Looking Backward 2012

In a lot of ways, 2012 was a very difficult year. My mother passed away of old age, my wife worked hard to recover from being hit by a car in 2011 only to have to endure cancer surgery, radiation treatments and a long slow recovery that is still ongoing. My son cut his leg open in an accident at work. Somehow the lightning bolts missed a direct hit on me.

Exercise is my coping mechanism. When I don’t ride (or, in the past, run) stress wears on me. It’s probably a blessing (and no coincidence) that I cranked out 7,350 miles in 2012.

Where did I go? What did I see? Who did I meet? Here’s a list:

Bike Commuting: With my daughter driving herself to school and limited school functions to deal with, I rode to work, a lot. 162 times, in fact, I figure that I did somewhere near 4,800 miles just getting to and from the office. I saved around $650 in gas. Other than family commitments, I missed only a handful of opportunities to ride.

Odometers Gone Wild: The odometers on my bikes are getting insane. I broke 32,000 miles on The Mule and 31,000 on Big Nellie. I am almost at 9,000 miles on Little Nellie. That $650 in gas savings will go toward lots of bike maintenance this winter. I do tires and brakes. I’ll leave the new drive trains for the pros.

Bike Crashes and Calamities: During the late winter, I was running errands on my bike in a fierce wind. I put my head down and, in an amazing act of stupidity, I proceeded to ride The Mule into the back of a parked car. A few weeks later I lost control of Big Nellie on a slick section of bike path and wrenched the heck out of my right knee. (I still have a big red welt just below my knee cap.) I was nearly run over three times by red light runners while riding through the Rosslyn Circle of Doom. In separate incidents, I broke the chain and had the rear tire blow out on Big Nellie. I bent the derailleur hanger on Little Nellie. I also had the usual array of flat tires but that’s pretty much it. All things considered, not a bad year.

Friday Coffee Club:  Ed is an espresso junkie. He and his stoker/spouse Mary started going to Swings coffee house near the White House on Fridays before work and invited others to join them. Word of mouth and Twitter took it from there. I started going and was welcomed into a motley crew of cycling ne’er do wells comprising journalists, economists, lawyers, graphic artists, librarians, university administrators, students, bike sellers, police officers, bike advocates, Segway tour guides turned bike rack installers, and policy wonks. We even have a naval meteorologist. We are still looking for some arc welders and lobstermen to join. Long story short, it gets my ass moving on Friday mornings, the people are impossibly nice, and the conversation is always interesting.

Rides with Friends: About 15 years ago I hired a guy to paint the house. About two years later, the paint was peeling off. I thought, “I can do better.” Over the course of the next decade I did two laps around the house. And the paint is still peeling off. Fuggit. Riding on the weekends is infinitely more enjoyable than futile house painting. Suffice it to say, my next expensive bike-related purchase will be a vinyl siding job.

So you might ask, “Where did you ride when you should have been doing something productive around the house?” Here’s a list:

  • The Utilitaire of Ignominy: The Utilitaire Challenge was the brainchild of Mary the Mad Randonista. As a willing participant, I rode trips to the store, the barbershop, the car dealer, the dry cleaner, and, as mentioned above, into the back of a parked car. Fail.
  • The Quest for Blueberry Soup: Every March WABA and the Swedish embassy collaborate on a ride that culminates in a cup of warm blueberry soup. My name is Rootchopper and I’m a soupaholic. I did a little over 30 cold miles and had 2 cups of hot soup.
  • Default Day:  Most people call it Bike to Work Day. I feel a bit like W.C. Fields on New Years Eve. Still, it was nice to see all the newbies out on the trails and roads. As a bonus, I ran into Ed, Mary, and Laura (and her buddies) at the Rosslyn pit stop.
  • Bike DC: There is something about this event that is always FUBAR. This year was no exception. I wasn’t expecting much and I got what I was expecting.
  • The Hoppy 100: Friday Coffee Clubber and craft beer lover John Roche designed a route that would traverse 100+ miles of hill and dale, a ride on a cable ferry across the Potomac, and some snorkeling through torrential rains all for a few cold glasses of craft beer. The man is brilliant. Kevin, Chris, Crystal and Lisa, Coffee Clubbers all, joined in for the day-long festivities.
  • The Indian Head 100: I did this metric century alone and it made me realize that it’s not the rides you do, it’s who you do the rides with that makes them memorable. Still, the route is an interesting one and it’s the closest rural ride to my house.
  • The 50 States Ride: I used to have a love hate relationship with this ride. I’ve grown to love it. It’s hard, but, what can I say, I am a sucker for a gimmick. There’s no better way to understand the place you live than to ride it on a bike.  This ride proves it. And, as usual, the company was excellent.
  • The Backroads Century: This was a tough one. This metric century is my favorite ride around these parts. Unfortunately it was the day after the 50 States and the 5 a.m. wake up call didn’t help. After some logistical snafus, I ended up riding with Lisa from the Coffee Club, her friend Jane and their hubbies.
  • The Tour Du Port: This is Baltimore’s intracity bike ride. I planned on doing it solo but, thanks to the SharrowsDC pin I bought from Coffee Clubber Brian, I was id’ed by Bec and Alex, two DC-based cyclists. We rode together for most of the ride, got lost, and experienced lots of underfunded bicycle infrastructure.
  • The Great Pumpkin Ride: Another early morning wake up for a ride in the exurbs. I met Veronique, an old friend who works at a bakery in Warrenton, then rode 70+ miles of the Virginia Piedmont alone. It was quite a slog, but the late autumn scenery was so pretty. After the ride I met up with Friday Coffee Clubbers Rachel and Kate, and their friend Katie Ann for vittles and grog. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the after party as much as the ride.
  • The Coffeenuering Challenge: Not content to nearly get me killed with her Utilitaire Challenge, Mary the Mad Randonista drew up another cycling contest. I managed to survive this one intact by riding to eight coffee shops for coffee and cookies and one kick ass muffin.
  • Hubs and Pubs – DC has recently given birth to three microbreweries. My friend Crystal decided to organize a social ride that connected three of the breweries. Although I only made it to one of the breweries, it was fun to ride to DC and see areas of the NE quadrant of the city that I had never seen before. Oh, and the beer was tasty, too.
  • Chocoride – Beer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak. So Crystal and Lisa put together a ride within DC that rode from one hot cocoa place to another. The ride took place on December 30 nearly guaranteeing cold temperatures would lead to warm liquid refreshment. It was a blast, and so was the wind. This was my fourth ride of the year with Lisa, so she wins the Rootchopper Sidekick Award for 2012. He prize is she gets to call me Kemosabe for all of 2013.

The Woodrow Wilson Bollard Farm: Bike commuters and other users of the Mount Vernon Trail endured one dangerous detour after another during the rehabilitation of Jones Point Park and the MVT underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. As the project was about to be completed, it became obvious to frequent users of the trail that the final result was an incredibly dangerous design featuring an obstacle course of poorly placed black bollards, sharp turns, and high curbs. After much bitching, local advocacy groups stepped up and got some very useful last-minute modifications made. Thanks to Mark Blacknell and Shane Farthing of WABA and Jonathan Krall and the other folks at the Alexandria Bike/Ped Advisory Committee for their efforts. Ironically, the rest of the project turned out to be pretty darned awesome.  

Car Hell: I spent a week driving my daughter among six colleges in the Los Angeles area. I have seen hell on earth and it is Los Angeles. Over 30 years ago, I spent a week in Davis CA. Even back then, Davis had bike infrastructure out the wazoo. I am very happy to see DC and Arlington making major strides to support the use of bikes as transportation with bike sharing, cycle tracks, bike lanes, and, most importantly, an evolving attitude.

Be Careful Out There: One of the most experienced bike commuters/riders I know, Charmaine, was run over by a pickup truck while riding to work. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anybody. Here’s wishing Charmaine a speedy and complete recovery in the new year. As for the rest of you, may the odds be ever in your favor.

