October Ends with a Whoosh

As I write this Hurricane Sandy is about to amp up in the DC area. So far the winds have been nothing to extreme but in an hour or so that’s going to change in a big way.

What better way to spend my last moments on earth than to run the numbers for October.

Blueberry bread during the Great Pumpkin Ride

I rolled 638.5 miles in the month (assuming I am not riding tomorrow.)  15 rides were commutes, 4 were weekend rides.  I rode 309 miles in 10 rides on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  Big Nellie has taken most of 2013 off so it was nice to get out on the big hoss. Seven of these rides were commutes. The Sequoia rumbled for 329.5 miles including 8 commutes and a 72.5 mile excursion on the Great Pumpkin Ride, my longest ride of the month.

I knocked out 4 coffeeneuring rides during the month hitting Buzz, Grape and Bean, the Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, and Red Truck Bakery. Red Truck was by far my favorite.

My year to date numbers are 6,045.5 miles with 129 bike commutes.  My long ride was 111 mile during the all day extravaganza known as the Hoppy 100.

Now it’s time to sit back and ponder the wonders of climate change.

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Pumpkins and Pain and Coffeeneuring

Any sensible person would have skipped riding 72+ miles with a sore back. I am not your man.

I rode to work all five days on my recumbent, Big Nellie. I spent quite a bit of time getting the seat set up in the week or so before hand but by Friday my lower back was not a happy camper.  From experience I know that I need to lean the seat back back a bit to open up my hips and to take the impact of bumps from my butt to my back. This keeps my lower spine from taking all the abuse and spreads the force of impact across my entire back.

That operation is for another day, alas. I took The Mule, my Specializes Sequoia touring bike out to Warrenton on Saturday morning for the Great Pumpkin Ride.  We left the house at 6:40 so I could get in a coffeeneuring ride before the event.

With little traffic on the roads I arrived at the start before registration opened. So I jumped on The Mule and headed out to find Red Truck Bakery.  Red Truck is supposed to be amazing. Even though it’s located almost an hour from DC the Washington Post went literally out of its way to give it a rave review.  I am difficulty to please, however.

I walk in the door and the first person I see is Veronique. Our kids went to grade school together. I knew she used to work there but was surprised to see her behind the counter. We had a great talk and took some pix, then she sent me off with a coffee and an orange and cranberry muffin that she said is “like crack.”

Veronique

By the time I had done the short ride back to the start of the Pumpkin Ride, I had spilled about a third of my coffee on my right hand. This is a shame because it was a fine cup of brew.  Then I pulled out the muffin. It was

Still Life with Java
Red Truck, Mule, and Coffeeneur (photo by Veronique)

THE BEST MUFFIN EVER!!!!!!

No lie. Red Truck is the real deal.  I may have to retire and become a muffin head, which is like a crack head only with moistness and sweetness and yum.

Once the muffin was done, I spotted some coffee (Starbucks, not a match for Red Truck’s brew) and some very tasty artisanal bread. Eat, drink. Nothing like three breakfasts (I had Cheerios before leaving home) to get your belly primed for biking.

I knew that some Friday Coffee Clubbers, Rachel and Kate, were coming to do the ride. Also, John, the Hoppy 100 major domo, had expressed interest. Rachel and Kate were doing the 48 miler but I wanted to do the 72 miler. I decided to leave early so I could intercept them during the last 15 miles when the two routes converged.

Beginning of Rail Trail and Route
Choo Choo

The ride started on a nice little rail trail but soon hit the beautiful country roads of the Virginia Piedmont. The 14 miles to the first rest stop were remarkably flat. I took my time since my back was sore and I had nearly 150 miles on my legs from the week’s bike commutes.

Clouds over the Piedmont

Leaves, cows, dead deer. Ah, country living.

