Well at Least It Didn’t Snow

It seems as if January 23 is Precipitation Day in the DMV. Last year we were pounded with snow. This year it rained. A lot. There were warnings of gale force winds. So I didn’t ride my bike to work.

Ha. Ha. Fooled you.

The Mule and I started out into a strong, gusting headwind and light rain. And that’s how it went for 15 miles. It was in the mid 40s so it wasn’t an entirely miserable experience. I wanted to take a picture of the sunrise at my usual spot in Dyke Marsh but the sun was taking the day off. Gloom. Gray. Ugh.

I kept my head down and plowed along into the wind as hit me from 1 o’clock. When I rode under the Wilson Bridge the structure seemed to cause the wind to intensify. I struggled to stay upright and forged ahead.

In Old Town, the scofflaw parker at 420 North Union Street was blocking the bike lane again. I rode a half mile before finding sufficient shelter to call it in to the authorities. When I tried to get underway again, the wind was blowing straight at me. It took serious effort to launch The Mule.

I kept my head down to keep my glasses dry. I could only see a few feet ahead. Not enough to avoid a big tree limb that had fallen across the trail. So The Mule and I rode over it. The Mule abides.

I made it to work late but in one piece. Later in the day I learned that a large tree had fallen across the trail near the 14th Street Bridge. That is always my biggest concern. As comedian Ron White says, “It’s not that the wind is blowing; it’s what the wind is blowing.” When the ground gets saturated from heavy rain, tree roots lose their hold and the wind does the rest.

The ride home began in daylight. Sort of. Gloom. Gray.

I made it to the trail and had a nice strong tailwind. Yay, storms!

The Mule and I cruised down river toward the downed tree. No tree’s gonna stop us! And we were right. The National Park Service had come out and cleared it away.

The rest of the ride was pretty effortless. The streets of Old Town along the river showed some signs of flooding but Union Street was passable. We passed.

South of the Beltway, we cruised along, at one point going through deep water where the river had overflowed its banks. Along another, drier section of the trail I had fallen into my bike trance when we were joined by a rather fearless bunny. Instead of darting off the trail as we approached, the bunny bounded down the trail ahead of us. After a full minute, the bunny banged a right and disappeared into wet scrub brush.

We get more of this fun tomorrow morning.

Only 69 days until opening day.


A Million People, Give or Take, and Some Kindness

Hillary Clinton was my daughter’s high school graduation speaker. Her speech was not political; it was funny and eloquent and inspiring. They shook hands immediately after my daughter received her diploma.  I know exactly how my daughter, who can now vote, felt on election night. I was an eight year old Irish Catholic, an altar boy, when JFK was shot. Dreams die hard.

So last night, I considered my options for today. I could go on a solo hike or I could accompany Mrs. Rootchopper to the Women’s March in Washington DC. I chose the latter.

We arrived in DC at 8 am, parked the car, and walked across the National Mall to meet a friend at the Woolly Mammoth ThDSCN5733.JPGeater Company. The folks there had opened their doors for restrooms and refreshments. What an act of kindness. You can be sure we will be checking out their productions in the future.

After hanging out for a while we headed across the Mall on 7th Street. The crowds were already getting big. Signs were everywhere. Traffic cops wore Statue of Liberty crowns. We moved down the Mall to 4th Street and finally came to a stop at Jefferson, near the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. The crowd grew and grew. We could only see about 50 yards in any direction but all we could see were people. People on the edges of ledges on the museum. People on traffic signals. People in trees.

There we stood, unable to move without massive effort amid the deDSCN5752.JPGnse throng. I was apparently starting to show signs of discomfort when a woman of a certain age walked past. She looked at me and said “Breathe” and calmly inhaled through her nose. She told me she was a Buddhist as she walked past. Another act of kindness. A group of college aged protesters started to get vocal. They were joined by some drummers. A drum/dance circle formed. Party!

The circle broke up. We stood and got jostled around waiting for the march to begin. The start time came and went. Another hour passed. Our knees and backs were starting to lock up from standing in the same spot for so long.

Finally we noticed that people behind us were no longer waiting for the march which was supposed to go down Independence Avenue toward the White House. Instead these people were taking a parallel route down the Mall. We waited until we started hearing that the march had been cancelled because the crowd was so big. So the crowd just started to flow down the Mall. And we went with it.

