Crossing 1,000

MG over at Chasing Mailboxes recently decided to put in as surge of running to get to 1,000 miles for the year. I thought this was not such a great idea because it reminded me of my running days when I discovered what I called junk miles. Junk miles are miles you run for reasons other than fitness. I wanted to run 3,000 miles one year (I biked a whole lot less in those days). So I was running lots of 70 mile weeks. Do the math. Mostly this meant that I spent a lot of time nursing injuries. After the year was over, I discovered that 60 miles per week worked every bit as well so I dumped about 10 junk miles off the weekly running schedule.

So what does this have to do with biking? Shortly after commenting to MG about the concept of junk miles, I noticed that I had about 900 miles on the odometer of my Cross Check. Hypocrisy be damned, I went for it.

After many miles of riding flat neighborhood streets I decided to put the 100-mile challenge to better use. I started seeking out hills. I hate hills. So I tackled Oxon Hill (twice), Mason Hill near my home (twice today), Beacon Hill (once is plenty), and assorted other hills leading from the GW Parkway near the river up the hill that runs roughly parallel.

To my surprise, I actually got better. Even today when I forgot to take my asthma medicine. Of course, I had help. El Nino and climate change have conspired to bring us unseasonably warm weather with generally light winds.

After doing my hills, I headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. On Union Street in Old Town Alexandria I came upon an old friend who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. I could tell because he was cycling with his son who was now 13. The last time I saw the boy he was a rugrat.

As we were talking, a co-worker of mine ran past. He’s pretty fast. Every time I see a runner with good form I feel a twinge of jealousy.

After the chat I did a loop north to Four Mile Run and back to my neighborhood.

I pulled into the driveway to record this picture:

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Mission accomplished.

See you next year….

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Active Rest

After climbing hills for a couple of days, I wanted to give my legs some rest. I toyed with the idea of an easy hike but went for a gentle ride instead. My plan was to avoid anything that looked like a hill and I think I succeeded. The Cross Check and I rolled around the Fort Hunt neighborhood, never exceeding 20 miles per hour and reaching that for only a minute or two.

This kind of thing is called active rest. I intended to take pictures but that rarely pans out for some reason. I did, however, return to the scene of the house demolition to see how it is progressing. Basically the middle half of the house, except for the chimney is gone. There is a garage to the right and the remnants of what might have been an addition on the left. It’s as if some giant came along and took a bit out of the middle of the house.

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I spent the rest of my ride doing laps around Fort Hunt Park. As if to prove I was taking it easy  a rollerblader passed me and proceeded to leave me in his dust going up hill. After three or four laps a mist started falling, the perfect excuse to head for home.

After showering I ran some errands. One involved purchasing some beer so rather than risk tragic breakage I drove. I could feel a bounce in my step as I shopped. Looks like the active rest day did its thing.

Tomorrow I hope to do a last ride of the year. Nothing special. There is at least one hill nearby that I haven’t climbed this week.

My Ride to the Star Destroyer

It was supposed to be a flat recovery ride. I got a bit carried away. Within a mile and a half I was riding up the hill on Sherwood Hall Lane. Then I rode up the grade on Fort Hunt Road, descended and rode another hill past the golf course to the Beltway.

Okay, I’ll be good. I’ll ride the new Alexandria bike trail all the way to Crystal City.

It was flat. So I continued on to the Pentagon.

It, too, was flat.

I worked my way over to the Mount Vernon Trail and the Humpback Bridge, mostly because the Humpback Bridge sounds cool.

Over the river on the 14th Street Bridge and up Maine Avenue past the incredibly big Wharf construction project. First phase set to open in 2017. Yes, it’s that big.

M Street took me to the 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia. Whoever decided to put a bike path on this thing is a frickin’ genius. (Is “frickin'” even a word?)

Now the fun begins: the long slog up Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. If this is junior, I don’t want to know about senior. I had multiple flashbacks to my seven 50 States Rides during which I admired the fit behinds of all the riders who can climb faster than me. Which is to say every entrant ever!

One thing I noticed during my climb, it matters what pants you wear. Pants that are tight around the hips make it harder to climb. Today I wore loose mountain bike shorts under baggy wind pants. Claudio Chiapucci I ain’t but the climbing was not so bad.

