Dead Beavers Tell No Lies

I was back in the saddle – er, foam pad – for an early morning departure. I haven’t been to Friday Coffee Club in a long time so I was looking forward to it. It was nice of Mother Nature to give Big Nellie and me a tailwind assist. The miles seemed to fly by. I spotted a garbage bag next to the trail just south of Belle Haven Park. It turned out to be a beaver all balled up. I think he was dead. He certainly wasn’t looking very spunky.

Since I left earlier than usual, most of my regulars weren’t out yet.  So the critters kept me entertained. Near the power plant another critter caught my eye. It was a black snake coiled up in the middle of the trail. I think he’s with the beaver in critter heaven.

Near the airport I cruised by Trash Walker, my first regular of the day. Trash Walker hoofs it along the trail and picks up trash as he goes. And he always waves and says “Hello”.  He didn’t get the memo about crumpy-assed bike commuters like me.

The early morning brings out the Lancelots, the bike riders who have delusions of cycling grandeur. (Digression No. 1: Look people, you’re on a bike trail with hardly any hills. You don’t look badass passing a bike commuter carrying 30 pounds of crap on his recumbent. You are pathetic. Chill.)  I came off the first of two flyover bridges at National Airport at considerable speed. Three cyclists coming toward me decided to pass a walker just as I came upon them. (Digression No. 2: The levers on your handlebars activate your brakes. Don’t pull out into the path of an on-coming bike when you don’t have to. Wait your turn, just as you would when you’re driving your car. Otherwise I will have to use the bicycle death ray on you. You’ve been warned.)

I rode into the city with two other commuters. At the Jefferson Memorial I was overtaken by a vast bicycle commuting conspiracy. This included one of my regulars, the guy with the mountain bike with slick tires and aerobars who looks slow but goes lickety split.

Crossing Maine Avenue, French Braid Girl came past. Normally I see her four miles closer to home, so I had a good idea how early I was. As I passed the Garbage TruckWashington Monument, a bike came from my right and a runner came from my left. Somehow we avoided a calamitous collision. At Constitution Avenue the light was green (which never happens without a long wait) making up for all of life’s early morning injustices. Soon, another injustice appeared in the 15th Street Cycletrack.

At Swings, the weekly meeting of the WAAMCCD (Washingtion Area All Male Cycling Coffee Drinkers) was in session. Fortunately, we were soon joined by Kate Drake, fresh from her vacation in the high Sierras, and her friend Kate. New Kate makes the fifth cycling Kate that I know in DC, and sixth overall. The three Lisas  (all local) need to up their game.

Out of the garage I bolted into the bike lane on Lynn Street, kinda cutting off a cyclist. My bad. I caught all the lights and made for the bike trail. Two cyclists on the sidewalk to my right passed me unexpectedly on my right. No warning. Thanks, guys. (Please see discussion of the bicycle death ray, above.)  Down on the Mount Vernon Trail there were all sorts of walkers milling about. I came to a stop until they finished milling. All the way to the airport the wind was gusting into my face. A bike commuter passed my and said “This sucks!” Dude, try it in February. This is positively lovely. Takes the edge off the heat and humidity.

Once south of the airport the trees gave me relief from the headwind. Big Nellie and I tootled home. We stopped to take a picture of the beaver. He was still dead.

Kate Drake asked me about the bald eagle nests. I put her off coming down to see them. The trees have made them very hard to find.  It’s a shame. I should have put together a bald eagle ride earlier in the spring.

Tomorrow is the Tour de Fat.It’s a big party with bikes, acid rock, live nude girls, and beer.  Oh, and it’s family friendly. I know this because every ten minutes somebody tweets or posts something on Facebook about it. (If you are fat, they let you in for free, I hear.) I was tempted to go for the entire event which lasts something like six hours. I can do six hours of bikes or beer or acid rock or live nude girls. (Okay, I am kidding about the live nude girls. There will be at least 1,200 Kates in attendance so that counts for something.) Owing to my age and marital status, I decided I’d go for one hour. My plan is to ride to the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park to see my friend Lisa’s Japanese taiko drum group at 2 then ride to the Tour de Fat.  I hope they have some beer left.

.