Yup, Country Roads Are Pretty
Sun Moving Higher

The first rest stop was at a winery. The food was AWESOME.  More of that amazing bread – this time with blueberries.  A woman was cooking hot soft pretzels on a grill. I asked for one. She gave it to me and tried to give me a piece of wax paper to hold it with. I pointed to my mouth and said, “It’s going in here.”

First Rest Stop – Feed Me Seymour

Back on the road, the 72 mile route took us into a somewhat hillier direction.  There were a couple of challenging short hills but neither my back nor my legs wanted anything to do with them.  There was nothing to do but grind it out and so I did. Every so often a vista or a blazing tree would appear to take my mind of my dead legs.  Occasionally the wind would pick up and the leaves would come fluttering down on the road. The sound of a bicycle wheel crunching through leaves brought back memories of riding when I was a little kid.

The Mule Stopped to Talk to These Two

Photographic Evidence of Me Actually Riding

The next rest stop at 33 miles was equally awesome. More blueberry bread please.  They were serving pumpkin soup. (I don’t like the taste of pumpkin but I was told this soup was delicious.)

Interesting Grave Stone along the Road
Kelly’s Ford

Back on the road for the 28 mile hop to rest stop number three.  There seemed to be some payback from the climbing. The wind would occasionally gust to keep me honest.  Sandy, the hurricane that was supposed to end life as we know it (but appears, at this writing, to be heading toward the Big Apple) had cast a blanket of clouds across the skies and would send a probing finger of wind every half hour or so.

Windy Road Ahead

The last rest stop was at a beautiful stone mansion. The kind that is rented out for weddings, which, as it turned out, was happening this day.  More food. Clean rest rooms. The organizers truly outdid themselves. Nom. Nom.

The last 11 miles were a bit of a surprise. There were some significant climbs and one annoying false flat.  A false flat is an gradual uphill that looks like it is flat but drains your energy. I kept wondering why I was going so slowly then I’d look up an see that I was gaining on people. Dang, it’s not just me.

This Guy Looked Real

Pedal. Trees. Farms. Pedal. Leaves. Pedal. Fake corpses. Pedal. Goats. Pedal. Sheep. Pedal. Cows. Pedal. Alpacas.

Dos Alpacas
Rural Virginia – Gotta Have a Church

Then it was over. Boo hoo. I tweeted the Coffee Clubbers and found that Rachel, Kate and their friend Katie Ann were at a Molly’s Irish pub listed as the site of a post ride party.  It wasn’t very festive. Rachel, who had never done a ride like this before, was a bit knackered but seriously chuffed.  She had borrowed a road bike after riding heavy urban mules.   Her experience could best be summed up with two words: Woo and Hoo.

MOTS – More of the Same
Ditto

We had a fine time drinking beer and eating some pretty tasty pub food.

Katie Ann, Rachel, and Kate at Molly’s

I had planned to ride to the Marine Corps Marathon but my legs are lead today. And my back is having nothing to do with a bike either.

The Mule in the Leaves

The ride totals were 72 1/2 miles.  Less than a mile of that was the Coffeeneuring trip to Red Truck.  This is technically below the coffeeneuring distance limit, but I am pleading to the Coffeeneuring Queen for a mileage waver since (1) I had to get up extra early to get the coffeeneuring ride in, (2) I found the BEST MUFFIN EVER, (3) I didn’t realize Red Truck was so close to the ride start, (4) it would have been silly to ride around in circles to get my distance up, (5) I spilled half the coffee on my hand and had to reboot with (ugh) Starbucks, and (6) Mary, Queen of Java, is most beautiful and wise.
 
Note: John’s ride report can be found here. He gets serious props for dealing with a rider who had a medical emergency during the ride.

