March by the Numbers

After two really frustrating months, I managed to bounce back nicely in March. The first few days were rides in the basement. I estimate that they were the equivalent of 59 miles. all on my Tour Easy recumbent.

Once the ice melted on the roads and trails I got back to bike commuting in earnest. I rode The Mule to work 14 times and 425 miles. I rode Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, to work once. It was a 38.5 mile commute because I ncluded two laps around Hains Point on the warmest evening of the not so new year. So my 15 bike commutes total 464 miles.

The rest of my rides were weekend errand rides.

All told I rode 614.5 miles in March. For the year I have 32 bike commutes. My total mileage is 1,426.5 miles.

Sidebar: Today was an interesting commute that could have cost me my life. The last quarter mile of my commute involves riding down a sidewalk from the Mount Vernon Trail to the garage in my building. As I was about to enter a crosswalk leaving the MVT, a driver of a big black SUV blew through the red light and took a right on red without stopping. He looked left to see if he could beat the traffic coming from that direction but never glanced at anybody who might be about to use the crosswalk coming from his right. This, I believe, is exactly how my wife was hit nearly four years ago. Of course, Mr. SUV was on his cell phone. Two blocks later it happened again. Another black SUV. Another driver looking left and turning right. If I was half as careless as either of these drivers my wife would be making funeral arrangements right now.

Be careful out there.

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Philadelphia (and) Eagles

Yesterday, Mrs. Rootchopper and I made a trip to Philadelphia to visit our son. The original plan was to bring him the dresser from his bedroom at home but the dresser didn’t fit in my fine Japanese motor car. So we drove up and took him to Ikea. Here are some random observations about the trip.

  • I hate I 95 so much I add 20 minutes to the trip and drive US 301 instead.
  • The number of potholes increases exponentially when you cross into Pennsylvania. This could be because Pennsylvania is on an invisible climactic border. Or maybe, the state of Pennsylvania is clueless about road construction and maintenance. My money is on the latter.
  • We got lost in Philadelphia. We did get to see boathouse row on the Schuylkill River. (Did you know that Schuykill is Dutch for “How do you spell that, mom?”
  • We found my son’s apartment building. Suffice it to say that he, a 23 year old,  has a much nicer place than did until I turned 29.
  • While walking around for brunch I took notice of all the bike lanes and the cyclists. The Center City area looks pretty bike friendly. They even have planters that double as bike racks (or vice versa).

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  • We went shopping at Ikea and WalMart. I HATE big box stores with a passion.
  • The streets of Philadelphia do not have potholes. They have craters.
  • You can tell when a car is being driven by out of towners. They stop for red lights or stop signs.
  • There a many streets in Philadelphia that are too narrow for cars. I think this is genius.

The drive home was not so bad. It did however mean that I would be operating on 5 1/2 hours of sleep today.

I woke up and rode The Mule to my physical therapy session. The numbness in my right foot was much worse during the car ride yesterday. I think it is fair to say that the PTs are stumped. Why am I not getting better? No worries. I have done my last session with them because insurance doesn’t like PT very much.

On the way to the PT office I spotted a bald eagle in the Belle Haven nest. He/she was alone.

After PT, the ride to work was pretty nice. Temperatures were in the high 40s but I had a tailwind. Just what I need on a Monday morning. At the troll bridge undernearth the TR Bridge I spotted a heron perched in a trailside bush. It was had its head tucked so that its beak was under its wing.

It was in the mid-60s went I left the office so I took off my jacket and wind pants and rode in shorts and arm warmers. The wind was blowing everywhichway but I didn’t care. It was sunny out. There was pollen. Yay spring.

On the way home I passed the opera singing busker at the Torpedo Factory. At the Morningside bald eagle nest I spotted an eagle perched on the edge of the nest. It launched as I came closer. Dang, it was big.

Near home I stopped to run a few errands. Once and errandonneur always an errandonneur. I picked up a16957277166_f2120b5314_z newly sharpened lawn mower blade. The edge on this bad boy was so sharp that I strapped it to my back rack instead of sticking it in a pannier. I was fortunate not to crash while this nasty bit of metal was on my bike.

