Sugarloaf with Ninja Lady and Dog

The day dawned crisp with a blustery wind. The leaves had begun to turn. And I was itching to go for a day hike. Lucky for me, my friend Florencia and I had planned exactly that. Florencia is always full of surprises so today would be no different: we were bring a dog.

I picked up Flor and Sundance, a golden retriever guide dog, at Flor’s place in McLean and headed out to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. We took our time to allow for conversation and maximum leaf peeping. Once we were off the interstate, we drove down country roads through farmer’s fields stripped of their summer bounty.

We parked on the uphill on the road up Sugarloaf. I didn’t realize how far from the top we were but it barely mattered. Walking up the road was a good warm up. After listening to a family bitching and kvetching at an overlook near the road, we headed for the nearest trail to escape. We chose the blue trail in what we later learned was a counter clockwise direction. Flor, dressed in ninja black, and Sundance led the way. Sundance was a pretty methodical  hiker dog. Since he is a guide dog, he tended to stay very close to Flor and got tangled up in his leash quite a bit. Other than that quibble, he was a mighty fine companiion making friends with people and other dogs throughout the day.

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The trail goes up and down the sides of the mountain, with occassional overlooks of the surrounding countryside. The clear air made for great views of the valley below and the foliage all around. At one overlook we were treated to the aerial acrobatics of two hawks riding the updrafts. Top of the food chain, Ma!

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The hiking trail itself was a bit rocky. I had to keep my eyes on the ground so as not to turn an ankle, trip, or slide down and land on my posterior assets. (I seriously need to get some proper footwear for these hikes.) Whenever I looked up it seemed that the woods around us seem to go on forever. Just as she does in cycling and rock climbing, Flor moved uphill without the slightest regard for gravity. I, being somewhat more Newtonian, had to put my butt in gear to keep up.

The blue trail ended with a steep section straight up to where we started. I have to say the length of the hike was just right for me. I was plenty tired but not really wanting more. We hoofed it downhill to the car which seemed suspiciously farther down than where I recalled parking it.

We drove home, stopping for some munchies and a pumpkin at a country store. Once back on the road, Sundance fell sound alseep. It was a good thing Flor and I had each other to talk to because I am pretty sure that the both of us could have used a good snooze as well.

Many thanks to Flor’s American mom Tracie for lending us Sundance and the use of her car, a little Subaru station wagon that I really enjoyed driving.

And, of course, thanks to the ninja lady, Florencia, for another excellent day moving through the outdoors. Who knows what surprise our next adventure will hold.

To see some pix from our outing today, check out this set on my Flickr page.

SLOW DOWN

Three and a half years ago, I finished a blog posting with the words “slow down.” Okay, I added an f-bomb for emphasis. That post described the day when my wife was run over by an SUV during broad daylight. If you are a cyclists or pedestrian, you really don’t want to be on the business end of a motor vehicle. At best you’ll end up with broken bones, a concussion, painful hematomas, and other aches and pains. Just ask my wife, or my friend Charmaine, or my friend Rachel. Or Theresa, an acquaintance from a morning last autumn at Friday Coffee Club. At worst, you can lose your life. For that you’ll have to ask Lorena’s friends and family.

All of their pain and suffering probably could have been avoided if a driver simply had slowed down and paid attention. These things aren’t accidents. They are evidence of a perverted communal acceptance that tens of thousands of people are expendable to convience and commerce.

Not a week goes by that I don’t have a close call with a motor vehicle while riding my bike to work. Considering the fact that I ride most of my commute on a carless trail and the fact that I am totally paranoid about being hit that’s pretty remarkable.

Lately, signs are springing up in my neck of the woods. They say, “SLOW DOWN. We live here. You live here.”

Whoever is putting these up, you have my heartfelt thanks. I do hope they do some good.

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Coffeeneuring #3: Bittersweet Indeed

I had to go to the bike shop to get a few things so Little Nellie and I took off for Spokes Etc. about 5 miles from home. The shop is extremely bike commuter friendly in that they’ll do simple repairs while you wait. So I frequently forgo the e-commerce route when buying bike stuff. You should too.

Once I had done my bike shop thing, I headed into Old Town Alexandria in search of coffee. I had a hankering for fish and chips but, alas, Eamonn’s does not have coffee on the menu and the Queen of Caffeine does not count Guiness as an appropriate beverage for the Challenge.

So I walked a couple of blocks to Bittersweet Bakery. They were crowded but there were only two customers in line. Somehow they managed to turn a simple purchase of coffee into a 10 to 15 minute annoyance. I noticed they sold Swing’s coffee so I endured the hassle. I had a tall Costa Rica Light coffee. It was fine but tasted very watered down. Most disappointing. After my coffee break I headed home to give my bikes some TLC and to mow the lawn in the brisk fall air.

Cofffeeneuring Scorecard

Date: October 18

Location: BIttersweet Bakery at 823 King Street in Old Town, Alexandria.

Drink: Swings Costa Rica Light. Tasted watery.

Observation: The food at Bittersweet looked quite good. The place was crowded. It took me over 10 minutes to get just a cup of coffee.

Miles: 14.5

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Things to Be Happy About

What makes you happy?

Happiness is movement through the cool morning air.

