It Felt Really Strange

For two summers I drove a cab. In Boston. (I was wikkid at driving a cah.) It has taken more than 35 years to get all the bad driving habits from that summer out of my system.

I can’t remember the last time I drove to work. Today I drove. It felt very strange. Even though traffic was light it was stressful. All the other drivers were doing stupid things. Couldn’t they see that I was driving? What is wrong with them?!!!

It all started with a humongous millipede. It was hairy and it was crawling on the top of the door in our bathroom. Normally, Mrs. Rootchopper calls for me to slay these invaders but, pressed for time, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Forgetting that she has been unable to jump since she was run over by an SUV, she jumped.

POP!

My daughter was standing right next to her and heard it. My wife both heard it and felt it.  It was her right calf tearing.

She tried to RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) it but, after getting better for a few days, it got worse. So yesterday she went to the ER. They put her lower leg in a cast making it impossible for her to drive. I could read the writing on the wall. I’ll be biking to work again some time in December. Ugh.

So I drove her to work today. Late in the morning I picked her up and drove her to the orthopedist. He took off the cast. The diagnosis took no time at all. Torn calf muscle. Four to six months to heal. Use crutches or a cane. No cast needed. You can drive.

CRUTCHES

He is now the official orthopedic surgeon of the Rootchopper Institute.

I’m back in the saddle again.

It will feel really normal. I don’t like strange.

Weeping Tree

One of the joys of living in the mid-Atlantic states is the beautiful blossoming trees in springtime. Over 20 years ago I bought a weeping cherry tree for Mrs Rootchopper for Mother’s Day. Each spring it would bloom in a riot of pink blossoms for a couple of weeks. Each fall, on the first day of school, we’d line our kids up in their new school clothing for a photo.

The kids are now young adults. As impossible as it seems to me, one is in Australlia, the other in Thailand. When I was their age, I had been on an airplane once for a hop from Albany to Boston. Between them they’ve been to Thailand, Australia, England, Canada, Italy, France, Spain, Vatican City, Monaco, Greece, Mexico, and Turkey. I ima19901983000_64ebf1251b_zgine there are more places still to come.

As they have thrived, the tree has slowly begun to fade. Each year we lop off another big branch or three. We woke up today to kind nearly one-third of the remaining branches dead. Soon we’ll take it down. An ironic symbol of the passage of years. We planted another across the yard. Perhaps when we sell this place and move on, the next family will take first-day-of-school pictures in front of it.

Life goes on, even when a tree does not.

Riding to Test Ride

It was high time that I got off the couch and rode into the city to test ride some bikes. My current stable includes a 12 year old recumbent with 38,400 miles on it, a 24 year old touring bike with 38,400 miles on it, and an 8 year old travel bike with 15,000 miles on it. So?  I wanna new bike. I’ve been good. Waaa!

I took The Mule, my touring bike, and rolled out to the city. Wrapped up in thoughts, I missed a turn in a neighborhood called Waynewood that has curvy roads instead of a grid. (I actually have heard it referred to as Whitewood, because there are so few people of color living there.)

Once back on track I took East Boulevard Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail. East Boulevard runs parallel to the GW Parkway and was once lined with small houses, cottages really from back in the day when a trolley line ran down the middle of the Parkway. The Washington area is filled with neighborhoods like this where people with money once escaped the heat of the city. Over the past decade, many of the small houses and undeveloped land have been cleared for massive egoboxes that are triple the size that any rational person would need. This week several cottage houses and trees were bulldozed to make way for more mega-homes. Sad.

The trail was busy, as it always is on a nice Sunday morning in the summer. I managed not to get mad at the long clusters of families riding slowly. They will stash their bikes in the garage soon enough, probably once the temperature falls below 70 degrees.

Once in Alexandria, I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River to Maryland. The path is wide but two walkers managed to take up 3/4ths of the width with their bodies. They really needed the walk.

On the Maryland side I slogged up to Oxon Hill Road. It’s not a difficult climb but there is no shade and it goes on forever. The massive lot on the hillside was once empty. It is now the site of the construction of a casino. What a shame that all that effort isn’t going into something that produces something beneficial and lasting.

Once at the top of the hill I had to deal with the fact that MDOT can’t figure out how to build a bike lane to the Oxon Hill Farm. I rode against traffic for a few hundred yards in silent protest to MDOT’s stupidity. (They recently made changes that made this situation worse, making the left turn into Oxon Hill Farm illegal.)

