Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘washington dc’ tag

Prepping for next week’s bike tour

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By this time next Friday, Adam and I will be on a short shakedown bike tour before our longer ride this summer. It’s still early in the season, so our routing choices for next week’s bike tour were based partly on which campgrounds would be open by then. We have the option of camping at the free hiker/biker campsites along the C&O Canal, which are open year-round, but don’t want to do the entire ride on gravel.

Our tentative plan to get a good mix of experience – and test the gear we’re carrying – is as follows:

Day 1: Say hello to Friday Coffee Club, then set off towards Frederick, Maryland.
Day 2: Ride to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then camp at Caledonia State Park in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania.
Day 3: Head towards Falling Waters, West Virginia (near the C&O Canal).
Day 4: Take the C&O Canal trail to Brunswick, Maryland.
Day 5: Back to Washington, DC – likely not via the C&O.

Works out to about 250 miles total. We will be going at a casual pace, considering our bikes will be loaded up with gear: camping and cooking stuff, food, and bike tools. Feel free to join for part of the ride if you have time. It’ll be a good test run if you’re interested in getting into bike touring! I’ll also recap what we learn from the ride when we get back.

Note: We will also be testing out the TrackMyTour iPhone app on this ride. It looks like an easy way to let family and friends know where you are. Let me know if you’ve tried this app or any similar ones, and how it’s worked out for you. Along with the manual waypoints through TrackMyTour, I’ll be using Strava to record our rides as usual.

Written by Crystal Bae

March 21st, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Snapshots in Time: Shaw, LeDroit Park, Bloomingdale

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Neighborhoods are ever-evolving, and even in a few years’ time you can track how your city is changing. Here are a few photos from this morning around Shaw, LeDroit Park, and Bloomingdale, neighborhoods that are experiencing the growth of new large-scale development alongside smaller residential projects, restaurants, and more.

Progression Place in Shaw

“Progression Place” is a mixed-use development that is currently going up next to the Shaw-Howard Metro station at 7th and S Street NW. It’ll consist of the United Negro College Fund’s national offices, additional office spaces, (probably higher-end) residences, and retail.

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church

Pictured above is the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, which despite its name is located at 2nd and Rhode Island Ave NW in the LeDroit Park neighborhood.

Condominiums next to Bistro Bohem

Bistro Bohem is a Czech restaurant in Shaw, close to the edge of the U Street corridor, that opened in March 2012. I haven’t tried it, but they serve pierogies, brats, goulash, and unique cocktails (including one with absinthe). Next door is a condominium.

Still don’t have a proper camera to replace the one that was stolen, so these are just snapshots from my phone. I probably will wait to buy another DSLR, but if anyone has recommendations for a decent point-and-shoot camera that is also lightweight, I’d love to hear them!

Written by Crystal Bae

January 20th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Year 2012 in Cycling

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When I first moved to DC, I bought a used Trek mountain bike from a seller on Craigslist for $140. I used it to get from home to school and work and back, riding down from Columbia Heights in the morning and back up through Adams Morgan in the evenings. And knowing nothing of bicycle maintenance at the time, I once let a wheel get so badly out of true that I eventually had to alternate between carrying it and half-lifting, half-rolling it the six blocks to the nearest bike shop.

My housemates and many of my friends also rode to get around – it’s just the most practical mode of transportation within the city – but I can’t recall riding for the pure pleasure of it. Cycling was simply a more reliable option than taking the bus: my commute always took the same time and I didn’t have to wait 40 minutes at night for a bus that never came. (That used to happen pretty often when I worked late shifts at work.) On my mountain bike I was slow, but faster than when I was on foot.

2012 was the first year I rode for more than pure transportation purposes. I bought my first new road bike with a recommendation from my friend, who’s an avid road cyclist. I led a team of a six to ride in the Bike MS charity ride in June, which meant I had to train for distances I had never even imagined riding before: a total of 100 miles over two days. Besides getting food poisoning a couple weeks before the ride and losing a lot of fitness there, the ride went well and everyone on my team finished the ride happy and exhausted. We polished off a couple pizzas and about half a chocolate cake afterwards. By then I also knew to keep my chain clean and lubed and how to change a flat tire, and the function of most bike parts.

Anatomy of a Road Bike, via

I’ll pull just a few numbers about my first year of getting more into cycling. Most of these stats come from Strava, where I’ve recorded maybe 80-90% of my rides this year.

Most Elevation Gain in One Month: 9,910 feet in August. I did some riding in Maryland, rode the Reston Bike Club (Metric) Century, and part of John’s Hoppy 100 ride, which I hope he makes into an annual event. I know people that climb more than this in a single ride, but I’m happy with my progress.

