April in My Mirror

Well, I have released the hobgoblins of foolish cycling consistency. Instead of riding 660 miles as I did in January, February, and March, I upped my ramblings to 715 miles. 475 miles were covered going back and forth to work. What ever will I do when I retire!

I commuted 16 times, split evenly between Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and Deets, my Cross Check.  I actually broke Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out of her winter slumber for some romps around the neighborhood.  I keep thinking I should sell Big Nellie but then I have a great ride and I forget about doing such foolish things.

I did one bike event, Breaking the Cycle, on the last day of the month.

For the year I have racked up 61 bike commutes for 1,802 miles. My weekend and event rides added another 901 miles. So I am at 2,703 miles for the first four months of the year.

I also did two marches and two short hikes. No wonder my legs are tired. May promises to be a little less of a grind with many, many non-cycling events on my schedule.

 

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Killing My Legs for a Good Cause or Two

What a busy weekend.  Friday night I took Mrs. Rootchopper out for dinner to celebrate her retirement. It had been a long last week for her (she worked until 1 a.m. one night).

Climate March

On Saturday, I went to the Climate March alone. She and I had done the Science March (a small part of it, anyway) and the Women’s March.  She had also done a march in support of immigration. She needed a break from marching. I rode to Union Station in DC where I met up with folks from WABA. WABA’s Nelle escorted a bunch of cyclists to our rendezvous point. Then we all walked over to take our place in line for the march. Several of our group held up a banner that Nelle had made. (Her creativity and energy astound me.) The march was preceded by much speechifying, none of which we could hear. So for a couple of hours we stood in the ironically blazing sun. At 1 p.m. or thereabouts we started to march. To my surprise we moved along pretty well.

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Joe, Nelle, and Nick holding the banner

We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.  At one point the marchers stopped and sat down and did some sort of woo woo chanting. The only chanting I would have done was to yell “Holy crap this pavement is hot!”  I opted to hang out in the shade with Carrie (see below).

The organizers had wanted to surround the White House. When we got to 15th Street we were told that we could not march to the front of the White House to our right. Instead we were shunted off toward the Washington Monument to our left. By this point we were all pretty wiped out from the heat. We decided to call it a day.

I walked back to Union Station with Nick and Doug, two WABA employees. It was about 20 blocks. It was good that I had company because I would otherwise have paid attention to what a slog it was.

I recovered my bike from the bike valet, and rode home. My legs were toast. I had ridden about 135 miles during the work week. Adding the 33 miles of riding to and from the march, standing around on hot asphalt for hours, and walking several miles only made my dead legs deader.

Breaking the Cycle

So in the spirit of abject self abuse, I woke up early to do a 53 mile bike ride for charity. The event was called Breaking the Cycle and it was put on by The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit that “provides housing opportunities and support services in Montgomery County for families experiencing homelessness, helping them to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.”

Breaking the Cycle was conceived in a typically Washington way. Carrie is on the Board of The Dwelling Place. She’s married to Greg who is the managing director of WABA. Like Garland and Rooney, they decided to put on a show. (I was a little upset that Carrie didn’t sing the Trolley Song.)

With dead legs and another unseasonably warm and muggy day, I decided to start as early as I could. I must have looked haggard because Carrie explained that there was a bail out option that would cut 13 miles off the ride. Good to know but being a cyclist of very little brain I had no intention of bailing.

The first 14 miles of the ride were in Rock Creek Park. We rode north until there was no more road then took a wooded trail further north to a lake. After that it was all suburban and country roads in Montgomery County, Maryland. I think the route was Greg’s idea. The cue sheet was five or six pages long. It rivaled the 50 States Ride for complexity. You pretty much could tell you were on the route because riders were pulled over to check their cue sheets every couple of miles.

The course was a little hilly but nothing that I couldn’t handle. It was shaped like a lollypop, a circle with a stick. The stick part was an out and back ride to Waredaca Brewery. It was early when we got there so there was no beer drinking to be done. After inhaling an apple and taking a picture for some riders, I reversed course. All went well until I discovered that one of the turns on the cue sheet was wrong. It said to go left when it meant right. So I added a mile to my endeavor. I didn’t see anyone else make this mistake. It was no big deal.

The final few miles were on a trail in Sligo Creek Park. I opted for the trail to stay in the shade but it would have been much faster to take the adjacent parkway.  In any case, I arrived back at the start in semi-decent condition. Organizers of this race really know how to treat the riders. Finishers were given a metal beer glass (or maybe cup) and a coupon for a free beer at Denizens Brewery which happened to be the start and finish. I had the red ale. Then another. (It was moist and delicious.) And some soft pretzels. (They were moist and delicious too.)

