Night Baseball

The ladies of the house went to yoga so I went to church. It turns out that today is th latest sunset of the year. I left my sunglasses on my bike so I’m in squint mode up here in Section 222 Of Nationals Park for the next hour.

I’m really looking forward to the game but I’m even more looking forward to the 16 mile ride home in the dark.

UPDATE: Late in the game, as we were standing during the seventh inning stretch, cameras panned the crowd. I was on the jumbotron!!! The crowd gasped in horror.

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Livin’ and Goin’ Long

Anxiety is creeping in.

Indecision is taunting me.

My bike tour is just a few days away. I have an important decision to make. Once I cross Lake Michigan on a ferry I’ll be in eastern central Wisconsin. From here, I can follow Adventure Cycling Association maps to the west and north before turning due east for Michigan’s upper penninsula. This is about 330 miles. Some of it hilly. Hills, especially when carrying a load, are not my strong suit.

An alternative is to ride from the ferry northwest to Green Bay, mostly on a rail trail. Once past Green Bay I would turn northeast along the shore of Lake Michigan. This would be only about 150 miles, thereby chopping some 170 miles from the route and saving me 2 1/2 days. I could use that time to doddle about the upper penninsula and to stay on car-free Mackinac Island for an entire day.

Because I am traveling in a counter clockwise direction around the upper half of Lake Michigan, I have to decide my route from day 1. Another issue is getting through the 4th of July weekend when the hotels and campgrounds are likely to be full near the end of day 1’s riding.

On the plus side, I seem to be in top cycling shape (for me at least) heading into this tour. My rides to work have been effortless. This is something of a surprise to me as I was off the bike for most of three weeks about a month ago, and tore a stomach muscle after that.All the walking (and careful eating) I did in Scandinavia took a few pounds off The Mule’s engine.

After weighing the options, however, I am going long. I got this. Bad things might happen. Good things might happen. Hills go up. Hills go down. Bike tours are like life.

As Augustus McCray once said, “It’s not dying I’m talkin’ about Woodrow, it’s livin’.”

Woot!

Monday’s Are Just Ducky

The ride to work was going splendidly on this Monday morning. The wind was at my back. The sun was shining. Puffy white clouds were floating aimlessly above. The sunlight glistened off the river. It was so nice that I even could ignore the Lance Mamilots.

At 12 miles, just past the 14th Street Bridge underpass, the bikes ahead of me started veering this way and that. Then I saw it. A ducking. Alone. In the middle of the trail. Somehow, miraculously, unharmed by the bikes whizzing past.27838895692_dd65d776a1_m

I pulled over. And, with bikes now whizzing past me, I shooed  (literally with my shoes!) the duckling to the grass on side of the path. I took a rather bad picture, then went back to my bike. I looked over my shoulder and the darn bird had waddled back onto the trail. I suppose it was following the path of least resistance, but still it was annoyingly determined to get itself killed.

Back I went to try again. Then a bike commuter pulled up. Her name is Veronica. She grew up on a farm27906192426_f8ab97e3e5_m and volunteers at an animal rescue place. Really. Could the Fates be more generous on a Monday morning?

I have a thing about handling animals so Veronica, who is not so disinclined, picked up the duckling. She pointed out that a duckling alone in the wild is pretty much doomed to be road kill or an hors d’oeurve for some larger critter. So off she went, duckling in hand, looking for mama duck.

Mama duck had fled the scene so Veronica started to try to figure out how to transport the duckling. This is not as easy as it seems. Then the Fates returned in the form of Linel. Linel normally comes to work much later but not today. Maybe the Fates whispered in her ears during her slumbers. “Get up, Linel. Go to work early. You are needed.”

Linel had a Rickshaw Backworks Pipsqueak (I kid you not) bag on her handlebars. It is the perfect size for a duckling. So she offered it to Veronica. Veronica attached the bag to the lateral chest strap of her small back pack and the duckling transport problem was solved.

And so the workweek began.

