My Meditation

An old friend of mine has an intense interest in eastern philosophies. Sometimes refers to my bike commute as my meditation. She didn’t know me back in the day when I ran ten miles per day. I used to embrace running for my mind more than for my body. For those of you who think I am “chill” now, you’d think I was an icebox back then.

My friend has a point. Since my bike commute doesn’t involve a nonstop war with cars, I can zone out during my ride. Often friends pass me and say hello and I don’t realize it until they are past. Sometimes I get a little carried away. This morning I rode to my physical therapy appointment. About 1 1/2 miles into the ride, I encountered a hill. Not a big one but one that requires an honest effort. I started to spin and my mind drifted from the effort. Spin, breathe, spin, breathe.

“GOOD MORNING!”

I looked up and there, not ten feet in front of me, was a woman walking a dog.

“SORRY”

Good thing she wasn’t a garbage truck.

That little trance is a place I go often. My friend is right; my commute is my meditation. There is no doubt at all that my mood is much better when I am not fighting the cold and wind and rain and just spinning along with my mind disconnected by the repetitive motion of my legs and lungs. It’s the sort of thing I can’t consciously bring about. It’s a natural side effect from the simple task of going from point A to B under my own power.

I love my meditatiion. I love my bike commute.

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Goslings!!!!

  • I write often about the bald eagles and great blue herons I see along the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work. They are pretty cool but I get even more of a kick when the babies start showing up. Today was my first sighting of goslings. There were four of them and they were just little green balls of down. This was the best I could do with my camera without getting Mom and Dad really upset.DSCN3716_850

After a few moments, they went for a swim.

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I should be seeing ducklings any day now. Then, with luck, I may see a snapping turtle laying eggs along the trail. They like to use the edge of the trail for leverage as they did a hole for the eggs with their hind feet.

I’m sure there are bike commutes somewhere that are better than mine, but I wouldn’t trade mine for any of them.

Liftoff – April by the Numbers

Well, I certainly picked up the pace in April. I rode 741 miles and rode my bike to work 20 times. I only did 121.5 miles of weekend riding spread over 6 days, including the long ride of the month: 48 miles to Bethesda Bagels and back.

It really helps that the roads are no longer covered with ice and snow. And that the weather has ever so gradually become spring like.  In addition to commuting my bikes became social machines. I used my bikes to ride to see the cherry blossoms four times. I also got back into riding to Friday Coffee Club. And for the second time I rode to a Nats game. (Bike valet is the best idea EVER!) I even rode to two happy hours. (Don’t try this at home.)  I also rode my bike to the car dealer, the physical therapist, and to local shops. My car is a really awesome driveway ornament.

The Mule is by far my best bike for ice and snow so it was nice to give it a rest and switch over to Big and Little Nellie for a change. I only rode The Mule three times to work. Big Nellie was my commuter for six rides. And Little Nellie did the remaining 11 trips to and from beautiful downtown Rosslyn.

So far this year I have ridden 2,167 1/2 miles. 74 percent of that riding has been to and from work on 52 commutes.

I feel so good I have been shopping for a new bike, my first new bike in about 7 1/2 years. It will essentially replace The Mule which will become my bad weather bike. The Mule has served me well. When I think about it, I am astounded that it has outlasted three cars I’ve owned. Not bad for a bike on clearance sale. It’s swan song will be the Pittsburgh to DC ride I am doing in about a week.

And I Didn’t Even Die

I rode to work today without a helmet on my head. I wore a silly bike hat instead. It was soft. It was comfy. It has a visor on it. Sometimes I pushed the visor up for extra dorkiness.

The weather was pretty close to perfect. I don’t remember much about the ride in except I saw Lawyer Mike roll through the intesection of doom without dying.

The ride home was MOTS. That means More of the Same. (I learned this from a TV weatherman in Boston.) Except it was warmer. And I had a tailwind. And the clouds were puffy. As I rolled south, Chris B rolled north. Hi Chris. He always salutes. Must think I’m the general.

There was a bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest in the morning and in the evening. In Belle Haven Park a little girl on a pink bike with tassles and white tires rolled across the trail in front of me. Oops. I didn’t hit her. She didn’t die.

There are little mole hills (I think) here and there along the trail near Belle Haven Boulevard. I think they are from moles. Whenever I think of moles, I think of Superman. The old black and white TV show. I loved that show. I always wondered why Superman ducked when the bad guys threw their empty pistols at him.

I stopped at the Tulane nest. There was a big bald eagle looking away from me toward the river. I took some pictures but my camera doesn’t have enough zoom on its lens. The nest is harder to see with each passing day.

I made it home. Without a helmet. I didn’t even die.

En Garde!

I really wish I had the presence of mind to take pictures while I am riding. Today I was dealing with a cold headwind and not in the mood to stop. I see some weird stuff on my way to work too.

