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.

 

 

 

Nobody Told Me It Was Fitness Friday

On the way to work this morning I was riding through Belle Haven Park when I spotted the strangest thing: a young man was walking toward me carrying a barbell across his shoulders. There were two huge circular weights on the bar, one on each side. He was followed by a small group of people and a woman taking a video. I could have stopped and taken a picture but I didn’t want to mess up the video. As a certified, retired altar boy, I gathered that this stunt had something to do with it being Good Friday.

In the evening as I made the turn onto Union Street in Old Town Alexandria, I spotted two women doing what appeared to be synchronized yoga moves on the loading platform of one of the Robinson Warehouses. This time I stopped. I asked them if they minded if I took their picture. “Do you want us to pose?” I laughed. “No, just go about what you were doing.” And they did.

 

Getting Yagged

About a decade ago, I began to have trouble seeing at night. Everything I saw was occluded by a yellow and gray fog. I had cataracts. The lenses in my eyes were kaput. Cataracts was a word I heard almost every day growing up, because my father was an ophthalmologist.

The standard treatment for cataracts is to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial lens. The details sound gross so I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, the power of the replacement lens can be chosen. It’s a bit like getting a contact lens implanted in your eye.

In my case my cataract surgery allowed by eye doctor to correct another problem. I had had surgery for a detached retina that left me much more nearsighted in my left eye than in my right. This caused some depth perception problems that could only be corrected by wearing one thick lens and one thin lens in my eye glasses.

During the cataract surgery the doctor chose different powered lenses to rebalance my vision. The result was pretty darn amazing. After the surgery I could see better than I had since I first got glasses in third grade. The yellow/gray haze was gone.

About a year later, my vision got cloudy again. This is called a secondary cataract. It is not caused by a defect in the lens itself rather it is cause by a build up on the membrane or capsule in which the replacement lenses are situated. The actual name of the surgery is posterior capsule opacification.  Something called a YAG laser is used to remedy the situation. I don’t know what YAG stands for, but it sounds pretty cool. Actually, it sounds a bit like a Dr. Seuss creature. I had both eyes yagged (it really ought to be a verb).

Last month I thought I needed new glasses. I just couldn’t see right. The doctor examined me and found that my right eye once again had opacification. So today I got yagged again.

My eye exploded and juicy bits went all over the office. It was GROSS!!!

Okay, I am kidding. I had three drops put in my eye. I waited ten minutes. I sat in a chair with my chin resting on a cradle. I held onto to knobs to keep myself still. The doctor used his machine to put a little white thingie about the size of a kernel of rice in front of my face. “Keep your on on this. Don’t move.” The doctor used his YAG laser to zap my eye. All I could see was two red lights, one on top of the other. I’d hear a click when I got zapped by the YAG. Then the doctor moved the light a tad and zapped me again. It didn’t hurt at all. In fact, it was over in a couple of minutes. I rode my bike home (with sunglasses on because my eye was dilated).

I am the only kid on my block who’s been yagged three times.

Postscript: According to Gaines, beer, wine, and science adviser to the Rootchopper Institute,  YAG stands for Yttrium Aluminium Garnet. Which is really helpful because we all know what yttrium is, don’t we? (It’s on the Periodic table with the designation Y and having an atomic number of 39. Which shows you how much I learned in chemistry in high school. I’m pretty sure that @bobbishaftoe could help here but she’s in hiding until the midterm elections.)

 

 

 

 

 

Riding to Eagles and Beatles

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The weather was perfect for a bike ride. Yay, April. So off I went on Little Nellie to DC. As I passed beneath the Morningside eagle nest I spotted a white head sticking up from the nest. I couldn’t tell if it was an eagle or an opportunistic osprey but it gave me an idea for a destination: the National Arboretum and its bald eagle nest.

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The climb away from the river passes the enormous new MGM casino complex. It’s a whole lot of ugly, but you can eat at posh restaurants and see a show and throw away your hard earned dollars there. Go get ’em. I’ll pass.

At the top of the hill, I took a sidewalk (because MDOT hasn’t figured out how to accommodate bicyclist for beans in this area) to Oxon Hill Farm and descended back to the river. You see this climb and descent is required because MDOT couldn’t figure out how to add a trail along the river as there has been in Virginia for over 45 years.

The descent was a little scary because my left hand is messed up from getting jammed in flood debris on my hike yesterday. I think a small piece of wood may be lodged in my left middle finger. So braking is rather difficult.

I rode through Anacostia and made my way to Anacostia Park where there was a big festival. I ran into Nelle and Ursula from WABA. They were busy getting set up for the event.  At an adjacent booth I talked with Carlos (I think that’s his name) who used to work in my local bike shop. He immediately recognized Little Nellie and asked how many miles she had on her (17,500+). Carlos did good work.

After being social for a few minutes I went back into introverted rider bliss mode along the Anacostia River.  Puffy clouds and blue skies were reflected in its calm waters. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road overpass and took busy Benning northeast. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. No way I would ride this street on a weekday. Two more busy, bike-hostile roads (17th Street and Blandensburg Road) and I was into the Arboretum. I walked by bike past a road block allowing only pedestrians to enter. Alas, further up the road a more restrictive sign appeared. No entry. Period. So I turned around.

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You can check out the bald eagle nest on dceaglecam.org.  There are two very cute eaglets in the nest right now. They seem to be thriving for all I know.

After my eagle fail,  I headed across town to the new REI store where a free beer event was to be held later in the day.  I arrived way too early so instead of drinking beer I went gawked at all the merchandise. It’s a outdoorsy wet dream. Kayaks and bikes and clothing, oh my.

