Back in the Saddle Again

I am a fat toad. Sitting around eating bagels and drinking beer for 10 days will do that to anyone.  I came back from Albany with a major sleep deficit to boot.  So I haven’t been tripping the light fantastic on my bikes.  I did squeeze in a bike commute in on Thursday on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. Despite the fact that it is really fun to ride, my back and knees have never much cared for this bike.  It was an achy evening.

Saturday dawmed cool and cloudy.  It was supposed to warm up into the 60s so I headed out in a shirt, bike jacket and shorts. This was not nearly enough and I was uncomfortable for the entire time Big Nellie (my Tour Easy recumbent) and I were out and about.

When I arrived back at Rootchopper Base Camp, I had a phone message from Spokes Etc., my local bike store. I had dropped off my Sequoia touring bike for some major work.  I ordered a new rim and had them build me a new rear wheel.  In the process they overhauled my rear hub.  Basically the old wheel would not turn freely which suggested that the ball bearings inside the hub were toast. As it turns out they were. The cones (which are the parts that contain the ball bearings) were also kaput, so Fred the mechanic replaced them as well.

This little project started because my rear brakes stopped working. They stopped working because the braking surface of the rim had become concave from 30,000 miles of wear (it can happen to anybody, I suppose). The brake pads were all messed up (a technical term) so Fred replaced them as well.  When I picked up the bike, they gave me the old rim.  It had a sharp edge to it caused by the wearing of the brake pads.  I think I got my money’s worth out of it.

Fred told me to ride the bike for a couple of weeks and bring the wheel back in for any necessary tensioning adjustments.   I rode the bike to the car and heard a high pitched “ting” from the rear wheel. This is normal as the spokes settle into place under load (and I am a load).  The brakes worked wonderfully and the wheel turned smoothly.  Looks good to me.

Today, I took her out for a spin. I started with a one-mile utilitaire ride to the hardware store for some bird seed.  I buy something called Hot Meats which are shelled seed covered in hot pepper powder.  It’s expensive but lasts a long time because the squirrels find them nasty. And the large 20 pound bag fits perfectly in my rear pannier.  The wheel didn’t complain a bit.

Having done my birds a good turn. I took off for a longer ride.  I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail hoping to see a bald eagle. No luck. Where do they go all day?  I’m guessing they are avid golfers. 

I made my way through Old Town Alexandria, then on to Potomac Yards.  This is a new development that is devoid of trees. I was riding on a flat road into a headwind, and cruising along at 16 miles per hour.  I never ride that fast.  It’s so nice to have wheels that turn freely.

Through the Pentagon Reservation (I wonder if they consider themselves a sovereign nation) then over the Memorial Bridge to DC. I followed the river into Rock Creek Park, exiting the bike path at P Street.  After riding up a short steep hill, I rode west across Georgetown to MacArthur Boulevard.

Bikes were everywhere.  I cruised along with my compadres until turning onto Persimmon Tree Road.  I rode through the Avenel and Congressional golf courses, hanging a left to head toward Falls Road in Potomac.  I was buzzing along at 18 miles per hour when a cyclist passing in the other direction yelled my name.  What?  I turned out to be Mohammad, by boss.  He is a bike commuter (he drops his daughter off at day care by bike for extra utilitaire points) and was out for a Sunday ride in the burbs.  We had a short chat. He is planning on going to Croatia for a bike tour this summer.

At Falls Road I banged a left toward Great Falls Park where I picked up MacArthur Boulevard again.  The next mile or so is a twisty down hill through the trees.  I absolutely love this stretch of road. I think I can get to 40 miles per hour on Big Nellie, but the Sequoia is not a speedster. We settled in at 30.

I reached the bottom and rode the pool-table flat road east.  Just after crossing the access to the Clara Barton Parkway, I heard my name called again. This time it was Ed and Mary, randonneurs who had completed a 300 kilometer (188 mile) ride yesterday.  They were riding their tandem to Potomac for lunch.  It must be around 35 or 40 miles round trip for them. If I had ridden 188 miles yesterday, the only place I’d be riding today  is to the ER. We had a nice long chat and they took come pictures. I once again forgot that my smart phone was in my handlebar bag so you, dear readers, can only imagine them.

