Tour Prep: Back and Forth LSD

My friend Bob wondered how someone my age can even think about riding 60 miles day in and day out on a bike tour. Well, Bob, I ride 30 miles day in and day out just getting to and from the office. I ride them long and slow, what distance runners used to call LSD (long, slow distance).

In June I racked up 591 miles commuting to work 21 times. All but 2 commutes and 19 miles were done on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. (Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, picked off a couple of shortened commutes.)

I rode another 146 1/2 miles on the weekends including the Tour Dem Parks, Hon event in Baltimore. My longest ride was a 46 1/2 mile jaunt along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers on Big Nellie.

On June 29, I rode my 100th bike commute of the year. This is a testimony to persistence, to not getting sick, and to not taking days off.

The combined 737.5 miles was my longest month of the year.

This week I crossed over 4,000 miles for the year to 4,057.5 miles. The miles are nearly evenly distributed across all four bikes. I commuted through the winter on The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike. Next I rode Little Nellie for about 1,000 miles. Then I switched to Big Nellie. In a week, after I polish off another 1,000 miles, I will switch to my Cross Check full time, as I did for most of last summer.

I also managed to squeeze in a solo day hike on the Appalachian Trail and a couple of concerts and baseball games. So if you haven’t seen me around town, I’ve been a busy boy.

Finally, June was my second month not getting hit by an SUV. We try to look on the positive side of things here at the Rootchopper Institute.

I already have plenty of stuff scheduled for July: two baseball games, a family reunion or a funeral (or both), and a fundraising event (the Tour de Fat). Throw in two or three doctor’s appointments and a shed rehab and your looking at a rather full slate. Wave if you see me ride by.

 

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Opera, Deer, and the Bat Shit Crazy

  • Last night on the way home from work I stopped to listen to the opera busker at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.
  • This morning on the way to work I was riding along the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge when a doe and two fawns came jaunting across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me.
  • A few days ago my friend Emilia (who is not bat shit crazy) took an Instagram video as she rode across the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail three miles from my house. I found the video mesmerizing, watching it over and over. So much of nature’s beauty captured in ten seconds. The funny thing is: I ride that same boardwalk every day.
  • Didn’t I tell you I have the best commute ever!?
  • To (sort of) thank Emilia I sent her a notice about a casting call for people to appear as a model in promotional material for Bike Arlington. It pays $200 for a few hours of work. In order to apply you need to submit photos of yourself. I found several pictures of  Emilia from the 50 States Ride we did together. Like so many others before her, she had no idea how hard the ride was going to be. Heat! Rain! Hills! 62 miles! Her triumphant victory photo at the post-ride party was one of my favorite pictures of the year. No automatic alt text available.
  • It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an in-line skater on the Mount Vernon Trail. They were all the rage about a decade ago. I even tried them, and I can’t skate worth beans. I would go to Fort Hunt Park and skate around in circles. I learned how not to fall too often. What eventually led me to give it up was not the falling so much as the fact that I have very wide feet. My feet would be all blisters and blood after I went skating.
  • The other night I saw a skater on the trail. He was heading north from Belle Haven Park. The trail is canted toward the river his right, my left as I was heading south on my ride home from work. I saw him drift toward the edge of the trail. His left arm started carwheeling, then his right, then his left, then he was off the trail and falling. He landed on his tailbone on the edge of the asphalt. Ow. He was more embarrassed than hurt. I gave him a 5.6 for style, but had to deduct points for going off the trail.
  • Yesterday I came to the conclusion that one of my Facebook friends is bat shit crazy. I mentioned this on twitter without naming names. Ricky tried to claim the honor. I then upped the count to two bat shit crazy people. To be honest, Ricky is not even close to as crazy as the other.
  • A couple of friends have tried to help me with my bike tour planning. “When you get to Miami, you can take a train.” Um, if I’m going to take a train, why ride there in the first place?
  • Larry McMurtry once wrote
    • A woman’s love is like the morning dew; it’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.
    • I think it’s a sickness to grieve too much for those who never cared a fig for you. [Particularly if they are bat shit crazy.]
  • The father of a former co-worker died of pancreatic cancer the other day. He was diagnosed only a few weeks ago. She went home to see him before he died but dang. Then I learned on Tuesday that an old grad school roommate of mine died of cancer Monday night. We knew that he had been dealing with cancer based on the note in his Christmas card but we had no idea he was as sick as he was. Mrs. Rootchopper summed it up, “He was the nicest guy in the world.” Word. Amen.
  • On Monday I threw my back out getting my Bike Friday into the trunk of my daughter’s subcompact car. I was taking her car to a mechanic for an oil change. A few days later I read a tweet that mentioned a 50% off deal for a year’s $85 membership in Capital Bikeshare. For $42.50 a year I can save big money on physical therapy!
  • In 49 days I am retiring. I am still relatively young and want to do a few things before my body completely rebels against my mega mileage shenanigans. I am noticably slower this year than last. i also weigh 10 pounds more.
  • I have been riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, for about a month now. A couple of years ago this would have caused my right foot to go completely numb. I almost sold the bike but this spring I took off the clipless pedals I was using and put on old school platform pedals with PowerGrips (leather straps that cross the pedals on a diagonal). I have been wearing Teva sandals and riding to work. No pain. No numbness.
  • I really like biking in sandals. I am thinking about putting the same kinds of pedals on my CrossCheck, at least until fall.
  • I have stopped wearing a helmet. Life is too short not to feel the wind in your hair. If I haven’t hit my head in 55+ years of bike riding, I like my odds.
  • Even when people are  bat shit crazy, you can still miss them. A lot.

