Thursday, January 6, 2011

A day in the biking life

I headed away from work this morning to an early appointment.  I was riding along the path, almost to my destination, and looked away for a moment to check my watch.  I heard a gasp and a "look out"  and then I hit a wire stretched across the road and heard a yelp.   Fortunately I wasn't going very fast and stopped almost immediately (in less than 5')  A woman was walking her dog, and the retractable part of the leash was strung across the path, almost invisible, and I had hit it.  Fortunately for both me and the dog, she'd let go of the leash, so we both got jerked a bit, but neither got flung through the air.  My Dad complains about this a lot- those leashes are a particular hazards to recumbent riders because they're often at their face level.

Anyway, I scratched the dog behind the ears, and handed the lady her leash back (she had been walking on the opposite side of a snowbank, which is why I didn't realize that she was a hazard), and continued on.  Poor little dog!

On the way back to work, I passed home, and decided to go in and  upgrade a few key parts of my wardrobe.  My regular tights just weren't quite warm enough and I needed warmer gloves, and hadn't had time to find them before my appointment.
This is what I looked like as I left the house again at 10AM.

 With my wool tights and shearling gloves, I was so toasty on the way in, that I had to stop, take off my coat and cardigan, and put the coat back on and the cardigan in the basket.

I stopped a couple of times to admire the cool patterns in the ice on the Charles. I'm guessing that the swirls were snowdrifts that were absorbed into the ice through melt/thaw cycles.

Can it be coincidence that the curves of the ice mirror those of the bridge?  I don't know how, but it MUST be related.

Some ducks huddling on the edge of a floe next to the open water by the MIT dock- most of the docks have something that keeps the water too agitated to freeze right at the dock- Ice is hell on fixed structures.  And I think it would be tough being a duck in this climate, no matter how much fatty insulation they have.

After a longish day of work, I made one of my least favorite commutes home- though Kenmore square to REI and then over the BU bridge.   This is kind of a gnarly piece of vehicular cycling in several points.  I sometimes stay on Tremont and Charles Street, but tonight I just cut through the Common- didn't feel up to dodging busses and potholes on Tremont and drag racers on the 4 lanes wide Charles Street. From the SW corner of the Common,  I merged onto Beacon,  which is much wider than it needs to be, so people race from stoplight to stoplight.  Luckily the right hand lane is generally empty with occasional double parked cars serving as bollards.  Today the right hand lane was 6' wide because of cars parked out in the lane because of the snow- a luxuriously wide bike lane.  I've learned a shortcut that avoids the worst of Kenmore square (where 2 1/2 major streets meet at acute angles- full of cabs and buses).  If you turn left on Charlesgate, but don't go up onto the overpass that takes you to the Fens,  there's a funny little extension of Newbury street (Boston's fancy shopping street in other blocks)  with rowhouses on one side, and the pike on the other.
This connects to Brookline just past Kenmore, and delivers you past Fenway park and down to REI.

At REI,  I bought some Earbags.  Charlotte of Chic Cyclists RAVES about these, and I finally decided to try them.  I wanted to buy a pair for The Scientist, who needs to keep his ears warm post ear-infection,  but they didn't have extra large.  I tried a pair on the way home, and I'll have to add my raves too. They're warm, comfortable, and stayed on surprisingly well!  They're on sale at REI- may have to buy a couple of pairs, because I forsee losing some.

Then I have to go over the pike again and through the BU bridge interchange, which is a scary intersection to drive through, with some people going straight, some turning right, and most (including me) turning left.  Then over the BU bridge as fast as I can with someone right on my tail, through the roundabout, and finally to the relative tranquility of the bike path.
I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some salad fixings, and saw a guy with a lime green messenger bag, and a slick fixie with lime green rims, lime green bar tape and lime green pedals.  I wish I had pulled out my camera while I chatted with him, because it was pretty impressive.
Home to a late supper of steak salad (the lime juice and olive oil dressing must have been good- the Scientist practically licked his plate clean).   That's a typical day!


  1. Thank You for the "Day in the life of...."

  2. That sure is a full day! Quite an adventure :)

    The red coat and white helmet look fabulous together - go you!

    Skinny, retractable dog leashes are a terrible hazard and people should not let their dogs wander in bike paths. That's a big problem on the Lakefront Trail in the summer. I'm glad to hear that you and the dog are both okay.

    The Charles river is gorgeous! The way the ice froze around the bridge - so pretty.