After my second social stop, I headed back at a brisk pace, stopping to have a quick bite to eat at Seven- Eleven, or, as they say, in Bethesda, chez Sept-Onze.

With a tummy full of mediocre grub, I forged ahead. At Sangamore Street I took the access path down to the Capital Crescent Trail.  I had never done this before and was surprised at the steepness and the switchbacks.  Once on the CCT it was gradually downhill to Georgetown.

Over the 14th Street Bridge to the Virginia side of the river Potomac I pedaled.  The Mount Vernon Trail was a zoo.  I felt like I was in rush hour traffic.  Most riders were careful though and we collectively made decent time.  As always, a handful of riders with Lance Armstrong delusions tried to speed past the long lines of riders and walkers. Mostly they don’t give any warnings and pass within inches.  Fortunately for them, I left my handlebar mounted death ray back at the Rootchopper Institute.

I was now 50 miles into the ride and my body was feeling achy. Tinging hands. Tight shoulders.  Sore neck.  Pedal on, dude. 

Old Town Alexandria was a circus.  No wonder the APD get mad at cyclists.  Bike after bike rode through the intersection of King and Union which was thick with tourists on foot and in cars.  I was surprised no collisions occurred. 

Once south of the Beltway It was smooth sailing.  A woman rode toward me with a white thing on her shoulder. It was a cockatoo.  I kid you not.  Or maybe, I was hallucinating. I was getting tired, after all.

I arrived home with 64 miles on my odometer and designs on a post-ride nap.  I was snoring on my deck, basking in the springtime sun in no time flat.

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Little Nellie and the Dwindles

After my father turned 80 he started to complain to his doctor about things going wrong with his body. The doctor told him, “Your warranty is up.”  It happens to us all unless we get hit by a bus, or have a heart attack or succumb to disease. If you beat the odds and live into your 80s, your body will eventually start to break down bit by bit After a few years of warranty problems, my father contracted cancer of the bile duct and died.  I was with him for most of the last week of his life, but, thinking he had much longer to live, left him to come home for a few days. He died the next day.

My mother was about 5 feet tall and tipped the scales at around 100 pounds in her prime. She had 7 kids.  When we stood next to her as adults it seemed like a miracle that she once carried us in her womb. 

For over 30 years my mother was a smoker (Benson and Hedges Deluxe).  As a kid, I could tell she was coming up the stairs by her coughs: one in the middle of the flight of stairs and another at the top. She quit in her 50s or 60s.  Her father savored a cigarette like it was sent from the gods.  I remember seeing his 90 year old hands shake as he had his daily smoke. He watched what he ate like a hawk and walked every day. He was in amazing shape. He died at 96 in his own bed with my mother by his side.

For the past two and a half years, my mother had the dwindles. Once she reached 88, her warranty was up.  Slowly her body started to fail her. Bit by bit, day by day. She spent the past year confined first to a recliner then a bed.  It seemed impossible that someone so frail could live so long, but she had her father’s genes and excellent care.  Ten days ago on a Monday I received a phone call from my younger sister telling me that she had taken a turn for the worse and to get home.  The hospice nurse said she’d be lucky to last a day or two. I arrived a little after midnight on Tuesday morning after a 7 1/2 hour drive.  After talking to my mother for a little while, I fell asleep on a sofa. I woke 4 hours later and began a long week, mostly just hanging out by my mother’s side with some of my siblings.

I read books (the Hunger Games I and II), flipped through magazines, played with my iPhone, and channel surfed. Waiting.  After a few hours, I pulled Little Nellie out of the trunk of my car and went for a short bike ride.  I stayed within the city limits of Albany NY, meandering down to Washington Park to check out the tulips. I didn’t appreciate the tulips in Albany – originally a Dutch colony – when I was a kid but I sure do now. After 13 miles I headed back to my mother’s house.

Little Nellie among the Tulips
Sunny Day
Open Wide
My Favorite: Two-toned Tulips

Wednesday was pretty much the same except I woke up with a back ache from sleeping on the sofa.  My brother Jim and I walked to get coffee and my back loosened up. That night I slept – more or less, actually less – in the chair next to my mother. 

