Archive for the ‘You Just Never Know’ Category

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Last night in preparation for the arrival of the first snow of the season, salt trucks were out treating local roads.  And today it felt like I got some of that salt in an open wound when I unexpectedly came across this street sign while out on today’s lunchtime bike ride in D.C.   Freezing temperatures and less than ideal weather conditions here in D.C. are difficult enough to endure without being reminded of the sunny skies and mild climate in Key West, where today it’s 71 degrees, with zero percent chance of precipitation and a mild breeze coming in off the ocean.

Even in ideal conditions riding a bike year-round in D.C. has its challenges.  But riding when it’s snowing, or there is still snow on the ground, can be particularly challenging.  Mounds of snow deposited by snowplows clearing the streets can accumulate and create unexpected barriers.  Snowdrifts can narrow streets and take away the extra room on the right where bikes routinely travel as they share the road with other vehicles.  And melting snow or patches of ice can create unusually slick conditions on roads and bike trails.  So here are a few tips to you help stay safe while riding in wintertime.

  • If you’re fortunate enough to have options, make sure and choose the right bike.  Don’t use that high-end road bike with the thin tires.  Instead, go with wider tires, like on a fat bike. The wide rubber will help with traction and stability. If you don’t have a fat bike, ride an older bike.  Sand, salt, and grit can clog up and destroy gears and other moving parts.  And outfit your bike with fenders and bright lights, and maybe winter tires with carbide-studded tires for increased grip on snow and ice.
  • Prepare your bike.  Make sure whatever bike you’re using is clean and properly maintained.  Keep your chain and gear cassette lubricated for best operation.  And if you have a place, like a garage or shed, store it in a cold place.  A room-temperature bike in new snow can cause ice to form more easily on brakes and gears.
  • Prepare yourself.  Protect your core by layering, which is the key to both staying warm and managing sweat in the cold.  And keep your hands and feet protected too.  Wear gloves or other handwear, and employ insulated footwear to keep your feet dry and warm.  Frozen fingers and toes are common issues for the unprepared.  Lastly, protect your head.  Try to avoid jacket hoods, which can funnel cold air to you as you ride.  Balaclavas or tight-fitting fleece or knitted skull caps work best.  And consider a larger size helmet to fit over the added insulation.
  • Stay aware of road conditions.  And follow the path of the plow. If the roads are plowed, this is the best path.  Sand, salt, sun, and snowplows eliminate ice and snow from pavement when it snows. Better yet, use marked bike lanes or paths when they’re available and clear.  In many major cities, including D.C., bike trails are regularly plowed as well.  But wherever you’re riding, stay away from the edges and look for the dry pavement.
  • Ride defensively.  Drivers are focusing more on their vehicle and the road than they are one you.
  • Ride steady.  Slow down and stay loose, especially in those slippery stretches.  Brake only on the rear wheel to avoid spinouts on slick surfaces.  And be more prepared than usual to take your feet off the pedals because it’s more likely for the bike to fishtail or tilt in wintery conditions.
  • And lastly, don’t be a hero.  Just because you chose to start a ride doesn’t mean you have to finish it.  Switch to public transportation should your snowy ride start proving to be too much for you.  Don’t be ashamed to abandon your bike ride and hop a ride to where you’re going.  Many subway trains and public buses, including here in D.C. depending on the time, allow riders to bring their bikes with them.  So ride near public transportation routes and be aware of your bail-out points along the way.

So if you are not fortunate enough to be 1,509 miles away from here in Key West, or in some other warm and ideal location, don’t let the winter weather stop you from riding.  Consider the above suggestions, and then enjoy the ride.

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Autonautilus

During my lunchtime bike ride today I happened upon an eye-catchingly unusual vehicle parked on 8th Street in northeast D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood (MAP).  When I first saw it I thought of the DeLorean time machine in the “Back to the Future” movies.  At the end of the third and final movie, Doc Brown was married to Cora, and they had two sons, Jules and Verne.  And this vehicle is how I imagine their station wagon would look like if they ever had (or is it will have?) a family vehicle.

