Fall in Mount Vernon

After an early morning recon ride in the car with Mrs. Rootchopper, I went back on my bike to take some pictures of the local fall foliage. Fort Hunt Park has several maples that put on a show for about a week every autumn.

IMG_0637

And with the river, the foliage, and the angled sunlight, the Mount Vernon trail is simply beautiful.

IMG_0639

IMG_0641

There are a few more on Flickr.

Advertisements

Weighty Things

My plan was to get up early to go to the gym and life weights. The Astros and the Dodgers had other things in mind. Game 5 of the World Series was supposed to be a tidy pitchers’ duel. Instead it was a slug fest. Houston won 13 – 12 in 10 long innings. I pretty sure there were at least four standing 8 counts. You could almost hear the players saying, “Yeah, Well…TAKE THAT!” as they exchanged home runs. Big fun.

Long story short, I woke up a tad later than planned. As it turned out, this was not entirely a bad thing because temperatures dropped about 20 degrees from yesterday. And it was windy. Fall has arrived and, boy, does it feel great.

I managed to make the four-mile ride to the gym into eight miles. I let the breeze push me down the Mount Vernon Trail before turning back. Then I had to face it. The dreaded weight room. I know, I know. Weight bearing exercise is good for you. It especially good for people like me who do little more than non-weight-bearing exercise and who have ripened a bit.

IMG_0622.JPG
The Chamber of Pain

I did one circuit through the machines, mostly to figure out how to set them up. It was pretty funny that one some machines I wasn’t sure which way to face, toward or away from the machine. And there was one work station without any weights at all that had no instructions. I had no idea what the heck to do with that.

After my first go round, I did another circuit. I made sure to use less weight than I might normally and to move the weight very slowly. I hope I don’t ache tomorrow. Even with low weight, I had the same result I usually have from weight lifting: I felt like throwing up when I was done.

The good news is my ribs didn’t hurt. The bad news is my left tricep is messed up. It wasn’t the weights. My father had rotator cuff problems beginning at about my age. Thanks Dad.

After the weights, I went for what I planned to be a 22-mile ride. One thing led to another and I found myself riding The Mule all over the place: across the Potomac on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, up Oxon Hill past the casino, back down to the river at Oxon Hill Farm, back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I took MLK to Howard Road. Then I got on the Anacostia River Trail. I rode a few miles north then crossed the river and came south all the way to the soccer stadium being built at Buzzards Point.

IMG_0624.JPG
Swift Progress on the Soccer Pitch

Then I made my way to The Wharf where I rested in a swing and took in the sights on a perfect fall day.

IMG_0626
Swings on a Pier

The ride home on the Mount Vernon Trail was a breeze.

When I arrived a package greeted me.

IMG_0627.JPG

The package also included a book (Britt Maire Was Here by Fredrik Backman) and another CD, Little Fictions by Elbow (I am going to their DC concert on Saturday).

 

The Mule Abides – Again

After ragging about the mechanical delays in getting The Mule back on the road, I thought it would be a good idea to take it for a ride and see if the darn thing works.

Yup.

I rode to Arlington by way of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. The weather was splendid. The Mule and I get along about as well as bike and rider possibly can. All the shifts were true. All the braking was bueno. (I had severely toed-in my brake pads. They were silent, but they were rather lame in the stopping department. Now I have stoppage.)

I even gave the granny gear a good work out by riding up South Walter Reed Drive, a steep hill that never, ever ends. I took a couple of big gulps of water before I started up the darned thing. Bad idea. Nearly saw that water again near the top. For the last 50 yards all I could think of was “Who’s idea was this?” It would have been wise to take a couple of hits of albuterol but clearly my brain function was not at optimal levels. Near the top I was hurting so bad that I didn’t even notice any pain in my ribs.

(Ribs update: the exterior bruise is gone but the area is still sore to the touch. At least I can roll over in bed without pain waking me up. I think I will begin doing my back and physical therapy exercises again tomorrow – oh, how I hate them. They are yoga-ish. Also, Monday I have a date with the weight machines at the gym.)

The rest of the ride felt a little off. I had moved the saddle forward just a touch because I noticed that I was riding on the nose of the saddle during my tour. I addition to stretching the leather on the saddle, I was compressing a nerve in my perimeum causing sharp stabbing pains after about 30 miles. This doesn’t float your boat when your riding 80 miles in a day, believe me.

Today I rode 32 miles and had no pains but now my lower right back isn’t happy. My working theory is that moving the saddle forward resulted in a slight up-tilt causing my back to bow a bit. So I adjusted the nose down one click on the saddle adjustment mechanism.

