AMA Man of the Year

Every winter, I makea to-do list. Get the cars fixed. Get some stuff done around the house. Deal with medical and dental issues. I figured I could pick off one of these a week. I got new tires for my car. I got body work done on my son’s car. I took my wife’s car in for its inspection. I had a plumber install shut off valves for the outdoor faucets.

In early February, I had a an electrician come to do some work on some light switches. In the process I helped him test whether certain circuits were live. I went to pull the tester out of a socket and my back went out. So it began.

I figured my back would correct itself after two weeks. Not this time. I’ve tried everything I know. I’d already been doing daily physical therapy for my back for 20 years. Rest didn’t help. Light exercise didn’t help. I even tried icing my back for hours each day by putting an ice pack in under by belt all day at work for three or four days. No luck.

I was hoping that switching to my recumbent would help. It did but then a chain link got bent and I had to switch back to a conventional bike. 

I also went to the dermatologist to remove a cyst from my finger. The dermatologist ended up freezing a couple dozen lesions off my face, arms and legs. She gave me a cream to essentially strip the bad skin off my face. That was fun. After a second round of freeze offs, I was refered to a hand surgeon. It took a month to get the surgery done, and now my middle finger is on the mend but still oddly both sore and numb.

Last Monday, I took some Advil for my back and rode to work. At around 9 in the morning I started having cramps in my intestines. Six days later I am still having them. The upside is that I do not have diarrhea or vomiting. The bad news is I am bloated and constipated.

I am currently scheduled to go back to the hand surgeon in four weeks and the dermatologist in June or July. I hate going to doctors almost as much as I hate shopping for clothes.  On Monday, I am calling my doctor and requesting referals to a gastroenteroligist and a physiatrist (pain specialist for my back). I’m sick of this crap.

Funny thing is, the one thing I can do without pain, is ride my bike. Go figure.

Busy Weekend

Friday began with a splendid bike commute aboard Big Nellie. My back is feeling better but it is still not quite free of the two-month long stiffness. As usual, I stopped at Friday Coffee Club in DC for some bike commuter chat. It was great to see that everyone was sitting outside!! And Jacques brought Hugo (and Elmo the Muppet). I had quite a good time goofing around with Hugo who likes to giggle at goofy grown ups. 

After a day of IT headaches at work, I rode home along the river with temperatures in the 70s. Did it really snow a few weeks back?

For dinner I took Mrs. Rootchopper out to Legal Seafoods in Crystal City. I had high expectations since I have been hearing about this restaurant since my days at BU, but we were both underwhelmed. The food was fine. The service was pretty good. The ambiance was meh. At home we celebrated with dyslexic chocolate fudge birthday cake. Daughter Lily phoned in a fine rendition of “Happy Birthday” from Indianapolis. We will return the favor in a couple of days.  Son Eamonn called Mom earlier for his rendition of the song.

Saturday was a near perfect day for bike riding but, having knocked off something like 137 miles in the previous four days I instead devoted the day to lawn work. First, I drove to Sears to get a new mower. The old mower had wobbly wheels and a leveling mechanism held together with zip ties. It gave me 10 years or so of use so no complaints. I had to use up the gas in its tank so I mowed the back lawn with it. It sounded like it was straining to cut even the shortest grass. Then I put together the new mower and fired it up. Yowsa!  It had noticeably more power. I could actually hear the blade zipping around inside. 

With the yard work done, we set out to see my favorite performer, Neil Finn, at the Lincoln Theater in DC. For the uniformed, Neil Finn is a singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist from New Zealand. He’s been the force behind Split Enz, Crowded House, three solo albums, two albums with his brother Tim, and two ensemble productions with the likes of Johnny Marr, Eddie Vedder, KT Tunstall, and members of Wilco and Radiohead. His most well known song is “Don’t Dream It’s Over” but he has written scores of songs, many every bit as good. His show at the Lincoln lasted nearly three hours and exceeded my already high expectations. I am pretty sure that he could put on another show, every bit as good, with songs that he did not perform last night. I once saw Sting play Constitution Hall when he was in his early 50s. Perfect voice. Perfect band. Perfect perfromance. Same thing last night with Neil Finn. So here goes my all time favorite performances:

Neil Finn last night, Sting, Elbow at Club 930 last year, Orchestra Baobab at the Birchmere, Raffi (yes, that Raffi) at GWU, Johnny Clegg and Savuka at Georgetown, Andy Narell at Blues Alley, Los Lobos and Buddy Guy at Wolf Trap, the National Dance Company of Senegal, John Mayer with Michael Franti and Spearhead at Verizon Center.