Of Eagles, Blood, and Angels

It was just one heck of a nice day to be riding a bike even if I was going to work. Big Nellie was doing her laid back thing and I was cruising along with a nice gentle tailwind.  I cruised through Belle Haven Park and didn’t slip a bit on the abundant colorful leaves covering the Mount Vernon Trail.  Each morning I glance up to a tree on the Belle Haven Country Club golf course on the opposite side of the Parkway from the MVT. Normally, the tree with the abandoned bald eagle nest, what I cleverly call the Belle Haven nest, sits like an avian sky box over the cars lined up to enter the Old Town Alexandria crawl.

This morning was different. In a branch a bit higher than the nest was what looked in the light of dawn like a ball of leaves or maybe a hornets nest. Then I saw a white ball pop out of the mass.  It was the head of a bald eagle. He or she was probably preening but I like to think that it had just awoken from a good night’s rest.

The rest of the ride was rote, but a good rote with all kinds of trees ablaze in their autumn glory.  The rising sun had hidden behind a cloud placed just so to allow sunbeams to shine out from behind it in all directions.  Now and then I hit a bump in the trail. A few of them sent me momentarilly airborne from the plush seat of my recumbent. 

Just north of the Memorial Bridge, I came upon this sign:

What a nice gesture but I could have done without the blood loss bit.

My regulars seemed to be few and far between today. As I approached the Roosevelt Bridge a woman approach on her bike.  She wore a costume of some sort and had an angel’s wing sticking straight out of her back like a dorsal fin.

Not 30 seconds later I saw a man ride toward me. As he passed I recognized him from a meeting I attended a week or so ago at a federal government agency. Of the six people in attendance at that meeting, four were everyday bike commuters, one was a fairweather bike commuter and one was a Capital Bikeshare member.  By golly, I do believe this bike thing is catching on.

Golf Cart Bike Trailer?

On the Mount Vernon Trail, I came upon this interesting looking bike and trailer combo. The bike seemed to be a Dahon. The trailer apparently was a Burley of some sort.  It seemed odd that the load was oriented vertically instead of horizontally. I would have expected it to wobble but it didn’t and he was going pretty fast-ish (well, faster than me) for most of the time I was behind him.

The picture was taken on the way up to the stone bridge. I was going fast because I had stopped to get my camera out of its frame bag and Mr. Bike Trailer left me in the dust. I caught him on the little, bumpy climb to the stone bridge. .

As I look at this now, I can see a pretty decent alternative to a golf cart in the making here. Bike golf, could catch on. Note the rider isn’t wearing a helmet because golfers are risk taking maniacs.

Coffeeneuring #4: Leaves and Beans

I wasn’t planning on going far. I slept in and read the paper. No matter how hard I tried, the crossword puzzle was just not happening.  I decided to take Big Nellie for a ride for a cup of coffee and do some leaf peeping.

The mandatory first leaf peeping stop around my house is Fort Hunt Park. Fort Hunt was once one of the perimeter defenses for our capital city but those days are long gone. Only a few ruins remain of the nineteenth century fort.  During the Second World War, German prisoners from U-boats were secretly held here and interrogated.

Now, Fort Hunt Park is a place for high school cross country meets and group picnics. It’s empty parking lots and 1 1/4 circular drive are an ideal place to learn how to drive.  The maples lining the entrance to the park are old and majestic. At this time of year they explode in color. As I took these pix, a cyclist stopped and pulled out his camera. He said, “It looks like Vermont!”  Indeed.  Check it out:

Fort Hunt Park circuit road
They call me “Big Red”
It just doesn’t get any better than this
Oh, yes it does!
“It looks like Vermont.”

Fort Hunt Park is located just off the Mount Vernon Trail about 4 1/2 miles south of Old Town
Alexandria.

Drunk on foliage, I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town. I had tweeted that I was out and about doing my coffeeneuring run for the weekend. The response would have been underwhelming but there wasn’t any. I stopped at Grape and Bean for a cuppa French Roast. The place had a vibe that didn’t appeal to me. Very laid back but stodgy at the same time. They didn’t have any quick eats like muffins or cookies to go with my coffee. And I didn’t much go for the coffee either. Way too strong for my taste.  I drank it none the less and got a pretty good buzz.