 Awesome Victorian in Voorheesville

Thursday I took a break and rode Little Nellie into the suburbs.  When I was little, I lived in Slingerlands NY, so I rode to our old house to check it out.  Then I made my way on back roads to the village of Voorheesville.  I had lots of company. The weather was splendid and the locals were out on their bikes too. It never ceases to amaze me how nice the bike riding is in upstate New York.  I’m not talking about the area just north of New York City either.  Get away from the big city and you’ll find all kinds of surprisingly smooth roads with wide, paved shoulders. The Slingerlands/Voorheesville area has dozens of beautiful old houses.  I am partial to towers and porches.  I stopped to take a shot of one with both.  After 23 miles I arrived back at my mother’s house and more sitting.

We played her some Dean Martin tunes. She managed a little smile. I asked if she wanted to hear Tony Bennett. She grunted what was obviously a “no”. Deano was her man.

My mother stopped moving on Friday. She could no longer see, but she kept breathing.  We were all in amazement.  A hospice nurse came and said it wouldn’t be long now.  She was impressed with how strong my mother’s heart was.  We gave her morphine to keep her comfortable. A little after 11 pm, one of the aides and my sister gently bathed her with a damp cloth.

Just after midnight, with four of her now adult children by her side, in a bed in her own home, she dwindled away. Very peacefully.

 
A few days later there was a short visitation at the funeral home and a funeral mass. At the gravesite, a squall line came through. Gusts of wind and sideways rain.  As the burial ceremony came to an end, a hail storm hit.

I guess they don’t have dwindles in the great beyond.

Recovery Ride Gone Wrong

After yesterday’s ride, I thought I’d take it easy and do a nice easy, flat ride.  21 miles would get me to 100 for the week so that’s what I decided on.  Big Nellie had other ideas. Damned if I don’t have my bent legs back.  Off we bolted at 15 miles per hour into the wind. What’s this about?  Soon we were cruising the side streets of the scenic suburban Hybla Valley. Trust me, it sounds nicer than it is.  The best part about the neighborhood is it’s uncanny flatness.  

I couldn’t let the flatness go to waste, now could I. I cranked it up to 17 miles per hour and slalomed through a series of lefts and rights until I came to a stop six miles later near Fort Belvoir where the hills begin anew.  I skirted the hills and made my way to Woodlawn which has a few small hills.  I rode a loop around the Mount Vernon Country Club and Yacht Haven two quiet suburban neighborhoods.  After riding by Mount Vernon High School, I reversed course and headed to Mount Vernon where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail. The MVT had its usual glut of pedestrians and cyclists but everyone was either moving along nicely or standing off the trail (a minor miracle around here).  I made good time to Fort Hunt Park and rode two laps around its circular road. 

Next I found myself buzzing through Plymouth Haven and the Collingwood on the Potomac, avoiding the nasty parts of the MVT.  This one mile stretch has two abrupt hills that never fail to cause unexpecting trail users to stop without warning causing a cascade of bicycle mayhem.

After a brief spin along East Boulevard Drive which gets surprisingly little use, I reconnected with the MVT for a ride to the Beltway. There I turned left and took the new connector trail to Fort Hunt Road. Fort Hunt Road took me over three respectable hills back home after a stop for a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet.

As I arrived home my odometer clicked 37, I pulled into my driveway where my blossoming lilac bush greeted me with its superb fragrance.

Lilacs (and an azalea)

So I went a little farther than I expected. That’s what spring bike riding is all about.

I’ll rest tomorrow.  I have to drive to work so I can go to an eye doctor appointment in the middle of the day.  I feel bad that I will miss a bike commute, but, no worries, my ophthalmologist is a bike commuter. He’ll do the riding.

It Didn’t Look that Far on the Map

With my recent injury almost healed, I have been itching to get out on my bike for a long-ish ride.  That would be something longer than the 29 mile round trip to the office.  I decided to go check out my friend Charmaine’s new house in Hyattsville.  The house is actually quite old but she just bought it.

Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent and ride du jour, got the call.  I rode to the Mount Vernon Trail and headed north.  I stopped at the Morningside bald eagle nest to see if I could spot some eaglets.  Unfortunately, the new foliage on the tree makes the nest hard to see so I had no luck.

The weather was gorgeous, high 60s with a light breeze, a tailwind for the start of the ride.  In addition to making the riding much easier, the tailwind was helping me get my bent legs.  When you ride a recumbent, you use your leg muscles in a slightly different way than on a conventional bike.  When I finish a ride my thigh muscles aren’t sore but my hamstrings are tired.  It’s similar to how my legs used to feel after a long run (lord, I still miss running after 25 years!).

