This morning was probably the windiest ride I've had so far. Last night one of those storms blew through, where it looks like the rain is coming down in sheets, mostly sideways. Clear skies today, but it still says 25-35 mph west winds. I can believe the numbers, and west is definitely right. Rt. 1 runs SW-NE, and I was mostly riding into the wind or getting blown from the right. At points where I normally cruise downhill faster than I can pedal, I felt like I could almost coast to a stop just from the drag. Going uphill, I had to downshift a lot faster than normal and spent a lot of time in first gear. Sometimes when I'd hit an open stretch I could feel the bike wobbling, with the wind cutting across my path. It was a hard ride, but at least the wind helped keep me cool, and since the temperature today is just about right (50s all day), I was traveling light without any extra clothes.
So much for the literal meaning of today's title. The metaphorical ride into the wind refers to the mounting forces that conspire to make my commute more difficult and more expensive. On top of everything else, this morning (or rather, in the dark of night, when nothing good except Pascha happens) I got an e-mail from MTA announcing the installation of ticket machines in its rail stations. This measure "will provide increased access for ticket purchases during business hours." How convenient! Oh, wait. The e-mail is carefully crafted--it never explicitly says that ticket agents will be vanishing from most of these stations. What it does say is, "Odenton, Camden, and Brunswick Stations will have TVMs installed, and will continue to be staffed." That's a relief, but why are you telling me they will continue to be staffed? Was it ever in question? "AMTRAK Stations on the Penn Line . . . will still have ticket agents as well as TVMs. The Amtrak stations, as well as the remaining MARC stations, will continue to accept your Transit Benefits." "Remaining MARC stations?" Are some of them being torn down? Or are they talking about stations that will still have actual people working in them? So presumably this means that the oh-so-convenient machines will not accept our brand new transit vouchers (which, after all, have almost no other purpose than to accommodate the MTA). "Cash or vouchers of any kind cannot be used." Ah, there it is. So what can I do with the lovely things now? "We recommend using CommuterDirect.com."
Hmm. It does turn out that you can buy single-trip tickets online, which is what I need, since they discontinued 10-trip passes. That's better than I thought. Also, there's no shipping charge if you use plain U. S. Mail. But to use the vouchers, you have to send them in after placing your order. That's at least a first-class stamp. Not to mention, you're practically sending cash both ways, so there's good reason to get insurance, which isn't free. The other option is to buy the tickets at a station that still has a manned counter. Fortunately, Union Station is one of them. I'm normally rushing from Metro to train or from train to Metro when I'm there, but I suppose my best option will be to take some time every couple of months and buy a huge wad of tickets on my way home. At least, until the next change. Whatever it is, I'm sure it will do even more to encourage the use of mass transit.