A young woman was perched on her boyfriend’s shoulders taking pictures. I handed her my camera.


They did this over and over. At one point, the man slowly rotated so she could get a 360 degree shot with another marcher’s camera. Still another act of kindness.

After another 30 or 40 minutes we came to a standstill at 7th Street. Mrs. RC and I decided to leave. we had been there for about 7 hours. The crowd was heading north and we needed to go south. Suffice it to say, we would make excellent salmon.

Many blocks from the Mall we were still going against the flow, this time of people just arriving at the march. It was about 3 pm. It made me wonder if this thing would ever end.

After leaving we made our way to a diner in Arlington across the river from DC. All the customers had come from the march. I check my phone which could now get service and saw the pictures from New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Paris, Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Paris, and Antarctica. Unreal.

I can’t say we had a good time at the march. Mostly we just stood around frozen in place by people. I was disappointed that I didn’t see anybody I knew even though there were probably 50 friends of mine in attendance. But I am glad I went. To add another dot in the crowd shots. To send a message. And to witness how a million people can get along with a few million acts of kindness.

I would be remiss if I did not thank all the police and EMTs who did their jobs with calm professionalism today.

Here are some photos.

How to Survive the Inauguration without a Rant – Fail

I hate politics. To my bones. I hate hatred and bigotry more. Today was a difficult day.

So how did I cope from my perch in the sprawling DC suburbs?

I kept the TV off.

I slept in.

I read the paper and did the puzzles. (Got the Sudoku and the crossword.)

Ate too much.

Took a long nap with an eye mask and a ear plugs.

Rode Big Nellie in the basement while reading a book about electronic stock trading. (We’re havin’ fun now!)

Woke up and checked social media for interesting things. Saw a neo-nazi get cold cocked by an anarchist. Read tweets mocking the 10 year old son of Trump. (Pro tip: leave the kid alone. I don’t care what anybody said about the Carter, Bush, Clinton or Obama kids. Just leave him alone.)

Saw pictures of #bikedc’s Nelle, Michelle, and Rachel being awesome in DC. One was protesting. One held her nose as she took her mom to the inauguration. One went to work downtown. If you are in despair about the future, you should meet them. It’s going to be okay.

I thought about posting a long political rant and thought better of it. I thought it was very creepy that the Mall was so empty today and the stands along the inaugural route were too. I felt anger at the idiots who were rioting downtown. (Another pro tip: the small business people whose property you damaged are just trying to get by. They don’t need this crap.) There are big political disagreements in this country. That’s okay. That’s democracy. My objections to Trump aren’t political; they are personal. He lost me at mocking the disabled reporter. I am a father of a daughter who shook Hillary Clinton’s hand at her high school graduation.  She, like so many young women I know, was shattered by Trump’s election just as I, an eight-year-old Irish American altar boy, was at JFK’s assassination. Whatever Trump accomplishes, the ends do not justify the means. We are all better than this. Suffice it to say, a much better future will be delivered by my daughter, by the Nelles, Michelles, and Rachels and hoards of other motivated women who will come of age and say “Never again.”

So, I guess I ranted. My bad.



Winter Moments

Many years ago I taught at a college in Newport Rhode Island. The academic building was located on the cliff walk next to the famous summer “cottage” of the Vanderbilts known as The Breakers. Many times I would arrive just after sunrise and the entire school and all the mansions would be completely socked in by fog. A fog horn moaned in the distance.

This morning as I rolled out of my driveway I had a flashback to my Newport days. I can’t remember it ever being so foggy here in DC. I could not make out the main road that is only 50 yards from my driveway. I stopped to take a picture.


The pickup truck is parked at the corner. The illuminated street light is on the opposite side of the main road.

I forged onward totally paranoid that the car drivers would not be able to see me. To add to the peril, the fog condensed on my glasses making it even more difficult for me to see. Fortunately, they were being careful and my route for the most part is on quiet side streets.

I figured by the time I reached the river the fog would have lifted. I figured wrong. Readers of this blog will know that I take sunrise pictures from a bump out in the wooden bridge that carries the Mount Vernon Trail over Dyke Marsh. Here’s today’s sunrise.



