July – Going, Going Long

I finally got off the consistency schneid and broke the 800-mile barrier for a month of bike riding this year. 812 to be exact.

532 miles riding back and forth to work with a couple of side trips to Nats Park. That’s 18 more bike commutes. Little Nellie did 50 miles and the Cross Check provided the rest of the transport.

My long ride of the month was the Whites Ferry century (101 miles) on my Cross Check. Little Nellie jumped in the trunk of my car for romps in Rhode Island and New Jersey.

So far this year I’ve ridden 4,869.5 miles. If I just straightened this out I’d be somewhere south of Lima by now.

3,489 miles are attributable to 119 bike commutes.

That could get me to the west coast. By now. If I started in early May.

Just sayin’.

P. S. I am really grateful for the help Laura Miller from WABA gave me today to get a friend signed up as my guest for this year’s 50 States Ride in September. Ella no será un novato esta vez.

 

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Stood Up by a Katie, No Problem

Last night Katie Bolton. (a member of the raucous band of BikeDC Katies including Katies Harris, Lee, and Fignewton – don’t ask) asked if Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon and I were going to Friday Coffee Club. I don’t normally go to FCC these days because it is hard to get to and hard to get to work from. I am, however, three weeks from retirement so, in terms of arriving at work at a specific time, I am all out of fucks to give. And I am a complete sucker for Katies on two wheels.  And off I rode.

The weather forecast called for ark-worthy rain but there was no precipitation when I left home at 6:15. The ride was pleasant until I got lost within a quarter mile of A Baked Joint, the interim home of FCC. I have ridden every street in the area dozens of times but I can’t help but end up going the wrong way or, as I did today, overshooting the city block I was looking for.

When I finally arrived, there were several folks I knew there. Yay!

Jeff, Jacques, Ricky, and Leslie were already getting their caffeine fix on. I ordered a mocha and it was delish.

FCC Three
In which Ricky (r) takes a selfie with Jeff (center) and me at Friday Coffee Club

I joined the group and we soon added Scuba Michael and Mr. T. It was like an old Friday Coffee Club reunion without the young women. So naturally the newly married Megan and her newly married husband Nate.  We chatted about their honeymoon in France which they Instagrammed the bejesus out of.

Holy crap, the young ‘uns from Friday Coffee Club are getting hitched!

Now that I think of it, there are several second generation FCCers who were born in the years since Mary, Ed, Brian, Lane, and Lisa started this shindig.

And then Ed walked in. And walked out. He sat with a cycling friend (who’s name escapes me) outside in the muggy morning air. Ed just came back from a tour in the Rockies. He must be craving humidity. DC rarely disappoints.

Alas, the only disappointment was that Katie and Rachel didn’t come. Sad face.

At work my telecommuting co-worker Kelly sent me an email “You didn’t ride to work today, did you?” Kelly was nearly swept away by a flash flood during one of her first bike commutes. She freaks out over weather. I try to remain calm but all day my phone erupted in flash flood warnings.

The rains did arrive in late morning. There were very much ark-worthy. I rode home in a deluge that lasted for about half the ride. Streams and runoff crossing the Mount Vernon Trail were filled with very fast running water. Eek! There were big puddles on the trail. Eek eek! The geese were really happy. Honk! I rode right past. Splash! Ding!

There was no thunder or lightning. There was no wind. So I just basically got wet. No big deal. At the half way point (roughly 7 1/2 miles) at the power plant north of Old Town Alexandria, the rain stopped. There was intermittent light rain for the rest of the commute. I though maybe I should jump in a creek and get a selfie of me hanging on to a bridge for dear life. It would have made Kelly happy.

When I arrived home, I learned that Lawyer Mike had successfully ridden his 100 mile charity ride. As of this writing, I have not heard from my friend Emilia who did the 70 mile version of the ride. Emilia started two or three hours later than Mike and rides quite a bit slower. I do hope she is okay.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

There are many massive old trees along the Mount Vernon Trail in Belle Haven Park south of Alexandria.  A few years ago a true behemoth started falling apart and was taken down. Over the weekend storms claimed another tree, much smaller but still a welcome producer of shade along the trail. This is what the tree looked like this morning.

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Ten hours later this is what remained.

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Sad face.

There were several other much smaller trees and limbs that had fallen across the trail. These were cleared before this morning’s rush hour.

The credit here goes to the National Park Service that maintains the trail and the nearby George Washington Memorial Parkway.

