Category Archives: dc metro

10 Things I love About Biking

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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, especially since I wrote the 10 Things I Hate About Biking. So here it is:

10 Things I Love About Biking:

  1. Biking is Challenging – I love a good challenge. I tend to be singular in what I challenge myself with. Mostly, the only challenge I really have is my work. Last year was particularly difficult and work took up a huge amount of my time and focus. Biking offered a counter balance to the work challenge. It was personally challenging for me to get on the bike. I forced myself push a little farther every day.
  2. Biking is Fun! – Honestly, it really is. I have said many times it was hard work, but the pay-off for that hard work is that I get to bike. I love the feel of the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. I love flying down hills, or the steady pedaling of riding on a flat trail. I feel free in a way that I do not feel walking or *gasp* running, or doing any other kind of exercise.
  3.  The “Biking Community” –  I am not sure if it is the same in every community, but in Arlington, there is a big informal, (and probably formal if I looked into it more), biking community. A lot of people bike here. There are bike trails everywhere and most of the streets are accommodating to bikers. And other bikers kind of look out for one another. This is something I was not really aware of. One day in August was particularly hot. I was thirsty and pulled off the trail for a moment to drink some water. I’m sure my face was red and I was very sweaty and panting. One girl slowly road by me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was just thirsty and she pedaled on her way. Occasionally, you get the person who is aggressively concerned with your biking. Annoyingly so, in fact. “That bike is too small for you!” One such person yelled to me as I was slowly riding up hill. “You need to raise your seat! You’ll blow out your knees!” I had to stop and walk the bike up the hill and he came over to try to show me how to raise my seat. Dude! Seriously? At that point in my biking I was just a few days out and feeling very unstable on the bike. Raising my seat was not something I was quite comfortable with yet. I waved him off and told him I was OK, and he grumbled his disapproval and walked away. Creepy. Fortunately, my experiences with other bikers has been much more pleasant.
  4. Supportive Bikers – This is probably a sub-group of the biking community, but I have really come across so many bikers who have been very supportive of my efforts. There’s the girl who offered to fix my flat tire. The guy who stopped to see if he could fix my handle bars. And bikers who just acknowledge me with a polite nod as they pass. But my favorite person, I “met” on one of my first rides. I was re-entering the Four Mile Run trail from South Glebe. There is a slight incline as you enter the trail. I was really struggling to get up the teeny hill. I wanted to push myself to the top. I was traveling at a snail’s pace. A woman rides up behind me and announces she’s passing me on my left. I was literally about to give up and get off my bike when she said as she rode by, “Keep pushing! You got this!” Her words were just the impetus I needed. Two, maybe, three pedals later, I crested the hill and yelled out, “I did it!” She raised her fist in the air in solidarity and rode off.
  5. Being Outside – I could go to gym and ride the stationary bike or join a spin class, but that really never held any appeal for me. I love being outside. The feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Amazing. Plus I get to see all the beauty around me. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I love the feeling of renewal in the spring air, the blooming of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, budding trees. And the last splash of color and cool air of autumn. And everything in between.
  6. Pushing Myself – I love pushing myself. This past year, I have ridden harder and farther than I ever thought I could. I love to see how far I can go. There have been times I have pushed too far, but I’ve always made it back home, even if I had to walk. The farthest I ever pushed myself to date is my ride from home to Chinatown in DC. It was much farther than I thought it was. Google Maps initially said it was only 6 miles from my house and would take an hour. Google lied. On the bike trail, it was probably 10 or 11 miles. And it took almost two hours. I do not regret doing this though. It was hard and a little scary, but I had a lot of fun.
  7. Riding Downhill – Need I say more? Yes, it is a little scary, but man is it ever fun! I push myself to ride a 4 miles on a slow steady incline on my regular ride. The reward is, I get to ride about 4 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home. The downhill part of the ride is what everyone who dreams of riding thinks biking is like, pedaling effortlessly down the trail and enjoying the ride. And that is what it is like sometimes. But you do not think of the long slog of pushing up hill to get there. The uphill is what makes the downhill really worth it though.
  8. It Is Hard – I like that biking is difficult. One of my favorite movie quotes is from A League of Her Own when the obnoxious Tom Hanks character says to star player who is walking away from the game, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Of course, in Northern Virginia, I think everyone does bike, but that’s not the point. The point is, that I have forced myself to do something that was difficult for me. And the rewards have been immeasurable.
  9. Being Present – There are numerous articles about the benefits of being present in your life, living in he moment, appreciating the here and now. So many of us just coast through our days. Or our schedules are so full, we are just racing to get to the end of the day so we can collapse on our beds for a few hours of respite before we begin again. I often say that when I’m at work, I feel like I’m wishing my life away 8 hours at a time. I’m never fully there. Always planning for the next thing. When I’m biking, I’m not doing that. I have to be focused and present all the time. There are so many things that can derail my ride, cars, traffic, pedestrians, obstacles on the trail errant two-year olds running in front of the bike. You have to pay attention if you want to be safe. Of course, my mind wanders and I think of other things while I’m biking. I think about writing, and all the things I have to do when I get home or get to work, but always, I’m paying attention to the trail, the bike, how I feel, am I hydrated, should I rest, how far I am from home. Biking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m not just waiting for the time to pass so I can get to the next part of my day. I am happy just to be in the moment biking and loving it.
  10. Overall Feeling of Well Being And Accomplishment – I feel better when I bike. My health is better. My breathing is better. I feel stronger and more confident because of biking. I know something about myself. I know that I can push myself physically to achieve a goal. This is something I have not always felt I could do. As someone who spent most of her adult life morbidly obese, the idea of excelling in any kind of physical activity was almost unthinkable. That is no longer the case.
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A Strange New World

