My Daily Commute

OK, I am new at this. All of this. Blogging and commuting. But I thought it was important, so last week I decided to begin commuting from my home in Sanford to my office in College Park, 23.64 miles each way.

I was nervous at first, not because of the riding bit, but how I would be looked at by the people in my business, safety, heat, etc. Was I nuts? I don’t think I am. But I did not know how to start. This is what I did and where I am going with it.

First, I had to really make a mental commitment to do it. I ride about 100-125 miles a week already, and run a little bit, too, so I didn’t worry about being able to ride the mileage. I had to mentally commit to getting on the bike early enough to get to work, clean up, change clothes, and do it all over again at the end of the day. The weather changes, issues come up during each day, life changes. Biking to work commits me to getting there without a car all day, no air conditioning, no Phillips Phile on the radio, no afternoon snack on the drive home. And the family had to understand I would be home almost an hour later each day than normal.

Next I had to plan a ride. Now that I was mentally ready to take the leap, I had to make it as safe as I could. I know the way, but needed a route that was direct, with minimal traffic, wide lanes, a route that would minimize my exposure to traffic. I had already begun using, so I logged in and started to put it together on paper. It took me about four tries to get the best route combining lowest miles, most direct, but keeping off heavily trafficked roads. Here’s the route:

Next I decided to drive the route and check the mileage, look at condition of the road, bottlenecks with construction, etc. So I drove it home then drove it back the next morning. I had to make a few adjustments, but I didn’t see how to cut out 17/92 and Lee Road. Ugghh!! OK. I’m committed, remember.

Next I had to get my clothes to work with me, and figure out how to clean up. My wife’s company has access to a real locker room, showers, etc. Not me. It’s a sponge-bath, baby. But no big deal. All of that fits in a backpack I use as a breifcase, anyway.

So I made the commitment, chose a route, and packed clothes. Last Monday, I left the house five minutes later than I planned. No big deal, it’s 6:05 am. It’s only a little over 23 miles. It was cool outside, no wind, lights worked, so off I go.

First thing I noticed, is that the backpack, complete with laptop, felt like it was about 20 pounds sitting like a cinder block on my back. Being top heavy like that made it hard to reach my bottles without swerving. OK, first decision is to wait until I am stopped at lights to reach for bottles.

The miles clicked away. Darkness gave way within 20 minutes. No real close passes by cars. I make it down Ronald Regan Blvd. A really nice decision on the route, thank you very much. I cut over to Maitland Blvd, and am really stoked now. So much so that I am not thinking about the big dumptruck that doesn’t see me and starts pulling out! Hand goes up, I am yelling, he doesn’t hear me. BUT HE IS LOOKING RIGHT AT ME! Note to self: even if they see me, they may not see me. I have to really worry about any vehicle coming from the right, not just behind.

So now I get down into Maitland and am looking at 17/92. Not good. I am very anxious. There is not even one foot of space on the side of the road, and traqffic is just too heavy for me to ride in it safely. I take the sidewalk. I hate it, don’t like being there, and don’t think a bike should ever be on a sidewalk. I am funneled onto a boardwalk (I just know I am going to flat), then a chain-link fence. Construction has cut me off.

Go Cyclocross, I guess. I clamber up a hill with my bike over my shoulder. At the top, there is still nowhere to ride. I carefully squeeze down enough road to get to another sidewalk. This is just so bad. And I am headed closer to Lee Road and I don’t know what I am going to do. My route was to ride Lee Road, but it is just too intimidating. Do I keep going through Winter Park?

I make a last minute decision and cut to the right off the planned route. Bad decision. I get lost, and end up riding about 3 miles out of my way. I finally get to familiar roads, and head back where I need to go. Lee Road. Forget it. Not safe. The cars go too fast and too many blind spots. I ride the sidewalks again, and am only doing about 10 mph, swerving, jumping, cussing myself.

I get to work in about an hour and a half. Nervous, beat up, not exhilerated at all. I am down about the experience and dread heading home.

All day I fret over it. Two people look over my shoulder and the route on the computer. I tweak it again. I have an afternoon meeting with a person who lives off Maitland Blvd. She is interested in my adventure. And she confirms the changes.

End of day. I don’t need my computer at home. I leave towels and toiletries. The backpack is so much lighter. I get my drinks together and head home via the new route.

What a difference!! I am so much happier, and it shows in my cadence and attitude. I am home in an hour and 14 minutes. Success!!

Time to regroup. Rethink the day’s rides. Liz is right, skip a day, let my body recover a bit, then try it again on Wednesday.

2 replies
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    Gosh, that is a long commute. May I suggest something that may increase your comfort? I tried a backpack years ago and ditched it because it was uncomfortable. Not only heavy, but made my back sweat. So I suggest that you put a rack on and use panniers. I prefer baskets, but you need something that “gives” a little for cushioning the computer.

  2. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Sanfordbiker, congratulations on your decision to commute. It’s too bad that we are heading into longer days, because one of the best parts of riding is early morning near-darkness (and cool) and that’s soon to end.

    I’m not sure about the portion of Maitland and 17/92 that you refer to when you say there’s not one foot of space for you to ride in. I’m guessing that it’s a multi-lane road, rather than one lane in each direction. As such, I’ll also guess that it’s less than 14 feet wide, so it’s considered by the FL DOT to be a sub-standard width roadway. It then follows that you are entitled to use the entire width of the roadway to ensure your safety.

    I commute on a daily basis but not on a regular route, as I travel to my clients on an as-needed basis. I’ve found that the best roads for travel are those with no shoulders or pretend bike paths, with sub-standard widths. This allows me to occupy the entire lane, as is permitted by Florida Statutes.

    When you run out of shoulder, merge safely into the middle of the lane, signaling as needed, of course. Pretty spectacular concept, isn’t it? When I started driving my bicycle as a vehicle, I also wasn’t confident, but over time, the increased safety (my own) provided that confidence.

    Wear bright yellow, perhaps add a few extra large red LED taillights (steady, not flashing) and if someone blows a horn at you (if? when), wave and smile brightly. If you can combine the wave and smile with your own laugh, it makes it even better. Use all your fingers when you wave, because it might be someone you know, but didn’t recognize.

    Twenty-three miles is quite impressive. I have an occasional 20 mile trip to a client and a very rare 22 mile trip, which make for long days, so I can’t imagine nearly fifty miles each day.

    I’m thinking you’re younger than I am (early fifties) and a good bit healthier! I’m happy with a hundred to a hundred-fifty miles a week, and you can pick that up in three days.

    Those “Share the road” signs mean you belong there too.

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