Dueling Odometers

Friday began with what is becoming a rejuvenated tradition for me: Friday Coffee Club. The ride into the city on my Cross Check was run of the mill. I was in a good mood and the ride only made it better.

About 1 mile from A Baked Joint, the interim location of the FCC, I happened to run into Andrea. Andrea and I chatted for a bit about how hard it is to get to ABJ. The streets are one way or closed off from construction or the traffic lights are numerous and interminable. Basically, it’s DC. Deal.

Andrea, however, has figured out some tricks. New York Avenue is a main drag that runs on a diagonal to the grid of lettered and numbered streets. Intersections often result in small triangles with traffic lights going every which way. When you get to a red light at one of these the trick is to take a right then a quick left, essentially going the long way around the triangle, then a right to continue on the diagonal. Not only does this save time at the first red light but it allows you to catch a few more green lights along the way.

Andrea’s real genius came when she took me down K Street. A left on 7th Street is illegal so Andrea does a Copenhagen left. She rides to the far side of the intersection and pivots her bike. And from there ABJ is but a short hop away. Watch me screw it up next week.

We had our coffee outside. We told tales of our bike touring adventures. Andrea advised me to get a silk sleeping bag liner. Genius again! Then PLINK! A sheared off screw fell on the table from above where some construction was happening. Fortunately we survived a few more insults from on high before moving on.

On the ride to work I fell in behind Lawyer Mike and Pancho. Until I met him at FCC, I’d never met a Pancho before. I can’t get over what a cool name it is. Right up there with Augustus.

The ride to work went surprisingly fast. I had figured out a few tricks of my own last week. It involves getting through the worst of the badly timed lights on the M Street cycletrack. Several of these lights last a minute so hitting them all is pretty frustrating.

In the evening I rode to Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood in the north central part of DC. The ride there was remarkably pleasant. especially given the fact that I rode through two insanely congested traffic circles. At my destination, I met a bunch of co-workers present and past for happy hour. This turned into dinner. It was a pretty darned nice evening. Unfortunately, when I got out of the restaurant a little after 10 pm, it started to rain cats and dogs. I put on my rain jacket, hopped on the Cross Check and carefully rode toward Virginia down 11th Street. I could barely see and was sure that the drivers and other street users could barely see me. I took my time.  I stopped to put on my headlight and made my way to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack. Then it was on to 15th Street and past the Washington Monument. The rain started to abate.

I have no idea how long it took me to ride the 16 miles home. Once it stopped raining it was actually pretty nice. The trail was empty. It was just me and the breeze and the sound of thousands of frogs croaking and peeping in the night.

I arrived a home just after midnight.  I stayed up another couple of hours before falling asleep in an easy chair. Then I staggered to bed only to be awoken at 6 am with cramps in my feet and calves. Perhaps I should drink less wine and more water on these outings. Ya think?

During yesterday’s festivities the Cross Check managed to cross over a mileage threshold.

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In the evening, my wife, daughter, and I went out to get some dinner. Just before arriving back home, the car odometer hit a milestone of its own and easily won the odometer competition.

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I gotta get pedaling. It’s catching up to my bikes!

 

Five Buck Bikeabout

Yesterday’ weather was fantastic.  Good weather for goofing off is also good weather for getting stuff done around the house. Sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I chose responsibility over slacking.

I mowed the lawn and painted the shed. Most of the painting had already been done by Mrs. Rootchopper during the week but I took on the tedious chore of painting the trim. Four plus hours of pure fun. Not. When I was done I reloaded the shed with all the stuff. It’s good to be back to normal, but my efforts were rewarded with lower back pains.

