Yeah, It’s Winter

You can hold out hope for only so long until it becomes futile. Yesterday I finally pulled out some of my serious winter gear. The holey sweater is an old wool sweater with holes in it that I between my base layer and my jacket. My neoprene overboots go over my bicycling shoes. I rode over 20 miles yesterday (with a stop at the gym) and was pretty comfy the whole time.

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The tools of ignorance

Today, not so much. It’s snowing here in DC. We have had about an inch or two but most of it melted on contact with the ground. The roads were treated with brine so there is no slipping and sliding to deal with. So out I went. My backyard looked like this.

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I think we can put away the lawn mower now


It’s bloody cold. (Whiner!) The snow coated my lobster gloves making them all but useless. With temps above freezing, the snow that landed on my boots melted and eventually gave me wet feet. As the ride wore on, the snow became crystallized. It was somewhere between sleet and fluffy snow. (Where’s an Inuit when I need one? They surely have a word for this.) I’d occasionally get a pellet down my wind pipe and gag. A few times one of the little beasts went into my eye.

Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty and fun but every time I turned into the wind my toes and fingertips said, “Hey moron, take us home.”

So I surrendered after getting 20 miles riding in.

While I was riding it occurred to me that I actually prefer riding in a gale force wind during a six-day tropical depression than to riding in winter. Pick your poison.

I spent the first 27 years of my life living in the frozen north of upstate New York and southern New England. Let’s just say I never quite embraced the whole frost bite thing. I moved to the DC area to get away from winter. Today’s DC “cold” would be chamois shirt weather in Boston. I still have one, but I long ago got rid of my Michelin Man winter parka.

I have hopes of reaching 10,000 miles this year. I am about 250-ish miles short with 22 days to go. But we are now getting into the holiday season. I have social and other events for the next five days. Then my kids come home. And who knows what the weatherman will bring. Time will tell.




Work? No, Thanks. I’m Busy.

I received a job offer yesterday. I think I’ll pass. I am busy being retired. My typical day goes something like this:

  • Read newspaper over breakfast. Defeat Sudoku and the crossword.
  • Play on social media sites.
  • Do one productive thing such as go to the doctor, get the car inspected, get my haircut, mow the lawn, volunteer, etc.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go to gym (three days a week) or do physical therapy (basically, a short yoga session).
  • Meditate for 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Practice guitar. (I just started. By the time I am 110 years old I’ll be able to play The House of the Rising Sun.)
  • Read. (My family bans me from buying books in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Father’s Day, and my birthday. So I raided my daughter’s bookshelf.) I am currently reading Water for Elephants.
  • Listen to a Podcast once or twice a week. I follow 10 Percent Happier.
  • Write an insipid blog. (You are reading it.)
  • Write in my journal. (You are not reading it.)
  • Watch something on TV or Netflix. Or listen to music.

Back under the Mendoza Line…

After my return from Key West, I noticed that I was much thinner than when I left. No surprise there, despite following a seefood diet and drinking beer nearly every night. So I have made a concerted effort to maintain my new weight. This involves not snacking on junk and avoiding alcohol, which I was sick of anyway. (I’ve had five beers and two glasses of wine since arriving in DC from Florida in mid-October.) I didn’t weigh myself when I came back but most of the clothes that fit me tightly last summer are rather saggy these days. I think I have gained a few pounds back.

Today I went to the doctor for some asthma drugs. (Don’t get asthma. As Bob Gibson used to say, “It’s bad news.”)  In addition to the drugs, I asked for flu and pneumonia shots. And, as usual, I was weighted.

197 pounds. Fully clothed. After breakfast.


I am below the Mendoza line for the first time in four years.

Afterwards I celebrated by getting my haircut. You might say it was time. I always hate my haircuts but this one I like. My barber is not a bicyclist but he was fascinated by the fact that I rode a bike alone to Key West.


Then I went for a bike ride to the gym. It’s four miles from home. I took the long way and got there after 17 miles. Then I rode another seven miles home. I’m not lost. As John Lennon said, “Some kind of happiness is measured out in miles.”