Last night in Belle Haven Park I spotted two guys sword fighting with fake swords right next to the trail. As I passed, one guy swooshed his “sword” across the others’ abdomen. Eek.

This morning as I rode through the park, I heard a clanging sound. I looked over at the river expecting to see a worker pounding a metal fence stake into the ground. Instead I saw four men, in pairs of two, sword fighting with real metal swords. En garde!

I tweeted about the swordfighters and my friend Linel who has a similar commute mentioned another odd sighting. She saw a guy who hooks his electric guitar up to his car stereo and rocks out in the Belle Haven Park parking lot. Funny thing is, I saw a guy doing the same thing in the TR Roosevelt Island parking lot last week. I think Linel would agree that our bike commute rocks!

My bike commute never ceases to surprise me.

Pre-tour Dry Run in Front

It is the last week of April. The weatherman didn’t get the memo. It was in the 40s when I left the house. I couldn’t bring myself to wear long pants. Suffice it to say, I was cold most of the way to work. I am less than two weeks away from the start of a week-long bike tour from Pittsburgh to DC so I thought it would be a good idea to try out the front low-rider rack on The Mule.

The front rack made by Tubus has wider diameter tubing than my old Blackburn rack. Since the attachment hardware on my panniers cannot easily be switched from one tube diameter to another, I have a set of small Ortlieb roll top panniers set up for use on the front rack. To my surprise they hold very little stuff. I could just fit my work clothes, shoes and a U-lock.

Front panniers for first time

The steering was sluggish. The Mule’s steers like a bus anyway so I didn’t have to make much of an adjustment.

Between the cold and the increasing foliage, I was in the zone for most of the ride. I totally forgot about the Tulane bald eagle nest. The Belle Haven nest has two ospreys near it.

The ride to Rosslyn happened without notice. It was one of those “How did I get here” rides. The Intersection of Doom was another story entirely. Bikes and runners and walkers and cars were going every which way. How I managed to get through it all without a collision is beyond me. A guy on a bike passed me on the sidewalk approaching 19th street. As he did I noticed the walk count down was at 2 seconds. He accelerated into the crosswalk in front of cars waiting to turn right. Dude, you’re gonna die young if you ride like that.

The ride home was about 15 degrees warmer. It didn’t feel like it though. As I approached the turn off for the Memorial Bridge, I noticed a big group of loaded bike tourists turning to cross the Parkway. I quickly pulled out my camera, aimed, and….beep. “Battery Exhausted.” So you’ll have to take my word for it.

I continued south toward home with a pleasant tailwind. Climbing up one of the flyover bridges at National Airport I was stirred from my trance by a “Hi John!” It was Sam from Friday Coffee Club. By the time I realized it was her she was almost past me. So for the record, “Hi Sam.”

I remembered to stop at the Tulane nest. It is barely visible now. The leaves on the trees obscure the view from the trail. I have landmarks picked out so I will still be able to see it once the trees finish getting their foliage.

One other odd thing happened. When I got home and unpacked my cell phone was warm. It turns out that it was in a very tightly packed pannier with no air circulation. I’ll have to make sure I don’t repeat this mistake during the tour.

So not a bad start to the work week. And one little detail checked off the pre-tour list.

Swing and a Miss at a Disc Trucker

I began the day by riding a couple of miles to the stone bridge on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to watch the annual 10 mile road race. I didn’t properly know anybody running. I knew a friend of a friend was running. That was it. The spectators on the bridge with me were cheering and yelling at the runners.  I didn’t see the friend of a friend. I doubt she recognized me. I did see one of my regulars from my bike commute. She’s a runner that recently had a baby. She was MOVING! I yelled, “GO MOM!” I don’t think she knew I was yelling at her though. After the race I learned that @ultrarunnergirls running buddy Teresa had run. Never saw her either.

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I rode home after most of the runners had gone past.

Then I put The Mule on the car and drove to Spokes to buy the Surly Disc Trucker. After I posted yesterday about my buying excursion, I received tweets from several people who are really happy with their Surly bikes.

The reason for bringing The Mule was to compare dimensions with the new bike and to cannibalize parts. As soon as I put the bikes side by side I saw a problem. The Disc Trucker was the same size as The Mule, 56 cm. I test rode it two times. With the saddle that came with the bike, it was a pretty nice ride, especially after we raised the handlabrs a touch. Past experience says that my bottom only wants to ride on leather. When I put my Brooks Flyer leather saddle on it, the ride became uncomfortable. I could not get the Flyer’s seat back far enough. This is exactly the problem I’ve had for 24 years with The Mule. After trying to tweak things to make the bike work for me, we gave up. Both the sales clerk and a mechanic agreed that the bike was a tad too small. They will try to locate a 58 cm bike. In the meantine I’ll be riding The Mule from Pittsburgh to DC.