  3. That ice is really pretty. The ice freezes faster where the water moves slower, that's what causes the arc formations at the bridges. Although they look too perfect to be real!

  4. sounds like a great day.

    yesterday morning on the emerald necklace path at 6 am, i came across a runner, and then suddenly noticed her REFLECTIVE leash. It was fantastic and I told her so. She was pleased to know I had seen it, and we continued on our way.

    I love the picture of the charles too! thanks for taking that.

  5. I make the commute to the Landmark Center with REI whenever silentq and I have a movie date at the Fenway, and also am usually not a fan of doing the four left lane shifts on Charles. In good weather, my preference is take the Esplanade to the Mass Ave. bridge, then the sidewalk to a right on Boylston and into Kenmore Sq. In less favorable weather, I'll ride south past the Common, then right on Kneeland and cut come around Charles St., but then make a left at Park Plaza into St. James and come up into Copley Sq. from there. The left turn onto Park Plaza can be a bit hairy in traffic, but less so than the left at Charles and Beacon., and St. James feels like a faster set of lights than Beacon. Then right on Dartmouth, left on Comm and in to Kenmore. Sometimes, I'll also skip Kenmore entirely and come in from the Symphony, up Hemenway to Ipswich and do that little underpass that leads to the back end of Fenway Park, but that feels like a little slower and more roundabout.

    yikes about the dog, and glad neither of you were too hurt. That used to be a perennial worry of mine when I commuted on the Minuteman.

  6. I suspect that lovely arc pattern (beautiful pic, indeed!) mirrored from the bridge is caused by the disruption of water flow between the arches. Slow moving water freezes the soonest, and the velocity is slowest between the bridge arcs.

    Your story of the dog leash reminds me of a cycling incident I had as a kid. I was riding on the sidewalk (which was acceptable and hte norm where I grew up-- I being about 8 years old at the time), and didn't see the thin, practically invisible piece of twine that was pathetically strung across the sidewalk to keep people from walking on freshly poured cement (did they not have yellow police tape back then?). I rode right through it, breaking the twine instantly, and my tires made imprints in the new cement. Someone came out from a nearby house and started running after me, yelling, spurring me to peel out of there fast (and in the process creating U-turn marks in the new cement!). Later that day the contractor in charge of the project got an earful from my dad about adequate work zone warnings.

  7. Cris,
    I've tried that Kneeland/ St James route, and frankly that Stuart street / Park Plaza turn gives me the willies- It seems like every time I try it, I risk ending up under the wheels of a cab.
    This makes me wonder if there's anyway to connect the part of Newbury that goes past "the Other side Cafe" and the part I was talking about to create a pedestrian/ bicycle underpass under Charlesgate. HMMM I'll have to go take a look at it, and see if there's any physical way to connect them that might be practical to suggest to the city. I wouldn't even ming walking my bike, if that meant I could go straight down Newbury (which despite all the chaos feels reasonably slow and safe compared to Beacon) all the way from the Public Garden to Kenmore.

  8. The ear covering is an interesting solution to the cold ear problem. I have taken to wearing my Bern ski helmet as bike helmet. In the summer, I wear it with no winter insert, but with a snap in brim, in the winter for biking and skiing, in goes the warm fuzzy insert with ear coverings. I don't overheat, or get wet in the rain, and even in very cold temperatures, I stay toasty warm. What makes me sad about this arrangement is that I never have reason to wear my favorite hand knit hats!

  9. I love the ice patterns, too. The "waves" evoke so many things, including the movements of clouds.

    I'm fortunate enough not to have been ensnared (yet!) by a retractable dog leash, although I've had a couple of close calls.

    Now I'm recalling a former cycling body who was attacked by some young people who stretched thin fishing line across a bend in the Prospect Park loop. I heard of the same thing happening to a few other cyclists when I was living near the park about fifteen years ago.

    Apart from the encounter with the dog leash, it sounds like you had a good and interesting day.

  10. Newbury Street has never been connected because of structural support underneath the original Charlesgate bridge and now the Bowker Overpass are in the way. If the overpass is ever removed and the Back Bay side of the Charlesgate Bridge reconstructed, one would hope that Newbury Street would be connected as a through way for the first time.

  11. What a delightful commute! I can't wait until I have that kind of commute on a regular basis, when I can bike over a stunning bridge, take in the view of the city, and drop in at REI for a set of ear bags (I could really use some ear bags, too). And I love the red coat.