Today was another perfect weather day. I had a date with Big Nellie. We began by checking out the Morningside bald eagle nest on the Mount Vernon Trail. There was one eagle in the nest and another apparently out and about. I do believe there will be little ones in the days ahead.

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Zoom in to see the bald eagle in the nest

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over to Maryland and spun up the long hill to Oxon Hill Road. My intention was to take a left and head to DC but I took the Frostian road less traveled to the right and ended up doing a 15 mile loop through suburban Prince Georges County. It’s not a pretty place to ride but the roads were not very crowded. After the loop I did another couple of loops nearer to DC. Suffice it to say that signage is not PG’s strong suit. 

I eventually made my way to the Anacostia River Trail for some flat spinning along the river. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road bridge. I worked my way to Florida Avenue which heads rather laboriously through Northeast DC and ultimately to the Lincoln Theater. Since Neil Finn was long gone, I stopped for some food and water at a 7-11. Sadly it lived down to my expectations. 

I rode over to Meridian Hill Park which was packed with people enjoying the weather and listening to the drum circle. After dining al fresco on my Turkey and cheese sammich and three oatmeal raisin cookies, I headed back home. I spent 20 minutes getting through the amazing throngs of cars and pedestrians near the Tidal Basin where the cherry blossoms were now past peak. 

The ride home into a stiff headwind kept me honest. During the ride I pondered a set list of Neil Finn songs that he did not perform last night. I’d pay good money to hear him sing them.

Funny thing is with the perfect weather this weekend his last song last night was called “Weather with You” which includes the line: Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire couldn’t conquer the blue skies.”

Indeed 

Drunk on Blossoms

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Drunk on Blossoms

Riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, is great for sight seeing because I am sitting upright. On the way to work I spotted a bald eagle in a tree along the river next to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I heard that today was peak bloom for DC’s cherry blossoms. So I had to swing by East Potomac Park and ride under the blooms for a few miles. What can I say? Blossoms make me happy. Somehow they also seem to make my nose bigger. Go figure.

I added eight pix to my set on Flickr.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

As readers of this post well know, I am sick of winter. So I jumped at the chance to go to coastal North Carolina for a three-day biking event with my long-time biking buddy Charmaine.

I had planned to ride The Mule on the ride but on the way to work on Wednesday, The Mule’s left crank arm fell off. I’m not a mechanical genius but even I know this is not a good thing, so I folded Little Nellie and plopped her into the trunk of my car. Charmaine’s bike rode solo on a Saris bones bike rack.

The nearly 6 hour drive seemed interminable. We, of course, were stuck for about 30 minutes in construction-related tie-ups on I-95 south of Occoquan. This construction will add more lanes to the highway. Just beyond the end of the construction, wooded areas are being cleared for more sprawl proving without a doubt that when it comes to land use, the Commonwealth of Virginia has its head up its posterior.

We were destined for the tiny (population 600) town of Oriental NC on the banks of the Neuse River. Occassionally, Oriental is in the Neuse River. Eleven years ago this area of NC became inundated after a hurricane. Somebody came up with the idea of using bicycle tourism to give the are a shot in the arm, and thus was born Cycle North Carolina’s Coastal Ride.

After checking in, we pulled into a parking space on a lawn next to a town street  and unpacked. We were soon set up right along the rock wall on the river facing east. Life is good.

We took short spin around town and ended up at a local restaurant. It wasn’t fine dining (country fried steak isn’t exactly haute cuisine) but it sufficed. The diet coke I was served tasted nasty. I was later to learn that this was becasue the local water was pretty harsh. We rode back to camp and hit our sleeping bags soon thereafter letting sound of the river splashing against the rocks (along with a couple of NyQuil) lul me to sleep.