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While at the bar I talked a bit with the chairman of The Dwelling Place. His name is Bond. James Bond. Didn’t look a thing like Sean Connery though.

And so the weekend ended. I am taking tomorrow off the bike to attend a dinner after work. My dead legs will thank me.

So my thanks to Nelle, Doug, Dan, and Nick on Saturday and Carrie and Greg on Sunday for making this a fun and worthwhile cycling weekend. These things don’t happen without a lot of work and thought. Cheers to you all.

 

Busy and Big

Back when it was cold out and I was feeling ready to jump out of my skin I scheduled a ton of stuff for late April and May. Last weekend, I did the Science march in DC. It was nerdy as hell and kind of fun for a gloomy day in the rain. Tomorrow I am riding to DC to participate in the Climate march with the folks from WABA. I plan on getting to Union Station at 9:30 so if you are in the area look for a guy in a blue Bike to Work Day t-shirt with a black bag on his back and a floppy hat on his head.

On Sunday, I am going to do a bike ride in Silver Spring, Maryland. The ride raises money for The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit that helps the homeless in Montgomery County MD. The ride (at least the one I am doing) is a little over 52 miles and involves a mid-ride pit stop at a craft brewery. There is another craft brewery at the finish.

I don’t often talk about family in this space, but today is different. Tonight, I am taking Mrs. Rootchopper out to dinner to celebrate her retirement today after over 30 years in Uncle Sam’s salt mines. Mrs. Rootchopper has an insane work ethic; she worked late into the night on Sunday and again last night. (I was asleep when she came home after 11 p.m.) She also worked her butt off over the last couple of weeks making a baby quilt for one of her staffers who is on the nest. I may have to sedate her. For a few weeks. Or months.

 

 

 

WABA Socks Wednesday

Are you a fashionisto like me? Then you own at least one pair of WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association) socks. If you wear them on Wednesday, Brian over at Tales from the Sharrows, @sharrowsdc, and Gear Prudence (he has multiple personalities, don’t you know) has pledged to donate his life savings and his fiancee’s Metro SmartCard to WABA.

So today, I proudly wore my new-ish WABA socks.

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Don’t they go great with my orange and black bike shoes? This look is all the rage in Paris. (Among the blind.)

The actual deal goes like this: if 100 people participate in on one Wednesday and tag @sharrowsdc using the hashtag with a pic, Brian will give $100.

So do the following:

  • Buy some WABA socks
  • Wear them on Wednesday
  • Post a picture on social media with the #wabasockswednesday hashtag and @sharrowsdc in the message
  • Ride your bike

I think it would be cool if we could get people all over the world to do this. Perth. Cape Town. Malmo. Buenos Aires. Hanoi. In no time at all Brian would be homeless. Also, we would all find out that waba means something truly vulgar in Urdu.

 

Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday

Yesterday on the Mount Vernon Trail was Butt Cheek Monday. My thanks, once again, to the designers of skin tight running shorts for women. Today was Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday.

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I was plodding along going up a slight rise in the trail. The base of the rise is where I was nearly shuffled off my mortal coil by the driver of an SUV a couple of weeks ago.  As I made my way past the bus stop, a man came off a staircase to my right and walked directly in front of me. He was in ear bud heaven and his left hand held a cup of joe at about the level of my head. If I had hit him it would have been a literal hot mess.

I froze, proving that meditation can get you only so far in bike crash world. I swerved left and came to a stop avoiding making a four-ten split of some more folks waiting for the bus doors to open. (Why the heck do all these people have to stand when the bus is just sitting there with its doors shut?)

I said something exclamatory that did not include the letter f, shook my head, and rode away. Ear bud coffee ninja didn’t say a word.

I have ridden past this bus stop thousands of times. This is the first time I nearly crashed into someone. Maybe all my past caution has given me a big balance in the karma bank.

Today was cool with rain and wind. By Saturday, it will be 90F degrees. Bring it on. I am torn between riding 16 miles to the Climate March or riding 16 miles to the Nationals baseball game. (They are both in DC, about a mile apart.) Everybody knows that saving the planet is roughly as important as winning the NL East.

 

Getting the Party Started

In my desire to get spring rolling, I booked a ton of activities for the next several weeks. This weekend was a bit of a warm up, in a manner of speaking.

