WABA in the Wild – C&O Canal Trip

Last year I rode the length of the C&O Canal as part of the No Wrong Plan tour. It’s a great tour, especially for first timers. I had previously ridden it in the opposite direction for my 2005 bike tour.

Many of my friends keep talking about riding the length of the C&O DSCN3912_1039Canal but they never seem to get around to it. As Flogini, the erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute,  once said: “We only have today. Tomorrow may never come. Stop planning and hoping and dreaming, and start doing!” I took her advice: in the last 18 months I have done 2 bike tours and visited nine countries. Flogini will be the death of me.

You really should do this ride. (I am out of town that weekend or I would do it myself.) The logistics are a bit of a hassle though. There’s good news: if you are willing to do some fundraising WABA will solve the logistics issues for you. I even think they’ll cook you some s’mores if you ask nicely. So check it out over here.

I can’t promise wildflowers for miles but if the weather gods cooperate you might just see some awesome foliage along the way.



Day Game after a Night Game

When baseball players get old, manager often rest them when a day game follows a night game. The Nationals did not rest their oldest player and I followed suit. Both decisions worked out pretty well.

On Friday I rode to work as usual. I had not been to the first two games of the Nationals home stand because they were against the Orioles and Orioles fans are obnoxious. On Friday, the Colorado Rockies came to town so I decided to ride to the game after work.

Just after parking my bike at the bike valet, I ran into Klarence. After about a 20 minute talk it became clear that Klarence seems to have won the happiness lottery. Seeing someone like this reminds me of Dave Stoller’s dad in Breaking Away: “I didn’t want you to be this miserable. A little bit’s all I asked for.” There’s not a little bit of miserable in Klarence these days. Way to go, Klarence.

We split up on the way to our seats. Klarence, as usual, went to the cheap seats. I somehow managed to find a (relatively) inexpensive seat on the Club level behind home plate about 1/3rd of the way up in the stands. The concourse behind the seats is enclosed and air conditioned. I didn’t make much use of the posh concourse because it was breezy out, but the food selections are pretty decent.

I sat in a folding chair with a big padded seat. I had to keep my eyes on the game because foul balls could come shooting back at any time. Eek. (Only one did and missed my row by 40 feet. It’s way more dangerous out in left field where rockets come booming in when pitchers get tired.)

The game was fun. The home team won. I got to ride home in the dark which is one of my favorite things. On the way home. I saw two lights ahead in the dark. A young deer was standing next to the trail paralyzed by my headlight. A few minutes later I saw another set of lights. This time the critter ran off before I could id it.

For some silly reason, I stayed up to almost 3 am.

At 8:30 I crawled out of bed. Groggy. By 10:30 I was back on my bike headed for Nats Park for a 1 pm game. Without adequate sleep I was a zombie on the bike. Deets did his best to keep me moving forward but the headwind was not floating my boat one bit.

My seats this day were out in left field. For most of the game I sat in the hot sun. I spent far more on fluids (soda and water, no beer) than my seat. A woman a few rows in front of me disappeared for an inning. She came back in different clothes. After about three hours, shadows from the first base side of the ball park brought cooling comfort.

The game was actually not all that exciting until the Nationals rallied in the bottom of the 9th. The player who had the game tying hit was the oldest player on the field who should have taken the day off. So props to the Nats left fielder Jason Werth for making an old bike commuting fan happy. (When he came out to play left field after his big hit, all the fans in my section gave him a standing ovation. He subtly pointed at us and nodded in appreciation.)

One way to tell how hot it was is to look at the picture below. Nearly all the fans in direct sunlight in the grandstand behind center and right field had evacuated. The game went into extra innings. They never got any shade. I suspect most of them had left anyway.

The Nationals lost the game in 11 innings. The ride home was surprisingly enjoyable. I am proud to say that despite having ample reasons to do so, I did not cuss out a single Lance Mamilot. I did not say the f-word once to the tourists who blocked the entire width of the trail despite obviously impeding cyclists going in both directions. (Maybe they came there from the outfield grandstand and their brains were fried.)

Even though I hydrated like a camel, I woke up dehydrated. So no bike for me today. I will drive into DC to scout out parking for the 50 States Ride in two weeks. (It’s sold out but you can still participate for free by signing up to be a pit stop volunteer here or a course ride marshal here.)  After my recon work, I will go over to Atlas Brew Works for the #bikedc fundraiser. I don’t plan on drinking but it will be a good chance to reconnect with #bikedc people after having been out of touch for most of the summer. Cheers.


The Sick Rule

One of the benefits of bike commuting is good health. This year has been an exception for me. In May I missed two days of work recovering from a respiratory infection that resulted in an ambulance trip to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Scary stuff. Today, I missed another work day. I woke up at 2 am with cold sweats and a sour tummy. I sat in a comfy chair for two hours and felt crummy. I waited until my stomach calmed down and went back to bed.

When the alarm went off I stayed down. I was groggy and just felt lousy. My head felt heavy. My tummy felt queasy. It was time to invoke the sick rule: if i am too sick to ride to work, I am too sick to go to work. Whenever I have violated this rule, and it’s been many a time, I have regretted it.

So I stayed in bed for most of the morning. I couldn’t sleep so I practiced some breathing meditation. I’d have preferred a deep sleep but you take what you can get. At least I was relaxed when I got up.

I hate wasting really good bike commuting weather but my tough-it-out days are over. I feel much better after a day of lazy about, eating, and reading.

I feel better now. I feel better than James Brown.

Tomorrow, I’m riding Deets to work. On the way home, I think I’ll take in a Nats game. And if that works out, I’ll go to the afternoon game on Saturday.