 

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

A Good Day for a Bike Ride, but…

It was a perfect summer day for a nice long bike ride. I rode. 1 1/2 miles. What a stud.

I am leaving next Saturday for my bike tour of Michigan and Wisconsin. I need to get on the road around 6 am so there will be no time for dithering about the house looking for this doodad and that gizmo. All the things have to be in the car and ready to go.

So I made a list and spent the morning (while waiting for a visit from the air conditioner man) pulling my stuff together. Sure enough there were things missing. I made a list of them too. I packed everything into my panniers and did a test ride around the neighborhood on The Mule.

When you ride a touring bike unloaded, the bike feels awkward and clumsy. Put a full load, properly distributed, on it and it rides like it’s on rails. Weight distribution is key. The small panniers in front carry all the heavy, dense stuff like maps, books, tools, personal hygiene stuff, lights, and chargers. The rear panniers carry clothing, and my sleeping gear. My saddle bag is removed so that I can mount my tent on it. Rolling along feels great. Stopping might be another story.

Grinding through the list took forever. First was the hair cut. (Short hair simplifies bathing and I hate bathing in campgrounds.) Then I went shopping. I bought:

  • a back up battery fror my phones and camera
  • a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap for bathing and in-sink laundry
  • two small plastic bottles (to transfer some of the castile soap into. The rest stays at home.)
  • tire levers
  • a patch kit
  • a master link (for easy chain repair)
  • some Assos chamois cream because my cheeks deserve the very best
  • 3 Powerbars (I hate them but sometimes food is not conveniently located)
  • Some motion sickness medicine for the ferry ride across the lake
  • Some motion sickness wrist bands for powerful placebo action
  • Batteries for my bike computer

Good thing I mowed the lawn last night because all the shopping and such took all day.

So now I am as ready as I will ever be. All that’s left is to work a week, attend a Nats game (if you have a free ticket handy, I’m your man), and drive 12 hours.  And avoid my bike touring jinx. (I was planning tours when my father died, when my mother died,and when my wife got hit by SUV. Let’s just say you don’t want to schedule a sky dive when I am going on a tour.)

I got all the tedious touring prep done. Now I am watching the Nats game on TV, cold beer in hand.  We’ll call it pre-tour hydration. It’s proper preparation!

After all, it’s a perfect summer day.

 

Eagles Fly, Turtles Lay

As regular readers of this blog already know, I am gaga for bald eagles and snapping turtles. Last night on the way home, I spotted my first turrle. It was off in the grass between the trail and the river about a mile from my office. Since I was away during the first seven days of June I probably missed the trutles laying eggs along the trail this year. I am still hopeful though.

There are (at least) two active bald eagle nests on my commute route. One is located near the Morningside Drive exit of the George Washington Memorial Highway which runs right next to the Mount Vernon Trail. The other is near the Tulane Drive exit. (For locals, these are between 2 and 3 miles south of the beltway.)  They are both very hard to see now that the trees have their full set of leaves.

The trail passes through Dyke Marsh Preseve. The Friends of Dyke Marsh often look for wildlife activity. This week they saw the eaglets being taught to fly. This probably takes place along the river’s edge, away from the trail, but I am going to give it a close look on the way home.

The Friends have a Facebook page (doesn’t everyone?). Here’s a link for those of the nature nuts who read this blog.

 

 

 

Ten Random Thoughts from behind My Handlebars

4. I have friends who are so unreliable, I can rely on their unreliability.

2. Add another list to the bizarre people I have met: he was a paragon of government IT contracting who was once worth over $200 million. He had more charisma than anyone I’ve ever seen. When he walked into a room, all eyes turned to him. Since I last saw him ten years ago, he’s had a drug conviction, been accused of rape, and filed for bankruptcy. It appears he was a complete fraud.