I sat on my couch in the morning on Friday, January 20, 2017 to watch the peaceful transfer of power that our country is known for. It is one of the things that makes our country great. We can disagree and fight during election season and even after, but on Inauguration day, one man, one party hands over the reigns to another, relinquishing his power and the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.

This is something we usually celebrate. This year was different. I did not see anything to celebrate as Obama transferred his role to a mean-spirited man who campaigned on division, hatred, and fear. I sat there as his supporters booed his opponent, former First Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. And I listened as they cheered him and his American Carnage speech. There were protesters and violence. It was very disheartening.

I so wanted to attend the Women’s March the next day. I needed to feel something positive and a connection to other people who were also as angry, sad, and frustrated as I was. I was unable to attend Obama’s inauguration in 2009. I weighed 300 pounds and could barely walk. In 2013, I had just had surgery. I had lost a lot of weight and was sure I could do the walking, but I was trying not to push myself too hard as I was still recovering. I was looking forward to attending for Hillary, but alas, that was not to be.

Family and friends were concerned for my safety this year after watching the violence that took place on Trump’s Inauguration Day. I was also scheduled to work the mid-day into evening shift. I asked for the day off, but my boss was unable to grant the request. That only made my mood worse.

Then suddenly, something changed. Towards the end of the day, my supervisor came up to me and told me to call in the am and if it was slow, I could “come in late.” She left it sort of open-ended.

I went home and made my plans. My mom called and told me to “be safe.” My sisters cheered, as they were in California and could to make it. I had no idea what to expect. I read a lot of the “How to be safe at a protest rally” articles that had been floating around internet. Take one bag. Take food. Take an extra phone charger. Take something to wrap around your face in case of tear gas.

I was anxious, but excited.

I woke up early Saturday morning. I think I had four hours of sleep. I had everything all laid out. I got ready and made my way to the parking garage in my building. My plan was to drive to the metro and take the train into the city. In the parking garage, was another woman getting into her car with her friends.

“Are you going?” she asked.

“Of course!” And we both raised our fists in the air in celebration.

Already, this day felt different.

I arrived at the metro station at 730am and already the lot was full. That should have been a clue to what I was about to face, but the station has a small lot, so I didn’t think anything of it. I parked at the hotel across the street and ran across the street.

To say the station was packed is an understatement. There was probably a 30 minute line to fill or buy a fare card. Fortunately, I have one that I keep full from my days of commuting into the city. So, I got in the line for the turn-style to get into the  station.

I knew where I wanted to go. A friend had been messaging me telling her to meet her and her friends. And that was certainly my plan. I waited for the second train, as the first was stuffed to the gills. I entered the train holding my Starbucks coffee and my fare card in my hand. I had my purse slung across my body so that I would not have to worry about that swinging around.

My face was maybe two inches from the woman standing in front of me.

“I know you!” She said to me. She did look familiar, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I had actually met her somewhere or of she just had that look of someone I know but cannot place.

“You do? My name’s Colleen. What’s yours?”

“Danni. Are you a Geek?” Now that is an odd question to ask someone. Or it would be if I hadn’t almost immediately known what she meant. “I mean are you in the NOVA Geek Group on Meetup?”

“No, but I went to Sarah’s Jewish Christmas! You were there!”

