A Friend Gets Hit

Around lunchtime I drafted a witty blog that thanked a man who told me to slow down on an icy bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. And if all had gone well I would have added to it by writing about seeing Chris from the Friday Coffee Club and having another rider ask to draft me while he caught his breath on the way home. During mid afternoon, that all went in the dumper.

This blog pretty much exists because my friend Charmaine kept urging me to convert the emails I was sending her about my bike exploits to a blog. Charmaine has two blogs herself, Living Car-Free! and Bicycling to Work. She is a very experienced cyclists; she’s done the cross country thing and has been bike commuting forever. I met her several years ago on the 50 States Ride at an intersection on MLK Avenue in Anacostia. Her friend Keith was on a beam bike, she was on a Bike Friday and I was on Big Nellie. We were on the Avenue of Misfit Bikes. Long story short, she lived a mile from my house in Mount Vernon. We ended up doing scores of rides together.

Some years ago she introduced me to Reba who also bike commutes to DC from my neck of the woods. Reba emailed me this afternoon to tell me that, yesterday, Charmaine was struck head on by a pick up truck while riding to work on Michigan Avenue in DC.  Skipping over the details, the pick up truck won.

She’s in the hospital with a bunch of injuries (broken right arm, contusions, scrapes, concussion, etc.) that one would expect to get from such a collision. She expects to get out of the hospital but she’ll have to do rehab (to learn to use her left hand) and physical therapy.

I went to see her tonight. She looks pretty good all things considered and was lucid.

Just a few minutes before Reba’s emaiil, I learned that a colleague of mine fell in a Metro station today. She did a face plant and was taken to the ER.

I am starting to get paranoid.

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe I’ll stay in bed.

A Few Minutes with Andy Rootchopper

I made a quick decision to switch from wool socks to synthetic socks this morning. My wool socks cover my ankles; my synthetic socks go up over my calves. I look like Ryan Zimmerman. Except his socks are red and mine are black. And he can turn Uncle Charlie into a frozen rope.

And speaking of freezing, my toes were.  They didn’t warm up until 3 pm.  My calves were toasty though.  Not that cold calves are ever a problem for me, especially since I quit dairy farming.

The ride to work had a highlight or two.  A bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest mooned me. Well, he actually tail-feathered me.  Normally, bald eagles face into the sun, toward the Mount Vernon Trail, at sunrise. This one was turned toward the west. Hence the bald eagle moon. (Sounds like a country rock version of Bell Bottom Blues.)

Near the airport I came upon a landscaping crew. One guy was walking on the left of the trail. The others were in a truck on the right side.  As I approached, the truck turned to cross the trail in front of me. The left side guy didn’t bother to tell the driver of  the truck that I was coming. The truck stopped with a jerk.. Or should I say “abruptly” since the jerk wasn’t actually in the truck? Aren’t crews required to post a look out for cars when they are working on roads? They should do the same on trails, except for bikes and other trail users.  (Why do I feel like Andy Rooney all of a sudden? I’ve been thinking a lot about shoes lately. Maybe that’s it. Since I am parenthetically talking about Andy Rooney, I should take a moment to brag on the fact that I went to the same high school as he.  So did Herman Melville. I don’t often feel like Herman Melville. Whenever I see a whale, I throw up. Makes for lousy whaling excursions. Just ask Mrs. Rootchopper.)

On the northern flyover bridge just past the airport terminals I actually passed a cyclist. It was a woman wearing a parka and riding a CaBi. It still counts as a pass, doesn’t it.  (If I asked her out for coffee, would that be a double pass?) That’s one in the win column.  Better then Les Boulez. Speaking of Lez Boulez, you know you suck when Andre Blatche, a player you are paying $7 million NOT to play for you, mocks you in the morning papers.

The short bit of sidewalk is still out of commission on Lynn Street at the Rosslyn Circle of Certain Death.  I suppose VDOT decided that it’s been too long since a cyclist was carted off in an ambulance so they added an obstacle.  Once they get a victim, they’ll open the sidewalk again.

 The ride home was like a George Carlin weatherman routine. DARK.  The Mule was happy to chug along with a light tailwind. I stopped to take a picture of the gorgeous full moon low in the sky next to the Washington Monument.  It was a calendar picture if ever I saw one. Then my AIPS kicked in. AIPS is acute inept photography syndrome. It flares up whenever I pick up a camera.