No good deed goes unpunished around here, however. If the Park Service can provide such excellent storm debris clean up, it can do other things that trail users have wanted for years. Here are a few:

  • Plowing and treating the trail after winter storms
  • Grinding down the bumps from tree roots
  • Repositioning stop signs so that they force cars to stop not trail users.
  • Finding an alternative bridge material to the wood that is currently used. Wood bridges become skating rinks and cause many bike crashes. I don’t know if she fell on a bridge but I saw a young cyclist tending to a very bloody wound below her elbow this morning.

Tonight on my ride home I was flagged down by Adam Schildge. He and his wife Amy are new homeowners down my way in the Fort Hunt neighborhood. They were signing people up for a new bike advocacy Facebook group called MVT South. If you are a user of the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail (south of Old Town Alexandria) check it out.

A Long, Long Way from Rotorua

On our trip around the world in 2015, we made a stop in Rotorua, a resort town on the north island of New Zealand. We used it as a jumping off point for various adventures. One evening we went to a local Maori site and had a fantastic cookout and watched a traditional Maori performance called kapa haka.

Rotorua is a geothermal area and the cookout was done in the ground over geothermal vents of some sort. Just wrap the food in aluminum foil, leave it on the vents, and voila dinner is served.

The performance was extremely entertaining. Dancing, weapons, intimidating faces with bug eyes and tongues displayed. Maoris are large humans. New Zealanders of all stripes admire their fierce competitiveness on the rugby pitch either for the national team called the All Blacks or as players on other countries’ teams all over the world. Before each All Blacks game the team performs a haka as a way to acknowledge their roots, fire themselves up, and freak out their opponents.

During the performance I spotted #bikedc man about town Joe Flood taking pictures. He’s a pretty darned good photographer .  Joe’s in the purple shirt in the center of the picture below.

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Today we saw Maoris perform a kapa haka in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Abe was impressed. I am pretty sure he was clapping along with the rest of us. There is obvious European influence in the songs (which were accompanied by acoustic guitarists and other musicians), the performance is unmistakably something else entirely.  My favorite singer songwriter, Neil Finn, is from New Zealand. He credits the Maori strum as the rhythmic underpinning of many of his songs, including the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” From time to time Maori music and singers appear on his records.

The performance ended just as a storm approached. I took this picture as we made our way back to the car. We didn’t make it. The clouds opened up. Summertime in DC.

Storm in DC

 

A few  more pictures are on my Flickr page.

Lotus Blossoms, Water Lilies, and Arepas

All my cycling friends have been posting pictures of lotus and lily blossoms from the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Easy cycling access to the gardens is provided by the new Anacostia River Trail. This is good on two levels. First, well…, bikes, right? Second, finding the place in a car is a PIA.

Mrs. Rootchopper has tried to find it a number of times and ended up at athletic fields and in sketchy neighborhoods. We drove to the gardens today and,with the help of Google maps, found the athletic fields. Go technology!

We pulled up the area on the phone and we found it! Just back track and make an improbably turn down a side street in the neighborhood adjoining the athletic fields. Follow the road around a 90 degree right turn and over some epic speed bumps, and there it is!

Once clear of the parking area, you enter an area of green. It’s almost as if you are walking into a children’s book. The walkway takes you right to the main event: ponds filled with lotuses and water lilies. The leaves of the lotuses are about the size of a wheel cover on a car.

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The spent blossoms (the green part inside the pedals in the picture below) look like water wands used by florists to gently water their plants. And the blossoms look like WOW!

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Some of the stems stretch up as high as seven feet. The water lilies are much, much smaller and only inches above the water itself but their colors are electric. They look like little hallucinations.

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We left after about 45 minutes. It was muggy and a storm was approaching.

We drove to Union Market in Northeast DC. The storm hit while we were driving down busy Benning Road. We could see a distinct rain line; it looked like a shower curtain liner. And a about as thick. It was over in 5 seconds. No lie. Weird.

At Union Market we headed to Arepa Zone. Arepa’s are a Venezuelan food that I learned of from my 50 States Ride buddy Emilia, who is from Caracas. Basically they are sandwiches that look like corn bread pies. Inside is goodness of your choosing. They aren’t all that big but they have mucho calories. Yummy.

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There are some pictures over on my Flickr page.

Tour de Recho

The Tour de Fat is an event put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike organizations. This year they moved the event to the late afternoon and from May to July. After last year’s chilly rain, we were treated to lines of violent thunderstorms this year.

I rode to the the event venue located next to Nationals Park. The skies were ominous. I have expected to see the Avengers fighting some big alien-ish beasties before going out for schwarma. As I reached the halfway (8-mile) point a strong headwind with gusts started buffeting me about. I passed a couple who were dressed in costumes, obviously heading to the event.