It goes up and up. Then it goes down conveniently stopping at South Capitol Street so that all that downhill momentum is lost. Then up some more for a while until I plunge down the steep hill to the Police Academy complex. Every time I see the sign for Police Academy I think of the dreadful movie. At least it had Bubba Smith in it.

Of course at the bottom of the hill there was a stop sign. I stopped. A police cruiser noticed and gave me a friendly toot on the horn. (Take note Alexandria Virginia Police!! You don’t have to treat cyclists like criminals.)

What goes down must go up. After a meander through the messed up Oxon Cove Park I confronted the beast. I don’t mean this apparent imperial star destroyer under construction. (It’s a trap!)

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Side note: Oxon Cove Park could be a local jewel. It has the misfortune of being located in a poor, out of the way section of Prince Georges County Maryland. The few people who live near it rarely use it. What a shame.

The beast was the long, ever steepening climb at Oxon Hill Farm. I HATE this hill. It starts with the indignity of a false flat. Then a true hill emerges in front of you. And emerges and emerges.

I made it to the top without calling for my mommy.

Across the Beltway on Oxon Hill Road and down the side path to the river. Up the spiral ramp (I love this spiral) to the deck and back across the Beltway. Somehow I now had legs and rode over the Wilson Bridge actually accelerating as I made the climb.

I headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail but after a few miles I bailed out to take on one more hill: Westgrove Boulevard, as suburban street that also steepens as it rises.

Mommy!!!

Okay, I made it. In pretty decent fettle. I made my way back home once again riding up the Sherwood Hall Lane hill. For the life of me I can’t figure out why riding up the steeper part going west is so easy. I just thrash it every time.

So 31 1/2 miles. On a rest day. When I couldn’t help myself. If it rains tomorrow, I spy a museum. (If I get out of bed.)

Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.

 

 

 

Ride Hills and Chew Grape

I normally sell some of my leave back to my employer. It’s a good benefit for sure but this year I decided to use it all. I thought I had it all planned out. One week off for my tour. A few days here and there for hikes and baseball games. Then a bunch of time off for my once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Australia/New Zealand/Thailand.

Somehow I ended up with 40 hours of vacation time. So I took a day off last week and took this week off.

Since Mrs. RC has to work (her biggest annual deadline is tomorrow), I am staycationing. The holidays and rain have conspired to keep me off my bike for several days so yesterday and today I got the Cross Check out on the neighborhood streets.

I live near Mount Vernon next to a horse farm. Sounds kind of nice doesn’t it? Well, I live closer to US 1 than the Potomac River and the horse farm is a mud pit and a dump (literally, they seem to dump old equipment along the farm’s perimeter).

One nice thing about it is that there are five traffic lights between my house and the Beltway, a distance of about five or six miles. Most of the streets are quiet neighborhood streets. If I want more I need only ride down past Mount Vernon where there are many more miles of suburban streets with only two traffic lights. And for the hell of it I can ride 1 1/4 mile loops in Fort Hunt Park.

So I took advantage, paying special attention to climb some hills, something I avoid with great dedication. Yesterday’s jaunt included riding up to Oxon Hill Road from the Wilson Bridge. This is a mile-long slog but the ride back down is pretty sweet.  I also picked off the Park Terrace Drive hill, which I once used daily to prepare for a tour. The rest of the hills were not too hard.

Today’s ride featured the Regent Drive Hill which climbs above the Park Terrace Drive hill. Most cyclists just avoid this one because its more bad. Another fun hill that I typically avoid is Belle View Boulevard which climbs Beacon Hill. Not today. I rode up that sucker.

In between bouts of cycling masochism, I rode some flat-ish streets. One of them is East Boulevard Drive which runs on the opposite side of the GW Parkway from the Mount Vernon Trail. Today I saw a giant construction machine chewing up a house. It was a big house. If it were in good shape it would sell for nearly $1 million. Whoever bought it decided that some new monstrosity would better suit its massive lot.

