The Long Weekend Goes Long

My plan was to do a long solo hike in Shenandoah National Park on Friday. Mission accomplished. Saturday was devoted to baseball and fireworks. We got both in the game. The Nationals went up 3-0 without making an out in the bottom of the first inning. The first pitch of the game was hit for a home run. The second just missed and ended up being a double. A few pitches later another home run. Yikes.

The game ended up being a 9-3 win for the good guys but Strasburg, the starting pitcher, got hurt in the process. There is a rumor in town that the Nationals are going to replace the curly W on their caps with a red cross.

Perhaps the best part about the game is the fact that the morning’s rain stopped earlier enough so that the start was delayed by only 15 minutes. The downside was that I didn’t get to hang out with Normie “Woodrow” McCloud. I’ll see her later in the week.

Later in the day we drove to a friends house for a cookout and fireworks. The skies opened up and it rained impressively. The water in the underpass of the Memorial Bridge was up to the center of the wheels of the cars. Rain in DC this summer has been very entertaining.

Today I woke up and procrastinated. I decided to salvage the day by riding Big Nellie to Bikes at Vienna to buy some gloves and tires. It’s about a 23 mile ride from my house. After shopping I thought, why not just ride out the W&OD trail for a while.

So I did,

I ended up in Leesburg and wondered whether the rains had closed Whites Ferry, a cable operated ferry across the Potomac River. To quote a favorite children’s book, “There was just one thing to do.”


I rode to White’s Ferry and managed to sneak on the back of a trip. The river was very high and muddy. An osprey passed overhead with fish in its talons. A great blue heron seussed by at about 15 feet. As we cabled across, I discussed the condition of the C&O canal with a Marine triathlete. She said she had ridden it a few days ago and it was a muddy mess. I decided to stay off the towpath. Good thing too, I could see huge puddles of muddy water as I passed.

The road to Poolesville was hilly but surprisingly devoid of traffic. I was expecting a pulse of cars from the next ferry crossing. It never came. This was a little disconcerting.

After a stop for ice cream and liquids in Poolesville I turned for home. My legs were quite tired having yet to adapt to riding my recumbent. River Road is a roller coaster of long downhills – always a blast on my recumbent – and long uphills – not so much.

The breeze from riding maskes the heat of the sun. I stopped a few times en route to get my bearings. It was a lot hotter than I thought.

There was just one thing to do.

Pedal, pedal.

I mentally broke down the rest of the ride. It’s five miles to this intersection. Three to this landmark. Four to that hill.

As I rode through DC, I endured tourists. I always remind myself that I want to be treated well when I visit a town I am unfamiliar with so I supressed the urge to spew unkind words.

I plugged along and soon reached my neighborhood with 99.5  miles on the odometer. There was just one thing to do: I rode around the block until I saw 100.

When I dismounted, I felt a sense of invigoration. Actually, that’s a lie. I was tired. I was hot. I was done. Put a fork in me.

Tomorrow is car mechanic day. I will ride only about 6 1/2 miles.

A Monday goes short.

A Devil of a Hike

I had the day off so I woke up at 5:30 and was out the door in less than an hour. I drove to Shenandoah National Park on highways, super and not so super, and byways, finally driving about three miles on an unpaved road. My directions weren’t very good (thanks Google maps) but a man in a floppy hat walking a dog set me straight. You drive to the end of the road. And park. Alone. Yesss!

There were no prominent signs just a small wooden sign for Little Devil Stairs trail. Good enough. Off I went. Up. Not a steep slope but one that provided a good warm up. The path was relatively smooth too. I could hear a stream to my right. Just me, the path, the sound of a gurgling stream and a bird or two discussing the news.

About a half mile into my trek, the trail steepened and got rocky. And crossed the stream. Back and forth. Slippery rocks that made me feel old. Every so often a waterfall. I’d stop and listen.


Up some more. Steeper. This is getting hard, I thought. Huffing and puffing. Wishing I had brought some albuterol. I came to another creek crossing. It was beatiful but the only way across was a giant fallen tree covered with moss. Very, very carefully I got up on the tree, found an advantageous large rock in the stream and made my crossing without a splash.

Up. Up. Sometimes the trail builders had put in rock stairs. Thanks. Up.

Finally, the trail turned from the stream. I would miss the sound of water but the trail became smooter and less steep. Up some more. As I climbed more and more sunlight hit the trail. Finally I came to Fourway. A guidepost in the middle of a crossing. As I munched some mixed nuts, I made my decision: go the long way. The Pole Ridge Link trail.