A rather beat up road goes around the farm and back down the hill to Oxon Cove Park. The path through this park sucks. It’s all weeds and potholes. A deer bounded across my path to take my mind off how this route could be made so much nicer for not a lot of money.

Once out of the park I rode the steep uphill on Blue Plains Drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Are you following all the ups and downs? You’d think MDOT would build a bike trail along the river. You’d think wrong.) A left at the top of the hill took me through some of the poorest parts of Anacostia. There were groups of men sitting in the shade every 100 yards or so. They didn’t look very happy. I rode past the old Saint Elizabeth’s hospital. This was what Karl Childers in Sling Blade called a nervous hospital. For a minute I imagined what a godawful place this must have been back in the day. It’s closed now. Old red brick buildings behing walls and chain link fences slowly giving in to the passage of time. Why can’t they bulldoze this mess instead of those cottages?

After riding through an uninspiring commercial neighborhood, I turned into Anacostia Park. As I made my way northeast along the river I stopped to refill my water bottle. The first two water fountains I tried were not working. On a humid 90 degree day. Go DC!

I finally found a fountain that worked near a roller skating facility. Shortly thereafter I left the park and headed across the Anacostia River, northwest up busy Benning Road. Most BikeDC people I know leave the city to get away from their daily battle with cars. Every so often I go into town to play with the beasts.

I rode through the gentrifying areas of Northeast DC then into Northwest. After a million traffic lights I arrived at the new Bicycle Space mother ship in Adams Morgan. This bike store is NICE! And there are beaucoup bikes on display. So many bikes. I want them all. Just what I needed.

I said hello to my friend Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon who conveniently works for Bicycle Space. What a coincidence! I promptly had me test riding an All City bike. I took it on a loop that included a hill. Riding it out of saddle up the hill was not to my liking so I went back to the shop. where Rachel was prepping a Surly Cross Check for me. Ryan, from the No Wrong Plan tour, came into the shop while the Cross Checvl was being adjusted. He told Rachel and me that despite the fact that he really liked a particular Salsa Warbird bike, he couldn’t buy it because it would cost him too much in divorce lawyer fees.

He joined me aboard the Warbird for one of two test rides on the Cross Check. We were coming to a stop at a traffic light when Susan, Ryan’s wife, saw us and said (I kid you not), “Ryan, no more bikes!”

The Cross Check is a tweener bike, not quite for touring, not quite for road riding. I really liked it a whole bunch, but this whole bike buying thing was really about getting a new touring bike, a Surly Disc Trucker. So Rachel ordered me up one in my size and I will go back in next weekend to do a ride-off. Stay tuned.

Before I left, Rachel told me that her friend Kate is returning to the east coast, because the correct number of Kates to have is N+1. Rachel and Kate are like Mary and Rhoda to me because listening to them talk is like sitting in on a sitcom. Kate and Rachel did the Great Pumpkin ride a few years ago (I joined them for a post-ride beer). It looks like they’ll be back for a repeat. We’ll have to figure out some logistics because a car is needed to get to the ride and they are both car-free.

After the bike shop I picked up some food at a 7-11 and rode to Meridian Hill Park to sit in the shade and read. All was great until a man doing a Humans of DC knock off came by and started talking to the barechested, dreadlocked man of about my age sitting on the bench next to me. I couldn’t listen for all the chatter so I packed up The Mule and rode for home.

At Lafayette Park near the White House swarms of disoriented tourists were obstructing every possible pathway. Once clear of them, I had to deal with the tourists who stood in the 15th Street cycle track as they took in their surroundings. Next came the rent-a-bike tourists riding blindly across the cycle track nearly causing a bicycle pile-up. You probably didn’t know this but Washingtonland is a theme park. We should have funny people in costumes milling about. Oh, I forgot, we do. They’re called politicians.

A few minutes later I was riding past tourists on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Look, Ma. Pavement! Let’s walk four abreast so that all these bikes have to stop or ride across the grass through all the other tourists.

Anabolic touroids. Must not kill.

Thankfully, the rest of the ride home was uneventful. The Mule felt slow, however. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t that Cross Check be nice right about now?”

After 43 miles I arrived home. It was HOT. I put The Mule away in the Old Bike’s Home. and returned to the couch.