 

Only 400 States – What a Slacker

My favorite bike event is the 50 States Ride here in DC. I’ve written about it many times. It’s hilly. It’s hot, except when it rains like a monsoon. It’s long. It has an impossibly complicated cue sheet. And I have met dozens of people doing it.

For some reason I have had it in my head that this September would be my 10th time riding it. Nope. Only number 9. Bless me father for I have sinned.

I did the ride in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. I skipped 2008 and 2009 to attend my son’s high school football games. 2010 was so hard that I never wanted to do it again before being coerced by a friend who I met on the 2007 ride. By 2014, I had once again decided to retire but the same friend convinced me to do it again. In 2015 I was in Australia visiting my globe trotting kids. Last year was a solo effort.

So this year will be number 9. I am delaying my bike tour just so I can ride it. Registration isn’t yet open. I highly recommend doing this ride at least once, especially if you are new to DC.

Not to get ahead of myself, but if all goes according to plan, I’ll do the 2018 50 States Ride as a victory lap after a cross country bike tour.

Stay tuned.  xxx

 

 

Weekend Round Up

Dang am I tired!

I rode to the baseball game yesterday. The weather was great. It was a 4 pm start. I figured I’d get home long before dark.

Then the Nationals put 18 runs on the board against the woeful Reds. You know you’re in trouble when your pitcher’s first name is “Homer”. I am not making this up.

I nearly got whiplash from watching batted balls fly all over the place. Home plate had a dent in it by the 8th inning.

I rode home at twilight. I used blinky LED lights and made it about 2/3rds of the way home before it became legitimately dark. Rather than stop and mount my real light, I carried on. The entire ride would have been wonderful but for the exploding midge population along the river.  Ick.

Today I got up and did some light yard work. Mostly I cut branches so that I could ride straight to the shed in my backyard without getting my face all torn up.

After writing an unintentionally woo woo blog post, I hopped on my bike and headed back to the ballpark for another game. This time the Reds scored a bunch of runs early and the game dragged on under a hot sun for over 3 hours. I was fried despite the sunscreen I applied. Rather than buy beer, I bought water.

The game really was a dud to watch. So I kept looking up and the clouds drifting over the park. The sky was just perfect.

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I left quickly and rode home on impulse power. All weekend the trail was cluttered with people in groups riding slowly on rental bikes and Bikeshare tanks. Little kids popped up as if obstacles in a video game.

I did not drop one single f-bomb. (Takes a bow.)

I even stopped to help a woman on a Bikeshare bike who crashed. I saw her go down and knew it wasn’t serious, but these things tend to feel much worse than they are. It took her about five or ten minutes to let the pain dissipate and to get her composure. We sent her on her way. “Finish your ride, then drink some wine.” She and her partner liked the idea. Then I said “No tylenol.” When I told her that tylenol and alcohol are toxic to the liver she was shocked. She explained she regularly took tylenol before drinking to avoid a hangover.  My work here is done.