The ride home was pretty routine. The last mile of my homeward trek is on Collingwood Road, a two-lane, shoulderless road with hills just big enough to hide a bicycle. A minivan came up from behind me. A car was obviously coming from the opposite direction. The minivan passed me. The oncoming car had to slow to a crawl. He hit his horn. Thank you oncoming car.

Tomorrow I’m switching back to wool, I think. I synthetics were better, sheep would wear polyester.

The Mule Knows

The weathermen were all lined up with snow panic in their voice. “Slush and slippery roads coming tomorrow,” they said. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. The thought of slipping and sliding for 15 miles on the way to work is unappealing to say the least. I went to sleep early thinking that tomorrow’s going to suck.

At 6 am I went out to get the paper. It was 40 degrees out and barely sprinkling. No worries.

When it rains, I switch to The Mule. Planning for the worst, The Mule was the choice du jour. The Mule knows rain. With it’s 700C wheels it is significantly more stable on slippery surfaces than my recumbent. It also has the oldest seat in my bike fleet so I won’t cry if it gets damaged by rain.

I tried a trick that I have done in the past.  I put my socks on then put my stockinged feet in the plastic bags that the newspaper comes in. Then I put on my shoes. After some smirks from my daughter (okay, it does look silly having plastic bags billowing out of your shoes) I headed out. It took a while to get used to my feet sliding a bit inside my shoes, but at least my feet were dry.

I wore the hood on my waterproof jacket to keep my head dry. A buff completed my head and face ensemble. In the event that the office was unespectedly closed, I could rob a bank.

Instead of a miserable, slippery ride I was warm and dry. The rain came, but it was never became more than a heavy sprinkle, if that isn’t an oxymoron. Speaking of morons, the people sitting in stop and go traffic on the GW Parkway looked unhappy. Cars never look like fun in the rain. They never show cars like this in commercials. There is a wide gap between the myth and the reality of automobile ownershop. Back on the Mount Vernon Trail alongside the GW Parkinglot,  I had the trail pretty much to myself all the way to Old Town.

A lone bald eagle eyed the Potomac River smorgasbord from a branch above the Belle Haven nest. With that long beak and fluffed up feathers, he looked like an emperor looking down his nose at his subjects. I swear I heard him say, “What fools these drivers be!”

I passed a walker on the MVT on the north end of Old Town. A scaffold covered the trail in anticipation of the demolition of the adjacent Sheet Metal Association Building. They have associations for everything in the DC area. Snack Food Manufacturers, Retired Military Officers, Statisticians, Human Resources professionals. No Rainy Day Bike Commuter Association though. Lobby? We don’t need no stinkin’ lobby!  At the far end of the scaffold, a walker was about to put his umbrella up. I rang my bell and he hesitated. Good thing he did, he would have nailed me in the head with it.

Once clear of Old Town I started to see bike commuters.  I am a passee not a passer. A couple miles after a particular passer flew by me, I saw him on the side of the trail. The one thing you don’t want to deal with on a rainy bike commute is a mechanical problem.  His was apparently a quick fix. He passed me again a mile later. I’m not giving you another chance, bro. Passees have their pride, you know.

The red maples on the river bank on the trail across from the Washington Monument are still clinging to their leaves. They are the last hold outs. Soon they will give up their color and all will be barren. A couple of months of this and I’ll be dying for spring to come. And it will. Trust me.

In Rosslyn, a section of the sidewalk is closed. Walkers and cyclists salmon along the curb for 50 feet. Drivers seem displeased. Maybe we should have the lane closed. Will that make you happy? No? Then shut your pieholes.

The ride home was dry but surprisingly cold. I had to dodge Loudoun County commuter buses that were taking up the bike lane and a regular travel lane and the curb lane! I think Arlington’s finest should show them all the tolerance that Loudoun County’s police show bicyclists. A taste of their own medicine.

Riding The Mule home was much more pleasant than Big Nellie. Since my head was pointed down toward the trail, my helmet visor blocked the blinding headlights from cars on the Parkway.  The MVT had very few people on it. Only one ninja, in fact, and I managed to miss him. Bad aim.

I was passed by only three people. Of course, I passed no one. That made me 0-12 on the day just like the Wizards.  Think Teddy boy will give me a job as a coach?