By far my favorite of the many unusual vehicles that I’ve run across during my daily bike rides throughout the city, I found out that this vehicle is actually a mobile art exhibit entitled “Autonautilus.”  But more than that, it also happens to function as a vehicle for its artist owner, Clarke Bedford.  Bedford is a local sculpture, performer and artist from nearby Hyattsville, and when he’s not working on his own creations or performing, he is also a conservator at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Autonautilus is one of several vehicles Bedford has created.  He refers to them as “art cars”, and thinks of them as “assemblages that live outdoors and which also happen to move down the road.”  And since they are the only cars he owns and drives, they are durable as well.  Comprised predominantly from metal parts such as metal tubes, fans, statues, car parts, and almost anything else he can salvage or buy and re-use as forms of art, they have to be durable in order to withstand driving down the road, or being parked in the elements at his house since he doesn’t have a garage.

And Bedford’s art is not confined to his cars.  Both the outside as well as the inside of his home is filled with works of art, or works in progress, or bits and pieces of miscellanea which will eventually be incorporated into future works.  Bedford is not a professional artist getting rich from his creations.  But as evidenced by what he surrounds himself with, it is more than a mere hobby.  Bedford thinks of himself as existing somewhere in between the realms of professionals and hobbyists.  A place where most artists live.  I think that it is a place inhabited by the type of people who English poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy described in his poem “Ode”, which reads:  “We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams; World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems.”

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[Click on photos above to view full size versions]

Shuttle Parking

Shuttle Parking

On this lunchtime bike ride I saw an unusual sign as I was riding past the headquarters for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), located at 300 E Street (MAP) in D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood. It reads, “NASA Shuttle Parking Only. Unauthorized Vehicles subject to Ticket or Tow.” So naturally I assumed that the parking space was being reserved for one of the remaining manned launch vehicles from NASA’s now-retired Space Shuttle Program. And not wanting to miss an opportunity to see a piece of history, I decided to wait around to see one of the space shuttles as it pulled up to park in the reserved space.

As I waited, I began to wonder which one it would be; Endeavour, Enterprise, Atlantis or Discovery. But then I realized that after completing an unprecedented 12-mile drive on city streets from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center, Endeavor has been on display there ever since. And I know that there are no plans to move it. In fact, an addition to the California Science Center, named the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, is currently under construction to permanently house Endeavor. But it was still possible that Enterprise, Atlantis or Discovery would drive up and park, so I decided to wait a while longer.

As time continued to pass, I started to get a little discouraged. But I continued to wait. And it was while I was waiting, however, that I realized Enterprise is on permanent display in New York City at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum’s Space Shuttle Pavilion. Atlantis is part of the Space Shuttle Exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex on Merritt Island, Florida, where it is on permanent display. And Discovery is on permanent display in nearby Chantilly, Virginia, at the National Air and Space Museum’s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport, named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.  Discovery is located only 30.2 miles from my office, but that’s still a little too far to go, at least on this bike ride.

Realizing that all of the space shuttles are on permanent display in other locations, I finally gave up and decided to leave. It was then, as I was getting back on my bike, that a bus pulled up, picked up some employees, and then left. It turns out that NASA provides a shuttle bus service to transport employees to locations of other NASA offices and off-site locations throughout D.C. So I rode back to my office a bit disappointed that the NASA Shuttle I got to see was not one of the ones which had been to space, but rather a passenger bus.  It’s always good to get out of the office, though.  So I still consider today’s bike ride a success.

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The Partridge Family Jeep

When I saw this Jeep on one of my recent lunchtime bike rides near the Four Mile Run Trail in Arlington, Virginia, my first thought was, “I hope it belongs to Suzanne Crough.”  I thought it would be really far-out to meet the youngest member of the Partridge family, especially since today is her 52nd birthday.  I figured it probably wasn’t hers though, because she lives in Bullhead City, Arizona, where she is a wife, mother to two children, and working as a manager at Office Max.

So I continued to wonder whose Jeep might this be. I knew it couldn’t be Dave Madden’s, because unfortunately he passed away in January of last year at the age of 82. And I figured it probably wasn’t Shirley Jones’ vehicle either, because at the age of 80 there’s a good chance that she isn’t still driving.  And even if she is, it probably isn’t in a vehicle that looks like this because she is a known as a very private person and this Jeep just stands out too much.

