September by the Numbers

September was my lowest mileage month of the year. I rode only 349 miles including 8 bike commutes for 243.5 miles.  My longest day of riding was 33 1/2 miles, a commute extended to meet a friend for a beer in DC. I did 8 bike commutes: 6 on The Mule and 2 on Big Nellie.

For the year I know have ridden 5,669 miles. I’ve done a 121 bike commutes. I am wearing my oldest bike out. The Mule has done 70 bike commutes and 3,012 miles.

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Back in the Saddle

I have been off the bike for about 2 1/2 weeks. My wife and I went to visit our kids. Our daughter is doing a semester abroad at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia. Our son is teaching at a school in Phuket, Thailand. Since my daughter had a two-week spring break we decided to go see her and check out Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand.

We headed west on 9/10 and kept going, arriving back in DC on 9/28. Yesterday, despite severe jet lag and a head cold that I’ve had off and on since 9/8, I rode to work. Riding with jet lag is a bit like riding drunk. Balance is a real problem, especially at when stopping and starting up.

While I was gone, the Alexandria City Police department began targeted enforcement at stop signs, singling out bicyclists. This is probably in response to complaints from some cranky residents of Old Town who refuse to acknowledge that they live in a tourist trap and on a major bicycling artery, the Mount Vernon Trail. They have political pull so from time to time the Alexandria police appease them with obnoxious enforcement.

The police are apparently requiring bicyclists to put a foot on the ground when stopping. The penalty for noncompliance is a $91 ticket. Suffice it to say, my jet lagged body did not appreciate this.

Last night on the way home I counted the number of cars that came to a complete stop at stops signs on Union Street. 6 out of 10 did not. The first of the 6 was an SUV that nearly hit me as I stopped and put my foot down.

On the way to work I rode to work on Royal and Saint Asaph Streets. No cars, not a single one, came to a full stop at stop signs. I lost count at how many there were but the total must have been more than 30.

I have ridden through Old Town 4 or 5,000 times. (No lie.) I have never hit anyone or been hit by anyone. Not a single accident. Cars have nearly hit me dozens of times. None of them were ticketed.

My only response to this nonsense is to put my foot down literally and figuratively. I will stop at ever stop sign and put my foot down. I was also stop patronizing businesses in Alexandria. I probably spend several thousand dollars a year in Alexandria.

I try to keep in mind that the police officers involved probably don’t want to be out there harassing people. But harass they do. Doesn’t do a lot for respect for the badge.

Rant over.

Pictures of my travel can be found on my Flickr page.

A Pebble in the Water

A year ago today the world lost an important person. She wasn’t famous or well-to-do. Maybe your path crossed hers as she wended her way about the DC area to school, to her internship, to home, to her volunteering activities, or to meet with her friends.

Lorena could command a room with her determination. She could make you feel loved with her radiant smile. Sometimes she would do both at once.

I knew her mostly second hand from a mutual friend who loved her dearly.

Lore and Flor

Shortly, after her death, her friends and family held a secular memorial celebration at  American University (where she was to earn her Bachelor’s Degree postumously in May 2015).

Through incredible heartbreak came the moving testimonials of her husband, her mother, her four “soul sisters”, and other friends. She was a force of nature who loved fiercely. A few months later her husband told me that they had thought of themselves as pebbles in the water:

“…to encourage all who may be struggling/stuck to open themselves up to making the impossible possible…in their lives.”

As one testimonial after another revealed, Lorena lived this simply by giving her time, attention, and love to her friends in need.

So every day, I think about her. I think about how she helped so many people, how she was going to college so she could help many, many more in the career she never got to have.

And I suppose her pebble has moved me, too.

Lorena's Recipe for Living on My White Board at Work
Lorena’s Recipe for Living on My White Board at Work

Wish I Was Here

Tomorrow is the annual 50 States Ride in DC. It’s the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s main event. You ride on each of the avenues named after a state. The cue sheet is nortoriously complex, typically running 9 pages. The weather rarely cooperates.

I won’t be riding it this year, but I will be thinking of my friends who will be slogging up and down the hills. For those of you who are new to the event, here are a few pointers:

  • The route is about 62 miles long. It feels like 162. It will take you all day. Don’t complain. Suck it up.
  • The weather almost always plays a role. Rain or oppressive heat and humidity, sometimes both, are the order of the day. (This year’s forecast looks pretty decent though.)
  • The people who work this event, WABA employees and volunteers, get up way before dawn and work into the evening to make this thing happen. Thank them profusely. Buy them a beer at the after party. Hug them.
  • You will stop at a red light, a stop sign, or a rest stop about 1,458 times. Instead of bitching about it, introduce yourself to the people who are riding with you. I’ve met more people during the 50 States Ride than all the other rides I’ve done put together.
  • Your hands will be tired. You’ll be breaking constantly.
  • When you get to Massachusetts Avenue in SE, feel free to let ‘er rip. It’s the best downhill in the city. Sadly you will come to a mess of traffic lights and a traffic circle at the bottom. Don’t blame me.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, remember you can bail out at any time, if you can live with disgrace, that is.
  • If you’ve done the ride before, take a rookie under your wing. I’ve done this several times. It’s great to see the smile on that rookie’s face at the end of the ride.
  • Take pictures and post them to WABA’s Flickr page.
  • When you get to the Tacoma Park rest stop, yell “Hail Rootchopper!” Mike and Lisa will understand.
  • The rest of Washington will be out and about like any Saturday in September. Say hello. Smile.
  • Save a little something extra for the last five miles. You’re gonna need it.

