Travelling Light

I saw this bike in Rosslyn today as I was going to lunch. Whoever is riding this machine has travelling light down to a science. Handlebar bag and seat bag and that’s IT! Note the absence of a water bottle is made up for by the canteen strapped to the front of the handlebar bag. I would venture to guess that I carry more stuff to and from work than this cyclists carries wherever he may be going. 


Billy Goating (Again)

A couple of weeks ago I went on a short hike in Great Falls Park near the C&O Canal. It nearly killed me. So, of course, I decided to give hiking another go.

The near fatal hike was on the Billy Goat A Trail. The A trail is an continuous nasty rock scramble interrupted by a couple of minutes of walking in the woods. It was not one of my better outings in nature. 

When I was a kid, I used to hang out in the woods near my house all summer. When I wasn’t in the woods I was usually at home painting myself with calamine lotion. So Help Me Hanna! Putting calamine lotion on a poison ivy rash is like treating the leather on my saddle: it gives you something to do when you are bored but it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

Today’s hike was along the B and C Billy Goat Trails.  These trails and the walk along the C&O Canal towpath that connects them are much more my style. There was beaucoup walking on dirt trails and some fun rock scrambles here and there. I only had to slide down one on my butt. My only complaint about these trails is that there are lots of tree roots and jagged little rocks to negotiate. This meant that I spent a whole bunch of time looking at the ground and not enjoying the scenery. And there’s plenty of scenery,  bubbling water, turtles, huge jagged rock faces, rock climbers, and vultures. (At one point I inadvertantly startled a vulture in a tree along the river bank. After seeing him launch, I am glad he eats carrion and not hikers.)

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To do both trails in one go, you have to walk over two miles on the C&O Canal towpath. This is a very pretty walk, completely flat. I am so used to riding it that my subconscious wanted me to run. Running would have ruined the laid back vibe, not to mention my aging knees. The repetitiveness of the unvarying flat surface was much harder on my legs than the rock scrambles and tree roots along the trails.

All in all, the hike was a success. I hoofed it about 6 1/2 miles in 2:30. In my running days I could have easily done the whole thing in under an hour. Those days and the cartilage in my knees are long gone.  

Here’s hoping that I didn’t brush up against any poison ivy. Some more pix are on my Flickr page.

A Bicycle Friendly City?

The League of American Bicyclists of which I am a member has named Alexandria Virginia a sliver level bicycle friendly city. About once a week, I see an example of how far Alexandria has to go to move up to gold status. I occasionally see evidence that they should be considered for demotion to bronze level status.

This week, Alexandria police have beefed up their enforcement of stop signs and red lights for bicyclists. This happens once or twice a year. One might think that this is intended to bring an end to the bicycle related carnage on the streets of the Port City. One would be wrong. So far as I know there hasn’t been an increase in bicycle crashes in Alexandria. A few years ago I had an email exchange with an Alexandria cop who is also a cyclist. He explained that non-cycling residents of Old Town crab about cyclists all the time so the city throws them a bone once in a while by harassing cyclists. (One year they called it an educational campaign.)

Of course, cars that run red lights and stop signs actually DO cause harm but you won’t see the Porsches and BMW’s of Old Town pulled over in a targeted enforcement campaign. In all my time cycling through Old Town I have seen one car pulled over for a traffic infraction. Jack Webb, phone home.

I am not naive. I see traffic violations every day by both cyclists and cars. They piss me off equally. The traffic laws should be enforced equally.

The crabby residents of Old Town bitch about plane noise (the airport’s been there for over 60 years, get over it) and the tourists (they missed the memo about the Lees and Washingtons and such). On North Union Street they complain that outsiders park across their driveways. Their solution is to park their cars perpendicular to the curb and jutting out into the bike lane. Why they can’t park their cars parallel to the curb in front of their garages is beyond me. If they did, they could still show their disrespect for cyclists by standing in front of their homes and flipping us the bird. 