November Cool Down

After two months of over 1,000 miles, I took it easy in November. Fewer miles. Less weight, on the bike and the engine. (Riding to Key West will help with weight loss, just sayin’.)

For the month I rode 762 miles. 710 miles were on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. I ended the month by hitting 19,000 miles on the odometer. Pretty good for a bike I was going to get rid of after the first year I owned it. The other 52 miles were on my Cross Check. One ride of a little over 30 miles was another Colinfest, in which Colin shows me that I am not a single track rider. (Not his fault. It was a very interesting course in the woods on Mason Neck.)

My longest ride on the month was the Cider Ride. I did 53 miles, because I missed a couple of turns.

I also started lifting weights three times per week. I keep the weight low. I’m no Hulk but you still wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. I don’t much weighst but I can’t deny that my back feels a lot better and a little extra strength comes in handy.

For the year, I’m at 9,516 miles. I’m pretty sure I’ve never ridden this much in a year. I should be able to hit 10,000 miles. I have to average a little over 15 miles per day.

I do hope I can fit in a day hike or two somewhere in December, too. Even if it’s just a quick one in Carderock or elsewhere in Great Falls Park.




Little Nellie Is Growing Up

Today on my last ride of November, Little Nellie celebrated turning 19. In the past I have tended to avoid riding this bike because it beats up my back, but lifting weights has really helped me tolerate the bumps transmitted by Little Nellie’s wee wheels.


And so I put this bike away for the winter and switch to my other three steeds. They miss me.

Superhero Bicycleman or Lucky Duck

I’ve been watching a lot of superhero movies and TV shows lately. It seems that no matter how hard a superhero gets bashed up, he or she gets up and fights again. What’s up with that? Then I thought about my run of luck this year.

At the end of March, I managed to get hit by an SUV. Somehow, instead of getting run over, I bounced off the damned thing. My momentum carried me in front of the car. It stopped but I was going down until I somehow consciously threw my weight over the left side of the handlebars and righted myself. Who the hell gets clobbered by a 3 ton machine and walks, make that rides, away from it without a scratch?

On my ride to work one morning, my brain went on vacation. I turned left into the Intersection of Doom. The cross traffic had a green light. The cross traffic often seems to seek out pedestrians and cyclists and mow them down. So when I put myself directly in their path, nobody honked, nobody yelled nobody mowed me down. How could it be?

During my bike tour, I was riding from West Palm Beach toward the east coast of Florida. My bike lane suddenly stopped. Normally, I’d have just merged into the car lane and rolled on. This time I stopped. A dump truck missed my left shoulder by about a foot.

A couple of weeks later on the tour I was returning to my motel from a trip to the grocery store. I had a full pannier on the left rear of The Mule and a grocery bag slung over the right brake hood. You could say the load was not balanced very well. I stepped up onto the porch in front of my room and started to put my key in the lock. Leaning forward upset the delicate balance of things, the weight shifted and The Mule and I fell backward off the porch. I saved The Mule by catching it across my torso. On the way down my right rib was speared by a landscape light. I had two days to go to reach my train. Did my mess up rib stop me? Nope. I healed in about ten days.

On Friday, I decided to change an electrical socket. Things didn’t go well. In order to brace myself as I leaned over the counter top to work on the socket, I apparently hyperextended my left knee somehow. Afterward, my leg wouldn’t bear my body weight. So I took some vitamin I and elevated my leg. The next day my knee was better but still not ready for jump shots. What are you going to do? I went for a 34 mile bike ride. When I got home I took some vitamin I and elevated my leg. I woke up this morning and my leg would bear my weight. The weather was perfect for hiking but I didn’t want to push my luck so I went on a gentle 33 mile bike ride. My leg feels like it’s almost back to normal.

I’m either Superhero Bicycleman or one very lucky duck.

Let’s hope my luck doesn’t run out.

One-Knee Bike Ride

Yesterday I spent an hour screwing around with an electrical socket that refused to work properly. I failed. It still doesn’t work. Afterwards I noticed the back of my left knee hurt like a bitch. My leg wouldn’t support my weight. The leg just gave way. In scientific terminology this is WTF! Who the hell hurts their knee swapping out an electrical socket?

Um. Me, apparently.