The ride to work along the trail was safe but spooky. The regulars were out. The hoppy runner. The mom pushing what must now be a 1 1/2 year old in a jogging stroller. If she keeps this up, she’ll be She Hulk in a few years.

I looked to see if there were bald eagles in the tree at the Belle Haven nest. I couldn’t see the tree.

Once I made it through Old Town the fog began to lift, only to be replaced by a persistent, annoying headwind. It was the kind of headwind that made me check my brakes to see if they were sticking against the rim. I stopped briefly to report the scofflaw parker blocking the bike lane at 420 N. Union Street. Again. (Apparently last night’s call didn’t result in a ticket. We should all be treated with such forbearance by the police.)

I was really looking forward to the ride home because the temperature was in the high 50s. That’s pretty sweet for January in DC. Then I rolled out of the garage and was treated to a nice surprise. Sunlight. It was still light out. Are you kidding me? Yes!

And it stayed light out for 15 minutes.

Bike commuting in winter does have its moments.

Intentionally Outdoors

I have been sick on and off for the last three weeks. Nothing major, just a cold that seems to be wandering around my body disrupting things. Mostly, it makes me tired. So I thought I would use this weekend to just lie around in my jammies and rest.

I did pretty well. I watched some football, something I don’t usually do without my son’s insightful and amusing play by play. He is 12 hours away so I went solo.

Knowing I was going full coach potato during the games, I intentionally hopped on Deets yesterday for an easy bike jaunt. I decided to ride the tour of Arlington (a bike trail circuit around the county) in a counter clockwise direction. I also planned to throw in a quick ride to Hains Point in DC because it’s what #bikedc people do.

On my way past the airport I ran into Ryan, master planner of our No Wrong Plan bike tour in 2015. He was riding from Bethesda to buy a used seat post for the Frankenroadbike he is building. During our discussion he gave me the idea to switch my route to a ride up Rock Creek Park. Once I left, I reconsidered. I was already tired and a clothing experiment I was trying was not working out leaving me chilled.

So it was down to Hains Point then back across the Memorial Bridge. The city is teeming with tourists who think it’s perfectly okay to walk four and five abreast on sidewalks. I refrained from giving them a good talking to hoping they’d scurry back to Peoria in due time.

Around the foot of Arlington Memorial Cemetery where the white gravestones are still adorned with a Christmas wreath. I could tell my body was not having fun when I climbed the hill near the Netherlands Carillon. The fun lessened as I rode the hilly Custis Trail, all the while thinking, “What crackpot thought this route up?” (Er, that would be me.)

I reached the turnaround at the W&OD and its gradual downward decline toward home. I arrived at home super tired after my 40 mile rest ride and realized I had a splitting sinus headache. I went to use my sinus irrigation gizmo but it was broken. I took drugs, watched the Steelers win, and went to sleep.

Today I slept in. (The drugs were good.)  I needed to get a new sinus gizmo and a book to read since I was nearly through with The Arm. Mindful of my intention to rest, I rode to the Barnes and Noble in Potomac Yard, because that is the only bookstore anywhere near my hours. Ten miles away. On the way I noticed a stalker in Dyke Marsh. A great blue heron that was sticking around for winter.

Heron at Dyke Marsh 2.jpg

I bought Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys at the bookstore and turned around for home. It was surprisingly nice out, especially for mid January. (We will pay for this in a week or two.)

Just before I reached home, I stopped at a drug store and bought a neti pot. It was time to go old school. I used it when I got home and felt quite a bit better.

In two days of rest, I rode 60 miles. It was good to be outdoors again. I only work Wednesday and Thursday this week. I am hoping the weather is good for inauguration day so that I can ignore the festivities hiking somewhere. For those of you who want to save time, here’s what will happen. The big wigs assemble at the Capitol. They swear the new guy in. He makes a lame speech. There’s a parade.

Go outside. It’ll be huge.