For the record the BMW is parked like this several nights per week. It’s at 420 North Union. The Porsche is at 406 North Union. When I told Alexandria police about this a few weeks ago, they said they were not aware of it. “I know nothing! Nothing!”

A note to the reader who searched tax records and sent me a comment with the homeowners’s names. I did not approve your comment because I do not know who owns the cars. I did send this blog to Alexandria’s finest via Twitter. I’ll let them sort out the particulars (I will be stunned if they lift a finger.)

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Tree Down, Man Down



Summer brings overnight storms. They sometimes knock trees down along the Mount Vernon Trail. I was riding down the serpentine path from the Old Stone Bridge when I came around a corner to see the cyclists in the white shirt holding his hands up telling me to stop because a tree had fallen across the trail. The speedy bike commuter behind me, possibly screened by me, saw the warning too late. He hit is brakes and fishtailed. Then his front wheel slipped on the yellow stripe in the center of the trail and down he went. He didn’t stick, sliding instead. I think he was more mad at himself than hurt. He didn’t seem to have a scratch on him and his shorts were intact.

When I arrived at work I sent an email to the National Park Service office in charge of the trail and advsied them of the tree.

On the way home he rode past me and remarked “No pictures tonight”.  He explained that he was unharmed and all was good and sped away. When I got to the scene of the fallen tree there was no evidence that the tree had fallen. Not even sawdust. The National Park Service once again did an amazing job of clearing the trail. 

I’m No Billy Goat

It’s Monday. I could have ruined the week by going to work. Instead I decided to go for a hike in oppressive heat and humidity. I might want to reconsider my use of annual leave. I had a backpack with two water bottles. My shoes were some shiny faux hiking boots with a slick tread. Two mistakes. I should have brought four bottles and boot with some grip. The first few hundred yards were on the C&O towpath at widewater. It is one of the most scenic parts of the C&O Canal park. I turned left at the sign that warned hikers of the difficulty of the trail. Pshaw. (MORON!)


Into the woods went I. After 100 yards I gingerly made my way down a rocky hill. Then the trail alternated between a wooden path and rock scrambles. These scrambles weren’t particularly long but there was nowhere to put your feet. Sometimes I hopped down when the drop to the next flat part was only a couple of feet. Sharp edged rocks alternated with smooth rock faces. I slowed to a literal crawl.   Some of the scrambles were impossible to hike down, especially in my slippery boots. So I sat down and slid. I don’t have a whole lot of padding on my posterior (a genetic trait from my father). In fact, I once went rock sliding on the Ausable River and severely bruised my tailbone. Some of the scrambles involved pulling and pushing with my arms. The rocks were exposed to the sun and they were hot. I once ordered steak on a hot stone in Sintra, Portugal. I felt like that piece of meat. About a third of the way through the hike, my shirt and shorts were soaking wet with sweat. My legs were wobbly and my heart was racing. I sat down in the shade and drank a half of a bottle of water. Five minutes later I was back at it. More rock scrambles. Each one harder than the last. IMG_0133A pretty girl in a lacey blouse and shorts came by. “It’s a better hike in the spring when the cool wind is blowing.” Good to know. Got any beer? Up. Down. At one point my left foot got stuck in a seam in the rocks. Oh great. I sat down on the hot rock and nudged and twisted my foot. After a minute it popped free. Good, cuz I didn’t bring a saw to cut it off. I arrived at the half way point where a bail out trail takes you back to the canal. I sat down and drank some more water. Tempting. Onward. Effing rocks. Up. Down. Sideways. Drink more water. Careful. Don’t turn and ankle or you are screwed. There was an occasional view of the river but the water level was low. The rush of water through the Mather Gorge is spactacular. Today it was serene. When I wasn’t avoiding the perils of the rocks, I had to deal with tree roots that arched across the trail. This isn’t a trail, it’s an obstacle course. At last the trail turned away from the river and toward the canal. I had at least a mile of towpath to get back to the car. The heat was pretty intense but I kept my mind occupied with watching wildllife: snapping turtles, box turtles, geese, cormorants, and hawks. I girl rode by on a bike. I resisted the urge to give her a hip check and steal her bike. Back at the car, I looked like I had been in the canal not alongside it. With the hike done, I have a renewed appreciation for offroad distance runners like Ultrarunnergirl. I also have a hankering for more. Old Rag, anyone? Pix and a short video on my Flickr page.