It was an excellent choice but not perfect. The trail was now smooth, almost rock free. It gradually decended the far side of the mountain I had just worked so hard to climb. The decent was across the face of the mountain. A couple hundred yards in I saw fresh scat in the center of the trail. Uh oh. Paranoia really does striked deep.

My calm was now rattled. Move along. Look for paw prints. All I saw for about a mile were the occasional hiking boot print pointed in my directio18764624234_2267e24474_zn. Until I saw a paw print. Eek. Apparently a one-legged bear as I could find no other prints. It looked fresh too.

Move along. Nothing more to see here.

Every sound made my head swivel.

After about ten minutes of this, I calmed back down and kept on keeping on. The Pole Bridge Link trail gave way to the Piney Branch Trail. I kept angling down. The trail followed a stream down the side of the mountain. I passed a camp site that looked like heaven.

After a mile or so I crossed the stream. The rocks were slippery but I managed. More smooth hiking gave way to another stream crossing. One thing I like about hiking is that every so often you are presented with a puzzle. Where did the trail go? How do I cross this stream without killing myself? This was one of the latter. I could not find a sure-fire way to get across without getting wet. I gave it my best shot and then splash, my left foot went all the way in. The water was surprisingly warm. And the creek bottom was, thankfully, firm.

The Piney Branch gave way to the Hull School trail. The name of this trail and the occasional rock wall in the woods hint at the days when people lived in these mountains. They were remote in those days, before the Depression. It must have been hard living here.

The Hull School Trail was smooth and recently weed-whacked. It went straight up. For 0.7 miles. For ever. It topped out at a cool old cemetery. I went through the gate with the name Bolen on it. The tombstones told the story of hardship. People here died young. Some children didn’t have much of a chance. Seeing the names of the children was moving. The early 1900s were tough times.19361028736_a39f5e2589_z

The rest of the hike followed an unpaved fire road back to the car. It was a pleasant downhill track curving through the dense forest. The constant trudging was wearing out my legs though. I decided to see if jogging would ease the discomfort. Sure thing. I jogged a few yards and my legs felt relief. I was tempted to let ‘er rip and just run the last half mile but I knew I’d pay a price tomorrow if I did.

Tomorrow is baseball. Maybe some rain too. After the game, I hope to hang out with my friend Normie “Woodrow” McCloud (not her real name) and her BFF from college. Then it’s dinner and fireworks with friends in the burbs.

Some more pix of my excursion are over on my Flickr page.

The Shortness of a Long Weekend

Three days. No office. No meetings. No work related responsibilities.

What to do?

Saturday is booked with a baseball game with my daughter. I am a little anxious about dealing with the people streaming into the city for the Fourth of July festivities. The ball game starts at 11 so I think I will avoid most of the madness. I am putting my faith in Metro because driving into town would mean dealing with road closures, parking, and clueless tourists from Scranton who think it is their God given right to drive into DC without a clue of how to get anywhere. Normally, I’d ride to the game but, despite doing my damnedest to set a good example, she wants nothing to do with riding a bike. After the game we’ll do some socializing and then escape to the suburbs, perhaps to watch the fireworks from an undisclosed location where the D meets the M meets the V.

That takes care of Saturday. What about Friday and Monday?

Friday will be my alone time. I am driving out to Shenandoah National Park and hiking for hours and hours. I will think thoughts or, perhaps, I will think none at all. I might find answers. I might find questions. I hope to find calm.

Sunday looks like the kind of day made for a long, slow bike ride. Somewhere far. Maybe something as simple as the White’s Ferry loop. Maybe I’ll find answers to Friday’s questions. If I do, I’m pretty sure that I’ll have more questions lined up.

Life is like a Spanish sentence. Question mark at the start. Question mark at the end. How do Hispanistos get anywhere in life? Good thing I’m Irish.

It’s going to be a long weekend, I fear.

June by the Numbers

I dialed the bike riding back a bit in June, having ridden a bike tour in May. For the month I logged 672.5 miles.As usual most of my miles came from riding to and from work. I commuted by bike 17 times out of 21 work days. The other four were telecommute days. My commuting hoss of choice was Little Nellie (10 times) followed by The Mule (5 times) and 2 on Big Nellie.  My longest ride was only 44 miles on a meander in the city on a weekend. My only ride outside of town was a 38 miler last Sunday with Science Mom. Little Nellie made it to 15,000 somewhere near Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland

I did manage to get back into hiking. To get warmed up, I did a solo ten miler in Rock Creek Park. I followed that up with a hilly solo 6 1/2 mile hike in Ashby Hollow on the Appalachian Trail was a challenge. My hike up and down White Oak Canyon with Ultrarunnergirl was my first foray in the Shenandoah National Park. It trashed my legs but the view at Hawksbill was worth it.