Advertisements

Bollards for Bozos

Bollards for Bozos by Rootchopper
Bollards for Bozos, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

This is the entrance to the Mount Vernon Trail at Northdown Road. A few weeks ago a young woman drove her SUV past the “No Motor Vehicles” sign down the trail. She tried to do a three point turn to reverse course and ended up in a ditch. This happens every year. Finally, somebody (probably the National Park Service) install a white flexpost in the middle of the trail. Oddsmakers at the Rootchopper Institute think that it’s 2-1 for somebody driving over the flexpost and down the trail within the next 12 months. Wanna bet?

75,000 Miles, 3 Bikes

I keep track of things. I have been recording my running and cycling miles for 30 odd years. It started with running. I would log my daily miles. Then I added a note to indicate which shoes I was wearing. I did this because running shoes wear out from the midsoles first. It’s the midsoles that cushion your feet.

For some reason I didn’t do this sort of thing with my rides. For a long time I didn’t have a car so I used my trusty old Raleigh Grand Prix. It was a faithful steed, until the front right fork blade fell off on hill on the Custis Trail near Rosslyn, Va. It had shifters that were no longer manufactured and eventually I had to part ways with it. I did get 13 years out of that bike, abusing the heck out of it riding around Providence in the winter time.

I bought a Trek 1200 and used it more for running. I had hurt my knees and I needed to find a replacement for running between 50 and 70 miles per week. I’d get home and ride my ass off or, in the winter, put it on a wind trainer indoors and ride until pools of sweat accumulated. A few years after I bought it, I ruptured a disk in my back. After my surgery, I could feel every bump in the road when I rode the Trek. It was also pretty useless for commuting.

Between the two bikes, I guess I put on 15,-000 miles. I have no way of telling though. Back then I probably ran more than I rode.

So I bought a Specialized Sequoia around 20 years ago. It’s had many names but lately I am calling it The Mule. It’s original odometer died. I didn’t know you could re-enter the old mileage, but I had over 6,000 miles on it. Since then The Mule had carried me over 34,450 miles.

I was beating The Mule up by riding it in all kinds of weather so I needed a back up. Eleven years ago I bought my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent. I rode Big Nellie almost exclusively for 6 or 7 years, including many winter nights on my wind trainer. As of today, it has 34,350 miles on it.

About six years ago, I bought Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. It’s a folding travel bike. Although I spec’ed it to have the same geometry as The Mule, it’s little wheels make it hard on my back. Pain be damned it now has 10,200 miles on it.

Add them up. Sometime on Saturday or Sunday, I broke 75,000 miles on my three bikes. I really wish now that I had kept track of the miles on the Trek and the Raleigh. I sound a little like Mickey Mantle in his dying days when he said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Bikes don’t last forever. Pretty soon I will have to figure out what to replace my fleet with. Buying cars is pretty easy. I’ve been buying cars since 1978. VW Golf, Saturn Wagon, Mazda MPV, Mitsubishi Lancer, and three Honda Accords. What I’ve learned is that when I need a new car, I’ll buy an Accord. Repeat every 10-13 years. (I’m good until 2010.)

Buying bikes is hard. I’ve never owned a mountain bike. Or a touring bike with 26 inch wheels. Or a short wheel base recumbent. Or a tadpole trike. Which one do I want? The answer, of course, is “Yes.”

If I’m going to ride another 75,000 miles, I’d better get to the bike shop and start test riding. Something tells me my three steeds will die from exhaustion before I do.

 

Big Nellie Gets Populaire

The weather forecast for today was pretty darn awesome: 60s, sunny, breezy, low humidity. I had a choice: go for a bike ride or lie in an hammock all day. It was a tough decision, but since I don’t have a hammock, I decided to go for a bike ride.

I wanted to ride the full Vasa ride. This is a metric century (100 kilometers), mostly in eastern Montgomery County and Northwest DC. This is upscale suburban territory. I looked high and low for my cue sheet for that ride and came up empty. During my search I found the cue sheet to a Populaire ride that was held in January. (Populaires are rides that randonneurs do to entice otherwise sane people into their cult of long distance bike riding.)

This particular Populaire was also a metric century but it started five miles further from my house. I decided to go for it; I could always turn around if I was feeling overwhelmed. (Yeah, like I have that much common sense!) The Populaire goes into western Montgomery County which has more wooded areas and much more farmland. It’s also pretty darned hilly.