Suffice it to say, I am really frustrated and disappointed. Never the less, it’s worth it to take a few weeks to make sure I can get a better fit with a slightly larger frame. Lord willin’, I’ll be riding this bike for a decade or more.

The Incompetent Consumer Shops for a Bike

I have been meaning to but deck furniture for two years. And lamps for the house. And new furniture for the familty room and the kitchen. Everything I look at looks ugly. I can’t convince myself to but anything. About 13 years ago I went shopping for a touring bike. I couldn’t pull the trigger on one. I did end up with a nice recumbent though. And a few years later I bought my Bike Friday. But no touring bike.

Today I decided to test ride a new touring bike. Again. The cold weather kept me indoors until 1. I called Bicycle Space to see if they had a Surly Disc Trucker in my size available to ride but they didn’t. My local bike shop, Spokes Etc., is also a Surly dealer but I rarely see Surly touring bikes on display. I checked REI.com for its Safari bike, also with disc brakes, and it said there were none in stock locally. Really?

I decided to go try my luck at the Bailey’s Crossroads REI shop anyway. They indeed had a Safari in my size ready to test ride. After some annoying paperwork absolving REI from liability and putting all the risk (however minute) of a test ride on me, I took off for a ride. In their alley and parking lot. The bike was very nice. It had wide tires and itty bitty gears for climbing the steep hill behind the store. It had handlebars that looked a bit like an infinity symbol. They looked cool but I really didn’t much like them. The brakes were located on the horizontal part closest to me which I found awkward, which is not a good thing. You want to have the brakes at hand when big metal things get in your way. The curves in the bars were bent in a strange way so that what looked super comfortable was actually ergonomically unfriendly. So I took a pass.

On the way home, just for the heck of it, I swung by my local Spokes. I was shocked to see exactly the right Disc Trucker hanging in the display area. Without signing a liability waiver (thank you Spokes) I took off around the neighborhood. There was serious like. I returned to the shop and put my Brooks Flyer leather saddle on it.

While the saddle was going on, a man about my age came in with his Disc Trucker. “Buy that bike. You’ll love it.” He commutes on the Mount Vernon Trail on his. That’s a pretty good recommendation. The salesperson started to talk abou the bike. Then I told him that I have several friends with Surly bikes and they are all happy with their purchases.

With the Flyer on, I went for another test ride. There was love. Dang this baby is smooth. I was a little put off by the fact that my feet felt like theyr were too far forward on the pedals. They were platform pedals, without toe clips. It’s been ages since I rode a bike with these kinds of pedals. Even with this minor annoyance, I was loving this bike.

I decided to sleep on the purchase but it has now been two hours and I know what I am doing tomorrow. I’m going back to buy me a new bike. First one in eight years. This bike will replace The Mule, which will become my winter/rainy day bike. I might even put snow tires on it.

It’s going to be weird having an odometer that says 00000.

Stubborn Denial

I don’t know who to blame but the weather today looked springlike but felt like winter. The wind was blowing. It was about 20 degrees below normal. And I, of course, was in denial. I stupidly left the house underdressed for the cold and froze my ass off riding to Friday Coffee Club. I I did manage to see one bald eagle on the way but this bird had its back to me as it was taking in the early morning sun. He was probably thinking: “I will not look at a fool.”

Since the calendar says April 24, the Friday Coffee Club gang sat outside in the shade. I was tempted to pour my coffee over my head but I drank it instead. I endured the cold for about 45 minutes before jumping on my bike and riding into the teeth of a now-stronger wind as I made my way up G Street through George Washington University. This is no fun, thought I.

I thought things would improve once I cleared the wind tunnel formed by the buildings of Foggy Bottom. Wrong. It got worse. Much worse. The headwind turned into a side wind as I cross the Potomac on the too narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt bridge. The damned wind nearly knocked me over several times. Ayyy!  I don’t know if the little wheels on Little Nellie were contributing to my wobbliness. (Yes, that’s a word because I just used it.)

My the time I reached the Virginia side of the river, the right side of my face was numb. Memo to God: this is April! Please hit the reset button. K? Thx.

Maybe God’s in denial. Maybe he or she is just stubborn.

Big Nellie hits 38

Big Nellie is my Tour Easy recumbent. I bought it somewhat reluctantly in the fall of 2003. I had wanted to buy a conventional touring bike to supplement what I have come to call The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Sequoia. I couldn’t find any touring bikes to test ride so, with my gimpy back, I decided to test ride recumbents. The Tour Easy was the clear winner. I have since ridden it to north central Indiana, across New York state, and on hundreds of bike rides around the DMV. Today, we reached 38,000 miles. 17036292357_a5a6ae2002_z

I still have The Mule. Its odometer recently hit 37,000 miles. Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, is a baby with nearly 14,500 miles.

I am planning on going on a tour in a couple of weeks. I will probably take The Mule, unless I can get my act together and buy a new bike before then.