And most of all, Have FUN!

Shifty Nellie

Over the weekend I put a new rear wheel on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I test rode it and all was good.

Two miles into my ride to work I realized that my rear shifting as FUBAR. I only had three or four working gears. It wasn’t a disaster but it was annoying all the way to work.

Now that Labor Day is in the rear view mirror we can enjoy the delightful weather of fall. NOT. It’s oppressively muggy here, made worse by the fact that the air conditioning was turned down over the weekend. I changed into my work clothes and went to my office. Sweat just poured off me. Gross.  By ten the air conditioning had caught up with the humidity so the rest of the day wasn’t so bad.

The ride home was an exercise in deft shifting. I took a detour to Spokes Etc. in the Belle View shopping center. Aaron made quick work of fixing my bike while I waited. This shop has done this for me dozens of times over the years. They rock. Thanks, Aaron.

I was wearing my Anthony Rendon jersey today. One of the shop employees mentioned that Rendon is his cousin. I asked him for his autograph.

I lie.

The ride home was routine except for the sauna-like conditions.

I realized today because of other committments that I will not see another regular season Nationals game at the ballpark this year. I had a blast going to games with my kids and with Ryan, Kirstin (twice), Renee, Ed and Mary, Mike and Lisa, and Katie Lee (twice). Thanks to Delonte and Raymond for their most excellent bike valet service.

Of course, there is always the possiblity that the Nats will make the playoffs and give me another chance to see a game. 🙂

Sick Ride

I’ve had a head cold for three days. Not a bad one. Just enough to keep me from going out for a long ride or a hike in this great Labor Day weekend weather.

I rode about 20 miles on Saturday. Very gently. Just enough to get my blood flowing. On Sunday, I took the day off from riding and mowed the lawn. Mowing my lawn normally takes about an hour and is easy. Not this time. I was tired afterward.

Today I took the Cross Check out for an easy sping through the neighborhoods in southeastern Fairfax County, mostly in the Mount Vernon Area. I do love riding this bike, especially now that I have put a bigger saddlebag on it.

I managed to avoid any significant hills and just cruised along. As the temperature rose, I felt the warmth like a blanket. I was sorry to end the ride at 30 miles.

Tomorrow I get back to commuting on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I put a new rear wheel on it on Saturday because the old one had a bowed rim that was causing the rear tire to hop annoyingly with each revolution. After putting the new wheel on, the tire still hopped. I looked it over, deflated the tire and then forcibly pushed the out of round part of the tire back into the rim. I think the tire bead got slightly out of round from being seated on the bad rim. Long story short, it now revolves without the hop.

Speaking of hops, it’s Labor Day. I think I’ll have a beer, put my feet up, and finish the laundry that I started a couple of hours ago.

Beer and laundry. Now that is sick.

The Barley on the Cross Check
The Barley on the Cross Check

From “Fritter to Oblio to Deets”

I have come up with several names for my new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Here’s a list:

  • Fritter – This is brilliant I must say on several levels. Cool that it came from someone with the same initials as my Twitter handle. And that she sold me the bike.
  • Checkers – This one bewilders me. Reminds me of Nixon. Would I have to wear a Republican cloth coat while riding it this winter. I’d be inclined to go with Fala.
  • Harper – A swing and a miss from Katie Lee, a serious Nats and Cross Check fan. It was her enthusiasm for her Cross Check that got me interesting in buying one. Can’t use it because it’s the name of my son’s ex-girlfriend’s brother. Also, would sound exploitative of Harper Lee (a twisted coincidence) who’s been exploited enough this year.
  • Tony – This one’s actually kind of growing on me. It has multiple levels. Anthony Rendon, a.k.a Tony Two Bags a.k.a Tony Rendoni is my favorite Washington National. Mostly because he sometimes yawns during at bats. (How anybody can yawn when they are about to face a 98 mile per hour heater is beyond me.) Also, Tony Conigliaro was beaned on my 12th birthday, an event that began 37 years of summer suffering. Until Cowboy Up!.
  • Bryce – Another one from Katie Lee. I am pretty sure that she was not referring to Bryce Canyon or Bryce Dallas Howard. I am also pretty sure she was jerking my chain. She’s exceptionally good at that.
  • Oblio – the name of the character who owns Arrow the dog in The Point. Katie named her Cross Check Arrow. Now that I think about it, Oblio might be better used as a nickname for Katie. Or maybe Oblia. (You may shoot me now Katie.)
  • Several from Lonesome Dove
    • Woodrow – the name of Tommy Lee Jones’s character in Lonesome Dove. He’s a hard working hardass.
    • Augustus – the name of Robert Duvall’s Lonesome Dove character. He as a drunk and a womanizer with a heart of gold.
    • The Hell Bitch – a short-lived name I once used for The Mule. It’s Woodrow’s horse’s name.
    • Lore Darlin’ or Lorena – the name of the “sportin’ woman” that Augustus protects (and “pokes”) in Lonesome Dove. (Readers of this blog know that this name has a second meaning to me of much more serious import. I won’t use it on something so frivolous as a bike name. I love the name though.)
    • Newt – Woodrow’s illegitimate son. Just a weird name.
    • Deets – Joshua Deets, the scout for the Hat Creek catttle drive.  “Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” Sounds like a bike you’d want to have on a long ride, doesn’t it.
  • Wilson – A triple meaning name. It’s the name of the National’s catcher. It’s the name of a Phish song (Katie is a Phish Phanatic). It is an old nickname for my siblings and me. I  hated being called this. (And, yes, I also am ruling out “Charge” and “Fence”.) Although now that I think about it “Mustang Sally” wouldn’t be so bad.
  • McCloud – an running joke from a Mystery Science Theater episode that I watched at Katie’s insistence. It doesn’t hurt that McCloud rode a horse in the New York City in the credits of the eponymous TV show.

