Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

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Great Falls Saves My Day

After running errands and reading this morning, I had nothing to do. My to do list for my staycation was done. I decided to drive up to Great Falls Park in Maryland for a quick hike. It seemed appropriate since I started the year with a hike there.

My hike took me on a four mile (give or take) loop. I started on the Berma Road which is a bit muddy. Next I took a right onto the leaf covered Valley Trail. I love the sound of leaves swishing under my feet.

The Valley Trail intersected with the Gold Mine Loop. (Yes, there was a gold mine here long ago.) More leaves. More swishing. Very few people. The sun angled through the barren trees to add a bit of visual novelty to the proceedings.

After about a half a loop I took a spur trail that lead me to the Overlook Trail. This trail runs along a ridge above the C&O Canal and the Potomac River as it cuts through Mather Gorge. I climbed to a view point and it seemed that the flurries were casting a haze over the gorge. Or maybe it was just the angle of the sun and the thousands of grey tree trunks and rock faces.

I dropped back down to the Berma Road and took a bridge across the canal. It was then a half mile walk to the Great Falls overlook trail. I was a little disappointed that there was no ice, but if there had been I’d have been seriously underdressed and freezing my ass off. Be careful what you wish for. Still the sound of rushing water, the mist, the churn of foam in the rapids made for a soothing break from walking.

The hike ended with a 1 1/2 mile walk down the towpath past Widewater, my favorite section of the canal near DC.

Normally, this park is filled with people, often noisy kids. Today my solitude was interrupted only a handful of times, and briefly at that.

Not a bad way to salvage an afternoon.

 

 

Staycation Listicle

I am taking a week off to close out 2016. My brain is still coughing up hair balls:

  • The right hand bar end shifter on my Cross Check died after 15 months. I have also replaced the right hand side shifter on two other bikes in the last two years. I must have developed awesome hand strength or they don’t make them like they used to.
  • If you eat cookies and pretzels and pizza and diner food for a week and wash it down with beer, your clothes will shrink. Also, it becomes much harder to ride a bike up a hill.
  • I don’t know if it is physical or psychological but my biking legs are toast. I needed a break anyway to get ready for snow shoveling in a couple of weeks.
  • I am pretty sure that if 2016 lasted 13 months, there would be no famous people left alive. Now that I think about it, it seems as if 2016 has lasted 15 months.
  • My baseball game preferences:
    • Going with my kids
    • Going with a friend (or two or three)
    • Going alone
    • Watching on TV
    • Listening on the radio
    • Staring at the calendar waiting for Opening Day
    • Watching any other sport.
  • My 2017 to do list has only a few things on it:
    • Attend my daughter’s college graduation in May
    • Ride my last Bike to Work Day (See below)
    • Volunteer at the Tour de Fat and at least one other #bikedc event
    • Start going to Friday Coffee Club again
    • Retire (this is below)
    • Ride the 50 States Ride
    • Do a bike tour (currently leaning toward DC to Key West to DC) in September/October/November)
    • Go somewhere warm for Christmas (never done this before)
  • Other things to do in 2017
    • Avoid the ER, lung infections and big metal fart barges
    • Buy kevlar vest so Klarence’s hugs don’t break my aging ribs
    • Do a random social event once per month. Includes bike rides, hikes, lunches, happy hours, bar booth therapy sessions, and the like
    • Avoid people who suck the fun out of life including ungrateful gaslighting woo woo hypocritics, passive aggressive shadow fearing bureaucrats, and neurotic psychotic pig headed politicians

Pictures of the Year 2016

 

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Sunrise on the Mount Vernon Trail

When the sun and my work day cooperate, I stop and take in the sunset over the Potomac River. It rarely disappoints.

The Big Reveal
100,000 Miles

It took me 25 years but I managed to ride 100,000 miles since acquiring The Mule (bottom left) in 1991. In 2002 I bought Big Nellie, a Tour Easy recumbent (top left), and rode it exclusively for several years. In 2009 (or thereabouts) I bought my Bike Friday New World Tourist, a folding travel bike that I call Little Nellie (upper right). Last year I picked up Deets, a Surly Cross Check, that turns out to be a fantastic bike for commuting.

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Drink Up Cowboy (Colonoscopy Prep)

In October, amid a frenzy of bike event riding, I had a colonoscopy. It was my third. I am happy to report that there was no cancer detected. I’ll be back in 2019 for another. Drink up!

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Me in Front of Copenhagen Central Station Bike Racks

I went to Scandinavia with my wife and daughter. I didn’t ride a bike but I saw a few here and there. The cycling infrastructure is so much better than in the U.S. And the road users are all so well behaved. As my friend Finn Quinn once said: “The future is a foreign country.” We can only hope.