My chain was making crunchy sounds. When I put the bike away, I pulled lightly on the chain where it contacts the big chain ring. It came off the teeth with ease. I do believe this chain is toast. So is the cassette and at least two of the chain rings. (I rarely use my granny.) All I want for Christmas is my new gear teeth. And a new chain ring. When I finish with The Mule, I’ll be doing the same for Little Nellie. I wonder if I could get a group rate at my local bike shop. Replace one transmission get the second for half price!

I can dream can’t I.

The Mule gets the call again tomorrow. There may be ice on the trail. The Mule knows ice.

Do I hafta?

No more Thanksgiving.
Time to be ungrateful.
Gotta go back to work.
Gonna ride my bike,
cuz that’s what it’s good for.

Near freezing in the morn.
Wore my backlaver thing.
Wore my wool saux.
Wore an extra layer up top.
Perfect, except the toes.
Better cold toes than clumsy boots.

No bald eagle today.
He’s being cheeky.
Or maybe it’s a she.
Saw a cheeky she-runner near Gravelly Point.
She had loooong legs and shooort shorts.
Cheeky.

Spent the day trying to think of Christmas presents for my wife. Fail.

Can’t post any pictures on blog any more.
Ran out of memory.
Need a new blog platform,
cuz I’m too cheap to pay.

Can’t use too many subjects either.
Wouldn’t be prudent.

Dear Prudence.
Won’t you come out to play.

Somebody should write a song like that.

Annoying ride home.
Headlights in my eyes.
Ninjas on the trail.
Managed not to hit them.

Going to sleep.
“Toes up,” says URG
She is wise.
I am tired.
Later.

A Walk in the Park

There are days when riding a bike seems forced. Today was one of them. I don’t have anywhere to go and it’s a little on the cold side outdoors.  And, to be honest, bike riding does get a little stale after 6,600+ miles over the course of the last 11 months.

Sitting inside leads to a vegetative state. And blobitude. Both are not good for your soul.

So I went for a walk in the woods. One of the nice secrets of living in southeastern Fairfax County is Huntley Meadows Park. The park includes over 1,400 acres of woods and swamp with two miles of walking trails including a boardwalk out into the swamp.  Once you are a half mile into the park all you can see are trees and swampland. It’s a great place to decompress.

I hit the trail at about 11 this morning. The best time to go is early in the morning when no one else is there. You’ll see deer and, in season, an impressive array of birds, turtles, beavers and other critters.

There were a few families at the park this morning. This pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn’t see any deer. Kids make too much noise. When my kids were little, we’d take them to the park to check out the birds in the swamp. My son became obsessed with photographing them so we bought him a telephoto lens. His bedroom walls have several framed pictures that he took at Huntley Meadows when he was around five years old.

There’s not much to see this time of year. The skies were cloudy and gray. The trees barren of leaves. The water level in the swamp was low, except for a small area that had been damned by beavers. Even with so, walking through the park reminds me of all the times I went exploring in the woods in Albany when I was a pre-teen. I could spend hours and hours just hanging out, poling the big logs on Dead Man’s Pond, and spying on the big kids.  Sadly, Dead Man’s Pond was filled long ago to make way for houses. The woods were cleared by a man who bought them with money he made selling CB radios back in the 1970’s. They probably don’t even know that a man known only by the decidedly politically incorrect name of  Injun Joe lived there. (I thought this was a tall tale made up by one of my brothers. I helped a friend’s father move when I was in college. He told us about when he was a kid in Albany and actually met Injun Joe. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard this.)

I spent about an hour in Huntley Meadows. At one point I saw a couple of signs about 100 yards off the trail in the woods. I decided to check them out. They were warnings of a winter-long deer hunt being conducted by archers.  If they wanted me to stay on the trail, what the hell did they post the signs up so far into the woods for? Fail.

When I got home, I packed my panniers for tomorrow’s cold commute. Big Nellie and I will be ready. Legs fresh. Brain recharged. If you happen to be in southeastern Fairfax County, take some time to check out Huntley Meadows.

My pix can be found here.

In Turkey We Trust

It’s been a while since I posted. I have been busy stuffing my face. And relaxing. Not that that means I haven’t ridden.

This is Thanksgiving week. Normal routines go out the window, except for bike commuting. I rode to work on Tuesday on Big Nellie. I am finally getting dialed in to my recumbent after a long time off the bike. One reason I have been off the bike so much is the fact that I crashed the bloody beast on wet pavement back in the spring and messed up my right leg.  So I have been reluctant to repeat the experience. Time heals all cliches so they say or something like that. Now everything is copacetic. So Big Nellie gets the call.