I arrived at home with all major arteries intact. I’ll call that a successful bike commute.

Perfect, Pants, and Cheese Fries in OT

Yesterday I received my new fancy rain pants in the mail. Today, the weather gods cooperated and I got to try them out. They fit me a tad tight which is to say they fit me like bicycle pants. My previous rain pants were of the hiking persuasion. I had my doubts that my new pants would get the job done but they performed flawlessly.

The ride to work was mostly wet and gray. The rain stopped for a few minutes around the ten mile mark then resumed.

I rode into DC to attend Friday Coffee Club. At the traffic light at Maine Avenue I ran into (not literally) Mary, Coffeeneur, Randonista, Errandonnista, and co-founder of Friday Coffee Club. It’s not every day you meet a celebrity, Sadly, I forgot to ask for her autograph, At the Washington Monument she hung a looie and I banged a right. She beat me to Swings House of Caffeine by a couple of minutes. I don’t mind taking a longer route since I got to ride in front of the White House which I regard as a pretty cool way to start the day.

For a crummy weather day, Swings was pretty crowded. Over 20 bike commuters showed up. I knew all but a couple of them, not bad for an introvert.

The ride to work featured a rare Perfect on the narrow TR Bridge. A Perfect means that I did not have to stop to let a DC-bound rider pass.

I planned to work until 2 then sneak out to a bar with my co-worker Allison, who, like myself, attended Boston University. We were going to watch the BU-Yale NCAA hockey playoff game. At 1 my boss and several other co-workers got all hyper and agitated about something and called a meeting for 3 pm. Lovely.

Somehow the meeting was moved up to 2:30. After 30 minutes the agitated folks decied that I would do all the work while they went home. As soon as that meeting was over, Allison was sucked into a vortex of Friday afternoon deadline anxiety.

If we ever get out of here, thought of giving it all away… (Wait, somebody else wrote that.)

Finally, we escaped the maelstrom and made it to a nearby bar. We joined the game with a little over 3 minutes remaining and the score tied 2-2. BU had a nice power play opportunity and squandered it. Then with seconds remaining in regulation, Yale committed another penalty. Then the game went into overtime.

To sustain us through the wait for OT Allison ordered some cheese fries. They were disgusting. Of course, I ate some. I needed help digesting them. So I had a few Shiner Bocks. Fortunately, BU scored a goal and my digestive system was saved from further abuse.

I rode home in my new fancy pants. They were a bit tighter thanks to the cheese fries and the Shiner Bocks.

I am presently tired. I rode over 160 miles in the last five days. Just getting to and from work. If I keep this up, I’ll be in fine shape for the mid-May bike trip from Pittsburgh to DC that I am doing with Ryan and Kevin. Ir will be perfect. I will not need fancy pants. There will be beer. I think I’ll pass on the cheese fries, though.

On a Happier Note: SHORTS!

Finally, I could leave the house wearing shorts. Goodbye wind/rain pants if only for a day. Since it was warm-ish (low 50s) and dry I could wear bicycling footwear which means I could go clipless which means “Tell Q: Send Little Nellie.”

Little Nellie for you noobs is my Bike Friday New World Tourist. It is spry and twitchy and fun to ride, except on ice and snow. It hasn’t gotten much use since November but boy was it fun to get it out on the road again. I felt like I was flying. (We won’t mention the tailwind. Okay? Good.)

It was cloudy out so sunrise was a dud, but the fair weather runners like the Hoppy Guy and the Three Step Runner were out doing their thing. The bald eagles were nowhere to be seen. Sea gulls and Canada geese seemed to be competing to see which could make the most noise.