I thought about including links to all these events in the blog but ran out of gas. It was a busy year.  You can find posts about all these things in the list on the right. Or if you’d rather look at some pix, check out the bike-related sets on my Flickr page.

See you in 2013. And thanks for reading.

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Chocoride!!!

A few weeks ago I participated in a part of what came to be known as the Hubs and Pubs ride. It was a ride from one microbrewery to another in NE DC and adjacent areas of MD. The ride was organized by Crystal, a new friend who fearlessly commutes by bike from DC to Tysons Corners in VA. Tysons Corner is traffic hell so this is an amazing accomplishment in my book.

As a sort of non-alcoholic follow-up to Hubs and Pubs, Crystal and Lisa, another FOB (friend of the blog), decided to organize a ride among shops selling hot chocolate. This ride would go from Dupont Circle to Penn Quarter to a newly developed area of SE DC to the spanking new Union Market in NE DC. It came to be known as Chocoride.

I woke up to find the wind blowing pretty hard with temps in the 30s. I had planned to drive to DC, but with the fierce headwind, I decided to ride  instead, proving beyond a doubt that I have very little common sense.

As it turned out, The Mule and I had no trouble riding the first six miles. I hadn’t ridden in two days and my legs were fresh. I rode The Mule because it’s the easiest bike to lock up, being more or less conventional in design. I tried riding Washington Street through Old Town but the width of the road allowed the headwinds to slow me down. And the red lights didn’t help much, either. I bounced over to some side streets and made good progress. Just north of Old Town I rejoined the Mount Vernon Trail. In the sections near the river, the headwinds were challenging.  I was expecting this, especially in the open area just north of the airport where treeless playing fields border the river.

I put my head down and spun my legs off. I actually had to unzip my jacket to dissipate some of the body heat I was generating. I did a U-turn to get on the ramp up the 14th Street Bridge. The inclined seemed not to be there. What a tailwind! Unfortunately, on the bridge itself, the wind was a crosswind hitting me from about 10 o’clock. It was all I could do to keep moving forward and stay upright. 8 miles per hour was the best speed I could make. Runners coming from DC were leaning to stay upright. They held their right hands on the upwind sides of their faces. As each one passed, our eyes met as if to say, YEEEHAAA! (Or, maybe, I’M A MORON!)

I took 15th Street all the way to Massachusetts then Mass to Dupont Circle. The group was meeting at a hot chocolate shop but I couldn’t see them so I checked my Twitter feed and saw that the shop was on Connecticut Avenue which passes beneath the circle. Which way should I go? I picked south and didn’t see a group of chocolate obsessed cycists so I backtracked and headed north. There they were just a block or two from the circle.

Five minutes later we were underway. Our first stop was a shop in Penn Quarter near the Verizon Center. Along the way we rode the new L Street Cycletrack. It’s a little quirky but I liked it. I could imagine how useful it is at rush hour. I had a hot chocolate with milk. It was JUST PLAIN AWESOME. I hadn’t had real hot chocolate in ages. WOW.

Back on the bike, we headed via Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill then south into SE DC. We stopped at another shop near the new skating rink. Here I had an Americano which was pretty mediocre. It was, however, warm and that’s pretty much all I cared about.

Next we headed up 6th Street through Capitol Hill and the gentrifying neighborhoods of DC. This city is really on the rise. House after house had been renovated and spiffed up. After a few miles we arrived at Union Market, a newly re-purposed market space that was abuzz with activity. Speaking of buzz, I had more coffee, And an orange and cranberry scone.

We dawdled for a long time. Looking out the window I could see a U.S. flag stiff in the wind. We were heading into the teeth of that to get back to our starting point. Crystal and Lisa took us on a seemingly random path that ended up purposefully at the Metropolitan Branch Trail. We took the MBT north to R Street and followed the R Street bike lanes all the way back to the start. The buildings shielded us from the worst of the headwinds so the ride back was not nearly as difficult as expected.