I did a 180 and rode up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. The wind pushed me hard and then the rains came. Turning onto the bridge the wind and rains were coming from my left. After 30 seconds I couldn’t see a thing. I slowed. On coming bikes had their lights on so I turned on my blinkies.

By the time I reached Maine Avenue, about 13 miles into my trek I was soaked to the bone. I stopped and put on a poncho,, for warmth. I checked the weather report on my phone. It basically said “YOU WILL DIE SOON!”

Gulp.

Pedal. Pedal.

The rain and wind abated. I made it to the venue a little after 3 pm. There were very few people. Some of the tents were not assembled. A bystander told me the event was canceled because of the weather. They had begun breaking the tents down.

Fug.

I rode back home by way of the Del Ray Music Festival in Alexandria. It rained for the first couple of miles but then the sun came out. The Festival was on but I didn’t see anyone I knew so I rode home. It was hot and muggy but there was no wind or rain.

I was pretty exhausted when I got home. Prior to riding to DC I mowed the lawn and did some chores outside. The combination of all three efforts left me dehydrated.

So I opened a New Belgium Fat Tire Ale.

I went on the WABA website and gave them a five-beer donation ($25).

Although the event was listed as rain or shine, the storms hitting DC today had very high winds and lightning. The event organizers did the right thing to cancel. It would have been chaos if tents started blowing over or a lightning strike occurred.

As I write this, a storm has been raging outside. I would have been riding home from the event in this. No thanks.

I do have some advice for New Belgium: move the event in DC back to May. The weather is generally better, there are more people in town, and you can line it up with other events as was done in 2016. Also, move it back into the daytime and involve cycling families. They are an integral part of the bicycling scene in DC.

 

 

Amanda Buy the Bike Already – and Other Thoughts

  • Amanda works with me. She keeps talking about getting a bike. I just can’t seem to get her from talk to action. On the way home from work, I took a picture from the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Amanda was really surprised. I keep telling her my bike commute rocks! I haven’t told her about having incoming jets fly right over my head as the land on the second runway at National Airport. Or the dozens of downy egrets in the river. Or the morning glories in bloom in the wetlands north of Old Town. Or the opera singer. Or…..

  • I have confession to make. I feel like a jerk. I am short changing some friends who are asking for donations connected to one charity bicycling event or another. A month ago I gave money to support Mike who is doing the Bike to the Beach ride. Proceeds go to autism support and research. Today, Emilia announced she is doing the ride too. I gave money when Katie said she was doing a Climate Ride. About two months later another Katie announced that she was doing another Climate Ride. Then Grace announced that she was doing a Climate Ride. How do you manage all these donations? You can’t budget for them. You feel bad if you give different amounts to each of your friends. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?
  • Watching one friend stress out over raising money made me decide to drop doing a charity ride this fall. It’s a good event for a good cause, cancer. I feel bad not doing it because so many people in my family have had cancer. (My father, my mother, a sister, a brother, my wife, three aunts, two uncles. Sorry kids, the gene pool’s a complete mess.) I want to focus on preparing for my tour to Key West and making sure I am ready to ride to the Pacific next summer. My aging body probably has only one shot at making it. Spending my summer stressing out over fundraising just didn’t float my boat.
  • There are two things to do if you are in DC this weekend.
    • You should go to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The water lilies and lotuses are in bloom. I’ve never been there and the pictures I am seeing online are driving me nuts.
    • And then there is the Tour de Fat. It’s a party put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike charities. There will be live music and cold beer. I volunteered to work in the beer tent again.
  • And finally a note about the #bikedc DL. Dave just got cleared to get back on a bike after breaking his leg doing an Arte Johnson. A day or two ago, Alex collided with a salmoning cyclist. (When you ride against the flow of traffic, you are salmoning.) She broke her jaw. So Dave and Alex, be patient. You’ll be back to (your abnormal version of) normal in no time. The Rootchopper Institute sends you its thoughts and prayers (because we are waaay to lazy and cheap to bring you a beer.)

A Ride in the Pine Barrens

Over 30 years ago John McPhee wrote about a place that was disappearing. The Pine Barrens are a vast area of southern New Jersey where, back in McPhee’s day,  not much happened. People lived without telephones or electricity. The Barrens were primitive, despite the fact that they are located about an hour east of Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York City. McPhee wanted to see it before it became modern.