Rather than fight the throngs of people on the MVT all the way to DC, I took the Beltway over to Maryland.  The Woodrow Wilson Bridge has a wide trail on its upriver side.  Bump outs along the trail allow you to check out a pretty darn nice panoramic view of the city.  (It’s also a pretty cool place to watch the Alexandria fireworks which take place one week after Independence Day.)  The riding on the bridge trail leaves something to be desired.  There are massive expansion joints that give you a good jolt when you ride over them.  Once your reach the crest of the bridge there are no more joints until you get to the Maryland side of the river.  The trail takes you up across the Beltway and then down in a spiral (quite fun to take at speed) and a long downhill back to the river near National Harbor.

I turned off before National Harbor to take the 0.8 mile (so said a sign) climb to Oxon Hill Road.  This is an honest climb and you will feel you’ve paid your dues when you get to the top.  A left on Oxon Hill Road and another left on Bald Eagle Road put me into Oxon Hill Farm. I followed the trail signs and made my way down the bumpy but paved trail through Oxon Hill Cove Park. I feathered my brakes in the hopes of seeing a deer but there were none visible.  Even with the braking I easily passed 30 miles per hour.  On downhills, riding Big Nellie is like street luge.

I followed the trail to DC Village, a rather depressing enclave of drab buildings enclosed with fences topped with barbed wire.  Normally, I ride right up a hill to Martin Luther King Boulevard, but I read that you could ride along the flat land next to Bolling Air Force Base.  That worked for a mile or two but then the nice young guard at the base gate told me that people without a sponsor can’t cut through the base. I climbed up Chesapeake Street to Second Street which dumped me out at the intersection of South Capitol Street and MLK Boulevard.  I toyed with the idea of riding down South Capitol to Anacostia Park but decided to check out the street vibe on MLK. After passing Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital complex (I didn’t see John Hinkley despite my cries of “Jodie, Jodie, Jodie.”) I started to see some happy faces. All the way up MLK, people I passed said “Hello” and “Nice bike.”  A motorcycle cop was eyeing the bike with a smirk to which I replied “Great gas mileage.”  He laughed.  I passed some old folk sitting on the front porch playing electric violin and conga drums.  They were excellent!

I cut over to Anacostia Park at Good Hope Road where I could see the brand new bridges coming from the west side of the river. This whole area is going to be transformed when the bridges open. Let’s hope it brings some jobs with it.

As usual the park was hopping with all kinds of team sports. I think some where playing flag football but they hadn’t started. I planned on riding north to Benning Road but the trail dies north of Pennsylvania Avenue, so I backtracked and rode over the Anacostia on Pernnsylvania.  I had the sidewalk to myself, blue water below.  Once off the bridge I became confused. For some reason I thought I was in Northeast DC when I was still in Southeast.  I rode toward the Capitol to get my bearings. I was looking to take 13th Street North. After a dozen red lights (must not kill!) I finally cleared the confluence of diagonal streets on Capitol Hill and started making some progress. Pedal, pedal. Through scenic (not) Brentwood.  Finally I came to Varnum Street and headed east. Except Varnum Street doesn’t go very far.  A left and a right and soon I was on Michigan Avenue, not the best cycling street around.

Once across Eastern Avenue I entered beautiful downtown West Hyattsville. Nothing to see here, mister, move along. I spotted a Checkers burger joint with a line that looked like it went out the door. I later realized that there was no door. The customers were standing at a walk up window. Very Southern California, if you ask me. Michigan was now Queens Chapel Road, just to be difficult, I suppose.

I looked for a place to buy a housewarming present but I was in car hell and the thought of stopping was unappealing. I took a right turn and there was a nondescript supermarket. All the customers were hispanic.  One old man sitting outside the store looked at my bike and asked with a smile, “Where’s the engine?”  I pointed to my legs and said, “That’s the engine!”  He laughed.

Sure enough the place was filled with unfamiliar brands with Spanish labels. And everything was in bulk. Hmm.  Maybe I can get her a huge bundle of these corn husk things; I’m sure she’ll like them.  Wandering around I found a florist shop of sorts in the back and picked up a couple of lilies that looked like they’d fit in my pannier.  I grabbed a can of soda and a candy bar for the engine off I went.