8. According to a book I am reading, the sales tax on cars in Denmark is 180%. Oof.

5. I have a friend who professes to be “present”, that is to live in the present moment. Over five months ago she told me that we will get together “soon.” In mindfulness- speak that pretty much means “never.”  It’s a bit like Zeno’s dichotomy paradox. We’ll meet tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes, it’s today, so we’ll meet tomorrow, ad infinitum. What a clever way to tell someone to cheese off.

9.   Icelandair offers a free 7 day layover in Iceland to anyone flying their airline to Europe. They operate tours and hotels too. Why doesn’t any other airline do this? Okay, maybe it wouldn’t work so well for Yemeni Air, but…

6. I happen to be okay with gluten. (I tried a gluten free pastry a few weeks ago. It was dreadful. It was almost as bad as the neoprene vegan hot dog I ate last year.) This is why, after your umpteenth “gluten is bad” post appeared on on my Facebook page, I unfollowed you. Nothing personal. You are now one of the 20 percent of my Facebook friends that I have unfollowed. (For the record, I also block eight people.) Pass the pretzels.

3. Whenever I travel I experience a “prime directive” moment. That’s when you see something in conflict with your normal life that you have to restrain yourself from interfering. From as early as I can remember I have been told to look both ways when crossing the street. In Stockholm, parents with little kids just walk. They have absolute confidence that drivers and cyclists will follow the rules to the letter and stop for them. Every time I saw this happen, I felt like screaming “NO!!!”

7. I like the idea of the drum circle in Meridian Hill Park, but I can only take about ten minutes of it before I get a crashing headache.

10. I rode to work in the pouring rain today. It was actually pretty nice because both the air and the rain drops were warm. It was a bit like putting your bike on a trainer in the shower and riding for 75 minutes.

1. Ten years ago it was absurd to suggest that DC was a better place to live than Fairfax County. Not any more. Ten years from now I wonder if people will look at Fairfax County and wonder what went wrong.

 

 

 

 

Tour Update – UP and Ferry!

The tour is on. The begining and end are not going to be a lot of fun but I worked it out.  Here’s the plan:

Day 1: Drive 12 hours from Alexandria VA to Ludington MI. This is midway up the eastern side of Lake Michigan. Park the car (for free!) at the ferry parking lot. Stay in hotel in Ludington. Celebrate end of hellish car ride.

Day 2: Ride one mile to ferry. Take SS Badger ferry to Manitowoc Wisconsin. Try really hard not to puke for four hours. Begin bike tour (about 50miles the first day).

Days 3 – 13: Ride to and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (between Lakes Michigan and Superior). This will mostly involve Adventure Cycling’s North Lakes route. Take ferry to car-free Mackinac Island. Ride around island. Take ferry to Mackinac City on the lower peninsula. Ride the eastern shore of Lake Michigan back to Ludington. It should be a total distance about 850 miles. Crash in hotel. Eat all foods. Drink all drinks.

Day 14: Drive 12 hours home. Celebrate end of hellish car ride.

Anybody want to come with?

 

 

Working on Plan B

Because of inept planning and some unanticipated scheduling conflicts, my bike tour of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin is in serious doubt. I bought the Adventure Cycling North Lake route maps and thought I could cover the distance in about 2 weeks. I’d need an additional 2 days to drive to and from the starting point at my in-laws house in north central Indiana.

Then I studied the maps. It looks like the route would be about 200 miles longer than I thought. The route goes from my in-laws’ house to Mackinac Island. Then I would ride west through the upper peninsula of Michigan. I’d enter Wisconsin and ride to Manitowoc where I’d pick up a ferry across the lake to Ludington, Michigan. What I failed to take into account was the mileage from Ludington back to my in-laws’. That’s an additional 230 miles pushing the tour over 1,200 miles. A comfortable touring pace would be 70 miles so 1,200 miles would be at least 19 days. Not gonna happen.