(A quick note here…I worked all the way up to midnight on Christmas Eve and was unable to make plans to go out-of-town to see family and the family that lives here went to Disney for Christmas, so one of my friends from my writer’s group invited me to Chinese food and a movie with her friends for Christmas.)

“Yes!”

Danni, and her friends allowed me to tag along with them since once we arrived in the city it was clear there was probably no way I was going to be able to find my friends. I called work as soon as we got there. Which is a good thing, since I very quickly lost all cell service.

I could not to get over the number of people. We could barely move once we got close, to where the rally was, which was not very close at all. I spent the whole day near the Air & Space Museum, actually about a block and a half across the street. We could not even get close to Independence Avenue. Occasionally, we could see the jumbotrons or hear the speeches. But mostly, we just walked around and talked to people. It was great to feel a sense of solidarity with women. At the time, we had only an inkling of what we were a part of.

The DC police were so nice. It was almost as if they were in solidarity with us. They were directing people, answer questions, keeping an eye on families with children. So many women brought their daughters, sons, husbands, babies.

At one point, I lost Sarah’s friends. The one girl was pregnant and was racing around looking for a bathroom, of which there were very, very few. We were crossing a street that was packed with people when a sea of people going in the other direction cut me off from them. I knew where they were going and walked in that direction to no avail. So, I used my solitary status to push my way as close to Independence as I could get. I saw a corner of the screens sometimes, but at least here I could hear the speeches.

People were getting anxious and wanted to march. The chant, “MARCH! MARCH! MARCH!” came and went several times. At that point, it was announced that the streets were too chock-full of people to march and the route they received the permit for was blocked. We knew it was crazy-crowded, but still, we had no idea what the rest of the world was seeing on TV. Or what was going on in other cities. At one point, someone did say that women were protesting in Antarctica. I didn’t know there were people in Antartica, let alone protesters!

I did get to do some marching and chanting, but at that point, I made the decision to leave. I still had to get to work and I knew the metro was going to be crazy. If there was to be no marching, people would start to leave and I would never get out.

At one point during the protest, I started receiving random texts that had been delayed getting to me. I received one from my sister-in-law who told me my niece wanted to come to the city, but her parents told her, “no we cannot go today because of the protests.” We regularly take her to DC to the museums and monuments. When she was told about the protests, she expressed her displeasure with Trump and made her own sign!

 

I had heard Mr. Trump many times during his campaign say that he was leading a movement. That people didn’t understand what was going on. I agree that he did tap into an anger and frustration that working people in this country have had for the last 30 years as real wages have stagnated and labor has lost a lot of its political clout. I’m not sure I would call it a movement. All he has to do is not deliver on bringing jobs and higher wages to his supporters, and they will turn on him.

When I got home and was actually able to watch the news, I was astonished. I knew it was a lot of people, but I had no idea. There have been estimates that 2.6 million-2.9 million people protested nationwide and maybe as many as 11 million worldwide.

I suddenly stopped feeling bad I was unable to march through the city with the rest of the crowd. Just showing up, I decided, was enough. Adding myself to the numbers that made it impossible to march was just as important. I stood with my fellow Americans in solidarity supporting our values. And that, after all, was part of the point. It was also to send the message that although we may not be in power, we are not powerless. We are here, we are many, and we are not going away.

Trump’s election denied us celebrating the first woman president. We have denied him our silent acquiesces to his negative agenda.

That, Mr. Trump, is a movement.

Commuting Confusion

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A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about my daily commute into the city.  I was so excited that I was able to do the commute without pain or difficulty. It is so liberating to be able to walk and stand without a problem.

Since I wrote this post, my commute into the city has changed, quite drastically.

Let’s start with this cool new train line called the Silver Line. The Silver Line is eventually going to make it’s way out to Dulles airport, which is not far from Sterling, Ashburn, and other far away lands in the exurbs of DC. But for now, the Silver Line only goes out to Reston. The addition of this train completely screwed up my morning commute.

I live and work on the Blue Line, which shares tracks with this new line for part of the trip. Now, the Blue Line trains already have a pretty raw deal. It shares tracks with the Yellow Line and the Orange Line in different areas. Where it shares tracks with the Yellow trains, you could see 3-5 Yellows before an over crowded Blue train shows up. The same is true where it shares tracks with the Orange Line trains.

Now that the Silver Line trains have been added, they reduced the Blue Line service. One now shows up every 12 minutes during rush hour, because that’s what the over crowded Blue Line trains need, less trains.