Her house was 100 yards down the street on a corner. I could tell because she showed me a picture of her front porch with a nice swing on it.

There was an SUV in the driverway, which meant that somebody other than her – she’s car-free – was home. After ringing and knocking her tenant came to the door and let me in. She wasn’t home.  So I left the lilies on the counter in the kitchen with a note and headed out.

I backtracked up Queens Chapel and Michigan in heavy traffic – no fun.  At Catholic University I jumped on the Metropolitan Branch Trail for about a block until it dead ended at some construction. Argh!  After a few blocks on some mercifully calm side streets I picked up the MBT and flew straight to Capitol Hill. I stopped to take a picture of the Washington Coliseum, once known as the Uline Arena.  It’s primary claim to fame being the site of the very first Beatle concert in America (before their appearance on Ed Sullivan).  They played in the round.  After every couple of songs. They pointed their amps and Ringo’s drum kit in a different direction. A far cry from concerts these days.

The Old Washington Coliseum – History Happened Here

I crossed Capitol Hill and eventually found myself on Maine Avenue. The sidewalk is now designated as a trail but getting to it was pretty insane. The Fish Market draws huge crowds on nice days. I don’t know about you but when the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing the first thing I think of is shellfish. (I hate shellfish.)

In no time I was back in Virginia weaving around all the fair weather trail users.  I stopped to watch some planes land and to drink my soda and eat my candy bar.  Then it was a straight 11 mile shot to home.  The crowds were thinner south of the airport and I made pretty good time even into a headwind.  I stopped again to check out the Morningside nest. No luck this time either.

It was such I nice day I decided to tack on a mile or two before going home.  Most of the Fort Hunt area is pool table flat so this was a nice way to unwind. I arrived at home with 50.5 miles on the odometer. Thanks to my recumbent my body felt fine.

I grabbed a drink, the newspaper, and some pretzels and nuts and headed for my new deck.  Feet up, sun shining, I fell asleep like a contented cat only to be awakened by the laughter of my teenage daughter and her friends.  She’s 17 today.  We had Boston Cream Pie instead of cake. Way better than shellfish, if you ask me.

366 Days of Blogging Thrills

Today marks the one year anniversary of this exciting blog. I had been writing long emails to my friend Charmaine about my daily bicycling misadventures.  She like them and suggested I start a blog. So if you’ve wasted parts of several perfectly good evenings reading my stuff, blame her. The original intent was for it to be only about my bicycling life.  As it turns out, several of my posts have had little or nothing to do with cycling.  One very popular one, had to do with acroyoga. A year ago I didn’t know what acroyoga was, but my friend Florencia set me straight.  (Funny how I met both Charmaine and Florencia on 50 States rides.)  Now I know that it would be a really quick way to hurt myself.  (Not that I need any help with that.)

Several other posts had to do with my wife’s medical follies. First, she had a thunderclap headache. I got to ride shot gun in an ambulance (with the accent on the last syllable, because this is DC), but other than that it was an incredibly miserable experience, particularly for Mrs. Rootchopper.  If you really want to see the underbelly of the national health care system in this country, hang out in the emergency room of an urban hospital. Cops with wounded perps, morbidly obese people, disoriented men from skid row, flat out crazy people, and lots of people lying around in a disheveled state moaning in pain.  Anyway, this was how my wife enjoyed her last birthday.  Tomorrow, we hope to do a little better by her.

About a month later, you all got to read about her being run over by an SUV. Weeks and weeks of pain and suffering followed. You just couldn’t get enough.  She’s still being treated for her injuries. She’d be real happy if her knees and ankles worked right.

Turning to biking, the blog post with the most hits described how I rode my bike into the back of a parked car. I know you all like a good laugh but come on people!  All you want is pain, misery, and humiliation (mine!).  I was told that there were a bunch of sick folks roaming the interwebs and many of them appear to be reading my blog.

