May11, 2012 – My Magical Miracle Morning
“It’sa bike thing, you wouldn’t understand.” I should get a T shirt with this on it.There is something about riding a bike that seems to change the human genome.The more hours you log on two wheels, a subtle shift in the DNA begins to causea psychological phenomenon, like an 11th commandment: Thou Shalt NotDismount. Perhaps it’s a twisted application of Newton’s Law: a biker in motionshall remain in motion, regardless of red lights, pedestrians, motor vehicles,or even other bikers.
It’slogical when riding uphill. You need to keep the momentum in order to ease theuphill climb. It’s hard to get started at the top of a hill. But I find that,even on a perfectly flat street, I do notwant to stop, for anything. If I see a light changing to red in the distance, Iwill slow my pace, I will ride in circles, and, yes, I will carefully check thetraffic and go through on yellow or even red, if green is not available. I havebuilt my skill at balancing, even on my new skinny wheels, rather than set afoot down.
Mymorning commute is 10 miles. From the front door of my house, I go downhill forone block and take a left on a suburban road that is partially closed totraffic, and is solely bike path for several blocks. Unless it’s school bustime, I can make my way to the only traffic light before the entrance to theFour Mile Run and W&OD bike paths. On the morning in question, the light atWashington Boulevard is green and I sail across, taking the bike lane up andover the bridge over Route 66, taking a left into the cul de sac that gives meaccess to the W&OD. It’s less than a mile to the beginning of the CustisTrail, which I ride uninterrupted to Rosslyn. The few traffic lights along thefinal approach are usually clear, as they are this morning, and, with luckytiming, the two major roads to cross before taking the pedestrian bridge to theMount Vernon Trail turn green for me.
Thebig hurdle is crossing Route 50 and the GW Parkway – both clogged withcommuters reluctant to stop for runners or bikers, regardless of how slowlythey’re moving. But on this day, like the Red Sea complying with Moses’scommand, the traffic parts as I approach – not just once, but twice. Happily, Iride across Memorial Bridge. As I round the curve toward the Lincoln Memorial,again – the flow of cars ceases, just for me. It’s like a movie fantasy inwhich the background freezes and only the protagonist is alive and moving inthe scene. The world has come to a standstill for my benefit and I rideunimpeded. I make my way down the Mall and, this is too good to be true, this never happens: I hit the lights to crossfirst 17th Street and then Constitution Avenue without so much as ahesitation. I’m starting to wonder: is it possible? Could I have a no-stopmorning?
Up15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue – the lights remain with me. Iknow that if I get onto my favorite high – the autobahn of biking – the two-waybike path in the center of Pennsylvania Avenue, I have a chance. Yes! Thetraffic stops as I approach and I’m in the center lane. I’ve done it oftenenough that I know exactly when to speed up, when to slow down, when to pushthrough on yellow, and when – well – I just have to anticipate the green that Ican’t quite wait for. It is too good to be true. I take my left turn onto 7thStreet and know: I WILL NOT STOP. Heart pumping with glee, I pedal furiouslyuphill toward my final destination on E Street, and I’ve done it: my magical, miraclemorning; the one, the only, non-stop bike commute.
Ican’t help wanting a repeat, but, let’s face it: what are the odds? I know Ishould simply savor the joy of that special day and not expect or even hope forit again. After all – it won’t ever be like the first time. And other days havetheir own special magic. One day the glisten of the sun sparkling the Potomac.Another day the sighting of a great blue heron, or a hawk, or the wigglingcuteness of a duck’s white tail pointing skyward. But still…