So I started the today with my usual noga (My wife says it’s yoga, I say it’s back exercises so let’s just call it noga, okay?). After that I languished on my deck reading the Sunday paper. Had I stuck around it would have been tea and buttered scones but I decided to go on a recon ride to DC. I am riding my ninth 50 States Ride in a month and need to find a parking spot near the start. (It’s not too late to sign up. You have to be a WABA member, or come as the guest of one. )

So off I rode to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was busy, mostly with tourists on rental bikes. You can tell because they gape at all the stuff I see every day. On the Dyke Marsh bridge I caught up to a bike tourist. We had a ten second chat from which I learned that he is riding around the perimeter of the 48 contiguous states. He started in Minnesota and is riding counterclockwise. So he’s already been from midnight to three o’clock. The ride will take him 14 months. Go dude! (I found his journal when I got home over on Crazyguyonabike.com. The journal notes say that he also took a side trip to Hawaii and dropped down into Mexico for a few days.)

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After ten miles of weaving around the rent-a-bikers, I made it into DC and headed for Rock Creek Park. Along the way, I spotted a cricket match because this is DC and DC is eclectic as fuck.

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The weather was nearly as good as yesterday. The park side trail is being refurbished and looks great for most of the way from Georgetown to Military Road. At one point, people were gathering along the trail to look into the creek. Five bucks were making their way across the creek. The road crossing had all us bystanders holding our breath. I think they made it across without incident. (The picture shows only the southbound half of the road just after a merge to the left out of frame. The grassy median is wooded and wide. They had to make it across another two lanes of northbound traffic after that.)

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I made it to the new Klingle Valley trail which I had ridden downhill recently. Today, I slogged up the hill. I kept my breathing and effort constant and had no trouble making the climb. Of course, neither would you at 7 miles per hour.

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Once i reached the top, I check out some of the local streets for parking. As long as you are willing to ride a mile (or less) to the start of the ride, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for your metal fart barge (Colin made me say that.)

After the recon was over, I rode to Meridian Hill Park for no other reason than it’s one of my favorite places in DC. The water cascade was dry earlier this summer but it is now flowing in all its glory. The park is built into a hill. Looking down from the top (near the swordless statue of Joan of Arc) the cascade is pretty. Looking up from the base of the park, it is just WOW! And it sounds so soothing you could sit beside it all day canoodling with your canoodle-ee.

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Mon Dieu! Ou est mon epee?
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Cascade from the top of the park
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Cascade from the bottom of the park

I thought it would spoil the vibe if I started canoodling with myself so I made my way home down the 15 Street cycletrack. This was a mistake. It took a really long time. I could have been bombing down 16th Street instead. Riding in a cycletrack in DC feels like you’re in a video game. People, ubers, delivery vans, dogs, and other random stuff seem to appear. You’ll never score enough points if you don’t pay attention.

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. I took a side trip through Del Ray for a change of pace. After 40 miles, I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I’m ready for my tour, Mr. DeMille.

Some more pix of my ride are on my Flickr page.

Whale Sharks, Fearing the Reaper, Bandolier Booze, and Other Thoughts

Friday Coffee Club made my week. I love how DC has so many interesting clever people. 

  • For the second week in a row, I got all turned around getting to A Baked Joint, but I made a rather splendid recovery and avoided riding on sidewalks or through nearby construction zones.
  • Friday Coffee Club is best when it is about tales told well. Michael B. was in fine form telling us all what it was like to scuba dive in the Philippines among whale sharks. Their tales look so smooth swooshing slowly back and forth. This, combined with the sheer mass of the fish, makes it look like the shark is moving slowly. Quite the opposite, so divers beware. Also, if the tail hits you, you’re chum, dude.
  • Andrea then weighed in on tales of bike touring and RAGBRAI. She and her husband concocted a three-month cross country tour. For comfort, and to be in harmony with her bent hubby, she bought a Tour Easy, the same recumbent as Big Nellie. She went to pick it up two weeks before the tour only to find out that the wrong size had been order. Ack! After some phone calls to a competing bike shop, she scored a bike in the right size and color two days before the tour.  I can’t imagine jumping on a recumbent for the first time and riding 4,000+ miles. Dang.
  • Next Andrea told us about her recent participation in the annual cross-Iowa bike event called RAGBRAI. The ride starts on the banks of the Missouri River on the west border of Iowa and heads to the Mississippi River on the east side. She flew to Minot SD only to learn that her bus to the ride start had been canceled. Within minutes she had hitched a ride on a converted school bus designed around a Blue Oyster Cult theme. This never happens to me. Ken Kesey phone home.
  • RAGBRAI is also a rolling party with pie and alcohol and other ingestible goodies. Being somehow in possession of numerous airplane sized liquor bottles, she needed a way to carry them. So she acquired a bandolier from a hunter friend and put the bottles in the shell holders. Genius! We don’t need no stinking glasses.