The fun started on Saturday. Mrs. Rootchopper and I went into DC for the Science March. She made a sign. We stood around in the rain and checked out other people’s signs. The signs, and the people, were impossibly nerdy. The guy in front of us had a sign that showed that the cost of Trumps trips to his resort in Florida would pay for over 1,000 post-docs. Nerd after nerd came up and asked him what his assumptions were.  I am not making this up. In response he would turn his sign around and show them. He had the assumptions written on the back. I am not making this up either.

After an hour of waiting around we made it into the part of the national mall where the speakers were speaking, as speakers tend to do. There were several tens of thousands of people in front of us and an equally impressive amount of mud below us. I later learned that I knew seven people withing a couple hundred feet of our location. I didn’t see them though.Image may contain: 1 person, crowd, sky and outdoor

At 2 o’clock the march began. On time. (These nerds are pretty impressive.) The size of the crowd plugged Constitution Avenue up. It took us an hour to walk one city block. We bailed and hoofed it about a mile to our cars. My wife drove home. I drove to my office where I was picked up by a co-worker.

Off we went to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play the Red Sox. I went to college in Boston and lived within walking distance of Fenway Park during my sophomore year. I also drove a cab during two summers. Suffice it to say that Bostonians love their Sawx!

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Here are a few random observations about baseball in Baltimore:

  • The hot dogs outside Camden Yards are the best I have ever had. I only had one.
  • Camden Yards is a much nicer ballpark that Nationals Park because
    • The seats in the upper deck seem much closer to the field
    • The acoustics of the park trap the roar of the crowd. This place gets loud!
    • Prices of food and drink are much less than in DC
    • Brick > concrete
    • Having an old warehouse just beyond the outfield is way better than having a new parking garage beyond the outfield
    • The crowed yells “O!!!!” during the National Anthem. It’s truly obnoxious when they do this when the Orioles play in DC. In Baltimore, it fits.
  • There are a few things I don’t like about Camden Yards
    • It is next to a football stadium that lurks like a monument to civic waste
    • It is also next to a seriously poor neighborhood. Very depressing.
    • Of much lesser significance, there is no place other than your seat to eat your food.
    • Bike parking is outdoors and not protected

The game went pretty quickly once we got the rain delay out of the way. About a third of the crowd was rooting for the Red Sox. They went home disappointed as the Orioles won 4 – 2.

I had planned to participate in the car free event in Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday morning. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1 a. m. Getting up at 5 to drive 80 miles then ride a very hilly 62 miles in 40 – 50F temperatures wasn’t my idea of a good time. So I slept an extra hour and went to brunch with Mrs. R/C and a friend from her hometown who was in town to participate in the march.

Brunch was fun. Afterwards we walked a mile back to the car through the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle. This garden is one of my favorite places in DC. Sadly, it will soon be removed for a new museum building.

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The rest of Sunday was devoted to deep, deep meditation on the deck. Okay, I took a nap. Sue me.

This morning’s ride to work featured 50F degree temperatures, drizzle, and a steady headwind. Image may contain: bicycle, tree, outdoor and nature

I started late and was groggy to boot. My head hung down. Things just appear suddenly when your head hangs down. At one point I was awakened by the shortest running shorts I have seen in a long time. Fortunately, they were on a very fit young woman. They were rather pleasantly undersized. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the view. Woke me right up.

A half mile later, I spotted bright orange out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see a large mallard standing on the trail. He had huge cartoon feet. He was utterly unfazed by my passing. I didn’t even get a quack out of him.

My final visual surprise came when I just happened to have my head up. Chris N. rode by and gave me his patented salute. I used to see him nearly every day but his commute changed. Now he’s back.

The ride home was gray and cool and drizzly. The wind had the decency to push me home.

The party continues later this week:

  • Friday: a retirement
  • Saturday: ride to the Climate March and a Nationals baseball game
  • Sunday:  a 50+ mile bike event ride
  • Monday: a retirement dinner for a second retiree

After that I have a college graduation, two concerts, the Ride of Silence, a weeknight baseball game with folks from work, a Sunday baseball game with my daughter, and Bike to Work Day.

 

Riding Tailwinds in the Seam

There were ominous clouds to my right looming over the Pentagon. There was another bank of ominous clouds to my left heading downriver toward Rosslyn and Georgetown. There was a pretty darn good chance that I was going to get caught in one nasty storm. So I rode home.

Duh

Somehow I timed my ride perfectly. The approaching storms provided me with an impossibly good tailwind. Even when the path turned west and then back to south I had a tailwind. It was as if the storms had decided to help me along.