French Roast

Big Nellie tied to a hitchin’ post

I decided not to waste a good speed rush and headed north toward the city.  As I rode, I spotted more beautiful trees than I could count. I rolled past a spirited game of flag football near Daingerfield Island. A receiver was hit on the numbers by a pass right next to the trail. He dropped the ball. Good D or steel hands? It was hard to tell.

Transpotomac Canal Park on the Mount Vernon Trail

As I headed north, my legs started to feel their oats and I was soon cruising along effortlessly.  I crossed the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge, ever grateful for the people who added this sidepath.

Ramp to the 14th Street Bridge
14th Street Bridge Side Path

I rode the east bank of the river past the Lincoln Memorial, some beach volleyball courts, and the Kennedy Center. The walkers along the path near the Kennedy Center slowed me way down. I know it’s a nice day out and you may be new to town but you all need to get some situational awareness, folks. Walking four and five abreast is really obnoxious. And what’s with walking on the left when everyone else is obviously walking on the right? Must not kill….

Trees and Beach Volleyball near Lincoln Memorial
Capital…
…Crescent…
…Trail

I banged a left (where the heck did this expression come from?) on K Street and made it lickety split to the Capital Crescent Trail.  Once on that sucker, Big Nellie let it all hang out. We were cruising along nicely at around 15 miles per hour going up hill.  The sun had ducked behind a cloud and the temperature dropped quickly. In fall and spring, you can never be sure about the onset of cold and/or rain.  I hoped for the best and spun my way to Bethesda Row, the bustling downtown section of Bethesda. I spotted some funny plaques on the wall of the Barnes and Noble as I locked up my bike. Since it was around 2 in the afternoon, Bethesda Bagels was not crowded. I bought a decidedly unhealthy lunch and Big Nellie and I headed for our sky box.

I do believe the good doctor was right
Smart ass.

Heading north out of Bethesda, the Georgetown Branch Trail is the Capital Crescent’s unpaved extension into Chevy Chase (the town, not the actor) and Silver Spring (birthplace of Goldie Hawn).  It crosses over Rock Creek Park on a restored railroad trestle, cleverly named the Rock Creek Trestle. (I wonder how many consultants were hired to come up with that name.)

Georgetown Branch Trail

On the trestle, I ate lunch in the tree tops. I gazed down at the creek below and all around at the trees changing colors. If you ride a bike in DC, you really owe it to yourself to ride up here.  Way down there are little people running and riding wee little bikes. Hi, little people.

Big Nellie on the Trestle
Trestle and Trees

Rock Creek and Trail Way Down There

Clearly, I was needing calories. And my everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and massive chocolate chip cookie had them in abundance. Sadly, my feed bag had taken a couple of falls on the bumpy ride north and the cookie was more like cookie bits. The bagel had opened and smeared its contents all over. It wasn’t pretty but it sure was tasty. I washed it down with an iced tea.

Lunch before it was smashed up

Replenishment complete, I back tracked to Beach Drive and took a left down into the park, breaking the speed limit on the downhill. (I have never failed a drug test, I’ll have you know.) Sections of Beach Drive are closed to cars on the weekends. Although some car traffic is allowed to drive across the park, none can drive the length of the park to downtown DC.  In essence most of Beach Drive is a paradise for cyclists, runners, walkers and roller bladers. And it’s mostly downhill all the way to the Potomac.

If you give a bent a cookie, it will go very fast.  And so Big Nellie did. Down we went curving left and right. Rock Creek bubbled along the canyon floor and the trees put on a show on all sides. Riding a recumbent on a long downhill is more like street luge or tobogganing than cycling.

