Darth Litigious and Friend

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Halloween fell on a Friday this year so it was not a surprise to see some folks dressed for the occasion at Friday Coffee Club. This is Lawyer Mike. He is normally a (somewhat) respectable attorney in our nation’s capital, but today he apparently lost his mind today. He has this cool Bike Friday Family Tandem that he normally rides with his son. Today, he brought along a different stoker. I think his name is Bram. (Sorry.)

The fellow on the back had an accident on the way to Coffee Club; his leg and pelvis fell off. Thanks to quick thinking and some duct tape Mike had him back together and back on the bike. I suspect his pedaling effficiency may suffer somewhat. Rudy offered some screws from his femur but Mike was too polite to take them. Besides it would have meant cutting Rudy’s leg open with blood flying everywhere. Ewww.

Coffeenuering No. 4: Stalking the Queen of Caffeine

Today was the running of the Marine Corps Marathon. Since the Mary, Queen of Caffeine, was running, I knew there was just one thing to do: ride to the marathon and have some coffee en route. And so I did.

I hopped on The Mule and headed up the Mount Vernon Trail despite the fact that my legs are pretty much toast after two weeks of biking commutes, event rides, and a hike. I stopped in at Firehook Bakery on Washington Street in Old Town for a coffee and everything bar (it was a blondie with all kinds of other stuff in it, coconut, pumpkin, and maybe some meth). The coffee was okay. After drinking half of it, I put the cup in my waterbottle cage and set off for my marathon watching perch at the  Virginia end of the 14th Street Bridge at around mile 21. When I got there the runners were thick and moving pretty fast. I didn’t know what Mary was wearing so spotting her was sure to be a challenge. I checked my Twitter feed and found out that Ed, King of Caffeine, had spotted her at mile 20 some 30 minutes earlier. Oops.

I hopped on the bike and headed for mile 25 or so. This was at the northern end of the vast Pentagon parking lot. As I was about to ride a  road down to the race course, a Pentagon Security Officer told me that the area was off limits. I literally said, “You’re kidding me, right?” Nope. I have watched the marathon from this very spot over a dozen times in the past. There was, of course, absolutely nothing about this vantage point that was in need of security any more than the other 26.2 miles of the course. There were even people already lined up along the road! Still Mr. Security would not budge. Whoever made the security decisions or empower this knucklehead to enforce them really needs to find another job. Maybe they can put him on the ebola watch.

I rode away and was soon perched along side the course near mile 26 with hundreds of other folks causing security mayhem by cheering on friends and family.

I even found Ed who told me that Mary was wearing a red Washington Nationals shirt. (Most excellent fashion choice!) Despite now knowing what to look for I managed not to see her run past. About 30 minutes later Ed tweeted that she had finished in 4:29:50. Bravo, Mary. I recommend a warm beverage in celebration.

Date: Sunday, October 26

Location: Firehook Bakery, South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria

Drink: House brew with super duper blondie bar. Bar was better than coffee.

Observation: It was a good thing I didn’t have two cups of coffee or I might have told the cop to go eff himself causing me to become the first incarcerated coffeeneur.

Miles: 24.5

Coffee, now cold, at the marathon

Coffee, now cold, at the marathon

A Truly Great Pumpkin Ride

I don’t much care for pumpkin pie.

Each year just before Halloween, the folks at the Fauquier Trails Coalition in Fauquier County, VIrginia put on their Great Pumpkin Ride. I’ve done this ride a few times before and it has always been a fun challenge. Last year’s ride, for instance, included cool temperatures and a constant headwind despite the fact that the route was a 45-ish mile circuit. The ride always gives back though. The scenery is classic Virginia Piedmont countryside and the food at the rest stops is always great. This year didn’t disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations.

I began by picking my long-time riding buddy Lisa up in Hyattsville, Maryland. I managed to get lost going to and from her house which takes some doing, I suppose. We made it to Warrenton, Virginia where the ride starts and ends at around 8:45. The 68-mile riders were already heading out. We took our time getting ready. Chatted with Kirstin and Betsy, a.k.a Boots. They decided to ride the 68-mile course while Lisa and I were doing the 47-miler. While waiting I decided to shed my wind pants as the temperature was climbing into the high 50s.