So here are some alternate plans:

  • Find somewhere near the ferry in Ludington to park my car. This would eliminate the 460 to and from my in-laws’ place. Now we’re down around 800 miles and 11 or 12 days. Add two days of driving (12 hours each way) and no complications (including wasting a day waiting for the ferry) and the tour is doable. I am investigating parking options.
  • Dump the entire Lake Michigan thing. Drive to upstate New York and park my car at my sister’s place just north of Albany. Do the Adventure Cycling Adirondack Park Loop which is 394 miles. I could even add about 60 miles riding to Burlington Vermont and back for the heck of it. That’s 460 miles or so. A bit hillier than the North Lakes route so I figure 7 – 8 days. Plus two days of driving. Doable.
  • Drive to Albany as above. Do the Adventure Cycling Green Mountain Loop. The loop is 376 miles. Albany to the southernmost point of the loop in Ticonderoga NY adds about 100 miles each way for a total tour distance of 576 miles. This would take about 9 – 10  days allowing for hills. Total days including driving is 11 – 12.

I had thought about doing the latter two loop tours in one go, but that would be around 1,000 miles. Hilly miles. Not gonna happen.

I need to pull the trigger on one of these alternatives in a few days to allow for shipment of the maps from Adventure Cycling.

Tough call….

Hiking Hogback

I haven’t done a hike since forever, so it was time to get my butt out to Shenandoah National Park. Thankfully, the weatherman delivered a picture perfect day.

I left at 7 am on a Saturday and the traffic gods were kind. I drove US 211 through Sperryville Va to the Thornton Gap entrance to Skyline Drive. US 211 is a beautiful drive. It reminds me of drives in West Virginia. The road climbs gradually until it gets to the Park then it twists and turns as it climbs over the Blue Ridge.

I have to make a confession at this point. I’ve lived in DC since 1984 and, until today, I’ve never driven on Skyline Drive. It’s a work of art. Easily one of the best roads I’ve ever driven on. Every couple of miles is a pull off where you can take in a breathtaking view of mountains and valleys.

I parked the car and headed into the woods, eager to take on the Hogback Mountain hike from HikingUpward.com. The undergrowth was lusher (more lush?) than I am used to which added a bit of mystery to the location of the start. I guessed right and was soon working my way to the Piney Branch Trail. The trail headed gradually downhill. After all the walking I did in Scandinavia, my legs were having no troubles negotiating the path. Piney Branch lead to a small stream which I managed to cross without immersing myself.  I turned onto the Pole Bridge trail which led to a fire road that took me back up to Skyline Drive. The warm, dry air, the gentle breeze and the green everywhere was floating my boat.

After crossing Skyline Drive I picked up the Appalachian Trail and started going up. The climb to Little Hogback overlook raised my heart rate but was not overly strenuous. The views were just fabulous. Somebody take a picture! Oh, yeah. I did.

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I ate an apple and drank some water and thank the gods for coming up with the colors green and blue.

Then I hiked over to Hogback Mountain. Over is a term of art. I hiked down a bit then started hauling my ass up. And up. And up. Switchbacks and stone steps and up. My breathing became labored but, after a few minutes, my lungs caught up and I cruised (slowly) my way to the top. The view was pretty much the same. Green, blue, rocks, farms, puffy white clouds. Ahhhh.

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After overdosing on scenery, I made my way through a stand of mountain laurel and another stand of ferns. When I die, cremate me and spread my ashes among these ferns. It was so peaceful walking through them.

The trail made its way down. Who am I to argue. I walked down with it. Soon I was back at the car with 7 1/2 miles of hiking in heaven behind me.

My pictures from today are on my Flickr page.

My only complaint about this hike is the fact that the second half of the hike takes place very close to Skyline Drive. It’s hard to lose yourself in the moment when your contemplation is interrupted by a motorcycle engine. This is a quibble though. .

Also, my co-worker Kelly asked me how difficult this hike was. Except for the climb up Hogback this one is a breeze. Most of the other hikes I’ve done in this area start low and climb to Skyline Drive. This one mostly just winds back and forth Skyline Drive so you really don’t have to work all that hard.