Sometimes Things Work Out

Up at 6:15 I was ready to ride. Until I stood up and felt achy all over. I tried stretching and sit-ups and such but there was no negotiating. I wasn’t riding anywhere.

After breakfast, I went out to the deck with the newspaper and promptly fell into a deep sleep. I awoke at 10:30. No aches. So I turned on my computer. No Microsoft Office. The gods are messing with me.

Get me out of here.

I went for a quick ride in a blast furnace. I rode down near Fort Belvoir to check out Mulligan Road. When it opens, Mulligan Road will connect Telegraph Rd and US1. It’s still underconstruction but looks promising.

I rode around the Woodlawn area and felt pretty good.  After about 20 miles, my right knee started barking at me. Okay. I’ll go home.

I arrived home expecting the World Cup game to be over. It hadn’t started. And the Nats were playing. Into the Laz-y-Boy with this bicycle terrorist.

Tomorrow I am taking the day off. I have some medical/insurance stuff to deal with then I may go up to Great Falls Park and go for an easy hike before the thunderstorms arrive.

Vamos, Argentina! Go Nats!


Errandoneuring in the Summertime

Sleepless in Mount Vernon could be the title of my biography. I got all agitated over a billing dispute with my doctor on Friday. I kept waking up stressing about it. At 5:45 a.m. I gave up and had breakfast.

I hoped to go on a really long ride today (sound familiar) but grogginess had other things in mind. So I decided to do some errands and bike maintenance instead.

There is a bird feeder in front of my kitchen window. Apparently it had become the drive through restaurant of choice for every bird within 20 miles. The damned thing sometimes has 30 birds on and around it. Suffice it to say that I like my birds like Groucho liked his cigar. I rode to the hardware store on Little Nellie to buy more seed. On the way I ran into Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley. We gabbed for a half an hour. One of the shortcomings of living in suburbia is that there is no Swings House of Caffeine nearby.

Once I shut my piehole, I made my way to the hardware store, bought a ten pound bag, and rode back home, listing slightly to the left the whole way.

Next up was adjusting the brakes on Little Nellie. There was no stoppage happening. That accomplished, I pedaled The Mule to Spokes to get a new drivetrain. I was expecting to replace some chainrings but Carlos the Wrench said I didn’t need to. They changed the chain and casette on the spot (Yay, Spokes!) and I was on my way.

After lunch I rode to the drug store to get a baby syringe which I used to inject new lube into the Speedplay Frog pedals on Little Nellie. I had seen this done on YouTube but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped. (You can buy a lube injector but it costs about $20 more than a baby syringe.) I think I’ll spring for the injector.

After 15 miles of riding to stores. I took a much needed nap.

Next up was a walk through what has usually been one of my favorite places in Mount Vernon, Huntely Meadows Park. It’s 1,500 acres of woods and wetlands in the middle of ugly suburbia. If you go early in the morning it’s quiet, but not this afternoon. Cell phone conversations, radios, the sound of people partying in an adjacent neighborhood stole my serenity. But the two mile walk was a nice change of pace. The park authority is allowing beavers to reclaim the park. Much of the swampland has turned dry and is lush with vegetation. The woods that used to be on the perimeter of the swamp are now flooded. Huntley Meadows Park never looks the same twice. Nature never rests.

Tonight I’m going down to the Wilson Bridge to watch fireworks in Old Town. Then I will rest.