getting paid for it thought. I've certainly been wetter for less money before.

I made it there pretty dry other than my feet and pants and we had plenty of cover from the rain which had picked up by then and was quite heavy. The organizers were worried that no one would show up with this weather, especially since the Gov't Center area is not a very popular bike commuting area. But, it is the seat of County government, so they want to be a part of it, and they do a good job. Many County employees biked to work despite the rain, and it was evident from their bikes and gear that they aren't regular bikers or commuters. All were happy, not a one complained of the rain. It was interesting looking at everyone's bikes, and seeing their home locations pinned up on the map board. One guy rode all the way from D.C. on a 1950s-era Pee-Wee Herman style Schwinn. Two and a half hours, in the cold rain, in shorts. He won a prize. Surprisingly, many people did bike, and many even went out of their way to stop for a while at our pit stop.

The County Board of Supervisor's Chairman, Gerry Connolly was there. Folks from REI, the County Trails Coordinator (Jenny Pate), and a rep from Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) were also there. The lady from WABA started an argument with Connolly over some of his positions toward bikes, roads, or trails. She challenged him on something she had heard attributed to him. Connolly dug in like a pit bull and was appalled that she would question an elected official's integrity (without backup). He demanded to know what she meant, and I heard her stammer out a "..I hear things...." and a "...we look at things differently.." before a staff photographer friendly to Connolly pulled him aside for a photo op. Unfortunately, the argument was never resumed. Now, I'm all for confronting politicians and putting them on the spot, but the WABA lady was not well prepared and got flustered when challenged. In my opinion, she blew a good opportunity to get any messages across to him, and I wouldn't be surprised if WABA (the major sponsor of Bike to Work Day) weren't invited back to Fairfax Gov't Center next year.

My ride the rest of the way to work was in pouring rain and wind (not too worried about my shoes and socks now..). Luckily I was able to throw all my bike clothes in the dryer at the Health Club where I shower. Went and did a few hours of regular work, then dressed back in dry clothes and hit the road home in dryer air. However, the creeks were so high they were flowing over top of one of the bridges I use, so I was forced to take all roads home and stay out of the stream valley trail network, which was completely under water. Overall, 2.1" of rain fell. Just a day in the life right..... Sorry for such a long post (if you made it this far...)

No comments: