Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter cold returns

I took an earlier bus to downtown than usual this morning. I hadn't really planned on riding a bus for this leg of my commute to Tukwila; I'd hoped to bike it instead. But I checked the forecast before leaving the house, and the temperature was 35ºF. This led me to put on a fleece jacket, which I don't usually do until the temperature drops below 40º.

Boy, we've been having some nice weather in the Seattle area lately. This weekend was sunny with highs that must've been around 60º. I did some gardening and even led an early baseball practice in the unexpected sunshine, on a dry field which is almost unheard of at this time of year. So seeing that temperature this morning was an unpleasant reminder that even in a warm El Niño winter like this one, we still have a month to go before Spring.

I took the garbage out, where it felt even chillier than 35º, so I put on some sweatpants. Then in checking the bike before starting my ride, I noticed that my rear wheel was starting to rub up slightly against a brake pad, and since this can take 5-10 minutes to adjust, I figured I could live with it for the ride downtown. Starting off down the street, the bike was fine but it was darned cold, especially after all these sunny warm days.

I bailed out of the bike ride and caught that earlier bus downtown instead. Traffic was ugly on the freeway, but the bus sailed right through it in the right lane to the University District, and then on the express lanes to downtown where I caught my connecting bus to Tukwila without having to wait more than half a minute at my transfer station. Quite a nice alternative to driving in that nasty freeway traffic or down Aurora Ave where lane closures are in effect, albeit later in the morning. I'll give it another go tomorrow, though tomorrow's forecast calls for rain in the evening. Hopefully I'll beat it home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

(Not) Training for the holidays

Last year I did a lot of bike commuting in October and November leading up to the holidays. I gained my usual 10 pounds during those holidays, but I'd lost more than 5 of those pounds beforehand, and the holiday pounds came off by the time baseball season got into its full swing.

This past year hasn't worked out nearly so well. I didn't lose weight going into the holidays, and instead of gaining 10 pounds between Halloween and the day after New Years, I gained 15. I hit the heaviest I've even been, 10 pounds more than I've ever weighed before. And even though I'm bike-commuting more now that the weather has gotten drier this past month (about 100 miles on the bike so far this calendar year), I've really only put in a single long day on the bike since New Years.

Yes, I have to bike more even though biking is too mechanically efficient to make a good weight-loss sport unless you put a lot of effort into it -- the bike/bus commutes I usually do aren't really strenuous enough unless I do it more than my usual twice per week. It would also help if I cut back on the calories, heh.

So, my project for the solstice is to lose those 10 extra holiday pounds plus 10 more, which should get me back into somewhat better trim, though if the truth were fully told I could stand to lose 50 pounds more than that to get back to the kind of shape I was in when my lovely wife married me.

So far I've lost three of those pounds. My wife thinks I look like a sausage in my day-glo vest, though she puts it more kindly than that.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bus breakdown

Last week I saw Tito the tunnel flautist again, this time in his more usual morning habitat. He was deep in conversation with another commuter as I walked up, so I didn't have time for much more than a few words before I had to get below to catch my bus to Tukwila.

Maybe I should've waited, as once my bus got onto the freeway and was passing Boeing Field, the driver pulled over. Then I saw smoke coming out of the back of the bus, where the engine is. The driver announced that he was having engine trouble, and that another bus would be along presently to give us a lift. He offered his cell phone to anyone who would need to call ahead, which I thought was awfully nice of him. I heard someone say the delay would make him late for an interview, but aside from him and another couple takers for the cell phone, the 20-25 passengers on the bus sat quietly while the minutes ticked past. I think it was half an hour before the next bus came by, another regularly scheduled King County Metro #150, which had about the same number of riders, and therefore plenty more room for us, though seats did get scarce. I missed my morning meeting, alas.

This is the first time in 20 years of bus commuting that I've experienced a bus breakdown, but it could've been a lot worse. I remember when I was in grade school near the Hudson River and my father bought our family a second car, a 1964 Mercury Comet we promptly dubbed the "Vomit Comet" 'cause that's kinda how it smelled, so he could drive it back and forth between our home and the nearest rail station, where he rode the subway to his office in Manhattan. But then one
hot summer day his train broke down and he had to wait for three hours day in cramped standing-room-only conditions in a subway tunnel. I didn't hear many details, but he did say he would never ride the train again, and so far as I know he never did.

On my trip home, I was more than 10 minutes early for my bus at the Tukwila Park and Ride, so I rode my bike from there to downtown Seattle. On the other side of downtown, where I'd hoped to catch a second bus home, I was more than 10 minutes early for that bus, too, so I ended up riding my bike all the way home from Tukwila, more than 22 miles, ending with a climb straight up Fremont Ave from the Ship Canal, which is I think is about a 350' elevation gain in just 3/4 mile.

It wasn't a climb I'd wanted to make when I'm as out of shape as I am now, but if I have that much of a head start I can generally beat the bus home even with as much uphill as there is up Phinney Ridge, and maybe even when I'm this far out of shape, and the same was true on this trip.

I definitely needed a rubdown afterward, though.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tunnel flautists

One morning two weeks ago I got out of the house a little too late to repeat my usual winter routine of riding downtown on the King Country Metro #355, so I had to ride my bike downtown instead. This would be a good thing, as it had been about three months since I'd tried riding a route with an uphill of any consequence, this ride had a nice manageable one, and I'd been feeling out of shape on my previous ride. The only way to get in shape for bike riding is to ride your bike, so away I went.

One hill turned into several: first up Dexter from the Fremont Bridge, then a much smaller hill on Dexter from Mercer to Denny. And last, up 5th Avenue through downtown. I was really sucking wind by the time I got halfway up the last hill; out of shape indeed. I'd actually hoped to stop before that last hill, to visit with Tito the tunnel flautist, who I hadn't seen in a couple months, but a slow-moving Sound Transit #545 bus in 5th Avenue's right lane was in the way of the right turn I'd planned. Plan B was to continue on 5th Avenue to the International District station, which I did, getting there about 4 minutes before the King County Metro #150 bus that would take me on to Tukwila.

That bus was fairly full, but a seat in the middle was open.

Just as I settled into it, someone said hello and darned if it wasn't Tito himself. We had a nice chat all the way to Tukwila, talking music, family, brotherhood, jobs, and more. Drop a buck in his tip bowl some morning if you see him at the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel's
Westlake Station. He's brightened my commute many a time.

Interestingly, on my way home, I saw a different tunnel flautist at the University Street tunnel station, where I've never seen anyone playing before. I wonder if he'll become a regular there. I have to think that word of Tito (and his good nature) has gotten around in more than one community.

If it comes to it, I'd recommend tipping any musician around public transit who brightens your day. For many, it's their job.