I’m also fairly certain that the Jeep does not belong to Ricky Segall, who played the precocious Ricky Stevens, the show’s “Cousin Oliver”, a cute but largely unnecessary shark-jumping Prince Valiant-haired moppet who popped up in the last five minutes of several episodes beginning in the series’ final season.  Because he had such a minor role in the show, he probably doesn’t hold the same loyalty or fondness for the Partridge family bus. Also, since Ricky was the only Partridge family member to also appear on The Brady Bunch (although Shirley Jones was originally offered the role of Mrs. Brady and turned it down), his loyalties are somewhat divided.  Additionally, it doesn’t seem like it would be the vehicle of choice of someone who dropped out of show business to become an ordained minister in Canada.

I then thought, maybe it belongs to Jeremy Gelbwaks. But after studying chemistry at UC Berkeley, he became a computer analyst and moved to New Orleans where he works as a business and technology planner. Besides, he was only with The Partridge Family for one year, and was replaced after the first season by Brian Forster.  So like Ricky Segall, he only rode on it for a year and probably doesn’t hold the same loyalty or fondness for the Partridge family bus.

I’m pretty sure the Jeep doesn’t belong to Brian Forster either. Brian is a race car driver in Northern California, and he continues to act in community theater there. So he spends most of his time on the west coast.

I also figured the Jeep probably doesn’t belong to Danny Bonaduce. After periods of drug abuse, homelessness, and a series of arrests, including soliciting and then robbing and beating a transvestite prostitute, he seems to have his act together these days.  He’s now fairly busy professionally, currently working on his number one morning radio show, The Danny Bonaduce Show on KZOK 102.5, Seattle’s classic rock station. He also works as a commentator on the TruTV Network show entitled “The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest … ”, as well as making various guest appearances and performances.  Besides, he also spends the majority of his time on the west coast, with homes in both Los Angeles and Seattle. He spends most of his time in Seattle though, which is why he is currently trying to rent out his residence in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. So if you are a big Partridge Family or Danny Bonaduce fan, and can spare $12,000.00 a month, you may want to check out his house because the Jeep probably isn’t his.

Susan Dey, currently a board member of the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, probably is not the owner of this Jeep as well. It seems out of character for someone who has disassociated herself from the show and is the only person who has consistently refused to take part in any Partridge family reunions over the years. This might be attributable to the unrequited crush she had on David Cassidy throughout the series, which she did not handle particularly well.

This leaves David Cassidy, but the Jeep probably isn’t his either.   Even though he was here in the D.C. area a few weeks ago when he performed at the The Birchmere in Alexandria, I still don’t think it is his.  As child stars tend to do, David Cassidy for a long time wanted to break away from the character he played on TV, so he probably wouldn’t want to drive around in a vehicle that reminds everyone of the TV series.  I was kind of hoping it wasn’t David Cassidy’s anyway. After multiple drunk driving arrests over the past few years in Florida, California and New York, including one just last year, he shouldn’t be driving. Especially since it seems as though he doesn’t fully understand the seriousness of the offenses. The arrest report in one of his recent cases, when he was pulled over and arrested by an officer who happened to be named Tom Jones, reported that Cassidy jokingly asked officer Jones “What’s New Pussycat?” in reference to the 1965 hit song by the singer who shares the same name as the officer. Also, a video of one of Cassidy’s other drunk driving arrests was featured on the TruTV Network series entitled “The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest … ”, in which his fellow Partridge family member Danny Bonaduce jokingly thanked Cassidy for no longer making Bonaduce “the most embarrassing member of The Partridge Family.”

So, having ruled out all of the members of the Partridge family, I guess I may never know who owns this groovy Jeep.

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Artwork on Wheels (Click on photo for a larger, detailed view.)

D.C. is such an unusual and interesting city that even after years of riding around it on my lunchtime bike rides I still look forward to what I might discover during my next ride. Two of my favorite types of discoveries are outdoor artworks and unusual vehicles. And on this bike ride I found both in the form of an elaborately-painted Volkswagon Beetle that I saw in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The Volkswagen Beetle, or “Bugs” as we used to call them, was originally designed by Ferdinand Porsche, who in addition to the original Beetle also designed a number of different high-performance sports cars manufactured under the Porsche brand name, as well as the Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK. He designed the Beetle based on the exacting standards and at the request of Adolf Hitler, who was seeking a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for the new road network of his country known as the Autobahn.