It’s still rather rustic in the Barrens but there are now two-lane highways criss-crossing the area. Vacation tourism was evident here and there. I saw jet skis on the waterways. I should go back and read McPhee to see what it was like back in the day.

I drove down from central New Jersey where I stayed the night. My day began with a visit to my maternal grandparents’ grave and their house, still standing. It was decorated tastefully and the porch was fixed up a bit, but it was still an old, old frame house. The side yard once had a garage and decrepit barn. Both are gone, replaced by a modern middle-class home. There is no arbor on the side of the house, no grape vines hanging from it. The big vegetable garden is gone too. My grandmother died when I was ten, during a summer that also took my paternal grandmother and godmother. My funeral suit got a lot of use that summer.  It was weird getting birthday presents at one of the wakes. I just wanted it to end and to go back to the routine of school. My grandfather lived for another 15 or so years. He died in his bed in the house.

The starting point of my ride was Batsto Village State Park. Batsto was once a thriving  a close knit community built around an iron furnace, mills, and such. People lived in orderly two-story, unpainted frame houses. The folks who lived here had to get along; there was nobody else around. The village is in the middle of hundreds of acres of sandy soil and trees, mostly pine trees.

On the drive to Batsto, I stopped for breakfast at a New Jersey diner. Diners are New Jersey. The food was starchy and hot and creamy and filling. The coffee gave me a jolt. After gorging, I drove on to Batsto passing a few miles from Lakehurst, the site of the Hindenberg disaster. My mom told me that when she was a little girl she waved at dirigible passengers as they passed overhead. She probably didn’t wave at the Hindenberg that night on account of a tragically violent thunderstorm.

The parking lot of the diner was filled with bicyclists getting ready for a ride. I overheard the diner owner saying he expected about ten of them to come in without a reservation disrupting his quiet Sunday morning. Oh the temerity.

As I drove I passed large groups of cyclists riding in and out of the dappled shade of the woods on either side of the road. Some miles further on, I passed cranberry bogs.

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After parking I began a 43 mile loop ride on Little Nellie through the Barrens. The roads were high speed but the traffic was light and the pavement smooth and free of debris. And flat. Pool table flat.

I rode past blueberry farms. Miles of them. Billions of sweet little blue berries. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk! 

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Trees rather scrawny, the result of the never ending sandy soil. The road frequently crossed streams and inlets.  Some of the smaller roads had wooden deck bridges.

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I spotted an osprey nest on a pole next to the road. Two ospreys were clearly visible making a racket. One flew off as I approached. It had a critter of some sort in its talons. The remaining bird stayed at the nest squawking. The flying osprey circled the nest as I rode by as if to say “Look at me!” My guess is the nest had young ‘uns in it.

A few of the turns on my map were unsigned. So naturally I missed a turn. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake at a point where a brand new road doubled back toward the route.

I didn’t bring enough water so I was starting to flag after only 30 miles. With temperatures in the low 80s, low-ish humidity, and light winds, I felt a bit like a wimp.

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Pedal, pedal.

Did I mention it was flat.

More sand. More trees. A canoe with a man and woman came toward the road as I crossed a creek. They were framed by overhanging trees. It looked perfect.

Unpaved pathways intersected with the roads. Some were hiking trails. Some were more like sandy roads.

A mile later a doe and her fawn stood on the side of the road. They regarded me with caution then started to meander away. How many deer must there be in this place?

About a mile from Batsto, I looked down a sandy road to my left. Two wild turkeys were walking along. They looked like they might be talking to each other. Of course, when I tried to get a picture they turned and walked away from me. Don’t you just hate antisocial turkeys?

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My ride ended back at the car. I don’t recall ever riding a bike at my grandparents’ house when I was little so this was my first-ever ride in the state of New Jersey. It’s my 18th state. (The others: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As well as the District of Columbia.)

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I placed a bunch of pictures on Flickr.

 

Why Run? The East Bay Bike Path

Back in the Reagan administration, I was a marathon runner. At the end of one of my years in grad school we had a picnic to celebrate. It was in Colt State Park about 15 miles southeast of Providence on Narragansett Bay. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone by running to the picnic. Much of the run was on an old rail line.  That rail line is now the East Bay Bike Path.

The path begins in India Point Park at the head of the bay in Providence.  The path crosses the Seekonk River leaving Providence. Although it sounds awful, this section of the path is alongside I-195. I hardly noticed the cars because the path was separated from the road by a short wall with a tall metal fence on top. Walkers had nothing to worry about. They had their own path on the opposite side of the path.