When I left work it was in the 70s. I decided to head to Hains Point for a few laps. It turned out that my morning tailwind was now a significantly stronger headwind. 15 miles of it awaited me. I did the only logical thing. I tacked on 8 miles to my commute. As I rolled down Buckeye Drive in East Potomac Park, I heard my name called. I turned around and met up with Chris B. and Mary. Soon we were joined by Brian and Rudy. It was a pre-Friday Coffee Club roll out. Or in. Or around. Sadly, nobody brought and coffee or fritters. We made do by riding down to Hains Point. Nobody complained about the headwind. After one lap, Brian, who had done an indoor bike race yesterday evening, peeled off and Dave joined in. Another lap happened. It was only a couple of laps but everybody was in such a good mood.

A friend of mine left town a month ago. Her last words to me were “Be happy.” For the second week in a row, I seem to be fulfilling her aspiration for me.

I decided to head for home. 12 miles of headwind. I didn’t even care. The warm air felt so good on my pathetically pale legs. Taking advantage of my bike’s little wheels, I weaved in and out of all the runners and walkers and scooterers on the trail. After 38 1/2 miles, my legs will be dead tomorrow. But they are happy today.

Six Months On

Six months ago today this happened. It still seems impossible. It is still pointless and impossibly sad.

As I said in that earlier post, I really didn’t know Lorena. She was a friend of a friend. About a week later, I attended a memorial celebration. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Family members, friends,and co-workers, loved ones all, rose to describe an extraordinary woman, a “warrior” in her husband’s words, who loved and supported and advised them. She made a deliberate effort day after day to make this world a better place for others. One person. One cause. One day at a time. She succeeded.

We should all live a life so well remembered.

I think about that memorial service and Lorena every single day.

You should too.

Bike Commuting Is for the Birds

Last night on the way home from work I peaked up at the Morningside bald eagle nest. (I call it that because it is close to the Morningside Drive intersection with the George Washington Parkway.)  Peaking over the edge of the nest was a white head. Cool.

This morning I rode past the nest and didn’t see anything but a couple of miles later I saw a bald eagle perched in a branch above the Belle Haven nest. (This is next to Belle Haven Country Club.) It’s the first time in months that I’ve seen eagles in both nests.

North of Daingerfield Island (so-called because it gets no respect, no respect at all) a seagull took to flight about five feet above the river’s edge. It was coming my way. What a strange sight, me rolling one way and the gull cruising the other.

Yes, folks. My commute is pretty effing awesome.

On the ride home I had to deal with some Canada geese. The geese feed on the grass that grows on either side of the Mount Vernon Trail. They aren’t all that concerned with trail traffic. Roughly across from the Washington Monument, the trail takes a dip. I rolled down the dip and into a gaggle of grazing geese. Most of them waddled away but two took to the air right in front of me. Dang, they look big when they are flying. My front wheel just managed to avoid getting caught up in one goose’s tail feathers. Honk.

The rest of today’s riding was uneventful but for the stop at Spokes Etc. to have a new cassette and chain installed on The Mule. I was hoping it would cure the roughness in my drivetrain but some crunchiness continues. Maybe a blast from a hose this weekend will clear things up.

Another Night of Advocatin’

Monday is my physical therapy day. Today’s plan: pain and humiliation. Sadly, it was a success. I felt pretty good when it was over. The pre- and post-PT morning bike commute was pretty nice despite the fact that I rode into a headwind and had to wear my holey sweater. Die winter. Die already.

The ride home was comfy. We still seem to be having a problem with fair weather commuters passing too close and too fast on the Mount Vernon Trail. If it keeps up, I will break out my bicycle death ray and do the miscreant in.

After I arrived home, I showered and changed then drove (yes, drove) the half mile to a meeting on repaving and restriping the streets near my home. I drove so as not to intimidate the locals. Fortunately, Jeff (a sometime Friday Coffee Club attendee who lives in my neighborhood) rode his bike to the meeting.  I am told by a certain Nelle Pierson that women are in the minority in #bikeDC. I don’t know where Nelle is getting her statistics from but I can’t swing a frame pump these days without hitting a woman on a bike. (Somehow that came out terribly wrong. You get the point, I hope.)  Jeff and I had company at this meeting. One attendee was a mom who bikes her toddler around these parts in a cargo bike. She was quite vocal. (Taking lessons from Nelle no doubt.) Another attendee was Linel, who I had just met on Sunday. They both sang the praises of Nelle’s Women and Bicycles program. (Follow the link and you can donate to the cause.)

