Monday, August 13, 2012

UPDATED: Cycling in the Andes Round 1

You may, or may not, be aware of this, but I am kind of into bikes. There's practically no better way to get around Washington, D.C., my adopted home city. They're way cheaper than a car, and yes, you manage to get a little exercise during your commute, so you feel a bit less bad about that sausage McMuffin you're chowing down on en route to work. That is, until the sausage grease gets on your hands, you can't brake properly, and you nearly collide with a MetroBus (whose driver might actually have been trying to hit you the whole time, it's hard to tell.)  I swore at the outset of this blog that I would never turn it into a cycling blog, mostly because I could never compete with the likes of TheWashCycleTales from the Sharrows, or even a near-unknown underdog like Bike Snob. What I did not swear, however, is not to do any posts about biking. And while I haven't been in the saddle NEARLY often enough over the past 2 or 3 months, I have found a few opportunities to get out and ride. So aren't you lucky, you get to hear about them! 

To begin, let me fill you in on my developing hypothesis that Ecuador is basically a lot like the United States in the mid-to-late 1990s, or maybe just a weird bizarro-verse US. That's not meant to be an unfavorable comparison by any means, quite the contrary, I think I would have liked to have been in my 20s and not an emo little preteen in that time period, it seems like a pretty good one. But anyway, internet is popular here but not quite as advanced. There hasn't been a terrorist attack recently that's forever altered the national consciousness. A lot of people seem to be of the mind that things in general are going to improve in the future. And perhaps most importantly, EVERYONE is into mountain bikes.

Also pretty much everyone is shorter than me, and their bicycles reflect such.

Ill fit aside, Sunday Ciclopaseo, where the city and a cycling org called Ciclopolis close down Avenida Rio Amazonas from the old city to well north of the airport, is a ton of fun. At the southern terminus, you can see girl rap groups:
Git it girl.

An entire city out enjoying the impeccable Quito summer (and just OWNING one of the most important streets in that part of town):

And some truly excellent dog-walking solutions.

This might have been the first dog I've seen not wearing a doggie sweater.

I should mention that part of the gorgeous weather here is a UV index that's up around 11 on the reg (a real bad day in DC is like 9, maybe,)  and the last time I ended the day with a highly delineated farmer's tan and the same burnt cheekbones I've gotten ever since I was a little boy. Yes, Dad, I was wearing sunscreen. 

Seriously, though, I cannot even conceive of this sort of thing happening in Washington, and this is one of the ways that Ecuador (as well as many other places) just seems so much more advanced than my own country, which I love very sincerely but sometimes in the same way that you love that one relative who always manages to embarrass you at family get-togethers. Nevermind the fact that the mean streets of our nation's capital include several thoroughfares that clear right the heck out on weekends, when US cyclists try and take over a street the result is often something like this (though, credit where credit is due, DC drivers were remarkably patient with us when BikeSnob came to visit. People are so much happier/more patient in the spring.) But that bike lane in the 3rd picture is both color-coded AND marked with a rumble strip, something I think we're still arguing over, at least on the East Coast. Also, a coworker informed me that Quito has just introduced a bike-sharing program. Here's hoping the scofflaw cyclist/dangerous drivers debate doesn't become as salient and mod as it did with Capital Bikeshare's inception. 

So yeah, when I get back, I'll be happy to mount up on Winona the Kona and Consuelo de Ruta again. Oh, and to see all my friends. You guys are important too, don't you ever forget it. But I think I'll miss experiencing the growing sense that cyclists belong on the streets of Quito, and the seeming lack of animosity between the users of different means of transport. 

Of course, the death-defying messengers here ride motorcycles instead of bikes, so maybe that's our problem. So how about it, any of you guys wanna consider dropping that fixie with the chopped handlebars for a 750 cc crotch rocket? Just a thought.

Up next: did I ride a bike down an active volcano? You bet I did. 


UPDATE: Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, on October 20th I'll be riding a metric century (62 miles) in the DC branch of the Best Buddies Challenge! Best Buddies International works to make a positive contribution in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. If you enjoy helping people, my blog, or cycling even a little bit, I hope you'll consider making a donation at my page. Thanks for your support!

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