Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Mixed-Media Multiple-Scope Retrospective (1/3)

In the nostalgic spirit that seems to envelop everybody at the turn of a new year, and a new decade, I've embarked on three parallel retrospectives, each looking back at a successively longer period. I have a sudden intense need to recover lost memories, probably prompted by seeing some old, old friends and a strange (and completely inexplicable in this forum) voyeuristic obsession with high school love.

The retrospective work that is satisfying this need is:

(1) a data-centric retrospective of my fall quarter bicycle riding
(2) a selection of representative quotes from a year's worth of morning pages
(3) a CD-length mix of the decade's best songs

I wanted to post them all tonight, before winter vacation ends, but (2) entails reading over 1,000 handwritten pages and is taking way too long. So I'll start with (1) tonight, (3) tomorrow, and hopefully (2) within the next few days. By the way, the picture is of me (pretending to play the bass) about a decade ago, in early 2001.

P.P.S. Before I start, did you know that the decade's "top" song according to pop radio charts was... Usher's "Yeah"? If you listen to pop radio, that is probabilistically the song you spent the most time listening to this decade. I was about to muse on how we all feel about having spent possibly hours of our lives hearing Li'l John say, "...OhKay!" but then I realized that anyone who listens to pop radio has found a way to accept - no, enjoy relentless repetition, and so would probably be unmoved by such a contemplation.

Speaking of enjoying relentless repetition...

In the fall quarter of 2009 I bicycled 825 miles, approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is actually much less than the total I expected! My weekly average was 68.8 miles. Usually I biked to campus and back (24 miles round trip) on Monday and Wednesday, and on Tuesdays I bussed to campus and biked back. I did lots of little one miles rides down into Westwood Village and then back up to the School of Public Affairs at the northeast tip of UCLA campus. The last two weeks I did very little biking due to being sleep deprived and stressed (10 and 32 weekly miles, respectively). My highest mileage actually took place the first week, when I was biking all over town for the first-ever Los Angeles Bike Count and was totally enthusiastic about biking to campus under any conditions.

I only rode through Tuesday morning rush-hour once, and took the bus every other time. The day I tried it, I breathed a lot of cold exhaust and was surprised to find that I traveled basically the same speed as the cars on Olympic, at least through the congested sections in Beverly Hills. But I got honked at. Rush hour (and opening the accursed peak-hour lanes on Olympic) reliably makes motorists act a little more crazy, and I chose not to deal with it.

My daily high was 32 miles, which I did on 9/30. On 10/28 and 11/10 I rode 30 miles.

Had I driven 825 miles in my Toyota Corolla, it would have cost me $75 to burn about 25 gallons of gas. I also would have paid about $300 to park on campus. (And I wouldn't have had the bicycle on campus to give me the flexibility to ride into Westwood and back). This savings more than paid for the new back light I bought (about $20) and my occasional bus rides (about $12 for the quarter). Though to be honest, I probably did burn a substantial portion of the saved money on food. I've never been as constantly hungry as I was this quarter. When I was a DIII athlete I had access to a no-limits buffet style dining hall. It's substantially harder to feed high-intensity athletic activity when you actually buy the food yourself.

Of course, by not burning those 25 gallons of gas, I reduced our foreign oil import just a tiny bit, and I prevented about 488 pounds of CO2 from being emitted.

I suspect that if I had had my car handy (my commitment to biking allowed me to park it in a garage about 8 miles from my house, and keep the spot at my apartment complex open for visitors), I would have driven more miles, so this estimate is conservative.

Folks at Helen's cycles in Westwood were invaluably helpful, mostly providing me with bike-centric study breaks and regularly well-inflated tires. I learned to bring a change of shirt to wear to class.

These 825 miles were basically incident free, except for a couple unpleasant interactions with motorists. I learned to signal much earlier when moving to the left to go around a parked car on Olympic. For the record, Santa Monica smells bad because of all the trucks on it. And of course, there's really no good route to UCLA from the East. But I co-founded a student advocacy organization that now has about 90 members, and we're working on that.

A quarter of spinning cranks and velo-love.


Anonymous said...

you a fucking badass

Sirinya said...

great blog entry, herbie!
you have to let me know if i can reprint excerpts of it on beagreencommuter.

Herbie said...

sure, of course - reprint anything from this entry.

Doug said...

Nice! I like your log! I was never devoted enough to even figure out my exact mileage to school also term (8 or 10 miles roundtrip?), but I can sympathize with some of the practicalities of biking everywhere. Definitely, bring a change of shirt. Even when it was cold, I found that a little weight on my back meant low air circulation and sweating. Also, dark colors make you feel less bad about it. :)

Looking forward to a year of bicycle commuting!

jess said...

you are a rockstar. i'm looking forward to finally biking in dc once my u-lock arrives and I'm glad I have you for inspiration.

Was lovely to meet you with Pritha over the holidays. Hope you're well and enjoying lovely california.