Recumbent panda – note soft sided helmet
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Part Deux
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park Strikes Back
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Curve-y part
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Blur Means Fast
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Follow the Arrows

In one particularly pretty part of the park, the road slaloms, left then right then left. Eventually a right takes the road onto a little stone arch bridge over the creek. As I came off the bridge and accelerated I saw three people walking toward me.  One of them was Kate, a former colleague, whom I last saw on my last day of work at my old job. We were on the office Earth Day team. I was Bike Man; Kate was Walking Woman. (No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get her to try bike commuting. Fail.)

Kate with her Mom and Dad

I rode past Kate yelling “Hi!!” then, feeling bad for not stopping to chat, I doubled back. As it turns out, the other two people were her parents. Awwww. Such a nice girl.

Trail in Rock Creek Park

After our talk, I realized that I was still over 20 miles from home. Time to boogie. Big Nellie kicked up her heels and we made short work of the rest of the park. If you ride a bike in DC or run or walk or hike or ride a horse or rollerblade, you must take advantage of Rock Creek Park, especially on the weekends. If you don’t, I’m kicking you out of my blog.

Beach Volleyball and Trees, Again

We retraced our route to the 14th Street Bridge and the Mount Vernon Trail. Just south of the airport as I slowed for a street crossing I saw a young woman mounting her bike. As I passed she looked up. She looked like Kate’s twin. Maybe my Earth Day pitch worked after all, on her long lost identical twin sister.  Or maybe, there’s some secret cloning experiments going on at my old office. Hmmmm…..

Instead of talking the Mount Vernon Trail south of Old Town I switched to Fort Hunt Road. This road is pretty typical of the haphazard road designs in Fairfax County. Four lanes narrow to two with a side path on the other side and a parking lane on the right. At the big hill the road drops the path and the parking lane and, eventually, the shoulder becomes a two foot deep ditch. At the very top of the hill a second lane on the right side re-appears for a couple of blocks then the whole thing narrows again. And it gets bumpy.

I was riding along on this bumpy, narrow stretch and a line of cars started to pass me. I was going 20 miles per hour and I could see the cars in my side view mirror. No problem. One car goes by. Another. Another. Then, a white Mercedes came up nearly even with my rear wheel. The driver honks his horn at me. It wasn’t an “I’m passing” honk; it was a “Get our of my way” honk. I guess he was trying to teach me a lesson or something. As he pulled along side me, I gave him the finger. I know I should kept my cool, but what he had just done was extremely dangerous. I wanted him to know that despite our philosophical differences, he was my number one douche bag of the day.

His response to my gesture was to swerve at me as he passed.  Brilliant dude. I delay you for two seconds and your respond with attempted vehicular homicide. He ended up at a traffic light. I thought about stopping and knocking on his window, but that would have been pointless. As he passed me again (without trying to kill me), I turned to him and made a “I took your picture” gesture with my hand.  He sped off.

About a quarter mile later I spotted his car in a parking lot. I took its picture. Check out the license plate. Don’t you just love religious people. So giving. So tolerant. So peaceful. God is amazing; he loves you even if you are a douche bag.

Car owned by Jesus of Benz

I rode home at peace with myself. Even Jesus of Benz couldn’t mess with my day: 54 1/2 miles, another coffeeneuring success, unbelievable fall foliage, and a nice surprise meeting in Rock Creek Park. 

 
Now for another go at that crossword puzzle.