So there you have it.  I’m heavily leaning towards “Deets”. It would be nice to know what his horse’s name was, but you gotta like a bike that is “cheerful in all weathers”.

Bike Karma : From Calm to Cash

Yesterday I wrote about how a very pleasant calming had come over me, as if my worries had melted away. Today very nearly topped it.

Back in my running days, I frequently found money in the part of the street that cyclists call the door zone. I think what happens is that drivers reach into their pockets for car keys and inadvertently pull money out with the keys. For a starving grad student these bits of serendipity were welcome surprises.

A couple of years ago I found a $20 bill in an ATM. I thought about taking it into the bank but I figured they already had plenty of $20 bills. Over the course of the next several weeks I bought lottery tickets with the money. It was, of course, gone in a short time.

Bike riding does not lend itself to these kinds of lucky finds. Bike riders typically find  large objects like screwdrivers, bungee cords, binkeys from children being pushed by jogging moms, and stray pieces of clothing. (I once found a bra on the Mount Vernon Trail. If only it could talk….)

Today, in the middle of the street in front of my house, I found a $20 bill folded neatly in half. Wow! My lucky day. I looked around for someone looking for lost lucre and saw no one. So I put the bill in my handlebar bag and rolled on.

Fifty feet later I found another $20 bill, also folded in half.

You: You must be joking.

Me: I am not

I repeated my look-around and plopped the second bill into my handlebar bag.

Thinking maybe there was a line of $20 bills down the street away from my line of travel, I reversed course and rode back the other way looking for more.

No such luck.

Okay, I thought, time to count my blessings and head off to work. I got about 50 feet from the second $20 bill when I saw a folded piece of paper at the very edge of the street.

It was a $100 bill!

I started looking around to see if I was being filmed.

No one was around; it was just me and the found treasure.

Street booty. I found  $140 on the street today. Bike commuting is a moneymaker

I grew up Catholic. Feelings of guilt began to rise within. Mea culpa. Mea cupla. Mea maxima culpa.

But only for a second.

Mea maxima cnote.

It must be my week.

Last night I made a donation to Sam and Jeff’s charity ride. I chalk up today’s bounty to bike karma.

Maybe if you made a donation, you’d get some bike karma too.

It was hawt (as they say in Beantown) for the ride home. I made it about 9 1/2 miles before the rumbles of thunder turned to rain. Just enough cool rain to take the edge off the heat. When I turned off the trail about 3 miles later the rain stopped.

When I got home, my lawn looked bone dry. Go figure.

Strange day.

Home: Right Here, Right Now

As the days have gotten hotter, my blog posting has slowed along with my riding speed.

We are in a week of dog days characterized by oppressive heat and humidity. For office workers like me this means that I have a somewhat uncomfortable bike commute. I am mighty glad I am not a roofer or working on a road crew.

This time of year begins the migration of birds south. Downy egrets sprinkle the near side of the river. Cormorants too. Days are getting shorter. I leave work in twilight. It almost makes me want to move to South America. Muy loco. How about Australia? Or New Zealand? Or Thailand? Crazier still.

I’m talking nonsense.

Today, as I rode to work, a sense of calm came over me. Stresses in my life that have been bothering me off and on for months finally fell away. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than, as the song says, right here, right now.

Tonight, after work, I met up with Sam, the organizer of the Pennsylvania Avenue protest this summer. We had a good talk over a beer in the downtown neighborhood called Penn Quarter.  After about 45 minutes we went our separate ways. Two beers plus heat and humidity made for a tedious ride home.

It may have been tedious getting here but it is home. And there is comfort in that.