Commuting by Bike and Train

In an effort to walk (or rather pedal) my talk I have chosen to leave my vehicle at home during the week and use my bicycle to get to and from the train station on a regular basis as opposed to just doing it during bike to work month as I have in previous years.

I have had more than a little bit of trepidation about getting down the highest part of the hilltop in Tacoma safely in the dark wee hours of the morning (lived in a different neighborhood last year) and hauling my out of shape butt back up in the afternoon (not to mention the extremely bicycle UNfreindly streets of Kent).

Here’s a video I made of my first ever bike-train-bike commute in 2008 (didn’t live up on the hilltop then so the Tacoma portion was much easier) *there will be a video of this commute if I can get a bit of extra time in the morning and some dry weather.

make with the clicky clicky to see the video (I do NOT miss those stairs)

After the successful test ride on the new bike in the pouring rain (thank goodness for disk brakes) to the farmer’s market on Saturday, I was confident that I’d be ready to give it a go on Tuesday morning (I don’t work on Mondays)

Between the time change and my nerves I barely got any sleep on Monday night. I was up well before the alarm went off and scrambled to get my gear on and get out the door (lunch and work clothing was already packed up and ready to go).

My neoprene bike shoe covers were the first “sticking point”. They’re very tight and next to impossible to get zipped up quickly. I tried every position imaginable to get leverage and at one point ended up on the floor.

I think I pulled a butt muscle.

Next was turning on the plethora of lights on the bike. Paranoid girl likes to be lit up like a Christmas tree when she rides.

My favorite lights are the spoke lights.

I made it out the door and down the front steps onto the wet, wild windy (and gritty, don’t forget the grit) streets of the hilltop and had Epic Fail My rear tire was flat and I could not be late that day, so I ended up driving.

That night, I pulled the rear wheel off (rear tire flats are great fun with a long derailleur and disk brakes which is why I didn’t think 5:15 AM in the rain while rushing to make a train would be the best time for my first attempt) and replaced the tube. I couldn’t find any glass or debris in the tire, nor a hole through the tire, but did discover that the tube had been kinked/folded over on its self inside the tire which if not the cause was not likely helpful.

After obsessively -compulsively- anal retentively checking and rechecking the tire pressure that night and the next morning, I was ready to try again.

I had gotten a bit more sleep than the night before (still nervous) and gearing up went smoothly, all except the stupid shoe covers. (again)

I think I re aggravated my pulled butt muscle.

I wound my way around the neighborhood, chose a route down S 15th, to Fawcett to 23rd recommended by a friend and fellow Tacoma Wheelman who has worked on the Tacoma Master Mobility Plan, Steven Garrett and made it down the dark, steep wet hill in one piece. (have I mentioned how much I love disk brakes?)

I pulled up to the train platform on the closest end as I was worried about time and wanted to be able to jump on the closest car if I had to, but wanted to get up to the front car as that makes my departure from Kent station easier. I swiped my Orca card (my jacket is just a bit too thick to leave it in the sleeve pocket darn it) and trotted up to the front car while pushing the bike. The conductor giggled and said, “No need to worry or run, we have two and a half minutes)

I made it in plenty of time, strapped my bike in and sat down to enjoy the ride to Kent. The train is SO much better than driving)

I have several “train buddies” who get on and off at different points on the route. ) One of my Cascade Bicycle Club friends Robert, gets on in Auburn, so we get to visit between there and Kent.

I got off the train, swiped my Orca card (have to remove it from the sleep pocket to make it work, grrrr…) turned my lights back on and proceeded to find the least life threatening way to my office.

I was greatly amused to see folks standing in line waiting for the DART in the cold and the wet (I sure don’t miss that)

Since you can’t make a left turn onto James Street from the station, I chose to ride on the deserted sidewalk on the side of the street I was on until I could hit 4th St to head North. I was doing well until my bike tried to go out from under me. You see, the sidewalks around Kent Station are quite ornamental and there is a wide gap almost exactly the width of a bicycle tire that runs its length. Wet tire, wide gap… great fun.

How embarrassing would that have been? Crashing on the sidewalk of all places?

Heading up 4th St made bit a bit nervous as there are no street lights at all and it’s pitch black, but the other alternative was the much busier West Valley Highway (oh hell no) or the Interurban Trail which I would never consider riding alone on in the dark through that part of town.

S 228th was the usual no sidewalk, no shoulder, no bike lane, impatient speeding driver gauntlet which I was glad to get on and off of as quickly as possible.
I managed to finish the 1st half of the commute unscathed.

One of the most challenging parts of this is no coffee until I get to work, and then a wait until the café opens.

After work, I did take the Interurban trail down to the station. During the day, I can see who and what is around me (and there are more legitimate trail users out), as opposed to in the dark when someone can see me and my blinky lights coming from a mile away and I can’t see them until they decide to knock me over and mug me.