Seven secrets of a happy bike commute


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Today’s blog by my friend Gypsybug is a primer on bike commuting.  I have been commuting by bike now for over a decade so I thought I’d add to her thoughts and share some tricks of the trade to those of you who would like to get started or are having troubles.
The Shortest Distance Is Rarely the Best Route
We all know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but when you’re bike commuting that’s almost beside the point.  After all, when you drive somewhere you don’t always take a straight route. The straight line from my house to Silver Spring is right through the heart of DC, but, when I drive it, I take the Beltway. It’s faster, safer and less stressful.
Think of your bike commute the same way.  I can ride a straight line to work, but this could take me on streets with lots of cars, traffic lights, clueless pedestrians and such.  For example, when I first started commuting to L’Enfant Plaza in DC, I would ride from the 14th Street Bridge around the Tidal Basin to 15th Street then take a right on Independence Avenue another right on 12th Street then a left on D Street.  That route included six traffic lights, all kinds of crazy car and bus traffic, pedestrians going every which way near the Smithsonian Metro station and the Agriculture Department.  And one pretty unpleasant left turn.
After a while I decided that instead of going around the Tidal Basin, I would double back toward the Potomac River and go under the 14th Street Bridge, taking Ohio Drive along the river (where I would often see Gypsybug and her husband Felkerino) to Buckeye Drive to a protected path on the Case Bridge across the Washington Channel (with sailboats afloat below) and return to the streets at L’Enfant Promenade, about 100 yards from my office.  This route was probably 1/2 mile longer, but it was much less stress, safer, and prettier.  
You should experiment with your commute to determine what route combines a reasonable commute time with safety and a pleasant riding experience.
The Transitions Will Kill You
Triathletes know that the transitions from one stage of the race to another will eat up valuable time.  They go to great pains to minimize time in the staging areas.  Bike commuting works the same way.  When I get home from a bike commute, the first thing I do is unpack and re-pack for the next day. (Unlike Gypsybug, I take my clothes in every day.  Like her, I use Ortlieb panniers.) I get my on-bike clothes laid out.  The idea is that you want to grab and go in the morning not fritter away your time looking for your bike shorts, your keys, your work id, etc..   Make sure that your tires are pumped up and that any mechanical issues are dealt with the night before your commute.  If you don’t do this stuff in advance, you’ll spend a half-hour of your morning wandering around your bedroom and garage looking for things.
Bad Weather Sucks No Matter How You Get to Work
If you wake up in the morning and it’s raining out, don’t give up. Do you really want to stand in your work clothes in the rain waiting for a bus, or drive in incredibly congested car traffic slowed by reduced visibility?   Rain gear these days is more affordable than ever and it can keep you comfortable all the way to and from work.  And if you get wet, so what? It’s water!  Now, it’s true you’ll need to take steps to be more visible and to allow for greater braking distances, but at least you won’t be sitting dripping in a bus or trying to de-fog your windows in vain.

In the summer, I usually skip the rain gear entirely, because getting wet on a hot day is pretty refreshing. Getting wet on a cold day is pretty miserable. My on-bike rain gear is not made for cycling. I wear a Marmot Precip jacket and, in really nasty weather, pants.  It works just fine.

Much of my commute is on multi-use trails. This designation gives the local authoritiwa the excuse to leave them unpaved after snow falls.. I usually don’t ride to work until the trails are clear. It simply takes too long to commute 15 miles on snow and ice. Also, I really don’t much like falling.  If you are intrepid, you can put studded tires on your steed and make a go of it. I’d rather use the gym or put my bike on a wind trainer for a few weeks. If I lived in a snowier city, I’d probably go for the studded tires (my friend Charmaine does this), but for a couple of weeks per year it doesn’t seem worth it to me.
My biggest problem with cold weather is the fact that my transition times go way up. Adding a layer or two doesn’t sound like much but it can add five minutes to each end of the commute – that’s 20 minutes per day.  Fortunately, in DC, subfreezing weather lasts only a month or so.  I grew up in Albany.  For a week or two every year, it gets below zero. This is why God invented ice skates.
Keeping yourself comfortable in the cold is a conversation for another blog post entirely.  Suffice it to say, wool is your friend.

Radar Isn’t Just a Character on M*A*S*H

Around DC you can often avoid the worst of the weather simply by checking the radar on TV or the Internet. Bike commuters are weather junkies.  They check the radar constantly.  It’s really a game of Can I Outsmart the Storm. If the storm outsmarts you, venture out into the maelstrom.  Riding in the rain is actually fun. I mean, once you’re wet you’re wet, right? I’ve ridden with 50 mile per hour winds (including cross winds on the 14th Street Bridge).  A 50 mile per hour tailwind is one mighty fun way to get home. A 50 mile per hour headwind, not so much. (Didn’t I hear you say you wanted to get in shape?)