It doesn’t take much to be a thoughtful friend.

  • We sometimes forget to stay in touch with friends. And when we do, the communication can be somewhat perfunctory.  I am heartened to know that there are people who I don’t often see but who go to the bother to let me know they are thinking about me.
    • Today, Rando Mike sent me a message out of the blue congratulating me on my retirement. You are two weeks early, my friend. No worries, I’ll stop by your house (an official rest stop) during the 50 States Ride before heading off to Key West. Mike has been trying to talk me into riding somewhere else. He won’t succeed.
    • From time to time, when I haven’t heard from her, I send Klarence an email just to make sure she is doing okay. I’m sure she’s fine, but it doesn’t hurt to check on a friend who did me a massive good turn two years ago. A few hours after Mike’s tweet, Klarence sent me an response to my most recent “Are you okay?” email. She has been busy stalking her favorite jam band, working her ass off, and moving so it has been a while since our paths have crossed. Somewhere in all that chaos she quietly kept tabs on me via social media, liking this tweet and that Instagram picture, a sort of electronic way of waving. Regardless, I have no reason to believe she has any idea what’s going on in my life. So she ends her email: “Ready for retirement??” And you wonder why I am ever grateful, Klarence.
  • My co-workers are busy trying to squeeze some fun out of my imminent departure for Seizure World. Their glee is palpable. They’ve already scheduled chips and quac during an afternoon in the office. My co-workers vastly prefer chips and quac to actual work. Or to me, for that matter. There also will be a happy hour of sorts. Kelly, who once ran her sorority in college, is losing her mind. She’ll be away for all this social stuff. Of course, she couldn’t care less about me. She’s just a maniac for parties.
  • Co-worker Amanda returned from her vacation, a birthday recon trip to Key West. She reports that Key West is chock-a-block full of good restaurants and saloons. She sampled them all. Well done, my young apprentice. I may need you to scout out west coast destinations for my cross country bike tour next summer. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to travel to San Diego, San Francisco, Astoria Oregon, and Seattle. Eat, drink, and take notes.

Home is where the chores are

  • The contractors finished the refurbishment of the 8 x 14 shed we call the Rootchopper Institute’s Headquarters. We are dumping the forest green color scheme and matching the shed colors to the house: gray with white trim. Mrs. Rootchopper has taken over the painting. The particle board is sucking up paint like a sponge. It’s taking as long to paint the thing as it did to rebuild it. So it goes. Looks great though.
  • The contract called for all kinds of extra payments for additional work. Despite doing quite a bit of extra tweaking to the framing, the bill arrived with no additional payments on it.
  • My car did not fare so well. I took it in for an inspection and after replacing the front brakes and doing an alignment (as well as other assorted maintenance), I walked away $600 poorer. Andrea, got any of those bottles left?

July – Going, Going Long

I finally got off the consistency schneid and broke the 800-mile barrier for a month of bike riding this year. 812 to be exact.

532 miles riding back and forth to work with a couple of side trips to Nats Park. That’s 18 more bike commutes. Little Nellie did 50 miles and the Cross Check provided the rest of the transport.

My long ride of the month was the Whites Ferry century (101 miles) on my Cross Check. Little Nellie jumped in the trunk of my car for romps in Rhode Island and New Jersey.

So far this year I’ve ridden 4,869.5 miles. If I just straightened this out I’d be somewhere south of Lima by now.

3,489 miles are attributable to 119 bike commutes.

That could get me to the west coast. By now. If I started in early May.

Just sayin’.

P. S. I am really grateful for the help Laura Miller from WABA gave me today to get a friend signed up as my guest for this year’s 50 States Ride in September. Ella no será un novato esta vez.