Random Friday

I rarely post on Fridays. I am tired and my thoughts refuse to be wrangled into a coherent train of thought. So, inspired by a writer friend who does handstands in stripped dresses, I am letting incoherence be the order of the day.

Vegan bacon and kosher shrimp make absolutely no sense to me. They are the inflatable sex dolls of the food kingdom.

If you can find a better three days to ride a bike than the last three days in DC, I am moving into your place. I’ll put my bikes over there in the corner. Don’t mind me.

Mount Vernon (the neighborhood) is a nice place to ride from. Riding to there is pretty anticlimactic.

When Maslow came up with the term self-actualization was he putting us on? What if he was yanking the chain of self absorbed people? I can just see him sipping a boubon in an easy chair laughing his ass off.

When somebody tells you “I thought you had forgotten about me,” it’s an even money bet that she forgot that she had forgotten about you.

As much as I hate to admit it, shandys (shandies?) beat beer on a muggy summer night at the ballpark. It’s hard to gag down hoppy fluids when your tighty whities are soaking from sweat.

On hot summer nights, tighty whities are probably a bad idea.

Earlier this summer, I managed not to spot a friend at a public event even though she was wearing a green fake-feather boa and a floppy hat. I amaze myself with my visual incompetence. The persistent irony of being the son of an eye surgeon has no bounds.

I amaze myself that I even know a person who would wear a green feather boa and a floppy hat, especially when worn as an ensemble. I mean I never wear mine at the same time.

I know people who do handstand and headstand selfies. I know someone who does yoga with monkeys. I know some seriously odd people.

I think my recumbent bicycle should have wings so I can swoop better.

Words I thought I’d never hear: “…so I went to the bar down the street in my pajamas.”

Am I the only one who hears the spooky air wakes at Gravelly Point? The smaller business jets seem to have the best ones.

Life is simple. The truth is there isn’t anything more to life than really, really good pizza. Somebody tell the Pope. I think the Dalai Lama has this sussed. He keeps it to himself because otherwise he’d make himself obsolete. He had Maslow on his speed dial. The Dalai Lama takes his bourbon neat.

I wish this country had 300 million bicycles instead of 300 million guns. When you lose your mind on a bicycle, you end up in Chantilly. When you lose your mind with a gun, you end up in a box.

Norman Wilson McCloud sounds like a serial killer to me.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could bike to Key West, take a hard turn, and have the centrifugal force shove you all the way back to DC? We could call this maneuver the Apollo 13.

“No comment until the time limit is up.” Criminals were stoopid on Superman.

I think the theme song to Johnny Quest makes for great riding music. I’ll bet Johnny is Hadji’s gardener now.

To this day I cannot figure out why Jay Silverheels didn’t get top billing. Silver and Scout were more interesting than Clayton Moore.

Yesterday, I was looking for Linel’s lost bag so hard I nearly crashed. Never found it. Today, I spotted Ed’s lost bag without trying. Sometimes luck is better than persistence.

I am convinced that there is a steroidal racoon in our yard. I am calling him Ahnuld.

If they can make vegan bacon, can they make lettuce out of ham?

There Must Be Some Mistake

After yesterday’s sweatfest, today was sublime. Clearly, the weather gods did not get the memo.

To: Weather Gods

From: Washington DC

Re: July

We will suffer each and every day through impossible heat and humidity. You will give us awesome weather in spring and fall. K? Thx.

I rode Big Nellie to work in shorts. The cool air was blowing up my legs. Eek!  I passed Ed on the way. Ed was going slow because he’s Ed and Ed does that sometimes.

I am pretty sure Chris M. came by with a GoPro camera on his head. It looked pretty silly but I may just be a video star once he edits my belly out of the picture and fills in my bald spot.

Even the drivers in Rosslyn were nice. Okay, nice-ish. I got into the garage at work unscathed only to be nearly vaporized by a massive pick up going way too fast. Big Nellie moved this way and that with aplomb. Okay, maybe aplomb isn’t the right word maybe azucchini.

My co-worker Kelly returned to bike commuting. The recent threat of evening storms scared her off. Of course, you’d be scared too if you were caught in rising water on your second bike commute. 19735364850_a005ed17db_z

At the end of the work day, she boldly slapped on her helmet for the perilous trip down the elevator to the locker room to change.  She also took a water bottle in case the elevator got stuck for more than a day. We haven’t heard from her since she left.  Also, she has a habit of talking to walls but I’m sure this pre-dated her adventures in bike commuting.