The store is in the renovated Uline Arena, the site of the first Beatles concert in the US. (The place was called the Washington Sports Arena back in 1964.) The store gives a nod to this history (and other events that happened there) by putting replicas of concert posters on the concrete support posts in the store. The Beatles concert occurred a few days before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show that I watched in my jammies. (I found it utterly incomprehensible. I had three older brothers who, like every other kid in the country, became big fans. As, eventually, did I.)

After being overwhelmed with retail madness I headed home. The traffic on the streets and the trails was quite heavy. Tourists were stopping without warning on their bike share bikes. A couple of Lance Mamilots tried to impress the word with their speedy and agile bike riding on the narrow Mount Vernon Trail. The annoyances were minor.

I made it home to watch the end of the baseball game and to re-lube my chain. Yesterday I removed the clipless pedals from Big Nellie. Today I remove the matching cleats from my biking shoes. I am an old school toe clip dude. Sue me.

Postscript: the piece of wood in my finger popped out while doing dishes tonight. All in one piece. That’s never happened to me before. It looked like a dark brown rice kernel. Ewww

Finishing What I Started

The Potomac Heritage Trail is the closest hiking trail of any decent length near my house. It’s about a 20-30 minute drive. I lucked out. The parking area at Chain Bridge was full but a pickup pulled out and I pulled in.

The goal of the day was to hike the trail upriver to the point where I turned around last weekend. The good news is that this section of the trail involves very little rocky stuff. The bad news is the turn around point was about 1 mile less distant that I thought.

The first half mile or so follows Pimmit Run. In Virginia creeks and streams are called runs. (There are no hits or errors.) Perhaps the most well known run in Virginia is Bull Run.

At a half mile I needed to cross the run and, after studying the rocks in the stream, I made it across without getting wet.

The next section climbs up to Fort Marcy. It wasn’t a particularly difficult climb.

After crossing the parking lot, the trail winds through some more woods within sight of the GW Parkway.  The cars wizzing by really messed with the vibe. Near the end of the hike, I crossed the Chain Bridge Road exit ramps. Not exactly a zen experience.

To my surprise the turnaround point was only a couple hundred yards beyond the exit.

On the way back the hills seemed easier. I tuned out the cars and made it a point to focus my attention on the smooth track, a little beetle and the blue sky above.

It seemed liked someone had moved the rocks around in Pimmit Run. I could not figure out how I made it across. So I worked my way downstream looking for a better option. I stopped three times and found myself in mid-stream with no chance of leaping to a far rock to finish the crossing.  The banks of the creek were piled high with flood debris. I put my foot on top of it and my foot went in like it was a snow drift. A few minutes later I started to sink in again and reached out with my left hand making contact with the debris. I ended up with several splinters and cuts. There was blood. Just enough to make a mess of my pants when I wiped my hand on them.

After 15 minutes I found a spot with a downed tree sticking across the creek at a height of four feet. I jumped from one rock to another grabbing the tree. Thankfully it took the weight of my left side without breaking (which would have caused me to fall into the creek.)

I made it across and found myself back at the car in short order.

My next hike will likely take me out to Shenandoah National Park.

Grieving and Other Trail Droppings

  • Jewel Kilcher on the end of a relationship: “You grieve the loss of the fantasy you had about the person.” 
  • When a friendship has lapsed and you run into the person, you might say “I miss you.” You don’t miss them. You miss what you thought they were bringing to your little life party. You thought they were bringing chocolate chip cookies but after a bite or two you realized they brought ginger snaps. It’s as if Mama Gump had a cookie jar.
  • A cute little house sat at the eastern end of the stone bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was built at a time when its little neighborhood was a summer escape from the heat of the city. It still had a screened in porch. It was torn down this week. I wish I had a picture of it. I grieve its loss. They’ll probably replace it with yet another oversized Arts and Crafts house.

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  • I hate it when people take down trees so they can build a house that’s twice as big as they could possibly need. Or seeing Steven Spielberg suburbs, miles and miles of curvy roads and houses in three or four cookie cutter styles. Little gravestones in a cemetery of soulless suburban sprawl.
  • For years I have wondered what goes through your mind when you are about to get seriously injured or die. Now I know. Your brain becomes hyperfocused. It processes a stupifying amount of information.  Yet (at least for me) the intensity is accompanied by a calmness:

Okay, then. This is it. Gonna hurt a lot. I’m still upright. Gonna get run over. No. The car stopped. I’m falling. No, I don’t accept that. Let’s get upright. Stuck the landing with the rubber side down. Dang.

  • Now I get Steve Jobs last words: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” I also get the “out of body” concept. I felt like an observer and a participant.
  • I think it’s a shame that Johns Hopkins has discontinued a study of how marijuana can help with PTSD. Marijuana can have powerful neurological effects. Smoke a joint then try to resist a bag of Cheetos. Just try.  Then you eat them all, wake up the next day, and feel shame.
  • So I ride to work. I lean my bike against the rack. The bike falls over and gashes my right shin. There was blood. Damned bike did more damage than the SUV that hit me.
  • I used to buy multiple copies of the brand of running shoes I liked. I few years ago I bought 2 pair of Shimano biking shoes because they are wide and fit well. Today I bought a third pair just in case they stop making them.
  • I also bought a pair of platform pedals. I am giving up on clipless pedals….again. Toe cages and platforms are how I roll.
  • I saw Grace for the first time during our commutes today. She rides in the opposite direction. She didn’t notice me. She was too busy smiling. It was really nice out this evening. I felt the same way.