There is no sick rule in baseball.



It’s Like January in Providence

I used to live in Providence. The weather in January was unbearable. It was cold and wet and the streets inevitably turned into glaciers. Going outside was an exercise in misery.

DC is like that. Sort of. In August. It’s hot and muggy and the bugs are biting. I did a 50 mile bike ride yesterday. At 20 miles I stopped to take a meditative moment and enjoy the view of Belmont Bay from the back of the ranger offices in Mason Neck State Park. I took off my helmet, settled into a rocking chair, and admired the few. For about a minute. Then the bugs starting feasting on my lower legs. ACK!


The View before I Went Off My Rocker

I hopped on the bike and rode on, the breeze dissipating some of the heat and humidity. I decided to cut through Fort Belvoir on the way back. A guard at the Kingman Road check point had other ideas.  After 9/11 Fort Belvoir became part of DC’s security theater and was closed to people without a military id. A few years later without publicizing it, access was reopened to people with photo id. I could finally go onto the base and enjoy low traffic, roads that were fun to ride on. Now it is closed again. I realize the military has a job to but Fort Belvoir has become a shitty neighbor. Closing the base to local cyclists is the equivalent of giving stop sign tickets to bicycle commuters on the empty streets of Old Town on weekday mornings. The prime accomplishment is to piss people off. It doesn’t make anybody safer.

Screed over.

The ride home was uneventful. As usual I didn’t drink enough water and I arrived home zonked. So today, rather than grind out miles in the heat, I am staying inside and watching the Nats on TV. You can’t do that when its cold and wet and icy outside.

Milestone Number 4: 100,000 Miles

Today on my ride home from work, the odometer on Deets, my Surly Cross Check hit 1,647 miles. That’s no big deal. I rode 8 more miles to home then added up all the miles from the odometers on my four bikes: 100,008 miles. I started this little project 25 years ago. I think I could use a shower beer right about now.

The Big Reveal

Clockwise from upper left: Big Nellie, Little Nellie, Deets, and The Mule 

Deets Zooms His First Commute

I bought Deets, my Surly Cross Check, this time last year. I really haven’t ridden it much, if you can call 1,500 miles not much. Today that changed. I rode it to work for the first time.

It was the fastest commute of the year. I can’t tell if it was the adrenaline of riding my newish bike or the bike itself.  Deets has different gearing than my other bikes. Instead of three chainrings (the gears in front) and eight or nine cogs (the gears in the back), it has two chainrings  and ten cogs. This set up is called a compact double. It is zoomier, because the gears are more bigger (and maybe because it weighs less than my other tanks, er, bikes). My old legs don’t like big gears but seeing as how they had no choice in the matter they turned the bigger gears which made me more faster.

Something about the geometry of this bike makes it easier to ride standing up. This comes in handy when short hills are in the way .So I stood up a few times and the little hills seemed to disappear.

I was a little concerned that the climb up to Rosslyn would be nasty on my knees but I zoomed up that too. (Okay, I zoomed relative to my normal climbing speed. I still climb like a sloth. No bike can fix that.)

The ride home was equally zoomy, despite a hot, muggy headwind.  I think I cut five minutes off my normal commuting time.

This was fortunate because dark clouds were forming overhead. Yay, speed.

I think I’ll ride Deets again tomorrow.


Oh two one three four!

Random Sunday

  • I rode to the Nationals game after work Friday night. It was suffocatingly hot. The Nats lost to the lowly Braves. I went alone. I had a great time.
  • An usher ejected  a fan for heckling the Braves left fielder. The fan got his money’s worth. He certainly gave me a few laughs. Well played, dude.
  • An Atlanta player hit a home run that landed about four seats away from me in the row behind mine. It bounced off a fan and the rebound went to a guy in my row about six seats away.
  • A mom brought three kids to the game. They were sitting in the row in front of me. She went to the concession stand. When she came back and found out that a home run landed two seats behind her she couldn’t believe her bad luck. The kids thought it was pretty funny though.
  • I had the seat at the end of the row. Home run guy and his buddies wore me out with their pee runs. Never buy seat 1 or seat 20.
  • Another home run landed in the seats a section to my left. The fan caught it on the fly. Barehanded.
  • I almost caught a t-shirt during the t-shirt toss promotion but another fan got two hands on it just as it was about to hit my hand. She paid for the shirt: her chest hit the railing in the middle of the aisle. Ow.
  • The ride home was aided by post-game fireworks. Less car traffic means better biking. Boom!
  • The ride through Old Town Alexandria at 11:30 pm was scary. The sidewalks were full of loud, drunken idiots. I assumed that drivers were similarly inebriated. I was extremely careful and am thankful that I made it through in one piece. Of course, the Alexandria police (who spend their time ticketing early morning bike commuters) were nowhere to be found.
  • I have decided to call the Cross Check Deets. After Joshua Deets, the scout for the Lonesome Dove cattle drive. He is described by Capt Augustus McCrae as “Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” I hope my Deets is as noble.
  • After a year of light riding, I will be using Deets for commuting starting tomorrow. The rack has bigger tubes than the racks on my other three bikes so I had to adjust the hardware on my panniers. I test rode the bike with panniers for the first time. My heels had plenty of clearance so tomorrow’s commute should be sweet.
  • This morning I went for a short ride down to Woodlawn by way of Mount Vernon on Deets. Every time I stopped the oppressive heat and humidity sucked the sweat out of every pore in my skin. It was gross. There will be better days for weekend excursions. Maybe a hike next weekend. It’s been too long.