The meeting was kind of a dud. The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains the roads in our neighborhoods. Since they will be re-striping anyway, the Fairfax County bike plan folks want them to add bike lanes and sharrows. This is part of the county’s bicycle master plan. A few attendees were concerned about sharrows attracting bicyclists to danger zones where bicyclists could get hurt. The thought of holding drivers (such as themselves) accountable for incompetent operation of cars never seems to occur to these folks. I refrained from making a speech about wrong-headed contributory negligence laws, lax enforcement of traffic laws, the nine people I know who have been injured or killed by motor vehicles in the DMV in the last four years, and suspending of licenses to drivers who can’t see at night or in low light conditions. Next time I’m bringing pictures of my wife’s contusions.

A bigger concern was the issue that the county has roads that appear to have been designed by drunkards. Lanes and sidewalks come and go at random. Asphalt side paths meander over washboard tree roots. Two adjacent schools are not connected by a sidewalk so students have to walk in the street. Somebody. somewhere, at some point in time looked the other way or was downright incompetent when all this was being built. It was nice to see these points raised but, alas, they were not the focus of the meeting.

It was clear from the get go that the re-striping would not take away any parking spaces so the opposition was pretty mild.

Road by road. Stripe by stripe. Meeting by meeting. That’s how bike infrastructure gets built. It takes a long time. By the time Fairfax County is bicycle friendly I’ll be pushing up daisies. I hope that the inane roads of the county don’t make this anytime soon.

Springing for a Few Hours

It is so frustrating. I want to ride in warm air but the air doesn’t warm up until mid-afternoon.

I procrastinated like mad all morning. Finally, with temperatures in the mid-40s I headed out. I rode to Spokes Etc. Belle Haven shop, my local bike store. I was expecting a long line at the service area but there was none. I asked Carlos to check out my chain. It’s been making crunchy noises that no amount of cleaning and lubing can fix. Carlos declared my chain to be dead. Unfortunately, despite the lack of a line there was enough work in the queue that I’d have had to wait and hour for him to replace the chain and casette (which was also toast). So I decided to bring the bike in after work during the week. One of the best things about this shop is their willingness to squeeze in small jobs like this.

After my stop at the bike shop, I noticed that the temperature had risen into the 50s. Not warm, but warm-ish. I tweeted that I was out and about. Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon was hanging with his wife Liz and one of their foster dogs at a cafe in Del Ray about 4 miles away. I rode like the wind to join them. Well actually I rode like a gentle breeze. Fast I ain’t.

Along the way I passed a new pizza place on Belle Haven Road between Fort Hunt Road and the Mount Vernon Trail. It’s a sister store to Del Ray Pizzeria. It has an interesting menu and beaucoups beers on tap and in bottles. Just the thing for the hungry cyclist. Two caveats however. First, they have no bike racks for bike parking. Second, access from the Mount Vernon Trail involves crossing the GW Parkway at grade. This is not a lot of fun. An alternative is to take the U1 connector trail from South Washington Street to Fort Hunt Road. Take FHR to a left on Belle Haven Road.

By the time I arrived at Del Ray, where Bob and Liz were coincidentally dining, the temperature had risen into the 60s. Ahhhhh. I spent an hour or so talking to Bob and Liz. Their dog had one albino eye and one brown eye. I tried to get a picture bit he kept turning his head. Dog vanity is a bitch.

I headed home. I am pretty sure I am carrying an extra five or ten pounds because the hills on Fort Hunt Road seemed like L’Alpe d’Huez. I was so slow. Maybe I need one of those super fast Surlys like KL has. Springing for a few bucks?

Cherry Blossoms from the Sky

This week was doing so well. I had two bike commutes to start the week. Then zipless monkey conversation on Wednesday. Thursday was cool but the riding was pleasant. Then came Friday. I had been absent from Friday Coffee Club for too long. Ice on the Mount Vernon Trail and a business trip kept me away.