One weird thing about this blog is the geographic origins of its readers. Of course, most people access the blog from the United States.  In second place comes Russia!  If this keeps up, I may have to switch fonts to cyrillic.  I don’t know anybody in Russia so this an unexpected development.  The UK comes in third, mostly because they never get sick of yanks who make a fool of themselves. Fourth place goes to Germany.   The also rans are Canada, Brazil, France, Australia, the Czech Republic (hi, Steve!), the Netherlands, India (hi Chelli), Malaysia, Thailand (hi, Flor), Norway and Iraq.

It took quite a while for my blog to be discovered.  More than half the hits on this blog have come since 2012 began. Many of those hits are from people checking out the earlier blog posts.

Since I started this blog, I ‘ve ridden 6,858 miles and commuted to work 133 times.  The commutes alon account for over 3,800 miles.  How do I know?  I’ve been keeping a hard copy riding or running diary for about 30 years. 

I’ve crashed twice, both times on my recumbent.

Some how I have managed to actually gain a little weight in that time. Could it be that cookies and milk while blogging is a bad idea? Who knew!?

What I need is a long bike tour. My son goes to college in Saratoga.Springs NY, so Saratoga to DC is way up there on my to do list. My daughter wants to go to school farther away.  If she lands in California, I’d have the perfect excuse to do a cross country ride. 

While I dream I’ll continue to ride my bike to work like a two-wheeled Chaumcey Gardener.  I like to ride my bike.

An Easter Cruise on Big Nellie

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been hobbling around all grumpy as the result of a nasty little crash on the way home from work. When I woke up my leg was feeling quite a bit better.  This may be the result of lots of rest or it could be the beneficial effects of the two margaritas I had at the South Austin Grill last night.  I will have to do.future research. 

And so I decided to go for an easy ride on this beautiful Easter.  If I felt okay, I’d do 40 miles. So riding Big Nellie and wearing my Skidmore College sweatshirt (easily the most expensive clothing I own), I set out for the big city.

Bald Eagle Nest – Just Left of Center

On the way, I stopped to check out the Morningside bald eagle nest.  I call it the Morniningside nest because it is just off the Mount Vernon Trail near the turn off for Morningside Lane on the adjacent George Washington Parkway. (Aren’t I clever?)  I waited about ten minutes listening to chirping coming from up in the trees near the nest.  No big. bad raptors showed up.  So I pedaled on.  About 1/2 mile later I noticed a tiny island out in the Potomac River.  There was one tree on the island and in that tree was a huge nest. It could be another bald eagle nest or just an osprey’s, but it bears watching.

I cruised into Belle Haven Park and notice that a stop sign was missing.  Too bad they didn’t take the Dismount before Crossing sign too. It doesn’t say “Walk Your Bike”, so maybe as a form of protest all bicyclists should dismount then remount their bikes in obedience to the sign gods.  (Note to National Park Service: Lose the stupid signs. Or put them at every stop sign that a car would encounter. End of screed.)

STS – Stupid Trail Sign

I managed to make it through Old Town Alexandria without hitting any Easter brunchers. It took skill and self control because they were all over the place. 

Wiffle Ball Spring Training

At Gravelley Point, I stopped to watch a plane take off. There was a practice wiffle ball set up and a guy was taking batting practice. Dude, you need to practice wiffle ball?  So sad.

Battle of the Tidal Basin – Midway, It Ain’t

Into the city I rode. I stopped at the Tidal Basin to watch the little blue paddle boats fight it out for naval supremacy.  I can never go by the Tidal Basin without thinking of Wilbur Mills and Fanny Foxe, the Argentine Firecracker.  Washington just overflows with history, doesn’t it?

I spent the next 20 minutes on the Anacostia River Trail, which is clearly a work in progress.  The Fish Market was jammed up with cars.  People, park the car and walk into the market.  There’s only 20 spaces and there are 2,000 of you fish eaters in your SUVs. Do the bloddy math!

Back of Titanic Memorial

I stopped by the Titanic Memorial.  I haven’t a clue why there’s a Titanic memorial and not a Lusitania memorial or an Andrea Doria memorial, or a Thresher (look it up) memorial.

Continuing with Our Nautical Theme….

I contemplated these important issues as I made my way through the Navy Yard.  The Navy banned bicycling along their section of the trail so I was a good boy and walked.  I spotted a battleship, once a badass ship but now a tourist attraction.  A bit like an old polar bear in a cage. Poor ship.

