Cookies for a Cause

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Today was the annual Tour de Cookie ride in Montgomery County Maryland. This 42-mile ride is a fundraiser for The Tree House Child Assessment Center. According to its website, the Tree House “is dedicated to reducing trauma and promoting healing for child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.”

I met up with my frequent riding buddy Lisa and we were joined by Paris, who has a distinctive Twitter handle (@turtledub616). As the hyperlinks make clear each of us blog about our biking adventures. We are also Twitterholics so the ride involved plenty of down time to post things to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Flickr.

Before we set off, I made sure to rendevous with Shannon, the writer of one of my favorite blogs. Shannon’s blog chronicles her adventures in parenting Sprout, her toddler son. Shannon is a gifted writer and reading her blog takes me back to the days when my kids were Spouts. I highly recommend it.

I had never met Shannon before so it was a pleasure to finally so. She was volunteering as a marshal for the short ride (something like 13 miles). I also met her mother and, tada!, Sprout himself.  He’s one cute little guy.

We set off under puffy white clouds. I rode Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. At the start I wore a vest to ward off the early morning coolness. We began in a maze of office parks in Gaithersburg before riding south into the beautiful hills south of Poolesville and west of Potomac. It took a while to get loose but just as we did we hit the first cookie stop. Yes, every so often, there was a pit stop with friendly people staffing a table festooned with an array of cookies. And they were free to the riders.

Munching ensued.

Once the temperatures warmed I took off my vest and enjoyed the perfect, dry air. Our team of twits rode the hills without complaint. Frankly I was pleasantly surprised at how the hills didn’t faze me in the least. I passed people all day long going up hill. This NEVER happens.

Our route curved back to Poolesville and eventually to Germantown and Gaithersburg. As we did, the automobile traffic intensified. Most dirvers were patient with the packs of bicyclists. Most means that some were aggressive dorks. I didn’t see any cyclists get hit and only saw two cyclists fall, one from being unable to unclip from her pedals and the other hit a curb somehow. Both were unharmed.

As I noted above the ride features cookies at pit stops. For the first 30 miles these are spaced out at five or six mile intervals. We felt obligated to stop and try the different varieties of cookies. Each stop had a different array of goodies. After about five stops, the cookie thing wore a bit thin. Economists call this the law of diminishing marginal utility. At stop seven we went into the wrealm of negative marginal utility. This had to happen eventually especially in light of the fact that the last 12 miles had a cookie stop every two miles or so. You can only eat so many cookies you know. Really. I never thought I’d write those words. I suppose I could have eaten a few more but they ran out of insulin after the seventh stop.

The last 12 miles of the ride were on Rockvilles Millenium Trail. While I am sure this is a nifty way to run errands and get around Rockville for everyday purposes, I could have done without this section of the ride. There are so many driveways and intersections to deal with that it quickly became a pain to deal with. The ride is a figure eight, the second loop of which is this trail. I am pretty sure that most riders simply cut out the last 12 miles and went to the finish which was visible at mile 29.

We finished in about five hours. I have no idea how much riding time was involved but we probably spent over an hour talking and tweeting at various stops along the route. I am especially glad to have done this ride because I haven’t ridden on some of the roads south of Poolesville in ages and now I am itching to go back. The ride also proved to be a good test of my fitness for the Pittsburgh to DC ride I am doing in a week. I’d say I am ready to roll!

Finally, I am grateful for the splendid weather, the enthusiasm of the many volunteers who pulled this event together, the company of three friends, and, of course, the cookies.

Here are some pictures I took. Here’s Lisa’s account of the day.

My Meditation

An old friend of mine has an intense interest in eastern philosophies. Sometimes refers to my bike commute as my meditation. She didn’t know me back in the day when I ran ten miles per day. I used to embrace running for my mind more than for my body. For those of you who think I am “chill” now, you’d think I was an icebox back then.

My friend has a point. Since my bike commute doesn’t involve a nonstop war with cars, I can zone out during my ride. Often friends pass me and say hello and I don’t realize it until they are past. Sometimes I get a little carried away. This morning I rode to my physical therapy appointment. About 1 1/2 miles into the ride, I encountered a hill. Not a big one but one that requires an honest effort. I started to spin and my mind drifted from the effort. Spin, breathe, spin, breathe.

“GOOD MORNING!”

I looked up and there, not ten feet in front of me, was a woman walking a dog.

“SORRY”

Good thing she wasn’t a garbage truck.

That little trance is a place I go often. My friend is right; my commute is my meditation. There is no doubt at all that my mood is much better when I am not fighting the cold and wind and rain and just spinning along with my mind disconnected by the repetitive motion of my legs and lungs. It’s the sort of thing I can’t consciously bring about. It’s a natural side effect from the simple task of going from point A to B under my own power.

I love my meditatiion. I love my bike commute.

Gosslings!!!!

I write often about the bald eagles and great blue herons I see along the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work. They are pretty cool but I get even more of a kick when the babies start showing up. Today was my first sighting of gosslings. There were four of them and they were just little green balls of down. This was the best I could do with my camera without getting Mom and Dad really upset.DSCN3716_850

After a few moments, they went for a swim.

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I should be seeing ducklings any day now. Then, with luck, I may see a snapping turtle laying eggs along the trail. They like to use the edge of the trail for leverage as they did a hole for the eggs with their hind feet.

I’m sure there are bike commutes somewhere that are better than mine, but I wouldn’t trade mine for any of them.

Liftoff – April by the Numbers

Well, I certainly picked up the pace in April. I rode 741 miles and rode my bike to work 20 times. I only did 121.5 miles of weekend riding spread over 6 days, including the long ride of the month: 48 miles to Bethesda Bagels and back.