 

Stood Up by a Katie, No Problem

Last night Katie Bolton. (a member of the raucous band of BikeDC Katies including Katies Harris, Lee, and Fignewton – don’t ask) asked if Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon and I were going to Friday Coffee Club. I don’t normally go to FCC these days because it is hard to get to and hard to get to work from. I am, however, three weeks from retirement so, in terms of arriving at work at a specific time, I am all out of fucks to give. And I am a complete sucker for Katies on two wheels.  And off I rode.

The weather forecast called for ark-worthy rain but there was no precipitation when I left home at 6:15. The ride was pleasant until I got lost within a quarter mile of A Baked Joint, the interim home of FCC. I have ridden every street in the area dozens of times but I can’t help but end up going the wrong way or, as I did today, overshooting the city block I was looking for.

When I finally arrived, there were several folks I knew there. Yay!

Jeff, Jacques, Ricky, and Leslie were already getting their caffeine fix on. I ordered a mocha and it was delish.

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In which Ricky (r) takes a selfie with Jeff (center) and me at Friday Coffee Club

I joined the group and we soon added Scuba Michael and Mr. T. It was like an old Friday Coffee Club reunion without the young women. So naturally the newly married Megan and her newly married husband Nate.  We chatted about their honeymoon in France which they Instagrammed the bejesus out of.

Holy crap, the young ‘uns from Friday Coffee Club are getting hitched!

Now that I think of it, there are several second generation FCCers who were born in the years since Mary, Ed, Brian, Lane, and Lisa started this shindig.

And then Ed walked in. And walked out. He sat with a cycling friend (who’s name escapes me) outside in the muggy morning air. Ed just came back from a tour in the Rockies. He must be craving humidity. DC rarely disappoints.

Alas, the only disappointment was that Katie and Rachel didn’t come. Sad face.

At work my telecommuting co-worker Kelly sent me an email “You didn’t ride to work today, did you?” Kelly was nearly swept away by a flash flood during one of her first bike commutes. She freaks out over weather. I try to remain calm but all day my phone erupted in flash flood warnings.

The rains did arrive in late morning. There were very much ark-worthy. I rode home in a deluge that lasted for about half the ride. Streams and runoff crossing the Mount Vernon Trail were filled with very fast running water. Eek! There were big puddles on the trail. Eek eek! The geese were really happy. Honk! I rode right past. Splash! Ding!

There was no thunder or lightning. There was no wind. So I just basically got wet. No big deal. At the half way point (roughly 7 1/2 miles) at the power plant north of Old Town Alexandria, the rain stopped. There was intermittent light rain for the rest of the commute. I though maybe I should jump in a creek and get a selfie of me hanging on to a bridge for dear life. It would have made Kelly happy.

When I arrived home, I learned that Lawyer Mike had successfully ridden his 100 mile charity ride. As of this writing, I have not heard from my friend Emilia who did the 70 mile version of the ride. Emilia started two or three hours later than Mike and rides quite a bit slower. I do hope she is okay.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

There are many massive old trees along the Mount Vernon Trail in Belle Haven Park south of Alexandria.  A few years ago a true behemoth started falling apart and was taken down. Over the weekend storms claimed another tree, much smaller but still a welcome producer of shade along the trail. This is what the tree looked like this morning.

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Ten hours later this is what remained.

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Sad face.

There were several other much smaller trees and limbs that had fallen across the trail. These were cleared before this morning’s rush hour.

The credit here goes to the National Park Service that maintains the trail and the nearby George Washington Memorial Parkway.

No good deed goes unpunished around here, however. If the Park Service can provide such excellent storm debris clean up, it can do other things that trail users have wanted for years. Here are a few:

  • Plowing and treating the trail after winter storms
  • Grinding down the bumps from tree roots
  • Repositioning stop signs so that they force cars to stop not trail users.
  • Finding an alternative bridge material to the wood that is currently used. Wood bridges become skating rinks and cause many bike crashes. I don’t know if she fell on a bridge but I saw a young cyclist tending to a very bloody wound below her elbow this morning.

