Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Worked and What Didn't, Part 1

I recently wrapped up the "one month" of going without my car.  Sometimes it was rewarding, sometimes it was frustrating, sometimes it was better, sometimes it was worse.  There were some strategies of getting where I needed to go that really worked for me that I will probably continue - and there were some I hope I never have to do again.

What Worked
A map of two different methods of getting from
Silver Spring to Rockville.  The green is my bike route
 when taking the Route 5 bus (in blue) and the purple is my
bike route when taking the Route 48 bus (in orange).

Combining Biking with RideOn

The most common route I took to get from my apartment to Silver Spring to my office in Rockville was the RideOn Route 5 bus to somewhere on Rockville Pike and then running or biking.  I think I rode the bus all the way to Twinbrook only once - once I figured out the bus's route I started getting off earlier and earlier.  A few times I got off the bus at White Flint station and biked the rest of the way, and eventually I started getting off at the intersection of Strathmore Avenue and Rockville Pike.  This minimized my time on the bus and allowed for some more exercise and added only a few minutes to the commute time.  I usually got on the 7:11 Route 5 bus, and got to the office around 8:15, so this method took about 65 minutes, or a little longer if I was running.  I took the Sligo Creek Trail a few times to get to Wheaton station and then took the Route 48 bus to Rockville, but this method was not as time effective.  For that reason I often swapped out the bike for my running shoes up Rockville Pike, but never on the Sligo Creek Trail, as that would have taken too long.

It is so easy to get your bike on a RideOn bus.  RideOn's website contains this description of how to do it, which I read over a few times before doing it myself for the first time.  There are also a few helpful videos on YouTube, which while not specific to RideOn, give you a good idea of how to do it as well.  I was nervous that people on the bus, and the driver, would quickly get irritated with me and my silly little bike.  But it only takes about 15 seconds - and it's so easy, I showed someone else how to do it on my first day.


This probably wouldn't work for everyone, I admit.  One of my 2010 New Years resolutions was to run a race this year (a more tangible goal than "get in shape" or "exercise more").  After my first race was snowed out I ran an 8K in DC in March and then ran the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia in May.  (Next up is a Turkey Trot in my hometown of Harrisburg on Thanksgiving Day.)  So I had some running background before taking on this endeavor - these shoes had seen a lot of miles already.

Running was best when I didn't have to combine it with anything else - when Jon still lived at his apartment in North Bethesda.  It was a 3.5 mile run to the office that was easy, even considering it was up Rockville Pike.  But when Jon moved to Van Ness, my commute by foot got a lot longer, requiring the addition of either RideOn Route 46 or 47Sometimes I biked the running stretch of this route as well - changing things up all the time kept it interesting.

I've found that if I'm running with a purpose, I get a lot more out of it.  For instance, my runs from Jon's apartment in Van Ness to Medical Center station are always a lot better - and I'm able to run at a quicker pace - because I need to get to my destination in time to make the RideOn bus.  But if I've already completed the bus piece and am running afterwards, like after getting off the Route 5 bus at White Flint, my sense of urgency is not as high.  For this reason, the running route I prefer the most is leaving from Jon's:  north on Connecticut, west on Bradley Boulevard, and then north on Wisconsin.  It's a 4.5 mile stretch that I usually run in about 40 minutes.  Combined with RideOn Route 46, it takes about 80 minutes.

In both of these cases, I'm finding "what worked" had a common thread:  exercise.  These strategies of getting to work actually took longer than just taking a bus or just taking the metro, but I found I didn't mind it as much, even given the additional logistical considerations, as long as some cardio was included.  Even now that I have my car back, these methods of getting to work are ones I know I'll continue.  Later, I'll examine the methods I probably won't continue, the ones that just "didn't work." 

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