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June 26, 2005


I was in St. Paul on business on Thursday and Friday, arriving home just before shabbat, just in case anyone cares why the most recent post here is a few days long in the tooth. I discovered two things on my visit. First, there are pronounced temperature extremes out there. The last time I was there, it was four below zero. On Thursday, it was in the mid-90s. Second, contrary to what you may assume, there are no billboards with photos of Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker welcoming you at the airport.

This morning, I got up early to ride my bike. I'm somewhere in that gap between the really serious bikers and the casual bikers. I ride a hybrid, not a road bike, but I can outride almost everyone but the "pros" on their road bikes. The pros are smooth and effortless and can whup me without breaking a sweat. But I'm still a maniac. I drove into Georgetown, where I parked under the Whitehurst Freeway, which, contrary to the sound of its name, is a mile-long elevated highway along the Georgetown riverfront. From there I rode up through Rock Creek Park (a large park winding north through Washington and quite a few miles into Maryland), across the Georgetown Branch (a pretty but gravelly and unpleasant ride that connects Rock Creek Park with downtown Bethesda), and back into Georgetown on the Capital Crescent Trail, which is by far the best bike trail we have around here -- wide enough, well paved, and scenic. (It's actually slightly downhill most of the way into Georgetown, which makes a big difference when you're riding down instead of up.) The total ride is roughly 21 miles.

Now, it's time to gripe. I started out at 7:45 a.m. and by 8:45, when I reached the Capital Crescent Trail, it was carnival time on the trail, absolutely packed. It's still possible to ride through the crowd, assuming people behave. Most bikers are relatively well behaved. They ring or shout warnings and rarely run people down. I do all of that. Most runners are good, too. They understand that you need to run on the right edge of the trail to let bikers past. Here's my list of baddies:

  • Geezer walkers walking two-abreast. When you ring to warn them you're coming up on them, they can't hear you or don't care to move.
  • Chinese walking ladies. Same, and they also don't understand English when you shout a warning. You know what I mean. And in this case ethnicity is highly relevant. I've never seen people of any other ethnic background who are as much trouble on the trails.
  • People who walk dogs on the trail on long leashes that enable the dogs to wander across the trail and in the way of traffic.
  • Runners who insist on running three-abreast.
  • Walkers walking two-abreast who, when you ring, move approximately two inches out of your way.
  • Bikers who ride next to each other, because it's hard to pass.

I know that this makes me look like the baddie, but you have to give me some credit for not even complaining about the stroller queens. Next time, I'm going to have to get out there even earlier.