However, World War II began the year following the development of the first Beetle, and mass production was put on hold. Thanks largely to the intervention of the occupying Allied forces after the war mass production began in 1945 when a British army Major, Ivan Hurst, was placed in charge of the Volkswagen factory. Volkswagen (which is literally “folks wagon” in German) Beetles would go on to be manufactured between 1938 and 2003, making it the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design. The classic Beetle was then redesigned and reintroduced in 1998 and is still be manufactured today.

I think I can safely say that the unusual Beetle I saw while on this bike ride is fairly unique among the more than 21 million which have been built thus far. The multi-colored car I saw is festooned with elaborate depictions of peacocks, parrots and other exotic birds, as well as exotic flowers, all depicted together in an appearance reminiscent of the psychedelic counterculture of the hippies of the 1960’s, who were also partial to Volkswagen Beetles. So I guess there were a variety of people, from Hitler to hippies, who were involved in my being able to find and enjoy such an unusual piece of “artwork on wheels” during today’s bike ride.

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When riding a bike around the city, you just never know what you’re going to encounter. This is particularly true when it comes to the variety of vehicles which can be found parked on the streets. A couple of examples of this are these armored personnel carriers/assault vehicles, which I saw on one of my recent lunchtime rides. Happening upon these vehicles caused me to think about a couple of political issues that have been in the news as of late.

The first issue pertains to the Department of Defense Excess Property Program (also known as the 1033 Program), which is authorized under Federal law and managed through the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The program is intended to provide surplus military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.

The program has recently been in the news in the wake of a grand jury’s exoneration of the police officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, when police officers wore combat gear and used armored vehicles and military-style equipment to respond to the protesters and rioters. The attention this garnered prompted the White House to undertake a study of the program, during which it was revealed that the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, and the Office of National Drug Control are also involved in providing small arms, vehicles, logistical support, and monetary grants to police departments around the country. The issue currently remains ongoing and in the public eye.

Another issue currently in the news is what is considered by many to be the alarming rate at which the Federal government is arming and equipping Federal agencies. An example of this is the recent news stories about how the Department of Homeland Security is contracting to purchase up to 1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition, along with 7,000 fully-automatic weapons including 30-round high-capacity magazines.  To put that amount of ammunition into perspective, at the height of the Iraq War the Army was using less than 6 million rounds a month.

Still more examples include: the Department of Agriculture recently contracting to purchase sub-machine guns and body armor; the purchase of 174,000 rounds of hollow-point pistol ammunition by the Social Security Administration; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s purchase of 46,000 rounds of .40-caliber hollow-point ammunition, and; the Department of Education’s purchase of a number of 12-gauge shotguns that are compatible with combat training.

Further, many think that the way in which Federal agencies have been arming and equipping themselves has been leading to confrontations between citizens and the government. One prominent example of this is the recent armed standoff in Nevada between cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and a group of protesters and militia members, and agents of the United States Bureau of Land Management.

There is no information to indicate that either of these two armored vehicles, thought to be owned by different Federal agencies, have been involved in any incidents in the news, or used in ways other than intended. However, the agencies which own and control these vehicles may want to reconsider parking them on public streets, if only for appearances sake.  And in any case, don’t park in a space reserved for the disabled, as the black vehicle was when I saw it.

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While on the daily bike ride I take during my lunch break at work, I was riding through DuPont Circle in northwest D.C. when I saw a commotion on the other side of the park involving a group of people who were dressed in all black.  I initially thought it might be some type of gang that was mugging someone.   As I rode nearer to see what was going on, however, the commotion did not seem to include a sense of urgency or an aura of violence.  Also, the people were not only dressed in black, but they seemed to be dressed identically.  At that point I realized I was wrong about it being a mugging, and I thought that it might be a flash mob.  I have always wanted to happen upon a flash mob, and I wondered what kind of performance might be about to take place, or what they might do.  As I got a little closer I also saw several of them holding signs, but I couldn’t yet make out what the signs read.  With so many protests happening on a daily basis in this city, I assumed that I was wrong again and that it was probably just some type of protest.  Disappointed that I was probably not going to be able to witness a flash mob after all, I continued riding toward the crowd to find out what they were protesting and to see their signs.  I then found out I was wrong yet again.  Several members of the almost all-female group held signs that read “Free Hugs,” while the others in the group were hugging passersby as they walked through the park.   So what I initially thought might be a mugging actually turned out to be a “hugging.”  So I stopped and got off my bike, and received a few hugs.  As I left and finished my bike ride before heading back to my office, I was thinking about what had just happened and realized that I can’t remember a time when I was happier to be so wrong about something.