Which bike should I take? Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, is super comfortable which is perfect for long rides. The only problem is that it is not very good on hills. Come to think of it neither am I. Big Nellie got the call.

Off we went, taking hilly Fort Hunt Road to Alexandria to get acclimated to the art of spinning up a hill. (Recumbent riders have to spin like maniacs to climb hills. They can’t get out of the saddle like riders of conventional bikes nor can they use their arms to muscle their bike.)  Once in Alexandria, I took the Mount Vernon Trail all the way to the 14th Street Bridge. It was well before 9 am and a little chilly so traffic on the MVT was mercifully light.

We crossed into DC on the 14th Street Bridge. Winds were blowing hard from the northwest raising white caps on the Potomac River below. Normally, this would irritate me since we were heading directly into the wind for 50+ miles, but today I took it in stride. We came upon a police barricade along Ohio Drive. It was part of the preparations for Rolling Thunder, the Memorial Day descent of a bazillion motorcycles on DC. It was early so the police didn’t protest when we rode around their sawhorses.

As we passed the Watergate, some geese were milling about at the rivers edge. They had a nice brood of goslings so I stopped to take a picture. Then onward to the Capital Crescent Trail. In a tree between the trail and the river, I spotted several cormorants. They look like Seuss birds.  We left the CCT and encountered a group of 20 cyclists blocking the bridge to cross the C&O Canal. They spotted me coming and parted with hellos. They must have known we were bound for glory.

We continued through the Palisades neighborhood of DC on MacArthur Boulevard. I stopped at a Safeway for a big bottle of water. I had packed two Ziploc bags with peanut M&Ms. (I got the idea of eating nuts on a bike ride from my friend Florencia. She once did the 50 States ride on a brutally hot day, eating nothing but almonds. Everyone around her was suffering as she did the ride with little apparent distress. Could it be the almonds or the fact that she is a fitness goddess? Since I am not a fitness god, I decided it was the almonds. So I decided to use peanuts. The chocolate was a bonus.)

We rumbled along and left the flats of MacArthur for Persimmon Tree Road, which begins with a  bumpy uphill section. I decided to ditch my pride and dropped into my granny gear, so named because even my grannies (both of whom died in1965) could pedal it. We rode past Congressional Country Club and through Potomac Village. The modest hills combined with the headwind were making for an honest day’s work.

West of Potomac Village, the climbing gets serious. River Road is a series of half mile downhills followed by half mile uphills. The uphills won. After eight miles of this foolishness, we left River Road for farm roads of western Montgomery County. Sugarland Road had a concrete center with all kinds of potholes. The transitions to the asphault  edge of the road were nasty and would have caused me to crash so we stayed on the concrete.

We road past Poolesville Maryland toward Boyds. The scenery became more wooded and hillier still. I started having doubts about that hammock. Somewhere along the line I missed a turn. I ended up on Clopper Road, a road that I have heard of but that was not on my cue sheet. After checking the map on my phone, we were back on course, after climbing a half mile hill. (At least the pavement was smooth.) I had heard that Peach Tree Road was a hilly bitch, but I found it to be anticlimactic in that regard. It did deliver some of the nicest country riding I’ve done in years. My northwest passage ended up at a diner where I stopped for lunch. The burger and fries were no match for my appetite.

Peach Tree Road - Not Too Shabby
Peach Tree Road – Not Too Shabby

The course doubled back from this point and I found that the headwind was now a tailwind, albeit one with the occasional swirl that made high speed descents a little unpredictable The big advantage of Big Nellie’s long wheel base is the fact that it tracks like it’s on rails on fast descents. I liken riding downhill on this bike to street luge.

We luged our asses off. When we weren’t luging the tailwind pushed us along a long flat section of Peach Tree, which we stayed on for many more miles on the return trip. I even saw some peach orchards, a nice bonus.

Poolesville with its ugly little residential developments was a bit of a shock after so much bucolic loveliness. I didn’t stay to check the real estate listings. We bombed along through farmer’s fields and past a wild life sanctuary or four. My return route put me back on River Road a few miles to the west of where I had left it earlier. We banged a wicked looey and headed for Potomac Village. I was dreading the long hills, but Big Nellie used the tailwind to full advantage. I rode my brakes on most of the descents, one of which had us going 40 miles per hour (at least that was what the speedometer said before I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road).

