sustainable commute

yesterday i biked 15 miles to work, and the day before that, 30 miles. whew! it felt good!

testing, testing
i had done the 15-mile ride twice before - once going in to work, and once coming home. each time the other leg of the trip had been done in the truck i share with nux. we have similar work schedules, and so we drive into town together every day, i drop her off, go to work, then pick her up by the time her shift is done. it's been getting a bit maddening lately, though, spending the same few hours at home every day, the same ride in the truck, her not being able to drive to the sub shop for a meal on her break, etc. and the gas is killer, since it's a 15 mile drive each way and we do it seven days a week.

a little help
since spring i had been thinking about biking to work more regularly. the time that i biked in to work, i was contending with spring winds, and that added 30 minutes to my trip. the wind was so bad i had to pedal on the downhills. not very fun. it's not all that much better now, with the heat, but i was lucky enough to get stopped on one of my rides by a local, who informed me that most cyclists take a different road to get into manhattan than the highway i was taking.

the clincher
turns out taking the old military trail road that follows the railroad and the river is great! the hills are much gentler, the air cooler because of the forests, and there's a good amount of shade, depending on the time of day.

gearing up for commitment
anyway, long story short - wednesday was my day off, and i decided that if i could make the whole commute for pleasure, get to the local bike shop, and get my bike tuned up, i'd be good and motivated to ditch the truck and ride my bike more often. and it totally worked. it took me about an hour and a half each way, and the helpful guys at pathfinder showed me how to maintain my retro road bike - something i had never properly learned since buying it back in college. they tightened things up, oiled the chain, realigned my brake pads (i got new ones, too!), re-ran a cable that was getting torn up, and told me how to generally keep the bike in good shape despite long daily commutes. and they didn't even charge me for the service!

after the bike shop i detoured to the grocery store next to my work - i spend a lot of time there - and munched on a yummy wrap, savored a luna bar, guzzled water, and then headed home. as i was pedaling through a neighborhood on the outskirts of wamego, a guy got out of his vehicle and shouted at me, "you biked all the way from manhattan!". we ended up talking for a few minutes, since it turned out he had seen me leaving town. how awesome is that?! i always wonder if people take notice of cyclists on the road, wonder where they're going or how long they've been pedaling. then i wheeled back home, to sweet lil franny, who still needed a walk. what a day.

the next day i biked in to work. i left about fifteen minutes earlier than nux, and made it with just enough time to change, wash my face, and generally make myself presentable after a long, hot ride. after work i biked over to nux's job (only a 10 minute trip), tossed my bike in the back of sandy, our pickup truck, and read an essay on tearing down civilization until she clocked out and we drove on home.

1. i am apparently in better shape than i realized, or, 30 miles isn't so tough if you just keep pedaling
2. it's hot in kansas in the summer. skin-soothing balms and a healthy aloe plant are great allies, as is a water bottle
3. wild turkeys look totally awesome (and strange) up close
4. it helps to know how to shift gears on your own bike
5. going at bike-speed makes it easier to connect with folks
6. forest breezes in late afternoon feel way better than air conditioning
7. i will never drive again without thinking about all the dead dragonflies, cicadas, butterflies, and bees that i've seen by the roadside (not to mention dead mammals). rest in peace, friends
8. if you wear a bag or backpack for that long in the sun, you will get a funny tan line. ditto for wearing a bandanna across your forehead

do you bike regularly? or just now and then? not at all? have you ever done a long trip, and if so what was it like for you? any suggestions for folks trying to use their bike more often than their car?