Most Mileage in One Month: 391.2 miles in October. This includes a weekend ride to Harpers Ferry and back, the Seagull Century, and several commutes. It’s also the month I got my Surly, which replaced my road bike and became my do-everything, pleasure-to-ride bike.

Longest Single Ride: 127.1 miles. This was my first brevet, the Flatbread 200k.

Mileage on Capital Bikeshare: Over 150 miles. This number may even be closer to 200 miles, considering I usually don’t record my short Bikeshare trips. It’s a great service to get around town, and I’d say a year-long membership is essential for anyone living in DC.

Total Mileage for 2012: 2,397.3 miles since mid-March. I’m shooting for at least 3,000 miles next year.

Below is a screencap displaying my local ride map for the year, created with Jonathan O’Keeffe’s multiple ride mapping tool. The line thicknesses represent frequency of riding specific routes. Suggestions for where to ride more in 2013? Arlington streets don’t appear to be represented, though I take the Custis Trail quite often.

2012 Full Year in Bike Rides

I’m sure all this riding balances out the beer.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 8th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Year 2012 in Drinks

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This post is a continuation of this project to record every drink we have this year, complete now with a full year’s worth of data.

I recognize that we’re only two points of reference and therefore can only draw conclusions about our own habits, but the concept of quantified life seems to be enjoying its heyday at the moment. People are getting creative about what they track and how they visualize it: Nick Felton’s design-oriented Annual Reports were my original inspiration. Tracking one’s bike rides is popular, as you can see with Strava and posts like this from a fellow rider in DC. People are measuring what they eat, where they travel, and how they spend their days. This piece in the New York Times, “The Data-Driven Life”, describes a guy who even explored how much time he spent doing his roommate’s dishes – along with everything else he spent time on throughout the course of each day.

New Belgium BrewingAlcohol consumed seems like as good a metric as any to track over the course of a year. Never having taken this kind of count before, we were frequently surprised at our totals – after a month, three months, or an entire year. Adam and I lead fairly active social lives in Washington, DC, where there are plenty of options for going out. We rarely go clubbing and prefer the bar scene or relaxed parties at friends’ houses. And this seems to be reflected in the data: we’re on average 21 times as likely to choose a beer over a mixed drink or hard liquor.

Year 2012 Totals

From January 1st, 2012 to December 31st, 2012


Total Number of Drinks: 505
(of which 82% were beers)
Average Number of Drinks per Day: 1.38
Favorite Brewery: New Belgium
Most-Frequented Watering Hole: Boundary Stone


Total Number of Drinks: 833
(of which 93% were beers)
Average Number of Drinks per Day: 2.28
Favorite Brewery: Chocolate City
Most-Frequented Watering Hole: Thunder Burger

Both of Us

Chocolate City BeerI usually have the most drinks on a Saturday, while it’s Fridays for him. On Saturdays I have more than twice as many drinks on average than on Mondays (the day with my lowest drink averages). I’m more likely to go out closer to home, and Adam goes out closer to work. That’s probably due to the fact that there aren’t very many good places to grab a drink near my office, which isn’t in the city.

Number of drinks for both of us also trend down overall throughout the entire year. However, the numbers trend upward going from the beginning of the year into the summer, then drop in late summer and trend upward again towards the end of the year (and the holiday season).

Number of Drinks in 2012

Click to zoom.

More to come. Let me know what you think or would have been interesting to note!

Written by Crystal Bae

January 7th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Year 2012 Recap: The Good, the Bad, and the Goals

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2012 has been a memorable year.

I traveled to Boulder in the spring to visit a good friend, took an end-of-summer trip around Iceland, and spent a long weekend in Atlanta with two of my oldest friends. I rode my bike over a hundred miles in a single day (twice), followed ongoing transportation projects in the area, and organized a couple of local rides that turned out to be very popular. I went on a 50km/31mi hike that lasted 12 hours and left me with more memories than blisters (though it gave me plenty of blisters). I spent a lot of time in a tent, though I would have liked to spend more. I read some great books and also started writing more. I made lots of new friends and reconnected with others.

There have also been some bad moments in the year, such as the time my friend got into a bad crash. Or the time our apartment got burglarized. But these have also served as important learning moments, teaching me and those around me that although you have to be careful, you can’t prevent everything.