After hugs and thank yous, I head back home. The wind was now relentlessly pushing me. Even the ride across the river was easier since now the wind was hitting me from 4 o’clock. Once on the MVT, I cruised at 16 or 17 miles per hour with little effort. South of Old Town I left the trail earlier than usual.  This entailed riding up a big hill, but with the wind at my back the ride up was no problem.

I pulled into the driveway with 42.5 miles on the odometer. Not half bad for a cold Sunday in December. What a nice way to end a year in the saddle, riding and hanging out with my new friends from the DC biking community. Many thanks to Crystal and Lisa for organizing and leading this ride.

DNR – Old

Last year the coach of the San Antonio Spurs did not play their aging power forward Tim Duncan in a regular season game. Next to his name in the box score was this: DNP-Old. DNP means did not play.

Today I woke up in a haze. After doing my morning routine of back exercises and eating breakfast, I decided to eschew my morning bike ride to work. I grabbed a couple of CDs and drove. 

Today’s box score reads:

Rootchopper: DNR – Old

I haven’t driven to work for the hell of it more than a handful of times in the past year.

So I gave myself a bike commuting vacation.

I end 2012 with 162 bike commutes (I am working from home on Monday.)

Nasty Commute…Not

There was a high wind advisory for tonight’s ride home.  20+ mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph. I love a challenge.

The wind was blowing in my face as I made my way north on North Lynn Street in Rosslyn. Once I cleared the highrise canyon the winds died down. I turned onto the Mount Vernon Trail and it was clear sailing. The wind was a firm hand on my back and I cruised down the trail with ease. Every so often I’d get buffeted by a cross gust but these were nothing extraordinary.

Truth be told, if I stopped I’d probably freeze my ass off, but the steady pedaling was just the right amount of exersion to keep me feeling toasty. I left earlier than usual so I for the second night in a row I didn’t have to play dodge-a-ninja. (That would make a fun video game, come to think of it.)

I have to admit that cold temps and little sleep make my normal 29-30 mile bike commute seem much longer. I hope to get in a good 8 hours of sleep tonight.

I put in a request to work from home on Monday. Assuming I ride tomorrow, that will make 163 bike commutes for the year. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,800 miles of back and forth riding.  Some day I hope to put my superpowers to good use. I’m thinking maybe I should ride toward work and not stop until I reach salt water.

That would be nasty!

Sleepless in Mount Vernon

After yesterday’s epic bike commute, I thought I’d sleep like a log. Did not happen. I was up all night. Never mess around with a new laptop with an unfamiliar operating system before going to sleep. I am sure I will enjoy using it as soon as it is set up to my liking and I have a better idea of how to do simple things (such as specify my default search engine.)

The two college boys in our family room playing video games until 3 a.m. didn’t help a whole lot either.

I finally drifted off to sleep a little after 5 a.m. only to be blasted awake by my alarm clock.  It seems this same scenario plays out about once a month so I think it’s a circadian rhthyms issue. I am pretty sure that tonight sleep will not be an issue.

I had expected ice on the pavement when I went out to get the newspaper but there was only water meaning that I could ride to work. Because the aforemention college boys were asleep in front of the TV, I skipped my morning ritual of back exercises while channel surfing and headed out the door into the pre-dawn darkness. I was expecting fierce headwinds but what I got was a rather welcome tailwind. With this assistance, I chose to bypass a portion of the Mount Vernon Trail and take the somewhat hillier Fort Hunt Road to the beltway instead. There were only a few cars using the road so it was a peaceful ride all the way to Old Town.

North of Old Town, the oddest thing happened; my tailwind was becoming a headwind. Once I was clear of the protection of buildings and trees, I had an invisible hand on my chest. I ground the ride out with my head focused on the ground in front of my bike. Opposite the Washington Monument I was startled. A bike coming from the opposite direction passed me going fast. Where did he come from?  Better look where I am going.

I made it to the office in reasonable comfort. I attribute this to the balaclava, the mittens with liner gloves, and the overboots that I chose at the start of the ride. My extremities were toasty.

