Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Fall colors peaked on Monday, two days ago. The morning view biking up Arnette Street, with red and white oaks rising above old wood frames, was perfect. Then it rained on Tuesday, and today the street was thick with fallen leaves. The views remained gorgeous, not just on the street but high above, in my office suite at Erwin Square, but I'm still calling Peak Day for autumn 2010: November 15th.

The rain raises another issue, which perhaps I should address anyway, as a service to anyone considering bicycle commuting: the mechanics. During my first stint as a bicycle commuter, I avoided rain as much as possible, driving my car when skies threatened, but during my most recent previous round on two wheels, I biked to work without regard to weather: rain, snow, cold… I worked at NC State, and I didn't have a parking pass. I was committed.

Lack of a parking pass was certainly an incentive, but the real difference between my first and last previous experiences as a bicycle commuter was the nature of my destination. The first time, I was headed for an office building, with an elevator ride as the final leg of my journey. The last previous time, at NC State, I worked in an office suite converted from a graduate dorm suite, in a building that still, otherwise, was a graduate-student dorm. I passed no besuited executives on my way in, I had no elevator to ride, and I had a shower right across from my office.

Today, I once again work in an office tower and ride an elevator en route to Duke's leased space at Erwin Square, and I'm reluctant to arrive looking too bedraggled. Thanks to the nearby Brodie gym, I'm freshly showered, at least (though in summer, when the humidity kept my hair from drying, I worried that my wet locks would be mistakenly thought of as sweat-soaked), but the final third of a mile leaves plenty of opportunity for rain to render me quite unpresentable, though the service elevator does offer an alternate route, I suppose.

There are other reasons for my rain aversion. First and foremost, there was my wrist injury during the summer, in a non-rain-related bike accident, yes, but it still makes me nervous about wet roads. I only recently got around to having X-rays taken to confirm there was no fracture, and now I've been given PT exercises to stretch my shortened ligaments. As well, I flash back to my worst rain experience, when I got caught in a downpour on Erwin Road, en route to a meeting at the Lemur Center. I arrived quite thoroughly soaked, which was unpleasant, though I still managed to enjoy walking through the woods with lemurs leaping from tree to tree, following my group.

So rain makes me skip the occasional day, such as yesterday, and skipping calls attention to the mechanics, the procedural issues that are normally second nature, but which become less natural when the routine is interrupted. What's involved? To start with, there're changes of clothes: first, the ones I wear while biking to the gym, then the clothes I wear while working out at the gym (same as my biking clothes in the summer, but different now that it's colder outside), then the change for work, starting with the underwear I change into after showering and before my final leg of biking, then ending with the outerwear I change into at the office. Sometimes the office clothes are in my backpack, other times they're stockpiled at work, and often it's a bit of both. Then there're the toiletries, which come out of my pack when I'm showering at home and driving to work, then go back in when I'm back on my bike and showering at the gym. Today I noticed that I was almost out of soap, so I'll have to remember to replace it. Then there's the locker lock, the bicycle lock, my iPod (for the gym), my towel… It seems like a lot to remember, but I normally put together my pack half-asleep and still get it right, then go through my changes and morning routine with little thought. Skip a day, though, and I find myself arriving at the gym without my toiletries (happened only once, and fortunately I found a bar of soap in the shower), or my towel (again only once, but that was less pleasant), or I leave my iPod uncharged and must listen to the awful TV of my fellow gym goers (did you know MTV still shows videos in the morning?). Today I found myself staring blankly at my locker door, wondering where I was in the process. Oh yes, I've just changed out of my bike clothes, into my workout clothes, and now I must stow my bag and head for the elliptical machines. Then it'll be back to the locker room and on to the showers. And so to work.

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