New Belgium Brewery

On another note, Adam and I spent the year tracking our drink consumption and are working now to summarize that information. We’ve got a year’s worth of data. It makes for a good feeling to track an aspect of our lives for an entire year, and in total it comes to something like 16,000 fluid ounces of beverages between the two of us to make sense of – so as you can imagine, this’ll take some time. We’ll find out if the metrics we tracked were the worthwhile ones, and see what else we can cull from the data.

Chocolate City BeerFor now, I can easily see that the brewery I most represented this year was New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery that is well-loved in DC. Their traveling festival, Tour de Fat, even came to Washington, DC for the first time this year. Adam’s most represented brewery was Chocolate City. The Chocolate City brewery is practically next door to us, so we’re lucky to be able to fill up growlers on Saturdays.

We had beers from about 121 distinct breweries this year – and I say “about” because tonight’s drinks are still to be recorded. It’s hard to say whether there’s an observer effect here, whether we’re drinking more or less or opting for more variety because of our decision to record our drinks.

Looking forward, here are my resolutions for 2013. I’m keeping them to the goals I really want to focus on and think are achievable this year. Besides these, I have other projects in the works that will become better realized the new year.

  • New Year’s Resolution #1: Read all of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I’m going to begin by rereading Swann’s Way (the first volume of seven volumes total), since I last read that four years ago. Just some 3,000 pages to go.
  • New Year’s Resolution #2: Learn to enjoy running. I try this every year, but I think having a dedicated running buddy will help this time around. Our goal is to run a 5K in the spring, maybe work up to a 10K later in the year.
  • New Year’s Resolution #3: More civic participation! Volunteer with local organizations and give back to the community. What’s your favorite local cause?
  • New Year’s Resolution #4: Ride more brevets than I did last year. Hopefully that’s easy because I rode only one brevet – my first – in 2012.
  • New Year’s Resolution #5 is another bike-related one: Ride 3,000 miles in 2013. Evenly distributed that’d be 250 miles/month – doable! In 2012, I rode about 2,400 miles from April to December.

Happy New Year!

Written by Crystal Bae

December 31st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hains Point 100 for Women and Bikes

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What a successful event! The Hains Point 100, a century ridden entirely as loops around Hains Point, was an idea by Megan Jones sprouted a few weeks ago. She decided to make it a fundraising ride for WABA’s Women & Bicycles advocacy program, which will work to support women’s cycling in the DC area.

The Census Bureau reports that women make up only 2,985 of the 9,300 DC residents who commute by bicycle. To put it another way, there are more than twice as many male cyclists than female cyclists. WABA’s new program intends to address this gender gap in cycling and get more women on bikes. Megan noted this morning that the ratio of women to men at the Hains Point 100 ride was very similar, but that it was important for everyone to help in this effort.

Cyclists gathering for Hains Point 100

Lots of great local sponsors – and one not-so-local sponsor, New Belgium Brewing – pitched in to provide snacks, prizes for riders, and donations. Plenty of people brought food   (especially baked goods) to keep the picnic table full as well. Hains Point worked as a great location for this kind of ride since it’s a short 3-mile loop and riders could take a break or grab snacks when they came back to the meeting point.

I rode a few laps and got to see lots of DC area cycling folks out today on a beautiful winter day. Megan (and others) successfully rode over 100 miles each, and raised a lot of money to support the cause by putting on this event.

You can donate here: WABA’s Women & Bikes Program.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 23rd, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Mapping DC with OpenStreetMap

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OSM Christmas logoMappingDC is the local group of OpenStreetMap users who’s back in action after a few months lull (various folks leaving DC to work on projects around the world). There have been “mapping parties” to work on filling out areas of the map around Washington, DC that are lacking or inaccurate – recent ones having taken place in Hyattsville, MD and at the Congressional Cemetery in DC.

Even if you’ve never mapped with OpenStreetMap before, I encourage you to get involved if you have an interest in improving the map. OSM grows in importance and reach daily, and is becoming more widely used in applications and services such as Wikipedia and Foursquare. Whether it’s small changes in your neighborhood or participating in mapping parties, the community is open to having your help.

Check out the MappingDC group to learn more about upcoming events. Map locally, think globally.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 12th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Washington DC to Baltimore ride

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This Saturday, I rode to Baltimore from DC with Adam using a route sourced from the Bike Washington website and the Google Maps bicycling directions. Bike Washington is great resource for local trails, and for this ride I only diverged from their route in a few places; in hindsight, I should also have used their directions for entering the city of Baltimore instead of the Google directions which involved a few dicey maneuvers. But that’s to be expected when Google’s routing is fairly automated while Bike Washington route is written by people who’ve ridden the route. Tried and tested.