I did notice one thing that was off about the bike. The stem (the piece that connects the handlebars to the bike) is on crooked. I probably knocked it off line when The Mule and I took a tumble in La Belle, Florida. It’s pointing about 5-10 degrees left of center. This is easy to fix, except that I need to loosen the stem but and the stem bolt is rusty. Won’t budge. I sprayed it with some oil. Maybe it will free up.

Long story short, the bike is in pretty great shape. No additional work is needed. I might take Rando Mike up on his offer to install a generator hub/light system on The Mule. He’ll do the work. I pay for the parts. And buy the beer.

This could get expensive.

I Should Have Practiced More

Retirement is hard. I’m having trouble getting into the flow. Take today, for example. I completely forgot that it’s Friday. On Friday’s I get up really early and ride to Friday Coffee Club. I slept until 7:45. Then I made a pot of coffee, sat down to a bowl of cereal, and read the paper. Mrs. Rootchopper walked into the kitchen and said, “No Friday Coffee Club?”

Fail.

In my defense, it is that time of year when the low humidity and cool temperatures make for perfect sleeping. In the aftermath of the bike tour and with my rib still healing, my body just wants rest. So I am feeding the beast.

Each day, though, I have a plan to do one or two specific things. On Tuesday it was volunteer at WABA in the evening. Don’t tell Greg but we didn’t get a damned thing done once Kristin cracked open the tequila. Anyway, since the WABA office is 16 miles from home, volunteering also means a pretty decent bike ride. (On the way home I encountered several people headed to the High Heel Race in Dupont Circle. I didn’t want to say anything but I think some of these women were, um, not. Women, that is. A couple could play wide out for pro football teams. And they could go a little lighter on the make up and sequins. Just saying.)

Today, after waiting for the temperature to rise, I rode the Cross Check to the Lincoln Memorial. Just because. And it was super nice out. And the trees are turning. Like this one across the river from the Memorial.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

On the way home I pulled over to record another odometer milestone.

No automatic alt text available.

Not bad.

I’ll put the Cross Check away for a few weeks and give my other bikes some attention.

Once I got home, I mowed the lawn. Mowing the lawn feels like you are accomplishing something even when you really aren’t.

Then I went inside and did something I’ve been meaning to do since I got home. During my bike tour to Key West, hurricane Maria made landfall on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Two of my BikeDC friends (who, incidentally, don’t know each other) are from Puerto Rico. They each spent many anxious days not knowing the fate of their families. (From what I can tell, all are accounted for and out of immediate danger.) A week or so later, I started riding in southern Florida. Even a month after hurricane Irma made landfall in the Keys, the devastation was obvious. I simply cannot imagine what the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are like. So today I made a donation to the American Red Cross. You can too. Here’s the site.

http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/disaster-relief/hurricane-relief/hurricane-maria-relief-information#Domestic-Response

 

 

There Ought to Be a Word

Did you ever notice that a random thing brings a particular person to mind?

I’m not talking about physical or personality traits. We all associate certain hair colors or hair styles, a laugh, or a mannerism with particular people.

Lately though I’ve noticed that I associate certain meaningless random things with particular people in my life.

Dark gym shorts with white trim.

Mayonnaise.

Almonds.

Plastic straws.

Pool noodles.

Painters pants.

All natural peanut butter.

Ankle bracelets (what the wearer told me was “shock repellent” until I realized in her Boston accent it was “shark repellent”)

I see these things all the time and they evoke one person in my mind. (In the case of almonds and plastic straws, it’s the same person.)

These associations only really come to mind when I have the object in view.

Is there a word for these sorts of things?

 

 

Be Careful Out There

Last week a cyclists from out of town took a bike ride through Old Town Alexandria. He was headed for the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail. His ride ended in an ambulance. He is in a local hospital in critical condition.

When the Woodrow Wilson bridge was being replaced, I bitched up a storm about the detours and the design of the trails that went beneath it. Both reflected a complete lack of understanding of bicycling. I focused on bollards that were painted black. And I described treacherous detours that changed by the week. One week there was gravel. Then next asphalt that gave way under the weight of a bike. There were sharp 90 degree turns in the dark. And on and on.

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association and folks from the Alexandria Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee gathered officials from a number of agencies who were responsible for various aspects of the project. These included Alexandria city, the National Park Service, VDOT, and DHS. They walked these officials through the project and pointed out safety concerns and discussed design changes. Many changes were made including painting the bollards bright yellow and putting reflective material on them.

The bollards are part of an extensive security perimeter that is designed to keep vehicle bombs from blowing up the bridge. The bridge carries I-95 and the Beltway across the Potomac River so this perimeter is obviously justified. (The old bridge had no such protection. ) Other features of the perimeter include huge boulders, stout fences, significantly, a movable gate across the southern end of South Royal Street.