A few big wet sprinkles hit me. The cold, springtime kind. Splat. Splat. Then they stopped. I chugged along at 20 miles per hour.

After riding across the stone bridge two miles from my house I heard, or rather felt, a BOOM. I could feel the vibration in my bones. The Pentagon storm had drifted south, right behind me. I learned later that both storms dropped hail. But not on me.

The weekend promises much less luck. I plan on going to the Science March in DC but have to leave early so that I can meet some co-workers and drive to Baltimore for a Red Sox game. (Go Saux!) It is supposed to rain most of tomorrow in DC but the forecast currently calls for a cool but dry evening in Charm City.

Sunday I had plans to ride on Skyline Drive, which will be Car Free for most of the day. Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to be in the 40s with intermittent rain. I’ll probably go to brunch with Mrs. Rootchopper instead.

More Trail Droppings: Dinosaurs, Religions, Social Media, and Other Matters of Little Import (Rated PG-13)

At times, bike commuting, despite what Flogini says, is not particularly meditative. It’s quite the opposite, like giving acorns to the squirrels in my brain. Thoughts just careen about up there. So I write them down and contemplate them. Here are a few.

  • Shannon writes a very insightful blog about parenting that I have been following for a few years.  The other day we got into a twitter conversation about dinosaurs. Little kids love dinosaurs. Chris M. chimed in that Pokemon serves a similar purpose. Kids have very hungry brains. They need to fill them with facts. Dinos. Pokemon. Sports statistics. It doesn’t matter if the facts are organized or not, kids just jam them in their brains anywhere they will fit.
  • Adults need more organization for their facts. Publishers figured this out long ago. If you can’t think of anything to write about, make a list. “Five ways to survive allergy season.” “Six ways to drive your man wild in bed.” And so on.
  • Religions figured all this stuff out long ago. My dino knowledge was displaced by the Baltimore Catechism. It’s a Q and A of Catholic dogma. I only remember the first two (Q: Who made me? A: God made me. Q: How did God make me? A: In his own image and likeness.) For what’s it’s worth, I was an altar boy. I learned the Mass in Latin. Let’s see, do we have room in your head for one more “Mea culpa?” Oh yes, over there behind the fusiform gyrus.
  • Religions are bonkers about lists. The ten commandments. The seven chakras. The five pillars. The nine jhanas. The eight beatitudes. The holy trinity. The twelve days of Christmas. The four noble truths. The twelve apostles.
  • All religions boil down to one good idea: be nice. This, however, is far too simple. Sermons would be way too short. We’d have our Sundays (or Saturdays or Fridays) back. We’d get into all sorts of trouble. Can’t have that. We need some lists! Maybe if we have some lists the kids won’t notice that we are being shitty to each other. Thank God.
  • I think John Lennon had it right. Religions fail when they divide. My religion is the only true religion. My people are more better than your people. Be nice? Hell, no. Let’s kill each other. Ugh.
  • I follow Dan Harris’s twitter feed. Dan Harris is a newsman who had a full out panic attack on live television. Eventually it led him to start practicing meditation. Now he’s made a side business out of promoting meditation for skeptics. The other day he tweeted about meditation for golfers. I replied. “It wouldn’t help me. My best club was a machete.” (He liked my quip, BTW.)
  • I have a mantra I use whenever I play a sport that I suck at. I learned it from Canadian hockey players at Boston University. During my freshman year, I lived on one of the hockey team floors in a dorm. (This was actually a reasonably pleasant experience except when they would take slap shots in the hallway.) My roommate was not a hockey player. He used the word “bullshit” as any part of speech. I always thought this was rather odd until I played ping pong with the hockey players. Whenever they screwed up (they were, to a man, outstanding ping pong players), they’d say “Fuck me!” It’s really kind of mindfully Catholic. They never said “Fuck you!” It allowed them to move on without lingering on their failure. “Fuck me” is my mantra. Mea fuckin’ maximum culpa.
  • There must be something to this. One of the ping pong playing hockey players was a Catholic who ended up being the captain of the Miracle on Ice US Olympic gold medal team at the Lake Placid Olympics. How do you say “Fuck me” in Russian?
  • Buddhists would make awesome golfers. You have to be able to put the previous shot behind you, forget about what might happen, and just focus on the situation you are in at present. Play it as it lays. See the ball. Hit the ball. Deal with the consequences later. The reason you never see Buddhists on the PGA tour is they spend hours every day sitting under a banyan tree meditating and doing yoga instead of hitting buckets of balls on the driving range. You will never see me on a golf course. I spent way too much time in the woods saying “Fuck me!”
  • Another reason why I can’t golf worth a damn is the fact that I have floaters in my eyes. I hit a golf ball. It goes up in the air. And it joins dozens of floaters in my field of vision. My golfing partners would see it clear as day. I’d just say “Fuck me.”
  • I’ve known my first Facebook friend (FFF) for ten years (pre-dating Facebook, in fact). FFF unfollowed me about three years ago. FFF stopped socializing with me 2 ½ years ago. Next I unfollowed FFF. Six months ago I thought “Well this is stupid” and I unfriended FFF. A few weeks later I thought “Well that was stupid” and we refriended, after which FFF stopped communicating with me altogether. I sent FFF a Christmas card that went unacknowledged. I have an acute case of social whiplash. So I was going to unfriend FFF again. Then…
  • The other day FFF started following me on Instagram. I…just…don’t…get…it. I feel like I’m watching a dysfunctional ping pong match. 
  • I have asthma. Not the “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” kind where you have violent gasping attacks. When I have an asthma attack it’s very subtle. I just feel off. Sometimes I start involuntarily breathing deeply. Or I cough for no reason. It’s my body telling me I am hungry for air. I inhale some albuterol and ten minutes later I am back to normal lung function.
  • I didn’t realize I had asthma until I went to my son’s 8th grade Christmas show and started quietly weeping at everything that happened. My lungs were low on fuel and it was affecting my mind. When I took my first puff of albuterol it was a revelation. I had forgotten what proper breathing was like. I felt like I had been given a third lung, which, in a way, I sorta had.
  • A similar thing happened to me with allergies. One spring while living in Providence I noticed I was sluggish and had a head ache. After I moved to DC, the headaches got really nasty. I have always been allergic to poison ivy. As an adult, I became allergic to planet earth.
  • Riding up the little hill to the stone bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail the other night, a cyclist pulled up along side me. He: I like your bike. Me: So do I. He: We have the same bike. And we did. His Surly Cross Check was pea-soup green and had silver fenders. Mine is black with black fenders. He flew by me. His Cross Check is more faster than mine. Maybe I can blame my asthma. Fuck me.
  • Finally, okay, let’s vote:

 Is BlissfulBritt Ashley Judd’s long lost twin?

A Change of Steed

Spring bike events are coming. I do events on my Cross Check which has spent most of the last 5 months in dry dock. Today marked its bike commuting debut for the 2017. With no offense to my other three bikes, the Cross Check, which I named Deets, is the best commuting bike I’ve ever ridden. It even negotiated the mulch detour at TR Island with no trouble at all. Also, it doesn’t hurt at all that I go 2 miles per hour faster on it.

So this morning Deets posed for a picture. In the usual place.

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I plan on riding it to work all week then taking it to Skyline Drive on Sunday. This plan is contingent on me waking up super early Sunday morning. This will be difficult because (a) I am lazy and (b) I am going to an Orioles/Red Sox game in Baltimore at Saturday night. I should get to bed around 1 am.

Let’s just say that scheduling is not my strong suit.

Biking to Home

The last time I was in Nationals Park, the crowd was silent. All that could be heard was the distant celebration of the Los Angeles Dodgers who had just eliminated the Nationals from the National League playoffs.

The sad feeling that comes with the last loss of the season soon gives way to the reality that the next baseball game will come, at the earliest, in April. In between there is cold and dark.

I have had enough of cold and dark.

So I rode my bike to the baseball game. The goofy new bike valet didn’t bother me. The fact that the gates were closed didn’t bother me.  They opened soon enough. I sat here:

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The sun came out. Abe won the presidents’ race.  A home run landed four seats away from me. Jose Lobaton played. He’s our back up catcher who spends most of his time on the bench looking through goggles made from solo cups. Lobe scored a run. Lobeee!

I got to see Michelle. It required supplemental oxygen to get to her seat. You can see her in this picture.

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Okay, I lied.

She brought her parents. And her boyfriend. He’s a Sherpa. I am not making this up. I forgot his name. It might be Tenzing. I could be wrong. Forgetting names is my superpower. Michelle writes an awesome blog. You should read it. Michelle is a banquet in a lumberjack shirt. Sadly, Michelle is not a relief pitcher. We could have used one today. The Nats lost 4-2.

But that’s not important. I saw a baseball game for the first time in six months. I drank a beer. Okay, three, but who’s counting? I sat in the sun and got sunburned. I saw Michelle. She’s worth the climb. I rode my bike.

I didn’t get hit by an SUV.

I was home. Again.