It was 35 degrees and raining when I left the house. No.

Then the rain turned to ice pellets. No. Just no.

We are supposed to be seeing cherry blossoms right about now.

So the ice pellets turned to snowflakes. I went with it. Lemons and lemonade. Dalai Lama Palmer plays it as it lays.

I stuck my tongue out as I rode. Time for my inner boy to come out. (I dialed it back though. In my grammar school days, I used to ride my bike down the street and jump off to see how far the bike would go before it wobbled to the ground. (Quite a long way if you are wondering.) Misery turned to play.

I arrived at coffee club with cold wet feet. I broke my SEC (Stop eating crap) rule and had a fritter. Comfort food.

Mary, Queen Errandonnista, was giving out patches. I didn’t take one but she held one up and took my picture for the historical record. Lis did take one and, true to my pathetic photography skills, I took a blurry picture.

I rode with Brian down G Street after coffee. My waterproof gloves were full of cold rain water. It was a squishy ride to work.

The ride home was better. This time of year I often bring some extra cycling gear. Yesterday I brought an extra pair of gloves. Good thing to as my morning gloves were still soaking wet.

The ride home was filled with duck quacks. In just a matter of days, the duck (mostly mallards) population has exploded. Duck weather isn’t all that good for cycling.

It is now Saturday morning. 37 degrees outside. The first full day of spring. I’m just sittin’ here doin’ time. I’d rather be riding. And seeing cherry blossoms on the trees.

Bloat and My Fusiform Gyrus

Since Sunday I have been inhaling food and beer like there is no tomorrow. (I blame the Buddha. Did you ever notice the beer belly on that dude?) On Sunday, I drank a couple of beers with my pizza at lunch. Bloat. Monday was a office happy hour. I was happy so I went and had two beers. Bloat.Tuesday was Saint Patrick’s Day. Being the decendant of assorted Gavins, Hanlons, Cairnses, and Kerwins, I did not feel the need to prove my ancestral bona fides with beer. Un-bloat.

During the day on Tuesday, I sent a text to KL apologizing for completely not recognizing her at the Swedish embassy on Sunday. This led to a flurry of texts back and forth during which KL suggested that I may have neurological issues: “You should totally get your fusiform gyrus checked out.”

Only…

in…

DC.

I raised a white flag and proposed an IRL summit. This summit was held at a watering hole in downtown DC on Wednesday evening. What we thought was going to be “a drink” turned into a four- hour remake of My Dinner with Andre. (To her credit, KL looks decidedly better than Wallace Shawn. Now that I think about it, ANYBODY looks better than Wallace Shawn, including Wallace Shawn.) Many more beers were consumed. And hummus. And burgers. Bloat. Suffice it to say that for somebody I can’t seem to recognize, KL is most excellent company. Of course, with my defective fusiform gyrus, it is conceivable that I may have been talking to just about anybody.

I expected today’s bike commute to be a slogfest complete with hangover. (Four beers are quite enough to give me a hangover. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.) Instead I woke up clear headed and ready to roll. It was a little cool outside but I had a beautiful ride to work. Of course, this included another stellar sunrise.

The rest of the ride was one of those two wheeled, hour long meditations that I love. Every so often my dream state was interupted by the sight of a bird I hadn’t seen in months. Or the realization that a beaver has been hard at work near the aptyly named beaver bridge. The water level is now up to the underside of the bridge. Or the early morning light making the monuments look more monumental. Hell, I even survived the Intersection of Doom.

The ride home was every bit as serene. In fact, I’d say that the only thing worth complaining about was the fact that fair weather bike commuters are a little rusty on their etiquette. (Call out your passes, people.)

Unless it snows like a bitch (which is not entirely out of the question) I will ride to Friday Coffee Club tomorrow. Then, this weekend I will lay off the beer. And the pizza. And the burgers. And the hummus.

And maybe I look into getting my fusiform gyrus tweaked.