Powerless

For a week in December, last week was pretty hardcore. It started with a gentle 12-mile ride on Sunday. Then five days of bike commuting and a side trip to Friday Coffee Club added 152 miles. On Saturday, I rode the inaugural Cider Ride. I parked for free in East Potomac Park and rode 2 1/2 miles to and from the start. My total mileage for the day was 65. So my seven-day total was 229 miles, every bit of it on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist.

Dang did I need some rest. Little Nellie’s 20-inch wheels can really beat me up. Thankfully, the weather gods gave us a nasty bit of wintry weather in the form of an ice storm on Sunday. All was going as planned. I was getting plenty of rest. Reading. Drinking tea. And feeling rather chipper. After a long day of idling, I went to bed. During the night, big chunks of ice landing on the deck and patio beneath our bedroom window kept waking Mrs. Rootchopper and me up. One of these landed around 2:55 a.m. We tried to spot its remnants outside but we couldn’t see them from the window and there was no way we were going out in the storm to check things out. So we went back to bed. Then at 3:00, BAM, an explosion, followed by quiet and dark.

Apparently an electrical transformer blew. It knocked out the power on our side of the street, and nowhere else nearby. We’d been through this before when the derecho hit in the summer of 2012. That time, our power was out for ten days. The temperature in our living room rose to 94 very muggy degrees. This time would difference.

We called the outage in to Dominion Electric Power, went back to bed, and hoped for the best. By morning, the temperature in the house was 63 and falling. I had planned to work from home on Monday. With ice on the roads and trails, I decided not to put my faith in Dominion or any of my bikes, hopped in the car, and headed for the office. If you think I’m riding 30 miles round trip on ice to arrive home to a freezing house, you’ve got another thing coming.

After a day of working with fingers crossed, I drove home and found my house to be DARK.

It was 55 inside. Mrs. Rootchopper showed up and we went to dinner. A big burrito and margarita later were back in the cold house. Rather than sit there and shiver, we went to the movies. We saw Philomena, which struck this Irish American, erstwhile altar boy, and long lapsed Catholic as all too close to the bone for a variety of reasons. In any event, it was a relief to see a movie without CGI monsters and superheroes.

We arrived home at 11:30. DARK and COLD. We pulled out the sleeping bags, put on our warmest sleeping duds and went to bed.

It was 51 when we woke up.

I drove to work again. During the day, an Associated Press reporter (oddly, from Pittsburgh) contacted me to ask about the outage. I told him my tale. Maybe I’ll be in the papers again. (This interview thing is getting kind of surreal.)

I spent the day refreshing the outage information from the Dominion website. Fewer than two percent of houses in Fairfax County where I live were without power. The number dropped to one percent over the day, then increased!  At 3 o’clock some 36 hours after the outage began the blue dot on the map near my house disappeared. I called home and my voice mail had a message from Dominion. It didn’t say my power was restored, it said something to the effect that if I was still having problems to call them.

I drove home to investigate and saw the porch light on. Yay. The temperature inside was 63 and rising.

While I appreciate the efforts of the people who got our power restored, I fail to understand why our spot on the electrical grid seems to be particularly prone to outages. You’d think Dominion would identify weak spots in its distribution network and fix them. You’d apparently think wrong.

I’m working from home tomorrow. I expect that ice will keep me off the bike (outdoors, at least) for another couple of days before riding to work and Coffee Club on Friday. It looks like this will be, at most, a 32 mile week.

I suppose I needed the rest.

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One thought on “Powerless

  1. We live in a “weak spot” in Reston — the least bit of ice or wind seems to take things off line. We ask these same questions each time it happens. We were fortunate this time — only out for about 6 hours, and the roads were clear so we could go somewhere else to get warm. I comfort myself by saying, “Well at least I’m not paying for electricity for those hours,” and then put on another layer. Glad you’re back on-line and thawing.

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