Tuesday at lunch one of my office mates decided that we should all go out to Ray’s Hell Burger, about 1/2 mile from the office. I have had a heap of burgers in my life, but none match the orgasmic deliciousness of a Ray’s Hell Burger. The damn thing melts in your mouth. Oh, the bovine goodness of it all.

Since I don’t normally eat big lunches I spent the afternoon in a food coma.  The ride home was wicked good. It was warm-ish and my fuel tank was full.  Once at the Rootchopper ranch, I quickly showered and changed, then snarfed down some peanut butter and bread. I was out the door a little after 7 and headed to Baltimore in the Millenium Falcon, my son’s Mitsubishi Lancer, a true automotive shitbox. I drove on I-95 to Cockeysville, Maryland. This involved the main line to New York plus two beltways. What fun. I-95 before Thanksgiving is automotive hell. You’ll be bombing along at 60 miles per hour only to come to a dead stop before going 60 again. Polka driving (lots of accordions). I rendevoused with my son who had caught a ride from his college in the frozen north  I picked him up at a neighborhood of McMansions that was truly impressive. Suburban Baltimorons are not hurting. The ride home was eerie. There was hardly any traffic at all.  We made it home by 11:30 and after some chit chatting I headed to bed at 12:30.

Wednesday morning I went to the extra special Thanksgiving version of Friday Coffee Club at Swings Coffee in DC. I normally leave a half hour early to get to Coffee Club, but this time I actually left a little late. I was zombie after getting to bed so late. Work was work-ish. We were dismissed early and I rode home in daylight which was a treat. The next two months of riding in the cold and dark will be challenging. I could never live in the far north. I need my solar fix.

Thanksgiving means food. In order to make room for mass quantities, I did a pre-meal 16 mile ride.  It was warm out. The Mount Vernon Trail was thick with bored looking families killing time before the big gobble. That evening, we saddled up the Honda, with a trunk full of food, and headed to friends’ house in North Arlington. Football, beer, and turkey. Yeah, buddy.

We interrupt this blog to give thanks for all the thank-worthy things in my life.

Thanks.

Back to the blog.

I took Friday off from work and went for a leisurely ride in Woodlawn. Woodlawn is that area south of the Mount Vernon estate. It’s quiet suburbia with no traffic. The hills are not too bad and the roads have some nice curves that turn Big Nellie into a roller coaster car. I love carving turns even more than carving turkeys.

After 30 miles, I headed for home. My wife, daughter and I headed out to see Lincoln only to be thwarted by those bored families killing time by filling the movie theater. Go home bored families. Your relatives are already sick of you! We watched Life of Pi instead. It was in 3D. The 3D actually made the movie better. It was a real feast for the eyes. Somebody said it would be best to see this movie stoned.  Nobody in the theater said “DOOD!  That was AWESOME!” so I think everybody was straight for our showing.

Saturday has been given over to procrastinating. I did get some cleaning up down in the basement of doom and some caulking in my bathroom. I was supposed to research health insurance plans. Our current insurance is only good in the DC area. Since my daughter is going away to college, we need to change. We don’t wanna!  I picked up the guide book my wife got from work and read the fine print.  If I understand it correctly, we can keep our current insurance until she leaves next fall. Yesss!

Insurance? Boy, did this blog get boring. See what happens when I take a day off my bike?  I do believe Big Nellie will be fixin’ for a ride tomorrow. So will I.

A Bike for the World

Getting your driver’s license is one of those events that every teenager dreams about. And for most teenagers it means that an old friend gets pushed away.  My daughter’s bike hasn’t been used in two summers. It was not the greatest bike in the world to begin with. She’s thinking about going away to college, far away. There was no chance that the bike would go with her.

We could have sold the bike for maybe $50 but instead I decided to donate it to Bikes for the World. As their website explains, Bikes for the World takes bikes and other useful items and ships them to the less fortunate in far flung places.  So today, I drove Lily’s bike to Burgundy Farm school and handed it over.  I also gave them three old tubes that no longer fit any of the bikes I still have.