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Food and Friend's Pie Election

Food & Friends’ Great Pie Election

With the recent conclusion of the mid-term elections, I thought there would be a break from campaigning and voting.  But on this bike ride, as I was riding past McPherson Square, I was flagged down and asked by a group of people to cast a ballot in the election which they were holding.  As it turned out, the pre-Thanksgiving Day election was being conducted by an organization named “Food & Friends,” and they were passing out free slices of a variety of different pies, and then asking people to vote for their favorite kind.

Founded in 1988, Food & Friends began in the basement of D.C.’s Westminster Presbyterian Church, with the purpose of providing healthy, home-delivered meals to children or adults battling HIV/AIDS, cancer or any another life-challenging illness.  Since their beginning, Food & Friends has prepared and served approximately 12.5 million meals to more than 19,850 individuals. Having moved from a cramped church basement to their own state-of-the-art kitchen and pantry facility, they have also initiated additional new programs to meet the changing needs of the people they serve. In addition to home-delivered freshly prepared meals, Food & Friends also provides groceries and nutrition counseling, as well as friendship, empathy and kindness to those they serve.

Food & Friends was holding the election to advertise their organization. They were also taking orders from people who were buying pies for Thanksgiving, with the proceeds to be used to support their programs. So with such a worthy organization being involved, as well as the availability of free pie, I felt obligated to stop and do my civic duty. I don’t know how the election eventually turned out, but I find that I don’t really care. I think with Family & Friends, everyone wins.

The 19th Street Baptist Church

The 19th Street Baptist Church

I took this photo on a recent bike. Although it’s not a very good one, it is a photo of The 19th Street Baptist Church. I remember at the time I took the photo, however, that I just wanted the street sign and the sign for the church to both be visible in the photo. This was because The 19th Street Baptist Church is located on 16th Street in northwest D.C.   Yes, you read that correctly. The 19th Street Baptist Church is located on 16th Street. I initially thought, “It’s a good thing you don’t have to be a mathematician who’s good with numbers to be a Christian.” But then as I thought about it, I was so puzzled that I had to find out the story behind this apparent inconsistency.

The church was originally founded in August of 1839, when the First Colored Church of Washington was organized by a group of Baptist ministers and laypersons, including the Reverend Jeremiah Moore, Rev. Lewis Richards, Rev. Adam Freeman, Rev. William Parkinson, Charles P. Polk, Cephas Fox, Charles Rogers, John Buchan, and Joseph and Sarah Borrows.

The leaders and congregation were previously part of The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, D.C., which had an interracial congregation where black members worshipped alongside whites. However, similar to other congregations at that time, the church gradually segregated its black members from the white parishioners. Given their discontent with being assigned to the gallery of the First Baptist Church, the black members chose to leave the congregation and establish their own independent church.

The new church then formed a committee, which was authorized to buy a plot of land which was available on the southwest corner of Nineteenth and I Streets, where a house of worship known as the Baptist Church of Christ in Washington was erected. The church was later incorporated as the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, in November of 1870.

The church remained on the corner of 19th and I Streets for over a century, until January of 1975, when it moved to its present location at 4606 Sixteenth Street (MAP) in D.C.’s Crestwood neighborhood. In part to preserve its rich history as the first and oldest black Baptist congregation in the nation’s capitol, it kept the name under which it was incorporated, even after the move.

Since its founding over 175 years ago, the church has figured prominently within the historical and social fabric of D.C.’s African American community, and it continues to do so today. 

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The Candy Car

While on my bike ride I recently came across this tiny car parked in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of D.C..  Although the car would stand out at any time of the year,  the candy-themed vehicle seems particularly relevant during this week leading up to Halloween. The car belongs to The National Confectioners Association, a trade group representing candy manufacturing companies.  Founded in 1884, the National Confectioners Association is one of the oldest trade associations in the world, with a mission to advance, protect and promote the industry.

As I stopped to look at the car and take a photograph, the woman driving it walked up to get in.  She said hello, and from her demeanor I imagine she is used to the attention the car receives.  I jokingly replied, “Trick or treat.”  And based on what she did next, she is apparently also used to the car eliciting this type of response.  She popped open the trunk, and reached in and grabbed a handful of candy which she then gave to me.  It was the first time I have been trick-or-treating in a very long time.

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