The ride home promises to be a breeze. Sustanied tailwinds of over 20 miles per hours with gusts of up to 50 miles per hour are in the forecast. Little Nellie will be pleased.

Well, that was fun

The ride home was everything I hoped for and, as they used to say in those Miller Lite ads of so long ago, less.

My boss, a bike commuter himself who decided not to ride in during today’s winter storm, came around to my desk at 3:30 and told me that if I saw a break in the weather to head for home. I immediately checked weather.com and saw that they were predicting clear sailing to Mount Vernon at around 4:45.  This happens to be almost my normal quitting time so my boss’s largess went in the meteorlogical round file.

At around 4:30 I changed into my bike clothes and decided to head out. I was stunned to see daylight as I left the garage. Commuting home in daylight, even gray, fading daylight, made me a happy guy. Off I rode on Little Nellie, now freed from it’s iced over brakes. I made it through Rosslyn without encountering the slightest trouble from the automotive crowd, mostly because the streets were nearly empty.

I headed down the hill to the Mount Vernon Trail. My first sign of trouble was the enormous puddle just before the bridge that would take me from the Rosslyn side of the GW Parkway to the Potomac River side. I rode right through it but it was brown water. I couldn’t see how deep it was. I got lucky. It was only a few inches. The boardwalk under the Roosevelt Bridge was covered in a thin layer of snowy slush.  I navigated the mess without difficulty and hoped that the remaining boardwalks on my commute would not be frozen over. (They weren’t, thank god.)

From the boardwalk to the Memorial Bridge underpass was a mile of huge puddles. Despite having fenders on my bike, my feet were soaked, and there were 12 miles left to ride. These puddles were actually small scale flooding. The grass couldn’t hold all the water that had accumulated throughout the day. The spill over left the trail with some long stretches of deep puddles, impossible to ride around.

For the first couple of miles the rain was very light. Once I cleared the 14 Street Bridge it began to pick up. I had a very welcome tailwind and the few planes taking off from National Airport were heading my way. I could barely make them out in the spray and the gloom.  It reminded me of the Air Florida crash in 1981 which took place right next to the trail next to the 14th Street Bridge.

My feet stayed warm despite the wetness. I attribute this to the tailwind and the 40-ish temperatures. I slogged along, having increasing difficulty seeing through my glasses. This became a serious problem once the trail took me close to the GW Parkway and I had to deal with the headlights of the cars. Shading my eyes with one hand meant that I had to take a hand off the handlebars, not the safest thing to do in these conditions. Fortunately NOBODY else was on the trail. No ninjas tonight!

The more I rode the more the weather.com forecast proved wrong. Instead of a gap in the storm, the rain intensified. The streets of Old Town, like the MVT were deserted. I intended to take the shortest route home but by Old Town I was on autopilot. I followed my normal fair-weather route.

South of the beltway the rain kept a comin’. To kill the tedium I started thinking of songs with rain in them. Rain, Rain on the Roof, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, Let It Rain, and, the one I really needed, Who’ll Stop the Rain. Mind games can get you only so far. Soon I was south of the beltway slogging through puddle after puddle. Some of the trail was just flat out submerged. My feet felt like saturated sponges.

By the time I reached the stone bridge, back on suburban streets, I decided to finish the commute just as I normally do, rather than taking a short cut home. I arrived completely drenched and proceeded to walk Little Nellie to the backyard shed. The lawn in the back yard was saturated with cold water. Once in the shed, I dried my steed off as best I could. Then it was into the house. Off came my soaked shoes, socks and gloves. The rest of me was surprisingly dry.

So bike commute 161 is in the books. Tomorrow, high winds are expected. If it is below freezing, I’ll probably drive. All that standing water on the MVT will be a skating rink. I do rain, I do sleet, I even do thunder but I don’t do deep snow, ice or lightning. You think I’m crazy?

Cowabunga!

The weatherman called for a nasty winter storm today. There woudl eb a wintry mix in the morning followed by cold rain and high winds in the afternoon.  Any sensible person would have worked from home or driven to work. As most of my readers know, I am not a sensible person.