Tonight on my ride home I was flagged down by Adam Schildge. He and his wife Amy are new homeowners down my way in the Fort Hunt neighborhood. They were signing people up for a new bike advocacy Facebook group called MVT South. If you are a user of the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail (south of Old Town Alexandria) check it out.

A Long, Long Way from Rotorua

On our trip around the world in 2015, we made a stop in Rotorua, a resort town on the north island of New Zealand. We used it as a jumping off point for various adventures. One evening we went to a local Maori site and had a fantastic cookout and watched a traditional Maori performance called kapa haka.

Rotorua is a geothermal area and the cookout was done in the ground over geothermal vents of some sort. Just wrap the food in aluminum foil, leave it on the vents, and voila dinner is served.

The performance was extremely entertaining. Dancing, weapons, intimidating faces with bug eyes and tongues displayed. Maoris are large humans. New Zealanders of all stripes admire their fierce competitiveness on the rugby pitch either for the national team called the All Blacks or as players on other countries’ teams all over the world. Before each All Blacks game the team performs a haka as a way to acknowledge their roots, fire themselves up, and freak out their opponents.

During the performance I spotted #bikedc man about town Joe Flood taking pictures. He’s a pretty darned good photographer .  Joe’s in the purple shirt in the center of the picture below.

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Today we saw Maoris perform a kapa haka in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Abe was impressed. I am pretty sure he was clapping along with the rest of us. There is obvious European influence in the songs (which were accompanied by acoustic guitarists and other musicians), the performance is unmistakably something else entirely.  My favorite singer songwriter, Neil Finn, is from New Zealand. He credits the Maori strum as the rhythmic underpinning of many of his songs, including the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” From time to time Maori music and singers appear on his records.

The performance ended just as a storm approached. I took this picture as we made our way back to the car. We didn’t make it. The clouds opened up. Summertime in DC.

Storm in DC

 

A few  more pictures are on my Flickr page.

Lotus Blossoms, Water Lilies, and Arepas

All my cycling friends have been posting pictures of lotus and lily blossoms from the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Easy cycling access to the gardens is provided by the new Anacostia River Trail. This is good on two levels. First, well…, bikes, right? Second, finding the place in a car is a PIA.

Mrs. Rootchopper has tried to find it a number of times and ended up at athletic fields and in sketchy neighborhoods. We drove to the gardens today and,with the help of Google maps, found the athletic fields. Go technology!

We pulled up the area on the phone and we found it! Just back track and make an improbably turn down a side street in the neighborhood adjoining the athletic fields. Follow the road around a 90 degree right turn and over some epic speed bumps, and there it is!

Once clear of the parking area, you enter an area of green. It’s almost as if you are walking into a children’s book. The walkway takes you right to the main event: ponds filled with lotuses and water lilies. The leaves of the lotuses are about the size of a wheel cover on a car.

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The spent blossoms (the green part inside the pedals in the picture below) look like water wands used by florists to gently water their plants. And the blossoms look like WOW!

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Some of the stems stretch up as high as seven feet. The water lilies are much, much smaller and only inches above the water itself but their colors are electric. They look like little hallucinations.

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We left after about 45 minutes. It was muggy and a storm was approaching.

We drove to Union Market in Northeast DC. The storm hit while we were driving down busy Benning Road. We could see a distinct rain line; it looked like a shower curtain liner. And a about as thick. It was over in 5 seconds. No lie. Weird.

At Union Market we headed to Arepa Zone. Arepa’s are a Venezuelan food that I learned of from my 50 States Ride buddy Emilia, who is from Caracas. Basically they are sandwiches that look like corn bread pies. Inside is goodness of your choosing. They aren’t all that big but they have mucho calories. Yummy.

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There are some pictures over on my Flickr page.

Tour de Recho

The Tour de Fat is an event put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike organizations. This year they moved the event to the late afternoon and from May to July. After last year’s chilly rain, we were treated to lines of violent thunderstorms this year.

I rode to the the event venue located next to Nationals Park. The skies were ominous. I have expected to see the Avengers fighting some big alien-ish beasties before going out for schwarma. As I reached the halfway (8-mile) point a strong headwind with gusts started buffeting me about. I passed a couple who were dressed in costumes, obviously heading to the event.