When I got home I was pretty tired from riding and sitting in the sun. So I mowed my lawn. What a maroon. I am now officially rode hard and put away wet.

Tomorrow I am dropping my daughter’s car off for service and cutting 24 miles off my bike commute. It’s a bit like resting your old players in a day game after a night game.

Finally a note about yesterday’s blog post. A friend of mine, who I will call Brian because that is his real name (or so he tells me), declared me to be his guru. He is currently sitting on my back porch meditating which is appropriate given the twisted provenance of the title of his advice column in the local weekly newspaper. Anyway, he will henceforth be referred to herein as Sexy Sadie.

The thing is my woo woo post was actually motivated by the neurology of attention. A few years ago there was a video about attention that went viral. It demonstrates that our brains have limited processing capability, especially when assigned a complex task. Watch a teenager learning to drive. They are overwhelmed mentally. They have to sort out what’s important and what’s not. Over time, they learn to tune out the “not”.  We all do. The problem comes when the “not” unexpectedly becomes important. This happens a lot when you’re driving.

Another takeaway from this is the fact that we are on autopilot so much of the time. Walk into the kitchen. Grab a cookie. If you want to lose weight, all you have to do is become aware of your brain seeking a little pleasure reward and ask “Is this a need or a want?” If you want to increase your savings you do the same before you buy anything.  This may explain why I am an incompetent consumer.

What flips me out is the fact that your brain can hyper focus during an emergency. Mrs. Rootchopper and I both experienced this when we each were hit by a car. It turns out that for brief bursts our brains can pay attention to and absorb an astounding amount of information with incredible clarity. It’s really unsettling, in a way. You have more thoughts than you normally have time to think them.  So you normally unthink them. Your brain knows to ignore the useless stuff. If you stop for a few minutes and refocus on them, you’ll find out what you are missing. As it turns out, you’re missing a lot.

Who knew?

 

 

Awareness, or Going from Soon to Nope

This morning I went out on my deck and made an obvious discovery. The suburbs are supposed to be quiet but they are not. It’s noisy out there. Somehow, in the grind of daily life, we tune it all out.

I was just sitting there feeling groggy from too many miles, too many midges consumed on the ride home from yesterday’s baseball game. I closed my eyes. And listened.

Crows. Cardinals. Assorted other birds. The general hum of the traffic on US 1 about a mile away. (Sounds a bit like a kitchen exhaust fan set on low.) The leaves rustling in the wind. The occasional jet plane over head.

Listen more closely.

A voice in the distance singing what sounds like a very spacy tune. The clacking sound of squirrels. The rumble of a truck on the nearby side street. The more I listen, the closer I pay attention, the more birds I hear. There are layers of them that I tune out. The coo of a dove. A horsefly buzzing by.

I found out later that meditators call this choiceless awareness. Of course, you can play the game with just one sense or all your senses, but that seems rather overwhelming. Hell, I can close my eyes and see all kinds of interesting things on the inner side of my eye lids. Floaters. Blood vessels. A glow from the light through the skin. A dead spot where my retina was reattached. The retina itself. More floaters. (Floaters are like bird songs. The more you pay attention to them the more you detect.)

This passive noticing is good fun. You can easily piss all over the fun part if you sit there with your eyes open and notice that the world is a rather grungy place. The deck needs washing. The lawn is too tall. There are spots of mildew on the siding. This chair has gross dirt all over it. I’ll keep my eyes closed, thank you.

A few months ago I noticed what I think is the opposite of choiceless awareness. It has to do with flipping your visual processing on its head. We see that we are passing through various environments. The shrubs on the side of the trail. Grass. The river, The tree limbs hanging down. There’s too much of it and we tune most of it out. This explains what going somewhere new can be overwhelming. We don’t know what is important for our task at hand and what is useless visual clutter. Which of those road signs matter? What landmarks are important? And so on.

So one night I stumbled into focusing my attention on a limb overhanging the trail as I rode toward it. Instead of me riding toward it past it, my mind flipped this on its head. Instead of me passing through the landscape, the landscape was passing by me. The limb took on an eerie fake 3-D quality with everything around it out of focus.