So I took some vitamin I and elevated my leg as I watched the DareDevil series on Netflix. When I was a kid, I owned the first several DareDevil comic books. The series got good reviews based, I am sure on the first few episodes which seemed faithful to the comics that I read. After 23 chapters I was losing interest. It was hard to figure out which was more disturbing:

  • The fact that DareDevil got his head bashed 20 times per show and rarely showed concussion symptoms
  • The number of people who were gunned down or run through with sharp objects (waaay too much gore for me)
  • The fact that everyone who wasn’t in a superhero suit would drink whiskey whenever they walked into an office

After the TV binge, I stood up and my leg didn’t want to have anything to do with propelling me to bed. Not fun.

I took some more vitamin I and hobbled up the stairs.

This morning the knee hurt more worser. Ow. So I read the newspaper and kneaded the back of the knee with my fingers. It seemed to get better.

It was over 60 degrees outside. What’s an invalid to do?

I went for a bike ride. Nothing epic. I rode my old bike commute route along the Potomac River. Then I climbed up the hill in Rosslyn and rode the roller coaster called the Martha Custis Trail along I-66. I rode back on the nearly flat W&OD and Four Mile Run Trails. For about 25 miles my gimpy knee was doing fine. Then it weakened.

I distracted my knee with some Halloween candy. Applied orally. Snickers worked better than Bit-O-Honey.

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I made it home okay. 34 1/2 miles. Getting off the bike was a tad interesting. Good thing Little Nellie has a step-through frame so that I didn’t have to put weight on my left leg for more than a couple of seconds. (Now that I thing about it, I can’t remember the last time I got off a bike on the right side. It’s a bit like swimming freestyle and breathing from the same side all the time.)

So long story short, I can function pretty well as long as I don’t put weight on my left leg. I can ride my bike, lift weights, do my physical therapy, watch TV. Hell, I bet I could even drink whiskey.

Now there’s an idea….


Opt Insane

So it’s Black Friday. With no intentions of going anywhere near a store, I rode to Old Town Alexandria to take in the holiday vibe. The air was crisp as were the leaves on the ground. I was surprised that there were few people on the streets. I made my way to Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. Same story. I headed back home, stopping at the gym to lift some weights.

Once the riding and lifting were done, I headed to our neighborhood hardware store to buy an electrical outlet to replace one that died in our kitchen. It happens to be the one that I use to recharge my bike headlight so I had a particular interest in getting it fixed. After six tries, I found the circuit on our poorly labelled circuit board, then I took out the old outlet and connected the new one. Connecting the outlet should be easy, it’s just three wires after all, but the wires did not want to bend the way I needed them to bend. Much cussing ensued. Finally I got the wires attached, pushed the socket back into the wall and couldn’t get the damned thing to connect to the box in the wall. After 40 minutes of trying, Mrs. Rootchopper came to my rescue. Except she couldn’t get the thing to connect to the box in the wall either.

At this point I threw in the towel and called an electrician. Alas, it is the day after Thanksgiving and good luck finding one who will answer the phone.

As an afterthought I took a table lamp and plugged it in to the new socket. The lamp didn’t turn on. Damn. The problem isn’t the outlet; it’s the wiring to the outlet. Who knew?

There is mysterious electrical issue nearby as well. The socket is on a wall under a cabinet and above a counter top. There is a florescent light, connected to a wall switch, under the cabinet. The light stopped working while I was riding to Florida.

I don’t see now the light, which is connected to five other similar lights that all function properly can be connected in some way to the wall socket. I smell a mouse. Hopefully, this can all be sorted out without taking our kitchen wall apart.

Black Friday indeed. Home repairs drive me insane.

Looking on the bright side, we now know we have a problem that is beyond our skill level. A man has to know his limitations.


Termites and Crazy Eights

I’m crazy.

Many years ago termites descended upon Casa Rootchopper. We called in the bug people who did their bug thing and the termites made a hasty and persistent retreat (knocking hopefully termite-free wood). Termites pretty much own the southern U. S. so we have beaucoup company with our little winged friends.

