Bike to Work Day dawned warm and sunny with nary a cloud in the sky.
Unfortunately, that was Bike to Work Day in 2003. I'd decided to ride my bicycle to work on May 20, 2005, a day that was notable for its torrential rain and gusty winds.
And yet I had made a promise -- to myself, to my family, to the anonymous person taking registrations on the other end of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association Web page -- that I would be in downtown Silver Spring at 7 a.m.
That's when our convoy assembled, just one of many hardy groups that would be riding into the teeth of the storm.
I'm not a hard-core cyclist, but riding a bike is just like, well, riding a bike. It's not something you forget. It wasn't quite climbing Everest, but biking to work seemed like a challenge -- and an opportunity to spend the rest of the day casually dropping into conversation references to my superhuman stamina.
As in: "I like that tie you're wearing, Phil. Of course, I didn't wear a tie this morning when I rode my bike to work."
There were 14 people in our group, led by Rich Monastersky, a 40-year-old journalist from Silver Spring who bikes downtown three or four days a week. Down Colesville Road we went, onto Portal Street, then onto Beach Drive and into Rock Creek Park.
After barely a mile, the pack had fractured into at least two groups. I was in the slowest one.
If you've ever silently fumed while stuck behind a bicycle on a narrow road, it's a good idea to at least once be that person on a bike. It gives you a different perspective. You feel naked, unprotected, like a soft-shell crab. But you also start to realize that if more people did what you were doing, our city might be a better place.
Let's see: Our traffic stinks, and we're fat and out of shape. Shouldn't we be doing all we can to make bike riding easier?
"To those of us who do ride, it seems like such a logical conclusion," Eric Gilliland, executive director of WABA (www.waba.org), told me later. "Everyone complains about the traffic, about the air quality, about poor health. Bicycling is a solution to all of those things."
And yet with a few exceptions, we don't have the sort of biking infrastructure around here that makes commuting by bike very friendly.
A few years ago, our family visited Denmark. There were bike lanes everywhere, and not just white lines that suggested where cyclists could ride, but wide, flat thoroughfares safely separated from vehicular traffic by protective berms. The bike lanes were packed.
One effect of this was that Danish women -- who somehow are able to ride a bike while wearing high heels -- have some of the nicest calves I've ever seen. (I'm sure Danish men do, too, but frankly I wasn't paying much attention to them.)
Eric thinks it's unlikely that Washington will ever be like Copenhagen.
"We are a car-oriented culture," he said. "That's what people generally think about when they need to get from Point A to Point B." But he thinks that if more people biked to work, it would snowball, encouraging others to get on their bikes.
About nine months of the year, Jim McCarthy, 59, rides his bike from Chevy Chase to Capitol Hill, where he works for the Congressional Research Service. He stops when it starts to get dark really early.
"Every winter I gain about 10 pounds. Then I lose it again in the spring," he told me when I called him after my ride.
His family has a car now, but for eight years it didn't. Said Jim: "We became the crazy people who went everywhere by bike." They only relented and bought a car when their kids became teenagers and wanted to drive.
I don't think I've ever been wetter than on that rainy day that I rode my bike to work. My cotton sweatpants had absorbed so much water that I could barely lift my legs to pedal. But I felt a sense of accomplishment as I rolled into The Post's parking garage, a little over an hour after I'd left downtown Silver Spring, about 10 miles away.
I'd done my bit to save the planet.
What would it take to get more people on their bikes? The District is working on several bike path projects, and WABA has a nifty map that shows good biking routes. On the other hand, a bike path that was proposed to run along the entire length of Maryland's proposed intercounty connector has been severely curtailed, going from 18 miles to seven miles.
And many workplaces lack essential amenities: lockers, showers, Swedish masseuses.
We have a single shower in one of the men's rooms on our floor. If Bob Woodward had ridden his bike to work that morning, he would've had to wait.
The warm water was awfully nice, and I stood under it for a very long time.
Send a Kid to Camp
Have you donated to Camp Moss Hollow yet? Your gift can get us closer to our goal of raising $650,000 by July 27, and helping hundreds of at-risk kids.
Here's how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to this summer camp for at-risk kids:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation."
Get on your bike and ride -- right over to my weekly online chat, today at 1 p.m. Go to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.