It sounded like I’d be getting snowed on in the morning so I left the overboots at home and planned to deal with the afternoon rain by putting my wool-stockinged feet into plastic bags and then putting on my biking shoes.

Otherwise I wore what I normally wear for inclement weather: a base layer and shorts covered on top by the holey sweater and a Marmot Precip shell for top and bottom. I put the hood up on the jacket.

I selected Little Nellie for the adventure and headed out into a driving snow. Actually it was probably snowing straight down but my 11 mile per hour speed made it look like it was snowing sort of sideways.  The first couple of miles wasn’t half bad. I came to a crossing on the GW Parkway and didn’t have to brake.  The long boardwalk at Dyke Marsh was covered in a thin layer of snow, but Little Nellie handled it without a slip.  As I pedaled north the wind was picking up. It was coming from the river to the east. Once I cleared Belle Haven Park the wind seemed to intensify. Icy bits of sleet were now mixed in with the snow. My face was getting stung as if by hundreds of little cold bugs. My balaclava wuld have been a better choice than my neck gaither and a watch cap. 

The bike path had some snow covered tracks from runners and cyclists but people were few and far between. The Belle Haven bald eagle nest was unguarded. Six miles into the trek, the bricks on the Washington Street deck were covered with a glazing. I rode down underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge without slipping and made it through the bollards at the base of the hill without harm. I took a left onto South Royal Street. I don;t normally do this but the Cathloic SUVs at St. Mary’s School had taken the week off leaving the road empty of motor vehicles.

As I rode up Royal Street, I took extra care to let cars have their way. The slushy precipitation obstructed views out of side windows making me all but invisible dispite my lights for and aft.

At the north end of Old Town I took the river route around the power plant and the Slaters Lane apartments. This meant I had to ride on some treacherous stretches of wooden bridges. I slowed waaaaaay down and made it across all three of the bridges without sliding at all. The precipitation was now slowing but the glaze on the trail made it feel like I was skating rather than riding. Still Little Nellie stayed upright.

Gravelly Point is an exposed area and the wind off the river was buffetting me about. Here, about 11 miles into my commute, I could tell that the plastic bags on my feet were not working at all. The front third of my feet were freezing.    

I looked down to check my panniers and saw that the rear brake cable was covered in a chunk of ice. My left crank are was too. My front brake pads were covered in ice as well. I hoped that I didn’t have to stop. No worries. I was alone on the trail.

North of the Memorial Bridge I spotted a man running with two unleashed labrador retrievers. Fortunately, the dogs stayed with their master and never approached me. 

I was expecting some sliding at the boardwalk under the Roosevelt Bridge.There was only a quarter of an inch of snow but these wooden bridges are incredibly slippery under these conditions. I slowed and found good traction.

The absence of other people meant that I could cut the corners on curves in the trail for most of the ride. This meant not having to turn, which is a good thing under these conditions. I was hoping the switchback bridge from the trail up to Rosslyn was not going to be a problem. I made it to a 30-yard steep section on the Rosslyn side of the Parkway. Instinctively, I stood to climb and my rear wheel started to slide sideways. i sat and the wheel gripped. I stayed in the saddle for the rest of the ride up to the Rosslyn Circle of Doom.

The light changed and I had the right of way across the I66 ramp. Having nearly been hit three times I now wait to make sure all the cars coming up the ramp stopped at the red light. Sure enough, a silver sedan came right on through and took a right on red without stopping.  

When I got to the office, I checked out my bike. My rear brakes, the reare brake cable, both crank arms and my front brakes were all encapsulated in ice. My feet were frozen. My clothes were covered with slush.

My office is festooned with wet cycling clothes. My biking shoes are stuffed with a copy of the Epoch Times, a free newspaper I stash in my office for days like this.

The ride home is going to be a beast. I can’t wait.

