IWBTWD – Catchy, no?

Today was International Winter Bike to Work Day. I think it’s really for some sort of demented  bragging rights. Also for stupidly long hashtagging. Actually, it’s International Northern Hemisphere Winter Bike to Work Day because what’s the point of bragging about riding to work in Perth when it’s 80 degrees outside.

Yesterday was a telework day. The only bike related thing I did all day was to attend a 24966240255_e9de876daa_mWABA happy hour. This was 2 miles from my office which would have been easy to ride to had I not been teleworking. I drove instead because there isn’t a whole lot happy about riding a bike 17 miles in the freezing cold, having a beer, and riding the bike 17 miles in the freezing colder. Bike to happy hour is best done in the summer when you can have a beer outdoors while Colin Powell poses for a picture nearby.
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This morning the thermometer read 22. I was prepared to wear tights under my bike shorts under my rain pants. The lack of wind convinced me to downgrade the tights to wicking briefs (that is underpants made of non-cotton farbic). In a mile I knew I had nailed my winter biking attire. I was perfectly comfortable all the way to Friday Coffee Club. Along the way I stopped to admire the heavenly smile of daybreak at Dyke Marsh.

I was intent on getting to Coffee Club with time enough to enjoy myself. I rode as fast as my three layers of clothing with hiking boots and 25 pounds of pannier stuff would allow. I focused on my pedaling and breathing which pretty much put me in the trance mode for several miles.

Along the way my front wheel acted up. Every time I hit my front brake, the brake would bite the rim once during each wheel revolution. I couldn’t find a bump in the rim but this was not a good development.

I made it by 8:05 and could take my time conversing. Felkerino managed to inadvertently flip a saucer into the air where it knocked over my water glass sending ice water onto my head gear. It was a stunt that would have made Rube Goldberg proud. My buff – which covers my face in winter – was wet but I managed to get everything else out of harm’s way. Need less to say, the two mile, buffless ride to the office was eye opening.

During the day I managed to dry my buff (now doesn’t that sound interesting?) so I was all set to ride home. The ride home featured a headwind which was a bit annoying. My brake problem was not annoying because it had disappeared. Also not annoying was the fact that I rode more than halfway home without turning my headlight on.

Hurry spring.

 

 

 

 

Losing My Mind

My co-worker Kelly likes to run. She always wears headphones to listen to music and audio books. I told her I used to run 70 miles per week and never wore headphones.

Kelly: “If I ran that far without headphones I’d lose my mind.”

Me: “That’s the whole point!!”

The best parts of my runs back in the day and the best parts of my bike rides today happen when I am on autopilot. It’s just me, the pavement or trail, and my body. My mind goes to another place. The sure sign of a good ride is when I have that “How did I get here?” thought. (This sometimes causes me to miss a turn. Then I actually need an answer!)

There are times (lots of them) when my brain goes round and round on a subject as I am rolling along. Work. Relationships. Plans. That jerk in the car that nearly killed me. More often than not, the rhythm of the ride short circuits the internal chatter and I go back to my trance.

Any time I read a decription of simple breathing meditation I am reminded of my bike rides. Which is why a yoga-loving friend of mine calls my bike commutes “your meditation.”

If you get bored while you are riding, go with it. Let your thoughts take a mini vacation. Just until the next intersection. Then do it again. And again. Your thoughts have earned it. So have you.

You won’t get lost, but you might get found.

 

The No Squish Bike Commute

It’s astonishing how much more comfortable bike commuting can be when your boots are not filled wit24309316603_3da4d74d9c_mh ice cold Potomac River water.

And so today’s bike commute into a cold headwind was rather nice. I stopped for a sunrise picture made less risey by the fact that I left late and the sun is coming up earlier.

The wooden bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail had a slight coating of ice, which is to be expected when it is near freezing. It turns out those road signs are right: bridges do freeze before roadways. Who knew?

I know of one person who knows. The worst of the ice was on the Trollheim, the boardwalk beneath the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge about 1/2 mile from my office. Legend has it that a troll lives beneath the boardwalk and, on cold or wet days, the troll reaches up and grabs bike commuters causing them to crash. I was making my way gingerly across the icy boards when I spotted a big smush mark in the ever so thin dusting of snow on top of the boards to my left. This is a sure sign that a bike went down.

The ride home was a blustery affair. I had a tailwind most of the way. Every so often the wind would abruptly change direction and slap me upside the face. Wake up, dude! I even caught a 20 mile per hour gust broadside that nearly knock me off the trail.

Tomorrow I work from home so I will miss out on one of the COLDEST DAYS OF THE YEAR!!! Actually by the standards of where I lived for the first 28 years of my life, these “brutally cold” days are pretty much the winter norm. Everything is relative. Except ice cold river water in your shoes, of course. That absolutely sucks.