Donate Bikes Here

These were donated within the 1st hour

After my good deed for the day, I returned home to wrassle with some new panniers.  I bought some Ortlieb panniers to replace my worn out ones. Ortlieb slightly modified the design so I had not much fun getting them to work on all three of my bikes without interfering with my feet. I was more or less successful. Some tweaking will almost surely be needed.

Now that I have new panniers and have two old, slightly leaky panniers that I can use to transport messy stuff. Big Nellie and I used one to fetch a bag of birdseed from the local hardware store. For the first time on my bike, I wore a ratty old sweater that I had squirreled away in my office.  It’s not as soft as the holey sweater but it did just fine.

Once that task was done, I was hungry. Big Nellie and I headed for Old Town Alexandria to find some grub. For some reason I felt like eating fish and chips again so we ended up at Eamonn’s for the second weekend in a row.

I headed back home and put Big Nellie away.

The shed is now an empty nest.

Bank and Brewery

Two days off the bike left me feeling antsy. Lucky for me it was warm and sunny with temperatures in the mid 70s this morning.

NOT.

It was a balmy 43 degrees outside and I ain’t talking no centigrade here, Mister.

It may be that my antsiness (if that is even a word) was also the result of eating the three taco platter at Cactus Cantina last night.  The platter was preceded by two Dos Equis (would that make it Quatro Equis?) and a heaping helping of chips and salsa.

The mailman brought a check and, since I changed jobs, I no longer have a branch next to my office. This means I have to make a special trip anytime I need to use my bank.

Need to make a trip, feeling taco tummy, and need to ride my bike? Hmmm…….

I know, I’ll ride to the bank!  (I’m effin’ brilliant, I tell ya.)

Unfortunately the only bank branch open near my house is in a Safeway on US 1, a six lane highway that eats bicycles.  I could go all snarly on why my bank is in a grocery store (“The ATM is right over there sir, next to the fish sticks.”) but, instead, I’ll accept reality and go cash my check.

Of course, with cold temps and a decent breeze it took some time to figure out the right mix of clothing. 20 minutes later I was out the door. I felt fine standing still but once I got rolling into the wind, I was a little uncomfortable. No worries. I’ll warm up, eventually,

The trip to the bank involved cutting through the drive through at a drug store, weaving into and out of access roads and finally dodging busy folks with shopping carts loaded to the max with turkeys and fixins.

Once my banking was done, I decided to try and intercept my friend Crystal’s ride in Northeast DC.  This ride which was dubbed HubsNPubs would traverse 15 miles of busy city streets and visit 3 microbreweries. The noon start was located about 25 miles away.  I decided to join the festivities at the first brewery, Chocolate City Brewing on 8th Street NE.

I would enter DC in the southwest quadrant, ride north to the northwest quadrant and cut due east to reach the northeast quadrant. I would rely on my superb sense of direction rather than a map. I would get seriously lost in NE DC in about one hour’s time.  I rode to 8th Street NE which was interrupted by the campus of Gallaudet University. So I rode around campus to the east, then north, then west, and ended up climbing a bitch of a hill in traffic. This was not a lot of fun I finally made it 9th Street NE where I reached a T.

I took 9th Street NE north through an industrial area that included the postal facility where anthrax was discovered, as well as a bunch of warehouses and big box stores. This is not on any guided tours of the city, I’ll have you know.  Then around a roundabout, up another hill and stop. Time to check a map.  I was doing pretty good. Only about 15 blocks to go. Well, I finally made it to 8th Street NE and saw about six cyclists heading my way. This must be Crystal’s group. Nope. Uh oh. I mean how many people ride bikes on this sketchy street anyway. About a quarter mile later I saw what looked like 50 bikes locked up and down some chain link fences.

Crystal’s ride was a cycling extravaganza. Before I could lock my bike, a horde of young folks came out of an adjacent building and started fiddling with the bikes. Crystal, Kevin, Ted, John, and Ryan, Friday Coffee Clubbers one and all, were among the throng.  I was soon to meet Kevin’s wife Rachel and John’s wife Kate.

I hopped on Big Nellie and rode off with the group. We headed east to DC Brau.  Five miles later, after a car with FOP plates cut me off, we entered a strip mall parking lot and rode down a hill to the back of the buildings. The parking lot was packed. There was barely enough room for our bikes. Undeterred we entered the building and started drinking some free samples of beer. DC breweries are not allowed to serve beer for sale on site so we settled for three ounce tastes. I had a whopping total of nine ounces of beer over the course of an hour leaving me wanting only one thing: a bloody proper pint!