We stopped at Glen Echo Park to celebrate the finish of the Populaire with another baggie of M&Ms. Nom. Nom.

20+ miles to go. Even with a tailwind this was work. The trails along the river were packed with people enjoying the weather. We weaved our way at low-ish speeds, frustrated that we were wasting a tailwind. Near the cormorant tree, a police helicopter came roaring past over the river, He was about level with the tree tops and banking into a turn to follow the river. Of course, it was possible that Broderick Crawford was riding shotgun, but I digress.

We plodded along, stuck behind one runner or cluster of slow riders after another. Back on Ohio Drive we rolled along amid the thousands of motorcycles parked all over the place. Suddenly, I was hit by a cloud; a car on the side of the road must have been the bongmobile.

The ride across the river on the 14th Street Bridge was a bit of a balancing act. The winds were stronger than ever pushing us to the left as I checked out the even bigger white caps below.

Normally, this kind of wind makes for a fast ride down the MVT to home but this was a Pleasant Valley Sunday and the trail was just a mess of people. I managed not to hit a single one, but the effort cost me the benefits of a tailwind. Not to be cheated, a young woman in full racing kit blew past me without warning as I was passing two pedestrians. I yelled at her, my only outburst of the day. (Digression no. 1: I refrained from cussing out the driver of a black Mercedes who laid on his horn as he came upon me on MacArthur Boulevard. Instead, I jumped onto the side path as we came to a stop sign. You, Mr. Asshat, can stop for the sign. I am now exempt.) (Digression no. 2: It’s a beautiful spring day and you are driving a $100,000 automobile. Can’t you just appreciate it for what it is without pissing other people off?)

South of Old Town I spotted three people under a tree fixing a flat. It was John (@dirteng) from Friday Coffee Club. We’ve done 2 centuries together, both involving John’s other past time, enjoying craft beers. John was repairing his friend Alex’s flat while John’s wife Kate looked on. Alex’s tire was a super tight fit, not unlike the tires on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. John tried and tried. Then I had a go using the tricks I have been forced to adopt in order to change Little Nellie’s tires. Usually, it takes me 15 minutes to get the last bit of tire bead over the rim, but this time it only took few minutes. (John loosen it up.)

Having done my good deed for the day, I rode on. South of Old Town, we rode past a little kid with an ear-to-ear smile riding his new bike with training wheels. You’re doing great kid. (He probably hasn’t crashed yet. That will wipe that smile off his face. Life is like a bike ride, kid.)

For my last hurrah, I left the MVT and climbed the short steep hill on Park Terrace Drive. It put hair on my chest. Okay, the hair was already there, but it did manage to put a hurt in my knees.

I made it home with over an hour of daylight to spare. To celebrate our 107 mile adventure, I took out the trash, fed the birds, and watered my tomato plants.

Tomorrow, I’m buying a hammock.

Tailwind Sucker and Other Foolishness

I’ve been riding a bike for longer than most readers of this blog have been alive. One thing that astounds me is the fact that I still am routinely suckered in by a tailwind. You know the feeling when you are zipping along effortlessly on a bike and your brain says, “Damn, I got it going today.” Then you turn around and find out that you were being pushed along by a fierce tailwind. My college friends Becca and Susan used to mock me for being gullible. They had it right.

This has been a week of threats. The looming threat of thunderstorms. Well, it boomed a little last night after I went to bed, but my commutes have been mostly rain free. Except for tonight. I was doing okay for the first few miles. There were some towering thunderclouds hanging about, but nothing to worry about. (I had reason to worry. I was on a steel bike, with a steel u-lock and a metal laptop. I was a lightning magnet.)  I should have been more concerned about the rain though. As I passed under the 14th Street bridge I felt a few drops. Cyclists coming from the airport ahead of me were stopping under the bridges I had yet to go under. As I cleared the last one, I saw it: a squall line running from east to west across the Potomac River. I rode right into it. The wind was blowing the rain into my face. The cold water felt pretty good though. As I turned to head due west at Gravelly Point I could see the rain coming down sideways. A few minutes later I emerged from the back end of the line and all was copacetic.  Once I cleared the airport, I had some tree cover to cut the headwind. Live was good.

DSCN2306Somebody placed a series of signs along the trail the other day. They had lost their keys. The signs showed that even when an inconvenience comes, some people still have a sense of humor. As the good doctor once said, “It’s fun to have fun but you have to know how.”