 

I Think I’m Going to Need a Bigger Boat

I was planning on driving to work today. The forecast as of last night called for 1 – 3 inches of snow today. When I went outside to get the paper this morning, I found that it was above freezing and that a very light rain was falling.

I checked the forecast. We might get a dusting. No big deal. Time to ride.

The first three miles went rather swimmingly. Literally speaking that is. The rain had stopped. I pulled over to take a picture of the lack of sunrise over Dyke Marsh. Then I was back on the bike happy to see that the long boardwalk was free of ice.

As I left the boardwalk I could see that the trail was underwater. Typically this means that there is an inch of water from the river covering the trail. Today wasn’t typical. Snow melt, rain upstream, and a high tide caused the river to flood. The next mile went swimmingly literally.

I pedaled into the water and soon realized that it was well over my pedals. Water was flowing into my GoreTex hiking boots. In case you were wondering, Potomac River water is mighty cold in February. My feet almost immediately started going numb. I slowed my pedaling only to realize that walking was not a viable option. The water kept getting deeper.

Pedal, pedal!

This went on for anout 100 yards with a short break during which my wool socks did their thing and my feet came to life again. Then it was back into the pool.

Holy crap. Or maybe holy carp.

After another minute of soaking my feet and my just lubed chain I emerged from the icy liquid. Still more water covered the trail but this time I decided to take the high road.

I rode through the grass next to the Parkway envying the drivers on the dry pavement to my left. The grass was long and very wet so each yard of progress was hard work. I finally cleared the flood and got back on the trail.

I have been riding the trail since 1984. To my eyes, the river is now much closer to the trail than when I first rode it. About 10 years ago, a section north of Slaters Lane was moved 30 yards away from the river because of chronic flooding. Today’s flood was much worse than those floods.

My feet seemed to warm up again. I had to take an alley to avoid the flooding at the foot of King Street. I could hear pumps working to clear the water from businesses along Union Street.

Near Washington Marina, another section of the trail was under deep water. This time I took the grass route. This grass was even taller than the grass I had ridden on earlier. The Mule was not amused but slogged on through.

By the time I reached the Memorial Bridge, the cold river water was making my feet numb again. I made my way up the hill to Rosslyn and dismounted in the office garage. I fell against a wall. I could not feel my feet or ankles.

During my lunch break I began furiously looking for insulated scuba gear for the ride home. Alas, there was none to be found. Fortunately I didn’t need it. The trail was mostly dry with some pockets of flood-related debris.

I did see a car almost run over a pedestrian in the Intersection of Doom. The car was blocking the crosswalk which leads to the curb cut to get onto the Mount Vernon Trail connector. I need to use the curb cut. I caught the driver’s eye and waved at her to back up since there was no one behind her. Instead of backing up she inched forward as if to make a right on red with me approaching from her left and an unseen pedestrian stepping in front of her on her right. She stopped short just before hitting the pedestrian. I yelled at her to move back as I passed. She looked utterly bewildered. Driving this car is so confusing.

The remaining 14 1/2 miles went fine. My insoles were still filled with water so there was much squishing.

The slight tailwind made up for that.

If you think I regretted my decision to ride to work today, you’d be wrong. Biking to work isn’t always just a commute, sometimes it’s an adventure.

 

Super Monday

The day after Easter is called Easter Monday. Don’t ask me why. As far as I know not much happened on Easter Monday. Maybe Jesus bit the ears off some chocolate bunnies. But I digress.

Not really, I haven’t even started yet.

Stop arguing with yourself.

I rode to work on 6 hours of post Super Bowl sleep. Who won? Sydney, our Super Bowl party hosts’ Australian Labradoodle. Sydney is the most well behaved puppy I have ever seen. I think Sydney is actually some sort of animatronic muppet. Sydney was infinitely more interesting than the game. And not nearly as bizarre as the numerous LSD-influenced commercials.

So I rode to work on The Mule, back on the Mount Vernon Trail for the nonce. (24266061624_4058a63836_mDid he just say “nonce?” I’ll bet he drinks Dew and eats Doritos.)

I left just a few minutes before dawn. By the time I got to Dyke Marsh the sunrise got the jump on me but I took its picture anyway. My camera was not up to the task though.

The squirrels in my head have been especially busy lately. So I tried to concentrate on nothing during the ride. If that seems contradictory, it kinda is. Which is why it didn’t work very well. So the squirrels won.

I looked for signs of spring on the wispy branches of the willow trees along the trail opposite the Washington Monument. No luck. No buds. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks.

I turned left at the Intersection of Doom and fell in behind a lycra clad cyclist with a spiffy racing bike. He was going suspiciously slowly. Then I noticed that he was holding his left crank arm in his hand. Dude, that’s not how it works!

I’ll put up with squirrels in my head any day over pedaling with only one leg. (This is actually really hard to do but is supposed to smooth out your pedal stroke.)

The ride home was a bit of a slog. The 6-hours of sleep was not enough. The squirrels had gone to bed so I fell into my commute trance. This ended when I nearly ran over a walker who was coming toward me on my side of the trail. (Walk on the right people!!)

