Monday, February 18, 2008

Commuting challenge

What a magnificent ride this morning. Thanks to North Carolina’s loose interpretation of “winter,” I needed only a tank top, lightweight shirt, and leggings to keep me plenty warm today. The air was fresh and wet, and soft puffy clouds shielded my eyes from the full exuberance of the sunrise. When I stopped to take off my sweater, I saw cardinals hopping and chirping in the tree next to me, and a red-headed woodpecker insistently drilling a telephone pole. I had to laugh. I could’ve ridden for hours.

It isn’t always this perfect, though. Last week I hit a real morale slump. I was tired, and it was cold. On Tuesday, riding my bike seemed like about as much fun as cleaning out a porta-john. But somehow I made myself do it. Wednesday, I was prevented by a 70% chance of rain. Thursday, a freak snowstorm kept me off the road. (Like I said, Carolina winters…)

Yesterday I finally hooked up a bike odometer I got for Christmas, and gathered some encouraging statistics. This morning I spent just under 28 minutes in motion, at an average speed of 11.7 mph. I maxed out at 17.7 mph on Benbow Street, and covered 5.5 miles overall. And, may I encourage you, I did all this on a 12-year-old mountain bike with 24" diameter tires - which is to say, if your bike is anything other than prehistoric, you will probably go even faster.

Incidentally, in the process I burned 149 calories and 15.9 grams of fat, rather than 1/3 gallon of gasoline. I saved myself a dollar and twenty minutes at the gym. And all that will double this afternoon.

In my slump last week, I set myself a goal: to commute by bike 100 times this spring. So far, I’ve done 27. If I make this goal, I’ll cover the distance from here to New York City. (So far, I’d be in Warfield, VA.) I’ll save at least 30 gallons of gas, and $100 in fuel costs. (At this point I’ve saved almost one tank.) And best of all, I’ll spend two entire days of time outside, time that I would otherwise spend stuck behind the wheel.

I’m excited.

by Sadie Kneidel

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