Today was a four-regular day. I saw Three Step Runner and Hoppy Guy in the morning. In the evening I saw Bent Ankle Biker and French Braid Girl. French Braid Girl has been to the beach; her arms were bronze. I actually have a couple of other people in mind for regular status. One is a man who I see walking along the trail across the DC monuments. He takes his time and picks up trash as he goes. He always says “Hello.” The other is a guy on a blue mountain bike. He has two small panniers on a rack on the back. He lives down near me. The bike looks like a beater bike except that the tires are smooth and he has an aero bar on the front. He hauls ass on that thing.

When I left the office last night, a colleague, noting the hot and muggy weather outside said, “You’re not riding home in this weather, are you?” My response was, “It beats the hell out of January.” I might have added February, March and April to that.

One of the best things about riding in warm weather is the transitions. I don’t have to put all those extra layers of clothing on. Shirt, shorts, socks, shoes. GO,

Tomorrow’s a no-go. My son is having his wisdom teeth out so I will be working from home to make sure he doesn’t have any problems. I am looking forward to a nice long ride this weekend. Maybe I’ll take Big Nellie out and make vroom vroom noises at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle riders.

The Not-so-bad Monday

When the weather turns from warm dry spring days to swampy summertime here in DC, we get afternoon thunderstorms. Prior to spending a summer in DC in 1980, I’d never witnessed the wrath of a DC thunderstorm.  They are like a special effects movie. Find a good vantage point, sit back and enjoy the show.

Big Nellie’s foam seat is not the best thing to sit on during one of these downpours. Since LIttle Nellie is fresh out of drydock, I decided to ride her in today. Like yesterday’s ride, it was a brisk jaunt, even with the extra weight of a couple of panniers.  

Except for a few mallards and Canada geese, wildlife took the day off. Do bald eagles telecommute?  Closer to DC I rode into a light mist. Twas pleasant and downright hydratin’.

The Hoppy Runner, Hardware Store Guy, And Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon made guest appearances.  I broke Bob out of deep thought; he was probably pondering weighty Internet law issues or, maybe, what doughnut to have when he reached the office. Or, maybe, like me, he goes into a trance-like autopilot when he rides the well worn path to the office.

As I went up the steep top part of the hill to Rosslyn, my new chain and cassette decided to misbehave. The chain wouldn’t sit on the big cog and made a nasty sound. I dismounted and checked it out. Of course, everything looked fine once I had stopped. The episode was especially annoying because Little Nellie’s drive train had worked perfectly for the 45 miles I had ridden since picking her up at Spokes. I guess I’ll stop back in on the way home and have them look things over.

On the ride home I spotted Mark the Dismal Scientist and Eric the Nine Hour Layer. That made it a five-regular day which is probably some kind of record. The ride home was a jaunty one (using the word “jaunt” twice in a blog post is also a record).  I tested the naughty gears again a couple of times and they refused to be repaired by the my power of telepathy. I stopped at Spokes and they tweaked the rear derailler. I rode up a hill on Fort Hunt Road to give it a test. There was a bit of skip in one of the gears but everything worked, more or less. I made it home without a hideous crash.

The hoped for show of nature’s climactic fury didn’t happen so I will save the popcorn for tomorrow evening.

Lost and Found

After wasting most of the day expecting rain and getting little, I decided to take Little Nellie out for a test ride. Little Nellie is my Bike Friday folding bike. It was in the shop for some TLC. After I put on a new cassette, the good folks at Spokes Etc. at Belle Haven, my LBS (local bike shop), put on some new chain rings and a new chain and some new cables and housing, and new brake pads. They also put some lube around my bottom bracket.

I expected to go ten miles. Which led to another ten and another. It sure is nice to have a bike that works properly. And the click-click-click sound that happened whenever I pedaled hard was gone (thanks to the bottom bracket lube).

I rode to Fort Hunt Park then down to Mount Vernon. I stopped to check out the massive bald eagle nest on the edge of Fort Hunt but I couldn’t find it. It was completely obscured by leaves. Closer to Mount Vernon, I head two ospreys cavorting in the sky above. I could only see one and he was putting on quite a show.