I Managed to Avoid Hard Hat Hell

After some confusing signage, I made my way to Eastern Market where I came upon two lovely young ladies busking themselves silly. Have a buck, girls.  I locked Big Nellie to a hitching post and got me a stiff drink. Actually it was a tall Americano and a blueberry scone (well done, Port City Java).  I followed the scone with a caramel and chocolate bunny. Ah!

K. T. Tunstall Got Her Start Busking, You Know

After resting my bones, I cruised to the Capitol where I discovered the new visitors plaza on the east side of the building.  Very nice and inviting.  Actually, it was swarming with pesky tourists in search of cherry blossoms.  I wanted to explain to them that the reason there are no cherry blossoms is because they bloomed three weeks early because the climate changed because the atmosphere warmed because you drive big assed SUVs to see cherry blossoms.  That’s right, it’s your fault you gas guzzling fools.  Now out of my way or my mighty fairing will sweep you aside!!! 

Big Nellie, Big Dome

After a drink of water, I came to my senses and made my way through the hoards of touroids to the Pennsylvania Avenue Cycle Track.  This is a pretty cool idea.  It would work pretty well if the damned lights were synchronized.  I think I hit six red lights along this mile-long stretch. I turned right onto the 15th Street cycletrack only to encounter an SUV from New York blocking half the track.  Must not kill!

Pernsylvania – The Avenue of Lights

I let him live and made my way through the plaza in front of the White House. It just never gets old.  DC is such as cool place to live.

Tow the Bastard!  Happy Easter.

I cruised down 17th Street to start my trip home.  It was a parking lot. Why? Because five blocks up the street an idiot in an SUV was double parked and having a long conversation with his friend on the sidewalk. This ass hat had traffic (i. e., me) backed up for five blocks. He’s so lucky I left my taser at home.  (I just made that taser thing up.)  

Cherry Blossom Ceremony – Without Blossoms (Oops!)

As I reached the Tidal Basin, I came upon the Cherry Blossom Festival ceremonies. Here, honest to goodness folks from Japan promised to give the U.S. more pretty trees if we promised to buy more radioactive Toyota Camrys. (I think. It was hard to hear them.)  There were smiles all around. And to think that just 75 years ago, Japan wanted to crush the United States. And that, just 70 years ago, the United States wanted to wipe Japan off the face of the earth. I wonder if Iran has any spare trees.

What’s with This Wind?

I decided to take an easy spin down to Hains Point.  The ride down was fine but coming back I was clobbered by a cross wind that would make a Kansan homesick.  Soon I was heading into the wind on the 14th Street Bridge.  The wind was hitting me at about 2 o’clock (direction, not time) so I was leaning the bike into it to stay upright.  Some road bike riders behind me actually turned around it was so strong.

Candy Colored Bikes at the George Mason Memorial

Once across the river I had a hand on my back all the way home. The trail was a little crowded near the airport but the crowds soon thinned and it was clear sailing for the last 10 miles. I pulled into the driveway with a a big 4-0 on the odometer. My legs felt fine, too.  Another bunny bit the dust.

Can’t You Just Feel That Tailwind?

 

BItch and Moan

Yesterday was beautiful.  The kind of day when atheists have a hard time denying that somebody up there likes them.

As luck would have it, I spent the entire day indoors listening to policy wonks give presentation. There was no break in the action after lunch so we had 3 1/2 hours of speech after speech.  I was mentally numb by the end. When I consider that I was handsomely compensated for my troubles, it was a pretty decent gig, but I couldn’t help but feel like that little boy years ago smelling the lilac scent drifting into my classroom window and counting the seconds until I was liberated from Sister Irma’s clutches.

Since my workday was an away game (in DC but miles from my office), I decided to drive to metro and take the subway.  I got to Huntington only to discover that my intended parking lot was now a town house development. It’s been at least 3 years since I’ve parked there so I was pretty shocked. Fortunately, it was some sort of depressing religious holiday; the parking garage was nearly empty.  So no worries.

I hear a lot of bitching about metro but it was a smooth, uncrowded ride to Gallery Place, one block from the meeting. We should have depressing religious holidays more often.

After the meeting I stepped onto the street to the sound of a Dixieland band playing near the Verizon Center.  I’d have hung out to listen but my bum right leg doesn’t want to bear a lot of weight these days.