 

Hains Point 100

Back in the 1960s, neighborhoods were swarming with kids. My house alone had seven of them. And every summer night there were a couple of dozen kids playing one game or another in front of our house. Most nights it was monster ball (that’s baseball played with a ball the size of a basketball) or giants and pygmies (a hide-and-seek kind of game). Every Thursday night my parents would go out to dinner. On one summer Thursday night, we decided to take our bikes down to the bishop’s house. The bishop had a huge mansion and in front of it was a circular driveway. This particular summer night we rode our bikes around the bishop’s driveway until we were exhausted. We had a blast.

Fast forward nearly 40 years.

Megan works at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. As it turns out, the large majority of cyclists are of the male persuasion. Megan’s job is to encourage, cajole, and enlighten women of the DC area to get on a bike. It’s also never a bad idea to raise funds for her cause.

One day, Megan got an idea.

Hains Point is a part of East Potomac Park where cyclists go to ride. It sticks out into the Potomac River. It is flat. It has a three-mile road that forms a nice loop.

Megan decided that she would ride 100 miles on the Hains Point loop on December 23 as a way to get women on their bikes. She invited others to join her.

Kate rides a bike She blogs, too. She decided to ride Megan’s ride. She asked for people to make a donation to WABA on her behalf. I am a sucker for a gimmick. I made a donation, and today, I rode up to DC to watch the ride and cheer Kate on.

It was 29 degrees when I left the house. There was ice in Dyke Marsh on the Potomac River. I continued on to the city.

It warmed up nicely. Mark Blacknell, chairman of WABA’s board, convinced me to ride a few laps in solidarity. So I accompanied Kathy Lewis (the queen of the Bike Arlington happy hour) for a couple of laps. Then, I did a lap with Alex Baca, WABA’s new communications director, on her spiffy new bike.

But mostly I hung out in the pit area and talked to people. There was a good turnout from the Friday Coffee Club. In addition to Mark, Kathy, and Kate, there was Brian, John, Shawn (and his daughter Myrna on a trail a bike), Dave, Chris, Aaron, and Crystal (and her parents). (I am probably leaving people out. My bad.)

Megan came in to take a break and get interviewed on WTOP by Kate Ryan. I congratulated her on her brilliant idea.  She raised over $1,000 which isn’t bad at all for a ride with minimal promotion.

After the interview I introduced myself to Kate (Ryan, that is). Kate reports on (among other things) bike and pedestrian issues. Despite not knowing me from Adam, she was very supportive when my wife was run over by an SUV a couple of years ago.

I was tempted to join .the ride for a few more laps, but decided to head home. Despite having the least daylight of any week of the year, I knocked out over 180 miles since Monday.  I think I got my money’s worth out of this week.

When I got home, I learned that Megan completed 102 miles. And Kate rode 50 (as planned) on Betty, her cruiser bike (not as planned). Congrats to you both.

For those of you interested in bad event photography, you can find my pix of today’s festivities on my Flickr page.

Correction: I got my Megan’s confused. There are two Megan’s who work for WABA.  Neither of them is Megan Jones, the heroine of this saga.  Megan Jones, like me, is a WABA member. Megan Jones has a thing for riding in circles ad nauseum, whereas I ride back and forth to the office ad nauseum. And Megan Jones is great with a gimmick. Me, not so much.

The WABA outreach director who is responsible for its Woman and Bikes program is Nellie Pierson, who was at attendance spreading the gospel of women on bikes. Nellie’s previous claim to fame was that she was the WABA Events coordinator. In the early, 2000’s WABA events were plagued by a series of hurricanes, insufferable heat and humidity, and other disasters. Nellie single handledly reversed the WABA events curse.

Rootchopper: Ninja Hunter

I rode Little Nellie today. The ride in was cold but quite fun owing to the fact that the Mount Vernon Trail was practically deserted. If evil doers want to invade Washington, now’s the time to do it. Car traffic on the George Washington Parkway looked like a Saturday afternoon. There are no DC natives; just immigrants from the 50 states and beyond. When important holidays approach, everyone goes home.

Except me.