I left about an hour later. I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful blossoms covering the Mount Vernon Trail just across the the Washington Monument. I heard somewhere that this tree is a white ash tree. I h19736818498_f0309d11e2_zave not verified this. In fact, I am about as good at tree identification as I am at facial recognition. I took a picture but I got in the way.  I wore a helmet to keep the blossoms off my fusiform gyrus. I think it worked.

As you can see I was in a good mood. I was congratulating myself about giving some advice to a friend. The advice panned out nicely for her. As a result, I figure I  will probably not see her until autumn 2016 or so. I apparently have a talent for this sort of thing. A few years ago I advised someone to quit her job. She moved 12,000 miles away a few weeks later. If only I could work this magic on tech stocks.

I took a dang-it’s-a-nice-evening lap of Hains Point then headed for home. Big Nellie was really cruising along nicely when I ran into Mike and Lisa aboard their purple DaVinci tandem. It has the cool feature that unlike most tandems the captain (up front) pedals independently of the stoker (in back).

Every once in a while, Mike and Lisa ride down the Mount Vernon Trail to explore my neck of the woods and beyond. They have an impressive cruising radius and appear to like riding up steep hills. We chatted for nearly a half hour on the side of the trail. One would think that I’d think to take their picture. One would be wrong.

We did talk about this year’s 50 States Ride. They host one of the rest stops at their home in Tacoma Park. It is the best rest stop ever. In 2013, I pulled up to the house and Mike stood on his porch and yelled “ROOTCHOPPER” repeatedly. Lisa threatened to call 911 and he stopped. In 2014, he put a banner on his house that said, “All Hail ROOTCHOPPER.”  This year’s ride is on September 12. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve done it seven times including each of the last five years. Be forewarned, it’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s a pretty good bet that you will meet some great people along the way. I will be out of town for this year’s event, but I expect a complete report from my #bikedc peeps.

We made our promise to go to a ball game together. We haven’t pulled this off yet but one of these days the stars will align and we’ll get it done.

We went our separate ways. I took the long way home.

The weather gods were pleased.

More Better than February

I’ve been a sloven blogger lately. Mostly I’ve been out of town and off the bike. Friday was a day of unusual events. In preparing to go to Dulles to drop my daughter off, Mrs. RC blew out her right calf muscle while attempting to kill a millipede on the top of a door jamb. White wives can’t jump. Actuallu, it is the first time she has jumped since she was run over by the driver of an SUV. As she sprung up, my daughter heard a pop. It was her calf muscle tearing. Her days of playing small forward are over, we fear.

So the three of us drove to Dulles to see our 20-year old daughter leave for her semester abroad in Sydney. Our daughter moves through airports like water in a stream. She has now been to nine foreign countries, four this summer alone. (She’s been to France and England twice, so she should get extra credit.) When I was 20, I hadn’t been to 9 states!

My wife and I then drove to southern West Virginia, not far from where a fracking oil train derailed a few weeks ago. Large gatherings of people are an introvert’s idea of hell on earth. Suffice it to say, that I had burn marks before the entire thing was over. I caught up on some reading and wrote long emails to friends when I could get cell service.

We arrived back at home Sunday night at 10. I think I managed to get 6 hours of fitful sleepbefore getting up for a visit from a plumber.

After working from home all day, I was preparing to mow the lawn in the blazing heat when Kirstin sent me a message asking if I wanted to go to the Nats game. Yeah, baby!!!

I rode The Mule the 16 miles to Nationals Park in DC. I stopped to buy ice cold water and peanuts, then parked my bike with the bike valet. While waiting for Kirstin, Katie Lee rolled in. I was going to sing “Happy Birthday +1 to You” but the extra day just messes the whole song up. She looks seven years younger than when we got together in March.

Kirstin arrived. After some introductions, Katie left to join her friends inside. Kirstin and I  bought some more water from a street vendor (two of our bottles were intentionally frozen solid.) and went in to our seats. Lower level 26 rows from the field. Way to go Ultrarunnergirl!

The game was a great one with a half-dozen superb fielding plays by the hometown team. Kirstin spent an inning hanging out with her friend Kate. I saw a tweet from Rudy who was sitting in the stands above us. After seven innings, I actually spotted him. It helped that he was waving like starving man on a desert island.