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Beer Tent Volunteers at Tour de Fat

I volunteered at the Tour de Fat this year. I had fun despite not being completely recovered from my not so fun trip to the ER a week earlier. We were a well behaved bunch. The only beer we imbibed were the ones the organizers comped us for our efforts on their behalf.

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Friday Coffee Club

You may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You certainly won’t find it here because the building where this picture was taken is being renovated. Friday Coffee Club moved across town and, but for one appearance after Thanksgiving, I had to stop going. I miss these scoundrels.

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Michelle Smiles Even When She’s Freezing (Vasa Ride)

Speaking of scoundrels, for the last several years Michelle has been running bike events at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I am convinced that she is trying to kill me. It is widely rumored that she even controls the weather. I am so grateful for all the hard work Michelle (and the other folks at WABA and the volunteers) put in to make #bikedc better every year. (Michelle also has a serious interest in the Beats and Kerouac. Check out her blog.)

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Amy at Great Pumpkin Ride

It was windy and coolish, but Amy was determined to do her first long event ride. This hill during the Great Pumpkin Ride near Warreton Virginia was mighty steep but Amy (with Jody behind her) managed it without apparent difficulty. The leaves on the road were produced by powerful winds that made the day quite a work out. The rest stop after this photo was at a Old Bust Head brewery.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

This picture doesn’t do justice to how steep these dunes are. And this is only about 1/2 of the height. The remaining elevation is obscured by the angle of my shot. Later that day the road I was on went up the dunes just to the south of this one. It made for some tough climbing into a persistent headwind. It was perhaps the physically hardest day of my 11-day solo bike tour. As hard as it was on my body, the tour was a feast of rolling meditation for my mind and soul.

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What Yoopers Eat (Bike Tour)

The people who live on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the UP, are called Yoopers. They eat white fish and pasties (a kind of meat pie) and have their own candy bar. They (mostly) also talk like all the hockey players from Ontario that I roomed with during my freshman year at college. Eh?

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My Deck Buddy

I was hanging out on my deck one sunny day when I went to open my deck umbrella and found this critter. Cute.

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My Perch in Left Field

The left field grandstand was my perch for about 10 games at Nats Park this year. I became personal friends with Jason Werth. (That’s him in left field.) Okay, that’a s lie.Somewhere up there under the third light stanchion is Klarence keeping score. Hurry spring!

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Darth Paul on the Five Boro Ride

That’s Paul on the left on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. It is cold. It is raining. Paul is not smiling. He had so much fun. We stopped in Astoria, Queens, to stand around and freeze our asses off. Who knew that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway would be even more fun. I have now ridden my bike across the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. Woot!

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A Section of the AT

The Appalachian Trail is nice enough to come down to I-66 which made for a couple of convenient solo day hikes.

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Veronica Help Us Save a Duckling on the MVT

I found a duckling on the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work one morning. Mr friend Linel stopped to help and we tried to figure out what do with it. Then Veronica showed up. She took the duckling to her office then to an animal rescue place. This is a decidedly better outcome that the two animal skeletons I saw last year. Just sayin’. Thanks, Veronica.

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Night in the ER

This is me getting a nebulizer treatment in the ER. A few hours earlier I couldn’t move without experiencing a knife-like pain in my upper right chest. (I blame yoga.) The doctors were pretty confident that it wasn’t a heart attack. I had a resting pulse of 46 and my blood pressure was normal. They did some tests and took some x-rays. Then they put this on me. I was recovered enough to do Bike to Work Day, volunteer at Tour de Fat, ride DC Bike Ride, and fly to Stockholm over the next nine days. Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Getting Nowhere 176 Times

After 176 trips, I ended up back home. Such is the reality of bike commuting in 2016. I am done with it until January 3 when I head back to Rosslyn for another year breaking the rocks in my head.

I did 185 bike commutes in 2013. I don’t even know how.

The irony is I can telework twice per week but I choose to ride to the office because my commute is so awesome. I even get a sick kind of challenge from riding in bad weather. (I draw the line at ice though. I am not a big fan of crashing.)

Shortly after leaving the office I pulled over and took a picture. The Mule hit 42,000 miles.

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The Mule needs a nap.

So do I.

 

Nearly all the way to Joburg

Today I passed 8,000 miles by bicycle for the year. I looked up what that would do for me if I could ride somewhere 8,000 miles away. Johannesburg! Or I could “ride” to Copenhagen and back.

I took an awful lot of days off this year. Mostly because of bad weather (and no snow plowing on the Mount Vernon Trail). I also missed about two weeks while I was fooling around in Scandinavia and most of a week with a lung infection. I guess I made up for all that down time with a single 11-day bike tour. Long story short, I done impressed my own 61-year-old self.

Still, 8,000 miles is not my personal record. It looks like that was set in 2013 when I rode 8,087 miles.  I think I can break that without too much difficulty.

This is what happens when you don’t set any goals and just enjoy the riding for what it is.