Comedian Ron White tells a story about a friend who decides to tie himself to a pole during a hurricane. Ron points out that his friend learned: “It’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing.”  Long story short, look out for tree limbs and other debris from above.

Too Far? Get Creative
My kids were at school on the southern side of an epic highway construction project on the Washington Beltway. I worked ten miles on the northern side. My wife would drive them to school.  I would pick them up, but driving to get them was incredibly stressful.  Sometimes it would take 90 minutes to go 10 miles. And I wasn’t getting any exercise.  My solution was to drive 5 miles and park my car just south of the construction project.  I’d ride my bike the remaining 10 miles to work.  At the end of the day, I’d ride to my car, and then drive to school to get my kids. No traffic. No late fees at after school care, and I got my exercise.
Nowadays you can put you bike on a rack on the front of a bus. This can substantially increase your range.  If you work off-peak hours, you can take your bike on Metrorail.  If you have a folding bike like a Brompton, you can take your bike on and off Metro at any time of the day.  

But What If I Get a Flat?

Oh, stop making excuses, whiner. Flats are easy to fix. Just bring the fixins, find a place to perform the operation and have at it. To learn, go to You Tube and search for a video.  Then, on a rainy Saturday, ask a bike commuting friend to come to your house, give him or her a beer and have them walk you through it.  Just don’t use tire levers to put your tire back on the wheel. Nine times out of ten you’ll puncture your spare tube. Changing flats when it is bitterly cold outside does suck.  The best solution is to by tires that are puncture resistant. They are more expensive but tubes aren’t cheap. Avoiding two or three flats will cover the extra cost of the tires.

This year my chain broke on the way to work. A bike commuter stopped and spent 20 minutes working on my bike.  He got me going again. I thanked him but that seemed pretty lame. So now I always carry two spare tubes. The chances that I’ll use both are incredibly small, but the chances that I will encounter a cyclist who needs a spare tube are pretty good. Give them one of your spares. The bike commuting gods will smile down upon you.

Dude, Slow Down

I see people riding hell for leather on their way to work. Son, let’s keep this in perspective. You’re riding to work!  It will be there whether it takes you 40 minutes or 45.  Nobody’s going to care if you take an extra five minutes. After all, Metro and car commuters are always late for work. They get sympathy! 

Mount Vernon Trail Maple

Take your time. Check out the monuments, the trees, the sunrise.  Watch a couple of planes land at the airport. Listen to the birds chirp and twitter. 


Low Light, Pretty Commutes

Riding my bike to work in the summertime is a easy. It’s daylight in the morning and the evening. Dressing is a snap.  Once the cooler temperatures start to creep in, dressing becomes a bit of a hassle.  And the darkness starts to creep in on both ends of my day.

The upside to fall is the fact that I get to see the sunrise over the Potomac River.  I am a sunrise junkie. 

Sunrise at Dyke Marsh

The colors of fall are just starting to arrive.  This is such a bittersweet time. We should get about two weeks of fireworks from the maples, sumac and other colorful plants.  Then we get barren trees and cold wind.  The trees along the Mount Vernon Trail are beginning to turn.  The low morning and evening light makes them especially beautiful.

Morning light brings out the yellow

I stopped three times on  my commute today just to take in the show.  You can see these things briefly from a car, but you can’t stop and let them wash over you.

Mount Vernon Trail just south of National Airport

They say the best things in life are free. They are wise.

Skyscapes and Tailwinds

Today was quite a day for bike commuting. The ride in featured a tailwind and an awesome sky at sunrise.  These spectacular early morning skyscapes make riding in the fall and spring very special.  They are compensation for the fact that dressing for the commute is often a time consuming affair.  My living room is cluttered with a wide variety of gloves, skull caps, neck gaiters, and such. I often have to bring different outer wear depending on the forecast.