My ride took me to a loop and a figure eight on the roads beyond the Mount Vernon estate. The streets are calm and well maintained. Sometimes I pick up a stray golf ball along the road at Mount Vernon Country Club. It is only fair that I do so since I lost dozens playing incredibly incompetent golf as a kid.

The weather was warm and a little muggy. This may have helped my disposition. I am truly sick of riding in cold weather. So it was time to get my yayas out.

When I got home I told Mrs. Rootchopper that that was the best bike ride I’d had in months. After my struggles on the ride to and from Baltimore, I was having some doubts about my biking competence. It’s a wonder what some warm air and an asthma-free day will do for your legs. 

 

Bike to Work Day 2013

The weather report was perfect. I had to work. Despite the fact that I didn’t get home from a business trip on Thursday until 10 p.m., I decided to ride to work for the 61st time this year on Friday. 14,600+ people decided to give it a go as well. Friday was Bike to Work Day here in DC.

Little Nellie was in the shop. Big Nellie would be hard to park if my colleagues participated in the festivities of the day. The Mule got the call.

As soon as I pulled it down from its hook, I could tell the headset was loose. I only had one headset wrench so I snugged it up and hoped for the best. The steering felt off but it worked. Onward! (Nothing says Bike to Work Day like a good crash, I always say.) Instead of taking the 3-mile bee line, a diagonal route to the Mount Vernon Trail, I took the 4-mile route, straight to the MVT and then a 90 degree turn toward DC. Shortly after making the turn I spotted a group of people under a canopy. It was the good folks from Spokes Etc., my local bike store, staffing a pit stop. I had registered for the Rosslyn pit stop was near my office, but I pulled in to say hello and asked them to check my headset.

After thanking them, I was off headed northwest on the MVT. No bald eagles could be seen,but the warm weather and the green canopy made for a perfect ride. In Old Town, I took South Royal Street, which I don’t normally do, so that I could swing by the Old Town pit stop at Royal and East King Streets in front of City Hall. It was hopping at a little after 7. Rather than get caught up in the festivities, I took a couple of pix and headed out again. I only had so much room in my panniers for free handouts after all.

From Alexandria to DC, I found myself in one cluster of riders after another. Mostly they were newbies. I could tell this because regular riders are usually faster than me and I was doing a lot of passing. Everyone was having a good time and riding with care except for two impatient riders on racing bikes who sped past me without warning. One did this as I was passing a rider nearly forcing me to crash. I yelled out at him, “You know better!” I wanted to say more, using words and phrases that began with “F” but I didn’t. (Next Monday, I’m letting the F dogs run!)

Along the way I saw the French Braid Girl and the Hardware Store Guy. It’s nice to see that my regulars were not deterred by the crowds. I expected to find a back up at the one lane underpass at the Memorial Bridge, but it was a only ten-second wait to get through.

Unlike last year, the Rosslyn pit stop had few people that I knew. Many of my #bikedc associates were at Freedom Plaza in DC or Friday Coffee Club. I did run into Mark (@dismalscientist) and Shawn (@Shawnofthedread). Also, Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon (@rcannon100) was there volunteering at the swag table. Good to see them all.

DSCN2280
Bob Cannon at the Rosslyn Pit Stop

Instead of heading for home after work, I headed up a long hill on Wisconsin Avenue to Cathedral Heights where my daughter goes to high school. Her final choral concert started at 7. With time to kill and a belly to fill, I ate some pizza and beer at 2 Amys. I would have gone elsewhere, but I didn’t want to end up riding back up the hill and getting all sweaty. Mrs. Rootchopper (not to mention the rest of the audience) might not approve.

After supper, I glided all the way to the school. Weee. I locked up my bike, changed into my new dark blue Bike to Work Day 2013 t-shirt and went in to enjoy the show. The show was terrific as usual. I nearly caused my daughter to laugh mid-song as she caught me laughing.  at something. (I looked away for the rest of the number until she got her composure back.) Following school tradition, the various choral groups all took the stage together with non-chorus seniors and alumni. They sang Bruce Springsteen’s My City of Ruins. Near the end my daughter started to cry. This being the senior’s last concert, of course, all the other senior girls near her started in with the tears too. Awww.

After the show, I dropped a pannier in the trunk of Mrs. Rootchopper’s car and headed for home. I rolled down 29th and Calvert Streets, about a mile with only a couple of pedal rotations. Weee.