For the year to date, I’ve ridden 3,791 miles. Eighty three commutes account for 2,533.5 of those miles. I’ve been wearing out The Mule. I’ve ridden it 2,304.5 miles including 50 bike commutes. Pretty good for a bike I bought on sale in 1991.

The second half of the year will probably not have as many biking miles. I plan on being out of the country for two or three weeks in September. I won’t be taking a bike with me but there is a possibility that I can get a ride in on two continents. (With a European vacation in the works for springtime I might get a third continent on wheels next year.)  Depending on scheduling, there’s even a small chance that I may add an eighth 50 States Ride this year. (What can I say, I’m addicted.)

The Bicyclist’s Protection Program Rides around Sugarloaf

Yesterday it rained and rained and rained. It flooded and flooded and flooded.

Today the weather was nearly perfect for bike riding so I went for a ride in Montgomery County MD with Science Mom. This is not her real name. She is keeping a low social media profile these days. If I told you why, I’d have to kill you. She is in the Bicyclist Protection Program.

We started our ride in Poolesvill and rode clockewise around Sugarloaf which is about ten miles to the north. The roads are really splendid for bike riding. Today, however, they were littered with stones, tree debris, and mud from yesterday’s floods. We chatted as we rolled along, Science Mom on her commuter hybrid, me on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist.

Science Mom hasn’t done any riding except for her five mile commute so the plan was to take it easy and tweak our route based on how she was feeling.

We arrived at the entrance to Sugarloaf, assessed our comfort level, and decided to ride around the mountain on Comus Rd. As it turns out, Comus Road is unpaved to the west of Sugarloaf and paved to the east. We headed west.

The storms of yesterday made for some sketchy riding. The road had a pronounced crown on it. Little Nellie’s wee wheels were making a go of it. Until we came to a ditch across the road. This looked like a drainage channel that had been enlarged by run off from the storm. I had to come to a fast stop else Little Nellie’s front wheel would have been eaten by the ditch and I’d have been launched over the handlebars.

Then I heard Science Mom, “Whoa. Whoa. Oh no!” I turned expecting her to rear end me. She had come to a stop about ten feet behind me but her clipless pedals would not disengage from her feet. Over she went to her right. The crown of the road added to the distance she fell. The huge mud puddle on the road’s edge made for a rather comical splashdown.

“Should I take a picture?” I asked tongue firmly in cheek.

After I had my laugh I took off her left sandal which allowed her to stand up. Neither foot unclipped which may have been a good thing. She had a boo boo on her right knee and a wet jersey but otherwise she had survived the crash swimmingly (sorry).

DSCN4021 IMG_0703

She wrapped her knee in a bandana and got her shoes back on. A silver minivan approached from the far side of the trench. I warned them to slow down. They made it across the trench and stopped. In the shotgun seat sat Mathilde, a friend from Friday Coffee Club, on her way to a hiking outing on Sugarloaf. We had a nice chat and gave her directions to the parking areas on the mountain.


Ou est Sugarloaf, si vous plait?

Back underway we took it easy but the road didn’t. Hill after hill. None of them particularly brutal but not the kind of thing you want to be dealing with after whacking your knee on the ground.

Science Mom plugged along. We finally found a paved road and headed north. We were expecting sunny skies which would have really enhanced the already splendid views. The overcast kept the temperatures down. This was a blessing as the roads back south were hillier. We especially liked the aptly named Peach Tree Road, a windy, shaded, hilly, rural masterpiece.

I think I messed up a couple of turns but it didn’t matter. All the roads in this area are bike heaven, which explains why we saw dozens of bike riders enjoying the day.

I had raised my seat about a quarter of an inch before the ride. This caused my quads to burn for the first ten miles. They calmed down but later in the ride my lower back was not happy. (I’ll give it a few more days.)

Even with a sore back, riding today was effortless. I was in cruise control for all but a few of the hills.

On the drive back we took the scenic route along River Road. Or we tried to. The rains had so soaked the ground that we saw trees toppled over all over the place. The last one was right across River Road. Good thing nobody was under it.

Despite her crash, Science Mom was pretty happy with how the day turned out. She doesn’t get to do this sort of thing very often.

Little Nellie was happy too. She turned 15 during the ride.


Rainy Day Time Machine

It’s raining in DC. I have had a pretty good week of four bike commutes (and one telework day). Riding today isn’t going to happen. So I will spend my day scanning oldSmirk slides into jpeg format. So far I haven’t found any with me and my childhood bikes. Apparently, I was a skeptical boy in those days. I did, however, have awesome jammies.

I’m spending the rest of the day scanning some more photos. The results are on my Flickr page.

Stay dry.