Signs on the BWI Trail

Riding through Baltimore

We had a nice time in Baltimore, walking through a holiday bazaar in Fells Point, eating a huge lunch among the throngs drinking nog, and snapping a few photos. By the time we started to head back, our daylight hours were numbered so we grabbed the B30 bus back to Greenbelt Metro station. Good to always know your bail out options!

For those interested, here’s the cue sheet I wrote, as well as some commentary, after the cut. Directions begin from the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Crystal Bae

December 3rd, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Wrap-up of DC Breweries Tour

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What a day.

This is a tough one to write, because most of the ride went well but a friend in pain overwhelms other emotions. I’m still a little shaken by what happened towards the end of the ride but I’ll get to that.

A couple of weeks ago, I met a small group of friends outside of the DC Brau brewery who announced that it was their last stop on a ride to all three of the city’s breweries. I sent a message to a couple fellow riders on Twitter suggesting that we do the same sometime. They were interested enough, so I decided to pick a date and make it happen. After putting the word out to friends via email and sharing the plan on Twitter and Facebook, I put together a route that made a counter-clockwise 15-mile loop from Chocolate City to DC Brau to 3 Stars Brewing. I attempted to take quieter streets where it didn’t bring us off course, but inevitably there were a couple dicey roads with faster traffic.

Around seven this morning, I rode through the route to check it against what I had mapped out in Google Maps. (Geographers might refer to this as ground truthing.) I’m glad I did, because I was expecting to have at least 15 people on the ride and didn’t want to get lost leading the group, but also because, for instance, you don’t always realize which streets suddenly turn into one-ways. So, on this run I familiarized myself with the route and marked some changes to the cue sheet before heading back.

For the ride, we gathered for a 12:15 start at Big Bear Cafe. Adam, BrianVeronica, and I were the earliest ones there, making time to grab bagels or coffee before the “official” meeting time of noon. I say “official” because this was the first ride I put together that reached outside my immediate circle of friends, and really the first time leading more than eight people on a bike ride. It was nice to see familiar faces from around town, including Kevin, Ted, Michael, and Ed and Mary (who unfortunately could only join for the coffee part). As we chatted and folks began arriving, I realized I had underestimated the attraction of riding to three breweries on a beautiful autumn day. People had brought friends, told others, heard the word and bravely decided to join without knowing what to expect, even sent people in place of themselves if they couldn’t make it. The sidewalk outside Big Bear quickly became crowded – must have been at least 30 riders there, ready to try some local brews.

Photo by Ted Nigrelli

Photo by Ted Nigrelli

We hit the road at 12:15, which gave us time to get to Chocolate City brewery at the start of their growler hours (12:30-4:30pm every Saturday). Chocolate City is the closest to my house of the local breweries, so we come often to fill our growlers. It’s a short ride up the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which I like for its street art and totem poles. As we arrived, we spotted John and Kate, who were there to join for awhile. I think Chocolate City’s setup lends itself well to a group visit – it’s a small building with one open wall that makes it easy to drift around and socialize. They had a food truck stationed outside, but their offerings looked a little too heavy for a bike ride bite. I took this time to try to meet everyone on the ride, a challenge in itself!

Bikes outside of DC Brau brewery

Got the group back on the road promptly since we had two more breweries to visit in a short time window. The next stop, DC Brau, always seems to have a crowd inside, redeeming their generous number of free tasting tickets or walking around touring the facilities. I sat in the sun chatting to friends awhile before going inside to get a sample of DC Brau’s Ghoul’s Night Out (a Belgian-style Quadrupel; like a Tripel but stronger). I’ve had it before, though, so guess it can’t be considered a sample. We arrived at the brewery right when they started a tour, so a large part of our group joined that. Leaving the brewery, we tried to sweep everyone out but accidentally left a friend behind. Realized our mistake ten minutes later, so waited a bit while she caught up with us on the Anacostia/NW Branch Trail.

Though we were able to take to the trails for part of this stretch, we had to take some bigger roads with faster traffic closer to 3 Stars Brewing. Managed that without too much of a hitch, then we started up one of the last hills towards the brewery.

That’s when I heard someone call out “man down” and realized people were stopped at the base of the hill. I rode back down and saw a friend lying in the street, his face bloody -and others had already lept into action, holding cloths to his forehead and nose to stop the bleeding, another rider on the phone with 911. We arranged for a friend of a friend to have his bike taken back while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. His scarf had gotten caught in his front wheel and the bike threw him over the handlebars onto the ground headfirst. A woman who didn’t know him was holding his hand, another trying to talk him through his shock. Neighbors even came out to see if we needed help. It was a moment that made me realize that people do come together most strongly in times of need. A mutual friend ended up riding with him to the hospital once the ambulance arrived, and I led people back to our starting point, too shaken by it all to feel like going to another brewery.