Fortunately, there is a bus that travels directly from in front of my apartment building and now drops me off 4 blocks from the office. To make up for the loss of train service, the genies at WMATA re-routed this bus. During the summer, I was walking 1.3 miles from where this bus dropped me off. Now, I only have to walk 4 blocks. It’s cheaper than the metro and closer to my office. What could possibly go wrong.

Let me tell you…

The bus drivers do not know the new route.

Today’s driver, missed her turn onto 18th Avenue from Constitution. She then did a u-turn on Constitution, which I didn’t even know was possible during rush hour, let alone on a bus. I was a little bit terrified. Then, she turned right onto Virginia Avenue and not 18th. This is generally not a problem because in 25 feet you can then just turn right onto 18th from Virginia. She didn’t do that. She continued on Virginia Avenue for a few blocks.

I don’t know where she went after that because I got off the bus. Perhaps she just gave up and drove back to Virginia to start again. I walked from 20th and C to 20th and M. That’s about a mile. It’s not a bad walk, and I do not mind doing it, but for the love of all that’s holy, can we please get some bus drivers that know how to drive in DC?

I really do not want to have to move just to get a better commute into the city. And I really do not want to drive! I only live six miles from the office. Surely, it does not have to be this difficult to get to work every day! Maybe I should just walk.

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Blossom Walk Update

This gallery contains 19 photos.

As many of you who follow my blog know, I set some goals for myself this spring. Two of those goals were to walk around the Tidal Basin and to attend the Cherry Blossom Parade. I walked around the Tidal … Continue reading

Saturday Awesomeness

I love Saturdays.  Who doesn’t, right?

I had a really rough day yesterday at work.  Nothing really bad, just busy and stressful.  So, I went home and had dinner.  Then I flopped down on my bed and curled up under the covers and felt sorry for myself.  So much for the gym.

Then I decided that I needed to get out of the house.  This was maybe at 930pm.  I sent a friend of mine a Facebook message and asked him to meet me down the street.  We went to my favorite little place, Busboys and Poets, and talked for a bit.

I walked both to the restaurant and back home even though my friend offered me a ride.  I guess I just needed to blow off some steam.

Then this am, I had plans to meet my brother and niece in DC to go to the museums.  Of course, bugs were the main item on the agenda and the Natural History Museum has a great bug display, the irony of its sponsor being Orkin not withstanding.  She had to go visit the bees again.  We tried to get her interested in seeing the butterflies, but no.  Spiders and bees were foremost on her agenda.

We also walked around the butterfly garden outside and looked at the pretty flowers and we took a short walk through the sculpture garden as well.  Then we went to the Air & Space Museum so she could have lunch at “Old MacDonald’s.”  They normally don’t feed her McD’s, but she does like their chicken nuggets.  She has a ton of food allergies and the nuggets are the only thing there she can eat.  My brother says that’s because the nuggets are not really food.  I agree.

Then my brother and I went back to my neighborhood and went to Cheesetique.  We had a cheese board and he had a glass of port and the key lime pie.  I have been a big Cheesetique fan since they came to Shirlington.  Apparently their first store is in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.  I have taken cheese to my brother’s for holidays and stuff, but this was his first time eating in the restaurant.  It’s a small store, but the atmosphere is awesome.  The food is so good.  He was quite impressed and bought some of his own cheese to take home.

I think he was getting a bit tired of always going to Busboys when he comes to visit.  The food there is great too, but it’s nice to get out and try something different.  We have gone to the Mexican place several times, and it’s awesome, but we needed to do something else.  Shirlington has lots of great choices.

Now, if I could just get a hold of my sister, I could get a visit with her in today.  In the meantime, I am going to write and then hit the gym.

It’s nice to get back into my normal routine of museum jaunts and visits with my family.  I love being able to do these things.  My life has really made a complete 180 from where I was 9 1/2 months ago.  I can hop on the metro, go hang out on the Mall at the Sculpture Garden and listen to jazz with my friends, walk all over the Mall going to the museums with my brother and niece, go to the gym, go shopping at the mall with my sister, and walk down the street to my neighborhood to walk around or just hang out at a coffee shop.  Before last October, I could not have done any of this, at least not easily.  Now I don’t even think about it.  I just put on my walking shoes and go.

The choice to have the surgery was a difficult one for me, but I’m glad I did it. The quality of my life has completely changed.  It happened so quickly, I can hardly believe it sometimes.  And yet, the person I was before seems so far away I don’t even know who that was.  Well, whoever that was is gone and I love who I am now.

Going to the same museum over and over to look at bees with a 5-year-old, eating at a new restaurant with my brother, and shopping at a mall with my sister may seem routine and mundane, but I love that I can do it. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything.