Sun Does a Huey

This morning at 5:44 the sun did a huey. I caught it in action. Sort of. It wasn’t moving particularly fast. It was obviously further downriver, south, that it was a month ago. I know colder days lie ahead. I know, somewhat counter intuitively, later sunrises do too. (Something about the tilt of the earth, the sun greed of the Maoris, and voodoo. Trust me, I know science.) Looking on the bright (pun intended) side, opening day is 103 days away.

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So The Mule posed for a picture with the sun just a couple of hours after it changed course.

Facebook sent me the perfect reminder of the winter solstice: a picture of two friends hanging out at a rest stop during my second 50 States Ride in August 2007. Huh? They look pretty good in the picture but the heat soon did Paul in. Flor, who seemed immune to the elements, rode like she had wings. It was one of the hardest bike rides I can remember. It got hotter and more humid as the ride progressed. A rider I met afterward cooled off by jumping in Rock Creek.

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It was good that I looked at the picture before I left for work. It took the edge off a cold December morning.

It Must Be Monday

With great lethargy I rolled down the front lawn and began my bike commute. I made it 100 feet before I realized that my the toe clip on my right pedal had come loose. It was missing a fixing nut and bolt. So I pulled a u-ey and went back to the shed for another weapon of transport. Little Nellie, long neglected, came to the rescue.

About 100 feet into the second attempt, I realized that the left brake hood was farther forward on the handlebar than the right one. I made an executive decision: fuggit. I rode to work lopsided. At least the little wheels on Little Nellie (my Bike Friday New World Tourist) made for rapid if somewhat uncoordinated accelerations.

I am pleased to note that I did not drop a cell phone in the toilet, trip and fall on the sidewalk, or spill coffee on my shirt during the rest of the day.

The ride home was much nicer than the ride in. Tailwinds > headwinds. I heart bike math.

When I arrived at home, my daughter (home from college) and I headed out in the car to buy a Christmas tree. Yes, we are a little late to the party. We arrived at the neighborhood church sale. No trees. We moved on to church number 2. No trees. We drove 3 miles to the Rotary Club sale. No  trees. We drove to St. Marys School of the Holy SUV in Old Town Alexandria. No trees. We went to Home Depot. No trees. It was at this point that I noticed something else. No wallet.

Bob Geldof isn’t the only one who doesn’t like Mondays.

Raising the 24 Percent

Nelle Pierson of WABA has asserted that only 24 percent of cyclists in DC are women. I challenged this a few years ago by keeping track of the percentage of women I see on my bike commute. Sure enough, Nelle was right.

Nelle started WABA’s Women and Bicycles program to move the 24 percent number up. Five years ago Megan Jones, a WABA Women and Bicycles member, decided to up the ante a bit. She invented the Hains Point 100.

Hains Point is what locals call East Potomac Park, a spur of land that juts into the Potomac River across from National Airport. The road down to the point and back forms a circuit of about three miles.

Megan decided to ride the Hains Point loop 33 times to increase awareness and raise funds for the Women and Bicycles program. With less than three weeks of notice, she staged the event, located sponsors, and sent out the word for people to come and ride. And, more importantly, to donate to the cause.

I did not go the first year because I thought the ride was restricted to women. It may have been, but apparently men find promotional gimmicks irresistible. Regardless, the field of riders is about as diverse as one can imagine.

A few people jump the gun and start at midnight. If you see them, discretely move to the opposite side of the street and divert your eyes.

Some people wear WABA cycling apparel. My WABA socks couldn’t compete with these WABA jerseys.

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Each year, Megan has made the event more bigger and more better, with more sponsors, more prizes, and more fun. The 100 mile challenge remains the core attraction, but most people come for the camaraderie of the #bikedc community. I rode 30 miles. And talked with a bunch of people and had a few cookies. After about three hours, I went home to attend to other commitments. It was still over 60 degrees when I left.

About 20 minutes later a cold front came through and dropped the temperature 25 degrees and blew away all the tents and such that formed the Hains Point 100 base camp. Some people saw a woman riding with the wind.

 

Basement Ice Storm Biking

We had an ice storm overnight. Last winter, during the aftermath of a similar storm, I went outside to fetch the paper. After one step, I did a classic Charlie Chaplin pratfall and ended up (fortunately) in a bush next to my front door. This year I wised up and just said the paper can wait.

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Last week I brought Big Nellie into the basement for just such an occasion. Also, earlier in the year I replaced the florescent light above the bike with an LED shoplight. They switched to LED lighting in the garage at work and it makes an immense difference.

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So today I am riding underground. I will be multitasking with Elvis Costello’s memoir. By the end of winter, I will find it hard to read without my feet spinning.

By the way, the trike in the background is my son’s. He’s about to turn 25. Do you think he’ll mind if I take it for a spin?