Basement Droppings

  • I skipped bike commuting for two days this week. One was freakishly warm, of course. The other was about 10 degrees warmer than normal.
  • One of those days I went to a happy hour for a departing co-worker, a volunteer event at my kids’ high school, and a happy hour for my local bike association.
  • I gave a friend a ride home. As he was warning me about a red light camera, I idiotically rolled into the crosswalk and set off the camera. Doh! Car driving is hard. I’m going to ride a bike instead.
  • Last night I went to a happy hour for Ultrarunnergirl. Today is her birthday. She somehow turned 28. Again. We met either on Twitter or at Friday Coffee Club. I haven’t seen her ages so it was great to see her and her husband Tom, and a gaggle of chatty friends. Many of them had drinks that were red and bubbled and steamed. I had one beer and two club sodas. I am too old for drinking these days, I guess.
  • I am happy to report that Washington’s much maligned subway system worked just fine last night. There were no fires, no breakdowns, and no derailments.
  • Pretty soon I am going to buy a Capital Bikeshare membership. This is our local bike sharing system that I have never used. Their bikes rarely burn up, breakdown, or derail.
  • Right now the weather is looking very good for inauguration day. I don’t plan on watching let alone going. (I haven’t gone to one yet and this is my ninth since I moved to DC.) I hope to either do a hike or ride my bike a long way.
  • Today was cold and rainy. So I rode in the basement. I am still reading “The Arm.” It’s about the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries in baseball. I will have to close my eyes to watch Nats pitchers next year. It sure is strange that you don’t hear much about torn rotator cuffs anymore, except for Ultrarunnergirl’s Tom who is rehabbing his. I am afraid his days as a long reliever are over. My father had two torn rotator cuffs. His doctor said this is not uncommon among the elderly. I think I tore my right rotator cuff a few summers ago when throwing a kick ball. My upper right arm exploded in pain. It felt like someone had stuck me with a knife.
  • I could throw pretty hard in grade school but I was terrified of hurting someone. I pitched to one batter in little league. I walked him on four pitches. I was banished to the outfield for life.
  • I am watching (sort of) the NFL playoffs. Mostly to keep track of my friends’ teams. My team is the Patriots because I lived withing 30 miles of Foxboro for 11 years. Of course, they were mediocre when I lived there. Here’s the rest of the affiliations.
    • My wife is pulling for the Steelers because one of the players played with my son in high school.
    • The Steelers beat the Dolphins who are the team of my friend Rocky.
    • My 50 States Ride buddy Emilia is rooting for Seattle. She’s a bit of fanatic. She has a number 12 jersey.
    • My grad school friend Rich roots for Detroit. His team is eliminated.
    • My friend Klarence is a rabid Packers fan. Which is weird because as a vegan she hate cheese.
    • My friend Kristen roots for Ed Hochuli because she thinks he has a hot bod. (I am not making this up.) She can be excused because she is from Buffalo and well their football history is rather sad.
  • I plan on watching the Patriots game for at least the first two concussions and debilitating knee injuries.

Deja Vu All Over Again

It’s only my fourth bike commute of the year and it’s already getting repetitive. Good thing I have only 7 months and 1 week to go.

Today was an especially good day because the sinus problems that I had yesterday were nearly cleared up. I used a nasal rinse gizmo (mine has a filter so I can use tap water) patterned after a neti pot twice last night and once this morning. And I took vitamin I to reduce swelling. Success.

So today my head didn’t hurt, the sun came up and it was beautiful. See for yourself.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

And just like last winter the untreated wooden bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail were icy menaces. I was warned by the hoppy runner who was turning around at the bump out where I took the sunrise picture. I was very careful to ride in a straight line and made the crossing of the Dyke Marsh bridge with my rubber side down.

North of Old Town I bypassed the bridges on the river side of the power plant, but decided to take a chance on the beaver bridge just north of Slaters Lane. A walker on the bridge heard me approach and waved me off. I dismounted and immediately realized that the bridge was very slippery. So slippery in fact that I could see two cyclists recovering from a crash. It took me few minutes to walk the football field long bridge. I saw several fresh gashes in the wood decking, most likely from pedals. I actually had to grab hold of the chain that acts as a railing along the side of the bridge because my feet were sliding out from under me. Several cyclists rode by. I didn’t hear any crashes. I don’t know how.

The concrete bridges near the airport were icy but passable. By the time I made it to the wooden Trollheim bride that passes beneath the TR Bridge into DC the ice on it had mostly melted. I rode across without incident.