I awoke at sunrise and was happy I did. It was pretty pretty. We went back to the restaurant for breakfast and the place was packed. The wait staff was overwhelmed. We had a long wait. Charmaine had a ham and cheese sandwich that was supposed to be an omelet. She was lucky because the western omelet that I did have was cold. Oh, well. At least the coffee was weak.

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Soon we were headed south on our 51-mile bike ride. The weather was perfect. I rode in a t-shirt and arm warmers. We rode over a bridge just outside of town and, with the exception of a slight dip in the road to cross a creek about five miles later, our climbing for the day was done. Somebody said that the route had 400 feet of climbing, but he must have ridden up a tree or something because the terrain rivaled northern Indiana for flatness.  (Note to self: consider coming back with a faired recumbent!)

We rode straight stetches of flat road through stands of pine trees alternating with farmers’ fields in various stages of spring readiness. The full range of economic circumstances were in view. Some houses would have looked at home in the DC suburbs, many were mobile homes up on blocks, some were dilapidated shacks.

We took our time riding and hanging out at the well stocked rest stops. The nasty water I put in my water bottle was hard to get down so it was nice to see bottled water at the rest stops.

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As we rode back into town we had a brief chat with a couple of riders. They wanted to know if there was “more stuff” in town. We pointed out them that they were standing in the heart of the central business district. You can’t expect stuff in a town without a traffic light. A few minutes later we found The Bean, a coffee shop with ice cream. Coffee and ice cream being two sides of the official Rootchopper food pyramid we could not deny ourselves a treat. The Bean serves pretty decent coffee so my central nervous system was pleased.

We partook of the post-ride shower trucks. As I exited the shower, I was congratulated by a woman for keeping the dressing on my right hand dry. (I had elective surgery on my middle finger on Monday.)

We ate at a different restaurant and my grilled tuna sammich was quite tasty, as were the two bottles of Fat Tire beer. After dinner we hung out at the marina for a bit before heading back to the tents. There were rumors of rain so we made sure our rain flies were staked down properly. This was a good thing. It didn’t rain but the winds howled all night.

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Saturday was a bit grayer but warmish. We headed back to The Bean for bagels, brews and bananas (and a chocolate chip cookie) for breakfast. Saturday’s ride went north. About two miles outside of town a truck passed me uncomfortably close. It was pulling a house which I am happy to say missed me by a couple of feet. For the next half mile my mind kept seeing my obituary: “Husband, father of two, was killed by a passing house outside Oriental North Carolina.

We spent several miles looping through some relatively fancy riverside neighborhoods. The roads were flat and straight, perfect for the two velomobiles we saw coming our way.

We rode a little faster than Friday, perhaps realizing subconsciously that 51 miles here was about as challenging as my 30-mile bike commute. A couple of times we jumped onto a passing pack of cyclists to make the rolling even easier.

When we finished for the day, I felt like I could have ridden 20 or 30 more miles with ease. I am glad I didn’t because the winds really started to blow hard. Flags were sticking straight out. There was just one thing to do. Eat.

The main campground had free pork barbeque. I normally don’t like this sort of food but this was pretty darn tasty. After dinner we went back to The Bean and then sought shelter in skem Adirondack chairs next to some slips at the marina. We had a nice chat with some folks and I had the chance to replensh some fluids (Corona and Bass Ale).

Back at the campground I spotted the beer truck with a couple of guys standing next to it. It turns out that the beer was free. Sad face. But that there was one cup of beer left. So I did my civic duty. Wouldn’t want it to go to waste. Happy face.

After the sun set, a dragon came down the street. The dragon is something normally used for Chinese New Year (the town is called Oriental afterall) and Mardi Gras. It was a spirited end to a long fun day.

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That night the wind blew and blew and the temperatures dropped. I barely slept. My left hip and knee were aching and the guy in the next tent over was sawing logs all night.

In the morning we realized that riding in shorts in 50 degree weather with strong winds was not going to be a whole lotta fun, so we had breakfast and packed up for the long ride home.

I’d say my first ride in the state of North Carolina was a success. Nice people. A well organized event,especially since we nearly tripled the size of the town. Good riding.  Lots of good bike porn including several tandems (a Calfee with belt drive, a DaVinci, a Burley, and purple Santana), a Soma rando bike that I wanted to steal, several well appointed tadpole trikes, and the two velomobiles. Little Nellie may have been the only Bike Friday. She was given so many compliments that she will be impossible to be around or the next several weeks.

