College Park/Home

First: Many thanks to everyone who’s commented on my search for a tiny touring bike. The #bikedc community (and those in its extended environs) has been critical in teaching me about bikes, and the quality of feedback I’ve received on crowdsourced questions is always unparalleled. I don’t know what I’ll end up with yet, but I’m very glad to have your input.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (and therefore miss the monumental number of whiny tweets I unleash on Monday nights between 7 and 9:45 p.m. weekly): I’m in grad school. I’m getting my master’s in historic preservation at University of Maryland, which I also attended for my undergraduate degree.

I biked to class last semester because class was in a (crumbling, earthquake-rattled, possibly haunted) historic house in Bladensburg that UMD owns. Bostwick House is basically inaccessible by public transit. It was not a pleasant ride, but I got in 14 miles in per week by default.

This semester, I have class on campus. I can take Metro, which takes about an hour and gives me plenty of time to read. And I had dragged my feet on figuring out a route that was safe-ish; I’m a confident cyclist but have only ever accessed UMD via Adelphi Road, which is bad enough on weekends. I am also completely disinterested in riding on trails at night. But not riding sucks, especially because having an evening class means I don’t have any other time to be active on Mondays.

A bike-commuter classmate who lives in Columbia Heights and works for UMD kindly sent me his route, which goes through Hyattsville and enters campus through University Heights/Calvert Hills. I followed it mostly to the letter on the ride out last Monday, then tweaked things to my preference on the way home. Here’s an approximate Google map.


Some notes, out:

  • I followed the same route around McMillan and through Brookland as I did last semester, Irving to Monroe to 12th to Newton. I know Irving is intimidating because it’s built like a freeway, but it’s efficient and the lanes are wide. I recommend it over anything else if you’re looking to go in that direction: take the lane, and drivers will pass you. Traffic is rarely heavy, so they can do so easily. I find Michigan/Monroe to be worse and drivers there to be more agitated. Alternately, you can take Kansas to Hamilton to Galloway through Fort Totten.
  • 22nd/Varnum until crossing East-West Highway is really easy, low-traffic, no real inclines—that’s all through Hyattsville. And once you get across East-West into University Park, it’s more of the same, until…
  • Queen’s Chapel through University Heights: it’s a climb. Amherst is a reward.
  • I took Guilford, past the business school, to get onto campus. Guilford is nowhere near as steep as Knox Road and it’s easier to take the lane. There are a ton of stop signs along Guilford and Mowatt, even though they’re narrow.

Some notes, in:

  • I took Route 1 to Queen’s Chapel on the way back to avoid climbing Amherst. At 10 p.m., there’s not much traffic, and the light at Guilford is long enough that you can almost get to Queen’s Chapel before cars start moving south on Route 1 again.
  • 44th Avenue is one-way once you cross East-West Highway, but it (or 43rd Avenue, also one-way) the only way to get onto Queensbury. Zoom in close on Google Maps and you’ll see that the green bike-lane indicator that appears to be a continuation of 42nd Avenue is a path through nothing. I had no interest in trying that.
  • I wanted to avoid the hill on Newton Street, between 20th and 12th streets NE (it was on my route home last semester), so I zig-zagged through Brookland until I got to 12th Street. There’s probably a more organized way to do that.

I was pleasantly surprised by this route. The routine pinch points getting out of the city are there, but Hyattsville is super-easy to get through. I did this on President’s Day so traffic may have been lighter than normal, but most of the roads are residential. And since I ride out at 10 p.m., there’s barely any traffic and everything’s very quiet. (On one hand, this is a really lovely way to ride. On the other, if something goes wrong with my bike, I’m fucked. I carry stuff to fix a flat and additional tools, but if my chain pops—last semester, riding the Schwinn, I worried about my derailleur breaking, which happened on the Jamis once!—I’m nowhere near public transit. I felt the same riding to Bladensburg.)