Hilarious Morning Encounter

Today, because I have a flight at 3:00pm – ish today, I took my luggage, personal laptop, my work laptop with me on my daily commute.  Fortunately, my luggage had wheels and a place where I could strap one of my laptops down, so it wasn’t too bad.  My neck is killing me from carrying my other laptop bag, but I’ll live.

I arrived at the Pentagon Metro stop without too much trouble and decided to take the elevator down to the trains instead of trying to navigate the really big escalator with my bags.  I was waiting for the elevator and a woman comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, but can you tell me how to get to the Metro?”

I looked at her like she was mad and said, “Um, this…is…the Metro.”

It was all I could do to not laugh.  I nearly asked her if I was being filmed for some crazy Youtube video where they go up to people and ask them ridiculously obvious questions, but I didn’t. 

Then she asked me, “Yeah, but where are the trains?  I can’t figure out how to get to the trains.”

OK, so that’s fine.  If you’ve never been to the Pentagon Metro stop, it can be kind of confusing, I guess.  I mean, you could just follow the other 1.5 million people getting off buses and crowding themselves onto to the escalators to get to the trains.  Or read the signs and follow the arrows, but you know, that’s just me. 

I did point out the very obvious escalators she had to walk by to get to me.  And I told her that the elevator that I was taking will get her there, too.  I was a good fellow commuter and helped her on her way, but I still thought it was funny and I appreciate the bit of levity it provided for an otherwise crazy morning commute.

Adventures in DC

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Yesterday, I was getting ready to head out and explore my world.  First, I had to buy a new headset for my iPhone.  I fell in walking home a few weeks ago and smashed my other headset.  Thanks to the new iPhone cover my sister bought me, the iPhone survived the fall, but the headset did not.  Could have been worse, definitely.  Then I was going to head out to a different coffee shop, one I have not been to in a while, to try to write a bit.  I wanted to finish up an essay for a contest and the early deadline is Monday.

I was walking out the door when my cell phone rings.  My brother called me and put my niece on the phone.  She informed me that after lunch, they were coming to Auntie Colleen’s house.  Oh really?  I’m glad she called me before I was too involved in my own plans.  Obviously, this required me to rethink my entire day and reschedule everything, which I was more than happy to do.  When the five-year old requests an audience, you don’t ask questions, you simply adjust.  It’s kind of like getting a summons from the Queen.  I talked to my brother for a few minutes and decided I had enough time to go get my new ear-pods and get back home before they arrived.

When they showed up, it was clear that they had no plans.  I saw an open-air street flea market of some kind in at Court House near Clarendon and suggested that.  There is also a pretty large park nearby and I offered that up as well.  We ended up going to Busboys & Poets to get fries to feed the child and then trekked into the city, and by trekked, I mean we drove, found parking and walked to the museums in DC.

I love that I can do this.  Just six months ago, walking all over the Mall and wandering in museum after museum would have been at best an extremely painful and difficult venture bordering on impossible.  Now I can walk around for hours, which we did, with no struggle.  I almost want to cry from sheer joy every time I venture out on one of these excursions.

My brother and I had a short conversation about this.  He said that he and his wife used to struggle to find excursions that they could do with me that I would be able to do.  Usually, dinner out, movies, sitting at home and talking, etc were safe activities.  Going to fairs, festivals, The Mall, etc were out of the question.  Now he says they don’t even think about it.  They just call me and make plans.  I love hearing this.

But I digress…

My niece always loves going to see the dinosaurs, she cannot get enough of them, actually.  We went to the Natural History Museum.  Then there was bird chasing and kite watching on The Mall and then the American Indian Museum, which is really cool.  I had never been there before.  Unfortunately,  we arrived there about 30 minutes before it closed, so we did not get to see much of it, so we will definitely be heading back there.

Then we went to “Old McDonald’s” for chicken nuggets.  I’m horrified that my brother feeds her MCD nuggets, but it’s something she can eat and she loves them.  She has food allergies, so their choices when eating out are limited.  Plus, she is fussy, as most kids her age are. So, I keep my opinions on MCD to myself and just let it go.  She does not have a weight problem, which is good.  She’s always been very thin, even as a baby.  She eats all the time too, and she has no problem asking for food when she’s hungry.  In fact, she was so hungry by the time we got to MCD that she was literally singing a chicken nugget song she made up.

That little girl is something else.  I am just  so glad that I can go out on these adventures with her when she leaves the confines of the DC exurbs and ventures into the city with her dad.  Maybe this summer we will make it down to the American Folklife Festival with her.