Some of the riders took a tour. I decided against it. I was enjoying the people watching. It was interesting to see the people with jugs called growlers. They’d pay to get them filled up then walk out cradling their jugs like they were made of gold. My precious.

When John and Kate decided to head home, I joined them. I had already ridden 25 miles and it was a long way back to my place in Virginia. John led us down Bladensburg Road which is normally very busy. Today, though, the traffic was light. Bladensburg Road ends at Maryland Avenue which heads southwest through Capitol Hill. As we approached the Capitol the houses were nicer. We rode past lovely row houses, mostly brick, three and four stories tall. John and Kate bid me farewell about a half mile from the Capitol and I continued on, eventually picking up the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack on the far side of Capitol Hill.

I took a left on 15th Street and traffic was a mess. Constitution Avenue which runs the length of the National Mall was closed at the Washington Monument. As I crossed it I could see thousand of people walking in a five-abreast formation toward me, eventually amassing at a stage set up on the monument grounds. I didn’t find out what this was but there must have been tens of thousands of people involved. Note to marchers: you need a better press agent.

I rode across the river on the 14th Street Bridge and took the Mount Vernon Trail home. I was expecting a tailwind but the wind had changed direction and I found myself riding into a headwind. Two headwinds days should not be allowed. I am pretty sure this is caused by a vast right wind conspiracy.

I made it home with little effort by around 4 o’clock. I rode 19 miles on nine ounces of beer. DC Brau should market their IPA as an energy drink, I think. If I attached a growler of the stuff to my back, I could probably ride forever.

Check here for Keviin’s ride report and here for Crystal’s.

Hellos and a Good Buy

Cold and wet are not the best combination for a fun bike commute. Add a headwind and you’re looking at 15 miles of I-wish-I-had-stayed-in-bed. 

My miserable ride began before I even got The Mule out of the shed. A critter had managed to topple our garbage can during the night so I spent the first 10 minutes outside picking soggy trash up from all over the yard. By the time I actually got on the bike I was already in a foul mood. 

The first few miles were not all that bad. I was wearing the holey sweater under my Marmot Precip jacket with its hood up. I was pretty cozy. Except for my feet. They were soaked within three miles. Manufacturers of wool clothing say that wool keeps you warm even when it’s wet. Bullshit. My toes were freezing!!!

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail and proceeded to plod along, hoping the rain would stop. Fat chance. Just north of Belle Haven Park I happened to glance up and there not five feet above me in a tree next to the trail was a hawk. Hello, Mr. Hark. Mr. Hawk wasn’t looking too fierce today. He was just as miserable as I was.

The rest of the ride in was uneventful until the tree cover on the MVT gave way to soccer fields at Daingerfield Island. Here’s where my fun was enhanced by a 15 mile per hour headwind. Oh. Joy.

Near the airport there was some tree cover but I knew that once I made it past the cozy confines of DCA I would be hit with those winds again. Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. The last 3 1/2 miles to Rosslyn were not a lot of fun.  As I turned from the trail to cross the I66 off ramp near my office, a car coming up the ramp blew through the red light. Fortunately, I anticipated the driver’s lawlessness and survived to ride another day.

It took me a full 20 minutes to get my wet biking clothes all wiped off before heading to my office. It quickly became apparent that my once waterproof panniers were waterproof no more. I bought my Ortlieb classic back roller panniers for my 2005 bike tour.  They survived my ride to Indiana amid the remnants of hurricane Katrina.  I have used them on hundreds and hundreds of bike commutes. This summer the fabric began to fail. I am sad to see them go. If you need panniers, buy these. They work great. In fact, I ordered a new pair this morning. 

I done wore these bad boys out. Good stuff!

I keep a stash of newspapers in my office to stuff in my bike shoes when they get wet.  I was down to one Style section. At lunch I went out and bought some soup. And I picked up a free newspaper. I didn’t read it. I stuffed it in my shoes. Try that with your iPad.

Most of my stuff was dry for the evening commute, except for my super absorbent wool socks. Squish. The rains had stopped and my morning headwinds were now at my back.  So. Much. Better.

At the southern end of the airport a commuter rode passed and said, “Nice vest.” I was wearing my Bike Arlington reflective vest. I picked it up on Bike to Work Day.  The cyclists was Pete, known online for some reason as Dirt. He’s a member of the Friday Coffee Club. He’s been volunteering to hand out blinky lights and reflective stuff for Bike Arlington this fall.  Bravo, Pete.