It really helps that the roads are no longer covered with ice and snow. And that the weather has ever so gradually become spring like.  In addition to commuting my bikes became social machines. I used my bikes to ride to see the cherry blossoms four times. I also got back into riding to Friday Coffee Club. And for the second time I rode to a Nats game. (Bike valet is the best idea EVER!) I even rode to two happy hours. (Don’t try this at home.)  I also rode my bike to the car dealer, the physical therapist, and to local shops. My car is a really awesome driveway ornament.

The Mule is by far my best bike for ice and snow so it was nice to give it a rest and switch over to Big and Little Nellie for a change. I only rode The Mule three times to work. Big Nellie was my commuter for six rides. And Little Nellie did the remaining 11 trips to and from beautiful downtown Rosslyn.

So far this year I have ridden 2,167 1/2 miles. 74 percent of that riding has been to and from work on 52 commutes.

I feel so good I have been shopping for a new bike, my first new bike in about 7 1/2 years. It will essentially replace The Mule which will become my bad weather bike. The Mule has served me well. When I think about it, I am astounded that it has outlasted three cars I’ve owned. Not bad for a bike on clearance sale. It’s swan song will be the Pittsburgh to DC ride I am doing in about a week.

And I Didn’t Even Die

I rode to work today without a helmet on my head. I wore a silly bike hat instead. It was soft. It was comfy. It has a visor on it. Sometimes I pushed the visor up for extra dorkiness.

The weather was pretty close to perfect. I don’t remember much about the ride in except I saw Lawyer Mike roll through the intesection of doom without dying.

The ride home was MOTS. That means More of the Same. (I learned this from a TV weatherman in Boston.) Except it was warmer. And I had a tailwind. And the clouds were puffy. As I rolled south, Chris B rolled north. Hi Chris. He always salutes. Must think I’m the general.

There was a bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest in the morning and in the evening. In Belle Haven Park a little girl on a pink bike with tassles and white tires rolled across the trail in front of me. Oops. I didn’t hit her. She didn’t die.

There are little mole hills (I think) here and there along the trail near Belle Haven Boulevard. I think they are from moles. Whenever I think of moles, I think of Superman. The old black and white TV show. I loved that show. I always wondered why Superman ducked when the bad guys threw their empty pistols at him.

I stopped at the Tulane nest. There was a big bald eagle looking away from me toward the river. I took some pictures but my camera doesn’t have enough zoom on its lens. The nest is harder to see with each passing day.

I made it home. Without a helmet. I didn’t even die.

En Garde!

I really wish I had the presence of mind to take pictures while I am riding. Today I was dealing with a cold headwind and not in the mood to stop. I see some weird stuff on my way to work too.

Last night in Belle Haven Park I spotted two guys sword fighting with fake swords right next to the trail. As I passed, one guy swooshed his “sword” across the others’ abdomen. Eek.

This morning as I rode through the park, I heard a clanging sound. I looked over at the river expecting to see a worker pounding a metal fence stake into the ground. Instead I saw four men, in pairs of two, sword fighting with real metal swords. En garde!

I tweeted about the swordfighters and my friend Linel who has a similar commute mentioned another odd sighting. She saw a guy who hooks his electric guitar up to his car stereo and rocks out in the Belle Haven Park parking lot. Funny thing is, I saw a guy doing the same thing in the TR Roosevelt Island parking lot last week. I think Linel would agree that our bike commute rocks!

My bike commute never ceases to surprise me.

Pre-tour Dry Run in Front

It is the last week of April. The weatherman didn’t get the memo. It was in the 40s when I left the house. I couldn’t bring myself to wear long pants. Suffice it to say, I was cold most of the way to work. I am less than two weeks away from the start of a week-long bike tour from Pittsburgh to DC so I thought it would be a good idea to try out the front low-rider rack on The Mule.

The front rack made by Tubus has wider diameter tubing than my old Blackburn rack. Since the attachment hardware on my panniers cannot easily be switched from one tube diameter to another, I have a set of small Ortlieb roll top panniers set up for use on the front rack. To my surprise they hold very little stuff. I could just fit my work clothes, shoes and a U-lock.

Front panniers for first time

The steering was sluggish. The Mule’s steers like a bus anyway so I didn’t have to make much of an adjustment.

Between the cold and the increasing foliage, I was in the zone for most of the ride. I totally forgot about the Tulane bald eagle nest. The Belle Haven nest has two ospreys near it.

The ride to Rosslyn happened without notice. It was one of those “How did I get here” rides. The Intersection of Doom was another story entirely. Bikes and runners and walkers and cars were going every which way. How I managed to get through it all without a collision is beyond me. A guy on a bike passed me on the sidewalk approaching 19th street. As he did I noticed the walk count down was at 2 seconds. He accelerated into the crosswalk in front of cars waiting to turn right. Dude, you’re gonna die young if you ride like that.

The ride home was about 15 degrees warmer. It didn’t feel like it though. As I approached the turn off for the Memorial Bridge, I noticed a big group of loaded bike tourists turning to cross the Parkway. I quickly pulled out my camera, aimed, and….beep. “Battery Exhausted.” So you’ll have to take my word for it.

I continued south toward home with a pleasant tailwind. Climbing up one of the flyover bridges at National Airport I was stirred from my trance by a “Hi John!” It was Sam from Friday Coffee Club. By the time I realized it was her she was almost past me. So for the record, “Hi Sam.”

I remembered to stop at the Tulane nest. It is barely visible now. The leaves on the trees obscure the view from the trail. I have landmarks picked out so I will still be able to see it once the trees finish getting their foliage.

One other odd thing happened. When I got home and unpacked my cell phone was warm. It turns out that it was in a very tightly packed pannier with no air circulation. I’ll have to make sure I don’t repeat this mistake during the tour.

So not a bad start to the work week. And one little detail checked off the pre-tour list.