An accident like this is a reminder that even on a quiet road with no cars, things can happen. Going quickly or slowly, things can happen. I’m relieved to say that he’s okay and recovering, and glad it wasn’t worse.

Thank you to everyone for coming, for your patience, and for demonstrating that community really is defined by the great people that make it.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 18th, 2012 at 12:07 am

Flatbread 200k Ride Report

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Or, “127 miles of riding the flats with friends new and old.”

Yesterday was the DC Randonneurs Flatbread 200k ride, an all-day long distance jaunt through eastern Maryland and Delaware. The ride started at the Good Guys Pizza in Cumberland, Maryland, went out to Slaughter Beach in Delaware, then wound its way back to Good Guys for the post-ride celebration.

Adam and I had reserved a campsite at the nearby Tuckahoe State Park for the night before, but the evening’s cold forced us to car-camp rather than tent-camp as an attempt to stay a little warmer.  We arrived at the campsite around 10pm after a nice big dinner of crab cakes and red velvet cake at Davis’ Pub in Annapolis, and managed to fall asleep by midnight. Our alarm was set for 5am to give us time to shower, pack up the bikes, make breakfast, and drive to the starting point.

We parked in the public lot down the street (where we also saw John, Ed, Mary, and Lisa arriving) and rode to the Good Guys Pizza, where sign-in took no longer than a minute – the volunteers find your name on list, give you your control card and a pencil and you’re ready to go. It was a chilly start, everyone bundled in layers we would eventually shed as the sun came out and warmed the day.

Chip, the ride organizer, gave a few announcements about the ride: Milton was an open control, meaning we could choose any business there and get a receipt to prove we made it there within the time limits. He also talked about the route, which had been checked out the weekend before and was good to go. Chip sent off the riders – some 70 or more people – and said he’d see us back soon for pizza. “Soon” in our case being 11 hours later.

In the beginning, most of the group stayed together, with the fastest riders already long gone. Adam and I were riding for stretches with Chris, John, Ed, Mary, and of course Lisa and Mike on Mike’s interesting Da Vinci tandem bicycle. It was Lisa’s first time riding a tandem, so kudos for her for sticking it out over 200 kilometers. That’s also a long time to spend with a person, though they’re both easygoing and funny so I can’t imagine it was an issue. The group eventually started to spread out, but the controls gave us the chance to catch back up with people. We also met a lot of new folks, some of which had traveled from further away to do this ride.

In Milton, Delaware at the lunch stop, we couldn’t find Magnolia Deli, which was one of the options suggested on the cue sheet, so we stopped in at the espresso bar on Federal Street. Met Bob from North Carolina, who’s been randonneuring for three years and says the Flatbread is one of his favorite rides. We ended up sticking with him to the end, and he helped us make sure we were on the right course. Navigation using a cue sheet is one of the challenges of randonneuring – there are no arrows painted on the road like on charity rides – especially if you’re riding after dark and trying to find unmarked roads. With Bob’s familiarity with the route, we didn’t miss a single turn all day.

When the sun started to set, we still had about 20 miles to go, so I was thankful to have a bright light and the company of several other riders including Eric, who is in the process of starting up a randonneur club in Long Island with the help of New Jersey Randonneurs. (They should have 200k and 300k rides next year, which we’ll definitely try to join.)

Though I’ve ridden my commute home in the dark before, it’s different being on unfamiliar ground and seeing the little points of light cast in the distance ahead by cyclists on the same ride. One mistake I made was having no way of reading my cue sheet when it got completely dark. Fortunately, Bob called out our turns in advance, like “Half a mile until we make our left.” The last ten miles were really tough, with saddle pains that made me want to stop pedaling, but Adam started motivating me with thoughts of pizza and beer at the end. We finally rolled in to Good Guys a few minutes before 6pm, where we were warmly greeted by the ride volunteers. They made sure it was known to everyone that this was our first brevet (the term for a randonneuring ride, where 200 kilometers is the minimum distance) and told us that some pizza had just come out. Many folks were still hanging out, eating and drinking up after a long day of riding. Soda and pizza were free (amazing for a ride that has a registration fee of 5 bucks), and there were $2 beers.

I didn’t take any photos on the ride, but you can see Mary’s photos here. It was a beautiful day and the best part was the company! Can’t wait for my next 200, though I’m not sure yet where that will be.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 11th, 2012 at 9:06 am