I did this on the Wabi, carrying my laptop (and bike lock, and books, and snacks) in my Ortlieb messenger. This is ride is doable on a single-speed, even if you’re carrying weight and even if you’ve gone to Crossfit for the first time in several months the same afternoon. The weather a little humid and around 40 degrees—not awesome, but tolerable. I’m really looking forward to doing this in the spring.

I’ve got class on Monday night and an advising appointment on Tuesday afternoon, both of which I’ll bike to if the weather’s accommodating. That should help me nail down any variations I’d like to take (I’m thinking of taking 41st instead of 40th, or following Taylor out instead of Newton).

Identifying an enjoyable-enough route to UMD from D.C. has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was an undergrad, so I’m glad to have finally figured out something that works for me. Last semester, there was only one night where the weather was so bad I couldn’t ride, and I hope I’m so lucky again this time around.

Errandonnee #9, 10, and 11

It’s almost Feb. 20, so I’m sneaking in one last errandonnee update. I don’t have Garmin outputs or Strava maps, because I either didn’t turn the thing on or it deleted itself (has anyone plugged their Garmin into their computer and gotten a loud, continuous beeping noise? That happened to me the other day! And then all my ride data got erased!).

But I did complete the erradonnee—accidentally, as I expected!

I rode to Lydia’s house for dinner last Saturday night. She lives about a mile from me, so that’s two miles there and back.

On Sunday, I posted up at Tryst with a book, Seven Types of Ambiguity. I’m not a D.C. Library patron (I’m not even a member!), so I’m going to count that as my library stop. I was reading there for over two hours, anyway. I rode from Pat’s house in Columbia Heights to Tryst, which is about a mile and a half.

On Monday, I went from Rice on 14th Street, where I had lunch with Bec, to BicycleSpace to buy an extra tube for the tires on the Wabi; I rode to College Park* that night, and wanted to have 650C tubes on me in the event that I needed to fix a flat. Google Maps tells me that’s about a mile, so that counts for about 3.7 miles including my return trip (my apartment in Mount Pleasant is 2.7 miles from BicycleSpace).

That’s the errandonnee. I squeaked in just over 30 miles. I’ll print and fill out the control card when I’m at my office tomorrow, and perhaps ruminate on how it worked here in a bit.

*I’m not counting it for the errandonnee, but my ride to/from College Park is just under 20 miles. I’ll blog about that later.

Errandonneuring #6, #7, and #8

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s day. I drank a tallboy of Steel Reserve and listened to a lot of pop-punk. Since I tend to win men over with my ability to consume certifiably terrible malt liquor and my extensive knowledge of bands on Drive-Thru Records circa 2003, it was a successful occasion.

I wasn’t capable of staying inside today, so I didn’t. My errandonnee control card benefitted: I knocked off the personal care/health control with a morning doctor’s appointment and the any-store-that’s-not-a-grocery-store control when I stopped at Red Onion.

I did a bunch of other things, too: I dropped some clothing off at the dry cleaner on my way back to my office after my doctor’s appointment, then met Brian for lunch at Siam House in Cleveland Park, where we, oddly enough, spent more time talking about D.C. politics than poodles. After chatting with Josh and Sam (a new WABA member!) and picking up the new Pissed Jeans album at Red Onion*, I got my septum pierced at Tattoo Paradise (it’s been over a month since I’ve modified my body in some way so, you know, it was time). I got cash from the Bank of America ATM on Columbia Road, then stopped by Crooked Beat to buy a ticket to tonight’s Evens show at St. Stephen’s.

At work, I continued to tweak the monstrosity that is WABA’s monthly print newsletter until I decided it was time to quit. As I walked into my apartment, my coworker called to ask if I could come back to the office and let her in so that she could get her keys. I rode back to WABA via Mount Pleasant Street and returned home on 16th Street. I’m counting this as my wild-card errandonnee.

