What a Commute!

Breaking stereotypes with bicycles and hot dogs.

Tagged: Cycling Stories

I’ve been postponing updating my blog for a while now, partially because I have been waiting on getting a digital camera so I can post some pictures. I have finally decided on a digital camera, although it has yet to arrive (I’ll post a lot more once it arrives, in a few days). In the meantime, however, I have to recount my ride home from work today. But first, some background…

I’ve started commuting from West Philadelphia to my job in Camden (~8km each way) on a “Fixed Gear” bicycle. What does that mean? Basically (if you don’t want to follow the link), it means I can’t coast; my pedals move whichever way the rear wheel is moving. Yes, I got a “fixie,” as they are often called, and it is beautiful. I’ll post pictures and a more lengthy description of my specific bike once my digital camera comes in (see above).

Fixies allow one to do cool things like track stands. Also, since one is able to backpedal, brakes aren’t required since one can simply resist pedaling to slow down. I’d recommend using a break, though, unless you are crazy like Klint and want your collar bone broken… again. If I don’t hit any exceedingly long red lights on the way, I can get the entire way from West Philly to Camden without putting a foot down and without using my brake.

Okay, back to the story. So I am riding home from Camden, and I just got off the Ben Franklin bridge. I had waited until 17:30 to leave work, because the weather forecasts predicted rain between 16:00 and 17:00. Boy, were they wrong. It hadn’t rained yet, and I wanted to leave because the bridge closes at 19:00 (and sometimes, randomly, earlier). I started riding up Spring Garden, when it started to drizzle. It was very clear that the storm was over North Philly, so I decided to play it safe and head back down to arch street where the sky looked less gray. While waiting at a red light, a man driving a blinged-out, huge Ford F-150 (possibly Harley Davidson Edition), blaring rap music over a system while talking on his cell phone, yells to me, “Hey! Is that a fixed gear?” This was very surprising to me, because he was about as far from the stereotypical fixed gear (posenger (bike messenger poser)) rider possible. I said yes, and asked if he did too. He informed me that fixies look awesome, but he currently rides a Canondale road bike that he had Bicycle Therapy build for him. Very weird conversation.

By the time I got to the Ben Franklin Parkway, the skies opened and it instantly started pouring. It was one of the worst downpours I have ever experienced, at least while on a two wheeled vehicle. This was my first time in the rain on a fixie, and it was amazing; I felt so connected to the ground, even as my rear tire skidded/hydroplaned all over the place. It really gave me a lot more control. I found some government building off of vine street that had an overhang, and sat there for the next ~30 minutes while I waited for the deluge to pass.

As I was sitting, out of the rain, I observed a van drive up next to a park across the street, open its trunk, and some people take some bags out of it. They brought the bags to a nearby bench, and a large group of people gathered. Apparently this was to be some sort of picnic, because they started handing out hot dogs and such. This went on for a good 20 minutes or so, as they all got thoroughly soaked. I still haven’t figured out what this picnic was for, because they all seemed to be of different races, some of different nationalities, and none of them seemed to know but one or two of the others. Finally, as the rain started to die down, they all realized that they too could come and sit in dryitude, where I was. And they did. By that point, the “hosts” wanted to get rid of the rest of the food, so they started pushing hot dogs to everyone there. A bunch of people just took handfulls of dogs and stuffed them in their pockets, for what I assume would be a later meal. One man had a plastic bag that he filled with no fewer than 10 hot dogs. Another man, standing next to the dog-hogger, turned and said the following:

I know you ain’t gonna eat all dose! What you do’n?! You be so greedy! You just be’n greedy do’n dat!

Only in Philly…

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