It was hot and muggy. Between the two of us Kirstin and I downed five liters of water and two beers by the sixth inning. As I returned from the bathroom I bought us two more beers only to find that she had bought herself one while I was away. We were thirsty.

Well, the Nats won 7-2 and we all met up at the Bike Valet. We rolled down First Street in the mugginessand darkness. Kirstin and I split off after four blocks and rode together almost to the Washington Monunment. She headed north for a long slog up to Cathedral Heights. I headed to the Mount Vernon trail.

I love riding late at night. The heat and humidity brought out a symphony of bugs and frogs. Peeps and chuckling sounds and rattles and screeches. Since my ears were filled it was somehow only fair that the trail was crisscrossed in places by spider webs. Ack!

Beneath the Wilson Bridge a homeless man as usual was sitting on the bike path in the dark. He was waving a small amber light so I wouldn’t run him over. A little further south I startled a fawn who silently ran away to my right across the Parkway. I listened for the squeal of a braking car but there was none. .

I pulled into home at midnight.

This morning, on 5 1/2 hours of sleep, I rode to work in the most oppressive muggy weather I have experienced in many a year. My legs were covered in sweat after a mile. The humidity never abated. It was just gross. I was pretty happy to get to the office but the garage in our building was a blast furnace.

After a day or reading a paper chock a block full of equations and differential calculus, I eagerly jumped on my bike and headed home. It was less gross than the morning, but it was still gross.

When I got home I decided to mow the lawn. Not the best idea I’ve ever had.

This is summer in Washington. It’s more better than February.

Carl and Little Nellie

As I posted the other day, Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, was in the shop for a new chain and new bar tape. I also needed some help getting a tire mounted on the front rim. When I left the bike the folks at Spokes Etc. told me that they’d have the bike back to me on Thursday.

Imagine my delight when I received an email telling me the bike was ready today. Yay!.

Imagine my befuddlement when they also told me that the front tire was flat.

What a weird email.

I tried and trued to get the tire on. It was a new Schwalbe Marathon and the Alex rims on my bike are unusually tall. The combination makes mounting tires extremely difficult. It is never a good idea to use tire levers to get the tire on because you stand a very good chance of puncturing the tube.

After over an hour of frustration and quite a lot of lost skin, I resorted to my metal tire levers to no avail. So I took the bike to Spokes and waved a white flag. Carlos tried to get the tire on and couldn’t do it so he pulled out some thin plastic levers and popped the tire on. He then pumped it up and rolled the bike into their repair queue.

So, long story short, we don’t know who punctured the tube. Wanting to get the thing fixed today, I told them to go ahead and put a new tube in. After all, I still don’t have any skin on my thumbs.

When I picked the bike up, Carl had just finished mounting the tire. With his bare hands. I asked, “How did you do this?” He explained that he pushed the wire bead of the tire into the well of the rim and, in short order, he had the tire on.

Carl’s secret is that he has tons of experience dealing with Bike Fridays and recumbents. He’s dealt with this problem scores of times. In point of fact, I tried to do what he did and I just couldn’t get the tire on.

While he had my bike, he looked it over and told me about all sorts of issues the bike has or will soon have. The rear derailer is on its last legs. He recommended a different derailer, one for mountain bikes (Deore) instead of road bikes (105), because, unlike the road derailer, the mountain bike derailer is designed to work with a wide range of gears such as Little Nellie has. He also pointed out that the cable feeding the derailer had been installed incorrectly with a zip tie. This interfered with the proper operation of the derailer. He removed the zip tie and set things right. He then pointed out that the indexing on my rear derailer shifter was about to die. This is no big deal because with a twist of a nut the shifter will work just fine in friction mode. Finally, he told me that the long cable housings on folding bikes trap water and that the next time I have work done on my bike, it would be a good idea to replace the cables and housings.

Bike Fridays are odd ducks. So are Tour Easy recumbents which have similar cable and housing issues. I consider myself pretty lucky to have Carl working just three miles from my house.

For those of you thinking that this tire mounting thing is peculiar, check out this video that describes the trick Carl used.

Much thanks to Carl for showing me the ins and outs of the drive train on my nearly 8-year old bike. Next winter, I’ll take it in for some of the work Carl recommends.