We signed a contract for annual inspections which includes treatments if necessary. At 11 this morning the termite killer called and said they’d be at the house between 1 and 5.  Now I had planned to go for a bike ride this afternoon. (Big surprise.) I wanted to be home to let the inspector in to check the basement. What to do?

As luck would have it our neighborhood is essentially two loops, one about 0.75 miles in length, the other about 0.40 miles long. I decided that, after running a 3-mile errand on Little Nellie, that I’d ride another 27 miles on this figure 8 course.

At the end of each loop, I would look at my house to see if the Inspector Termite was at my house. Around and around and around. I am pretty sure the rest of the neighborhood thinks I’m a few spokes shy of a wheel but I kept on keeping on. I did 23 laps at somewhere between 12 and 18 miles per hour. I rarely glided. I spun my pedals as efficiently as possible making sure to put out a steady level of effort.

You must have been bored, they all said. Nope. I focused on my feet contacting the pedals, my ankles flexing, my knees bending, my quads contracting and releasing. Om. Just like on my bike tour. Without forty pounds of gear.

Focusing on my pedaling kept my mind off the fact that my toes were not in happy land on this barely 50 degree day.

Cars went by. Leaves fell. Leaf blowers blew. Lawn mowers mowed. Dog walkers walked. Suburbia suburbaned. And they went by like sticks in a stream. And I pedaled.

And when I hit 30 miles, I quit. An hour later the termite dude showed up. He found a few teeny tiny carpet beetles, but no sign of termites.


After he left, I turned on my computer and saw that registration is now open for the Hains Point 100. It’s a mostly social event in which a few deranged souls ride 100 miles in 3.3 mile laps in East Potomac Park on December 17. Sounds like Crazy Os to me.

The event is for a good cause, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s Women and Bicycles Program. I am told that the percentage of DC-area bike commuters who are female has risen from 24 to over 40 percent. Build it and they will come.

If you are in DC, you should go to Hains Point and join in the festivities. You don’t have to ride 100 miles. There is a raffle and there’s food (did somebody say “pie”) and nice people to talk to. Just show up and say “Hey, Katie” and you’ll have at least ten new friends.

So follow the link and sign up. You don’t have to be a WABA member to ride. Just make a donation of whatever amount floats your boat.

It’s crazy.



Okay, No More Triple Headers

I am wiped and whipped.

When I left for the gym on Little Nellie it was 55 degrees. There was a strong wind but that didn’t stop me from turning the four-mile route into an eight-mile meander. The gym was crowded, this being a federal holiday. Even with twice the usual number of people, I didn’t have to wait for a machine. This is not a good thing. I tend to go too fast when I can hop from one torture device to another.

I finished in a little over an hour. It takes a lot less time when I skip the leg machines. Skipping the leg machines also means I don’t wake up at 2 am with nerve pain shooting through my knees and thighs.

Who needs leg machines when you have a faithful steed like Little Nellie.

(By the way, the weight routine is making me feel much more stable when riding. My back can take the bumps without complaint. It isn’t making me faster or better at hills. Just more comfortable.)

I walked outside and discovered the temperature had dropped about ten degrees and the winds had increased noticeably.

As Dave Stoller once said, “Mon Dieu!”

So I rode into the wind like an idiot. I headed for a hardware store in Old Town Alexandria in the hopes of buying a box of chemical hand warmers. (I put them in my shoes on days like today.) They only had individual packs so I said “Mon Dieu” and rode on. After reaching the north end of Old Town, I reversed course and headed home. I stopped at my local hardware store, Village Hardware, which had ten-packs. (Is it any wonder that Village Hardware was voted the number 1 hardware store in Virginia?)

I arrived home with 21 miles on my odometer and cold toes.

After an inventive lunch of tuna salad and baked beans (I know. Sounds gross. Wasn’t half bad though.) I got the genius idea to mow the lawn (and bag all the leaves and clippings). By the time the chore was done, I was done. Tired. and thanks to still lower temperatures I was frozen. Mon Dieu.

And so my exciting Friday night will feature ibuprofen, comfy socks, and a book.

Tomorrow I promised my body I’ll rest. The weatherman is cooperating. Record low temperatures are expected.

Side note: Today is the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth. Is it any wonder that I feel old right now?