I continued my downhill folly into Rock Creek Park on the park’s trail A runner coming up the hill from the park was running on my side of the trail causing me to brake until he stepped aside. Dude, it’s not London, don’t go messing with my roll.

Into the park in the dark I sped.  I had no trouble with hunger, because every five seconds I rode into a swarm of gnats. It was so bad I held my breath and had to pick them out of my eyes. I heard a splash to my right. A yearling deer was clumsily running through the creek. On I rode, passing a couple of oncoming bikes that were without headlights. Newbies, don’t learn the hard way, spring for a light. $35 bucks is cheaper than an ER bill.

I followed the river to the 14th Street bridge dancing with the tour buses and blasting through more gnat clouds. Once over the river, the gnats thinned out a pit. I plucked them out of my eye lids, eye brows, teeth, and nose. Ick.

Heading for home on the MVT, there were ninjas all over the place, some near the airport were toddlers. Sadly, if brains are acquired genetically, they will not be Mensa members, because their parents are idiots. I was glad I didn’t ride my recumbent because on The Mule my head is facing down, allowing me to use the visor on my helmet to shield my eyes from the car headlights when the MVT runs next to the GW Parkway.

I was riding into a headwind both ways today but didn’t much notice or care. Some of this was from adrenaline from seeing so many, many people riding today. When I could see I was clipping along at 15 miles per hour, not bad for an old fart on a Mule.

South of Old Town the trail gets mighty dark. Four men walked across the trail in front of me in Belle Haven Park. They were wearing white shirts that lit up when my headlight landed on them. A hundred yards later, I rode around a bend in the trail and saw two bright lights ahead. The lights were some sort of critter who quickly darted into the underbrush along the side of the trail. I hoped it wasn’t a skunk. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Once past the critter, I went on autopilot. It was such a beautiful night for a ride. I really should ride at night more often.

I pulled in to home at 10, bug-covered, but happy. Another loverly ride to work. I really should do this more often, don’t you think. How about Monday? Don’t mind if I do.

My heartfelt thanks to the people who got up way before dawn to set up the pit stops and support all the riders.

To see the pix I took, take a look over on my Flickr page.

Chips and Queso, Ceteris Non Paribus

Saturday brought the last ride on Little Nellie for a while. I rode to my daughter’s last high school lacrosse game. She played goalie. As a parent I had mixed feelings. Most of the shots she would stop would hit flesh and turn into ugly bruises after the game. You want her to play well, but you hate to see the consequences. Ironically, this is the first season of high school sports that she played injury free, despite having to wear ice bags every night.

At one point on the ride to the game, I spent a half mile dodging several dozen runners who clogged the Rock Creek Trail. They were running side by side, hopping unpredictably to avoid puddles, refusing to move over to let me pass and generally being a pain in the ass. I was pretty impressed that I didn’t collide with any of them. This sort of thing is sadly not all that unusual in the summers around these parts. Soon it will be hot and muggy and these folks will be on treadmills until September.

The ride home was pleasant enough. The skies never carried out their threat to rain like a bitch.

Sunday was devoted to bike maintenance. Little Nellie barely made it up to Calvert Street from Rock Creek Trail. Her chain was skipping across the cogs at unpredictable intervals. I managed to maintain forward momentum all the way up the hill, and the subsequent ride up 29th Street. I installed a new Capreo cassette myself. Then took the bike to my local bike shop for a bunch of other repairs including a new chain, two new sprockets (front gears), three new cables and housings, a headset adjustment, re-lubing of the bottom bracket, and new front brake pads.

After the maintenance was taken care of, I sat down to watch sports on TV with my son. We watched a Nationals game and a Capitals game. This was hard work so we ate chips and queso dip to keep our strength up.

This morning I felt like a sumo wrestler. I wobbled out to the shed and mounted Big Nellie. I swear she groaned. I used to eat anything I wanted and lost weight. Of course, I was running 70 miles per week at the time. That’s the caloric equivalent of about 280 miles of riding. Ain’t gonna happen, folks. Gotta stop snacking with the homeboy.

The ride to work was less than vigorous. I saw two of my regulars, Hoppy Runner and Hardware Store Man, on the way to work. Some bike commuters had the audacity to pass Big Nellie near the south end of the airport. Big Nellie does not like such rudeness. Suffice it to say, that Big Nellie put the hammer down.  Street luge in the cool of the morning will put hair on your fairing.