She was not a ninja because it was light outside. It stayed light for the first 7 or 8 miles of my ride home. I could get used to this.

In the dark the curvy last two miles of the trail to the stone bridge confuse me. I lose track of where I am in the sequence of turns. Did I cross the long bridge yet or just the two short ones? Did I pass the fishing hole?

All was revealed when I spotted the mansion with the Spanish roof tiles near the top of the gradual climb to Northdown Road. A VDOT plower whimsically left a pile of plowed snow in the middle of the street. Fortunately I was out of my trance by then.

At the intersection of Fort Hunt and Shenandoah Roads a rather ominous cluster of snowplows stood in wait for the approaching Dusting to 3 Inch storm of the century.

All this means is I will probably drive to work tomorrow.

The squirrels in my head don’t like ice.

 

 

It’s Sunday in ‘Merica

Yes, today is a patriotic American Sunday. I bought my tax software yesterday and in about 2 hours finished the first cut at our returns this morning. It looks like we’ll be getting back a little over $300. I think that cuts the withholding to the quick.

After doing taxes, I decided to go for a short bike ride around the Fort Hunt neighborhood. This was a fairly uneventful lolly gag until I worked my way over the the Mount Vernon Trail and started heading north toward Fort Hunt Park. Then I heard a loud screech in the air to my left. I pulled off the trail and looked up and over and saw a bald eagle swooping down into the trees toward the massive Fort Hunt nest. I know of at least four bald eagle nests between Mount Vernon and Old Town and this is by far the biggest. Like all the MVT nests this one is nearly impossible to spot after the trees get their leaves.

My eyes were distracted from the swooping bird by another bald eagle soaring in a tight circle above. I looked back to the nest and spotted the other eagle perched on a large branch in the tree directly behind and above the nest.

The birds were too far away for me to get a picture with my camera phone. So my apologies for not capturing the moment.

The eagles behavior was consistent with this description of mating. So maybe we’ll have some eaglets in a couple of months.

I hopped back on my bike and rode around the Fort Hunt area until my toes became too cold.

I am back home preparing for the Super Bowl. This means taking a shower and carting the beer out to the car for our annual Super Bowl/Paulie’s birthday extravaganza. What better way to celebrate America and the onset of senility than by watching 300 pound men clad in plastic armor smashing into each other.

In concussions we trust.

 

It’s a Wonderful Cake

The day began with a bike commute into DC for Friday Coffee Club. Today we celebrated its fourth anniversary.  The founding members were three randonneurs Ed (a.k.a. Felkerino, Mr. Mary) and Mary (a.k.a. Coffeeneur, Gypsybug, Mrs. Ed), and Lane (currently in an undisclosed location), along with Brian (DBA Gear Prudence), and Lisa (with whom I’ve done many, many rides). I knew Ed and Mary through Flickr but Mary got me onto Twitter and from there to Friday Coffee Club sometime in late winter/early spring of 2012.

Swings House of Caffeine (at 17th and G Streets NW) is the scene of the crime. On Fridays the place is packed with bike commuters. The promise of cake made for a big turnout today. I had a cake biopsy as Ed was conserving the remnants of the once mighty cake for late arrivals. I suppose we can call this Felkerino’s birthday cake dichotomy.

I didn’t get to talk to half the people there including a newcomer. I am getting worse and worse at greeting newcomers which is disappointing. When I first started to go, I fought my introversion and made it a point to introduce myself.  Probably doesn’t matter; I’d forget their name anyway.

Late last night I was invited to a happy hour that began at 4:30 on Capitol Hill. Too early for me. Around noon, I was invited to another happy hour at 5:30 in Northeast. (Can’t we spread all this socializing out a bit people?) I really wanted to go to this one to congratulate a friend, who I will call Clarence. Clarence recently passed an important professional exam. The idea of riding across town at rush hour, then hanging out in the city and then riding 15 miles home in the cold and dark was not appealing. I thought I could ride home, grab dinner, then drive into the city, but I left work late, totally screwing up the timing. So I made my apologies to Clarence. She told me to have a safe ride home.

(On the way home two things happened that were disturbing. First, I passed workers setting up a boom to contain oil that had been spilled somehow into the Potom24840585465_66664cdc2d_mac River It’s a mystery how the spill occurred but it is already affecting waterfowl. About eight miles later on a dark section of the trail I nearly took out a ninja. The man was walking toward me on the left side of the trail, my side. He appeared in the edges of my headlight’s circle of light. I went to pass on the left, he stepped left. I went right. He went right. I nearly stopped as he hopped off the trail. “Excuse me,” he said without a hint of sarcasm. I stifled a “What the fuck are your DOING?!!!” and continued on my way. Damned good thing I didn’t have anything to drink.)

I owe you one, Clarence. (Again.) Maybe a mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves.

So proud of you.