In Old Town I spent five minutes taking pictures of polar bears in a tree and this faded sign on a brick wall. I love these old signs. I recall one from my childhood for the soft drink Moxie on the side of brick building in my father’s home town.  I also like Mail Pouch tobacco signs on barns in the Midwest. They almost make you wish tobacco was as tasty as chocolate.

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So Chew Grape. It’s good for what ails you.

 

 

 

 

Pictures of the Year 2015

Pool Noodles for the Win: Sam got us organized. We were going to occupy the Pennsylvania bike lanes to get barriers installed between 13th and 15th Street to keep cars from making illegal u-turns. Somebody got the idea of using pool noodles as props, to indicate where the barriers would go. Afterward, Dave carried them off. I think they took him to the nervous hospital later.

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We all had a blast. Human bollards come in many shapes and sizes. Here’s the Katie Lee model. It’s generally impervious to u-turning cars, but can be moved aside with tickets to Packers games and Phish concerts.

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Here’s Sam, the mad genius behind #biketivismdc. It’s funny what getting run over by a car does for your determination to make streets safer.

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Kelly Biked to Work!: Kelly sits across from me at work. She had hip surgery which meant she couldn’t run for weeks. So she took up bike commuting. The smile means it was a success.

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To her credit she really got into the bike commuting thing. Here she poses at an underpass on the Four Mile Run Trail. A few days before rising water during a downpour caused her to abandon shelter and head into the maelstrom. She survived and added a snorkel to her bike commuting gear.

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Like Father Like Daughter: I went to a bunch of baseball games this year. Katie Lee and I attended a couple of games together. She is a meticulous genius at scorekeeping, an art she learned from her late father. At one game, there were two little boys in the row in front of us attending their first baseball game. They were trying to figure out how to keep score. Katie moved down and gave them a game long tutorial. It was an act of kindness that just knocked me out. Somewhere her dad is smiling.

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Posh Bike Parking: For some inexplicable reason, our office building started getting all environmentally conscious this fall. Without telling anyone, they replaced their absolutely crappy bike racks with a pretty awesome, secure bike room. Combined with the gym and showers one floor above, it’s a pretty darn bike friendly place to work.

Here’s the before shot.

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Here’s the after.

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No Wrong Plan: Ryan, Kevin, and I rode from Pittsburgh to DC. It was my first bike tour in a decade. Here we pose in Georgetown’s Waterfront Park at the end of our trek. Any resemblance of me to Hoss Cartwright is entirely coincidental.

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In Williamsport, Maryland, we stopped at the Desert Rose Cafe for breakfast. They made us sandwiches for lunch. Inside the bags they included napkins. Each one had a personal message. Such nice people. Such good food. Eat there. (They speak veggie and vegan too!).

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Going Up: I did quite a lot of day hiking this year branching out to Shenandoah National Park for several exceptional hikes. All my hikes were solo except for this one with Ultrarunnergirl. She kicked my ass all the way up to Little Hawksbill, the highest point in the park. Then the mountain kicked my ass all the way back down.

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On my 60th birthday, I hiked Old Rag. It was a tough hike and convinced me that rock scrambles are for the young and frisky. Also, the thin.

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Glory Days: Mrs. RC is a very talented quilter. When I had to quit running about 25 years ago we talked about using my race t-shirts to make a quilt. Nothing came of it until she made the quilt as a surprise for my 60th birthday. What an amazing gift. Oh how I wish I could run like that again.

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Around the World in 19 Days: My kids were living in Sydney, Australia and Phuket, Thailand. We decided to go visit them. While in Australia, Mrs. RC and our daughter Lily went to Uluru for dinner under the stars. Here we enjoy a drink just before sunset.

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After trips to Melbourne and the north island of New Zealand, we headed for Phuket. The island is very hilly so everyone rides a motorbike like this one my son Eamonn uses.

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We paid a visit to Big Buddha. He was aptly named.

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Lily made friends with a baby elephant.

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Cookies and Cider: I did a bunch of event rides this year. The Cookie Ride had a good hook. Cookies at every rest stop. Here I pose with a human cookie along with Paris and Lisa.