The sunrise was so pretty I had to stop, but the evening sky was impressive in its own right. During the afternoon a weather front moved through the area.  Usually these thing are gradual affairs but today’s have a sharp edge to it. And embedded in it were some thunderheads, one of which was parked above the Lincoln Memorial as I rode on the opposite side of the Potomac River along the Mount Vernon Trail.

I knew that eventually these clouds would unload buckets of rain on me, but it never happened. Oh, it did rain a bit, particularly during the last six miles of my commute but the rain was light and the air was still warm so it was really quite pleasant.

I swore I heard a voice say, “Noah!”

Charlton Heston, phone home

DCA was still operating

The Wilson Bridge and the Storm

And to top it off, the weather front turned the wind direction around so that I had a two-tailwind commute.  I’d say that makes for a pretty decent start to the work week and a nice way to celebrate 120 bike commutes in 2012..

Red Sky at Morning

Red Sky at Morning by Rootchopper
Red Sky at Morning, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

Today is my 120th bike commute of the year. Usually, Monday mornings are something I don’t much look forward to. Despite the good weather, I didn’t ride yesterday. I just relaxed around the house. In the previous six days I had ridden more than 150 miles, so this day of sloth gave my legs a chance to rest. With fresh legs and red sky, I headed out. My bonus was a nice tailwind. Pretty good way to start a workweek, I do believe.

Coffeeneuring #3: Cannons and Coffee

Other than a pretty nice bike commute in the dark, last night was a sports disaster.  Our high school football and volleyball teams lost casting a pall on homecoming.  After biking home in the dark, I leaerned that the Orioles had been eliminated from the baseball playoffs by the hated Yankees. (Okay, it was nice to see A-Rod moping in the dugout after being benched.) Then the Nationals who were ahead 6-0 when I turned on the game went down to defeat. Suddenly, it feels like Boston around here..

During the game I received a tweet asking if I was interesting in doing a coffeeneuring ride this weekend. I thought it was odd that an attractive young woman who lives 20 miles or so from my house and is at least 30 years younger than me would single me out for a cuppa joe. I mean she’s nice and we get along fine, but I’m not exactly in her demographic. Anyway,  I said I’d join her and told her to tweet me in the morning.

The morning broke cold, near freezing in fact. I wasn’t going anywhere until things warmed up a bit.  I tweeted back and forth who seemed oddly disinterested in my coffee shop recommendation.  Finally, she said that she had to wrote a paper and would take a rain check. All I could think of was, “Wasn’t this your idea?”

Then, I checked my Twitter history. In the chaos of the volleyball game, my brain had registered only Rachel‘s last name, Cannon, and the first initial of her first name. Robert Cannon who lives much closer and is also of the middle aged cohort had actually been the twitterer. (I’m not sure if that’s the correct noun, but “twit” could be misconstrued.)  So I tweeted Bob to no avail.

The sun was up and I had errands to run so off I rode on Big Nellie. I made it to the supermarket bank then backtracked to our local pastry stop for coffee and an eclair. I wanted a chocolate chip cookie but they didn’t have any. Fail. Well, the coffee was only so-so (if you want Swings coffee, go to Swings) but the eclair was pretty awesome.

I texted my friend Charmaine who was in my neck of the woods riding her Brompton with her friend Gordon.  We met up for a chat at a rest area on the Mount Vernon Trail. She and Gordon headed into Old Town Alexandria for lunch and I headed to the hardware store for more weekend fun.

I didn’t realize that coffeeneuring and the Twitterverse could be so confusing, but I remain undaunted in my pursuit of the Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Coffee, Eclair, Big Nellie and Appropriate Reading Material

Hollin Hall Pastry Shop with Big Nellie

ICWT (In Coffee We Trust).