The gate is a metal bar that spans the width of the street. When a driver wants access, he enters a code into a keypad at the gate. The metal bar then descends into a metal slot in the pavement. Both the top and bottom of the gate and the area along the slot are painted yellow. When the vehicle has crossed the gap, the metal bar rises to block further access.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. After they installed the gate, it was often out of commission. Crews worked on it on and off. Every so often I’d see the gate was open and I’d ride through it. The alternative is a 20-yard-long side path that has three bollards across it. Why got through a narrow path when you don’t have to?

The cyclist from out of town rode toward the bridge. He saw an open gate. He rode through it. Either the bar was sitting above the slot or it was rising as he reached it, perhaps visually obscured by the yellow paint of the bar and the slot. And potentially shaded by the bridge or two large trees to either side of the street.

He hit the bar and went flying. He broke two vertebrae in his neck. As of this morning, a week later, he was still in critical condition at a local hospital. His wife was following him. She also hit the bar and fell but her injuries were not as severe.

Note that there are no warnings to cyclists that the open gate is a road hazard. No paint on the road surface or signs direct cyclists to the side path. Long story short, you might want to use the side path.

I hope the cyclist recovers.

IMG_0615
The security gate as seen from a south bound cyclist on South Royal Street.

 

IMG_0614
The security gate looking north.

Tropical Depressions Are Well Named

During my recent ramble to Key West, I spent nearly a week dealing with a tropical depression. This was a storm off the east coast of Florida that cranked rain and wind at me. The wind was coming from the east and northeast. It carried with it fine grains of sand. By the time I got to Key West, my 24-speed bike would not shift into the big ring, making it a 16-speed.

I managed to make it home without difficulty. At the first opportunity I took the bike to a local bike shop. They worked on it and told me it was ready. Not even close. It shifted into the big ring on the work stand but not on the road. And the shifters required real elbow grease to actuate.

So I gave it back to them. While I was there they made three different adjustments to the shifting. None worked. In fact, the last adjustment made the chain rub on the derailer when I shifted into the (lowest) granny gear. They told me they’d work on it some more.

(Side note: last night I reviewed my ride by going through the maps I used. The map segment from Florida was impregnated with tiny grains of sand. The pages of the maps were almost glued together.)

Having already paid for the repair, I am not surprised that they showed little urgency in getting to it. I called on Sunday. “It’s in the workstand.” I told them I’d call on Monday. It wasn’t ready. So I called today. It still wasn’t ready.

“I’m coming to get the bike.”

“We’ll play around with it some more.”

In the half hour it took me to drive there, they managed to get the darned thing working. They sprayed the shifters and cables with lube, essentially flushing out the sand that the depression had injected into the works.  It’s  not perfect but it’s greatly improved. Once winter does its thing, I’ll probably start fresh with new shifters and cables and housings.

I really can’t blame them for the difficulty. (Although I am less than thrilled that they called me and told me the bike was ready when it was not.) Local bike shops around here don’t have a lot of experience with bikes that have been sandblasted. I had similar experiences with this sort of thing on my 2003 and 2005 tours. They were both on the GAP Trail in Pennsylvania on rainy days. The limestone grit on the trail became a kind of cement when mixed with the rain water. My 2003 tour ended when I lost my brakes and my shifting. My 2005 tour was saved by Nate, a mechanic at Volpattti’s Bike Shop in Washington, Pa. (A bike mechanic at a trailside shop in West Newton wouldn’t even look at the bike.)

With my bike and my ribs (thankfully) nearly healed, I am back to normal. I am trying not to eat too much junk. I like the fact that my clothes grew while I was away. I’be neen doing some day rides.

Tonight I do some volunteering. I have a stack of books and magazines piled up for reading once the World Series is over. I bought a gym pass at our local rec center so I think some (very cautious) weight training lies ahead. And I am probably going to apply for an Irish passport soon. (Not for any high minded reason. I can. So I’m gonna. Any readers who complain about it will be hit over the head with Nana’s sheleighly.)

And then there is the planning for next year’s tour. My current thinking is to ride to the Pacific Northwest. There are so many other places in the U.S. I’d like to ride. The Natchez Trace. Route 66. Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Katy Trail. The National Parks of Utah. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Bar Harbor. If you connect these dots you get a 10,000 mile bike tour. Hmmm…..

And on a final note, the Southernmost Point buoy that was damaged by hurricane Irma is back in shape.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/florida-keys/article180509201.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday at the Races

DC has gone racing crazy. Today was the annual Marine Corps Marathon. (The one that I never finished. Sad face.) I rode ten miles to Crystal City to cheer my friend Heather on. The crowd was really loud. There was music and a sort of festival going on across the street. I am always surprised how some people with horrible running form run right along side people who run smooth and fast.

