Saturday, May 21, 2011

Goal Route #1: Commute To Work

When I started going to the gym in the morning, that meant I would be getting ready for work there and then driving the 10 - 15 mile commute to the office.  On many occasions I would see the same cyclist  riding his bike (presumably) to work on the route to the office.

I often thought to myself that it would be a great way to get exercise in and save money.  I was already getting up early to go to the gym, so I knew I could handle that aspect of it.  There were too many excuses though.  The first being I didn't have a good bike, well that excuse went out the door with a wad of cash back in December when I bought my Felt road bike.  Other excuses included dealing with bringing in clothes, where to leave the bike, the safest yet quickest route, and a myriad of other things (the workflow, remember).

May is National Bike Month and, specifically, this week was Kansas City's Bike Week (that might have been national too).  I decided to figure it all out and commute to work on Wednesday.  Weather was going to be perfect (if not chilly) for the morning commute and possibly sprinkling rain for the evening trek home.  My evening schedule gave me plenty of time for the ride, so I put it in digital ink.  Those who know me probably aren't surprised to learn that I spent more time working on my checklist in preparation than it took for the actual commute.  With help from Jill, I had it pretty well groomed.

Just as with pre-race jitters, I was a bit nervous Tuesday night.  I had a little trouble sleeping but managed to get in a good amount of sleep before the alarm went off. By 5:50am I was on the road with my 11.8 pound backpack.

This was with the iPad but I accidentally left it at home.

Not necessarily the best backpack but it held all my junk.

I did stop to enjoy the sunrise for a few moments.  I have definitely seen a lot of beautiful sunrises when I train in the morning.  I wish I would take pictures more often.

I took a route which required a little backtracking (about a mile) but the road is a bit safer... and, frankly, fewer nasty hills.  For those local, this is 9 hwy through Parkville.  Because 9 highway gets pretty ugly around an interchange to Interstate 635, I use a side road that takes me by the Argosy Casino.  This safer route actually adds 2 miles to the commute, but I'm OK with that.

Eventually, I hop back onto 9 and dodge cars by the 169 exist ramp and then though some residential and business districs of North Kansas City.  The next tricky part is how to cross the Missouri River.  Fortunately, MoDOT built a bike/pedestrian specific lane over the Heart of America bridge to make it extremely safe to cross (granted, it can get bumpy at times).  Here is a simulation of the bridge.

As I am riding through North Kansas City and turn to get on the bridge, I see a truck and four people sitting out by the path and they start applauding me as I come near!  They were people from the city and group that designed the bridge.  They were handing out bagels, juice, coffee, and fruit to those commuting to work on bike.  It was great!  I chatted with them a bit before heading on my way the last two miles to work.  I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of/with them.  I'm still new to this blogging thing.

A few minutes later I was at the YMCA a block away from my office.

After showering, this presented the next problem. What to do with the bike? I don't agonize about leaving my Trailblazer parked on the street but my bike.. of course.  I elected not to bring up the 8 floors to my cube and went with the bike rack on the parking garage next to the building.  Not sure why this seemed like a big deal but it was like dropping the kid off at daycare for the first time.  Well, I guess I assume it would be.  I only checked on it once during lunch :).

There was no such accolades about riding into the office when I got into the office as I did before the bridge.  In fact, just the opposite as I had an e-mail waiting me from Jill:

Thanks Jill.  I can alway count on you for support.
The ride home was questionable from the beginning of the day.  I had TKB drive the Trailblazer into work just in case.  Fortunately, the clouds parted and it was a nice sunny ride home.

There is one slightly annoying part of the ride home in which the exit off of 9 hwy that will take me by Argosy Casino is closed. I have to take 9 hwy all the way to Parkville, forcing me to contend with the Interstate 635 interchanges.  As I'm driving through this construction zone I hear someone yell at me.  Do I really look like a woman riding a bike?  What's with the cat call?  I decide to see and there was a guy riding a bike a few yard behind me!

He was headed to Parkville as well.  So I followed him into town.  He was a real nice guy and said that he had been commuting for four years.  I could tell from his bike setup that he'd pretty well fine-tuned his checklist too.  He had the fenders with saddle bags.  Headlamp on his helmet and bike.  Taillight on his helmet and bike as well.  He might have had a third taillight too.  I then realized, this was the same guy I had seen in the morning!

I consider this route a complete success.  I would love to see that exit open up soon.  It may add 2 miles to the commute but that is probably a good thing when you are in training.  I know the hunger is there as I drove to work Friday morning from the gym and had wished I was on my bike.  I think I'm going to try to commute at least once a week.  It'll be a great addition to my training.

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