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I missed my two favorite rides of the year, the Backroads Century and the 50 States Ride, which both occurred while I was traveling. I swore off the Cider Ride last year but decided to give it a go after they moved it into November. Finishers got this cool mug. Thanks to Michelle for her event magic on behalf of WABA.

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Sunrise: The year is nearly over but I am pretty sure that the new one will start something like this. Thanks for reading.

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Go Ask Alice

What more can you say when it is 70 degrees on Christmas Eve in DC.

Oh, and it was muggy to boot.

Take one El Nino and one Climate Change and call me when winter really gets here? If ever. I bought a new blade for my snow shovel a few weeks ago. Apparently, I jinxed winter. Next year I am buying a snow blower in November.

During the afternoon I jumped on the Cross Check for a spin around the neighborhood. In shorts.

During my 30 mile jaunt I saw a runner in shorts. And shoes. And nothing else.

I saw kids playing on swings. In shorts and t-shirts.

I saw big fluffy dogs looking decidedly unhappy about the warmth.

I saw a blond squirrel. My first one. Ever. It was the color of a golden retriever. I tried to get its picture. It ran away.

Go ask Alice.

 

The Last Bike Commute

Today was the last day of autumn. At 11:49 tonight DC goes into winter. Tomorrow there has less than one second of daylight than today. Wednesday we pull on the rope and say “Screw you, South America” and pull the sun back.

Or something like that.

I am working from home or taking vacation days until 2016 so I am done with bike commuting for the year. Unofficially, I’ve ridden to work 160 times this year. Not half bad considering I took more vacation and teleworked more than ever before. So this was the year that I drove to work the least since I moved to Fairfax County in 1989.

As I left for work, I momentarily panicked. I couldn’t find the battery for my headlight. Then I remembered that my new headlight also can be run off the battery for my old headlight. Yessss!

The morning was comfortably cold. As the sun rose the temperature followed and my base layer became noticeably wet. Traffic on the Parkway and the Mount Vernon Trail was predictably light. I cut a little off my commute by taking Royal Street through Old Town. I could do this safely because St. Mary’s School of the Holy SUV was closed so I didn’t have to deal with its drop off line.

The willow trees across from the Washington Monument are losing their now yellow leaves. Yellow and gray.

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It was a nice ride so I didn’t complain. The office bike commuter matrix was all full of non-complainers. (Of course, Kelly was out of town so that may be why.)

Today's office #bikecommute matrix. No complaints. #dust = 59!

The ride home was much warmer. I took my time. My bike commute is so nice I really wanted to milk the last one for all it was worth. The trail work on the Mount Vernon Trail is really taking shape. Pavement went down today. It is only a matter of a few more days before the detours are removed and we get to ride on the new, straighter and wider trail.

Pavement #mvt #bikedc #bikeva

I moseyed on down to Old Town where the trail meets the city streets. The stop sign where the trail meets the street had a new addition.

I New sign #mvt #oldtownalexandria Passive aggressive citywas happy to see this because it proves my point that the city is biased against bicyclists. I have never seen a sign that shows a picture of a car with the words “must obey all <STOP sign>”.

As I rode the length of Union Street through Old Town I counted the cars at stop signs. Sure enough, 7 of 8 rolled through the stop signs.

After another five miles, I pulled into my yard. Another year of bike commuting under my belt. One of these days I’m going to ride to work and then not stop. Just keep going until I hit the blue Pacific waters. Could that happen in 2016?

Hmmmm……

 

My Top Ten of 2015

The year began with a paper lantern rising in the post-midnight sky over Old Town Alexandria. I hoped it was a sign of good things to come. Here in no particular order are the highlights of what followed:

Around the World in 19 Days: When your kids move to the other side of the world, you have a perfectly good excuse to go visit them. We flew via LAX to Sydney to meet up with our daughter who was studying abroad at Macquarie University. We explored Sydney, Uluru, and Melbourne in Australia and Rotorua in New Zealand. Then we flew to Thailand where our son now lives, teaching English at a school in Phuket. We flew back via Abu Dhabi and JFK, completing our trip around the world. Speaking of travel….