This time, I chose the most Southern car so that I’d be closest to my direction of travel when I got off the train. (remove Orca card from sleep pocket, swipe, return to pocket… again…)

The route up the hill (after once again, removing my Orca card from my sleeve pocket to swipe it) I chose was suggested by another experienced and community minded Tacoma Wheelman, Carla Gramlich who suggested that I head around S Tacoma Way as it is a more gradual hill and has much less traffic than running the gauntlet downtown. It is blocked by construction, so I followed her advice and rode up Delin St just to the South, crossed the bridge over to S Tacoma Ave and headed up the hill.

The mistake that I made was exiting S Tacoma Way on Yakima Ave; as I turned the corner to head up 25th (a nice, wide, low traffic road) I was faced with one of many short steep hills from hell in Tacoma. I have to (with some shame) admit that I made it about ¾ of the way up and then put a foot down lest I go over from lack of momentum.

Holy crap, I am out of shape. I was hacking stuff up out of my lungs that I didn’t even know was there. Of course, a few more weeks of this and I’ll get back into shape real quick.

Today, I’ll continue up to J Street (as she advised) which will give me a more gradual hill on which to get to 25th St.

When I got home yesterday, hot, sweaty, gritty and tired, I found the opera gloves I ordered for the Royal Wedding Tea Party at Serenity Garden Design. I was pretty amused by the elegant satin gloves being held by the gritty cyclist.

Here’s a bike to work video I did in 2009 when I rode the entire distance from my home in the Stadium District to my office in Kent WA. (since it’s a two hour ride, I don’t do it on the morning end of the ride often) When the days get longer and I need longer training rides (and I’m in way better shape than I’m in now), I’ll ride all the way home at the end of the day instead of using the train.

I feel more energized when I get to work in the morning (despite the delayed caffeine gratification)

It’s taking 11-12 minutes in the morning to get to the train station (I have to use my brakes a lot going down the hills) and about 15 to get to work. Another 15 in the afternoon to get back to the train and a slower 20 minute slog up the hill.

This means that by just going to work, not only am I saving gas, reducing emissions and traffic congestion, but I’m getting an hour of exercise in each day.

I call that “winning” (please forgive the pop culture reference; I just couldn’t help myself 😉


Mood: Tired


Walking/Pedaling the Talk

As part of my rant against the futility (and down right ignorance) of a one day “gas strike” I offered up some suggestions on making an actual difference, which ran the gamut from contacting legislators directly to lobby for clean, renewable energy sources, to eating locally grown sustainable food (better yet, growing our own) to making daily (or even weekly) changes in our driving habits to reduce consumption of and dependency on fossil fuel.

I was challenged by someone on a Facebook page demanding to know if I “walk to work one day a week.”

Uh, no… 21 miles (one way) is a bit more of a walk than I’m up for on a daily basis.

I work a compressed schedule (4/10s), taking me out of the commuter pool one day a week.

I am taking public transit (the train)

But in order to really walk pedal the talk, I’m making a bigger change.

I took money that had been earmarked for a vacation (sigh, no Alaska cruse for me) and instead put it into a commuter bicycle.

Starting tomorrow (I don’t work on Mondays) I will not be using a car, or even a metro van pool to get to or from the train station. I will ride my bike on each end of the journey.

Yes, you can take your bike on the train or bus.

Meet Xena… (name that because she’s a road warrior)

She’s a Scott Sub 20 urban bike with a strong frame, wide tires, and disk brakes to get me safely down the steep plunge off of the hilltop, and 11/32 gears on the rear cog to get me back up that hill at the end of the day (which is going to totally suck for the first few weeks)

Here she is “naked”

New Commuter Bike (Xena the Road Warrior) 001

and here she is all geared up with a trunk bag, panniers, and lots and lots of lights for those dark mornings.

New Commuter Bike (Xena the Road Warrior) 007

New Commuter Bike (Xena the Road Warrior) 011

New Commuter Bike (Xena the Road Warrior) 013

The first place I rode her was to the Farmer’s Market in Proctor for some Feisty Gals Coffee… (which just happens to be roasted a mere four blocks from me)

New Commuter Bike (Xena the Road Warrior) 014

Where I also danced in the rain with a farmer… (hey, there was music)

cell phone photo by Francine Mastini

This is actually going to be an interesting experience coming down off the Hilltop-I’ve ridden my road bike (which would never withstand nor be safe for daily all season commuting on this hill) down from my old place in the Stadium district (much gentler hill) but this is going to be an entirely different animal.

There will be video once we get a dry morning.

Wish me luck, I think I’ll need it for the first few weeks.


Mood: Mildly Tredpidatious