It was 55  degrees when I started the ride home. It was downright pleasant so the squirrels in my head could run freely. Thoughts bounced around. Then the trance came. Big Ed blew by me without realizing it was me. He nearly took out a ninja runner in the process. I cracked up. So much for that trance.

I rode into Old Town and my old friend was back. The car illegally parked blocking the bike lane at 420 North Union Street was in its usual scofflaw position. I called the police and asked them to ticket it. Again. If this keeps up, I may ask for an accounting of the number of times police responded to my complaints, how often a ticket was issued, how many fines were collected, and such. What really gets me is the fact that nobody else on this block parks like this. They used to but stopped. It takes only one entitled millionaire to ruin a bike lane. Lest we forget, Alexandria is a certified Bicycle Friendly City.

Once I cleared Old Town and headed down the trail in the dark the trance came back. I honestly lost track of where I was on the trail. I must have ridden two miles before I had that how-did-I-get-here moment.





Some Things You Can’t Miss

  • I was one sick unit this morning. I have a cold that has morphed into a sinus problem. It’s been going away and coming back. I might have to go for some scotch if this doesn’t get better soon. I broke out the neti pot thingie (not an actual neti pot but does the same thing) and flushed my brains. I felt better. Probably all in my head though. (Oooh, did he pun again? Sorry.)
  • Of course, the sickness didn’t keep me from bike commuting in 26 degree weather. Hey, I had a tailwind. No way I’d pass that up. So I made it to Dyke Marsh at sunrise. Never gets old. Note the frozen river. Image may contain: outdoor
  • The rest of the ride to work was an ice free slog except for a treacherous patch on the street at the north end of Old Town. It was just there in the middle of the lane for no reason. I rode over it rather than try to maneuver around it. No slippage.
  • I am happy to report that the scofflaw car parker who blocked the bike lane at 420 North Union Street is no longer scoffing the law. I’m watching for any backsliding.
  • I made it to work in one piece, did my thing for 8-ish hours, and headed for home. While I was in transit I was invited to my third happy hour this week. So on Thursday we take a departing co-worker out for a drink. Then I go do a volunteer thing at my kids’ high school, then I swing by the WABA happy hour in Adams Morgan. Then Friday night there’s a birthday happy hour for a friend downtown. If this doesn’t cure my cold nothing will.
  • When I got home, I checked my Twitter feed to find all this stuff about Russia and the president elect and golden showers and kompromat and such. Somebody put acid in my Dayquil. Come on, fess up.
  • So sick or not, I’m riding to work tomorrow. I may be barely making 10 miles per hour but it’s going up to the 50s and I’ll have a tailwind and I won’t be exposed to any more of Trumpster fires for about four hours. Bike commuting has its benefits.

Reading Season: Books and Blogs

Winter is a time for rest. I learned this as a distance runner in New England many years ago. Over time your body will thank you for not going out on a 20 degree day and trying to grind junk miles through gusting winds.

And baseball season is 85 days away.

So I read.

Mrs. Rootchopper gave me two books for Christmas: Michael Lewis’s The Undoing Project and Jeff Passan’s The Arm. I’ve read all but one of Lewis’s books. (Lewis is one of my go-to authors. Others are Nick Hornby, David McCullough, David Lodge, Tracy Kidder, John McPhee, Tom Wolfe, and Jon Krakauer.) This one is about the bromance between two academic psychologists who flipped economics on its ear by noticing that people do not behave rationally, and they are irrational in predictable ways. I finished this book on Friday while riding Big Nellie in the basement. (I read faster when my legs are moving. I swear.)

Passan’s book is an investigation into the epidemic of torn ulnar collateral ligaments among baseball pitchers. These pitcher have what is known as Tommy John surgery. Long- time baseball fans will remember that the orthopedic kiss of death for pitchers used to be a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder. Not anymore. So Passan’s book looks at the inane history of baseball and sports medicine. (For a while, it was thought that sore arms were caused by infections from the mouth. So injured pitchers had some teeth pulled. I am not making this up.)