Six Days without a Plan: I did my first bike tour in ten years, riding 370 miles from Pittsburgh to home, nearly entirely off road in six days. Kevin and Ryan made for good company. The Meth Man not so much. Earl and Anne, two friends from my years in Boston,  met up with us for Mothers Day brunch. And we saw the Pirates execute a triple play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Speaking of baseball….

Where’s My Ring?: I pretty much went all in as a Washington Nationals fan this year. I attended 8 or 9 games (one was a rainout) and watched dozens more on the tube. In the process I discovered the wonderful bike valet service at the ballpark, bottles of ice water (mostly ice) sold outside the stadium, and SeatGeek, a web service for cheap seats. Sadly, the Nats completely fell apart in August and September ending with the sad display of a bad apple reliever choking the eventual league Most Valuable Player. Speaking of things surly…

Getting Surly: My bikes were getting old. And so was I. So I decided to buy a new one, just for riding events and such. I bought a Surly Cross Check on the enthusiastic recommendation of a half dozen friends who own one or wish they did. I’m still working on giving it a name. My fleet of now four bikes carried me over 7,000 miles this year. Speaking of mileage….

Turning the Odometer: I hit 60 in August. My brain still can’t believe it but my body does. Denial only gets you so far in life. I celebrated by hiking Old Rag. My advice is to do this hike long before your 60th birthday. Mrs RC made me with a quilt  from my old running t-shirts. This totally surprised me with it even though she made the thing right in front of me. Still, turning 60 was inescapably depressing.  Speaking of depressing…

Goodbye Blue Mondays: I started the year dealing with rather severe depression, not the “I’m sad” kind but the clinical kind. It’s a drag just thinking about it. I forced myself to socialize (see below), ate vitamin D supplements (I had a severe deficiency), and began daily meditation at the repeated suggestion of a friend. You could say that when it was over I had become comfortably numb. Speaking of numbness…

My Right Foot: I also started the year with a mysteriously numb right foot. I saw a neurologist who was incredibly enthusiastic, competent, and beautiful about my case. She sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a set of exercises including bird dogs, side planks, and nerve flossing that I still do every other day. On a whim, I went for a Thai massage. It didn’t do a thing for my foot but it was just about the most relaxing 90 minutes I can recall. “Use your third eye, John.”  I also went to an acupuncturist who didn’t do a thing for my foot either. He did fix a pain in my upper arm and recommended some orthotics for my shoes. Speaking of shoes….

Ramping Up My Hiking:  After each of my hikes last year, my back and knees were killing me.  The second I put the orthotics in my shoes, my back felt better. I did ten hikes this year, most of them in Shenandoah National Park and a little further north on the Appalachian Trail. All but one were solo hikes. The exception came when Ultrarunnergirl kicked my ass all the way to the top of SNP and back. My knees and back hardly protested. Speaking of protests…

What’s a Park It?:  Bike riders in DC had been getting hit by cars turning illegally through the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. I attended a protest that was designed to bring awareness to the fact that new barriers called Park Its had not been installed on two blocks of the avenue. The protest was successful (the Park Its were installed a few months later) and was a great opportunity to get together with friends old and new. Speaking of new friends…

Do I Even Have a Fusiform Gyrus?: Three months after apparently meeting me at a December 2014 holiday party, a woman walked up at a post-ride reception and said “Hi John.” I had no idea who she was. She later said I needed to have my fusiform gyrus checked out. So began my improbable friendship with Katie Lee. A few days later we spent four hours in a booth in a downtown tavern. Two peas in a pod, pod people you might say, engaged in an incredibly intense conversation. I felt as if I had caught lightning in a bottle of Shiner Bock. On my way home for the first time in months the fog of my depression had lifted. Like a paper lantern. I know a sign when I see one. Thanks for showing me the score, KL. 

Encore, you say?….

Sitting in the Lap of the North Wind: A year or so ago, Mrs RC bought me a CD of celtic sounding music by a Quebec folk group called Le Vent du Nord. As luck would have it, they played very small venues near DC twice this year. We were in the second row for both performances, practically in the lap of the foot drumming, song singing, fiddle player. Even though I studied French in high school and college I can’t really follow their lyrics but I have no trouble enjoying their hurdy gurdy fueled music. Tres bon.