The ride home was even nicer than the ride in.  I love the part where the yellow line goes over the Potomac.  Pretty views.  The Mount Vernon Trail seemed really busy.

My little adventure on public transit worked out just fine. I felt bad that I missed the Friday Coffee Club get together at Swing’s but I just couldn’t fit it in.

My wife and daughter recently read The Hunger Games and were bugging me to read it so we could all see the movie. Given the bottomless pile of magazines that I have calling my name, I may never get to the book so we decided to go to the movie anyway.  It was a little boring for the first hour but once the killing started, I enjoyed it. I haven’t read the book but I knew who’s going to survive within the first 20 minutes.  Like a bike ride, the end wasn’t as interesting as the ride along the way.  

Today, I rode to the barber shop and got my haircut.  After some gardening, I headed back out for a leisurely ride. It was gusty and I felt cranky because my leg still hurt.  I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun.  To add to the annoyances, Big Nellie was making all kinds of creaking noises.  Lately, I have felt that Big Nellie feels off.  Usually this means some part is about to go kaput.  I checked the frame and the fork for signs of wear but couldn’t find any.  After 5 or 6 miles, the cycle computer fell off.  So I turned around and headed for my local hardware store to buy a part (an 0-ring). 

After that I threw in the towel.  Normally on a nice day like today, I’d be riding out in the boonies. I just couldn’t get into it today.  So I’m heading to the deck with a big mug of tea and a magazine. Hopefully, I’ll fall fast asleep.So I can do a long ride tomorrow. I hear it’s another one of those religious holidays. 

And to think I was once an altar boy….

It’s Not Paranoia if They’re Really Out to Get You

After last week’s cavalcade of misery, I was looking forward to a clean start with the new week.  I saddle up the Tour Easy and headed out into a cool headwind for the jaunt to work.  Remarkably, nothing bad happened.  Not a thing. No falls. No killer pick up trucks.

At work, I called the IRS about my identity theft problem.  It took an hour, mostly of waiting on the phone to resolve. Now you may be thinking that I ripped off my employer for an hour of his time, but, as it turns out, one of my colleagues is working on identity authentification issues and she was very interested in learning about my problem and how I was going to resolve it. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for her), the whole mess was a misunderstanding.  The IRS apparently raises alarms whenever there is a social security number that is used twice on tax returns. I goofed up my daughter’s return and that goof caused my return to be rejected.  The IRS was very helpful about the whole thing.  I did have to wait 20 minutes to talk to a human being but the human being I got was helpful and articulate.

So, no crashes, no killer pick ups, no identity theft. I am on a roll baby.

Big Mess at the Bottom of the Bridge to Rosslyn

Then I started for home.  I came down the hill from Rosslyn through the switchback to reach the Mount Vernon Trail.  At the bottom of the hill was a mess of gravel and stone.  If I had hit it at speed, I’d be wearing an IV right now.  I stopped and took a picture. It looks like a car traveling through the parking lot or maybe even from the Parkway slammed into the side of the bottom of the bridge.  It hit the slope of the bike path and smashed up some pavement and concrete.

Having survived that little ordeal, I sailed home with a lusty tailwind. Or maybe it was gusty. In any case I wasn’t working very hard and I was covering a whole lot of ground.

South Royal Looking South towards the Wilson Bridge

Until I came to the far end of South Royal Street in Old Town Alexandria. The Mount Vernon Trail coincides with South Royal for a block or so to get under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  Work is being done to renovate the adjacent Jones Point Park and this work occasionally closes the trail. Today, it looked like a complete blockade but the construction crew snuck in a narrow passage through the barricade.  I didn’t take more pictures but this work around is pretty crappy.  There’s a light post and some other utility hatch thing in the middle of the pathway.  And the transitions to and from the trail are rough.  The contractor who has been doing this work is at least consistent.  It has never done a detour without some half-assed aspect to it.  I do hope the work on the park is better than these temporary fixes.

Passage through the Barricade

The rest of the ride was literally a breeze. I nearly went off the trail down near Morningside Lane because I was looking up into the trees to see a bald eagle. I am pretty sure the Morningside nest is in use so I hope to make an eagle siting soon.   Unfortunately, in the process of looking for the eagle I nearly went off the trail.  No eagle. No crash. Knock wood.

Some how I managed to arrive home in one piece.