Happiness is seeing the glow of the sun on the horizon just before the sunrise.

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Happiness is seeing a early morning runner, now pregnant, still out there walking.

Happiness is seeing the beaming new mom headed toward me pushing her incredibly cute little one in a stroller.

Happiness is getting to Friday Coffee Club and seeing a packed house including young people whom I haven’t seen in far too long. This means you Katie and Megan and Rachel.

Happiness is doing a perfect on the TR Bridge. (I didn’t come to a stop once to squeeze by any riders or runners. It all timed out just right.)

Happiness finding out your co-worker passed the bar exam on her first go. (Congrats, Kelly!)

Happiness is extending my lunch break by 15 minutes just to bask in the midday sun.

Happiness is riding home and feeling just as fresh as you did on the ride to work at the begining of the week.

Happiness is the anticipation of a Sunday hike in the fall foliage with my friend Flor.

Sunrise – Dyke Marsh

The boardwalk over Dyke Marsh was slippery from rain and fallen leaves. Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, has a skewed weight distribution making it prone to having the front wheel slide out. When I saw the sunrise over the hills of Prince Georges County, Maryland I risked a crash and very slowly braked to a stop. Yeah, it was worth it.

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Bread and Water and Coffee and Scone

I had planned to go for a long hike today with my friend Florencia but she is under the weather and, come to think of it, so is the weather. So we are postponing our adventure until next weekend.

It was gray and drizzly out but I can’t stand to sit still on a weekend. Luckily, the Queen of Caffeine has laid down the Coffeeneuring Challenge. It’s as if she anticipated days like this. She is wise.

After the rain let up around midday, I hopped on Little Nellie, destination unknown. I decided after 4 miles of pedaling toward Old Town on the Mount Vernon Trail to bang a left on Belle View Boulevard and head toward Bread and Water, a new-ish cafe in the Belle View Shopping Center. The inside was rather warm with some loud toddlers so I took my mocha and chocolate chip scone outside to eat. I chose wisely. Usually scones are triangular in shape and very dry. Not this one. It was square and moist with a crumble topping. Way tasty!  And the mocha was also right up my alley.

Appropriately fortified I headed out on my bike only to be greeted with drizzle. What a shame. The temperature was just right for a bit of a ramble but the wet and gray pretty much ruined my mood. So I rode back toward home in a wide arc of sidestreets.

Coffeeneuring Run #3

Date: October 13

Location: Bread and Water, Belle View Shopping Center. http://www.breadandwatercompany.com

Drink: Large mocha with a chocolate chip scone. Both were delicious.

Observation: I would much rather be hiking but this little trip put a bright spot in a dreary day.

Miles: 20

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Coffee and Contrabands

I haven’t ridden in four days. I was away on a business trip Wednesday through Friday. I brought my Bike Friday and intended to ride it after work on Fridat but, alas, twas raining so I just drove home. Yesterday was rainy and cold. Not very inviting biking weather. By evening I was getting irritable, which is a sure thing when I don’t get enough exercise.

So despite feeling really not into it, I jumped on Little Nellie and headed out for a short ride. I took the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town. The trail was covered in wet leaves so I was extra careful to avoid sudden moves. On Union Street in Old Town I stopped at a stop sign so that a huge SUV coming from my left could (a) not yield to me and (b) roll through its stop sign. Bikes are obviously the problem.

A few blocks further north, I saw a dad and his toddler son get out of an SUV on the opposite side of the street. The little boy had on a plastic green army helmet under a hoodie. As dad turned to close his car door, little boy bolted across the street directly in front of me. I said, “Whoa, dude!” Dad turned around and said, “Sorry.” You might want to keep you “sorries” for mom when you get your kid killed through your negligence, dad.

I rode up King Street in search of coffee. There are about a dozen coffee places to choose from. I made it all the way to the Metro station and turned around. I settled for Dunkin’ Donuts or Dunks as friend of the blog @lkono calls it.  (We used to call it Drunkin’ Donuts because most of its late night customers in Providence were piss drunk.)  If you ever lived in Massacusetts or Rhode Island you’d know that there are more Dunkin Donuts than traffic lights. In my 11 years in Boston and Providence I must have gone to Dunks 200 of 300 times. I really liked the coffee and minchies. Not anymore. It just tastes funky to me now. The coffee cake muffin I had wasn’t bad though.

On the way home, I stopped at the Freeman’s Cemetery. This cemetery is actually a memorial to a cemetery that was established in 1864 for the runaway slaves who found their way to Union-occupied Alexandria during the Civil War. The Contrabands (as the were originally called on a account of their legal status as property) lived in squalor. Many succumbed to smallpox. Over 1,700 were laid to rest in this cemetery. Over the years the cemetery was repeatedly disturbed by road building and other ventures. The last venture was a Mobil gas station. When the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was replaced, the gas station was removed and a cemetery was restored as a memorial.

Some pix of the cemetery can be found on my Flickr page

Cofffeeneuring Scorecard

Date: October 12

Location: Dunks on King Street near the Metro station in Old Town, Alexandria

Drink: House brew with coffee cake muffin. The muffin was way better than the coffee.

Observation: Dunkin Donuts used to be my default coffee shop when I was in school. What the hell do students know about coffee, anyway?

Miles: 18.5

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