Lisa and I went to get our shirts and maps and such. I was standing in line looking all about for familar faces when I realized that Reba and her husband Robert were standing directly in front of me. Doh!

Robert, Lisa, and Reba at the start

The four of us decided to ride together and we were soon on the road. We seemed to be a well-matched quartet rolling along at 15 miles per hour give or take. My legs were not happy with me since I had not had a day of rest from biking or hiking in over two weeks. In prior years the sky was gray and the foliage seemed past peak. This year we had beautiful blue skies with some pretty decent foliage to delight our eyes. At our first big intersection I took a wrong turn which is pretty much my new thing these days. Reba and Robert corrected me and we were soon in pursuit of Lisa who actually knows how to read a cue sheet. Ironically, Kirstin and Boots managed to miss this turn and screw up their route. They ended up doing the 47 miler about 30 minutes ahead of us. Considering the fact that I took Kirstin off route in this same area a couple of months ago, I felt a certain amount of vindication or, perhaps, camaraderie. There is comfort in shared stupidity.

This year’s route was slightly different than last year’s. For a start it was counter clockwise. For another there was a rest stop at 10 miles and it was a doozy. The stop was at the Old Bust Head craft brewery. They had (and I am not exagerating) pumpkin pie, Peanut butter and jelly sammiches, roasted soft pretzels, banana bread, coffee, hot apple cider, hot pumpkin soup, cookies, bananas, samples of pumpkin ale, and indoor bathrooms!!!  We ate and drank and basically didn’t want to leave.

Craft brewery

I appear to be one of the few people I know who doesn’t like pumpkin pie.My wife and kids are pumpkin pie addicts, but it just makes me gag. Last Sunday, after our hike, Flor told me about how pumpkin and apple pie are her Kryptonite.  So I decided to give a slice a try during the ride. It wasn’t half bad. The pie filling was mushy but firm and not overly sweet. The crust was moist. Not half bad. At a later rest stop, I threw caution to the wind and tried the pumpkin soup. Yeah, baby. You could freebase this stuff.

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Even better than the soup though were the roasted soft pretzels. Sweet mother of god are they good. Follow them up with some hot apple cider or some pumpkin ale (really pretty tasty) and you have yourself a reason never to get back on the bike.

Somehow we did. We were off and riding and my legs wanted nothing to do with it. I persisted and they came around. Soon we were crusing into rest stop number 2. Here I found a table with brown bags of goodies for people on gluten free diets. This ride is organized!

Speaking of organization, all troublesome intersections were staffed by sherrifs with their lights flashing. These law enforcement officers could not have been more helpful or polite. What a shame Backroads doesn’t have this type of cooperation.

We rolled along past houses, farms, and fields. Then we heard a train whistle blow. Reba entertained us with her version of Johnny Cash railroad songs. During Folsom Prison Blues, she even threw in some air guitar. Somewhere Carl Perkins smiled.

Lisa and me and the road ahead

As we approached the third and final rest stop, Robert started to habe cramps in his legs. This looked painful. He ulled out a tube of cold stuff that was supposed to relax his muscles. After our final stop, we decided that Lisa and I would forge ahead while Reba and Robert would take it slow to the finish.

We alll made it. And wouldn’t you know it there was more food at the finish. And a pretty decent three-piece rock band. And food. We decided to move our party indoors and headed to Molly’s, an Irish-themed pub in the historic center of town. Lo and behold there were Kirstin and Boots doing shots with a motorcycle gang.

Okay, actually they sitting alone having a post-ride lunch. (For the record, the Irish stew that Boots was eating looked amazing!)

We merged our tables and had us a  nice little after party. Since we had been to their brewery, Lisa and  I tried the Bust Head Porter. I found it waaaaay better than pumpkin pie. I do believe we may have to take the Hoppy 100 west next year!

My thanks go to the folks who planned this ride, to the volunteers who seemed to be everywhere, to the sheriff and his staff for doing a terrific and cheerful job of keeping us safe, and to the people of Fauquier County who put up with 1250 bicyclists for a day. I look forward to eating my way through the Piedmont again next year.

As usual my (and some of Reba’s) pix of the ride can be found on my Flickr page.

Lisa writes more better than me. Here‘s her account of the day.

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.