A few miles later as I was entering Old Town Alexandria Shawn (known on the interwebs as Shawnofthedread) rode by and said hello.  “Nice riding weather!” he said.  Indeed. Without the rain the ride home was actually pleasant despite the cool temperatures and wet socks. 

South of Old Town along the darker stretches of the trail my headlight exposed the beady eyes of some critters in the trailside underbrush. Hi, critters. Tell your friends to stay out of my garbage.

Tomorrow is my last bike commute of the week.  I will be driving to work so that I can catch my daughter’s school play Thursday and Friday night.

Stay warm.

Fish and Chips, the Long Way

It’s a federal holiday today. That’s because yesterday was Armistice Day.  Nothing much happened on the 12th day of the 11th month but what the hell we’ll give you the day off for good behavior.

Nothing in this discussion should be meant as disrespect for veterans. I just think it’s weird that we gave Armistice Day the heave ho.  In Rhode Island they celebrate V-J Day. (For those of you who weren’t paying attention in history class, that’s the day Japan threw in the towel in WWII.) 
 
My father was a veteran, although he kept it pretty low key. He was in medical school during WWII. The defense department drafted all the medical students and paid for their schooling so that they would be available for the invasion of Japan, My father said the most pathetic thing in the world was seeing all the med students marching around at some military installation on Long Island. Nerds in formation.  You’d think really smart people could march better than Gomer Pyle. Nope.

I woke up late and was greeted with a pretty darn nice biking day. Of course, I didn’t plan ahead so I goofed around for a few hours before heading out for lunch. I was thinking I’d ride the six or seven miles to Eamonn’s in Old Town Alexandria and have some fish and chips.  The only problem was that I got up late and ate a late breakfast so I wasn’t hungry.

So what could I do that would kill a couple of hours and make me hungry? Think. Think. I could have done something productive around the house but instead I decided to do what I always do.  I pulled Big Nellie out of the shed and headed north.

I had spent part of last weekend tweaking the seat on Big Nellie so I was hoping the ride would be improved.  Twas. I was cooking with gas for the first ten miles. A slight tailwind helped but that didn’t explain riding fast up hill or swooshing through one turn after another. Long story short the seat tweak worked great.

I headed up to Alexandria by way of back streets and Fort Hunt Road. I normally take the Mount Vernon Trail but after 150 or so rides on it this year alone I needed a change.  Traffic wasn’t so bad and I made it to Old Town without becoming somebody’s hood ornament.  I cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail and, a few miles later, headed west on the Four Mile Run bike trail. This goes underneath I-395 (one of the great bike infrastructure improvements ever) and empties out at the start of the W&OD Trail.

I kept trucking and soon reached the intersection with the Custis Trail. I banged a right on the Custis to head back to DC.  About a mile later I spotted my friend Geof parking his car in his driveway next to the trail. I stopped in to say hello. After a quick chat I was back on the trail. The Custis is a roller coaster all the way to DC and Big Nellie made the most of it.  I love hill hopping on this bike. You go screaming down one hill and use your speed to go up the next rise.

I took the Key Bridge into Georgetown because no ride around here would not be complete without a battle with taxis.  The traffic lights were in sync so I blasted down M Street to Pennsylvania hitting only one stop light along the way.  I met up with a mom on a tandem with her son who was about 10 stoking.  She also had another son riding on his own bike. She was taking them to the National Gallery. 10 year old was looking pooped. Somebody’s going to be asleep by the Gaugins I’m afraid.

I rode across the plaza in front of the White House. Crews were busy building the review stands for the inauguration parade.  They had the plaza normally about 50 yards wide down to a single lane. Tourists hoping to get a nice picture of the White House had to settle for a chain link fence, some butt cracks and plywood.

I followed the cycle track on 15th Street to the Mall then continued on to the 14th Street Bridge. Back in Virginia I took the MVT back to Old Town where I stopped for my fish and chips. Fish and chips are salty and greasy.  Just the thing to top off the old bike engine.

Strap on the ol’ feed back, son
Eamonn’s. Motto: In cod we trust.

I fought a food coma for most of the ride home. I don’t think all that grease will get digested for at least ten hours.  I do believe a nap is called for.

Cheers.