Heather was shooting for 4:10 so I staked out a spot near the 23 mile mark and waited. And waited. I did a lot of clapping and cheering. As did the people around me. One woman brought a big plastic container of donut holes. The elite runners weren’t interested but the slow pokes went all in.

37816736756_03b4384f76_z37834211712_3eccb3dccd_z37816594676_1d676d43d0_z

I never saw Heather. I later learned that she finished in 4:33. She encountered cramps at 25 miles. She also found beer during the last few miles. Drinking beer after running used to make my entire body feel awful. I don’t know how anybody drinks it while running.

After I gave up (when the 5:00 pace runner went by) I rode to the grounds of the Old Soldiers Home in DC (which I’d never seen before) to see DC Cyclocross. Many of my friends, male and female, young and old (and foolish), love this stuff. They love to race and to hang out and be bikey. I have to admit it’s pretty cool to watch. It’s like watching a bicycle roller coaster. Friend of the blog Brian rode for the first time today. I missed it. Apparently he thought it was awesome. He will be insufferable now. Wait, he’s always been insufferable. We’re doomed.

37607999120_3fa413a568_z

Dear Prudence, My friend rode his first cyclocross race today. He didn’t die. He loved it. He won’t stop talking about it? Is it okay to put a WABA sock in his mouth? Signed, Sick of Cross (SOX) )

Did I mention the weather was perfect? For the fourth day in a row. We get another one tomorrow. Then it rains. And cold-ish air comes in.

Good thing I’ve got my 1,000 miles for the month in.

 

September – The Longest Month

It only has 30 days but September 2017 was the longest month of my bicycling life. I rode 1,742 miles, over 58 miles a day. Eek! Actually, I took two days off so I averaged over 62 miles on the days I rode. Yikes!

The first two-thirds of my No Way So Hey bike tour accounted for 1,413.5 miles. I rode two centuries (103 and 99.5 miles – rounding up) plus two other days of over 90 miles.

On top of the tour, I did the 50 States Ride for the ninth time.  I had a great time except on the last hill that nearly killed me. It was so hard that I had big doubts about my ability to even do the bike tour. Fortunately, after the first day, hills were few and far between.

I did a smattering of other day rides during the month. Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist took the month off.

By the end of the month I had ridden 7,478 miles so far this year.

The Mule passed two milestones: 44,000 and 45,000 miles. It is currently at Papillon Bicycles in Arlington getting some serious TLC. It has to be in shape for next summer’s follow up. The basic plan is: point the bike west and ride until you see nothing but salt water to the horizon.

October is also starting to look like a 1,000 mile month.

Dang.

Getting Back to Normal – Whatever That Is

With the bike tour over, I seem to have zero energy. I sleep late. I don’t know what to do from day to day. So each day I assign a task or two to myself. Sometimes the task is “Go for a bike ride.” Others it’s do this errand or that.

Today didn’t start well. I intended to get up before dawn, ride into the city, and attend a coffee get together with the folks from WABA (the Washington Area Bicyclists Association). One look at the numbers 5:38 on my bedside clock and I turned the alarm off and went back to sleep.

Once I reached some semblance of consciousness, I did three errands by bike. First, I rode to the hardware store to drop off a lawn mower blade to be sharpened. Pro tip: do not crash when carrying a 23 inch metal blade, even a dull one. I made it with all my appendages intact.

Next, I rode to a store in Alexandria to pick up a battery for my point and shoot camera. Yeah, I still have one. It’s for those times when I’m riding and don’t want to fiddle with my phone. I took it on tour. The battery was already suspect. It died after one day. The camera found its way to the bottom of one of my panniers for the duration of the ride.

There is good news in this. My upper left arm survived almost the entire tour without pain. After last year’s romp in Michigan and Wisconsin, my left arm ached for days. I was taking pictures with my right hand which meant that I had to control the heavily loaded Mule with my left arm. It just wore my arm out.

On the way back from picking up the battery, I stopped in the left turn lane at a red light. The old lady in the Kia Soul next to me rolled down her window and said, “Wanna race?” I almost fell off my bike laughing.

On my way home I swung by the local rec center to buy a pass. You get to go 25 times over a two-year period for $159. Not bad. I had free access to a gym at work and never used the weight machines. Once my bruised ribs heal, I plan on going a few times a week to see if I can instill a new habit. It’s also good for skating and swimming so if weights don’t float my boat I can try out other methods of self abuse.

Speaking of my ribs, they still ache when I breathe hard, go over a bump, or dismount my bike. They are getting better though. It doesn’t hurt to cough, get on my bike, or drink beer.