From time to time, I play with this inverted awareness on my bike commutes. Just another way to go into a bike trance.

This awareness game does not work at all with faces or names. At least not for me. I can’t detect Chris M. at all, but I have regular sightings of dopplegangers for Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon and Flogini. They are both distinctive looking but my brain just gets them visually mixed up with other people. I can’t even…

The other day I saw a woman on the trail riding toward me. I was on my recumbent. She smiled (this happens a lot when you’re on a bent) as she rode past and I nodded. There were familiar laugh lines on her face. And shoulder length dark brown hair fell from beneath her helmet. She was fit and riding an upright bike. Flogini? I haven’t seen her in over a year. Was it her? I texted her. He one syllable answer: “Nope.” Loquacious, no? We’ve gone from “soon” to “nope”. Maybe that’s the problem.

Oh well, things are always looking up.

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Key West Bike Tour Planning

  • My Atlantic Coast Route maps have arrived from the Adventure Cycling Association. I spent an hour plotting a tour from DC to Key West.
  • There are many maps covering about 30 miles per map. Each one has tons of detail indicating camping, food and lodging locations along the way. Mostly this means that you have to curtail a day here and there to find a place to rest your head. It also means that getting past Miami will likely involve riding a century. This will not be a whole lot of fun.
  • Each of the maps has a narrative. Sections of the Florida Atlantic coast sound very unfun. There are long sections of the route with no bicycle repair facilities. Derp.
  • I addition to riding the main route straight to Key West, there are four optional side trips to choose from.
    • I can ride the outer banks of North Carolina. This adds 80 miles and about 2 days to the trip. It might also add a whole lot of wind. And sand. I’ll probably take the inner route since I have already driven the outer banks.
    • A spur route goes to Charleston. This would be fun. Another 2 days.
    • A second spur route goes to Savannah. Another 2 days.
    • There is an alternate route through the Okefenokee Swamp. This only adds 15 miles and I’ll almost certainly do it just for the bragging rights.
  • I tried to plot a course that averaged 60 miles per day. It’s not really doable, because of camping/lodging issues. I’ll probably end up averaging 70 miles per day which is okay since I don’t expect to be dealing with a lot of hills once I get to North Carolina. I am more concerned about wind and thunderstorms and meth addled rednecks and alligators. Oh my.
  • A possible alternate route would take me diagonally through Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando and on to Fort Myers on the southwest coast of the penninsula where I would take a ferry to Key West then ride back to Miami. The instructions for riding in Fort Myers are pretty scary. (Ride on sidewalk. Take the lane. Call your momma.) Also, this diagonal route might cause me to bypass Saint Augustine which might be the coolest thing ever.
  • I am still debating with myself whether to do this as a straight unsupported tour or to do Jacksonville to Key West as part of a supported charity ride. The charity ride has lots of logistical advantages. Basically I’d flip the tour on its head. I’d have the bike transported to Jacksonville at the start, ride back to Key West, then get a lift in the support support van, back to Jacksonville, and ride home). The charity ride adds the burden of raising $2,000 by October. Over the last weeke or two, I have watched a friend drive herself to distraction raising money for a charity (for a different ride) in the last couple of weeks. Being a world class introvert, I honestly don’t need the stress nor do I feature hitting people up for money. Worst case scenario: I raise only a couple hunder bucks and I’m on the hook for the shortfall.
  • I can think of a thousand reasons not to do this trip at all. So the thought of just getting on the damned bike and riding until I run out of road has a very strong appeal. I can figure out the return logistics once I get to the Keys. There are three options: fly back, take a train, or rent a van and drive my ass home. What I don’t want to do is schedule the return too far in advance. Then I would stress out about meeting a flight or train for the last week or two. The best option is to fly Southwest back (using points) and ship the bike home via bikeflights.com.
  • I know of 3 or 4 people who live directly on route (depending on my specific route). I am not above mooching a layover at their places.
  • Finally, there is the unanswered question: what size bike pump would I need to fend off meth-addled rednecks and alligators?

 

Summer Solstice Bike Commute

I left home an hour early today, not because it is the summer solstice but because I needed to get home early. The weather could not have been better: warm with a touch of humidity. I didn’t see any of my regulars; I was traveling too early for that.