I’m counting all my miles ridden today, eleven, toward the errandonnee—not because I want to succeed (I want to succeed!) but because today was one long string of errands, even if some weren’t control-card-able. I didn’t bother to bring the Garmin with me on my last ride to and from WABA, so those last miles (I’ll say two miles) aren’t on this map:


Things I learned today:

  • Siam House has a pretty good lunch special.
  • The new Pissed Jeans album is great.
  • Septum piercings don’t hurt.
  • No record store is stocking the new Veronica Falls.
  • I can and will spend 40 minutes adjusting a text box to the one-thousandth of an inch.
  • Beer is a Chasing Mailboxes-approved dessert.

Current errandonnee status: 3.8 miles and a bike shop, dinner, and a library to go.

*I gave Josh a big stack of D.C. bike ambassador spoke cards to leave out at Red Onion. If you want some sweet-looking swag for your bike and also enjoy supporting local record stores, you should go to Red Onion, buy an album, and take a spoke card.

Errandonneuring #4 and #5

Here’s my embarrassingly short ride to work. It’s about .75 miles one way if I ride on 16th Street, as I did on Monday. (Occasionally, I’ll take Mount Pleasant Street if I leave between 8 and 9 a.m., because 16th Street gets so trafficky.) There’s control #5, to and from work, adding 1.5 miles for a total of 11 miles.

errand 3

Here’s some stuff we do in my office:

Also, I was immensely proud of the traffic numbers on WABA’s blog earlier this week. My boss wrote an excellent post about why we oppose Maryland’s mandatory helmet law, and thanks to some crossposting and significant circulation (and, I guess, the fact that people really, really love to talk about helmets), Quick Release’s traffic peaked.


I am wondering if I can make anything I did yesterday count as an errandonnee, because my movement was very multi-modal. I rode to work, left my office around 3 p.m. for a quick ride (it was so gorgeous out!), and rode to L Street to watch the bike ambassadors do their thing. I then walked to Metro Center, took the Red line to Silver Spring, walked to the Silver Spring Civic Center for an Action Committee for Transit meeting about the Purple line, and walked to Quarry House for post-meeting margaritas and tacos. Then, I rode down Georgia for a last drink at DC Reynolds. If a beer counts as dessert, I can justify last night’s 4.2-mile ride from Quarry House to DC Reynolds as control #6, coffee or dessert, for a total of 15.2 miles so far.


Current errandonnee status: 14.8 miles and a bike shop, dinner, any store that’s not the grocery store, personal care/health, a library, and a wild card to go.

Errandonneuring #1, #2, and #3

Mary, writer of Chasing Mailboxes and creator of most excellent riding challenges modeled after the structure of a randonnee, has unveiled a thing to do in February: errandonneuring.

I only completed two coffeeneuring controls last fall. I wasn’t really trying! I like the errandonneuring challenge because it somewhat relies on not trying—all the controls are things I have to do anyway. Hopefully, I’ll have to do all of them within a 12-day span, and the total mileage will equal thirty or more. I will be an accidental errandonneur.

If I’ve read the rules correctly, I’ve knocked off three different controls: I attended MoveDC’s Idea Exchange at the Martin Luther King Jr. library yesterday. (I’ll write about it for WABA’s blog soon; no need to say much here other than it was good to see a number of D.C. cyclists out in force.) On the way home, I stopped at District Taco for lunch. This evening, I went to the Adams Morgan Yes! to stock up on juicing supplies. So that covers a public meeting, a lunch (7.4 miles together), and a grocery store trip (2.1 miles, for a total of 9.5 miles).

Behold, Garmin outputs screenshotted from Strava:

errand errand2

I rarely take pictures of my rides, but here are some tangentially related shots:


Eric and I point like planners.


The results of two hours of collective juicing with Rebecca and Nelle.

I’ve got 20.5 miles and six errands (a bike shop, coffee or dessert, dinner, any store that’s not the grocery store, personal care and health, a library, work, and a wild card) to go. I live about a mile away from most of the things I do—including my job!—so sometimes I get lazy about running the Garmin, and my mileage is pretty low compared to many of those in #bikdc. But I’m interested to see how far I get.