Bummed over Bike to Work Week

(photo by luxomedia)

(photo by luxomedia)

Don’t let the headline fool you. I LOVE biking to work, and I’m very happy that Bike to Work Week exists.

Problem is, I can’t bike to my job at The Gazette. I live 40 miles from work, and it’s almost all highway. And I’m just not a fast enough rider to cover that kind of distance on a daily basis, let alone twice, on the ride back home.

Throw in an often late-night work shift, and I gotta drive.

I hate it. I hate putting all those miles on my car, I hate having to buy gas twice a week, I hate having to get the oil changed almost every other month, I hate hearing about another part in my car that needs to be replaced.

But I love my job, and so I suck it up and drive, relinquishing two hours of every day.

It didn’t used to be that way. When I lived in Seattle, I rode my bike to work almost every day!

Here’s a map of my initial bike commute, when I lived at Alki Beach:

alki bike commute

Here’s a link to that commute on MapMyRide.com:

And here’s the elevation (you can see it in more detail by following the above link):

alki commute elevation 

I loved it because I rode on a bike along the waterfront and all the way through downtown, through some industrial areas, and even through the famous Pike Place Market on my way to work at what is now Macy’s. (When I started there, it was the Bon Marche.)

When I moved further south, my commute became a lot harder because of all the hills.

south seattle bike commute

And here’s a link to this route.

And here’s the elevation for that ride (again, detailed version in the above link):

south seattle elevation

This, by the way, reflects the elevation if it were a round trip, so you can see the joy I had going to work, and the hell I endured coming home from work.

But I loved it.

I loved being able to get to work under my own power, to put everything I need for my day in my messenger bag and head in to work.

There were cyclists of all types in Seattle during weekdays: casual riders, serious riders, bike commuters, bike messengers. I was a bike commuter on the weekday but looked kind of like a bike messenger, and I loved it. Yes, I was a poser, but at least I was still part of the cycling community and doing an honest bike commute.

I also developed a serious messenger bag fetish. I own a Timbuk2 Classic Messenger bag that I use to this day, and after moving to South Seattle I switched to an Ortlieb messenger bag so that I could balance the load on my shoulders more while dealing with all the hills.

I was having a blast. Yeah, it did suck at times –especially in the rainy Pacific Northwest winters — and I sometimes did take the bus or get dropped off at work by my wife, who was on her way to work. But hey, taking the bus or carpooling is still better than driving alone and putting another car on the roads.

But it got me in shape. And when I participated in early-season group rides like the Chilly Hilly (which has 2,675 feet of elevation gain!) I was at least glad not to be one of the ones who were really struggling, to the point they had trouble getting off their bikes at the end!

It all ended when we moved back to the Midwest, however. My first job back here was at the Monticello Express newspaper in Monticello, Iowa, and we lived in town, only a couple miles from work.

You’d have thought this would be another dream scenario for me, but no, I had to have my car with me at all times because, as the editor/reporter/photographer, I had to be able to drive out to breaking news situations. And I could not afford to lose 15 minutes biking home and then driving to the location of the incident.

It sucked, but at least I wasn’t putting all these miles on my car like I am now. And I could be content with just riding my bike for fun, and not having to associate it with work.

More recently, my wife and I have considered the possibility of moving to Cedar Rapids so that I could start bike commuting again, but she now has an established business in Monticello, and if we moved, then she would have to be the one spending all that time in a car. And I’d rather deal with the commute than make her do it. (Also, we do have a nice house in Monticello and are in good shape financially, so neither of us feel like putting that situation into turmoil by moving and likely taking on bigger house payments.)

So even though I cannot participate in Bike to Work Week this week, I can at least contribute to it by expressing how much I have enjoyed doing it. Hopefully whoever reads this will be inspired to give it a try. If so, there are many books and Web sites out there to help you, including this one.

As for me, I hope to get a chance to commute by bicycle again someday. The beautiful thing is, there’s no age limit for this activity. And until I can be a bicycle commuter again, I’ll do whatever I can to support it and support those who do it.

Ride on.

~ by davidllee on May 12, 2009.

2 Responses to “Bummed over Bike to Work Week”

  1. […] jump back ahead a decade and as I got into bike commuting, and thus, cycling, it was time for me to decide whether I really wanted to be a […]

  2. I didn’t know about the Chilly Hilly, but have been planning to take the ferry to Bainbridge with a few friends and bike around the island, hugging the shoreline as close as possible. Thanks for the great tip! Looks like I found this in perfect time, too…

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