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After riding a few blocks on side streets in East Providence, the path begins again. Mostly it runs along the edge of the bay. From time to time it moves away from the bay to pass a town or some private homes.

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The path has some shortcomings. It crosses scores of mostly small streets which gets annoying, For about a mile there are small expansion gaps across the trail that jolted me on Little Nellie with its little wheels. And in other spots surface tree roots gave me some jolts. These are quibbles. It’s a beautiful path. Which leads to my last complaint: it’s crowded!!

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The views are pretty darn spectacular. Whether you’re looking at the bay, the gorgeous houses, the inlets, or the occasional picture postcard towns of  Barrington, Warren, and Bristol.

My side trip through Colt State Park was delightful. From time to time, the smell of the place reminded me of Phillip Island near Melbourne, Australia. No wallabies here though. I rode around the perimeter of the park ending up riding along the bay for a half mile or so.

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On the way back to Providence I stopped for a frozen lemonade at Del’s. This is a Rhode Island institution. If you drink one too fast, you’ll get a wikkid brain freeze. I did. Stand up and bend over. Lick the roof of your mouth. Slow down.

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With the temperatures in the 70s and light breezes coming off the bay, I never felt the slightest bit uncomfortable.

My Flickr page has lots of pictures.

 

An Iceberg Calved on My Head

It’s soooo hot and muggy here in DC. Some people really like this. I do too but there’s a limit to everything. Today we passed my limit.

The morning was actually not half bad. The temperature was about 80 degrees and it was very humid. This is not a problem on a bike ride of only 75 minutes such as my commute. There was no need to loosen up. The heat and humidity did it for me. I settled right into my trance.

Pedal, pedal.

I cruised past the halfway point, around the Slater’s Lane apartments on the river. The trail turns away from the river and joins a spur that goes to the opposite side of the apartments. A woman was standing on the grassy island where the trails join. I paid her no mind and cruised past. I looked left to make sure the coast was clear and spotted something familiar. A white pannier with black leafy accents. The pannier had two large loop handles protruding from the top of the bag. I turned off the trail and headed back. Those panniers are unique and the belong to my friend Kirstin who was standing next to her Long Haul Trucker.  How I missed her on my first pass I’ll never know. She has RED hair. (I used to but the last of it left sometime in the Carter administration.)

As soon as she saw me she yelled: “Rootchopper!”

Kirstin rode all the way down from DC, about ten miles, to accompany her friend Yolanda on her ride to work in DC. Yes, she’s that nice.

Digression on #bikedc Connections: I met Mary at the 2010 50 States Ride. Mary is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club. She occasionally runs with Kirstin and told her about Friday Coffee Club, which is where Kirstin and I met.  Kirstin’s husband Tom works out with Ed who is the father of Lolly who used to work for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I volunteered to recruit new WABA members one evening. Lolly came to help, subbing for Alex. I met Alex in Baltimore on a bike ride. Alex saw a SharrowsDC logo pin on my saddle bag and asked if I was from DC. I bought the pin from Brian (who is @sharrowsdc on the interwebs) who sold them to raise money for WABA. Brian is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club.

So, back to our tale. Kirstin and Yolanda and I rode five miles or so to the 14th Street Bridge where they peeled off to cross the river while I carried on to my office in Rosslyn across from Georgetown. It was fun riding with them, a great change of pace for me. I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating too. Kirstin can chat a blue streak and the trail is too narrow to ride side by side. So we’ll just have to do another ride together.  Maybe I won’t get lost this time.

The ride home was a whole ‘nother ballgame. Damn was it hot. And muggy. I did fine for about 3 or 4 miles but for some reason my lungs started to ache. Not when I was breathing though. I was not having fun. I plugged along with the pain coming and going and eventually staying. In Old Town I pulled over and took two hits from my albuterol inhaler. I was hoping this would help as it did when I made a rather painful 3 a.m. trip to the ER in May 2016. It didn’t.

I crawled through Old Town. I noticed that sipping from my bottle seemed to help. I made it to Belle Haven Park, about 4 1/2 miles from home. I stopped for some fresh, cool water. And it worked! The pain subsided.

I have no idea what the heck was going on with my lungs but I felt good enough to pull over and take a picture at Dyke Marsh. As you can see, I was no longer dying.

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I actually have a friend who prefers this kind of weather. She is insane. We met during the 50 States Ride on an oppressively hot and muggy day just like this. She appeared to be thriving. The other riders in our group not so much.

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Suffice it to say, we were abandoned to our wretched fate. (The woman in the photo and I actually finished. The dude lasted another few miles before bailing out when we got near his home.)