I rode to work. No eagles. No possums. No Nancy Duley. Just the three step runner. (She runs three steps, then walks for a bit. Then runs three steps…) Near the Memorial Bridge I was passed by a guy on a Bike Friday. It didn’t have any racks or fenders or bags. It looked naked. And it had an AWESOME paint job. It was some sort of metallic shiny light green color that’s not listed on the Bike Friday website. I resisted the urge to whack the guy with one of my weighty panniers and steal his bike.

The ride home was windy and, as usual, dark. It’s always a challenged to ride into the headlights of the cars on the Parkway. I was doing fine, given the light traffic on the trail. As the trail runs between the airport and the Parkway, the car headlights are particularly bad. Then I saw something move and I instinctively moved left. It was a ninja. A man dress in a black watch cap, a black coat, dark blue jeans, and black boots. He was back lit by the headlights. I yelled as I swerved past him. I missed him by little more than a foot. As I passed I realized that what caused me to react was the bend in his leg as he strode forward. If he had been standing still, I would have hit him for sure.

After the adrenaline wore off, I settled into a nice rhythm, staring at the white circle painted by my helmet mounted light. I heard him before I saw him. A running coming my way on the opposite side of the path. Then I saw the white trim on his sneakers. He was dressed in dark clothing.

Onto the streets of Old Town, Little Nellie and I rolled. I was pretty happy to have the darkness and the ninjas behind me. As I cleared the commercial area, I made my way past a row of townhouses. A car was waiting, double parked on the left side of the road. Out of the shadows to my right, a man dressed in black ran straight for the car. He pulled up when I yelled and I swerved to avoid him. “Sorry!” he said. Great, dude. Little Nellie and I are practically Las Vegas on two wheels and you can’t see us coming!!!

Here’s the complete Rootchopper Vegas biking package: Front reflector on bike. Front reflective patch on handlebar bag. Front LED light on stem. Headlight on helmet. Reflective bands on ankles. Reflective tab on shoes. Reflectors on pedals. Reflective vest over my torso. Reflective fabric on the fingertips and palms of my gloves. Red light on back of helmet attached to a yellow reflective band. Red light facing rearward on my seat tube. Reflective patch on my saddlebag. Red LED light on the back of my rack. Reflective patches on my rear panniers facing both forward and rearward. Reflective sidewalls on both tires.

How could this guy have missed me?

I was beginning to think all these near misses were my fault. Then I rode into the pitch black of Belle Haven Park. Up ahead, well over 50 yards I spotted someone walking. He had an reflective band around his right forearm. It probably cost a few bucks. Why don’t more people wear them?

I made the rest of my trip home with no more incidents.

My goal for the rest of the winter is to bike commute without hitting a ninja. It’s not a very good bet, I’m afraid.

Playing Possum

I’ve been riding to work along the Mount Vernon Trail now for over ten years.  Today I saw my first possum. He was walking from some underbrush out onto the trail on the edge of Belle Haven Park. When he spotted my approach, he calmly turned and walked back to the underbrush. He was taking his time. I don’t know much about possums but I suspect this one won’t last very long. Somebody higher up the food chain is going to have him for a meal.

I occasionally see possums in my yard. Shortly after moving in I saw a big one lying in the grass in the back yard. I ran in the house to tell Mrs. Rootchopper that there was a dead possum in the back yard. She cracked up. When I went back outside it was, of course, gone. Nature’s oldest trick. My college friend Becca used to say I was the most gullible person she knew. She was right.

The rest of my commute was uneventful. I did confirm that Nancy Duley in fact reads this blog. As I rode past her this morning she said something about a bourbon flask. (She probably dropped hers on the trail and wanted me to look for it.)

If it had not been for three meetings today, I would have called in sick. My head and chest cold has returned.  I am glad that I went to the office though because the first two meetings went well, and the third was canceled. Our consultants in Wisconsin were preparing to get slammed by a blizzard and were closing their office. It’s good to see that somebody other than residents of the DMV panic at the thought of impending snow.

Ahead of the massive Midwest storm, winds were kicking up. I had a mighty tailwind on the way home. This, an a couple of hits of albuterol, made for a pleasant ride home aboard Big Nellie.