When I passed beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge I noticed that the sun was on the north side of the bridge. Big Nellie thought this was odd too. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that bikes have thoughts. They do. It’s some kind of two wheeled woo woo thing.) It made me think of the short days of winter. I hate winter. I should get a summer home in New Zealand or Australia or Argentina.

I often see Chris, Kathy, Dave, Shawn, or lawyer Mike during my bike commutes. Although they also bike commute along part of my route, I hardly ever see Paul, Emilia, or Flogini. I half expected to see one of them today, because of my early departure from home. No dice. Maybe they lie about bike commuting and carpool together. Maybe they see me coming and hide. I would if I were them.

I took a picture of a man fishing on his boat in the Potomac River with the Washington Monument in the background. Fishing must be an introverts delight. I’d probably get into it if I didn’t think fish and bait and unhooking a fish were gross. The picture was taken from the Humpback Bridge. I love that name. It was named after Ronald Humpback, the recently expired bridge superintendent for the Department of the Interior. Or not.

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You can see the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Also, you can just make out the Smithsonian Construction Crane exhibit. Would I lie about such a thing?

 

 

A Corpse and a Rainbow

A strong tailwind pushed me as I rode to work as usual on Monday. 14 miles into my ride I reached Theodore Roosevelt Island. As I rode past the parking lot I saw a fire and rescue crew removing a body from the Potomac River. The only detail in the newspaper this morning was the fact that the body’s gender could not be identified. Eww.

Last night a massive line of thunderstorms moved through the DC area just as I would have been going home. Fortunately my office had a happy hour after work.  Wave after wave of the storm tore past as I drank my beer. Happy hour indeed. I left at 7 pm and rode home. Just some clouds  A half mile from home I looked up and saw a rainbow.

So it goes.

 

The Brain Squirrels Have Their Say

They pulled a body from the river today

He was born on third base

Now he’s nothing but a bag of bones

Good bye blue Mondays

Put a Buddha in the bathroom

Paint it teal to make it feel roomy

You can kill a rain forest

For a night of pure love

She started a salad bar fight

And took instagram pictures of her gluten free food

Even if you screw up the ratios

They’ll still like the shape of your crepes

You can fly around the world

See the Maoris’ eyes and tongues

Watch the penguins come ashore

As the ladyboys go to a show

See a sheik in the airport

With his tall glass of water

Climb the spirals inside and out

And float in a blue lagoon.

It’s all just ass and panties

If you simply begin again

Go back to where you started

We’ll get together soon enough

 

 

Fuzzy goslings, unfuzzy maps, and dead ducklings

Today was a recovery day. My legs and back were sore from yesterday’s 38 mile ride. I suppose I should be used to this. Event rides in cities are a lot harder than the mileage indicates. They are filled with starts and stops and short hills.

Goslings Take Over DC

So today I rode Big Nellie to work. It was warm in the morning then downright hot on the way home. About a mile from work at the Memorial Bridge the trail was covered in goslings.  They didn’t seem to care that I was there and neither did the attending adults.

They had the decency to get out of my way.

Just the Thing for a Mapaholic

When I got home, I jumped in the car to fetch Little Nellie from the bike shop. The folks at Spokes Etc. turned around a cable and housing replacement in 24 hours instead of the promised 48 hours. Well done. Now Little Nellie shifts freely again.

While I was waiting for the mechanic to ring me up, I noticed this on the counter.

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No, not the electric bike demo. The new Fairfax County Bike map! Back in the winter I went to the Fairfax County Transportation Department offices to help with this project. The planners had set up a roomful of long tables. The tables were covered with draft versions of the map. Area cyclists like me were asked to annotate the maps. Mostly we looked for errors and wrote comments about bikeability.

I should confess here that I am a total mapaholic. So this map makes me very excited. (I know. Get a life, dude.)

I haven’t had a chance to look at it in detail but my cursory examination says FDOT did a great job on this. Congratulations.

Dead Ducks

Finally, there is some bad news to report. I have been complaining all spring that there has been a dearth of ducklings this year. I was really jealous when I saw a friend’s Facebook pictures of ducklings in the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Well, I am sorry to say that they are probably all dead. A parasite has taken up residence there and it kills ducklings. The pool is being drained this week.