One word of warning: there was an epic amount of tree pollen in the air. If you pan on doing this ride, medicate accordingly.

I’ve only done one other event ride like this (Bike Virginia in 1991). I really should do more. They are quite a lot of fun.

Check put my pix of the ride on Flickr over here.

 

Bad Crank, Good Karma

I made up my mind that I’d drive to work today in order to avoid getting water from the rain that was forecasted on the bandage on my hand. This morning the forecast was updated to no rain so I rode. I took The Mule as a shakedown ride in anticipation of this weekend’s ride in North Carolina.

About 2 miles into the ride I noticed that my left pedal was skipping. Every rotation had this spastic jump in it. At first I thought it was my shoes. Then I thought my toe clip was falling off. After 3 1/2 miles I pulled over and saw that my left crank arm was loose. I turned around and headed back home. A mile from home the bold holding the crank arm fell off. I recovered it, threaded it on my hand and carefully rode the last mile. Normally, this would make me mad, but I am thankful that this happened here rather than in NC.

I switched to Little Nellie and rode to work. Along the way I saw a dead deer along the trail near Dyke Marsh. Next, in the marsh north of Slaters Lane, I caught some motion in the water out of the corner of my right eye. It was a beaver diving under the surface as he swam toward me.

As I passed under the railroad bridge north of the airport I noticed a runner coming toward me with a funny look on his face. I looked to my left and saw a scruffy looking fox just standing there next to the trail. He made no attempt to run off.

North of the Humpback Bridge I passed a three-car accident on the adjacent Parkway. It looked like a chain reaction rear-ender. I’ll take a broken crank over whiplash any day.

I rode in with a jacket on, but stowed it for the ride home. It was 60 degrees and the riding was lovely. A gentle tailwind pushed me along. When I arrived home, I felt unusually tired. I think the combination of dealing with being a lefty for a day and inhaling a ton of pollen wore on me.

Tomorrow, I’m heading south to Oriental NC for 3-days of biking, lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Get Lost, March

March, and I mean this with all sincerity, has sucked. As I write this, it has been raining for two straight days, except for the last half hour during which it has been sleeting like a bitch. Good riddance.

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The before picture. Conveniently, it’s also my “Goodbye March” picture.

In addition to depicting pretty much exactly how I feel about March 2014, this is also a picture with a medical purpose. If you look closely at the nail, you will see it is deformed. Just behind the nail is some swelling. When this finger gets aggravated, that swelling blooms into a big painful cyst. (The cyst deformed the nail.) If I bump this finger when the cyst is inflamed against anything hard, it hurts a whole bunch.  As it turns out, the cyst is somehow related to arthritis and a bone spur in the adjacent knuckle. So tomorrow morning I am having both the bone spur and the cyst removed. Later this week I’ll be riding in North Carolina with a splint on that finger. Let’s just say, it’s going to be interesting.

It is really important for me to get this taken care of. I’ve been dealing with it for several years now. A painful middle-finger cyst can impede the sharing of important information with my fellow road users, particularly those driving BMWs and Range Rovers. Once the surgery wound heals, my finger will be all set for the busy DC riding season.

I was expecting to get a local anesthetic for my surgery but it seems as though they are going to knock me out. I expect to be in a post-op fog tomorrow. This means that my bike riding for March is complete. The numbers are pretty lame. I rode 484 miles in March, 312 of this was on 11 bike commutes. As usual the Mule did the bulk of the work, 301 total miles with 213.5 miles from seven commutes. Little Nellie picked up the remaining five commutes and a total of 169.5 miles. Big Nellie was confined to the basement. I did one ride down there for what I guess was about 13.5 miles.

I completed the Errandonee Challenge. My long ride was a 40-mile errandonnee on a Saturday. I also did the Halv-vasa ride last weekend. I did several fun sessions of snow shoveling with my wovel. Finally, I started doing yoga again and actually did a head stand yesterday. I used the couch to spot myself. I didn’t stay vertical for long, maybe 15 seconds or so, but it was actually pretty comfortable.

For the year, I have ridden to work 27 times, which I was surprised to discover is only four times fewer than last year. I have racked up 1293.5 miles so far this year.