I did a 180 and rode up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. The wind pushed me hard and then the rains came. Turning onto the bridge the wind and rains were coming from my left. After 30 seconds I couldn’t see a thing. I slowed. On coming bikes had their lights on so I turned on my blinkies.

By the time I reached Maine Avenue, about 13 miles into my trek I was soaked to the bone. I stopped and put on a poncho,, for warmth. I checked the weather report on my phone. It basically said “YOU WILL DIE SOON!”

Gulp.

Pedal. Pedal.

The rain and wind abated. I made it to the venue a little after 3 pm. There were very few people. Some of the tents were not assembled. A bystander told me the event was canceled because of the weather. They had begun breaking the tents down.

Fug.

I rode back home by way of the Del Ray Music Festival in Alexandria. It rained for the first couple of miles but then the sun came out. The Festival was on but I didn’t see anyone I knew so I rode home. It was hot and muggy but there was no wind or rain.

I was pretty exhausted when I got home. Prior to riding to DC I mowed the lawn and did some chores outside. The combination of all three efforts left me dehydrated.

So I opened a New Belgium Fat Tire Ale.

I went on the WABA website and gave them a five-beer donation ($25).

Although the event was listed as rain or shine, the storms hitting DC today had very high winds and lightning. The event organizers did the right thing to cancel. It would have been chaos if tents started blowing over or a lightning strike occurred.

As I write this, a storm has been raging outside. I would have been riding home from the event in this. No thanks.

I do have some advice for New Belgium: move the event in DC back to May. The weather is generally better, there are more people in town, and you can line it up with other events as was done in 2016. Also, move it back into the daytime and involve cycling families. They are an integral part of the bicycling scene in DC.

 

 

Amanda Buy the Bike Already – and Other Thoughts

  • Amanda works with me. She keeps talking about getting a bike. I just can’t seem to get her from talk to action. On the way home from work, I took a picture from the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Amanda was really surprised. I keep telling her my bike commute rocks! I haven’t told her about having incoming jets fly right over my head as the land on the second runway at National Airport. Or the dozens of downy egrets in the river. Or the morning glories in bloom in the wetlands north of Old Town. Or the opera singer. Or…..

  • I have confession to make. I feel like a jerk. I am short changing some friends who are asking for donations connected to one charity bicycling event or another. A month ago I gave money to support Mike who is doing the Bike to the Beach ride. Proceeds go to autism support and research. Today, Emilia announced she is doing the ride too. I gave money when Katie said she was doing a Climate Ride. About two months later another Katie announced that she was doing another Climate Ride. Then Grace announced that she was doing a Climate Ride. How do you manage all these donations? You can’t budget for them. You feel bad if you give different amounts to each of your friends. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?
  • Watching one friend stress out over raising money made me decide to drop doing a charity ride this fall. It’s a good event for a good cause, cancer. I feel bad not doing it because so many people in my family have had cancer. (My father, my mother, a sister, a brother, my wife, three aunts, two uncles. Sorry kids, the gene pool’s a complete mess.) I want to focus on preparing for my tour to Key West and making sure I am ready to ride to the Pacific next summer. My aging body probably has only one shot at making it. Spending my summer stressing out over fundraising just didn’t float my boat.
  • There are two things to do if you are in DC this weekend.
    • You should go to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The water lilies and lotuses are in bloom. I’ve never been there and the pictures I am seeing online are driving me nuts.
    • And then there is the Tour de Fat. It’s a party put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike charities. There will be live music and cold beer. I volunteered to work in the beer tent again.
  • And finally a note about the #bikedc DL. Dave just got cleared to get back on a bike after breaking his leg doing an Arte Johnson. A day or two ago, Alex collided with a salmoning cyclist. (When you ride against the flow of traffic, you are salmoning.) She broke her jaw. So Dave and Alex, be patient. You’ll be back to (your abnormal version of) normal in no time. The Rootchopper Institute sends you its thoughts and prayers (because we are waaay to lazy and cheap to bring you a beer.)