I am also reading blogs. I have a long list on the right that is in no particular order. My favorite blogs these days include:

BlissfulBritt: I have become addicted to this one about a twenty something perpetual college student and erstwhile barista in Seattle. Britt’s bliss is often illusive but the quality of her writing and photography is ever present. And I’d kill to go on a hike with her.

My Year with Kerouac: Michelle is another twenty something blogger who coordinates events for our local bike advocacy organization. She loves the beats and tats and cats. And writes wonderfully. Somewhat like Britt, she’s in search of something more profound in her life than the daily grind. (Ooh, a pun.) She’s a banquet.

Wakeupshakeup: Katie is between successes as they say. She quit her job after feeling worn down and disrespected. What next? For now it’s odd jobs and writing gigs and interviewing “responsible adults” for insights into how to get on board the train to happy success or successful happiness.

Revrunner: I have no idea who this blogger is but (I think it’s a woman) she takes great photos mostly of the DC area (the DMV) and occasionally other places. She has a great eye for making the mundane look intriguing.

Smilecalm: Whenever I feel the need to get my woo woo on, I read Smilecalm. Half the time I don’t have a clue what it’s about. Other times it strikes a chord in me. The photos are wonderful.

And since I live in DC and ride a bike, there are three go-to bloggers I read regularly.

Chasing Mailboxes: Mary’s writing and photography captures her inner being, the one every distance runner and cyclists has a running mental conversation with. Her inner child often makes an appearance between the lines or in a picture (especially when she jumps for joy). She sometimes writes about long distance running and it evokes strong memories in me of my running days some 30 years and one knee pop ago. Mary, as the superhero Coffeeneur, runs two annual friendly competitions: the Coffeeneuring Challenge and the Errandonnee. Originally intended as a DC thing, they quickly went global. Try them. But you must follow the rules!

Tales from the Sharrows: Brian is a notorious rule-phobe who started this blog as a blow-by-blow account of his bike commutes across DC. How he remembered the details of his rides is beyond me. In recent years, he’s written more broadly but always with quirky wit. He also writes a bicycle advice column for the local free weekly newspaper. It’s called Gear Prudence. Feel free to submit a question.

The Washcycle: From time-to-time this blog has gone dormant, but it has started kicking its heels up again. Washcycle posts are in depth reports of interest to the DC cycling advocacy community. Lord, that sounds dull. It’s not. I don’t know where he gets his material from but there are maps and annotated photos and links galore to help you get your inner bike advocacy wonk on.

Finally, I read  Adventure Cyclist and National Geographic from cover to cover. I highly recommend National Geographic’s latest issue on Gender. It’s especially interesting if you are or have been or plan to be a parent.

Okay, time for me to head into the basement for some active reading on Big Nellie.

Feel free to recommend blogs or books to me in the comments section. I am always looking for new ground for my eyes to cover.

Trail Droppings

  • This morning was a cold start to the ride to work. This made up for it: Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature
  • I called the police on the people who park their car obstructing the bike lane on North Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. When I rode by this morning the car was gone. And it wasn’t there tonight either. Progress? Time will tell.
  • My colonoscopy blog posts helped persuade a friend to go for one. My ego wants to say that they found a massive tumor and this blog saved her life. The reality is that they found nothing and she’s good to, er, go for another five years.
  • Today was a sub-freezing morning bike commute. There were a couple of icy spots on the Mount Vernon Trail. I didn’t slip or anything but they reminded me of how much I HATE riding on icy trails.
  • Riding in cold weather really knocks me for a loop. Riding while sick does too. So this week’s bike commutes while sick in cold weather have been a real joy. Also, my cold has kept me from getting a decent amount of sleep. We may get an inch or two of snow overnight. I am working from home tomorrow.
  • It seems that the newspaper is filled with news items of politicians proposing things that seemed motivated by spite. How did so many mean spirited people end up running our government? I can’t read the paper or watch the news because I am exhausted by hatefulness.
  • My oldest brother has been doing genealogy research. (Why is there an “a” in that word?) He submitted a DNA sample for analysis. It determined that we are nearly entirely descendants of Irish/British/western Europeans. With dribbles and drabs of other Europeans thrown in. So much for the family story that we are part Blackfoot Indian. He hasn’t discovered any famous ancestors.
  • Tonight I am talking some Nyquil and getting some sleep. Take it easy out there #bikedc.