An amazing thing happened at the Rosslyn Circle of Death. I have to cross the I-66 off ramp where it intersects North Lynn Street at a traffic light. They never stop when the light turns red. Today, they did. I felt like getting off my bike and congratulating the drivers. Such is life in the zone of certain death.

After leaving the office, I stopped to chat with Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon of the FCC and the FCC. Over the last year a Hispanic man had set up home in the brush along the trail near the Rosslyn Circle of Death. He had meticulously built a home of sorts by lashing together a lattice work of sticks and other materials. It was pretty ingenious. He occasionally played a violin while sitting on a bench next to the trail. Somebody decided that his squatting was not to be and they bulldozed his home of sticks. I hope he finds someplace to live. He added character to the trail.

On the Mount Vernon Trail I was passed by Eric the Nine Hour Lawyer. Eric works at my former office and rides to work during the spring, summer and fall. I figure he works nine hours because I only see him riding home.

During both legs of my commute, I checked out the trunks of trees along the way. No cicadas yet. We are only days away from a spectacular invasion of a few bazillion creepy flying bugs.

Just as I passed the secondary runway at National Airport, a jet took off over the trail behind me. For a moment, I thought that the roar was chips and queso hitting the afterburners on Big Nellie’s engine.

South of Old Town, I spotted a massive motorcade of police vehicles. It was the escort of a pack of bicyclists riding the Police Unity Tour. Kate, a fellow #bikedc blogger, and DC police officer also rode in the event as she did last year. It raises awareness of police officers killed in the line of duty and for a memorial and museum in their honor.

DSCN2268

A few miles later I pulled over to check out the Morningside bald eagle nest. It is almost completely obscured now by the leaves on the trees. I waited for a few minutes and then I saw the flapping of wings from a large bald eagle in the nest. It was probably feeding its eaglets.

I moved on and heard a strange sounding bird flying overhead. It was a large osprey, with a bright white underbelly, flying in swoops over the Parkway. It was putting on quite a show.

The ride home was effortless. Could it be that chips and queso are miracle bicycling food? That would be awesome. Sadly, ceteris was not paribus. My easy ride home was attributable to a strong tailwind, the kind that turns in Big Nellie’s fairing into a sail.

Latin spoils everything.

Cops and Goslings

Today was my first day back on the bike after Sunday’s mess of a century ride. Monday and Tuesday were car commutes that allowed me to watch my daughter play lacrosse at schools in Potomac Maryland. (One loss, one win, no injuries.)

The ride in aboard Little Nellie was uneventful. I left a little early and saw the Broken Ankle Biker and French Braid Girl. A red light runner failed to hit me at the Rosslyn Circle of Doom. Free financial advice for Arlington County: if you want to increase revenues just place a traffic cop at this light. You’ll write dozens of tickets for red light running.  Or you can take the chance that somebody gets killed and his or her family sues the county for gross negligence. There will be plenty of hostile witnesses.

The radar promised a nasty ride home but the rain turned out to be light and the winds tolerable.  As I came to the 14th Street Bridge underpass I spotted my first goslings of the year. These babies were fuzzy and their feathers had a tint of green in them. The real fun now will be watching them grow.

Goslings!!!!!
Goslings!!!!!

A mile later I came upon five Park Police cars parked on and near the trail near the Daingerfield Island Marina. The officers stood on the trail having a calm discussion. My working theory is that one of them had extra tickets to tonight’s Nats game.

The streets of Old Town were just wet enough to lift the oil off the pavement. This gave me an excuse to go slowly which my still-tired  legs appreciated. Of course, I rarely need any help riding slowly. I am one seriously lethargic bike commuter.

South of Old Town, I came upon an all too frequent sight, a car crash at the intersection of Belle View Boulevard and the Parkway. I saw one damaged  car and some people standing about and two police cars. What did the car hit? As I rolled on, I saw tire tracks in the grass leading from the intersection to the trail. When I arrived at home, I received a text message from Reba, fellow Mount Vernon bike commuter and Friday Coffee Clubber. The other car in the collision had crossed the trail and ended up in the woods! I never even saw it.

Like the Rosslyn Circle of Death this intersection cries out for a re-design. A traffic light or traffic circle is desperately needed. Alas, the historic integrity of the Parkway must be preserved.